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Wednesday, August 30, 2006 5:56 AM CDT

Thanks to all of you who took a moment to visit Cam's site, and especially to those of you who left a hopeful, helpful message in his guestbook. I’ve had people tell me they don’t feel comfortable signing a guestbook for someone they don’t know, and I’ve felt the same way at times. But, reading the notes is such an encouraging thing and I’m sure his family appreciates it, so please continue to stop by if you have a minute. As for us, we'll keep him at the top of our prayer lists.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming ……. Life with the Escoe’s.

I had lunch with the kids yesterday at school, and thought that might be a good time to do a little sleuthing on Brayden’s Mystery Rose Giver. Both of the boys sitting on the bench that morning looked familiar to me, but the “my cousin likes you” comment threw me a bit. I thought the chaos of the cafeteria at lunchtime might be the perfect cover for me to scope the boy out without seeming too obvious. This is pretty much what happened:

Me: Brayden, show me the boy who gave you the rose the other day.

Brayden (pointing to a boy in her class): There, that boy Chris. He gave me the rose.

Me: So Chris likes you?

Brayden: No, his cousin likes me. I guess.

Me: Well, which one’s his cousin?

Reagan (Brayden’s little friend who was sitting next to us, pointing to another boy in their class): That boy Adrian next to him, that’s his cousin.

Me: So the rose was from Adrian? Adrian and Chris are cousins and they’re both in your class?

Brayden: Yes, they’re cousins and they’re both in my
class. But no, the rose wasn’t from Adrian, it was from Adrian’s brother, DJ. He’s Chris’s cousin, too.

Me: Oh, OK. I get the family relations, but where’s DJ? Which one is he? Point him out.

Brayden: He doesn’t go to our school.

Me: What do you mean he doesn’t go to your school? Then how the heck does he know you?

Brayden: He used to go to our school. But he was so bad they sent him to another school.

Reagan: Yeah, he was bad. Really bad.

So, great. Brayden is apparently conducting a long-distance relationship with a juvenile delinquent. You know those women you hear about who are pen-pals with men in prison? And then marry them while they’re still in prison and only get to visit for two hours every other Sunday afternoon, and you think, who DOES that? Well, it looks like Brayden might be one of them in twenty years or so.

Monday, August 28, 2006 6:23 PM CDT

Some online friends of ours received very upsetting news today. I know Cam's family could use your positive thoughts and prayers right now. Please stop by his site and let this brave kid know we're all thinking about him.

It only takes one journal entry like his today, to remind me how lucky our family is. We didn't love Kendrie any more than Cam's family loves him. He’s not any less special than she is. His family prayed just as hard as ours, fought just as hard, did the same things we did. He followed a treatment protocol very similar to hers, and I literally get sick to my stomach when I am reminded that there is nothing -- not one thing -- stopping us from traveling down the same difficult road that Cam and his family have been traveling ever since his relapse.

Cancer treatment is frustrating (and terrifying) in that regard --- we do exactly what the doctors say, following instructions to the letter, give our kids drugs, and shots, and radiation, and restrict their diets and lifestyles, and they have surgeries, and procedures, and we wait, and hope …. And there’s no guarantee that the cancer won’t come back.

Cameron actually finished his leukemia treatment about six months before Kendrie was diagnosed. Finished. Done. Then, he relapsed. Had a transplant, relapsed again. Cam hasn't caught a break yet, since that initial relapse.

Julianna’s dad made some comments on her site a while back that really made me pause ….. something about {I’m paraphrasing here} every kid who dies from cancer, relapsed first. And every kid who relapsed? Was most likely doing well at some point. Into remission with rapid fire success? Doesn’t mean you won’t relapse. Handled treatment with few complications? Doesn’t mean you won’t relapse. Completed treatment with no delays? Doesn’t mean you won’t relapse. Been off treatment for a year? Two years? Five years? Ten years? Yep, you guessed it; doesn’t mean you won’t relapse.

Kendrie has been off-treatment for 256 days. That’s 256 nights I’ve gone to bed, grateful that she didn’t relapse “today”. And knowing in my gut that nothing, absolutely nothing, separates us from Cam’s family, except luck. No amount of prayer, or wishful thinking, or healthy lifestyle, or good works, or hard work. It’s luck of the draw, and Cam has been dealt a really crummy hand.

Thinking of you, Cam.

Saturday, August 26, 2006 2:58 AM CDT

Thursday morning, as I walked my kids into school, Brayden was entering the building about twenty feet ahead of me. She’s at a stage now where she wants me in the vicinity of her, but not actually walking *with* her, or touching her, or talking to her. Or bringing attention to her in any way. Because being seen with her mother is obviously the most embarrassing thing on the planet. So each morning I hang back, letting her go ahead of me, and enjoy walking with Kellen and Kendrie because at least they’re still willing to hold my hand and actually pretend I exist.

There is a bench right outside the front doors to the school, and there were two young boys sitting on it. As Brayden walked past, I saw them both look at her. One of them nudged the other one and whispered something, and then he got up and ran after her into the school, calling her name all the while. Then, much to my surprise, he pulled out a long-stemmed red rose, handed it to her, and said, “This is from my cousin. He likes you.”

Brayden, being the mature, gracious, well-mannered young lady she is, thanked him gently blushed furiously, covered her face with her hands, and practically ran the other direction. Me? My heart stopped for a minute because hello? She’s NINE years old! Who is this boy? What are his intentions? Does he have a car or a job? A 401K? What are his plans for the future????

I caught up to her at her classroom (again, part of the “you must walk me to my classroom door without letting any of my friends see you or know you’re here with me”--plan) and asked her about the rose. Her reply was typical: “He’s just a boy. I don’t like him like that.” “Well,” I said, “it was a very nice thing to do and whether you like him or not, you need to say thank you the next time you see him”, biting my tongue all the while to keep from launching into a 20 Questions dialogue about this boy and his objectives.

I mean, I’m sure it’s nothing more than a sweet, innocent gesture. But honestly? A little part of me curled up and died inside, at the realization that my firstborn, my baby, is growing up. Today it’s pulling away from mom in the school hallways and getting her first red rose …………. Tomorrow, well, let’s not even go there. And let’s REALLY not mention the rose to her overprotective, shotgun-toting Daddy, ok?


PS. I most likely won’t update the site again until next week, as I’m out of town right now scrapbooking with girlfriends. Photos, paper, cutting tools, stickers, alphabets, etc. You name it, I packed it. Packed and brought everything. Everything, except pants. What kind of moron leaves home for four days and forgets to pack pants?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 11:21 PM CDT


Ya’ll. Seriously. If anyone was looking for Dante’s 10th Circle of Hell, I stumbled into it this morning. I did more than stumble into it, I parallel parked and stayed for an hour. And it was so horrifically bad, that I had to rush to my computer tonight to tell you all about it. Because I learned to share in kindergarten and I’m just generous like that.

I mentioned to you earlier that I’m still trying to drop this last twenty cough::thirty::cough pounds, and went to that aerobics class two weeks ago that I didn’t particularly enjoy. So then Blaine suggested I work out at the gym on base, but it’s a twenty-five minute drive both ways and the time of their classes doesn’t work for my schedule, or there’s a ladies fitness center near the house with convenient classes, but you have to practically take out a bank loan to attend, or I *could* walk on my own treadmill more often, but quite frankly it’s just not as fun …. You get the picture. Basically, I want the weight-loss fairies to come to my house at night while I’m sleeping and wave their fat-sucking wands over my body, rendering me slim and trim each morning. But I doubt that’s going to happen. Especially now that I’m getting older, and my metabolism is probably slowing down. You know how ineffective an old metabolism can be. Have I mentioned I’m getting older, and in fact am turning forty soon???? FORTY?

Anyway. Totally by coincidence, another mom at my kids’ school was telling me last week about a weight loss competition that one of our local karate schools is sponsoring. They are offering work-out sessions three mornings and three evenings a week and you don’t have to be a member to attend. She invited me, and assured me that 1) the music was very good {you all know how I feel about working out to The Funkadelics or Marvin Gaye} and 2) yes, it’s aerobics. I was VERY clear on that, since I have no interest in taking karate. She repeated, AEROBICS. As in, moving, aerobically. So I decided to give it a try this morning.

OH. MY. GOODNESS. (Ya’ll, the only reason I’m not dropping about a dozen F-bombs in this journal entry is because my mom and a few of her friends read it …. But trust me, the experience I had this morning was totally F-bomb worthy.)

I cannot even begin to tell you the discomforts that were thrust upon my person and my psyche during this one hour from Hell. But let me try:

First of all, I had to take my shoes and socks off. The class is taught barefoot. Let me repeat that, in case it wasn’t clear: MOTHER OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY I HAD TO WORK OUT BAREFOOT WITH A BUNCH OF OTHER BAREFOOT PEOPLE. Can you even imagine the crap you would see if you looked at this floor under a microscope????? And you want me to stand on it barefooted???? OK, that was like, anxiety attack #1.

Then we had stretches …. So far, so good. But then, THEN, (you have to really *see* the frantic hand gestures I’m doing when I tell this story to truly appreciate the dreadfulness) after the warm up, the instructor said, “Pick a partner” -------- I hate when people tell me to pick a partner! It always means something unpleasant and socially awkward is fixing to happen. I don’t want to have a partner, or be a partner! I’m a lone wolf, solitary, anti-social, and work better by myself!! Alone! No partners!

So the middle-aged lady next to me (Probably not much older than me, what with me being almost forty and all) turned to face me, and we had to take turns, for probably ten or fifteen minutes, first holding some kind of glove, and then a full-body pad, and try to punch and kick one another in the stomach! Punches!! Front kicks! And round-house kicks! (which, by the way, are actually much harder than they look) In the stomach! And the people around me in the room were like, grunting and exclaiming “Heeyah!” as they did this! And I’m thinking …. Where are the aerobics?! This isn’t aerobics! This is freakin’ karate!!!! Sure, I watched Ralph Macchio in the Karate Kid when I was younger, but I didn’t rush out then to earn my black belt and I’m not interested in doing it now!!! And I’m going to vomit because we are all barefoot and dripping sweat on this floor!!!

Oh, but it gets worse. Much worse.

Then, the instructor said it was time for our cardio. Cardio? Oh, thank God. This must be the aerobic part. I’ll admit, the music they were playing was pretty darn peppy. OK, I’m thinking, now it’s time for the good stuff, the move-to-the-beat-stuff that will make me feel better about myself when we’re finished.

So all the ladies grab a partner (Again? With the partner thing???) and line up at one end of the room. They all seem to know what they’re doing, so I tap my partner on the shoulder …. Um, excuse me? What are we doing? Her response: Suicide sprints. What the ….. ????? Suicide sprints?! On the karate mats?! I haven’t done a suicide sprint since I went out for 7th grade basketball, and I hated them then! Then the instructor throws down the gauntlet …. Every pair of women has to do two sets, and whichever pair comes in last, has to do three. So he blows the whistle, and the first group takes off, and I’m watching them …………. And they are every one of them, totally fucking cheating!!! Not ONE of them reaches down to touch the floor at the turning point. Hello?!?!?! Now granted, I might have only lasted four days in 7th grade basketball camp, but I learned how to do a proper suicide run while I was there! So when my partner completes her set (thankfully, in the middle of the pack so we won’t have to do another set) and runs back and slaps my hand (ugh! More touching of people I don’t know!) I decide I’m going to show these lazy-ass cheaters how a proper suicide drill is done. (I swear, I’m really not competitive. I simply don’t know what comes over me sometimes.)

I take off, running like the graceful gazelle I am, reach the quarter way point, bend down, touch the ground, spin around …………… and Oh my God, I’m fallllllllliiiinnnnnngggggg! I just fell flat on my ass!!! In the middle of the floor, in front of everyone! It wasn’t a little stumble, either, or the sort of goofy slip you do when you lose your balance a little ….. it was a full-blown, to-the-ground, America’s Funniest Home Videos kind of fall that takes like an entire minute for you to actually hit the floor, arms flailing all the time. And then I was like a kid on a freaking Slip and Slide when I hit the ground, with the weight and momentum of my fat ass propelling me about five feet down the mat!

I like to have died. And you know that wouldn’t have happened if they’d let me wear my cute new Avias like I wanted.

And what’s worse? By then we had totally fallen to last place. Thankfully, due to my amazing speed (aka. The other ladies were way overweight and slow) I was able to catch up again … but could I BE any more embarrassed???? Feel any more self-concious?? Wish with any greater intensity to be ANYWHERE but there????

Yes. As it turns out, I can.

Because believe it or not, it got worse.

Next, the instructor said we’d be working on our stomach muscles. Well, actually, what he said next was, “Holy cow, Uncoordinated-Girl, are you ok???” but we’ll just forget that part. Stomach muscles. Good. That’s the part of my body in the worst of the worst shape, so about five thousand crunches should do the trick. Hey everybody, grab a partner! And I’m thinking, “A partner? What on earth do I need a partner to do crunches for?” and then he said something so appalling, so horrifying, that I stopped for a moment, stunned. “Wrap your feet around each other’s feet and lock ankles!!!”

Oh. HELL to the NO if he thinks I’m going to wrap my feet around someone else’s ………….. ah, shit!!! SHIT!!!!!!!!!!! She just wrapped her feet around my feet!!!!!!!!! SOMEONE IS TOUCHING MY FEET WITH THEIR FEET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I swear, I’m melting, I’m melting !!!!!

And then he wanted us to hold hands and take turns doing a sort of see-saw sit up and what did I do? Can you guess what I did??? I totally and 100 percent played the baby card. “I’m sorry! I just had a baby recently and can’t do sit ups like this ….. I think I’ll just scooch away and do some crunches by myself, ok?????”

And for a brief, shining moment, I congratulated myself on getting out of it.

And then?

It got worse. I know, you just don’t see how it’s even possible, but it did.

My partner lay on her back, and I had to stand with my feet on either side of her head, so she could GRAB MY ANKLES --- MY BARE FREAKIN’ ANKLES -- with her hands and pull her legs up to work her stomach muscles and then I had to push her feet back down each time. I. Had. To. Touch. Her. Feet. And when it was over (gag, I feel nauseous just thinking about it) I had to lay on my back. Oh my word. And she stood, with her feet right next to my head, and I had to grab hold of her ankles (ugh. I just threw up in my mouth a little just remembering the experience) and let her take a turn pushing MY feet back down.

Let me recap for you. I had a total stranger’s bare feet right next to my face. I had to hold onto her bare ankles. She was touching my bare feet. Me. Remember? I’m the one who can’t even get a pedicure because it grosses me out.

I’ve never fully understood the concept of hysterical behavior, where you can’t tell if a person is laughing or crying. You know, you hear about somebody who is so freaked out by something they get sort of panic stricken and just start wigging out until somebody grabs them by the shoulders and shakes them and shouts, “Get ahold of yourself, man!” and then maybe slaps them across the face for good measure? Today, that hysterical person, was me.

And you want to know what the best workout I had all day was? When I called my sister to recap this adventure for her on the phone, and we got to laughing so hard that I literally had tears running down my face (and I sort of almost slipped back into that hysterical laughing/crying thing again but I held it together). I’m not kidding, that ten-minute conversation did more for my stomach muscles than any of the touchy-feely karate shit we did in class.

And if I find out the ladies gym down the street offers a normal, shoes-on, nobody-touches-anybody, move-to-the-beat-without-having-to-round-house-kick-your-neighbor, aerobics class? I’ll get a second mortgage on my house if that’s what it takes. Otherwise, it looks like I’m stuck choosing between Marvin Gaye or the Karate Kid. Heaven help me.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006 7:44 PM CDT


Well, it’s that time of year again. The time of year women everywhere dread … the yearly physical. Add in the fact I delivered a baby in May and never went back for my post-partum checkup, and the fact that I turn 40 next month (OH MY GOD I’M TURNING FORTY!!!! As in, half of my life is freakin’ OVER and I haven’t accomplished **anything** on my “Things To Do Before I Die” list and holy crap have I mentioned that I’m turning forty?!!??!!? ---- deep breath, deep breath) so it’s time for my first ever mammogram, and I should probably have some blood work done and all kinds of other fun stuff. I mean, I’m not having any problems, but for Pete’s sake, the chassis was produced before Nixon took office, and probably needs some body work done and to have the engine checked out, if you know what I’m saying. Wow. Forty. I’m old AND depressed.

Anyway, the military has assigned Blaine and me to the same primary care doctor ever since we moved to Georgia, but since the doctors are active-duty military as well, they have a tendency to move away every few years. First we had Dr. H, who helped diagnosis both Blaine and Kendrie with cancer (Bet we were his favorite family, huh? Those Escoes, we're regular good luck charms!) then Dr. F, who we loved and who actually made house calls for us, and most recently, Dr. A. Dr. A just arrived here in Georgia last week. Blaine, as an “ongoing care” patient (read: permanent damn fixture in that office) had an appointment with him last week so they could meet and touch base regarding Blaine’s current and continuing care. Obviously, as Blaine’s first point of contact for the ungodly amount of referrals, surgeries, consultations and prescriptions he gets, it’s important they have a good, respectful level of communication. I was thrilled when Blaine came home from that initial appointment and told me that he liked Dr. A and that he seemed like a nice guy. Blaine’s next comment made me laugh: “You’re not going to want him to be your doctor, though, and ever see you naked. He’s way too good-looking.”

Ha! (Blaine knows me too well.)

So, fast forward to this morning, when I called to schedule my appointment for my yearly physical. I asked Dr. A’s nurse if they wanted to do it all in one whack, or if he wanted to simply do the blood work part and send me to Women’s Health for the “annual” exam. Oh, no, she replied, Dr. A can do it all at one time for you.

Remembering what Blaine had said about him, and knowing that the nurses in that clinic all know Blaine very well, I thought I would be funny and piped up with, “Oh, great … Blaine said I wouldn’t want him to do my pap smear because he’s way too good looking to see me naked!”

{crickets chirping -- no reply whatsoever}

She totally didn’t think it was funny. And I was left feeling like an idiot, who was trying to be funny, but wound up saying something completely inappropriate. When I told Blaine what had happened, his comment? “Oh, great. You told them I said he was good looking? Now he’s going to think I’m GAY!”

I don’t know which is more dismal. To be married to a gay guy, or be turning forty.

Monday, August 21, 2006 8:28 AM CDT


When my children were born, we brought them home from the hospital and they all three slept in a bassinette next to our bed. Well, one at a time, of course. When I had to get up during the night to nurse or give a bottle, I would take the baby to the living room and do so in the rocking chair, returning the baby, ALWAYS returning the baby, to the bassinette. Then, after a few months, we would move the baby into a crib in their own bedroom. We NEVER brought our children into our bed, not even if they were fussy, and I was quite smug about it. Not because I believed those rumors that you might roll over on your baby and smother him or her (well, ok, I worried about that a little) but mainly because my kids always went to bed {reasonably} easy, in their own rooms, in their own cribs, then later, in their own toddler beds, and for the most part, it wasn’t a big battle. And, selfish me didn’t have to share my bed. Blaine and I bought a king-sized bed for a reason … I like my space when I’m sleeping. I have a dear friend whose daughter insisted on sleeping with him and his wife through her toddler-hood and beyond, until in desperation, he nailed a baby gate across their bedroom door so she couldn’t come in the room at night. No amount of bribery or positive (or negative) reinforcement worked for them, and I felt smug because we never had that problem. Smug because obviously? I am the perfect parent whose children put themselves to sleep in their own beds. I. Am. Fabulous.

Then, Kendrie was diagnosed with leukemia. After her initial two week stay in the hospital, I was dumbfounded to discover the nurses were going to send her home. With us! To our house! To be taken care of by two people who had no nursing skills whatsoever and whose entire worlds had just been turned upside down--- how were WE supposed to take care of a little kid with cancer??? Despite my pleading and begging, no nurse would come home with us; to tell us what to do, what medicines to give, when to give them, how to give them, and calm the panic that had overtaken us. It was like bringing home a newborn baby, only without the joy and excitement and enthusiasm.

So what was the first thing we did, in order to keep an eye on her 24/7? Bring her toddler bed into our room, of course. That smug parenting attitude of mine had gone right out the window, and I wasn't feeling so fabulous about myself anymore. I needed to be able to get up during the night -- repeatedly -- to check her for fever. So that if she cried out in pain, or had a bad dream, we could be there in an instant. So that when she was so swollen and aching from the induction phase of chemo that she couldn’t get herself to the bathroom during the night, we could pick her up and carry her. I don’t even remember how long we kept her bed in our room … a few weeks? A month? I don’t remember. Eventually we moved her back into her room, the one she shares with her brother, and bought them a bunk bed, but we struggled for a long while with her wanting back in our room. And since the toddler bed had been given away at that point, that meant she wound up in our bed. With us. A bony, knees and elbows flailing lump of child-mass right in the middle of our bed. The very thing we had always prided ourselves on avoiding.

Eventually we got her back in her own bed (around the time she started Pre-K, employing the “big girls sleep in their own bed” line of reasoning) and she would only come into our room if she had a bad dream, or thought she saw a spider (what is it with my kids and their freaky obsession slash fear of spiders?) I was feeling pretty fabulous again. But when Blaine went to Seattle this past May, she came back in my bed, and I allowed it because with Grandma in the house for several weeks, we needed the extra bed. But now? She’s like an uninvited party guest who JUST. WON’T. LEAVE!!

She’s sneaky, though. Every night we put her to bed in her own bed, and she falls asleep there. We go to bed, happily spreading out as only king-size mattress people can do. Then, sometime during the night, Kendrie slinks into our bed, like a cat burglar. Quietly, stealthily. I don’t even realize it until her elbow hits me across the nose, or I get a fist in the side of my head, or a knee in the kidney. Because she doesn’t share Blaine’s side of the bed, oh, no. HE still gets an entire half of the bed, but I’m left sharing my half with her. And you know what? HAVING FUN! I'M NOT!!!

I sleep the whole night in the same position, facing the wall, balanced precariously on the edge of the bed, with my back to her, to avoid being poked in the eye or having my windpipe crushed when she flings an arm out. Of course, she spends the wee hours of the morning poking me in the back, but at least those bruises can be hidden from the public eye. I can’t roll over, or move my pillow to get more comfortable. Heaven forbid I try to claim my fair share of the covers. It’s like a really uncomfortable twin-bed slumber party and I wake up, NOT feeling rested or refreshed.

Then the kicker was Saturday night. She knocked a tooth out on Saturday (don’t ask) and where did the tooth go that night? Under MY pillow! She didn’t even PRETEND she would be in her own bed, it went straight under my pillow. So not only did I sleep poorly that night, avoiding her elbows and knees and hugging my edge of the mattress, but I had to be careful not to stick my hand under the pillow and accidentally knock her tooth or the subsequent dollar out of the way.

About 5am, I realized how ridiculous it was and just got up. But then I was very cranky because it was SUNDAY, and thanks to my daughter, I was up at 5am. So I told Blaine, “That’s it. Tonight, I don’t care what time it is or how tired you are, I’m waking your ass up and you’re going to put her back in her own bed!” because why should I be the only one suffering? Maybe if I make him suffer the consequences as well, he’ll be a little more vested in fixing the problem. (The truth? I’m just too lazy to carry her back to bed so I came up with the whole “vested” argument to justify waking him up.)


UPDATE: I wrote the above portion of this journal entry on Sunday afternoon, anticipating a total meltdown Sunday night when we kicked her out of our bed. This is what actually happened:

I’ll be damned if she didn’t sleep through the night in her own bed last night. The first time in over three months. I was so startled that I woke up at 5am, reflexively flinching to avoid her elbow, only to realize she wasn’t there, and then I couldn’t go back to sleep! But for six glorious hours I had my pillow and my blanket to myself ………. Ahhhhhhhh, heaven!

Obviously, just writing about the problem, actually putting pen to paper (er, fingers to keyboard) solved it. Right? Say it out loud, and the problem disappears?? So, in that vein, be on the lookout for journal entries on the following topics, which I hope will then solve themselves as well:





Saturday, August 19, 2006 4:20 PM CDT

I received an online request from Supersibs!, the organization that helped support Brayden and Kellen during Kendrie's treatment. Supersibs! has a wonderful mission, recognizing the siblings of kids with cancer, and there were many times that the mail to our house was opened, and a note, postcard, or gift was included for them. Their mission has been SO successful, in fact, with so many siblings being referred to them, that they are having a fundraising campaign which I am happy to pass on. Please read below, and if it's in your heart to donate, I know it will be greatly appreciated. Thanks. :)

I’m reaching out to you with an urgent appeal and tremendous opportunity. Our family has received invaluable support from SuperSibs! – the only organization that specifically helps brothers and sisters of children with cancer. Unanticipated demand for their services has created an urgent need for additional, immediate funding. Please join me in supporting SuperSibs!. If you donate $40 by September 15th, Kenny’s Kids will match your gift dollar for dollar – bringing the total contribution amount to $80 – the cost to support 1 SuperSibs! child for one full year.

Did You Know This? – Facts About Brothers and Sisters of Children with Cancer

Research indicates that 63% of siblings of children with cancer experience emotional and behavioral challenges after the diagnosis, including post-traumatic stress. Siblings are at risk for poor academic achievement, impaired social interactions, guilt, aggressiveness, withdrawal and anxiety. Younger siblings have displayed higher levels of depression and anxiety than the ill child. Siblings often experience feelings of loss, anger, abandonment, jealousy, fear, depression, grief and more – often resulting in social and behavioral challenges, and school difficulties. These “shadow survivors” – the siblings – carry this impact for the rest of their lives.

An Urgent Need for Support – Currently, SuperSibs! receives 250 new referrals each month – 50 more per month than antcipated based on referral trends. As a result, SuperSibs! urgently must raise an additional $48,000 to ensure their ability to serve every child referred into the program. SUPERSIBS! DOES NOT WANT TO TURN CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES AWAY or put them on yet, another waiting list.

Why Invest in SuperSibs! – SuperSibs! is strategically designed to meet children where they are – at their mailboxes – with age-appropriate emotional healing and comfort elements 8-10 times per year. Every child enrolled in the program receives these coping tools free of charge, while placing no additional burden on already financially and emotionally drained parents. Every day they receive letters, drawings, pictures, and thank you’s from siblings, parents, and pediatric oncology professionals, validating their impact. What other $40 investment do you know of that can truly change a child’s life long into the future?

Will YOU Help? ­­–SuperSibs! will be asked to serve over 6,900 children this year. Your support will ensure their ability to do so.

By making your $40 investment in SuperSibs! today you will DOUBLE the value and impact of your gift. Once again, Kenny’s Kids will match your investment, dollar for dollar, up to $25,000! SuperSibs! can only maximize this matching grant opportunity and serve more children with your help.

I can promise that your donation will make a tremendous difference. Thank you!

P.S. Your tax deductible donation will immediately be put to work supporting at-risk children in our program. To DOUBLE the value and impact of your investment, please mail your check by September 25th to SuperSibs! at the address below. For your convenience, you may also donate online at Supersibs Donate. Thank you for ensuring that no child is turned away or cut off from this vital healing support.


4300 Lincoln Ave, Suite I

Rolling Meadows, IL 60008

Website: www.supersibs.org

Toll free: 866-444-SIBS (7427)


To honor, support and recognize brothers and sisters of children with cancer

Friday, August 18, 2006 8:31 AM CDT


Aka. What’s been going on with me the past 48 hours

**Who was the sadist that thought it would be a good idea to put “prize redemption counters” in places like Chuck E. Cheese or our local pizza parlor? So that kids blow through five dollars worth of tokens in 3.2 minutes but still don’t have enough tickets to get the crap they want? And it is ALL crap, I don’t care what you say. And is it just my children, or kids everywhere, whose basic math skills go out the window while trying to add up the amounts of each prize {crap} and figure out which prizes {crap} they have enough tickets to get? And the bored, minimum-wage-earning teenager behind the counter is rolling his eyes at how long it’s taking, and the dilemma over which toys are best, yet I’m the one repeating over and over, “You can get two tattoos and one piece of bubble gum, or four tootsie rolls and one laffy-taffy, but you don’t have enough for Chinese finger-cuffs, dum-dum suckers, and a new pencil.” Seriously. What fresh hell is this?

**Why my dog, who is so old and tired and lazy that he can sleep the entire day away in the same spot on the living room rug, without so much as rolling over, suddenly finds the energy in the middle of the night to wake us up every half hour to go outside and chase frogs? And because I worry he might actually *need* to go, and heaven forbid we have a repeat of the doggy-diarrhea-on-the-dining-room-floor episode, I get up and let him out every time? Then curse under my breath when he’s standing at the back door barking to be let back in fifteen minutes later?

**Why when I took my camera to Best Buy to be serviced earlier this week, taking advantage of the four free cleanings I get with my extended warranty, the greeter at the front doors put a sticker on it so no-one would think I had stolen it …. And then the sticker left a gummy adhesive residue on the body of my camera, which isn’t really a big deal, I just need to clean it off, yippee for me, because as the mom of three young kids I don’t have enough things to clean around here on a daily basis.

**Why I was just now told that my four free camera cleanings -- THE PRIMARY REASON I BOUGHT THE EXTENDED WARRENTY -- can’t be done unless I am having problems with the camera? And no, I didn’t “misunderstand” the salesperson that sold me the warranty, as the Best Buy guy suggested --- he flat out misrepresented himself and his product. But after the Bonzai waterslide episode at Wal-Mart, I just don’t have it in me to argue with another single customer service person this week.

**Why my nine-year old daughter thought it would be a good idea to take a live wasp to school to show her friends yesterday? And put it in her bookbag, in a Rubbermaid container, without mentioning it to me, so that it was only a fluke I even noticed it and took it away from her before the wasp got loose and flew around the school and stung some kid who would of course be deathly allergic to wasps, you know that’s what would have happened because that’s just the way things seem to be going lately. A live wasp. Whatever happened to taking bowling trophies or your favorite stuffed animal?

**And why is it when I have a zillion and one projects to do around the house, in preparation for our community yard sale this weekend, and my scrapbooking retreat next weekend, and all the ebay stuff I need to ship out, and all the take-home cutting and laminating projects my kids’ teachers have given me (not to mention the time I spent in class yesterday helping Brayden’s class roll out giant sugar cookies and then cut them into the shape of the United States, complete with mountain and coastal ranges) ……….. with all these projects to be done, how could I have fallen asleep on the sofa at 7pm last night?

**And this might very well be the most boring update in the history of the world.

PS. For those people who’ve asked about paying me to burn them a copy of the cd I made for my kids …….. it’s not that I mind, but that I think it’s illegal to burn music off of iTunes and then charge other people for it. But really, you can do it! Just go to the iTunes website and they will hold your hand and walk you through it. As long as your computer comes with a cd burner, and you have a credit card (each song cost 99 cents) it’s really simple to do. Trust me, if *I* can figure it out, with this techno-black-cloud that seems to hang over my head, you can do it! And if you absolutely cannot figure it out, e-mail me privately and we’ll figure out what to do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 8:19 AM CDT


And the reason I say Part 1 is because in between the suggestions of my friends, and the browsing I did on iTunes, I have enough songs to make a whole 'nother cd, it was just really late the other night and I was getting tired and lazy. But Part 2 is definitely on it’s way. You know. When I'm not so tired and lazy. Like when my kids go away to college.

“Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera (both the radio version and the dance version)

“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

“Stupid Girls” by Pink (although I think it’s coming off the disc because even the clean version is not clean enough for me. Er, clean enough for my kids)

“Happy Girl” and “She’s a Butterfly” by Martina McBride

“I Don’t Need You (to tell me I’m pretty)” by Samantha Mumba

“This is My Time” by Raven

“Breakthrough” and “Fly” by Hope 7

“Miss Independent” by Kelly Clarkson

“Just a Girl” by No Doubt

“We Can” by Leann Rimes

“Stronger” by Britney Spears

“Supergirl” by Amy Anne

“Super Girl” by Julia

“What I Like About You” by Barbie Hit Mix

“Rush” by Aly & AJ

“Who Said” by Hannah Montana The song that is playing now --- love it!

Other songs that were suggested, that I either didn’t love *as much* or loved very much, but couldn’t find on iTunes:

“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

“Man I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin

“Dancing Queen” by A Teens or Abba

“Perfect Day” by Hoku

“Independent Woman” by Destiny’s Child

“All I Want to Do” by Sheryl Crow

“Brand New Day” by Forty Foot Echo

“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

“One Girl Revolution” by Superchick

“Can’t Hold Us Down” by Christina Augilera and Lil Kim

“I Decide” by Lindsey Lohan

“Watch me Shine” by Joanna Pacitti

“Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” and “Sisters” by Spice Girls

“Can’t Get Me Down” by Lo-Ball

“Girl Power” by Cheetah Girls

“Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson (I simply couldn’t put this song on the CD because it leaves me an emotional wreck every time I hear it. I know it’s about a small town girl, leaving home, but when I hear it, in my heart it’s about a child dying from cancer and leaving everyone behind and I wind up driving down the road sobbing and hysterical ….. not quite the cheerful feeling I was going for with this cd. But no, I don’t think my daughter’s cancer experience left me psychologically scarred or anything, thanks for asking.)

“Me Against the World” and “We Love” by Superchick

“Good Life” by Leslie Mills

“What’s Good for Me” by Lucy Woodward

“Girl Can Rock” by Hilary Duff

“I Love Life” by Melissa Lefton

“Me vs the World” by Halo Friendlies

Disney also put out a good CD called Girls Rock which I bought for Brayden last year. She took it to school and lent it to a friend --- hmmm, haven't seen it since, big surprise. So now she keeps telling me I need to buy her another one and I keep telling her this is called learning a lesson the hard way and what an allowance is for.

Thanks to the recommendation in the guestbook, I’m also looking at downloading the self-titled album from Barlow Girl, which is in the iTunes inspirational category, but seems to be pro-girl and very upbeat and catchy. I mean, my kids aren’t exactly going to sit around holding hands each evening and singing Kumbya, so this might be a fun alternative.

So anyway, those are the song titles I’m using (thanks to my scrapbooking buddy Laura for suggesting most of them) --- hope they can help some of you who want to do the same thing for your girls!

And yep, Kellen’s still a ninja-butterfly.

Monday, August 14, 2006 10:04 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 242 Off-Treatment

Blaine -- Count down has begun; 29 days until we find out how well the radiation worked.

A few months ago, I bought the new Pink CD. Brayden promptly fell in love with the song “Stupid Girl”, and while I agree with the overall message of the song -- no need to be a bimbo, be proud to be smart -- there was still no way she was going to listen to the unedited version due to the language and sexual content. (Me? Yes. I not only listen to it, I sing it at the top of my lungs with the volume turned up and the windows rolled down …. but only when the kids are NOT with me in the car.)

So I was browsing iTunes a while back and noticed there was a “clean” version of the song available to download, and I decided to make a copy for Brayden. Then I thought, why not make her an entire cd of songs with positive messages for girls? Messages about being intelligent, and independent, and ambitious, and not letting other people pigeon-hole you. Not letting other people tell you what to think or how to feel or making you feel bad about yourself. I didn’t want anything anti-male, or bitchy. Nothing sappy about how “I can’t go on without you” or “You’re the reason my life is worth living” either. I realize she’s coming to an age where peer pressure will come into play more often, and where the warped body images shoved down her throat by the media will most likely influence her self-esteem. I mean, you *see* those girls dancing in the music videos or dressing like hookers, and you start to think it’s normal. She loves music and I thought this might be a clever way to slip some of my principles in without her noticing. Yep, I’m nothing if not sneaky.

I solicited song suggestions from my friends (the most oft-suggested song? R.E.S.P.E.C.T. by Aretha Franklin) and spent a few hours searching iTunes before making my selections. I was looking for music FOR girls, BY girls, ABOUT girls, that would promote the ideals of self-confidence, strength, and assurance in oneself. One song linked to another, which gave me the idea for another, and before I knew it I had twenty songs ready to go. As I was burning the cd, I realized that many of the songs applied to Kendrie as well, and especially to her battle with cancer. Songs about overcoming obstacles and challenges, being strong and true to yourself, and about finding happiness no matter your situation, so I decided to burn her a copy as well. Then I thought, hey, *I* like the songs as well, so I’d make a copy for myself. (By golly, I’m getting my money’s worth out of this music! Sneaky AND cheap, that’s me!)

When I picked the kids up from school that afternoon I had the cd playing in the van. Brayden immediately noticed and I told her I had burned her a copy. Then I got the expected, “That’s no fair!” from Kendrie, until I told her I had made her a copy, too. Then Kellen wanted to know if I made him a copy. Um, well, you see, son, these are songs FOR girls, BY girls, ABOUT girls (voice trailing off) …………. So Kellen is now the proud new owner of the following songs, just to name a few off the disk:

She’s a Butterfly

Happy Girl


Just a Girl

Miss Independent

Super Girl

And best of all: I Don’t Need You To Tell Me I’m Pretty

And he loves them, ha!

Of course, I was eager to promote the underlying messages to him, as well. His self-image matters, too, right? It's ok for him to be in touch with his feminine side, isn't it? He and I were alone in the van this weekend and the song “Unwritten” was on. The gist of the song is that you have your whole life ahead of you, nothing is carved in stone and you can write the story of your life yourself. So I’m thinking yes, I can skew this to a male perspective, this song isn’t very girly, and he and I have the following conversation:

Me: Do you understand what she means in this song when she says your life is unwritten?

Kellen: Um, no.

Me: Well, it’s about how you are the person to make your decisions in life and you should try to make good ones. How everyone's life starts out unwritten, but if you write something down, you can make it happen for yourself.

Kellen: No, that's not true. If someone wrote down that they were going to be attacked by an alligator doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

Me: Well, no, of course not. But it means things aren’t carved in stone and you can change things for yourself.

Kellen: Who carves in stone? Stones are hard. I don’t think you can really carve in them.

Me: It’s just a figure of speech. It means that no one can tell you what to do or how to act. That YOU decide to be a good person and you can be. Do you know what I mean by a good person?

Kellen: Yeah, ninjas are good. I want to be a ninja. Do you think I can be a ninja when I grow up?

(Sigh) You know what? Forget it. Forget all the lofty standards I’m trying to share. I don't think he even HAS a feminine side. Let’s just turn up the volume, roll down the windows, and sing.

Saturday, August 12, 2006 6:59 AM CDT


AKA: Reason #7127 why I hate Wal-Mart.

I am sure there are at least one or two places in the world that are hotter and more humid than Georgia in the summer. Perhaps, say, standing in Death Valley at high noon wearing thermal long johns and holding a solar panel over your head. Or Hell. I can only assume Hell would be hotter. But considering all the places *we’ve* ever lived, Georgia wins hands-down as the hottest, wettest place to spend a summer. Thank heavens I had the common sense good luck to suck up to make friends with families who have pools, who were willing to share the cool, refreshing pastime of swimming with us. However, there are only so many hours in the day one can invite oneself over as a guest to swim, so a while back we found ourselves looking for a way to keep the kids cooled off and entertained here at our own house. Blaine and I would like nothing more than to put in a pool, but considering our backyard is more diagonal than an Olympic downhill ski course, it just isn’t happening. Well, that, and the fact they cost a lot of money, which we are too cheap to spend. After all, I have other, more important things to spend my money on, like aerobic tennis shoes and workout clothes to buy and never wear!

So, after the poor man’s dunk tank the kids were forced to entertain themselves with over Memorial Day Weekend, we broke down and joined the craze sweeping the nation, and bought a Bonzai Water Slide. For those of you who haven’t seen one, it’s an inflatable slide that hooks up to the garden hose. I know, images of a Slip-N-Slide come to mind, but it’s on a much larger scale. You actually climb up the back of the slide, and the water sprays over the top, and collects in a small pool at the end. It has a motor that inflates it, and is actually pretty awesome ….. here, let me just show you:

(PS. This is a stock image off the internet --- NOT our backyard!)

While it certainly wasn’t as expensive as hiring a demolition crew to flatten our backyard and put a pool in, it wasn’t what I call cheap, either. We bought it on sale at Wal-Mart for $350.00. (I know, I know, I said I hated Wal-Mart and wouldn't shop there, but they were one of only two places in town selling these things, and in their defense, they *were* fifty dollars cheaper … but I digress) The kids loved it! It was fun! It was refreshing! It was like a siren song for the neighborhood children each time we turned on the motor and inflated it! It was … oh, shit. It was defective …. Look at that, the entire center seam just ripped out of it. Hmmmm. Not so good. It came with a patch kit, but none of the patches were two feet long, which was what we needed to repair the rip.

And that’s about the time we realized we couldn’t find the receipt anywhere.


So Blaine packed the whole thing back up in it’s original box, with the price and UPC code on the side, and I took it back to Wal-Mart, feeling self-conscious about the fact I didn’t hang on to the receipt, but darn it, there was no way to repair this thing and we sure as heck hadn’t gotten our $350 worth out of it! The girl at Customer Service called an assistant store manager, who, to put it bluntly, was mean to me. Mean, hateful, I-have-no-business-working-in-retail-nasty, somebody-must-have-peed-in-her-post-toasties-that-morning-grumpy to me.

The gist of our conversation:

Me: I realize I don’t have a receipt, but I don’t want my money back. Could we just exchange it since this one appears to be defective?

Mean lady: No, we don’t have any more.

Me: So, when will you be getting more?

Mean lady: We won’t. It’s a seasonal item and the season is over.

Me: Um, ok. So what can we do?

Mean lady: Nothing. Without a receipt, you’re out of luck.

Me: What about a store credit?

Mean lady: No.

Me: What about --

Mean lady: No.

Me: Well could we possibly --

Mean lady: No.

Me: Well is there any --

Mean lady: No.

And that was the end of that. She took my name and number, grudgingly, at my insistence, and told me she would talk to the general manager to see if he knew where we could possibly get another one, and then she would call me back later that day.

I came home and told Blaine she was mean to me; the grown-up equivalent of “that bully picked on me and stole my lunch money.” Blaine knows how incredibly non-confrontational I am (understatement of the year) and I think he *sort of* believed me when I said that lady was not helpful, but that didn’t solve the problem of our inflatable slide which would no longer inflate.

Three days later, when we (big surprise) hadn’t heard back from her, Blaine decided he would give it another try, and dragged the thing back to the store. I was curious to see if he would fare better than me.

When he arrived back home, he walked in the front door, looked me square in the eye, and said, “That lady is mean.” Ah, vindication! Apparently during the course of their conversation she said the same thing to him she had said to me (verbatim): “It’s not our problem if you don’t have a receipt”. Now, that’s a happy customer service attitude to have. Promote that lady right on up the management chain, for her ability to think outside of the box and find a solution and do what it takes to keep the customer satisfied.

But! Apparently HE got mean right back, and demanded to see a different manager and asked why they couldn’t look up the receipt in their system since we still had the original Wal-Mart sticker and UPC code on the box, good grief, you can do anything with computer technology nowadays there has to be some way to track this, and how if they agree we’re entitled to a replacement, but they don’t have one in stock and won't be getting any more, how exactly is that OUR fault??? You know, the logical things I would have *liked* to have said, but didn't have the courage.

The manager said if we could bring in something -- anything -- that showed the date we bought it, she could look up the transaction herself. She was all martyred up about it, with heaving shoulders and big sighs about how difficult it would be to pull all the register records, and could I possibly remember what time of day I bought it and from what register????? Here’s the first time procrastination has paid off, since our credit card statement for that month was still sitting on top of the shredder, in the “to be shredded” pile. No time or register number, but cold hard proof of the date of purchase.

So the next day (is this like the longest story EVER?) Blaine went BACK in, but that manager was gone, so he had to start over. And do you know what happened? They called up a different manager, who listened briefly to Blaine’s explanation of what had happened, scanned the UPC code himself, and in less than thirty seconds had credited our Visa for the entire amount. Um, hello?!?! WHY couldn’t that have been done the first time I went in there??? Is it because I’m spineless, and roll over and play dead the minute any kind of conflict happens? Did the Wicked Witch of the Wal Mart instantaneously decide she didn’t like me for some reason, and simply wasn’t going to help me, no matter how nice I tried to be? Or was it because when Blaine, a male customer, walked in and spoke with a male manager, they cut through the b.s. and fixed it.

Who knows? All I know is I have an extra $350 on my credit card, and now I can buy me another new pair of Avia tennis shoes for aerobics!!

Kristie ps. Ironic, isn’t it, that if they had given me the store credit like I asked for the first day, that money would have stayed in the store. Now, Wal-Mart just lost the entire amount, because I’m taking myself right back to Target. And making Blaine take back all returns for the rest of my life.

Friday, August 11, 2006 0:40 AM CDT


And that includes the Semester of Hell in my Public Speech Class in College. And the time I had all my wisdom teeth pulled and got four dry sockets at the same time.

Let’s see, where to begin, where to begin? As you know, because I’ve certainly griped enough about it in the past, I’ve been carrying around some *cough* a lot *cough* extra weight since my last pregnancy and have been working hard to lose it. I’m actually sixty-five pounds lighter than they day I delivered Nicolas, which sounds fabulous until you realize I’m still at least thirty pounds overweight which means OH MY GOSH I WAS 100 POUNDS OVERWEIGHT AT THAT POINT!!! Sad, but true. So I’ve been dieting and doing ok, but the weight loss has plateaued, which is usually a sign that like it or not, it’s time to add exercise to the program if I want to see more results. (Did I mention GAG?)

In a stroke of perfect timing, a friend told me yesterday that a friend of hers is leading free tae-bo/aerobics classes at a local church three evenings a week, and would I like to join them??? So, because I haven’t exercised in at least five or six years, unless you count that brief, unfortunate period shortly after Kendrie was diagnosed when I decided to mall-walk in the mornings, with her in a stroller, and the old-people-mall-walkers were carrying hand weights and using ankle weights and still leaving me in a cloud of dust .... Well, if you don’t count that, it’s been forever. So I went out in preparation for the first class tonight and bought some new exercise clothes and tennis shoes, which Blaine says is silly (in his defense, he *does* know my track record with exercise programs and can see for himself that the treadmill in our bedroom is still used primarily as a dumping ground for clothes that need to go to the dry cleaners) but I keep reminding him the classes are FREE so actually I’m saving him money. Why he doesn’t *get* that, I don’t know. (sigh) Obviously, these new, adorably cute gray and lime-green Avias are going to make me perkier and more energetic in class, which translates into more calories burned … duh!

So anyway, tonight was the first class. My friend kept reminding me, “Now, you have to remember that the girl leading the class is not an actual instructor. She’s just the only person who was willing to stand in the front.” Fine, whatever, my expectations aren’t that high. Anything beats sitting on the couch, right? Warm up, jump around, cool down, as long as I break a sweat I’ll consider it progress over my normal course of activity, which is using my legs to roll my chair from my computer desk to my scrapbooking table across the room, stopping for a snack along the way.

Let me preface the rest of this story with the disclaimer that I despise it when someone complains about a problem but isn’t willing to do anything about it. Like the parents who hate the way the PTO is run, but won’t volunteer at the school. Or criticize from the stands, but can’t be bothered to help coach their kid’s soccer team. That sort of thing. This lady, this psuedo-aerobics-tae-bo-instructor, is willing to take her own time and come to the church and drag her boom box and stand up there without payment to lead this class. And I appreciate it. And you sure don’t see my fat ass up there. But oh my Gosh, DOES. SHE. SUCK!!

Now, I’m far from any kind of exercise goddess, as evidenced by the size of my thighs, but I’ve taken my share of aerobic classes over the years. Add in my six years of marching band and dance team in junior high and high school, and I can say, that while Richard Simmons isn’t worried about me replacing him on any new Sweating to the Oldies videos, at the very least, I DO have a sense of rhythm. I can follow along with the thump of music and understand that aerobic music normally beats to a count of eight.

This woman? Did not understand that.

She was nice. She was friendly. She was willing to stand up there and lead, which was more than I would do. But it was painful. Very, very painful.

First of all, the music? Terrible. All 1970’s and 1980’s R&B stuff. Like she was walking through someone’s yard sale and saw a bunch of Mo-town 8-tracks and though, “Hey! This will be perfect for that tae-bo class!” and so she bought them and then made a tape for herself by recording random songs off various 8-tracks. This song playing now? It was the last song we heard tonight on the tape and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head all night.

And it wasn’t even that the music was bad (it was) but that there were long stretches of silence between each song on the tape. Stretches of silence where we just stood or marched in place because there was no music. Like the kind of crappy home-made tapes you used to listen to in Jr. High, when you tried to get all the Styx and Journey and Kansas ballads onto one tape because you thought that would be really cool.

And I’m not sure why the music was even important, because she had no sense of the beat. None. At all. And the movements weren’t done in sets of eight, she counted off in sets of ten. Ten. Anyone who knows anything about music knows it’s nothing more than math, and it’s not done in sets of ten. But hers was. And in between each set of ten, she would have to walk up to the table in front of her to look at her sheet of paper and see what movement was next so we would simply march in place and wait. There was no flow, no order. Stop and start. Stop and start. Count to ten. It was difficult to watch, and practically impossible to follow.

The whole thing was so bad as to be kind of funny. We did our warm up and stretches and they were ok, although I noticed immediately that she wasn’t on the beat. Then we stopped to get a drink of water. Then we started with the exercises, stopping every time she had to check her paper, and in the silence before every new song came on. Then we got another drink of water. Then we stopped half way through the “core” part of the workout to stretch again. Then did floor work, and then did actual tae-bo movements until the end, slower, but no cool down.

After just a few minutes, I knew I couldn’t follow along because there was a beat, and she wasn’t following it. (Have I mentioned she wasn’t on the beat? EVER? Remember those times you were asked to slow dance with some boy, and he just moved side to side at his own speed, irregardless of what the music was doing? And you would think, “My gosh, can’t you step left and right in time to the music?” Well, that’s exactly how this was only with exercising! And bad R&B music!)

Finally I thought, OK, I’m simply going to do the movements with the music, and who cares if I’m not in perfect synch with the instructor or the rest of the class, because apparently none of them have a sense of timing either, or maybe they’re all deaf and just can’t hear the music. (Yes, these are the thoughts that were going through my head during the class.) Then I even thought, “Maybe this is Candid Camera or something! I can’t be the only one in this entire room who can hear the music.” I know I looked completely goofy, flailing about at my own speed, doing my own thing, and they probably all talked about “that poor uncoordinated girl in the corner” after I left. And I even caught myself thinking, “Wow, if they are all together, and I am the only one who is not, am I wrong? Do I really NOT have a sense of rhythm and all these years I’ve been deluding myself?” But I really, truly think maybe it was a deaf people’s aerobics class.

And what’s worse, is I have to stick it out, because *my* friend thinks it's great and I don’t have the nerve to tell her how terrible I think it is. And, like I said, even though I’m sitting here complaining, you don’t see ME offering to lead the class. And even bad aerobics to Motown is better than no aerobics. And? I have to justify the cute little gray and lime-green Avias, or Blaine will mock me. Again.


Wednesday, August 9, 2006 11:12 PM CDT



(The answers are “Nowhere” and “Probably Not”)

I want to say a sincere thanks to all of you for not only putting up with my vent in the last journal entry about bone marrow donations, but also for letting me know how many of you donate blood, plasma and platelets on a regular basis, are signed up for the bone marrow registry, or are in the process of signing up, and are organ donors as well. Considering you’re all big-hearted enough to follow along on these Caringbridge sites, I suppose my rant was a “preaching to the choir” type of episode, but it still did my heart good to hear from so many of you and hear firsthand about the compassion and kindness that’s still in the world.

To answer a few questions from the guestbook --- yes! Pregnant women can donate their baby’s cord blood, and you can go to The Site to find out how. Yes, there is a charge for non-minorities to sign up for the marrow registry, but that fee is sometimes waived at drives, if there is enough funding or corporate sponsorship. Not sure about the bulging disc issue; I do know back problems can rule out a potential donor. Someone at the registry should be able to tell you for sure. 1-800-MARROW2 (1-800-627-7692)

Most importantly, remember that something as “small” as donating blood is not small at all, when someone in your family is receiving blood or blood products on a regular basis. I loved the comment in the guestbook (sorry, I’m too lazy to go back and see exactly who wrote it) about “if I gave to every worthwhile charity out there I’d be broke -- but I can give blood.” I gave on Monday. Felt pretty self-satisfied afterwards, too. And the Oreos weren't too damn bad, either. :)

Anyway, I thought I would give you a couple of real quick updates on entries I’ve written recently; to catch you up on what is happening in the Land of Escoe. First, remember when I wrote about putting out the soccer signs one morning and Kellen was being wardrobe-challenged and refused to change out of his pajamas and I figured so what? Who would see us anyway? Well, that question was answered at our school’s Open House Night, when one of the kindergarten teachers pulled me aside and told me she had driven past that very intersection, at that very same moment, and how cute it was seeing my son, dancing so happily in his Christmas pajamas and his sister’s pink sandals on the side of the road, and how it just made her day to see it first thing in the morning. Yeah. Great.

Then, remember my long post about what a tomboy Kendrie is, and how she would wear fatigues and Batman shirts to school every day and be perfectly happy, but that we had compromised with some “tomboy” clothes? Well, school has been in session almost one entire week and guess what she HASN’T worn yet --- Not once --- and what she told me she doesn’t **want** to wear (although she did have the decency to ask if it would hurt my feelings if she didn’t wear them) …………………….

Yep, you guessed it. The clothes are going back to the store, or on ebay if I can’t find the stupid receipt. And this? This little girl in camo shorts and a hunting t-shirt? Well, like so many of you said, she might be a tomboy, but at least she’s a happy tomboy. Thanks for making me feel better about my decision to leave her be.

For those of you who watch Disney Channel, doesn't her hairdo make her look like Hal from That's So Sadie??? Ha!

And so, it’s late and I’ll end this quickly, but not before asking you all for one more favor. Please visit Cam’s site and leave him and his family some hopeful words in his guestbook. They received bad news today regarding his relapse treatment and I’m sure some encouraging notes would be appreciated.


Sunday, August 6, 2006 3:46 PM CDT


{warning: Very long, very rant-ish, did I mention very long? And even some bad words. And very long.}

I’ve gone back and forth on possible ways to type this particular journal entry. Initially, I had this really great song called “Shut Up and Smile” I planned to play, and I wanted to do a humorous entry about how when people bug me with their idiocy, I have to remind myself to (can you guess?) shut up and just smile. I intended for it to be a light-hearted entry, and started typing, only to go off on this tangent, which was not about humor and lightheartedness, but more about how stupid, selfish, shallow people really make me livid. So I deleted the whole thing and started over, reminding myself, “Self, remember, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. But I hadn’t gotten through the first paragraph before I was venting again, and ripping into people, so I started over again. And again. And finally came to the conclusion that me throwing the equivalent of an internet temper tantrum wasn’t so entertaining after all. But, this just isn’t a subject I can make light of, so here goes:

Last week I attended a training session to become a volunteer for the National Bone Marrow Registry. There is a local organization here in Macon called Jay’s Hope, set up in memory of Baby Jay. Jay’s Hope is organizing bone marrow drives in and around the town where I live. Specifically, to try and find bone marrow matches for two teenage boys in our community; cancer patients {just like Kendrie} who, quite bluntly, are going to die unless matches are found so they can have transplants. So, Jay’s Hope is organizing these drives with the hope that someone will match one or both of these boys, or in the broader picture, match any of the thousands of people who are on the waiting list for a transplant. Looking desperately for a match. In a life-or-death situation, if a match isn’t found. Just to be sure I’m making myself clear: People DIE waiting for a match.

• A few statistics: Every year, more than 30,000 people are diagnosed with leukemia or other life-threatening blood diseases.

• Only 30 percent of all patients in need of a transplant find a matched donor within their family.

• On any given day, more than 3,000 patients are searching the NMDP registry for a matched donor.

The National Marrow Donor Program is the hub of a worldwide network of more than 500 leading medical facilities in marrow and blood cell transplantation. Through this network, the NMDP facilitates an average of 200 marrow or blood cell transplants each month and has helped give more than 20,000 patients a second chance at life.

• Each year more than 35,000 children and adults in the United States are diagnosed with diseases for which a marrow or blood cell transplant could be a cure.

• A transplant requires matching tissue types between patient and donor. These tissue types are inherited, but 70 percent of patients do not have a matched donor in their family.

• These patients and their physicians can turn to the NMDP for help with the search for a match and for support through every step of the transplant journey.


So, ok, that’s that. We’ve established **why** this is important. These are people whose lives are literally in the balance, and if no-one in their family is a match, they turn to the registry. What if no-one there is a match, either? They sit, and wait, and get sicker and sicker, and hope someone who *is* a match signs up. Before. It. Is. Too. Late. I signed up to be a marrow donor over ten years ago, and I’ve never been called, but that’s ok. At least I know I’m on the list and if I could ever help save a life, they’ll know how to find me.

I know it’s clichéd, but imagine how you would feel if it was someone in your family … YOUR CHILD … looking for a match and not finding it. It breaks my heart to think of these two local boys, and the fear that their families are facing. The technology is out there, ready and able to possibly save these kids, but without a matched donor, it doesn’t do anybody any good. The clock is ticking, for them, and for thousands of others.

I was pleased when Cindy, Jay’s mom, contacted me to tell me of the bone marrow drives they were spear-heading and ask me if I’d like to help out. I went to one meeting to learn more about their plans, then to the training session. Then, I was scheduled to help with my first drive last weekend at a local church.

But, first, back to my training session. Since the bone marrow drives where I’ll be volunteering are already set up at local churches, there’s not much to be done by way of recruitment. Bone Marrow Registry representatives speak to the congregations, and those who are interested and willing to sign up will come to our pre-arranged area. Me and the other volunteers will do various tasks like help fill out paperwork and forms, answer questions regarding medical eligibility, help with collection kits, man the Requisite-Informative-Video station …….. and the job *I* want: passing out snacks and drinks afterwards.

WHY? You might ask, WHY do I want that job? Despite what you might think, it’s not because I’m lazy or because I want to sneak cookies for myself (ok, well, I’ll possibly sneak a cookie or two) but really, it’s not that.

It’s because while we were watching the training video, there was a part about how to handle people if they decline to sign up for the registry, and WHY IT’S OK IF PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO SIGN UP. A whole big extensive session about how no-one should ever feel pressured to sign up, and it’s such a personal decision, but one of huge responsibility, because what if someone signed up, actually wound up being a match for someone, and then backed out? Believe it or not, that happens, and the patients and their families, are, obviously, devastated.

So, I’m watching this portion of the video about how it’s OK if someone says no, thanks, they don’t want to be a donor, it’s really, really ok, no pressure, and all I can think are two things:

1) Why the HELL would someone NOT BE WILLING to be a donor? And,

2) Why the HELL would someone agree to be a donor and then change their mind after they were found to be a match?

If you can’t be a donor because of age restrictions, or personal medical history, I can understand that. There are a LOT of medical conditions that make a person not eligible to donate, and that sort of stuff can’t be helped. Blaine and Kendrie? Can NEVER be donors. But some of the reasons people were giving in this video (actors, just pretending, to help us prepare in case we encounter the same reasons) were just obnoxious. The only thing MORE obnoxious was the eye-rolling and indignant snorting that I was doing at my end of the table, because of how annoyed I was with the people in the video and their lame-ass excuses. Here are a few examples:

Person says, “I’m really scared of needles, I don’t think I want to donate.”

I’m supposed to say, “Well, I understand. The actual procedure to sign up is a cheek swab, no needles at all. But of course if you were ever found to be a match, there would obviously be needles involved. So if you’re afraid of needles, and don’t want to, we completely understand.”

What I would be more likely to say, “You’re scared of needles, you big baby? Oh, cry me a river! Do you have any idea how many needles these cancer kids get stuck in their arms, legs, chest, back, etc? And they don’t have any choice! So suck it up and help your fellow man, you asshole.”

Person says, “I’ve heard the operation to get the bone marrow out is painful. I don’t like pain. I don’t think I want to donate. Plus, I don’t really have the time for it.”

I’m supposed to say, “Well, there is some discomfort involved in a bone marrow aspiration, but it’s done under local or general anesthetic and most people feel back to normal in a few days. You most likely wouldn’t miss more than a day or two of work. But if you don’t want to, we completely understand.”

What I would be more likely to say, “#($&(#&$(#*&!!!! You’re willing to let someone DIE because YOU don’t want to experience any discomfort??? Or take a day off work? Are you THAT freaking important??? Give me a break! You are the most shallow, self-centered person I have ever met in my life! Get over yourself!”

And various other fantasy-conversations, all of which encompass me harassing people about how I hope THEIR kid never gets sick and needs a transplant, and do they think people with leukemia or lymphoma have any choice about being scared of needles or not liking pain? Or how when cancer kids’ veins are hard to stick, the nurses just keep digging until they get one because it’s not like they can elect not to get chemo or medication or transfusions that day. And how MY kid has had NUMEROUS bone marrow aspirations and she had no choice about it …..

It’s the same thing as people who refuse to donate blood. One stinking hour of their time, and they can’t be bothered.

I’m telling you, Seriously. I need a valium. Or some blood pressure medication. Or anger management classes. Or some vailium. Did I mention valium?? Maybe liquor.

It made me feel a little better that I was sitting with another cancer mom that I knew from our local support group, and that she felt the same way I did. Or at least she pretended to. In hindsight, she might have just been scared of me and my violent reaction, and agreeing with me out of fear.

So do you see? Do you see why I need to do nothing more than pass out cookies and juice? I’m not so sure that I’m the person *anyone* wants representing their volunteer group.

I feel strongly about this. Perhaps a little too strongly.

The drive was last Sunday, and we signed up over 140 people as potential donors --- that is fabulous!! I had to (and by “I”, I mean the group) turn down a few people for medical reasons, but I thanked them sincerely for their interest and willingness. I had one lady tell me she would volunteer for these two local boys, but she didn't want to be tested for anyone else and where should she mark that on the form? And I had two young ladies who changed their minds about signing up after asking me to describe what a bone marrow aspiration was really like. I told them honestly that since I have never had one, I don’t know, but that when my FOUR YEAR OLD DAUGHTER used to get them during her CANCER TREATMENT, as long as they gave her general anesthesia, she was back to normal by later that day. Trying to imply, obviously, that if a (ahem) FOUR YEAR OLD can do it, surely you can, too.

But then a fellow volunteer, one who actually attends the church we were at, told me she turned to another woman in the congregation earlier that morning to ask if she was going to sign up, and the woman said (and I quote): “I prayed on it and the Lord told me ‘no’”.



The Lord told you no???

And that has stuck in my craw for a week, hence the reason I'm not able to journal with mirth about my own lack of empathy.

So then, I was driving around town after the drive, listening to my Trans-Siberian Orchestra CD, Beethoven’s Last Night, which I love, love, love enough to marry, when one of the songs really touched me, and summed up this situation perfectly. I won’t give you the entire rock opera storyline, because this journal entry is too long already, but the gist of it is this: Beethoven, on his final night of life, has to choose between letting the Devil have his soul and his music forever, or saving the life of a child. This song represents Beethoven’s struggle over what his moral responsibility is, to this child he’s never seen before.

And that’s what these bone marrow drives are about. Our responsibility, as decent human beings, to help people who need it, if we possibly, possibly can.

Here are the words to the song, though. I find it incredibly beautiful, both the music and the message:

(by Paul O'Neill
Music By Paul O'Neill, Robert Kinkel, & Jon Oliva

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Lyrics - Who Is This Child Lyrics)


















So maybe that lady prayed on it and the Lord told her no, but thank goodness for people like Cindy, who can't let it go and are doing something to help.

In the meantime, please do four things:

1. Donate blood, as often as possible. I’m spending tomorrow, my kids’ second day of school, donating for the first time since Nicolas’ birth, now that the eight-week wait is over. Labor Day is coming up and blood banks always run low around holidays, so please consider donating, too. (Thank you from the bottom of my heart if you already do, and you know who you are.) Blood donors saved Kendrie's life during her treatment --- please know that every pint in every location in the country makes a difference.

2. Consider signing up with the National Bone Marrow Registry.

3. Say a prayer that I get assigned to the cookie table next time, so all I have to do is shut up and smile.

4. Say a prayer for that woman. I’ve not often shared my religious beliefs on this site because I’m very private in that regard, but if she really prayed on it, and the Lord really told her NO, then I’m pretty sure she’s got some serous shit coming down the turnpike that he must need her to be ready for ---- you know, if he doesn’t want her all distracted with helping her fellow man or being a decent human being or any kind of worthless crap like that.


Friday, August 4, 2006 12:44 AM CDT


Everyone join in, now … sing along with me and put a little FEELING into it!!! {swooshing arms to and fro like a frenetic band director} : It’s the Annual First Day of School Hallelujah Chorus!!!

Happy kids:

Happier parents:

And the Traditional Boo-Hoo Breakfast, although if you look closely you’ll notice there’s not a wet eye in the house. In fact, in addition to the dry eyes and big smiles, there was even a happy dance or two that went on after we dropped our respective kids off this morning. Our smiles would have been even BIGGER but we weren’t sure how Cracker Barrel would feel about us bringing champagne and making ourselves mimosas to celebrate:

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, can you hear the silence in my house????

Kristie PS. Remind me to tell you the story sometime of how on the first day of school, I was asked to work as a lunchroom volunteer and I managed to single-handedly upset the seating chart and cause chaos for over 700 children. I guess that’s one way to make sure I don’t get asked to volunteer anymore!

Thursday, August 3, 2006 10:01 AM CDT


In case you’ve never noticed, there might have been a time or two in the past when I’ve lamented endlessly, droned on and on, alluded briefly to the fact that Kendrie is a **wee** bit of a tomboy. She prefers boys’ clothes, boys’ bikes and toys, boys' activities, boys’ shoes, etc. She says her hair is too long and she wants to get it cut “like a boy”. She says when she grows up, she wants to be “a boy”. The only reason I think a sex-change operation is NOT in her future is because she’s madly in love with her boyfriend Nicholas and says when they grow up they are going to get married and have eighteen children (Oh, my. How long my Christmas gift list will be!) But you get my point --- she’s a total and complete tomboy, not a girly bone in her whole body.

We are so accustomed to her wearing Spiderman clothes and Power Ranger shoes and baseball caps and carrying a Star Wars back-pack that we don’t even notice. *I* know she’s a girl, and if you could hear her little-girl voice, you would know as well, despite outward appearances. There were, however, three instances this week that brought to my attention that to the world at large, she really does fool people with her outward presence.

Instance #1: I took the kids shopping at Target for school supplies. She happened to be out of underwear (WHERE does all the underwear go? Is there some giant black hole, a vacuum in the universe filled with socks and panties that have lost their home?) and so I told her to grab a couple of pair. She asked for boys’ briefs but I told her no, so she chose Curious George panties. We went on to fill our cart with items from the school supply list; notebooks, pencils, folders, etc. Upon checkout, each kid was adamant that *their* items be rung up and bagged separately so they could carry their own because God forbid we get Kellen’s dark-blue wide-ruled spiral notebook confused with Brayden’s dark-blue wide-ruled spiral notebook (Deep breath! Count to ten! In through the nose; out through the mouth!) and as Kendrie was having her own school supply items bagged, Brayden spotted the Curious George panties in the cart, and said loudly, “Don’t forget your panties!” before tossing them on the conveyer belt. Without batting an eye, Kendrie said, “Oh, thanks” and handed them to the cashier. The Target employee had the funniest look on her face, and glanced at me, like, “Seriously? What is wrong with you? You’re making your little boy wear Curious George panties?? What kind of sick-o ARE you???” I actually felt self-conscious, and found myself fumbling through an explanation …. “Oh, yeah, really, she’s a girl, she just looks like a boy, um, yeah.”

Instance #2: Then, later that same evening, I took Kendrie, by herself, shopping for school clothes. We did have a bit of an issue this year, as she, as usual, only wants to wear boy clothes. Namely, denim shorts and t-shirts with various action heroes on the front and/or any manner or method of camouflage. I don’t care … I really, really don’t care …. but not the first day or two of school. I want her to go to tonight’s Meet & Greet the Teachers at the school dressed like a G.I.R.L. Is that so much to ask?? So we compromised on what we called “tomboy clothes” ….. things like cargo pants and polo-style shirts. (But I managed to sneak in a shirt with pink stripes!) Anyway, we were at the department store and needed to try the clothes on so I went to the saleslady to get a key to the girls’ dressing room. She looked at me, looked at Kendrie, looked back at me, looked back at Kendrie, and then said, “You know, they have dressing rooms in the boys’ section as well.”


Once again, I found myself fumbling through an explanation of how believe it or not, she’s a girl, she just doesn’t dress like one.

It doesn’t help that the shaggy-haired look is in now, thanks to those demon twins Zack and Cody from Disney. When Kendrie was bald it was easy for me to be indignant when people called her “little buddy” or “fellow” because “She has CANCER for pete’s sake, how can you be so insensitive?!?” And now, I’m trying desperately to grow her hair out longer, but so is every other little boy on the planet, so she STILL looks like a boy. The dinosaur shirts and Yu-Gi-Oh tennis shoes only serve to intensify the image.

And you know, the bottom line is that I don’t care if she wears boys’ clothes. I’ve said it before, it just doesn’t matter to me. But at what point does it matter to others?

Instance #3 comes with a bit of history …. When I was in the 8th grade, I was in the marching band at my high school. We used to have Monday night practices at the football field during the summer to learn our marching routines before school started and the first football game of the season. Being August in Oklahoma, it was hot. Center of the sun hot. Those of us who weren’t old enough to drive ourselves to and from practice had our parents drop us off and pick us up when it was over. Sometimes our parents and siblings would stay, or come back early and watch. My rosy-colored memory of Monday night band practices include parents sitting in the stands, proudly watching us hack our way through Billy Joel’s “My Life”, sipping lemonade and enjoying a warm summer night. I’m sure my parent’s memory is not quite so Normal Rockwell …. And more likely involves sweltering in the stands in the scorching temperatures and the grudging annoyance of a chauffeur who is forced to listen to the theme to “Superman” twenty bajillion times waiting for us to just GET IT RIGHT SO WE CAN GO HOME PEOPLE!!!

Anyway, there was a girl in the band named Beth, who was the same age as me; around thirteen at the time. She had two younger sisters; the youngest was probably six. One night, her mom drove up at the end of band practice and the sister came with her into the stands to watch us finish up practice. What I remember --- clearly --- is that she came to practice with just shorts on. No shoes, no shirt. (The six-yr old, not the mom!) Hey, it was probably 99 degrees outside, can you blame her? But apparently, at the age of 13, in between the hours I spent feathering my hair and applying my Bonnie Bell lip gloss, I also attended Parenting School. While I don’t remember actually going to any classes, or reading any books, I obviously was a star student and knew everything there was to know about parenting, because I took one look at Beth’s little sister, shirtless, and turned up my nose and deemed Beth’s mother as totally-crazy-in-the-head.

I mean, who DOES that? Who lets their six-year old to go out IN PUBLIC with no shirt on??? What kind of irresponsible, lazy mother would allow that to happen?

The answer to your question, in the year 2006, is: ME.

Yep, add boys swim trunks to the list of items Kendrie prefers. Preferably with sharks on them. She’s worn them for two summers now. I have no doubt they are way more comfortable than girls swimming suits, and hey, you never see Kendrie digging the world’s worst wedgie out of her butt like other little girls are doing. And you know what??? I. DON’T. CARE. Who cares? It’s not like she’s a sexual creature, coming out of kindergarten. Who really cares??? Well, my sister for one. TOTALLY offended by this when we were home this summer. So offended, that at her request I told Kendrie she couldn’t swim at her 4th of July party unless she was willing to wear a shirt over the trunks and you know what? Thirty-odd kids swimming and playing and laughing in the pool, and Kendrie passed on the whole thing. Just wasn’t worth it to her.

Anyway, we were at our friend’s community pool yesterday, enjoying our Last-Swim-Session-Of-Summer (have I mentioned to you that school starts TOMORROW??!?) and Kendrie needed to use the restroom. She asked me to walk her around to the bathrooms (hey, at least I know she’s not peeing in the pool, right?) and when we walked in, her wearing boys’ trunks, there was a little girl changing clothes who gave a small shriek and tried to cover up really quick, thinking Kendrie was a boy. I looked at the mom, apologetically, and gave my normal, “No, really, she’s a little girl” speech and you know what? She was looking at me the same exact way I had looked at Beth’s mom all those years ago ….. wondering what kind of freak lets her daughter go out in public, topless like that.

One the one hand, I could blame the whole thing on the cancer experience, and talk about how she wore girls clothes before she was diagnosed, but then how she preferred baseball caps when she was bald and it just evolved from there. But there are lots of little girls who go through chemo and still dress like little girls, choosing frilly, flowery hats instead of ball caps. And there are lots of little girls who’ve never had to endure cancer treatment who still prefer the t-shirts and tennis shoes of their male comrades. So I seriously doubt that’s to blame.

And on the other hand, let me repeat it in case you aren’t clear: I don’t care if she wears boys clothes!!!! Do. Not. Care!!! As long as she’s happy and respectful in her choices, what the heck difference does it make? Wouldn’t it be worse to force her into clothes she hates, just for the sake of what the public at large *thinks* is suitable for her to wear???

But the third hand is that I guess the time has come for me to put my foot down on the topless swim trunks. T-shirts, tennis shoes, camoflauge, and action heroes, OK. But the days of the topless swimming are coming to an end, unless we are vacationing in St. Tropez. Not because *I* care, but because she’ll be seven next summer and I suppose it’s not proper anymore.

(sigh) It’s a hard balancing act …. Letting kids be individuals and make their own choices, especially choices that aren’t hurting a blinking soul, but also trying to help them understand what is appropriate. I am SERIOUSLY hoping that by next summer, a shirt (or even, dare I to dream, a girls tankini!) is acceptable to her, and that she doesn’t just pass on the whole summer like she did this year’s 4th of July party.

But in the meantime, I owe Beth’s mom an apology. I had never been a parent and had no business judging. Now, I *am* a parent, and I get it. Twenty-seven years and one tomboy of my own later, but I finally get it.

ADDENDUM --She just came in here to tell me that NONE of the new "tomboy clothes" we bought are to her liking for Open House tonight .... she has re-dressed herself in a boys' t-shirt. This is going to be an uphill battle, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 2, 2006 6:43 AM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 230 OT

Blaine -- still thinking that although radiation is hopefully the cure, it has certainly kicked his tail in the meantime. And, preparing to have tubes put in his ear….. again …. In an attempt to stop the ringing and the constant plug-up-ed-ness. (is that a word?)

Number of minutes I spent explaining to the kids why the “we’re just going to get it dirty again, so why should we clean it now?” argument doesn’t really work: Too many.

Number of minutes I spent actually showing them exactly what rooms I wanted them to vacuum, and exactly which pieces of furniture I wanted them to dust: Five.

Number of minutes I spent disentangling the vacuum cleaner from the mountain of blankets in the front coat closet because whatever man designed this house was a total moron and didn’t include ONE SINGLE FREAKING LINEN OR STORAGE CLOSET NOT ONE WOULD THAT BE TOO MUCH TO ASK????:
Only three minutes, but there was a lot of swearing.

Number of minutes I spent just dusting the furniture myself because Kellen pulled his incompetent routine: Ten.

Number of minutes it took for the kids to pull every pillow and blanket in the house into Brayden’s bedroom to make a pile worth jumping off the bed into: One. Not even one. Half of one.

Number of minutes it took for me to nag Brayden into cleaning it back up when they were done: Five.

Number of minutes Brayden spent complaining about how no-one ever helps her do anything and they were playing too so why does she have to do all the work: Endless.

Number of minutes spent persuading Kendrie that just because she’s going to wear them again tonight, it’s still not OK to leave her pajamas in the middle of the hall floor: Three.

Number of minutes spent cursing after stepping barefooted on one of the millions of stupid rocks shiny jewels the kids insist on digging up and bringing in the house and then leave laying all over the place: Ten.

And when all was said and done, and the house was clean again (albeit briefly) and I finally went into the bathroom and sat down on the potty, what should I spy with my little eye? A random piece of plastic, from some random Crappy Meal toy, lying on the floor, in the shape of a perfect “F”. And I sighed, and thought, “Yes, my little plastic toy friend, I know just how you feel.”

Needless to say, when school starts Friday morning in just forty eight hours count 'em just forty eight not that I'm excited or anything, we *will* be going back to our chore charts.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006 9:03 AM CDT


Kellen: “Mom, I had a dream. Want to hear what it was about?”

Kristie: “Um, sure.”

Kellen: “Well, it started out in this one place, but I’m not sure where it was, but then it moved to another place. A place I had never seen. And you were there, but I didn’t see you. And then you weren’t there, but I’m not sure. And there was a giant scary thing, sort of like a monster, but not really. But it was scary, except I wasn’t scared. And I wasn’t sure who else was there, but I know they were people that I knew but I didn’t know who they were. And they were scared of the monster thing but not me because I couldn’t even see it, so it wasn’t very scary …… {voice trailing off} ….. have you ever had a dream like that?”

Kristie: “No, son, my dreams are much more succinct. Brad Pitt, suntan lotion, and a pitcher of margaritas. The end.”

Sunday, July 30, 2006 9:15 PM CDT


The most disturbing thing I saw this weekend:

Have you seen the latest feature in some airports? Or at least in the airport I was in ….. a video arcade for children (or extremely bored adults would also qualify, I suppose), set up next to the boarding/waiting areas. To help passengers and their kids pass the time while waiting for their flight by playing games. And not just any video games, oh no, not boring games like Donkey Kong or Missile Command or Tetris, either. But “Interactive” video games; the kind where you simulate an activity such as motorcycle racing, or Nascar driving, or downhill snowboarding, and actually sit in the drivers seat, or stand on a moveable platform. Basically, games that cost a lot of money to play.

Because it’s not enough that the airlines charge a bazillion dollars a ticket to fly anywhere. Or that you’re required to show up at the airport two hours in advance, and then as a captive audience, you’ll be asked to pay $3 for a soda, or $4 for a bag of m&ms (not that I would know about that personally) or $12 for a ham sandwich. Now, they’re gouging people with time to kill, and placing expensive arcade games nearby. I would have been really upset by the whole thing, but I was too busy eating my bag of solid gold nuggets M&Ms, and beating my own personal best score in downhill skiing.

The second most wonderful thing I saw this weekend:

The Exit Row sign above my seat on my flight home. The leg room that provided was FABULOUS!!! I’m spoiled forever now ---- if you can’t afford first class, at least try to flight Exit Row!

THE most wonderful thing I saw this weekend:

A fourteen pound, healthy, happy, loved, handsome little man named Nicolas.

Friday, July 28, 2006 7:03 AM CDT


He said: You were up awfully late last night.
I heard: What the hell were you doing on the computer until all wee hours of the morning?

He said: Really? A new web site? That sounds exciting.
I heard: Oh, great. Another freakin’ techno-geek project that she’s not going to be able to figure out and then I’ll have to listen to her bitch and moan about how it’s not working and how she despises technology but can’t live without it and I’ll have to pretend to be all sympathetic and act like I really care when really I'd rather puncture my own ear drums with dull butter knives.

He said: Well, if you like Caringbridge, why not just stay there?
I heard: Oh, for Pete’s sake, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!

He said: Well, I can understand why you might feel that way, now that Kendrie is done with her treatment.
I heard: What? *MY* cancer experience isn’t worthy of Caringbridge to you?

He said: No, actually, I can’t think of anyone in the tech support department at work who might know about setting up a personal blog.
I heard: Blogger? WordPress? Typepad? You have not a single clue what you’re doing, woman, and don’t even try to drag my innocent, technologically-superior co-workers into the mess you are about to make.

He said: Do you think people would read a new blog?
I heard: What on earth makes you think anyone gives a flying rats ass about what you have to say?

He said: Well, I’m sure you’ll get it all figured out.
I heard: This conversation is boring me. Move on.

***This is why you should never attempt a logical conversation with your husband when you are already annoyed at him for some reason you totally can’t remember, but which you know was COMPLETELY his fault.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 10:24 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 223 OT

Blaine -- didn’t like my “meh” ….. but happier today, as his prescription for narcotic patches finally arrived.

First of all, let me say THANKS to those of you who answered my pitiable plea request to sign the guestbook. I’m glad to know there are still people out there, and I hope I didn’t guilt you into signing more often (total lie; you know I want you to.) I was worried that the site counter was going up because my mom was sitting around hitting the refresh button all day, thinking that would make me happy ……… then so many of you popped in to say hello that I got all excited, like a puppy right before it pees on someone’s shoe ………. then, I got a guestbook signature where that person (Hi, Tyler!) told me that’s EXACTLY what he did, refresh the counter all day. (sigh) So, I have no idea how many people actually stopped by the site today, but LOTS of you signed the guestbook, which made me happy. And was totally worth confessing how desperately, sadly, pathetically needy I really am.

Another reason I asked, on a more serious note (not that my dismal need for validation isn’t serious, mind you) is that I am tentatively making plans to quit updating this site, and move my journal over to another blog site. Let me say, first of all, that I LOVE Caringbridge and have no complaints whatsoever. It’s just that although this site is free for me to use, it’s not free for them to host. The intent of CB is to help families in crisis, and I’m starting to feel a little guilty about perhaps overstaying my welcome, now that Kendrie is off-treatment. So, I don’t know. I’ll wait until the kids go back to school (THANK-HEAVENS-ITS-ONLY-NINE-MORE-DAYS-CAN-YOU-GUESS-I’M-COUNTING-DOWN-THE-MINUTES???!!!!) and then, while enjoying the peace and quiet around the house (NOT-THAT-I’M-EXCITED-FOR-THEM-TO-RETURN-TO-SCHOOL-OR-ANYTHING-DID-I-MENTION-ITS-ONLY-NINE-DAYS???) dink around with a new format. If my earlier endless circles in Dante’s Inferno of Hell adventures in technology are any indicator, I might adopt the “why bother teaching an old dog new tricks” philosophy and NEVER leave Caringbridge!

Soooooooo, enough about all of that.

Here’s another funny story (well, funny to *me*, anyway) about Kellen and pajamas. His first year of public school here in Georgia, he was in Pre-Kindergarten (Oh, my, was my tall, lanky 8-yr old son *ever* that young????) and he loved it. Which is what made that one particular morning even more confusing ….. the morning he refused to take off his pajamas and put on regular clothes for school. (Hey, I’m sensing a theme here!!!) Anyway, he refused. So I said fine, I’m not fighting you on this. I loaded all three kids up in the van, drove to the school, parked in the lot, handed him his book-bag, and told him to get out of the van and walk with me into his classroom. He practically started hyperventilating when he realized I was serious. I made him walk almost to the front doors in his pj’s, him near tears, before letting him turn around and go back to the van and change into the clothes I brought with me. Then I said, in my meanest voice possible, “Next time, I won’t bring clothes, and you WILL go to school in your pajamas!” And he’s never given me a hard time about getting dressed for school since. Until yesterday. Which, maybe he figured since its summer break now, who really cares??

You know, upon re-telling that story, and listening to it in my own head, it’s not really funny at all. In fact, it’s sort of mean. I’m actually a very mean mom. Hmmmmm. Who knew?

Anyway, on to the reason for today’s post: HOW STINKIN’ CUTE IS MY KID??????

These photos were taken courtesy of Flashes of Hope, who had a photo session set up the last time we were in clinic. It was nothing more than good luck on our part that Kendrie had an appointment on the same day they were set up at the clinic in Atlanta, and we got to have our photos taken. Flashes of Hope is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating uplifting portraits of children fighting cancer and other life threatening illnesses. The portraits, taken by award-winning photographers, help children feel better about their changing appearance by celebrating it. For families of terminally ill children, it's especially important to have a portrait that preserves forever the beauty, grace and dignity of their child.

In addition to the photographers, there was a make up and hair artist to help the kids, siblings, and parents “primp” for the session. Kendrie, of course, was horrified when they suggested she wear a little lip gloss or perhaps put a barrette in her hair. She looked at me like, “In the name of all that is holy, get that woman away from me with the mascara” …. But scruffy hair, t-shirt and all, I think she’s adorable!

I can’t tell you (actually, yes I can, otherwise why do I keep babbling on this site?) how thrilled I was when I received these pictures tonight. Truly, I think the photographer did a great job capturing her personality. And I always hate the way I look in pictures, but these …. are .......... not terrible. And hey, coming from me, “not terrible” is pretty good. Kendrie and I had a lot of fun doing this; the Flashes of Hope workers and volunteers made it an enjoyable, special time, and I appreciate that, and the keepsakes.

You should check out the Flashes of Hope website, partly to see the beautiful work that they do and just admire the portraits they have on their site, but especially if you have a child with cancer. They offer sessions all over the country, and it’s not only a lot of fun, but you get some fabulous photos out of it. Or at least I think so. I mean, we might not be supermodels ….. then again, Kendrie just might!

Kristie PS. Can you believe two of the soccer signs I put out yesterday have already been stolen?? Who *does* that? Who removes signs from a public intersection about something as innocuous as local children's soccer sign-ups???? Egads.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 8:53 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 222 OT

Blaine, still meh ---- {A random word when people either don't know what to say, don't care, can't answer a question or are too drunk to form a coherent English phrase….basically, the verbal equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders. Although I think I would prefer the drinking thing. On a chaise lounge. With a little paper umbrella in the glass.}

I received a bulk e-mail the other day, sent to all the parents who’ve registered their children for fall soccer this year. The host organization was looking for a few volunteers to go around town and place signs at various intersections, letting the public at large know that registration is now open for everyone. This will be our family’s fifth soccer season and I figured it’s about time I supported the organization in a manner more substantial than simply buying hot dogs and soda at each game.

So I e-mailed back, said yes, picked up my posters yesterday afternoon, and promptly did NOT set them out last night because we had a big ole’ rainstorm come through. I’m all about the volunteerism, until it involves wetness and humidity, then you can count me out.

So this morning when the kids woke up, knowing the temperature today would reach a bazillion degrees, I told them to hurry and get dressed so we could place the signs out first thing, while it was still relatively cool outside. Brayden and Kendrie complied, but Kellen, well, we’re having a bit of an attitude problem with Kellen. Mainly, that his stinks.

After emphatically refusing to get out of his pajamas, despite my logical argument that if we have an accident, he’s not going to want to go with the police or in the ambulance in his pajamas, for heaven’s sake, he still didn’t want to change. Finally, exasperated, I said fine, just stay in your pajamas! (Insert deep, aggravated sigh on my part. How many more days until school starts???)

Obviously, the soccer organization wants the signs to be placed at well-traveled intersections, and they assigned me the three busiest intersections near where I live. The square mile or so around our house is still fairly rural, so I was able to simply pull the van over at the first intersection, put on my hazards, and hop out of the van. Kendrie wanted to help, so I told the other two to stay in the van, and then she and I put the first sign out. The grass was nice and soft from the rain last night, but I let her pound on the sign with a hammer, just so she could feel useful. Then, at the second intersection, Brayden wanted to help, and then at the third, Kellen said he wanted to help. This is how the conversation played out:

“Kellen, you can’t get out and help, you’re still in your pajamas”


“So…. Well, you’re still in your pajamas!”

“So? I don’t care”

“You don’t? You wouldn’t be embarrassed to get out of the van in your pjs? With all these cars driving by?”

“No, I want my turn to bang the metal stick in the ground with a hammer.”

“Seriously? But you don’t have any shoes on”

And as you might have already guessed, the conversation ended with Kellen hopping out of the van and helping me pound the sign into the ground. In his pajamas. Not only his pajamas, but his bright, loud, CHRISTMAS pajamas. And? Wearing his sister’s pink sandals.

When the truckload of migrant constructions workers drove past and whistled and honked, I wasn’t quite sure whether they meant me or Kellen. Sadly, it was probably him.

So if you’re local, and you’re driving down Rt. 41 and see the CGSA signs, that’s the work of one grumpy lady and three kids, one of whom looked like he escaped an insane asylum.


PS. Is there anybody out there????? My site hit counter is going up at the same rate as normal, but in the past two days, the guestbook has only been signed six times. And two of those were from the same person! Hello? Hello?? (echo …. Echo …. Echo…..) Are you there???

Monday, July 24, 2006 9:53 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 221 OT

Blaine -- meh.

When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it goes without saying, your entire world is rocked. Families make unbelievable changes to accommodate the necessary treatment schedule; parents change jobs, quit jobs, move in with family, have family move in with them, move to another city, or state, or as in the case of our online friend Dani, another country with a whole ‘nother language. Truly, some of these lifestyle changes can be huge.

Some are not as big, but important in their own right. Even something as simple as a cold can be a big deal to a kid on chemo. Chicken pox? Huge deal. So you become (or at least *I* became) much more aware of the germs and viruses just floating around out there, waiting to pounce on these immuno-suppressed kids and wreak havoc. And so you make changes, some big and some small, to do anything in your power to keep your child healthy.

Like anything that you do for a long time, these lifestyle changes can become habit. And then permanent. Even now that Kendrie is off treatment, I am still on Purell Overdrive and will douse anyone and anything that comes within arms reach. I have no doubt my Purell fixation is a bona-fide, permanent lifestyle change. As is our swearing off hot-tubs for all eternity. According to our oncologist, they are forbidden for kids with ports, due to the high levels of bacteria in the water. Think about it …. warm, wet, moist …….. Ick! I get skeeved out just imagining it. And hey, if our oncologist, who said Kendrie could swim in any body of water she wanted during treatment, to include rivers and lakes and pools; the same oncologist who is so laid-back he makes Tommy Chong look like an ADHD patient, if THAT GUY says no hot tubs, then I say no hot tubs, either. Ever. Gross. Don’t even splash me with hot tub water or I hose myself down like that radioactive lady in Silkwood.

But a few of our lifestyle changes, those that we embraced at the beginning, have been relaxed now that she’s off-treatment. I no longer fanatically use anti-bacterial wipes to clean off shopping carts and restaurant tables and chairs (although I probably should). I no longer wipe down a hotel room upon first entering (again, probably should.) Used to, I wouldn’t let the kids eat chocolate chip cookie dough since it has raw eggs in it (Notice I say *the kids*? You better believe *I* still ate it, I just waited until they went to bed to do it!) Now, it’s ok for her to eat it …. Just like the salmonella risk posed by reptiles is ok, so she now chases frogs and turtles and tadpoles and lizards (and anything else she thinks she can catch) with glee. We outlawed public drinking fountains (why not just lick every kid in your school on the mouth?) and I’d prefer they STAY outlawed, but I have a sneaking suspicion the kids drink out of them when they know I’m not around.

So, by relaxing a few of these restrictions, I feel like we’re taking baby steps away from the world of childhood cancer. And here’s photographic evidence of my most recent baby step:

I bought dishtowels again!! Excitement, thy name is Kristie!!

Immediately after diagnosis, I threw out every dish towel we owned and we became an Official Paper Towel Family. Need to dry your hands? Grab a paper towel. Need to dry a dish? Or a cup? Or some fruit? Or a spill? An entire gallon of milk? Grab a paper towel. Or half a roll.

By my estimation, we have gone through approximately 990 rolls of paper towels since Kendrie was diagnosed. Enough to pay for a family weekend getaway, or perhaps put in that underground sprinkler system Blaine’s been wanting.
But you know what? Worth every penny, if it meant we weren’t spreading germs and bacteria all over the kitchen by using the same dish towel over and over. And sponges. Oh, gag, don’t even get me started on sponges.

So why go back to dish towels now? Well, we haven’t gone all the way back; we still use tons of paper towels. It just feels great to wash a clamshell of strawberries and only use one towel. Or cut up a veggie tray without going through eighty paper towels as I wash off the cutting board and knife between each item. Of course, now I’m obsessive about only using the dishtowel one time and then washing it, so any paper towel savings I expected to bank, I’ll now spend in detergent and water costs.

But that’s ok. It’s all about the baby steps, right? Just don’t ask me to go hot-tubbing.


Monday, July 24, 2006 9:53 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 221 OT

Blaine -- meh.

When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it goes without saying, your entire world is rocked. Families make unbelievable changes to accommodate the necessary treatment schedule; parents change jobs, quit jobs, move in with family, have family move in with them, move to another city, or state, or as in the case of our online friend Dani, another country with a whole ‘nother language. Truly, some of these lifestyle changes can be huge.

Some are not as big, but important in their own right. Even something as simple as a cold can be a big deal to a kid on chemo. Chicken pox? Huge deal. So you become (or at least *I* became) much more aware of the germs and viruses just floating around out there, waiting to pounce on these immuno-suppressed kids and wreak havoc. And so you make changes, some big and some small, to do anything in your power to keep your child healthy.

Like anything that you do for a long time, these lifestyle changes can become habit. And then permanent. Even now that Kendrie is off treatment, I am still on Purell Overdrive and will douse anyone and anything that comes within arms reach. I have no doubt my Purell fixation is a bona-fide, permanent lifestyle change. As is our swearing off hot-tubs for all eternity. According to our oncologist, they are forbidden for kids with ports, due to the high levels of bacteria in the water. Think about it …. warm, wet, moist …….. Ick! I get skeeved out just imagining it. And hey, if our oncologist, who said Kendrie could swim in any body of water she wanted during treatment, to include rivers and lakes and pools; the same oncologist who is so laid-back he makes Tommy Chong look like an ADHD patient, if THAT GUY says no hot tubs, then I say no hot tubs, either. Ever. Gross. Don’t even splash me with hot tub water or I hose myself down like that radioactive lady in Silkwood.

But a few of our lifestyle changes, those that we embraced at the beginning, have been relaxed now that she’s off-treatment. I no longer fanatically use anti-bacterial wipes to clean off shopping carts and restaurant tables and chairs (although I probably should). I no longer wipe down a hotel room upon first entering (again, probably should.) Used to, I wouldn’t let the kids eat chocolate chip cookie dough since it has raw eggs in it (Notice I say *the kids*? You better believe *I* still ate it, I just waited until they went to bed to do it!) Now, it’s ok for her to eat it …. Just like the salmonella risk posed by reptiles is ok, so she now chases frogs and turtles and tadpoles and lizards (and anything else she thinks she can catch) with glee. We outlawed public drinking fountains (why not just lick every kid in your school on the mouth?) and I’d prefer they STAY outlawed, but I have a sneaking suspicion the kids drink out of them when they know I’m not around.

So, by relaxing a few of these restrictions, I feel like we’re taking baby steps away from the world of childhood cancer. And here’s photographic evidence of my most recent baby step:

I bought dishtowels again!! Excitement, thy name is Kristie!!

Immediately after diagnosis, I threw out every dish towel we owned and we became an Official Paper Towel Family. Need to dry your hands? Grab a paper towel. Need to dry a dish? Or a cup? Or some fruit? Or a spill? An entire gallon of milk? Grab a paper towel. Or half a roll.

By my estimation, we have gone through approximately 990 rolls of paper towels since Kendrie was diagnosed. Enough to pay for a family weekend getaway, or perhaps put in that underground sprinkler system Blaine’s been wanting.
But you know what? Worth every penny, if it meant we weren’t spreading germs and bacteria all over the kitchen by using the same dish towel over and over. And sponges. Oh, gag, don’t even get me started on sponges.

So why go back to dish towels now? Well, we haven’t gone all the way back; we still use tons of paper towels. It just feels great to wash a clamshell of strawberries and only use one towel. Or cut up a veggie tray without going through eighty paper towels as I wash off the cutting board and knife between each item. Of course, now I’m obsessive about only using the dishtowel one time and then washing it, so any paper towel savings I expected to bank, I’ll now spend in detergent and water costs.

But that’s ok. It’s all about the baby steps, right? Just don’t ask me to go hot-tubbing.


Sunday, July 23, 2006 12:43 AM CDT


I’m not quite sure where they got it, but all three of my kids have very (EXTREMELY) obsessive personalities. Not like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, where they count things over and over or wash their hands a hundred times a day (shoot, I’d be happy if they’d spontaneously remember to wash their hands EVER!) They’re just obsessive, as evidenced by last week’s fish episode. What started out as a few simple goldfish in small glass bowls **would** have become a fish metropolis, had I let it. The wind had gone out of their sails a tad since the second fish bit the dust, but I’m worried a comeback is in order, after I managed to save the third fish this morning, who was limping and gasping feebly ‘round his bowl when we woke up. Fresh water, clean rocks, and a new water tablet, and he’s swimming merrily now. Great (roll-y eyes). I’m like a freakin’ fish whisperer. And my kids’ fascination is reneweth.

I’ve *known* my kids were this way for quite some time. Some of their recent obsessions include (but are not limited to): the guitars and guitar lessons Kellen and Kendrie both swear they want on a daily basis, never mind the fact neither of them have a musical bone in their bodies. The half-pipe Kellen is adamant Blaine either buys for him, or builds himself, here in our driveway. Kellen has decided he wants to compete in the X-Games when he’s older. I don’t know where he got this idea, since he has no idea what the X-Games even are, but he’s decided. BTW, for those of you wondering, professional quality half-pipes, available online, cost roughly $6000. Cheap-o versions are around $800. Kellen, for some reason, doesn’t understand why we’re not buying two and giving him his own skate-park here at the house. He swears he will wear a helmet. Um, yeah. Because *that’s* the reason we’re not rushing out to buy one.

The kids have all gone through these phases …. Barbies, karate classes, ceramic lessons, toy cars, etc, etc. It’s not that they’re greedy and demanding, it’s more that they get something in their head and just can’t let it go. Obsessive? Fanatical? You be the judge.

Take dirt bikes, for instance. Kellen’s cousins have dirt bikes, and he asked for one also. We said no, and he accepted it pretty gracefully, but he won’t quit talking about them and asking us questions: How fast can a dirt bike go? Which is faster, a dirt bike or a car? How old do you have to be to ride a dirt bike? Could I drive a dirt bike to school? Are there dirt bike X-games? How old do I have to be before I can buy my own dirt bike? Ad nauseum.

Another example involving their cousins happened when we went home earlier this summer, and my kids hung out with Landon and Dalton, ages 8 and 10, who are into cars. My kids? NOT into cars. Not until they heard Dalton and Landon discussing Mustangs and Trans-Ams and Corvettes. But mainly Mustangs. They’re all up in the Mustangs now.

So as we drive around town, my kids are obsessed with spotting cars that they recognize and shouting out the name. “Mustang!!” “PT Cruiser!!” “Hummer!!” like it’s some never-ending game of Punch Buggy. But Mustangs, oh boy, Mustangs are the manna of life, for Kellen, and he squeals with joy whenever he spots one. Then, since they don’t recognize the majority of cars on the road, they’ll ask me a thousand times a day, “Mom, what kind of car is that?” and after a while, I’m so worn down from trying to figure it out, I’ll just mumble, “Chevy Impala” and hope that’s right.

I might be in for a respite from the Mustangs and the fish, however, after yesterdays Cure Childhood Cancer’s Annual Picnic in Snellville, Georgia. I drove the kids up for a fun-filled afternoon, complete with lunch from Folk’s County Kitchen, carnival games, moonwalks, remote-control boats, clowns, arts and crafts, dunking booth, prizes, music, etc. We got to see lots of families that we’ve missed lately: Brandon’s family, Chandler’s family, Keegan’s family, Jacob’s family, just to name a few. So we all had a good time, getting to visit and play games ……… but one of the games? Something where you roll dice, and depending on what you roll, you win “X” number of baseball cards. Kellen, somehow, rolled the magic number and walked away with six or seven big packs of baseball cards, the examining and organization of which has transported him to a new nirvana. Does he know anything about professional baseball, the players and their statistics? No. Does he have a favorite professional baseball team? Or player? No. Has he ever before, in any way, shape, or form, indicated an interest in collecting baseball cards? No. But now he wants to spend every dime he has saved up on baseball cards.

I mean, it just makes me crazy. Where do they GET such behavior? It makes me wonder……..

Oh wait! I almost forgot to tell you!! Did ya’ll hear about the new contest they have going on at Sonic? For every large and extra large drink you buy, you get to unwrap a straw, and if it’s a special striped straw, you win a prize …. money, gift cards, trips, and a Grand prize of $168,894.00, which is the purported number of drink combinations Sonic offers, although really, every one of them is meaningless to me since I am still in love with my plain, ordinary, un-combinationed Diet Dr. Pepper. But that’s not the point. The point is, I am TOTALLY going to win this!! I stop at Sonic, normally, once a day, sometimes even twice. So if I double my efforts I could conceivably visit Sonic several hundred times between now and the end of the contest!!! Plus, PLUS! Get to enjoy all that syrupy goodness in the meantime! It’s a win-win situation!!

Now, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah, my kids and their obsessive behavior. I just wish I knew where they got it.

PS. Mrs. Jan and Mrs. SueEllen, thank you so much for the donations to Caringbridge in honor of Kendrie, in Dad's memory. I'm so thankful that this service exists, and appreciate you helping them!

Friday, July 21, 2006 8:21 AM CDT


(I was going to type “Conversations with my middle” but I didn’t want you to think I walked around all day talking to my belly button.)

(We have a lot of conversations in our family, in case you couldn’t tell.)

Scene: Driving in van

Location: A few blocks from our house, where men from the prison (probationers? Not sure) were doing lawn maintenance detail, mowing and weed-eating the public areas near our neighborhood. They’re noticeable, because they wear jumpsuits with “Prisoner” or “Probationer” across their back, they drive a big white van with PRISON DETAIL down the side, and there’s always an armed guard with them. We see them all the time, seems like they’re always *somewhere* in town, but this was the first time it sparked a conversation.

Kellen: Mom, are those bad guys? From jail?

Kristie: Well, I don’t know if they’re bad PEOPLE, but they probably did a bad thing and had to go to jail.

Kellen: Do good guys ever go to jail?

Kristie: What do you mean? Like the guard? Does he go to the jail? Or do good guys ever go IN jail?

Kellen: Do good guys ever do bad things and go to jail?

Kristie: Sure. Sometimes policemen, or firemen, or teachers, or whoever, do stupid things and they have to go to jail. Like stealing something, or hurting someone. Anyone who breaks the law has to go to jail, no matter who they are. That’s why it's so important to make good decisions in life (patting myself on the back for this High Quality Parenting Answer.)

Kellen: I think it would be cool to be a policeman and be in jail, because then you would still get to be the boss.

Kristie: (not wanting to delve into a conversation about why policeman probably have it WORSE in jail, what with the prisoners wanting retribution and the whole shower-revenge-scenario description) Oh, no, no matter who you are you don’t want to be in jail. Jail is a terrible place.

Kellen: Why?

Kristie: Well, just think about it. You have no freedom. You’ve got somebody telling you what to do, all the time. Telling you what time to get up, what you’re going to eat for breakfast, what you can do for fun, what you can’t do for fun, when you’ll eat lunch, and dinner, and what you’ll eat, what clothes you’ll wear, when you’ll go to bed ………………………… (And at this point my voice trailed off weakly, as I realized I just described the lifestyle of my very own children!) Um, never mind. Just don’t ever go to jail.

Thursday, July 20, 2006 8:15 AM CDT


My kids torment love, love, love our dog. They love to pet him and give him treats and stroke his fur, and bring him pillows and blankets to lay on -- you get the picture. I would say that they love to play with him but the truth of the matter is he’s old; “playfulness” is an adjective that no longer describes him. “Tired” is perhaps more correct, and definitely “resigned” to his life with these kids wallering all over him. The only time he shows any great enthusiasm is when he’s outside and wants back in, and he lets us know by barking. Repeatedly. Without stopping. At the back door, no matter the time of day or night, until someone -- anyone -- lets him in the house. He might be deaf, and arthritic, but he’s got the bark of a younger, much more annoying virile dog.

This morning Kendrie came running in to me and yelled excitedly, “Mom! Mom! I told Lager to lay down ---- and HE DID!” like it was the greatest circus trick ever. Like he was some sort of genius pet, and it was a feat as heroic as a St. Bernard finding a lost skier and bringing them hot chocolate from a thermos around his neck. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that at fifteen years old, lying down is probably the only position he can comfortably hold for more than five minutes.

Speaking of old, tired pets ----------- one goldfish down. Er, belly up. You know what I mean.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 9:41 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 215 Off-Treatment

Blaine -- almost back up to working full-days (I think he figures working is more restful than being at home with the kids during summer break)

The day after we returned from OKC, the kids were invited to a neighbor girl’s birthday party. (Amy, if you’re reading this, thanks again for the invitation!) Even though the party started at 4pm, when the temperature outside was reaching a million degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s not counting the humidity or the heat index, I decided we would walk to the party since it was just around the corner, about eight houses away. I walked, Brayden rode her bike, and Kellen and Kendrie rode scooters.

We arrived at the party with the other guests, and merriment and frivolity began. There was pizza, and cake and ice cream, and silly string, and water balloons, and a prize box, and a piñata stuffed with candy. That was about the time Brayden made her enthusiastic observation, “Mom, this is the best party EVER!” (Too bad she didn’t realize all the Laffy Taffy and Tootsie Rolls would be impounded by me the next day, after the Receiving of the Spacers Episode at the Orthodontists Office.)

I did have one sad moment during the party, when the kids lined up to whack the zebra piñata. In typical birthday fashion, the birthday girl of honor got to go first, then the rest of the kids lined up shortest to tallest. Kellen was the tallest, so the last in line. One of the kids before him had managed to knock off a zebra leg, but overall the thing was still pretty intact when he was ready to take his turn. As he squared up, like a big league hitter at the plate, broomstick at the ready, I admonished, “Kellen! Don’t hit it hard --- the little kids might want another turn!” and the Mom of the party turned to me (Hi, again, Amy!) and said she wanted Kellen to hit it and burst it open, so the game could end. So, two good whacks, and candy went a-flying. The kids were scrambling, and happy, but I was feeling a bit nostalgic. Whatever happened to the good ole’ days, when my short, young kids were in the front of the piñata line? And since when did my son become the big kid, delegated with the task of breaking the thing open? Today it’s a piñata ….. tomorrow he’ll be shaving, and driving, then marrying, and before you know it, he’ll be applying for Social Security Benefits and carrying an AARP membership. OK, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here, but it was a wee bit sad for me.

Anyway, on to the BESTEST PART EVER of the party ---- the party favors for guests? Goldfish! In their own bowls! With fish food and colored rocks for the bottom!!! I’m using a lot of exclamation points because that’s how my own kids sounded as they were screaming for joy when they realized they would each get to take one home. (Of course, since we had walked to the party, and couldn’t very well carry everything while riding bikes and scooeters, in the zillion-degree weather, I had to call Blaine and get him to come pick us up. Half a block away. How sad is that? Nothing says, “Honey, I’m a lazy fat ass who needs lift --eight houses down-- because the goldfish are too heavy” quite like that does.)

So -- The next day? Petsmart! To buy water treatment tablets!! And castles!! Which were too tall for the bowls so they stick out the top!!!!

My kids are Ob. Sessed. They are pooling their money to buy a bigger tank, and more fish, and bigger, more grandiose castles. They’ve named their fish, and spend lots of time every day watching them, and studying them, and trying to convince me their fish look hungry and need to be fed again, and then squealing and giggling hysterically when they see one of them pooping in the bowl as is inevitable because they’ve been fed so much.

As for me, quite frankly, I can’t take the pressure. It’s bad enough that our dog is fifteen years old and every morning when we wake up I check to see if he’s still breathing. Now my paranoia has extended itself to the damn fish. They’re goldfish --- of course they’re going to die! And my kids will be crushed. The best I can do is hope they all die at the same time, so one kid isn’t more devastated than the other. In fact, I think I’ll start setting my alarm so I get up before the kids. And then whenever the first fish dies, I’ll take a teeny tiny pillow and suffocate the other fish. Then I’ll blame the whole thing on a murder-suicide-goldfish pact.

If anyone has any better suggestions, I’m all ears. Just don’t suggest I flush them, because we’ve got three tiny fish castles that the kids are determined to use. And big prospects for expansion. I don’t know which is worse; to hope they die quickly and the obsession ends, or to hope they live, which means a bigger bowl and bigger castles might be in my future.

(sigh) Damn fish.

PS. Amy, you know I’m kidding --- the kids LOVE the fish!
PSS. Note to self: cross Amy off Christmas list.

Monday, July 17, 2006 3:42 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 214 OT

Blaine -- 9 weeks until we find out if the radiation worked

When Kendrie commenced the long-term maintenance portion of her chemo protocol, she began taking a nightly chemo drug that couldn’t interact with food, and especially couldn’t interact with dairy products. This posed a problem for us, as all three of my kids were accustomed to drinking a glass of milk right before bed, and had done so for years. Blaine and I were actually relieved for a concrete reason to break the nightly milk routine ---- most nights they didn’t drink it all before falling asleep (WASTEFUL), I was sick and tired of finding congealed, putrid, rancid sippy cups underneath the beds (DISGUSTING), and mainly, I just didn’t want to make the milks every night anymore (LAZY).

So we proclaimed that if Kendrie couldn’t have milk before bed, neither could the other two. The moaning and wailing and begging that ensued was bothersome for a while, but eventually everyone got used to the new rule, and I haven’t had to throw out a nasty, revolting, spoiled sippy cup for the past two years. (Nasty, spoiled Tupperware, housing biology experiments in the back of my fridge, is another story, but no cups.) Blaine and I patted ourselves on the back at our clever thinking and resourcefulness. Outsmarted those kids once again, yes we did, and right proud of it.

Fast forward to today: Brayden began Phase I of her Orthodontic Regimen (Did you just hear that pathetic groan? That was Blaine’s wallet!) and had spacers placed between her teeth, in preparation for next week’s visit, which will be the start of twenty-two months of extenders, and bands, and tightening keys, and Lord only knows what other kinds of modern-day oral torture the poor girl will have to endure. And that's before she even GETS the braces!!

As we were leaving the office, the dental technician gave us a hand out about the spacers and how to take care of them, and gave us one last minute piece of advice: No gum, or sticky, chewy candy of any kind, otherwise the spacers will pop right out and she’ll have to get them re-done. “For how long?” I asked, thinking of the bag of piñata candy Brayden got at a birthday party yesterday (more on that to come later) and how I would have to confiscate it as soon as we got home. “Oh, the entire two years” replied the technician, with a sympathetic smile. “Her candy and gum chewing days are over for quite some time.”

We got out to the car, and Brayden turned to me and said, “Well, if I can’t eat candy or gum, neither can Kellen or Kendrie, or that’s not fair.” I sort of snorted, and said, “You expect them to give up candy for two years just because *YOU* are getting braces?” and she came back with, “We all had to give up milk at bedtime when Kendrie was on chemo and *SHE* couldn’t have it!”

{crickets chirping}

Damn. I hate when they’re right. Outsmarted by those kids once again.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 10:53 PM CDT


Well, we are back home safe and sound from our trip to OKC … and I can’t help but feel a sense of deja-vu at typing that sentence once again this summer. I kept thinking I should update the site while I was home this past week, but we didn’t really do anything “journal worthy”, and it seemed a little disrespectful to try and make jokes about the funeral. It was actually a very nice service, and my family sincerely appreciated all the people that took the time to attend, send notes, flowers, make phone calls, etc, even signing in the guestbook here.

So I think this entry will instead be a hodgepodge of some of the emotions I felt this past week, and then after we get settled back here at home, I’m sure life will proceed as usual and we’ll find lots of insane normal things to talk about.

But for now, you can select the adverb *you* think I felt most strongly this past week.

Was it ……..

a) JOY, at realizing I would get to eat at all my favorite OKC restaurants (the ones we don’t have in Georgia) not once, but twice, in a two-month period?

b) GRATEFULNESS, when I realized that in fact, I wouldn’t eat at any of those restaurants, because it would take us the entire week to work our way through all the wonderful food and desserts that people were so kind to bring to the house for us? Seven grandkids are pretty much the equivalent of a swarm of locusts over a dessert buffet, and despite that, thanks to the generosity of others, my mom still had plenty for the guests and relatives that stopped by.

c) AMUSEMENT, after Kellen accidentally spilled his chocolate milk all over himself at IHOP during breakfast this morning, causing Blaine to take him out to the van, with our packed suitcases in it, to find some clean clothes into which he could change for the flight home, only to discover all of Kellen’s clothes were in the “dirty clothes” suitcase, so he wound up flying home in a bathing suit?

d) SURPRISE, when I realized that sometime between the beginnings of summer and now, Kellen has somehow, apparently, grown at least six inches, making the bottom of his swim trunks hit him about mid-thigh, which when coupled with the tube socks and tennis shoes he had on, made him look like a total dork. A pocket protector, or perhaps some glasses with tape holding them together, would have certainly completed the picture.

e) the ELATION I felt when I walked through the security checkpoint at the OKC airport today and they let me keep my shoes on ….. ON, people, ON! I didn’t even have to throw my socks away!

Or, f) the EMBARRASSMENT I felt when I tried lifting my carry-on bag and putting it in the overhead compartment myself, only to discover I am a worthless puny weakling, evidenced by the fact I dropped the bag on the head of the woman sitting in the seat underneath the compartment. Thankfully, it appeared the resulting concussion was a mild one, and she was a good sport about the head-trauma. Brayden made sure I didn’t injure any other passengers on the second leg of the flight, by yelling at me, from three rows back …. “Don’t drop your bag on anyone else’s head this time, Mom!!” Great. Nothing like a little public humiliation to end a trip on a high note.

Thanks, once again, for all your kind notes. While the week certainly wasn’t big fun, it was made easier knowing we had so many people; friends, family, and "internet friends" alike, keeping us in their thoughts and prayers.

We truly appreciate it,

Monday, July 10, 2006 12:41 AM CDT


1) When your alarm goes off at 2 am, so you can get up and catch a 6am flight out of Atlanta, repeat to yourself; “Saving $2800 in bereavement airfare, saving $2800 in bereavement airfare” because Heaven knows that’s the ONLY reason worth getting out of bed at that God-forsaken hour.

2) Don’t wait until 2:30 am to realize the DVD plug in was obviously lost on your last car trip. Discoveries such as this will be even more annoying than normal after only three hours sleep, and promising children you will buy another cord in Oklahoma City will not be good enough to appease their irrational little minds at that time of the morning.

3) Remember to gas up your vehicle the night before (My gosh, will I never learn?!?!?)

4) Driving on the interstate at 3 am should be avoided if at all possible, because you will suddenly realize at least some of your fellow drivers are not off to an early start like you, but are in fact winding up a late night. You will suddenly view every vehicle on the road with suspicion, worried every one contains a drunk driver, destined to cause harm to your family.

5) (This one for the benefit of my children): I don’t care how many hours you’ve been awake because you woke up at 2:30 am, it’s still too early to have candy for breakfast.

6) When waiting in the DFW airport for your connecting flight, you are actually NOT doing your fellow passengers a favor by taking your over-stimulated and sleep-deprived children on a walk through the airport to burn off energy. What will actually happen is you will be six or seven gates away, letting them (as all wonderful parents do) ride up and down on the escalators, and you will not hear the gate attendant calling your names for final boarding. So those passengers you thought you were helping will instead be glaring at you with daggers shooting out of their eyes as you --- ONCE AGAIN --- are the very last passengers to board the plane.

7) Nothing says “Kick me when I’m down” quite like a flat tire in the funeral home parking lot.

8) Keep a funeral-appropriate dress, **that fits**, in your closet at all times. Because just in case you’re not feeling shitty enough, shopping for a dress in the plus-size section at the last minute to wear to your father’s funeral is NOT the emotional pick-me-up you might think.

We arrived safe and sound and are glad to be home, visiting with friends and family, some of whom we haven't seen in ages. I suppose that's the perk of a funeral --- but it always leaves me wondering why, if we're such close friends and family, we don't work harder at staying in touch while everyone is alive.

Kids are doing extremely well. Thanks, once again, for all your kind notes, calls, and e-mails. I'm sorry I haven't done a better job of responding. If I could ask ... once more ... please keep us in your thoughts tomorrow during the funeral.


Saturday, July 8, 2006 6:23 PM CDT

Thanks to all of you for your kind notes regarding my dad. I still swing back and forth between bafflement and denial --- even when you know it’s coming, or suspect it’s coming, I don’t suppose anyone is ever ready to lose a parent. He never walked on the moon, or discovered the cure for cancer, or made a million dollars ….. but he DID honor his roles as loving husband, public servant, and devoted father and grandfather. If all men could do such things, this world would be a better place indeed.

Brayden and Kellen are taking the news well. I’m not sure if that’s because they never lived close to him, so haven’t quite realized what exactly this means, or because they’re the most egocentric kids on the planet. Which, given their ages, might be perfectly normal, or might be a sign we’re raising sociopaths.

Kendrie, on the other hand, is devastated. Again, perfectly normal, or maybe she has a greater empathy due to her cancer journey …. Who knows? She was inconsolable upon hearing, and the only thing that seemed to help was the suggestion she (and all the grandkids) draw a picture, or write a note, or find some small thing, to put in the casket with him. She immediately grabbed a ceramic angel that she had made with the intention of giving him this Christmas. She drew a picture and rolled it up inside the statue, and carried it around non-stop until I suggested she put it on a table to keep it from being dropped and broken.

Fast forward to late-yesterday afternoon. I have a cold, and had taken an antihistamine …. and being the lightweight I am, had gone to bed to sleep it off. I was laying there, in that just-before-you-drift-off-to-sleep stage, when from the other room I heard a CRASH, and then a blood-curdling scream. Frightened someone had hurt themselves, I sat straight up in bed, flung the covers off, and was half-way out the door when I heard Blaine yelling, “I can fix it …. Kendrie, I can fix it!”
Yep, you guessed it, the angel got knocked off the table and broken. I confess, I just couldn’t face the tears, and left Blaine to deal with it on his own. And we are now the much-more-careful owners of a cracked, glued, and fragile angel … but one which will be making the trip with us to OKC tomorrow.

Thanks, especially, to those of you that are keeping my mom in your thoughts. In the span of eight weeks, she lost her dog, her dad, and now her husband. The jury is still out on which one she’ll miss the most.

(In the event you found that to be a totally inappropriate comment, let me assure you that my dad would have laughed if he heard it. And if you still think it was inappropriate, I’ll just claim mental instability due to grief. But trust me, he totally would have laughed. And probably put his money on the dog.)

And so, under the “Bad Things Happen in Three’s” Umbrella, we are declaring a moratorium on crappy things happening to both our immediate and extended family for the rest of the year. Nobody else dies, nobody else gets cancer, nobody else gets trampled while trying to feed a circus elephant. (OK, so that last thing hasn’t happened, but the way things seem to be going for us, doesn’t it seem like it might???)

And lest any of you think we really, truly ARE shit-magnets, let me remind you of all the wonderful things that have happened to us this year:

Kendrie has been off-treatment for six months with no problems whatsoever!!! She had her bloodwork done again this week and everything looks fine. She’s swimming like a fish, and is reaching the point of desperately needing a haircut.

Blaine made it through his radiation treatments. Yeah, they pretty much SUCKED, but he did it while managing to avoid a feeding tube, and only losing fifteen pounds. He’s back at work half-days already and while I won’t deny there are days he feels like total dog shit, for the most part, he has done fantastic!

We got to be a part of welcoming Baby-Nicolas into the world less than two months ago …. A true blessing, for those hard-hearts who don’t think there are happy endings.

Our family might be dented and dinged a little around the edges, but we are intact and we’ll muddle our way through this as well.

In the meantime, think of us while we’re flying home. I swear I’ll have a breakdown if I meet up with Mr. Seat 17C again.

Best wishes to all of you as well,


PS. To our friends at the Lighthouse Retreat in Florida --- we are so disappointed to be missing the retreat next week, but obviously, plans sometimes change. I’m sure you will all have a wonderful time, and know that we are thinking of you and your children. I hope a really great family gets to go in our place!

PSS. Complete and total shout out to American Airlines for being the only carrier I could find who still offers a bereavement fare.

Thursday, July 6, 2006 9:47 PM CDT

It is with an extremely sad heart that I come to you tonight to tell you of the passing of my dad, Calvin Ray M. Although I realize 99.9 percent of you that follow along with this journal never knew my father, or met him, you have been a wonderful source of support for my family during good times and bad, so it wouldn’t feel right to keep this news to myself.

We knew he was terribly ill when we were home last month. He had been in poor health for years due to his muscular dystrophy, but still managed to get around pretty well at home with my mom. Although we had planned the trip before he became sick, I was so grateful, in hindsight, for the chance to be there and spend a little time with him; near what we worried might be the end. He had been hospitalized for several weeks and was on a ventilator when we arrived. Communication was very difficult, and I know he was frustrated attempting to talk to us. We tried to get him to write things down, but his handwriting is such chicken-scratch that we always joked he should have been a doctor. The grandkids also got to visit him, but couldn’t do much more than hold his hand and talk to him. What a blessing it was when our last day in OKC, they were able to remove the tube and I got to visit with him one final time. We shared about an hour together, and even chuckled a few times. The final words my father and I spoke to one another were “I love you” and “I love you, too”. I will cherish that until the day I die, and would wish that peace for everyone.

I could give you the typical obituary details: survived by his wife of forty-five years, Betty; two daughters, two sons-in-law, and seven grandchildren who adored him. Army veteran, serving four years in Germany, and physically there when they built the Berlin Wall. Twenty-year veteran of our local Fire Department before retiring.

But, I’d rather give you a few tidbits to pay tribute to him as the wonderful man we knew him to be:


Lover of hidden word puzzles

Banana pudding fanatic

Lover of country music (and not the current, modern stuff, either. We’re talking Hank Williams ORIGINAL!)

Sneaker of Pecan-Sandy cookies


A sense of humor so dry it made the Sahara Desert look like a tropical rainforest. One of his favorite phrases was to respond to the question, “How are you feeling?” with a totally straight-faced, “With my hands”.

Devoted father. My sister played high school basketball, and my dad absolutely hated to miss her games. If she played a local game on a night he was on duty, it wasn’t unheard of for him to bring the fire truck to the gymnasium, just so he could watch and still be “on duty”. As for me? I was a band geek, and couldn’t tell you the number of hours my dad worked as a Band Booster Parent in the concession stand, serving up nachos and cokes at basketball games.

Proud landscaper. He loved nothing more than working outside in the yard, and was very proud of the fact our lawn was the nicest on the block. An older girl in the neighborhood was a cheerleader when I was in elementary school. She used to come to our house and ask my dad if she could practice her gymnastics on our lawn because we had the softest grass of anyone around. Do you have any idea how big his head used to swell when she did that?

My dad wasn’t in any community organizations or civic clubs. Didn’t serve on any boards or professional organizations. Rather, he lived a very quiet life, helping provide for his family. He would rather spend time with his grandkids more than anything else, and they were all seven his pride and joy. Whenever we would send him a new wallet-photo of one of the kids, he refused to discard an old photo. So he wound up carrying around this huge pile of pictures in his pocket, until I finally took them from him and made him a small scrapbook. My one regret is that my children have never lived near him, so their memories of him will be mostly photos, also.

I have two favorite quotes that I will always remember my father saying. One of them I can’t print here due to vulgarity laws, but it makes me smile every time I think it. The other, which is so quintessentially-Calvin, was what he would protest every time we caught him sleeping (and often snoring!) in his Lazy-Boy. One of us would holler, “Dad, go to bed if you’re going to sleep!” and his reply, every time, was a very indignant, “I’m not sleeping, I’m praying for the astronauts.”

And that, my friends, was my dad in a nutshell.

Daddy, I’ll miss you, and I love you.


Wednesday, July 5, 2006 7:40 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 102 OT -- er, I mean, 202, thanks for pointing that out!

Blaine -- Over-did it a little on the 4th, and spent the last half of the cook out in bed. That, or he was going to pretty drastic measures to get out of helping clean the kitchen afterwards.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am not a touchy-feely kind of person. It’s not that I’m opposed or anything, I’m certainly not ANTI-touch. It’s just that I’ve never been a physically demonstrative person in public. Maybe because I grew up on a block with all boys and never got the hang of the “girlfriend hug”. (Seriously. Every single playmate I had up until I was 12 or so was male. That explains a lot, doesn’t it?) And the one time I tried to go in for an “air kiss” greeting with a friend, I tripped, fell into him, and almost broke his nose. Not the most graceful of moves. And massages … oh geez, don’t even get me started on massages. Give me a good firm handshake, or a wave hello or goodbye, and I’m perfectly happy.

But with my kids, I am different. I’m a hugger, toucher, kisser, snuggler. I know these years go quickly and one day they won’t be willing to let me smooch all over them, or even hold their hand in public. In fact, I’m guessing it won’t be long before Brayden doesn’t want to be SEEN with me in public! “Drop me off here mom, I prefer to walk the rest of the way. Yes, even in a heat wave/blizzard/typhoon (insert natural disaster of your choice); I don’t mind.”

But for now, they tolerate affection, and sometimes, if I’m really lucky, initiate it themselves. There is nothing on this planet sweeter than a spontaneous hug from a child. And by spontaneous I mean, “NOT motivated by a new pair of roller blades or the promise of chocolate ice cream.”

So imagine my delight the other day at the pool when Kendrie swam up to me, put her hands on each side of my face, and said, “Gimme a kiss, lady”. And right as I was leaning forward, just as I was getting my pucker ready, she shaped her lips into a perfect “O”, and planted an open-mouth kiss right on my lips.

I was so surprised, that what did I do? Laughed hysterically, of course. Which, thank goodness she wasn’t trying to slip me any tongue because that would have been a golden opportunity, me laughing with my mouth wide open.

I asked, still laughing, what she thought she was doing, and she said, “Kissing you like the people do on TV”. Which means either I need to re-evaluate Toon Disney, or they’ve been flipping the channel when I’m not looking. Then she proceeded to tell me I was doing it wrong, and show me the correct moves for “proper” Hollywood kissing.
Basically, they consist of turning your head from side to side, and pursing your lips open and closed in an imitation of a dying fish, gasping for air on the beach. And, most importantly, making lots of "Mmmmwwwaaah" noises.

When I tried explaining to her that is how mommies and daddies kiss (let’s not even consider having any other discussion with my six year old at this point) she gave me a look, and said, “Well, it’s certainly not how you kiss Daddy!”

What exactly is the correct answer to that?

The sarcastic answer: “Nope, we’ve been married nineteen years, and we’re exhausted from chasing after you kids. Kissing like that went out the window a long time ago!”

Or, the evasive answer: “Well, mommies and daddies kiss like that in private” (which could open up a whole new can of worms I don’t want to deal with!”)

Or, the honest answer: “That’s something people do when they are a lot older. When nobody else is looking. Except for the people who you saw doing it on tv. And they were just actors. So don’t do it in real life because boys have cooties.”

Or, the answer I gave her:

“Look! There’s the dive stick you couldn’t find earlier -- go get it!”

I thought I had stalled the issue, until I caught her trying to do the same thing to Blaine. Apparently, she has issues. And maybe it’s time for me to be a little LESS affectionate with my children.

Nawwwwwww. The mom in me knows that the Hollywood-kisses will be over soon enough, and I’ll most likely miss them as much as I miss the hugs and hand holding in public.

But in the meantime, remind me to keep my mouth closed around her. Because it appears I’m raising a little perv.


Monday, July 3, 2006 11:02 PM CDT


We have invited friends over for a cook out tomorrow, to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day holiday. The kids and I already celebrated an early 4th of July in Oklahoma City, complete with grilling, swimming, and fireworks-which-were-legal-because-my-sister-lives-in-the-boondocks. So for us, tomorrow is really just an excuse to hang out with friends and eat. Which pretty much sums up the philosophy of my life.

But I *am* looking forward to it, and hope each person has a nice time. To prove to you what great lengths Blaine and I have gone, as hosts, in an attempt to make the day as nice as possible for everyone, I give you the following examples of our host-ly behavior:

1. I bought sturdy PLASTIC plates this time, instead of those cheap paper ones, so no-one’s plate should fall apart right in the middle of their first helping of pork n beans.

2. I bought hamburgers for the adults, and hot dogs for the kids. But then I realized I bought more wieners than I did buns. So I figured we can wrap the extra wieners in white bread, which is really classy. Of course, so is saying “wiener”, which I’m doing a lot in this post, because that word makes me giggle like a ten year old.

3. We actually hosed down the patio furniture, for the first time since we bought it.

4. Picked up dog poop out of the backyard.

And the most impressive thing of all:

5. Didn’t want anyone disturbed by the large number of flies that keep showing up in the house (from the kids leaving the doors open all the time) So we gave each kid a fly-swatter and told them to get busy. In a contest. To see who could kill the most flies. To make it more interesting, Blaine gave each kid a Ziploc baggie to collect them in and see who killed the most. And if that’s not bad enough, offered them twenty-five cents for each carcass. And, it kept them busy for fifteen minutes! If that doesn't just scream "High Quality Entertainment", I don't know what does. Maybe a six-pack and a bug zapper?

Hope you have a wonderful celebration, as well. Please take a moment tomorrow to stop and say a silent (or not so silent) prayer of gratitude for the men and women who are serving, and have served, our country. Especially those deployed right now, who aren’t getting to eat hot dog wieners wrapped in white bread with their families.


PS. Robin from GA, Cindy from CA, and Mr. Bruce and Ms. Sandy, thank you so much for your donations to Caringbridge! We received the notices and want you to know we appreciate it.

PSS. Denise from GA and Amy from FL -- thanks for putting your “Getting to Know Me” information in the guestbook! Personally, I love the ideas for good books and movies, so anytime you have a suggestion, pass it on! Denise, expect a private e-mail from me soon, about your trip!

PPSS. For the record, I know without a doubt that the mother of the Sleepover Kids doesn’t read Kendrie’s journal, which is the only reason I wrote that update for everyone to read. There have been times I’ve censored myself on this site with regard to content (and language --- Goodness knows I censor this trucker mouth of mine in every update!) because I knew friends, both local and long-distance, would know what or who I was talking about. But that mom barely knows us (which is why I was surprised she would even let her kids stay here overnight) and to my knowledge, she doesn’t even know Kendrie had cancer. So I felt pretty safe blabbing about how ill-behaved her kids were. And if you’ve followed this site at all, you KNOW my kids are ill-behaved most of the time, so that was just par for the course, no big news flash there.

Saturday, July 1, 2006 9:51 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 197 OT

Blaine -- Five weeks since radiation ended; nine more ‘til we find out if it worked. (But he has gone back to work, half days, which I think is good for everyone. Especially his co-workers, who are probably sick and tired of picking up his slack.)

OK, so, by the above title, “The Fun House”, I’m sure you are expecting some entertaining, amusing story about the wacky, madcap anecdotes of life in the Escoe house. You know, about how we’re all having fun, fun, fun, all the time. So much fun we can hardly stand it. So much fun I constantly say to myself, “Wow! I can’t wait to tell the Internet about THIS!”

You would be sadly mistaken.

Because the sub-title to this journal entry is: “The Never Ending Sleep-Over”

Now, to give you a little history, growing up, my parents were by no means wealthy. We didn’t have a swimming pool or tennis court in our backyard. We didn’t have a pinball machine (although I always wanted one) an X-box, or a PlayStation, or a Nintendo. If I wanted to play a rousing game of Pong or Pacman or Frogger (or my personal favorite, Galaga) I had to march myself to the local arcade. The closest we came to a video game at our house was the electronic memory game, Simon. Although I did love me some Simon.

And even though it perhaps wasn’t a carnival atmosphere at our house, with cotton candy and elephant rides, my parents worked very hard to make sure our friends felt welcome. There was always food in the fridge, something to drink, and we *did* have HBO, which seemed quite decadent at the time. Best of all, they didn’t hover when my sister and I had friends over. They would hang out in the living room and let us take over the den, doing whatever it is teenagers do. They weren’t dorks, and rarely embarrassed us, which is all that matters when you are dealing with friends. (Well, I do remember being embarrassed whenever my mom would dance … we’re Nazarenes, after all, and dancing wasn’t her forte …. Ms. Jan and Ms. SueEllen, you know what I mean?) :)

So I’ve said all along, when I grow up, I want to have the “fun house” …. the house that all my kids’ friends want to visit, and where they feel comfortable hanging out. Because as all parents know, you’d rather have your kids and their friends at YOUR house, where you can keep an eye on them, instead of doing Lord-only-knows-what someplace else. That plan worked pretty well for my parents, considering I never knocked over a 7-11 or got arrested or anything.

Sadly, I discovered this weekend that I do not have the fun house, nor am I the cool, fun parent. Rather, I am the grumpy old lady whose job in life is to squelch everyone’s fun. And I am apparently very good at it.

We had a brother-sister pair come over yesterday afternoon for a playdate, then the kids ambushed us with requests for a sleepover. I didn’t know the other mom very well, and felt embarrassed saying NO in front of her, although you can bet your sweet bippy I won’t make that mistake again. Because my “fun house” scenario involves much older children, that are capable of entertaining themselves, and have no need for discipline. A scenario where I am a fun, cool parent, one that exists peripherally, or in the background, without a lot of hands-on involvement, except for maybe forking over twenty bucks for the pizza delivery guy. And of course, hearing the whispered envy of friends: “Wow, I wish my mom was as awesome as yours!”

This weekend, however, was a harsh lesson for me in the difference between fantasy and reality. One where I discovered that I am way too lazy to have five kids between the ages of six and nine at my house for any 24-hour period. Because yes, that’s how long the sleepover lasted. Twenty-four tedious, mind-numbing, never-ending hours, filled with bickering and whining and fighting.

First, the other boy wanted his mom to go home and get his Playstation. He was horrified that we didn’t have some sort of video game system at our house. And that (gasp!) we only have one TV. I know! How archaic! And what made it worse was that he argued with her, in front of me, about how he NEEDED his Gameboy. Or whatever it was. Because otherwise he and Kellen would be stuck watching stupid movies with the rest of us. And that annoyed me, because I thought it was rude. Never mind if he thought it, or even believed it; I thought it was rude to say it out loud. So finally I squelched him by telling him *I* didn’t want his Gameboy here, that it wouldn't be much fun for the rest of us to sit around watching him and Kellen play video games all evening. Evidence #1 that I am a crabby, fun-sucking old lady.

Then we ordered pizza for dinner and when it arrived, he walked in the kitchen, stated, “I’m not hungry”, turned around and walked out. Although he did manage to help himself to at least five juice boxes (leaving those damn plastic straw wrappers everywhere!) from the fridge. Which annoyed me. Even though that’s why we keep the fridge in the garage stocked with extra juice boxes ….. it annoyed me that every time I turned around, he had a new one, and never asked if it was ok. Evidence #2 that I am a crabby, CHEAP old lady.

And my kids were by no means innocent cherubs, just standing on the sidelines. Having two sets of sibling dynamics was a constant balancing act. Either the girls were against the boys, or these three would gang up on these two, or these two would clique up and this one would get upset because they were left out; there were tears, yelling, pouting, fighting, name-calling …. You get the picture. If it had been just my three (and trust me, that scenario plays out pretty much daily around here) I would have put them on their beds for time out, and told them I didn’t want to hear it any more. But with two extra kids, and me not feeling completely comfortable disciplining them, things spun out of control.

All night long Blaine and I kept repeating ourselves: No slamming doors! No wrestling in the house! No fighting! Turn down the CD player! No jumping on the beds! No roller blades in the house! And at least three times: The rule at our house is you have to wear a helmet if you’re riding a bike!

They were bickering so much in the house that I took them all outside, hoping they would burn off some energy. We have three sets of roller-blades, three bikes, and three scooters. Naturally, all five of them wanted to do the same thing at the same time, and stood around yelling at one another about how “You cutted! It’s not fair! It’s my turn on the bike/skates/scooter!” and then of course the inevitable whine “Moooooo-mmm! He’s not giving me a turn!” (stomp, stomp, pout, pout)

Is it wrong of me to think that when kids stay the night, they should adopt a “When in Rome” philosophy? Or do all rules go by the wayside whenever guests are over? My children seem to think so. Because all five of them were wound UP and out of control. It bothered me partly that a few of these issues were safety concerns, like the fact neither of these kids wanted to wear a bike helmet. It bothered me more that as guests, they were so blatantly disapproving. And then I wondered if my expectations were too high, considering they were only 7 and 8 years old.

At 11:30 I took a deep breath and made them all get in bed “and I don’t care if you’re tired or not, mister!” …. Then had to tell the boy three times during the next half hour to get back in bed. Finally, shortly after midnight, I went into Kellen’s room to find him bouncing a rubber ball, and told him to get back in bed and quit playing. His response? “I don’t have anything to do” MY response? “It’s after midnight! The only thing you SHOULD do is get in bed and go to sleep!” Evidence #3 that I am a grumpy, TIRED old lady.

So then this morning, worried that I had been a tad bit grouchy, and determined to come across as a more nurturing, positive mother figure, I told the kids I would make them chocolate-chip pancakes for breakfast. Naturally, we were out of Bisquick. So I made them from scratch. Only to discover we were also out of chocolate chips. (Can you tell I haven’t been to the store since we got back from vacation?) So I put fresh blueberries in, only to be told by the little girl, “I don’t want blueberries in my pancakes, but I do want blueberry syrup.” And then she just sat there, like she fully expected me to produce it for her. If it had been one of my kids, they would have gotten our standard response: “What? Are you waiting for me to pull it out of my butt?” But I felt that might be sliiiiiiiiiightly inappropriate to say to a 7-yr old guest, so I bit my tongue. And suggested good ole’ Mrs. Butterworth could possibly help her out. And my nurturing personality lasted all of about fifteen minutes.

All through the morning, the fighting and squabbling continued. The little girl, every time she got upset, would threaten the other kids with, “I want to go home!” until I called her bluff and handed her the phone and told her to call her mother so she could come get her. We didn’t hear that threat again.

Please don’t think that I’m saying these two kids were monsters, they weren’t. Or that my three were virtuous little saints, because that’s certainly not the case! But I would have be horrified if I thought any of my kids went on a sleep-over and brought a movie from home, handed it to the mom with instructions to put it in, and “you’re going to make us popcorn, right?” Or telling a child, in front of his mother, that “This game is stupid” or “I’m bored” or “There’s nothing fun to do”.

Growing up, I cannot imagine talking to an adult host that way. Acting like that in front of one of my friend’s parents …. I never would have had the nerve. And to be honest, my mom would have beaten me like a red-headed stepchild if I had. Because you KNOW back in the day, when our parents all knew one another, another mom would have told my mom if I was a complaining brat, or if *my* behavior turned her kid into a complaining brat. Or maybe the mom would have just nipped it in the bud herself, something I was too cowardly to do. So what **did** I do today when their mom showed up? At 2pm, nonetheless, after telling me she’d be here before lunch? (And yes, I finally called her at 1:30 to drop a hint about her coming to get them.) I smiled, thanked them for coming, and didn’t say a thing. Evidence #4 that I am a grumpy, crabby, tired, cheap, FAKE old lady!

But at least now I know my “fun house” scenario has a better chance of coming true, because the behavior of my children last night and today proved to me that they have no business having a sleep over for at least five more years. Maybe ten. Or until after they're married. The *next* time I brave that situation, they’ll all be a little older, and hopefully a little better at entertaining themselves, and I won’t wind up being so ill-tempered and peevish.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go holler at some kids to get off my lawn.


PS. Oh. yeah. The Music? Because it's loud. And fun. And I love it. And because thanks to the kajillion gigs of bandwidth I have on my new server .... I. Totally. Can.

PSS. I added another "Funniest Things I Have Ever Been Sent Online" link above, if you have a few minutes and would like to add a giggle to your day. (Or in *my* case, laughing so hard you might actually have wet your pants a little bit!!) It was sent to me in honor of Fathers Day, but yadda yadda yadda with trying to figure out my new webspace thingy. Better late than never, though!

Thursday, June 29, 2006 11:45 PM CDT


What, exactly, constitutes a happy face? Well, here are a few examples from our vacation, in case you aren’t sure:

PS. I'm sure those of you without high speed internet do NOT have happy faces right about now, as you realize this is less of a journal entry and more like my own personal vacation photo album. And you dial-up people are basically screwed.

Although you can’t really see it, Brayden has a happy face here, since she is enjoying her life’s passion -- collecting every single solitary water bug from the pool:

The happy faces here are pretty evident:

But just in case you can’t see them, let me show you a close up:

And not to be outdone, here are a few more happy faces:

Here, we’ve pretty much crossed the happy line, into “gleeful” territory (Well, the girls anyway. I think their cousin was getting a little bored):

Here, not so much. This is more of a “Crap, now that I’ve gotten up, how do I keep from falling?” sort of face (and on second thought, the look on my face right now is pretty much horrified, as I realize I've just shared a photo of myself in a bathing suit on the internet):

Here, the face isn’t happy, but trust me, the spirit was. Overjoyed, in fact. But the face was concentrating, really really hard:

Here, there is slight anticipatory happiness because we think it will be fun. Quickly, we (and by we, I mean ME) realize our error:

Ok, this was basically a look of sheer terror that my brother in law was going to flip me right off the innertube. I wasn’t worried about my daughter at all. At this point, it was all about self-preservation:

Oh, wait ….. now I remember, this is fun!

And here is the happiest face of the entire vacation. You think she isn’t proud of herself? Think again. Neither her brother nor sister had gotten up yet in their attempts, and she wasn’t about to let us forget she was FIRST TO SKI, BABY, FIRST TO SKI!!! Essentially, we didn’t need to worry about a life preserver, because her head was swelling up so big I have no doubt it could have served as a flotation device in the event it was necessary. Which it totally wasn’t, because not only did she get up, she didn’t fall either.

And here’s another close up, in case you had any doubt:

Two thumbs up, everyone!!! (Which is sign language for "I totally rock, people!"):

And although there is no picture, you should see the smile on MY face, now that it appears I have (finally!) figured out the webspace/host issue and can once again play music on this site. Not only play music, but store both music and pictures on a site with plenty of bandwidth. The happiness I’m feeling has no equal. Picture me doing the cabbage patch around my office, spinning in happy circles, arms outstretched, throwing myself a ticker tape parade, giddy with joy …. No, wait, that’s certainly not an image you need burned into your retinas. Just trust me that I’m SO glad to have it all figured out finally. And if you’re here, and not hearing music, and not seeing any of the pictures above, then just forget the whole thing, because I will formally give UP!!!!!


PS #1: Close your internet ears, please.

&**$#^$(^$#^$#^$&#*^$*&#^$&#^$ !!!!!!

IHATETECHNOLOGY!!!! I spent hours, HOURS, figuring out (and by "figuring out", I mean "harrassing the tech support people at my new web host server") until I got the music to work. So you'd think, wouldn't you, that the pictures would be done the same way? But apparently they are not. Or maybe they are, and I'm just too dense to make it work. Because heaven forbid it make sense, or work in a logical fashion. NO, that would be too easy. Because then what would I complain about, if not for the level and depth of my hatred for internet technology that is over my head??? But I can tell you I'm not wasting another minutes sleep trying to understand it. Oh, no. Now, granted, I'll waste all the sleeping time in the world, logged on here, bitching about it, but as soon as I'm done loading the photos up the OLD way, it's off to bed for me!!!

PSS. Really? There are that many of you that watch The Real World? Well, ok, if you say so. I have no idea who it was, since I stopped watching MTV about fifteen years ago, when they stopped showing music videos!!! :) But according to the guy next to me, it was a male participant (sorry, I just can't bring myself to say "actor" or "celebrity") from the San Diego series. (Was there a San Diego series?) He looked to be medium to big build, with short, curly dark hair. From the back, he totally looked like Peter Brady. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say, YES, it was Peter Brady!!! (except I think he's on a VH1 reality show, so what the heck do I know?)

Monday, June 26, 2006 9:06 PM CDT


As we drove to the airport, and I dribbled chocolate almond ice cream down the front of my yellow t-shirt, leaving a huge brown blobby stain on my right boob, I thought to myself, “Well, this is unfortunate, but at least it will give me something to blog about.”

When we arrived at the airport, only to discover our flight was delayed by two hours, leaving me to entertain three bored children who thought having a peanut war would be a fun way to pass the time, I thought to myself, “Well, this is unfortunate, but at least it will give me something to blog about.”

When I realized a boy I had gone to high school with was sitting across the waiting area of the terminal from me, and I was too embarrassed to say hello, for fear he would see the big stain on my boob and remember what a slob I am, or worse, pretend not to remember me at all, I thought to myself, “Well, this is unfortunate, but at least it will give me something to blog about.”

When we crowded into the subway-train-thing at the airport, the one that starts and stops incredibly quickly, and I was so busy yelling at my children to grab hold of the rail before the train takes off and throws them to the ground ….. so busy, that I forgot to grab hold of the railing myself, and the train took off, and threw me to the ground, and I managed to knock a few suitcases over on the way down before landing on my face at the feet of a total stranger, I thought to myself, “Well, this is unfortunate (and extremely freaking embarrassing) but at least it will give me something to blog about.”

And then we got on the plane, and I sat next to the nicest young man ever. He was kind to my children, visited pleasantly, happily summoned the flight attendant for us, graciously got out of his seat so we could visit the restroom, pointed out the MTV Real World celebrity sitting three rows up, and even passed our empty cups and trash to the attendant with a smile on his face, and I thought to myself, “Damn. What am I going to write about now?”

But we are home, and unpacked. Final photos of the trip in a day or two, since I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath.

Sunday, June 25, 2006 1:22 AM CDT



11. When climbing on the first ride of the day, a frontward-backwards loop-de-loop roller coaster with your son, it might be a good idea to take your cell phone out of your pocket so as not to lose it on the upside down portion of the ride. It might NOT, however, be a good idea to take it out of your pocket while you are simultaneously boarding the coaster, otherwise a person -—not a coordinated person like me, of course, but a person-- might drop the phone between the car and the railing, causing it to fall thirty feet to the platform below. That could POSSIBLY happen. To an uncoordinated person. Not like me. PS. If you happened to call me on Thursday and leave a message on my cell phone, you might want to call back, as apparently being dropped a distance of thirty feet will knock the battery off and erase all messages. Not that I would know or anything.

12. Make sure your travel companions have all eaten breakfast before arriving at the park, otherwise someone, just say, for example, your sister or somebody like that, might try and use the “Are you kidding?? I can’t ride those wild kinds of rides on an empty stomach” excuse, and you’ll be stuck braving the MindBender seven times in a row with your oldest nephew.

13. Remember that no part of your body is as young as it used to be, including both your stomach and your equilibrium, and that riding the tilt-a-whirl three times in a row is no where near the thrilling, madcap adventure it was in the past. Now, more than once on a ride that spins around like that, and it’s a sure-fire recipe for nausea and headache, causing you to exclaim in wonderment to the other adults in your party, “I don’t understand; when I was younger I could ride these things all day long!”

14. The suggestion for keeping your feet dry on the log ride by raising them slightly in the air (while riding in the log) is not only ineffectual, but will in fact result in nothing more than an unseemly cramp in your hip, which you will be unable to do anything about for the duration of the ride, due to the “No standing while ride is in motion” rule.

15. In the event the children do not get wet enough on the log ride, be prepared to ride the river rapid ride as many times as it takes until every person in the inner-tube boat is completely soaked. One single, solitary dry inch of skin or clothing is cause to ride again. Afterwards, be prepared to referee animated discussion amongst children about who is “the most soakeder!”

16. Be aware that, for whatever reason, all rides from your youth have been re-named. The Tilt-A-Whirl is now the Tornado (perhaps a nod to our Oklahoma weather heritage?); the Mexican Hat ride is now the Casino; and the Scrambler is now the Sidewinder. Not sure exactly why these changes have been made, but they can cause great confusion between the adults about where the group is to meet later.

17. The most definite way possible to vault yourself into “Favorite Aunt” status is to ride the Mexican Hat ride Casino with your four-year old nephew twice in a row, since his puny, weak, non-breakfast-eating mother can’t do it. Trust me, the motion-sickness you feel initially will be worth it to see the smile on his face.

18. Be prepared to take out a bank loan in order to pay for lunch. Apparently it requires the equivalent of the national debt to buy three hot dog baskets and soft drinks.

19. A ratio of nine children to three adults looks easier on paper than it actually is.

20. Remind yourself that the happiness of your children is worth every wet ride, hip spasm, and nausea-inducing moment. The giggles, the shrieks of laughter, the joy of spending time with their cousins ...... and if nothing else, console yourself with the fact they will be exhausted by the end of the day and go to bed without any fuss. And really, isn’t that the ultimate parenting goal, not only on vacation, but all the days of our life????

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 11:35 AM CDT

Dear Mr. Business Traveler in Seat 17C:

Because it appeared to me, based on your grumpy demeanor, and incredibly ugly shiny black suit, that you must not have a very happy or cheerful personality, I thought I would take this opportunity, in the Land of Positive Feedback, to tell you a few things you did on the flight from Atlanta to Oklahoma City last Thursday that did NOT bother me. Then you can take this information, and constructive criticism, and work a little harder on your Happy Traits, and perhaps forge a better, friendlier bond with the next Mom Who Happens To Be Flying With Her Children that you encounter. Because I seriously suspect that you don’t have many friends, and of course my ultimate goal in life is to help Crabby People Like Yourself improve themselves. So here are a few pointers, from me to you, with love:

It did NOT bother me when you saw my children and me walk down the aisle to the empty seats surrounding you on the airplane, and your face immediately transformed into that of a person who just found a three-month old dish of soured yogurt in the back of his fridge, or someone who just stepped in dog poo-poo with their bare feet. I would like to point out to you, however, that there were only three of them. Not ten, not twenty. Three. And please take note for next time of their ages. I had no crying newborns, fussy babies, or demanding toddlers. Really, it shouldn’t have been so horrifying for you. My children, with the exception of the Fart-Knocker episode, were actually pretty well-behaved. As were the three young children sitting in front of them, in case you didn’t notice.

It did NOT bother me when both you and the equally grumpy man across the aisle refused to change seats so me and my kids could all sit somewhat together. (I’m lying, this totally bothered me, but I’m trying to be positive here.) But perhaps next time you should realize that if you insist on sitting between me and my children, (I can only assume because you are not willing to give up the aisle seat) that it is inevitable I will reach across you to hand things to my children, or talk across you to tell them things. Perhaps next time, instead of spending all your money on that ugly shiny black tie, you could spring for a first class ticket and avoid families like ours.

It did NOT bother me when you rolled your eyes and harrumph’ed under your breath the fifteenth time my children turned around to ask me if they could put down their trays yet. Perhaps you didn’t realize it, but they wanted to color and needed a flat surface to do that. It’s not that they were being stupid or obtuse or pestering me for the fun of it. Plus, to be completely frank, I don’t see where they were hurting you anyway. But just as a suggestion for the future, you should try to keep your opinions (and your obvious hatred of children) to yourself.

It did NOT bother me, when you asked in a sarcastic tone, if Disney World was running a free airline special, as “every flight you’ve been on this week was full of kids.” Comments like this, while perhaps intended to convey your disdain at having to travel with us, simply re-affirmed my original suspicion that you (thank goodness) do not have children yourself. Otherwise you would know about a little thing called “Summer Break Vacations” that families take this time each year.

It did NOT bother me when you pretended to be asleep and not hear my youngest daughter turn around and tell me she needed to go to the bathroom. Or when you pretended not to hear me tell her that there was a line for the restroom in the back of the plane, and that I would walk her up to the restroom at the front of the plane. Not that it’s any of your business, but she had an upset tummy and needed to go to the bathroom right then, hence the reason for our urgency.

I’ll admit, it bothered me a little bit when I repeated myself, more loudly, so you could “wake up” and move out of my way so I could get out of my seat. And it bothered me a little more that you still pretended to be asleep, so I had to tap you on the shoulder and ask you to excuse me, so I could get out of my window seat and take my daughter to the bathroom.

No, all of these things I could overlook and forgive.

WHAT BOTHERED ME was when you refused to get your lazy self out of the seat for two seconds to STAND UP, STEP INTO THE AISLE, AND LET ME OUT OF MY SEAT TO TAKE HER TO THE RESTROOM. Are you kidding me????? Yes, I’m talking to you, Mr.-Turn-Your-Knees-To-The-Side-And-Lean-In-Like-People-Do-In-A-Movie-Theater-Man. For Heaven’s sake, we weren’t in the middle of a church pew …. YOU were the aisle seat, and you refused to get up!!!

Forcing me to grab hold of the seat in front of me for dear life, suck my stomach muscles in and squeeeeeeeeeeeze my rear end past your head, duck-walking to the aisle so I wouldn’t hit my head on the overhead bins, worrying all the while I would step on the toes of your astonishingly ugly shiny black shoes, or hit you in the head with my big fat butt. Which, of course, would have totally served you right, but my mother brought me up to have better manners than that.

So while many of these “endearing” personality traits of yours I was able to overlook, or ignore, that was pretty much the one (especially considering we repeated the duck-walk-stomach-in-butt-squeeze-dance when I returned from the restroom) that made me want to punch you in the neck. Repeatedly. You do NOT mess with a mother whose six-year old has an upset stomach on an airplane.

I think if you can remember that one simple rule, you’ll make lots of friends on your upcoming flights. Fortunately for me, we're flying home on a weekend, so I doubt we'll encounter you, Mr. Grumpy Business Man, but I do wish you luck in the future.

Best wishes,

Monday, June 19, 2006 11:57 PM CDT


I’m not sure if it’s the sunshine, or sunscreen vapors, or chlorine, or lake water, but some part of this vacation appears to be sucking brain cells directly out of Kendrie’s head. This weekend my nephew had a ball game and afterwards our entire family went out to eat. The six grown ups sat at one end of the table, and the seven grandkids sat at the other end, eating and laughing and (believe it or not) behaving pretty well. After the meal was over, Kendrie needed to go to the restroom, so I went with her and we had the following conversation:

Kristie: “Are you having a fun time with your cousins?”

Kendrie: “Who?”

Kristie: “Your cousins.”

Kendrie: “Who?”

Kristie, wondering if maybe she’d been out in the sun too long: “Your COUSINS. You know, the four boys sitting with us at the table?”

Kendrie: “Oh, those aren’t my cousins, those are my friends.”

Kristie (laughing slightly): “Well, of course they’re your friends, but they’re also your cousins.”

Kendrie: “How’s that?”

Kristie: “Well, since Aunt Kelly and I are sisters, then all of our kids are cousins.”

Kendrie: “Says who? I don’t think that’s right.”

Kristie: “Of course it’s right. If two sisters or two brothers, or a brother and a sister, have kids, those kids are cousins. That’s the way it works.”

At this point, Kendrie gave me the most Oh-my-gosh-you-are-so-stupid-look, practically snorted in derision, and said in a completely condescending tone: “Uh, yeah. That’s only if you’re JEWISH!!!”


We’ve got to end our vacation before the gifted teacher at her school rescinds the offer.

Friday, June 16, 2006 11:24 PM CDT


1. Early morning flights should be avoided at all costs. Waking children up at 5am in order to drive to the airport in time for a 9am flight can be tricky. There is always the chance that one child will wake up enthusiastic and agreeable, embracing rainbows and unicorns in her excitement; one child will be a mute zombie who doesn’t speak or acknowledge your presence in any way for three hours; and one child will manage to cry at least five times before leaving the house that morning. Only scenario #1 is pleasant, especially before sunrise, although scenario #2 can be tolerated.

2. It is suggested that you have all children try on their tennis shoes the night before you leave for vacation. If you wait until that morning, you will discover your oldest daughter has outgrown every pair of tennis shoes she has since school ended last month and be continuously subjected to her very loud, very whiny complaints about how you are forcing her to wear shoes that are too small and extremely uncomfortable and she will most likely be a cripple after this.

3. Allow plenty of time for the drive to the airport. Just because it is “normally” an hour and a half drive, do not assume it will be so every time. On some occasions, you will have forgotten to put gas in the car, the children will have extremely important last minute decisions to make, such as which stuffed animals get packed and which get left behind, traffic will be worse than normal, everyone will decide they are starving only half way there, and there is always the possibility that one of your children will suddenly get diarrhea and require a twenty-minute pit stop, just outside of the city.

4. The later you are for your flight, the harder it will be to find a drop-off parking space, the more crowded the airport will be with early-morning flyers, and the majority of self-check-in kiosks will be non-functioning. Also, the more children and carry-on bags you have with you, the farther from the escalator your gate will be. Or, if you are running extremely late, your gate will not only be at the end of the terminal, but it will be at the VERY end. Down a flight a stairs. Out a side door. Fifty yards down the tarmac. Which you will have to run to, through a maze of orange cones, dragging all the carry on bags behind you.

5. Do not feel smug about the way you oh-so-smartly packed snacks, books, and the portable DVD player in your carry-on bag, because when you are the last people to board the plane, you will suddenly realize that you are flying on a plane not much bigger than a puddle jumper and without any warning whatsoever, the flight attendant will take your smartly-packed bag and put it underneath the plane, rendering all your stay-busy-activities-for-children completely useless.

6. When you are unable to purchase seats together on the plane for you and your children, do not assume that the kindly strangers around you will be willing to change seats so your children do not have to sit alone. In fact, more on this later. It’s deserving of a separate journal entry, all to itself.

7. Always pack a long, pointy stick of some sort in your purse so when your child, seated one row up and three seats over, is misbehaving while the plane is in the air, you have something adequate for hitting them in the head and getting their attention. Finger-snapping and furious shushing will be worthless once you are in the air.

8. Threatening children with promises of strapping parachutes on their little bodies and then pushing them out the exit door, so they can float down and find new families to live with, are generally not met with approval by fellow passengers.

9. First line of defense, upon hearing your children gleefully yelling at one another on the plane, “You’re a fartknocker!” “No, YOU’RE a fartknocker!!” and then laughing hysterically at themselves, is to excuse yourself and hide in the airplane restroom for the remainder of the flight. In the event the restroom is occupied, simply stare intently at your Redbook magazine and pretend you don’t know them, as (see rule #7) finger snapping and shushing have already proven ineffectual.

10. In the event you are unable to follow any of these travel suggestions, wonder aloud if a 9am flight is too early for alcoholic beverage service.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:04 PM CDT


Kendrie -- 181 Days OT

Blaine -- Two and a half weeks out from radiation; finally not looking like a burn victim, but still not growing any hair on that side of his head or face. He said the good news is that it’s cut way down on his shaving time in the mornings.

First of all, thanks to all of you who wrote in the guestbook (have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate you guys for not only visiting our site, but leaving us messages? I’ll admit it, I’m an attention-junkie, and for a post to elicit that many responses ….. I LOVE that!) telling me that the “drowned rat” look was actually working for me, because due to whatever storm front moved through here, I did it again last night. Only the second night it was even **more** special because in addition to the rain, we had gale-force winds blowing … causing more than one parent’s (but thankfully not mine) umbrella to flip inside out in the stands. I’m telling you, it’s a miracle someone wasn’t blinded. (Yes, I made sure I had an umbrella in the van before leaving home this time.)

But, since it was the final game of the season, I’m not going to complain about the weather, although I do have to admit that while the first time was funny and exhilarating, the second time it was just wet. And after driving myself, Brayden, and Kellen home, soaking, dripping wet (the kids tried to dry off before sitting down, but all I could offer them were some Sonic napkins in the glove-box and a maxi-pad that I found in my purse) and then parking the van in the garage all night, where it was at least 90 degrees with 3000 percent humidity, the entire van reeks of mold and mildew. It’s like driving around in a soured milk carton. Ah, detailing it last month was certainly money well spent.

Anyway, I’m way off on a tangent now. Back to tonight’s topic: me, being insane.

Check out the number above, regarding Kendrie’s time off-treatment. One hundred eighty one days. That’s basically, six months. Six MONTHS, people, (technically, six months tomorrow) since we “formally” ended her chemo journey. Six months of eating ice cream before bed; (maybe that’s the *real* reason I still look pregnant?) six months of not planning our vacations around clinic visits; six months of living a relatively normal life. Six months of knowing we can give her Tylenol if she runs a fever without having to call her oncologist; six months of letting her catch frogs and tadpoles; six months of thankfulness for her continued good health.

And believe me, we KNOW that those are all good things, and we are grateful for each and every one. Especially the last one.

So why is it, when I took her to her follow-up visit at the clinic in Atlanta last Friday, I found myself feeling wistful? Dare I say, feeling nostalgic about the “good ole’ days”?

(It’s because I am insane.)

Please don’t get me wrong, I have no wish for her to EVER be sick again, or to return to the times of illness, stress, chemo side effects, worry and fear. NO, all too happy to be done with that part of it, thank you very much.

But the COMFORT of it all, I didn’t realize I had missed it, until we visited it again.

(Because I am insane.)

The comfort of walking into the Aflac Cancer Center at Scottish Rite and knowing we “belonged”. All those other bald little kids watching Toy Story in the waiting room while they waited to be called back for their appointments? Been there, and after awhile, felt comfortable doing that. Being greeted by name by Glitter Princess Kati at the check in desk, and running into two families that we had met at Camp Sunshine; good grief, do I actually miss the SOCIAL aspects of Kendrie’s cancer-life? Well, yes, I do.

I miss the friends we made while we were on treatment, and that we were able to see and visit when our paths crossed at the clinic. Catie, Keegan, Brandon, Madie, Jake, Brady, Mary Grace, Chandler, Gwen, CampJack, Jacob M, Joshua, and others; so many wonderful Atlanta families, and I miss them all.

Flashes of Hope had set up a portrait session in the clinic the day we were there and offered to take photos of Kendrie and me. I was excited for the chance (you should visit their website and see the quality work they do!) but a little flustered that I didn’t know about it ahead of time. I definitely would have dressed Kendrie in something nicer than her “Baseball is Life” t-shirt and cargo shorts. And maybe, if I’d gotten really ambitious, brushed her hair before leaving the house?? Dare I dream so large? They had a make up and hair artist there to primp everyone before each session. Perhaps not aware that Kendrie’s photo is in the dictionary under the word “tomboy” she asked if Kendrie would like a little lip gloss, or maybe a clip or bow in her hair? Kendrie just looked at her, I kid you not, with a total “What is this madness of which you speak?” horrified expression on her face. It was actually very, very funny.

Anyway, back to the fact I wasn’t aware they would be there ---- then I thought, how would I have known? We haven’t been to the clinic since April …. Do I expect them to call me every time they have something special like that planned?

(Yes, I do. Because I am insane. And high-maintenance.)

When we pulled into the parking garage at the hospital that morning, I noticed a new parking-pass type system set up, a sort of credit card for people who park there often. I felt a little indignant, like, when did they install this? How come no-one told me? How dare they make changes while I am away???

I’m like the pathetic girl who graduates from high school, only to return for a visit at a later time and feel surprised that life has gone on in my absence.

(That or I’m just insane.)

And it’s only going to get worse … Kendrie’s doctor has extended her follow-up visits from every two months to every three months. So we won’t even go back until September. She’ll continue to get monthly blood counts at our local lab, but still, after going to the Atlanta clinic two or three times a week at the beginning, and never less than monthly, no matter when, it often felt like our home away from home --- three months between visits will seem like a lifetime.

(To an insane person.)

And logically, in my head, I know that’s a good thing. It’s a GREAT thing! She’ll miss less days of school, and I won’t have to make the drive to Atlanta as often. Every day moves us farther and farther away from that dark period, and closer and closer to a time when Kendrie won’t have to go back at all. At this visit, her oncologist told us we could discontinue not only the two allergy pills she’s been taking every night for the last eighteen months, but also the nasty-tasting Bactrim antibiotic she’s been on this whole time. Did you hear that? NO MORE MEDS!!! AT ALL!!! We even let her take off the medic-alert bracelet she’s worn for over two years. (But naturally I saved it because again, you know me with the nostalgia!) Those are all great milestones!!! So why did it feel so bittersweet to pack away that bracelet?

(Still insane.)

Most of it, I’m more than happy, nay, THRILLED for her to be able to let go; steroids, port accesses, shots, chemo, steroids, nausea, fatigue, hair loss, steroids, worry over counts, lifestyle restrictions, steroids, did I mention steroids? And for the most part, ever since the bulk of her treatment ended in December, we’ve gone on and not looked back. I’ve never missed the “safety net” of chemo like I hear about other parents doing when their child ends treatment. I’ve never panicked that she’s going to relapse because we’re not pumping her full of toxins to keep the cancer at bay. Until Friday at the clinic, I had never really looked back.
Well, I’ve been staring at this screen for twenty minutes, trying to figure out some way to wrap up this journal entry and make it into something comprehensible. I appear to be failing miserably. I’m not even sure what it was I was trying to say here ….. and whatever it was, I’m saying it poorly.

(Probably because I’m insane.)

But I can't help but wonder, if you polled other cancer parents whose kids are off treatment to see how they feel, if perhaps I’d also be perfectly normal. In an insane world, which pediatric cancer certainly is. Maybe that’s why a small part of me, misses a small part of it.


PS. Wish me luck tomorrow. The kids and I are flying to Oklahoma City to visit the grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins for a vacation. Me, flying with all three kids by myself …. Getting up at 5am in order to catch our flight, the carry-on bags full of stuffed animals and puzzle books and Chips Ahoy, and my purse full of socks for all of us for getting through the Atlanta airport; wrangling the suitcases by myself through the airport because God forbid any of my children offer to help me. We bought tickets at the last minute and none of our seats are together …. Hello, Delta? Please be flexible tomorrow and re-assign us. You just KNOW there’s a journal entry here someplace, and we haven’t even started yet. I think the aspiration of the entire trip is further proof that I’m insane.

PSS. I’m still working on that music. I’ve purchased space and was hoping to learn how to use my web host before I left, but it just didn’t happen. Hopefully shortly after we get back I’ll figure it out! You can leave your music requests/suggestions in the guestbook until then. :)

Monday, June 12, 2006 8:40 PM CDT


So, after listening to myself kvetch and gripe about how everyone still thinks I am pregnant because apparently I am a big huge fat ass, I decided it was time to take some action. Time to make some changes in my wardrobe that would allow me to walk about in public without constantly being asked when my baby is due, and overall, feeling slovenly and unkempt. You know, put up or shut up about the way I look.

“Wardrobe” is in fact a very generous term for the clothes I have hanging in my closet. Styles have changed the past few years and needless to say, I haven’t kept up. I’m a Stay-At-Home-Mom … a What-Not-To-Wear, just waiting to happen ... it’s not like I need high-end clothing to drop my kids off at school each morning. The majority of my summer clothes were purchased for my last class reunion in a desperate, “Oh-my-gosh-my-class-reunion-is-this-weekend-and-I-have-nothing-to-wear!” trip to the mall several years ago. Apparently, it was the geriatric section of the mall, since all the blouses make me look like a 72 yr old woman preparing to take a bus tour with her church friends. All that’s missing is the fanny pack and big straw hat. Trust me; it was time for a change.

So today, armed with my Visa card and the resolve that in some cultures, hundreds of years ago, my body shape would be revered, off I went. I was fully embarked on a mission to find clothes that would show off the hip, stylish, groovy mom that I am. Or that I think I am. Or that I would like to be, or like to at least fake others into thinking that I am. Maybe. If I'm lucky.

As everyone knows, the most sure-fire way to ensure a shopping trip will fail is to leave the house with money to spend and ample time to spend it. But believe it or not, I actually found some shirts that I liked! That fit! That made me look NOT eligible for an AARP discount!

And thanks to Kathy, from Gainesville, GA, and her tip in the guestbook about Lee Relaxed Fit Jeans, I found two pair of jeans that I liked, too.

So then I was like a crazy person and decided well hey, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right, so I went ahead and splurged on three pair of sandals because everyone knows you can never have too many pair of brown sandals (and to any man who might be reading this who doesn’t understand that, trust me when I tell you I bought one pair of auburn, one pair of chestnut, and one pair of mahogany, and YES, there is a difference.) Seriously, I was like a shopper on speed and the only reason I stopped then was because I couldn’t carry another bag without throwing my back out.

I came home and gleefully unpacked all the packages, congratulating myself on my fashion-savvy and thinking about how chic I would look wearing my new clothes. And I decided, you know what? Kellen has a baseball game tonight. Granted, it’s nothing more than hot dogs and sunflower seeds at a dirt field, but by golly, I’m wearing my new clothes and showing off my trendy self, so everyone can admire the new, modish me!

And so the dressing began. New shirt (one of those little strappy numbers that all the “in” crowd is wearing these days) new jeans, new sandals; I even put on jewelry, brushed my hair, touched up my makeup, and spritzed a little perfume in the air -- woohoo! Truly, I was a fashion diva. I practically left lipstick-kiss marks on the mirror from where I was admiring myself so much.

Blaine and Kendrie stayed home tonight, and as I drove Brayden and Kellen to the game, she asked, “Does that big cloud in the sky mean the game is going to be rained out?” I was so busy winking at myself in my rear-view mirror that I hadn’t even noticed a cloud. But I responded, “No, it’s not a rain cloud, just a cloud-cloud”, all the while thinking that the cloud was great news, because then I wouldn’t need my sunglasses and more people could admire my smoky-kohl eyeliner. I’m telling you, I was WORKING IT, girl!

When we parked the van, Brayden asked one last time, “Are you sure we don’t need an umbrella?” That was when I remembered I had taken the umbrellas out of the car last month when I had it detailed and never put them back in …. Oh well, I was still positive it wasn’t going to rain. So we got to the game about half an hour early, set up our chairs, and waited. The two teams in front of us were finishing up their game, while I chatted with some other parents and skillfully flipped my hair around, sucking my stomach in all the time, thinking truly, I am hot stuff.

Then our boys took the field. And I felt a “plop, plop” on my arm. Then another. Oh dear, looks like it might rain.

Before five minutes had gone by, it was raining hard enough that most of the parents had taken sanctuary under the snack bar roof. *I* didn’t, because my golly, my boy was on first base and I wasn’t going to miss a minute of it. I wasn't going to let a few little sprinkles run me off ---- Kellen was playing ball, and I would stay there and cheer for him until the bitter end, that's how much I love him!! Until it started raining hard enough that it was running down the back of my new, stylish pants and the crack of my heiny. That pretty much did it for me and I joined everyone else under the snack bar.

Before ten minutes had gone by, it was raining so hard they stopped the game to see what the weather was going to do. For another ten minutes, I stood under the snack bar roof, with a hundred other wet, sweaty parents, amazed at how closely-packed bodies in 100 percent Georgia humidity can feel sticky, even when you’re not actually touching one another. And also spent those ten minutes watching the sky for lightning, because the team was huddled in the dug-out, under a metal roof.

By the time twenty minutes had gone by, they had called the game. So what were we to do? The rain obviously wasn’t letting up, the game had been postponed until tomorrow, we didn’t have umbrellas, and the van was parked a hundred yards away at the other end of the parking lot. Naturally.

So what *did* we do? Well, we gathered up as much dignity as we could, stepped out into the pouring rain, packed up our chairs, and walked to the van, jumping in puddles and trying to catch as many raindrops as we could on our tongues.

Tonight was *supposed* to be trophy presentation night, so lucky for you, I had a camera there to capture the moment.

You tell me --- baseball mom, or Alice Cooper look-alike?

And you know what was really funny? By the time we got to the parking lot, I was so very soaking wet, and my new strappy blouse was completely plastered to my mid-section, causing not one, but TWO parents on the way out to say to me (that’s right …. Everyone together …. Say it with me now…..) “Haven’t you had that baby yet????”

Oh well. “E” for effort, right? :)

The Not-So-Vain-Anymore-Kristie

Saturday, June 10, 2006 7:15 AM CDT


Do you know what the six most vile and unforgivable words are in the English language? Well, technically, I would imagine that there is a wide variety of choices, depending on your personal situation. But for a woman (oh, I don’t know, say, for example, a woman like ME) who is three weeks post-partum, the six most vile and unforgivable words in the English language are “Haven’t you had that baby yet?”

Not to be confused with the four most vile words: “When are you due?” This question implies the person doesn’t know you (ME) and might make the mistake, from looking at your (MY) still-poochy tummy, that you are (I AM) indeed pregnant. So while annoying, and a little frustrating, three weeks after you (I) have given birth, this is an honest mistake and forgivable.

But the six words: “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” implies a sort of casual relationship between the asker and the askee …..say, like the relationship between me and my local Kroger cashier --- again, just for example. Obviously, the person asking the question *knew* I was pregnant recently, and what they are saying to me, in essence, is that it doesn’t matter that I am actually fitting into non-maternity clothes and thinking that I’m all fabulous and hot stuff and that in my own warped mind I am looking surprisingly decent, but that in reality I am still a big fat-ass with a stomach that is so incredibly poochy they can’t even tell that I have already given birth, to a 10-lb baby no less. Having a toddler vacate my midsection ... that ALONE should make my stomach look smaller!

You know what? This entire thing is too depressing. I blame it all on the makers of these damn low-waist pants. Sure, if I were a teenager and had the stomach muscles of a Russian gymnast, I could wear pants that hang around my hipbones and offer absolutely no support whatsoever in my midsection. But I’m not. I’m a 39 yr old woman who has been pregnant five times (once with twins!) had a c-section, is somewhat overweight, and by golly, I need a pair of pants with a waistband that comes up higher than my belly button! If I no longer have the stomach muscles necessary to suck in my own gut, then I would like to be able to purchase a pair of denim Capri’s that can camouflage it, or suck it in for me.

Is that really too much to ask?


Thursday, June 8, 2006 10:07 PM CDT


Photographic proof that maybe it’s time I found something that pays a little better than this stay-at-home-mom gig:

Blaine’s reply? “Hey, I’m not cheap, I’m resourceful!”

Further proof that maybe it’s time I reconsidered my status as stay-at-home-mom --- The phone call I made to Blaine from the paper towel aisle at Wal-Mart tonight at 9:22pm.

Me: “I’m not coming home until they are asleep; I don’t care how long it takes or how much money I spend waiting here in the meantime!” (Wait, maybe that money comment is the reason my husband is repairing the soles of his tennis shoes with a vise.)

Blaine: “They’re in bed, you can come home now.”

Me: “But are they asleep?!?!? I’m not coming home until they’re asleep!

Time spent in Wal-Mart: 37 minutes

Money spent: $122.91

An hour where I didn’t have to listen to the ungrateful little shits whine and fuss and fight and argue: Priceless.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 2:25 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 174 OT

Blaine -- home, recuperating, watching a lot of the girls’ College World Series from his position on the sofa, which is actually very much NOT like him, so I know he still doesn’t feel very good.

The family that plays together, or in OUR case, makes a team effort out of Daddy’s narcotics injections, stays together.

KRISTIE’S JOB: Draw medication up in proper syringes, with proper needles, and administer. Complain that Blaine doesn’t have enough fat on his ass for me to grab properly. Secretly feel envious. Do NOT complain when he wakes me up at 1 am to give him a shot, because at least he has the decency to wait to turn on the overhead light until I am partially awake. Convince neighborhood kid, who walked in while I was giving Blaine a shot in the thigh a few days ago, that this is perfectly normal and we are not, despite appearances to the contrary, hard core drug addicts.

BLAINE’S JOB: Stand or sit stoically and receive injections without complaint, even when I did something wrong that one time and the medicine burned like the dickens going in. Take advantage of the pain-free period afterwards (well, it’s not pain FREE, but it’s pain BETTER) to go around the house collecting Sonic cups and mumbling swear words under his breath about his wife’s addiction to Diet Dr. Pepper.

BRAYDEN’S JOB: Avoid the entire situation until we are done, at which time she collects the used needles (protective safety caps on, of course) and deposits them in the proper Sharps container. Not sure *why* she has claimed this job as her responsibility, but it saves me from having to do it, so I just say thank you and move on.

KENDRIE’S JOB: To stand by intently, eyes averted, with the Kleenex in her hand, ready to staunch whatever wound appears when I withdraw the needle. She is the official “Kleenex-applier-muscle-massager” and quite proud of herself, thank you very much.

KELLEN’S JOB: Squeal like a girl and run out of the room whenever he sees me get out the first needle. I guess there’s not exactly a career in neurosurgery in his future.

PS. Ok, question here, for anyone out there more technologically advanced than me. Well, wait, that's pretty much everyone! :) I found out the reason the music keeps dropping off this site is because I am exceeding my bandwidth limit, as per Cox, which is where I've been storing the music for two years. Why they suddenly NOW decided it's a problem, I don't know, but apparently they have and they will continue to de-activate my site every time I exceed it and "no, Mrs. Escoe, buying more bandwidth is not an option we allow." Fine, whatever. So I'm looking into purchasing space from a web host in order to acquire more bandwidth. At least I *think* that's what I'm looking into, if I'm understanding the process correctly, which hey, could be completely wrong.

My point, is that if anyone out there has any experience with a reliable, inexpensive web host, offering a fair amount of bandwidth capacity (but I don't need much storage space) that is extremely easy to use and idiot-proof, I would appreciate it if you would pass the information on. Feel free to e-mail me privately, or put it in the guestbook, whatever is easiest.

I was bemoaning this issue to Blaine a few minutes ago and he actually had the audacity to say to me, "Well, why don't you just take the music off the site? Problem solved." OK, maybe HE doesn't get as much joy out of the Hallelujah Chorus, or the Wal-Mart song, but *I* do, and I'm not giving up on it just yet!

Monday, June 5, 2006 9:50 PM CDT



Although I hate to be a person who stereotypes, it’s my opinion that parents can frequently be placed in one of two categories: obnoxious, or normal.

The obnoxious parent is sometimes the parent of a first born or only child (although on occasion, you’ll find parents who are obnoxious about ALL their offspring.) The child is often still fairly young (reality hasn’t come ‘round and smacked the parent in the face yet, at least that’s what I think!) These parents truly believe (erroneously, although they don’t know it) that their child can do no wrong. That no child smarter, prettier, more handsome, or more endearing or charming has ever been born or walked the face of the earth. To put it less tactfully, to the noses of the obnoxious parent, their child’s shit don’t stink.

Surely you know someone like this? Someone, whose baby pulled up, sat up, crawled earlier than anyone else’s baby? (For you see, *that* is the truly obnoxious part. These parents are competitive, secretly think *your* kid is an idiot, and make sure to tell you about every Herculean feat and Socrates moment their kid has … YAWN!) Someone whose toddler is going to completely skip pre-school because they can already read and do complex algebra? Someone whose child can run faster, skip better, jump higher, and in all ways, is more coordinated than your own?

A playground conversation amongst obnoxious mothers might sound something like this:

Mom #1: “Can you believe that when we went to buy Timmy’s t-ball uniform, we had to buy three sizes larger than the other kids because he’s so tall? I guess that’s the reason he’s the best player on the team, because he’s physically superior to everyone else.”

Mom #2: “Well, be glad Timmy’s problem is physical and not due to sheer genius. I don’t know what we’re going to do with our little Johnny. His kindergarten teacher says he’s already too advanced for all the workbooks she has in her classroom, and even his private Latin tutor admits that he’s way beyond the basic level of her lessons. She says he could *teach* the older kids!”

Mom #3: “Oh dear, you know, our little Susie’s problem is both physical AND due to genius. She is so far advanced for her age, and what “should” be her skill level in her violin lessons, that there isn’t a violin on the planet small enough for her dainty little hands. It’s simply a case of the musical brain being too advanced for the beautiful, petite fingers at this point!”

Mom #4: “Well, I have to admit, our problem is financial. Considering James (currently, four years old) will be getting his undergraduate degree in political studies from Harvard, then his medical degree from Yale, and then his second doctorate in global technical relations from MIT, I’m just not sure we can save enough to put him through school! Good thing for total academic scholarships, which I'm positive he'll get!”

{Tinkling, self-satisfied laughter all around}

Then, there are the normal parents. Parents who, although they adore their kids and deep, deep down, think they are also the most beautiful, clever, intelligent, delightful kids on the planet ….. these parents also have enough backbone to face a healthy dose of reality about their little angels.

Like the fact their two year old is obsessed with shoving beans up her nose, or eating play-doh, or that their four year old shows more interest in Dora than in potty training. That their six year old daughter is the biggest whiner on the planet when she doesn’t get her way, or that their eight year old son finds farting hysterical, or that their nine year old daughter is a pack rat who can’t keep her room clean to save her life. You know. Parents like that. Not that I *KNOW* any, or anything.

Kidding, of course. These are the kind of parents I much prefer to hang out with, and the kind with which I feel I have MUCH more in common. Our playground conversations are more along these lines:

Mom #1: “Well, we got an authorized notice from the principal yesterday that if Timmy head-butts one more kid on the playground, they’re going to ban him from recess for life. Can they do that?”

Mom #2: “Don’t feel bad, you know it’s just a stage, like when our Johnny went around stealing everyone’s dessert out of their lunch boxes. He finally stopped, but only after we threatened to take all of his Star War toys to Goodwill.”

Mom #3: “Yeah, well, I’ve got you both beat. Despite being five years old and knowing better, Susie threw such a tantrum in Toys ‘R Us yesterday when I wouldn’t buy her a Cabbage Patch stroller to go with her Cabbage Patch doll that the manager came over and asked us to please vacate the store because her screaming was setting off the Pound Puppies and the entire aisle was howling.”

Mom #4: “Sorry, no sympathy from me. I came home yesterday to discover James had shaved a four-letter word into the cat’s fur.”

See? *Those* are the kind of moms I prefer to hang with. I second guess my parenting skills often enough without “friends” making me feel worse because my kids are (gasp!) normal.

So ---- What is the point of that little tangent, where I try to prove to you that I am a normal parent, and that I recognize my children and their annoying idiosyncrasies? Because for a brief moment, I’m going veer off the path and be an obnoxious one, and I don’t want you thinking that is the way I normally behave!

Announcement, Please --- We just found out that Kendrie was accepted into the gifted program for first grade in her elementary school!!!! Gifted, people, GIFTED!!! The fruit of MY loins, gifted!

She was so excited when she found out, this was her reaction:

(This is the part of the journal entry that is totally cheesy because we had to re-enact it. I got the notice from the school almost two weeks ago. But what with the delivery, and the chaos that followed, I completely forgot to tell you guys, so I’m pretending that its news to us now!)

And here, basically, is the thing. I wouldn’t even say anything, let alone brag like this, under ordinary circumstances. Shoot, telling you pretty much ensures she’ll flunk out the first week of school next fall, and then I’ll have a big ole’ egg on my face, won’t I?

But you see, her circumstances AREN’T ordinary. Between the ages of four and six, she was diagnosed with cancer and underwent two-plus years of chemotherapy to get rid of it, including her entire year of Pre-Kindergarten, and half her Kindergarten year. She missed so many days of school that if it weren’t for her Exceptional Student (Medical) Status, she could have been held back due to the school’s absence policy. Days where she was in Atlanta getting chemo injected in her chest and her back and her legs; days where she took a nap in the Nurses Office, or came home early; even days where she felt too crummy to get out of bed and attend at all.

So to know that despite her challenges, she not only attended school, and passed, but THRIVED ---- it’s so exciting for me that I want to shout the news out to everyone! I’m so proud that I’m considering renting a marquee somewhere, or tattooing my forehead with “Kendrie Rocks!”

I also tell you this because I know there are other cancer parents out there who follow our site. Many of their kids were diagnosed after Kendrie, so are still in the thick of treatment. I want them to see that there are kids who do well, despite the trials all these young patients face. Sure, who does well and who struggles more than their share ….. a lot of it is bold-faced luck and I won’t deny it. But if your child is in still on treatment, or facing challenges, and you need a face to look to for inspiration, well, today I think that face is Kendrie’s …. Frog chaser, scooter rider …. Gifted student.

I might be her mom, and this might sound incredibly corny, but when I see her face, I’m a believer. It is possible.

I love you Kendrie,


PS. But could you please just knock it off already with the whining, ok sweetie?

PSS. Can you even believe, after me publicly professing my love for Sonic cups and rabbit pellet ice (you people who have never heard of rabbit pellet ice … you have been severely deprived and need to get to a Sonic right now) that I got up tonight to make myself my nightly DDP ….. AND I DIDN’T HAVE A SPARE CUP IN THE HOUSE? OR THE CAR? OR ANYWHERE????

I was searching all over, getting all grumpy and angry and testosterony, and griping to Blaine about how he had thrown out eight cups too many the other night, when I suddenly remembered that my girlfriend Jadine (yes, the one from Pflugerville that I mention all the time) who knew about my Styrofoam cup obsession already and had sent me a care package recently with several dozen cups and lids in it!!!! Jadine, you are a lifesaver! Smooches!

PPSS. Speaking of kids who are struggling right now, two of the boys on my list-serve have relapsed and could probably use a note of encouragement: Cameron has had a long, difficult journey for quite some time and I can't help but believe this brave kid is more than due for a break .... but he just doesn't seem to ever get one. He has relapsed ... again ... please stop by his site and say hello. Also, Tyson finished his treatment for ALL last summer. This past May 24, almost a year later, doctors discovered he relapsed. Tyson is just beginning his relapse journey and I'm sure it would make him and his family feel great if you could leave a note of support in the guestbook.

Saturday, June 3, 2006 5:23 PM CDT


The time has come, I feel, for me to bear my soul and clear my conscious. So, I’ll confess to you now: I’m having a love affair. And sadly, Blaine is the one who found all the evidence and made me face the cold hard fact that my passion is out of control …. My obsession apparently knows no bounds.

The one in question? Well, he’s one of the medical profession; a doctor, in fact. His full name? Diet Dr. Pepper.

Now, I’ve long been a connoisseur of The Diet Beverage, and had long, healthy relationships with both Diet Coke and Diet Sprite in my younger, more carefree days. Then I discovered The Diet Dr. Pepper. Truly, the one that tastes most like its calorie-laden original. But until recently, I was still in control. Or so I thought.

I don’t drink diet beverages while pregnant. Silly, perhaps, but the thought of ingesting all that nutri-sweet and passing it on to an innocent lima bean bothers me. But something happened during this last pregnancy that is so sinfully, wickedly wonderful, it should have been outlawed: Sonic started carrying Diet Dr. Pepper.


My obsession with the Styrofoam (ie, sweat-free) cup from Sonic, and their fabulous rabbit-pellet ice, combined with Diet Dr. Pepper? Did any of you know that such syrupy goodness existed, or was even possible?????

I greedily eyed the signs at my local Sonic throughout the pregnancy, calculating the exact day and moment I would be delivered of the baby and able to indulge my decadent fantasy of diving headfirst into a Rt. 44, goggles and fins attached.

And when the day came, I found myself -- shamefully -- completely unable to turn back. And now, I am so in love with DDP that I would divorce Blaine and marry it if it were a person. Unfortunately, in the majority of US states, it’s still illegal for someone to walk down the aisle with a soft drink beverage.

Much like a bulimic hides candy wrappers, I thought my secret was safe. Until Blaine, damn his very neat-freak soul, came home and started cleaning house again.

He came into the living room last night holding nine Sonic cups. Nine. NINE, I tell you! Nine empty vessels, proof of my love affair with the doc. He asked, “Kristie, just how many times have you been to Sonic this week? I found three cups in your car, two in your computer room, one in your bathroom, two in the kitchen, and one in the closet, of all places ….. what’s up with this?”

What could I say? How could I deny it? It was like an intervention, only without the rehab … and I don’t want to change!

Now, before any of you local readers try to comment about how Chick-Fil-A has carried Diet Dr. Pepper for quite some time, let me remind you that fast food restaurant is easily four or file miles from my house. Sonic, on the other hand, is most conveniently located across the street from Target, Kroger, and my local bank. How can I *not* drive-thru in a regular (twice-daily … yikes!) basis?

And before you make any snide comments about me spending the equivalent of the national debt (at $1.70 a pop ---- Ha! Get it? POP!) I will, in my defense, tell you that I often pour DDP from home into the cups and re-use them …. But RABBIT PELLET ICE, PEOPLE, SONIC HAS RABBIT PELLET ICE!!!

I don’t drink coffee, but found myself driving through Sonic at 8:45 the other morning for my DDP fix. I don’t know whether to be proud of my devotion, or embarrassed.

And since confession is good for the soul, here are two more things I am in love with recently:

My jumbo-sized griddle from Wal-Mart, upon which I can cook nine large or twelve (TWELVE!) medium chocolate chip pancakes at a time! This way, my Saturday morning cook-a-thon, during which I make enough pancakes -- usually about a zillion -- to last my children the week (or at least three or four days) no longer takes half the morning. Bearing in mind that there is no way to speed up the process, for if you turn up the heat on the griddle, in an attempt to cook the pancakes more quickly, said children will turn up their noses at the “burned” pancakes and all the cooking will be for nothing. Unless you feel like eating a zillion brown pancakes yourself. Which I have been known to do …. the ungrateful little brats. But with my new Walton-family-sized griddle, problem solved!!

The person who came up with the Oscar-Mayer Ready-To-Serve Bacon!!! (Please, no hateful vegetarian guestbook entries … my arteries are too clogged to deal with replying to you. And yes, I really need to get a life because I took a picture of BACON this morning!) My kids love, love, love bacon. And these slices are already cooked and ready to go; you just pop them in the microwave for ten or fifteen seconds, and viola! Pork heaven, without the grease splatter and disgusting mess to clean up afterward. Truly, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Aaaaahhhhhh. I’m going to go pop open a Diet Dr Pepper and think about how fabulous my life is and how it's good I was never a prairie-pioneer woman.


PS. If you're reading this update and there's no music playing, it's because my web space server is an incompetent boob of a provider. Apparently, after using them for almost three years, they no longer (as of today) recognize my user name or password. My web space, where I store music and video, seems to have disappeared. And I am not allowed to access it, because I don't know the password. When I called tech support, they referred me to the online faq, which oh-so-helpfully suggested I type my password correctly. CORRECTLY. Yeah. Because after three years, I suddenly forgot how to spell it. So the tech support girl reset my password to "password". Which the site still didn't recognize. So now I'm waiting for a return call, to determine if there is a glitch in *their* system, or if the problem is all mine. Which I am sure it will be all mine, according to them. If, however, you are reading this and there is music playing, forget every hateful thing I just typed, and I heart Cox forever..

PSS. If you're hearing music now, it's because I took care of the problem myself, with no help from Cox whatsoever, and I do NOT heart them forever! For as much good as my hour on the phone last night did, making three separate phone calls to three separate customer support people (who were not very helpful OR supportive, I can tell you) or my two e-mails to tech support ....aaaggggggghhhhhhh!! They might as well have e-mailed me back with the suggestion that I double-check to see if the computer is plugged into the wall, or that we live in a city that offers e-lec-tric-ity. I just want my computer to work when I turn it on, the way it's always worked!!! And for tech support to help me when it doesn't, is that so much to ask?

Thursday, June 1, 2006 6:34 PM CDT

WHO? WHO? {looking around wildly} ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?

Well, apparently the definition of “Home Health Care Nurse” means something different to the medical establishment, than what it means to Blaine and me. *We* assumed “Home Health Care Nurse” meant that a person, called a Nurse, most likely a woman not that I’m being sexist but still, would be coming to our Home, to provide Care, to Blaine, to help him improve his Health.

Then we found out that what the Air Force meant by it was that a Person, named Kristie, who has absolutely no Nursing experience whatsoever, would be providing Care of some kind, in our Home. I’m still not sure where the Health comes into play.

But I am now responsible for giving Blaine all of the Demerol injections he needs for break-through pain. It’s always enjoyable to jab your husband in the thigh or the ass with a Habit Forming Narcotic …. adding fun to the mix is the doctor’s order that if 50 mg doesn’t work, try 75! Then go to 100!!! It’s like a limbo in reverse! And me, getting to do my Robert Downey Jr impression!

I actually don’t mind. Blaine used to give me shots during the surrogate pregnancies, so perhaps this is a bit of turn about being fair play? Then I got tired of waking him up at night, so I started giving myself the injections. (Not too difficult, except for the nights you try to give yourself an injection in the left butt-cheek, and you’re right handed …. A contortionist, I am NOT!)

Then, I gave Kendrie shots during her leukemia treatment. Hands down, the hardest shots to give, even though the needles were the smallest. Watching Blaine hold her down and listening to her beg me not to do it ….. {shudder} …. I never want to do that again. I will GLADLY jab Blaine instead.

Just don’t ask me to change any bed pans, because I tell you, I am NOT a nurse, and you are NOT talking to me!


Tuesday, May 30, 2006 9:10 PM CDT





Kendrie -- Day 166 OT

Blaine -- Home from Seattle, burned like a crispy French-fry

Kristie -- Fat (see the PS. But getting my energy back!)

The rest of my family --- oh dear heavens, just read the update!

So, let’s see, this is one heckuva story … where do I even begin? Let’s start with the birth and go chronologically from there. Again, I don’t want to give too many details out of respect to the baby’s family (and let’s just face it --- it’s too disgusting to hear about someone else’s labor pains and epidural and hemorrhoids and vomiting and stitches unless you are REALLY close friends!) but I will at least tell you the fire-department part.

I had a doctor’s appointment for one final check up on Thursday the 18th at 2pm, with plans to induce on Friday morning. As my journal entry at 3am on Wednesday/Thursday filled you in, I started having some pretty intense pains (or at least what counts as intense for a weenie like me) during the middle of the night, so on Thursday morning I called the baby’s parents, who were staying in a hotel near the hospital, and told them to meet me at the doctor’s office when it opened at 9am. I was pretty sure I was in labor (in some form!) and didn’t see the sense in waiting around until that afternoon. I mean hey! God invented pain medication for a reason and no sense martyring myself, waiting to get me some.

So my mom and I dropped Brayden and Kellen and Kendrie off at school that morning, then headed downtown to the hospital. It’s about a half hour drive, and naturally the parking deck was under construction, so we had to detour all over downtown Macon, me grimacing in the passengers’ seat the entire time while we searched for a space. Finally we found one and walked across the street to the doctor’s office (which is situated next door to the hospital) only to be met by a steady stream of people exiting the building. I felt like a salmon, trying to swim upstream, just getting in the doors.

We walked in the building and were told that the elevators were off-limits due to a fire alarm, but I was welcome to walk the nine flights to my OB’s office if I’d like …. Uh, yeah. I don’t think so. So we sat down in the lobby for about fifteen minutes, as the fire trucks started lining up and down the street and fire fighters came into the building (and promptly got into the elevators. … I ask you, where is the justice?) until we were told, lo and behold, there really WAS a fire, and we would need to vacate the building.

By now the baby’s parents and grandma had joined us in the lobby, as the entire building was being vacated, so we headed outside. We asked a security guard if he knew how long it would be and of course he didn’t, so I sat down on some steps to wait -- not so graceful, but at least I was sitting down.

Suddenly, a woman magically shows up with a wheelchair and asks me if I would rather sit in something more comfortable, since it’s obvious from my volcanic-sized stomach and occasional panting that I’m in labor. I’m embarrassed and say no, but she insists, and then wants to push me around to labor and delivery in the hospital, but I really want to see my doctor and confirm I actually AM in labor and not suffering from some e-coli poisoning or something ….. But eventually I give in and let this woman push me in a wheelchair, through the throngs of evacuated medical workers crowding the city streets, fire engine lights flashing in the background, with my mother bellowing “Lady in Labor! Step Aside People, Lady in Labor Coming Through!” the entire time. Very low-key. Just like I like it.

And from there, I’ll spare you the gory details except to tell you that Nicolas was born at 11:24 p.m., the delivery of whom culminated in my epidural being turned off and me trying to push out a 10 lb, 2 oz, sunny-side up baby, for the final two and half hours of labor, with no pain medication. None. At all. Whatsoever. (until the last two pushes!) Not that I’m bitter or anything.

I had been given a shot of Phenergan after the delivery (again with the disgusting vomiting details) and was knocked out like Rocky Balboa in whichever movie that Russian guy kicks his ass until the next morning, at which time I woke up to a monstrous ache in my neck and the back of my head …. The result, I assumed, of a neck muscle I must have pulled in my marathon pushing session the night before. I slept most of the day, but had this same migraine-type pain in my head whenever I awoke (Aha! Here’s where it gets interesting!) but only if I was sitting up or standing. As long as I was lying down, my head felt just fine.

I still had the pain the next day when it was time to be discharged; in fact, it might even have been worse. I told the nurses my head was killing me, and I thought I had pulled a neck muscle, but they released me with Motrin and told me I would be fine. By the time I was wheeled from my room to the front doors of the hospital, and waited for my mom and the kids to drive up and pick me up, the pain was so bad I was sitting there just crying … nothing to be done for it. And for the record, I might gripe and whine and complain and bitch about a lot of things, but I am NOT the kind of person who sits around crying in public for the fun of it. I was DYING people, dying.

By the time I got home that Saturday afternoon, I told my mom I really thought my head might explode. You should have seen me trying to lay down in the passenger seat of Blaine’s pick up truck during the ride home, to alleviate the pain. (Naturally, my van was being detailed when I went into labor a day early so we hadn’t gotten it back yet.) My mom suggested, considering it was almost 5pm on a Saturday, and knowing that nothing would be open later except the ER ….. that I go to our local MedStop. So that’s what I did, explaining that I had just given birth, and obviously pushed for so long that I pulled a neck muscle and could they please, please, please help me with the throbbing before I voluntarily drank a cup of Raid to kill myself and dull the pain. So I got a shot of something and some muscle relaxers …. And came home and basically went to bed for three days.

Now, if you’ve ever head of an “epidural leak” or an “epidural headache”, you already know where I’m going with this story. But if you’re like me, and had never heard of such thing … well, you lay in bed for three days, thinking that you’re going blind every time you sit up or stand up. And you take a lot of drugs. That really do no-one any good. Especially your poor mother who thinks you’ve overdosed in the back bedroom.

There were two exceptions to my “Don’t get out of bed and Do drug yourself into oblivion” situation …. Sunday, when the baby’s parents brought him for a visit, and Tuesday, when my mother cut off half of her thumb and I had to drive her, pain not-with-standing (hers OR mine) to our local emergency room for stitches.

Oh, and did I mention, that when my mom came to visit me, she brought her dad with her (my grandpa) who planned to spend these three weeks visiting my uncle in Atlanta. Ninety years old and in fair health, both mentally and physically, he unfortunately fell down, was admitted to an Atlanta hospital, and unexpectedly died the next day. We got the call Sunday while Nicolas and his parents were visiting.

And here is where things started to get bizarre, to say the least.

Sunday we found out my grandpa had died, and my uncle began arrangements to get the body back to OKC for burial.

Monday, I lay in bed and moaned a lot. That’s about all I remember of Monday. Painkillers. And moaning.

Tuesday, my mom had her unfortunate Cantaloupe Cutting Incident and had to be taken to the ER.

By Wednesday, I had figured out that if taking a boatload of pain killers wasn’t getting rid of my neck and head pain, in fact, not even making a dent in it, it probably wasn’t a pulled muscle after all. I listened to the girlfriends who explained what an epidural leak was, decided that was probably what I had, and spent ten hours in the local emergency room/operating room getting something medieval called a Blood Patch to take care of it. Basically, another epidural where they take blood out of your hand and inject it into your spine to close the hole from the original epidural, where all the cns fluid is leaking out and causing the pain. Who knew? Even more basically, I had the same spinal tap procedure, more or less, that Kendrie and her fellow ALL kids have done week after week, month after month, year after year. I certainly didn’t enjoy it and feel more respect than ever for these kids who undergo such a procedure dozens of times ….. but it DID work to get rid of my pain and therefore was the greatest thing ever.

On Thursday, my uncle, aunt and cousins arrived in OKC for the funeral and decided to stay with my dad, since my mom was visiting me and the house had two empty extra bedrooms.

Funeral was Friday.

Lucky for us my aunt and uncle were staying there, as when they arrived back at the house Friday night, they discovered my dad had fallen out off his wheelchair (or scooter, I’m still not clear on the whole story) (for those of you who don’t know, my dad has muscular dystrophy) and had laid there for about an hour, unable to get himself up. Subsequent visit to the ER revealed, fortunately, nothing more than some bruised ribs.

We were sitting back, thinking how providential it was my aunt and uncle were there, since my sister and her husband and their kids (you think it’s hectic at my house? They have four boys, ages 3, 5, 8 and 10) had gone out of town for Memorial Day Weekend ….. my dad would have lain there all weekend, with no one around. We joke about it, but I guess one of those “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” gadgets for him to wear around his neck is next.

As seems inevitable at this point, my sister’s gang was destined to join the melee these past few days. It happened when her 3-yr old son fell off a bunk-bed at the lake house and broke his elbow in two places. Still in their swimsuits, smelling temptingly of sunscreen and fishy lake water, my sister and her husband had to rush him to Children’s Hospital and spend the night, before his surgery the next day to set his elbow with pins, plates, and a full-arm cast he’ll have to wear for the next five to six weeks. Now *that’s* a fun way to start off the summer for a three year old! (NOT!)

And although there wasn’t a thing we could do from here to help my uncle, attend the funeral, help my dad, or help my sister and her family, we DID at least get to greet Blaine when he returned home on Saturday night.

My plans to join him in Seattle were thwarted by the epidural headache --- I could barely manage to stay upright long enough to use the restroom, let alone try to navigate the Atlanta airport and sit up for a five-hour flight. So he pushed on alone, thankfully able to manage his final week of radiation treatments without help, me feeling like a pile of neglectful, guilty dog shit the entire time. Well, you know, if dog shit had a head that hurt like hell.

In a nutshell, he’s happy to be home, but feeling pretty crappy. Although on the outside he looks like he fell asleep in front of one of those 1980’s home-sunlamps (was I the only one who had one of those?) he admits it's the burns on the inside of his mouth, nose and throat that are the most painful, not the ones on his face. Eating is difficult, as swallowing is near impossible unless he completely numbs his mouth with medication first. He’s got a bald patch on the back of his head where the radiation shot out behind his ear …. I made a joke about a dog with mange, but he didn’t seem to think it was very funny, so I knocked it off.

Sleeping basically IS impossible, as breathing through his mouth for more than a few minutes at a time results in the inside mouth sores drying out, which is extremely painful. So the poor guy goes to bed and sets his alarm so he’s not sleeping more than an hour at a time; that’s about all he can stand. He’s a walking zombie and they say the side effects will culminate and continue for another two weeks before they start to improve. Quite frankly, I don’t know how he’s going to make it. I know he **will** but he’s feeling pretty grim right now. He does have home health nurses that (we think) will be coming out starting tomorrow and I’m hopeful they have some suggestions for pain management and for him to be able to get some rest.

On a happier note, the kids are thrilled to see him again, and I know he’s glad to be back. We just keep telling ourselves, “This is probably the worst it will get, so once he gets through it, everything is downhill from there.” Right?

I hope that’s not too depressing of an update, but many of you have been kind enough to inquire about him in the guestbook and I figure at the very least you deserve an honest report. If you could keep the prayers and happy thoughts moving in his direction, specifically that he could get some relief from the pain from the burns, I know he would appreciate it. I read online somewhere that sometimes, the treatment for cancer is worse than the cancer itself. Blaine says at least for now, he definitely agrees.

Hopefully it’s like labor, though, and if we ask him again a month from now, he’ll insist it wasn’t so bad. Much like I intend to downgrade the epidural headache to nothing more than an annoying little twinge, and go on to blissfully have dozens more surrogate babies (ok, perhaps dozens is a bit of an exaggeration, but as cute as that little guy is, how can I NOT want to do it again???)

For now, we’re enjoying the start of summer (my kids lasted until 9:15 Monday morning before I heard the first “I’m bored!” --- how about your kids?)

Hope your Memorial Day was wonderful,


PS. One final funny thing. Well, funny to me, anyway. According to my bathroom scale, I am two pounds away from reaching my pre-pregnancy weight. NOT that that is really anything to brag about, considering I was thirty (ahem, forty) pounds overweight to start with. But regardless, I have apparently lost 38 of the 40 pounds I gained with this pregnancy. The funny part is that no-one took the time to give my uterus this information. Hence the reason I still look six months pregnant and I’m still wearing elastic-waistband maternity clothes. Hence also the reason I’ve been asked who knows how many times (I quit counting at a dozen, I swear) “So, when is your baby due?” from total strangers, and even worse …. “Well, I thought you already had that baby, but obviously not!” from people who know me. Including my kid’s teacher … and one of the moms on the baseball team tonight …. And countless others. Could someone let my uterus know …. “Elvis has LEFT the building!”

PSS. May 30, 2006 Dear Blaine, Happy Anniversary. I love you dearly. Wow, nineteen years, and the laughs just keep on coming. Truly, how can we stand this much fun? :)

PPSS. In reading through the guestbook entries the past few weeks, I saw several of you were kind enough to offer up your birth weight guesses for Nicolas to a charity of my choosing. Although there are so many wonderful pediatric cancer organizations, what really drew all of us together was this site, so I would suggest that if you are so inclined, please make your contribution to Caringbridge. There’s a link (I am pretty sure) at the bottom of every CB site you can click to make an online contribution. I owe so much to this great web host that has allowed me to connect with so many of YOU!

Sunday, May 28, 2006 1:56 PM CDT




obviously, we have forever lost the battle against the tongue hanging out of the mouth .... Kendrie and Kellen are both lost causes

Hope you have a WONDERFUL Memorial Day!!!
PS. To our fellow military families, past, present, and future ..... thank you!


Thursday, May 25, 2006 8:26 PM CDT


No, despite what you might think, I’m not so vain that I feel updating this site is worthy of the Hallelujah Chorus. The Chorus, instead, is intended to properly portray the attitude I have today, as opposed to the way I felt the week following the delivery. It's as if a televangelist thwacked me on the forehead and today …. I choose life. Like coming out of the world’s worst hangover and discovering the birds are still singing and the flowers are still blooming and I do, indeed, have reason to go on living. You know, a minor attitude change like that.

I’ll post more details later (and I promise not to take a week this time) but for now, rest assured that no story from the Escoe Camp would be complete without something bizarre happening. At the very least, I can promise fire trucks and ER visits for pretty much everyone in our family.

In the meantime, please join me in welcoming God’s newest littlest blessing:

Nicolas Ryan *****

Born: May 18, 2006

Weight: 10 lb 2 oz

Length: 22 inches

To all of you crazy people in the guestbook who have been guessing 12 and 13 pounds ---- WERE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME????? I thought 10 pounds was pretty impressive, but after reading about all the rest of you and your giant mutant babies, I’m thinking it’s not so remarkable after all!

Thanks for sticking with me through this week of no updates …..


Thursday, May 18, 2006 2:35 AM CDT



Page 1:

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And then the little shit had the nerve to charge me $2.99 for the privilege of BUYING the book from him!!!

Well, we’re having a wee bit more than twinges here, which is why you’re getting this update at 3 in the morning. My not-too-bad-now-but-getting-stronger-all-the-time desire for pain medication is tempered only by the fear of calling my girlfriend in the middle of the night to come watch my kids, waking my mom up, waking up the baby’s parents, and everyone driving the half-hour to the hospital, only to be told I’m not really in labor; go back home.

So I think I’ll sit here and pant and swear under my breath a little while longer, at least until a more humane decision-making time. Like 4 am. Then it will DEFINITELY be time for the epidural. Or at least if I’m sent home from labor & delivery in shame, it will be at an hour reasonable enough we could stop somewhere and have breakfast.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:12 PM CDT


Update on Blaine: As of today, he has finished half (eight) of his sixteen total radiation treatments. We’ve been lucky and have found some people online who are willing to share their experiences with us, but it’s still a little frustrating because everyone we have “met” has had traditional x-ray radiation, whereas Blaine is having neutron beam radiation, and comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges. But at least it’s good to have *something* to go by. We know the side effects he is experiencing at this point in treatment are most likely all normal, although to be honest, they are starting to get a little rough.

The specialized location of the radiation zaps the salivary glands, reducing them to non-functioning. Imagine the dry mouth from the worst hangover of your life, and then multiply it by ten. THEN add another zero, and try to go through each day, sleep through the night, or eat anything in that condition. The term “I don’t even have enough spit to swallow” has taken on a whole new meaning for the poor guy. Luckily, since Blaine is only getting radiation on one side of his head, the doctors are hopeful that he will regain salivary function on the other side at some point in the future. Besides the convenience function, did you know saliva contains enzymes that keep your teeth healthy? That’s why so many head & neck radiation patients wind up losing their teeth afterwards. So we’re extra hopeful one side begins working again. In the meantime, they’ve got him on a special medication to promote gland function, and he’s drinking like there’s no tomorrow. (Well, I guess technically if you were drinking like there was no tomorrow, you’d be downing the gin and tonics …. And he’s guzzling milk and water. But you get my drift.) In fact, his comment to me was, “Now I understand why you complain when you’re pregnant about getting up to use the restroom four and five times each night.”

He’s having some nausea, which they are giving him Zofran to combat. (Hey, he and Kendrie will have something else in common!)

The worst side effect so far, though, are the burns in his mouth, throat and nose. The sunburn on the outside, he says, is nothing compared to the burns on the inside …. pretty much par for the course with radiation, from what we’ve heard and read. He says it hurts to talk, eat anything with any kind of spice or acid in it (and did you know that even a nutritional beverage like Boost has salt and acid in it? Blaine found that out the hard way) and it’s difficult to sleep, so he’s up a lot at night, which makes him fatigued during the day …. Vicious cycle.

As I understand it, after these sixteen treatments, he will have received his lifetime maximum dose of radiation and it will no longer be an option for further treatment, if it’s necessary. We won’t know for four months, the time of his next set of scans, whether or not this worked, or how well. Now I understand a little better the frustration of waiting for scans that all the parents of kids with medulloblastoma, neuroblastoma, etc, must feel. On the one hand, I can’t wait for the scans so Blaine can get the “all clear”. On the other hand, I’m nervous for him to get the scans because what if this didn’t work? Look up ambivalence in the dictionary, and you’ll find the photo of a cancer patient in just this situation, I imagine.

But the good news is that all of these side effects should be temporary, and at least for now, he is still able to eat. Avoiding a feeding tube is one of his top priorities. That, and dating a supermodel sometime in his life.

He asked me to tell all of you that he appreciates the good thoughts and prayers. He’s checking this site from the computer at the hotel and sees the kind notes in the guestbook ---- so thank you for the support! I’ll keep you posted as more happens.

Update on Kristie: Fat. Waddly. Excited it’s almost over. Sad it’s almost over. My mom is flying in today and of course the kids are ecstatic to see Grandma again. The baby’s parents are flying in tomorrow; final doctor’s appointment on Thursday; and we’ll be induced sometime Friday. Out of respect for the family’s privacy, I won’t post a lot of details, but I will let everyone know how things have gone as soon as I get home from the hospital. Hopefully that will be Saturday; Sunday at the latest, because I am leaving on Monday to fly to Seattle and join Blaine. And hey! If taking a post-partum cross-country flight to help my radiated husband through his final treatments doesn’t just scream FUN, then I don’t know what does!! But I also appreciate the kind comments and warm thoughts.

So, on to my Tuesday ramblings:

Most Bizarre Moment this Week: I went into a public restroom in the mall yesterday and thought the room was empty, except for perhaps the far stall whose door was closed. I sat down, minding my own business, and then heard, “Hello?” I sat quietly …. Were they talking to me? Again, “Hello?” so I tentatively responded, “um, hello?” Then I heard, “Who’s that?” Again, hesitantly, I replied, “its Kristie” All I could think was maybe this lady needed toilet paper or something ….. Then I heard, “What did you say?” and I realized she wasn’t talking to me, she was talking on a cell phone! Who **does** that? Who goes into a public restroom stall and sits on the toilet to make a phone call? Am I the only one who thinks that is bizarre? Plus I felt like an idiot for answering her.

Moment this Week When I Most Questioned My Own Taste: I went into Kirklands yesterday to buy some home decorations I had been admiring …. Three metal-brass-something-ish stars to hang in the entryway. I was standing back, admiring my good taste while the cashier rang them up, and the lady in line behind me said, “Those are neat … are you having a Western Party?” For the second time that day, I wondered, “Is she talking to me?” so I turned around and sure enough, she was looking at my stars. A Western Party? What do stars have to do with a Western Party? Does my entryway now look like the hallway of the Ponderosa????? Will I be startled if Little Joe himself sits down in the living room and watches tv with us later???

Most Nostalgic Moment this Week: I was browsing through the music store at the mall and for whatever reason wound up in the “S” section, and I spied, with my little eye, a copy of one of my favorite cd’s from long ago (of course, back then it was a cassette) Survivor’s Vital Signs. Oh, how I used to love that cd. I immediately bought it and have been playing it non-stop ever since. I'd put a song from it on the site, but it's late and I'm just too lazy. But I have been digging it the past few days.

Most Cringe-Worthy Moment this Week: OHMYGAWD!!! I just remembered that the period in my life when I listened to this album was right after my freshman-year-of-college boyfriend dumped me and broke my heart! Worse, I took all the sappy love songs off the cassette and MADE HIM A COPY AND MAILED IT TO HIM! WITH A LETTER TO TELL HIM I WOULD PINE AWAY FOR HIM FOREVER!!! OH DEAR HEAVENS THE MORTIFICATION THAT I WAS EVER SUCH A DORK AND DID SOMETHING SO INCREDIBLY HUMILIATING!!! I AM SO EMBARRASSED JUST REMEMBERING WHAT I DID THAT I MUST TELL YOU ALL NOW AND SHOUT ABOUT IT IN ALL CAPS!!! (Dear Lord, please let a tornado have hit his house and while not causing any real damage or injuring anyone, please have let the tornado suck away that tape and humiliating letter because I would just die if I thought it still existed in print.)

Most Are You Kidding Me? Moment this Week: I was getting my nails done (I know! I can’t bear the thought of a massage or anyone touching me, in any way. Ever. Yet I get my nails done. Believe me, sitting there for half an hour while someone else holds my hands is about all I can handle and even then, some days I want to just jerk my hands away, but that would be rude, so I don’t.) and the tv was on in the salon, turned to The Bold and The Beautiful soap opera. Did you know that Mario Lopez, that kid from Saved By The Bell, is now playing a doctor on that soap opera???? I mean, come on. The Saved by the Bell kids as serious actors?? First you had Tiffani Amber Thiessen on Beverly Hills 90210, then Elizabeth Berkley in that God-Awful Showgirls. Now I’m supposed to believe Slater is some kind of neurosurgeon? What’s next? Screech as Othello???

Most “Well, *that* was awkward” Moment this Week: I dropped my cell phone in the Kroger parking lot and it bounced under the car next to mine, right about the middle of the trunk, a good two or three feet inside from every edge. I can barely squat down at this point in the pregnancy, let alone bend over and pick up a cell phone from underneath a car. So I had to stand there until some lady pulled up on the other side, and then ask her if she would mind getting my cell phone for me. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but from the look she gave me, you just know she thought I was either panhandling, or about to give her a Jesus pamphlet right there. Really, I don’t think being connected in the digital age is worth it. Especially with reception as spotty as mine is.

Most Proud Moment this Week:

Was it when Kellen got up to bat and hit a home run in last night’s game? (Never mind that he was the first batter at bat and no-one else was on base ….. one run is better than none, right?)

When Kellen perfectly fielded the ground ball that came his way? (Holy crap, is that tongue hanging out of his mouth? Here we go again………..)

When Kellen easily beat the runner to first base after fielding said ball?

When Kellen ran up and caught a fly ball with the greatest of ease??

No, it was the moment AFTER Kellen caught that fly ball, and I was sitting in my chair, pumping my arm in the air, doing the WOOT-WOOT yell like Julia Roberts did in Pretty Woman, when suddenly, I saw a stray ball out of the corner of my eye, headed right for my head. It happens occasionally, with the ball fields so close together. Although I was a little offended that no one bothered to yell “Heads Up!” as a warning, I managed to flinch, duck, jerk my body around, almost overturn myself in my chair, and escape just in the nick of time …. Only to realize ….. to my horror ….. that the white round thing I saw headed towards my head was not actually a Ball, but the flab from my upper arms gyrating around while I was making the appropriate arm gestures to go with the WOOT-WOOT cheer.

There was no real way to explain what had just happened to the parents around me who were clearly startled by my sudden chair-calisthenics, so I played it off with a loud comment about “A bee! I thought I saw a bee!” and then tried to act for the rest of the game like nothing happened. How embarrassing.

So, are you waiting for a clever remark to tie all my random thoughts together here at the end? Because I can’t think of one. Which pretty much sums up the word random. The End. :)

Sunday, May 14, 2006 3:05 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 150 OT
Blaine -- Still hanging in Seattle, but not feeling quite as perky as he was

I was so encouraged by the comments in the guestbook from the other parents who chimed in on “loving one kid more or at least claiming to on a regular basis” from Friday’s journal entry, and I’m happy to know my kids will have lots of friends in therapy some day. Ya’lls guestbook entries always make me smile …. I think I get a bigger kick from reading those, and hearing from you guys, than I get from actually writing the journal entries some days. Most days, I get a fair amount of hits on this site (well, "fair" by my standards, anyway) and not very many guestbook entries. So thanks for letting me know!

Today, as you know, is Mothers Day. Invented by {insert historical characters name here, I don’t even know who} and marketed to death by Hallmark and FTD. My day has actually gone pretty well. I was awakened by giggling children … no, scratch that. Technically, I was awakened by an insane dog who apparently had to go outside to use the restroom three times between 6 and 7 am ……. making me wonder if grabbing a hacksaw and cutting an impromptu doggie door between my bedroom wall and the backyard would greatly depreciate the value of the house.

After that, I lay there and pretended to be asleep, as per the instructions I received from my children last night, in preparation for whatever “special” thing it was they had planned. So, the day began with them bringing me breakfast in bed, a gourmet meal that would surely have Martha Stewart sobbing in jealousy; cold toast served on a paper plate and lukewarm milk. I professed my greatest appreciation and choked down a few bites, then we proceeded to the living room where I was bestowed with gifts worthy of a queen: several hand-painted candle holders and a new sleep shirt decorated with magic markers, courtesy of the arts & crafts building from Camp Sunshine a few weeks ago, a purple vase that Kendrie apparently bought at the dollar store (thank you, Renee’, for taking them, that was very nice of you. But next time …. Pier One, maybe, or Crate and Barrel???), a necklace that Kellen bought direct from the Mr. T line of Jewelry for Beautiful and Gaudy Women, which will come in handy the next time I star in a 50 Cent video, and the final gift, two books Brayden purchased with her own money from our School Book Fair last week ---- two of the books I had actually DONATED to the fair myself.

So there you have it, proof positive that my children love me beyond measure and harbor little to no resentment for all the yelling and fussing that has gone on lately. So far today, I managed to remain calm when Brayden spilled not one, but two glasses of milk on the rug (and then she acted offended when I suggested perhaps she should go back to drinking from a sippy cup!), when the kids fought over what movie they wanted to watch (Hello??!?! Whose day is it, people?!??! Someone check the calendar!!!) and when I vacuumed the rug, only to have it littered with granola bar wrappers, goldfish crumbs, and empty Capri Sun drinks not ten minutes later.

I did not, however, remain calm when the kids tried to watch old home movies while I was attempting to take a nap. (I know, what was I thinking?) Apparently the tape got stuck and while trying to cram, force, gently insert it into the camcorder, the entire top of the camcorder popped off, completely unfixable and all three of them insisted on waking me from my nap to swear *they* were not the one who did it.

Never mind that Blaine and I have had that camcorder for ten years and it’s probably the only one on the planet that still uses 8mm tapes. We’ve been talking about buying a new one for a few years ….. so even my griping then about how come nothing ever stays nice around here and everything always winds up broken or dirty or in a million pieces, was a little half-hearted.

Well, I had planned to make Shrimp Fried Rice for dinner tonight, but its 4pm and Kellen is bugging me to go to McDonalds, so now I’m thinking I’ll let Ronald cook for me this evening. Even if it’s only a McFish Filet, at least I wouldn’t have to fix it, right? Which is the beauty of Mothers Day, cold toast and all.

Happy Mothers Day to you, too!


PS. Here's a little Mothers Day gift from me to you: Ok, I confess, this has absolutely nothing to do with Mothers Day, but Lindsey from North Dakota sent it to me (thanks, Lindsey!) and it just cracked me up, so I thought you might like to see it, too. The Evolution of Dance.

Thursday, May 11, 2006 9:00 PM CDT



Kendrie -- Day 147 OT
Blaine -- Hanging tough in Seattle

Growing up, there was never any doubt that I had zero desire to go into teaching, tutoring, mentoring, education, instruction, coaching, training, or any kind of childcare or home daycare. Why? Because Lord knows I don’t have the patience. Yet, I thought it would be ok for me to have children of my own???? What the **heck** was I thinking???

Specific examples of why my children will need therapy when they are older. Or maybe sooner than I think:

#1. Kendrie was playing in the backyard the other day in her favorite tennis shoes and stepped in dog poop. She ran into the house, still wearing said shoes, tracking said poop on our new living room rug, to tell me about it. Exasperated, I told her to take OFF the shoes and leave them on the back patio. The poop would harden somewhat overnight and in the morning I would clean off the bottom of her shoe. Seemed like a foolproof plan at the time. Unfortunately, it rained a little that night. The next morning, the poop was a runny mess on the bottom of a soggy shoe. A shoe that Kendrie was emphatic she wanted to wear to school. While I did go ahead and clean the shoe, very unhappily, I might add, it wasn’t with the cheeriest of dispositions. No one-sided conversation has ever taken place at a kitchen sink with as many variations of the word SHIT inserted as I put forth that day. Perhaps I can still be a role model for my children. Just not before 8am and not if dog poop is involved.

#2. Around here, we have a system where every day is assigned to a kid. Families with only two children, I suppose, could do an even-odd day system, but since we have three kids, we just go in order. For example, if Monday is Brayden’s day, then Tuesday is Kellen’s, Wednesday is Kendrie’s, and Brayden starts over again on Thursday. It just goes continuously and I mark the calendar every month. Whoever's day it is, that person gets to choose which tv channel they watch, take their bath first at night, pick where they want to sit in a restaurant if we go out to eat, select which color bowl or plate they want with their dinner (yes, my kids argue over stuff as inane as that) …. Etc. You get the picture. We’ve been doing it for about two years now and it actually works pretty well at eliminating some of the arguments whining discussion over “She got to choose last time” or “It’s my turn to pick”.

Earlier this week, I took the kids with me to Kroger. At our local Kroger, the empty carts are kept outside the store (you might remember my rant a while back about all the carts being out in the rain one night and me taking some of Kendrie’s steroid frustration out on the poor innocent bagger whose bad luck it was to be standing there as I came inside with my wet cart and wiped it off with hand towels from the restroom) and as we walked up, the following conversation took place:

Kristie, “Whose day is it?”

Brayden, “Mine”

Kristie, “OK, would you go over there and get us an empty cart?”

Kendrie, “No fair!”

Kristie, “It is fair, it’s her day. You know how it works”

Kendrie, “How come I never get to push the cart? How come we never go to the store when it’s MY day?”

Kristie (feeling exasperated), “Oh, for Pete’s sake. I’m not going to let her push the cart in the store, I just want her to walk over there and get one.”

Kendrie (stomping feet, stopping at the door, and crossing arms against her chest) “I’m not going inside if she gets the cart!!!”

Kristie, “Get inside the store now, I’m not having this discussion with you.”

Kendrie, “It’s not fair, it’s not fair! Brayden always gets to do things on her day and I never do!”

Kristie, “I can’t help that today is her day. That’s just the way it worked out.”

Kendrie (voice at an intolerable whining level now, in the middle of the produce section) “You always choose fun things on Brayden’s day, why does she always get to do stuff?”

At this point, I had had it. Annoyed, frustrated, and losing what small bit of patience I indeed posses, I threw back over my shoulder as I walked off:

“Because I love her more.”

Yes. That’s right. I said it to one of my children, IN PUBLIC. I’m surprised the Gods of Fair Parenting didn’t smite me down right there next to the bananas.

As soon as I said it, the guilt began. Even though I was being sarcastic, it was wrong to say, as evidenced by the 6-yr old tears that had already started. Thus began an immediate rectifying conversation about what sarcasm entails, and did she REALLY think that I love one kid better? Honestly? Truly???? I knelt down right there in produce and made sure she understood. Although *I* know that **she** knows that I didn’t mean it, I did feel terribly guilty for even saying it sardonically. Really, shouldn’t parents …. Especially ADULT parents, know better?

#3. Blaine, I must confess, is a much better housekeeper than I am. And the kitchen is most certainly his territory. I cook almost every night, and he cleans. It’s a long-standing arrangement we’ve had, that has worked well for us since we were first married. Now that he’s gone, I admit that it’s the one chore I hate doing the most. I can take out the garbage, get my van worked on, water the yard, sweep, vacuum, whatever I need to do, but I despise cleaning up the kitchen each evening.

Last night, after dinner, I had the kids take showers, and I was helping with homework and reading. The dishes from dinner were still on the counter when a rainstorm came through and “POP”, our cable box was hit by lightening. My normal routine is after I put the kids to bed, I get online for about an hour, then clean up the kitchen and go to bed myself. Since we had no computer last night, or tv, I thought to myself, you know what? I'm tired, and I’m going to bed, too. The kitchen mess will still be there in the morning.

And boy, was it. It looked even worse in the glaring light of morning. Dishes that hadn’t even been rinsed, let alone put in the dishwasher. Glasses still half full of milk, sitting on the counter, and a half of a homemade chicken pot pie that I forgot to put in the fridge. Ga-ross! I was standing there, berating myself for being so lazy the night before (but berating myself in a well-rested fashion because I got eight full hours of sleep.) Kendrie walked in the kitchen, took a good look around, and announced to me, “Ewww. It looks like we live in a troll’s house.”

Ok, that really didn’t help things any.

#3. Fast forward to thirty minutes later. The kids, dressed and ready for school, had gone out in the backyard to get the dog some fresh water. Brayden came back inside, and thanks to that little rainstorm last night, tracked mud all over (you guessed it) our new living room rug …. Which at this point, is seriously not looking so new anymore.

I glanced around, trying to locate all the mud damage so I could clean it up, and saw toys on the floor, and book bags strewn about, and shoes and dirty laundry and now here comes the dog with more mud on his paws ………. AND …… I ….. JUST …… SNAPPED.

I’m not really sure what came over me. I made all the kids sit down at the kitchen table, and then I just went off. About how there are five people living in this house, but only two of us ever do anything around here, and one of those people is gone and so now I’m doing everything and I’m sick of it. SICK OF IT DO YOU HEAR ME????? And you know what the little rugrats had the audacity to do? Giggle. I really don’t think they were laughing *at* me, but by then had gotten the giggles and just couldn’t stop. And the more they tried to hide it, the angrier I got.

So then I launched into that speech that all parents deliver at some point in time: “What if I just decided to go on strike? What if I just quit doing laundry, or helping you with schoolwork, or buying you stuff, or shopping for food, or cooking food? What would you do then, Mr. and Ms. Smarty Pants?”

And Kellen looked me dead center in the eye and replied, “I would go to my school counselor and tell her you’re not taking care of us.”

OH. SO not the right thing to say. (Although, actually, I was sort of proud of him for coming to the conclusion that he would go to another adult with the problem. Proud of him in a twisted, demented, great-then-I’d-have-to-hide-from-Children’s-Services sort of way.)

But anyway, back to his comment. It was like I stepped outside of myself and could look over and see my own head spinning around. I snapped, “Well, hey, if you want to go live somewhere else, where people would take better care of you, you just let me know because we could sure arrange it!”

Yet another mature and reasonable comment from the adult in the house.

Anyway, much like the “never go to bed angry” rule, I also believe in never letting my children go to school with any of us angry, so we worked it out before we left the house. I mean, it’s not like we came up with any peaceable solution, whereby the children offered to take over all the household chores from now until eternity, but they did at least clean up their rooms before we left. And I didn’t even have to threaten to withhold dinner tonight. Which consisted of Pizza Hut, served on paper plates, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to wake up to another mess like I did this morning.

In the meantime, I’m off to clean the rug. Again.


PS. Thanks to those of you who bailed me out with the name of the gentleman who is singing the song currently on the site. His name is Jon Allmett, and he has a website, www.jonallmett.com. Apparently, some of the proceeds go to cancer care or research, so go buy a cd or two. We LOVE ours, with songs from "Some Trees Grow Bananas" (to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama) and I bet you will, too!

Monday, May 8, 2006 8:52 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 144 OT

Blaine -- One week of radiation down, three and a half more to go

It’s true; I have nothing of interest to say today. I was going to update you on how things are going for Blaine …. But figured that could wait until later, when he’s further into his treatment.

Then I was going to tell you about Kellen’s baseball game tonight, which his team was winning with a score of 17-1 (until the coach let all the outfield kids play in the infield, and the other team managed to score eleven runs in their final at bat!) but realized you would never believe I’m not a competitive person (which I swear, I am not) if I started bragging about his baseball team so early in the season. Plus, I understand this might be the only game they win all year so perhaps I better not open my mouth too big, or I risk having to put a foot in it later.

Then I considered doing an entire journal entry about my weird oldest child, and the new RULES she has suddenly instituted with regard to her pancakes at breakfast each morning: they must be micro-waved, not toasted, and they must be nuked whole, not cut in pieces. They must be nuked for exactly one minute, THEN you must cut them into pieces. Then and only then can you pour the syrup, but then the cut-up, syrup-coated pancakes must be micro-waved for another twenty seconds, and then more syrup must be added to make up for the syrup deficit that gets absorbed during the second heating ….. seriously. I want to rip my own hair out. Is it not enough that I COOK the pancakes each Sunday morning and make extra to heat up during the school week? Now I must either endure having her bark orders at me and my obvious-lackluster-mediocre-sub-par-pancake-heating skills, or risk her wrath by having the audacity to suggest she DO IT HER DAMN SELF???!?!!

So, you see? Really, nothing too interesting. So I decided to flood you with photos instead.


PS. A few of you asked in the guestbook who is singing this song ...... (Katie Tanner, help me out!) It's a guy named John. Or James. Or something that starts with a "J". Or maybe Mike. It's off a Camp Sunshine CD ... but I know he has a website. I'll try to find it and post that information later.

In the meantime, happy belated Easter!

And, proving you can take the girl out of the boys clothes, but can't take the boys activities out of the girls, I give you "fishing for tadpoles in the wading pond in the park where we took the photos" ..... can you guess how many of these outfits had to be dry-cleaned afterwards???

Thursday, May 4, 2006 8:14 AM CDT



Kendrie -- Day 140 OT
Blaine -- One radiation treatment down …. Many to go

As I am fond of telling my girlfriend Renee’, I have never in my life seen two children LESS equipped to be military brats than Kellen and Kendrie. Blaine left Monday for Seattle, and his final vision of our home was of our two youngest children trying to crawl under the garage door, in tears, arms outstretched, for one final hug. They sat at the kitchen window and cried the entire time he was pulling out of the driveway, and have, at some point, cried every day since he left. And they *know* he’s only going to be gone a little over a month. Heaven forbid Blaine is ever deployed for six months to Iraq, or tasked to serve a one-year remote assignment in Turkey or Kuwait ….. the two of them would simply melt into little puddles. How can THESE children be Air Force kids?????

Brayden, on the other hand, is so independent she could be living in her own apartment right now. Blaine calls every afternoon and evening, and if she’s not “too busy”, she’ll agree to talk to him for a moment or two, but only if a commercial is on. That’s not to say she doesn’t miss him, because I know she does. She just doesn’t fall apart on a daily basis like her two younger siblings. Although, she does use it to full advantage whenever she is angry with me …. Tossing out the “Dad is so much nicer than you --- I wish HE were here!” comments when I make her do some despicable chore like brush her teeth or put on clean underwear. Of course, Blaine assures me that she does the same thing, in reverse, when *I* am the one who is gone, so I don’t take it too personally.

However, when Kellen and Kendrie aren’t busy weeping about how much they miss their father, they do have some pretty clever ideas for dealing with his absence. Apparently the first night he was gone, they decided we needed some added protection around the house. I guess they didn’t feel as safe with their dad not here. Out of courtesy, I elected not to tell them that *I* am the one who wakes during the night and comes to check on them …. their father sleeping the sleep of the dead, oblivious to all the bumps and noises in the night.

Kristie: “Blaine, wake up! What was that noise?”
Blaine, mumbling: “It’s the ice maker dropping a load of ice. Roll over and go back to sleep”
Kristie, more urgently: “No, I don’t think that was it! I really think I heard something!”
Blaine: “What you heard are the voices in your head. Now for the love of Pete, shut up and go back to sleep”

And who gets up and walks through the house, double-checking the locks and windows, risking death and dismemberment at the hands of the roving band of axe-murderers who have just broken into our home? ME.

Like I said, although I have no idea where the younger two get this crazy paranoia, they apparently felt we needed some added protection, so they devised a fool-proof anti-burglary system in our hallway:

Stuffed animals, army trucks, and motorcycles, ready to spring to life and defend our home from invasion. When I asked exactly “how” these things would protect us, Kellen simply replied, “They’ll protect us if strangers try to come in the house.” Um, ok. I especially like the Camp Sunshine mascot cow tucked into the tank and am confident that a thief would also find it terrifying and flee in the night.

Something else I should point out to the kids is that there is no way anyone would break into our home because:

a) We don’t have anything worth stealing, and

b) Better than our motion sensor lights, our alarm system, our prickly bushes under the windows, our locked doors, and a mother who sleeps with the cordless phone next to her bed, 911 on speed dial, we have this: the Mount Everest of home protection, the safety and security that comes only with top of the line defense systems …. The fortification of the canine world:

Lager. Our deaf, old, arthritic dog, who stays in this position ninety percent of the day and night, getting up only long enough to eat and move to another spot on the carpet. Really … who *wouldn’t* feel perfectly safe and secure with this ferocious beast around, safeguarding your family?

On second thought, maybe the cow in the tank is a better bet.

Thanks for stopping by,

PS. A MOST sincere Thank YOU to the people who responded to my request in the last post for hook ups with people who have radiation experience. I was pleased to receive several responses and have been able to ask questions of quite a few people. Also, I’m a little embarrassed to admit there was an online support group (right in front of my FACE!) that I overlooked, which someone was kind enough to direct me to. So hopefully between the people who have been nice enough to e-mail me personally, and the people on the support list, we’ll be getting a better idea of what Blaine is in for with these radiation treatments.

He started this week and things seem to be going ok so far, although he admitted yesterday that having his head bolted to the table in the Jason-mask is a little disconcerting. (His actual words were, “I had no idea I was claustrophobic, but this sucks!”) I reminded him of all the young cancer patients who have the same thing done and have to be sedated because they are only children …. And gave him a gentle reminder that perhaps he should be grateful that although it sucks, he *is* an adult and at least in better control of the situation. He agreed, and thanked me for always being right and wise and smarter and all-knowing.

(OK, so that last part isn’t true, but you know what I mean. He SHOULD have thanked me for all that, because I totally AM!)

Monday, May 1, 2006 8:32 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 137 OT

Blaine -- Quick! Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!! It’s, it’s ….. well, shoot, it IS a plane, with Blaine on it. He’s probably over your head right now on his way to Seattle! (Radiation starts tomorrow -- if you have a spare good thought you could direct to the northwest part of the country, I know he’d appreciate it.)

Yep, that’s right, we headed to our FOURTH Family Camp Weekend on Friday, courtesy of Camp Sunshine, at Camp Twin Lakes in Georgia. I could go on and on (and on and on and on) about what a great support organization this is, and how much our family has benefited from the outings and support groups run by them …. and how fabulous the workers and volunteers are …. and how much we cherish the friendships we have made with other pediatric cancer patients and their families …. and how we always have such a great time at camp ….. and how we hope they never kick us out even though Kendrie is off-treatment at this point …. As I know you all must expect me to …. Considering I never shut up for anything …. But I won’t this time.

Instead, just like our Florida trip, I’ll give you the highlights instead, in pictures. So that those of you on dial-up can permanently remove me from your favorites list since Lord knows all these photos will never show up for you.


Family Group Activity: painting birdhouses. Ours started out a very cheerful yellow and green. But then the kids wanted to “add details” and they got too impatient to rinse out their paintbrushes between colors, so we wound up with an interesting greenish-brownish-dingy-colored birdhouse that no bird in the tri-state region would nest in unless there was a hurricane coming and they had no other option for survival. I’m sure the Martha Stewarts of the bird world would choose death, rather than hunker down in something so ugly. But the kids had fun, and that’s all that matters.

Playing Frisbee on the lawn with all the other kids: Kellen had a great time, but unfortunately never figured out that the probability for actually *catching* the Frisbee would have been much higher had he kept his eyes open. Oh, well, at least (unlike Kendrie) he keeps his tongue in his mouth.

Hanging out with friends: Brayden and our friend Mary Grace spent all weekend in one another’s company. I’m not sure which one of them enjoyed it more …. Mary Grace, for having a “big kid” to carry her around, or Brayden, for having a “little kid” she could be the boss of for two solid days. Unlike Kellen and Kendrie, Mary Grace actually listened to what Brayden had to say. Quite a difference from the treatment Brayden gets at home from her unappreciative siblings.

Ahhhhh, the bloom of eternally happy siblings ………NOT! I think Blaine was standing behind me with ice cream bars and we told them they couldn’t have any unless they posed for a photo together …. Smiling ….. arms around one another. I am SO not above bribery.

Kendrie and her “new best friend” Keegan. They were inseparable this weekend, with both of them pushing hard for a “sleepover” at the other one’s cabin. Keegan, as many of you know from following his CB site, is currently undergoing some pretty harsh relapse chemo, and I was impressed with what a good job he did keeping up with the other kids this weekend. I don’t know if it was because of Kendrie, or in spite of her, but they both ran pretty hard the entire time. Which, or course, is better for us parents come bedtime, when they’re exhausted and fall immediately off to sleep, which is all that really matters in life.

This was one of the kids’ favorite activities this weekend: paddleboating. One which, by all rights, should have brought me a great deal of shame, since I refused to go in one (after Blaine’s rude weight comment the last time I went in HIS boat, I wasn’t about to risk having a camp lifeguard tell me I’m too fat! Plus, have you ever tried working those pedals? It's hard!!) and so my kids blatantly begged other adults, some who were total strangers, to take them. And people did. Wondering all the while, I’m sure, why my fat-ass was on the dock taking photos as they huffed and puffed by.

Another perennial favorite; gold panning. I keep hoping each time that the kids will find a nice diamond ring, or perhaps an emerald pendant or a pair of sapphire cufflinks, but no such luck yet. In the meantime, we’ve got a nice collection of shiny pieces of glass, plastic, and ornamental rocks, which they guard with their lives and think is truly valuable.

Not to leave all the fun up to Brayden and Kendrie, Kellen snagged another member of Mary Grace’s family for the weekend: Grant. The two boys had a great time playing sports together, and were surprisingly well behaved, considering the mischief they *could* have gotten into, if they had been so inclined. Luckily for us, they weren’t.

A new adventure for our family this weekend: tennis. Well, "adventure" in the sense that Blaine did nothing but throw thousands of balls for the kids to hit, and I sat on a bench and took photos. Considering none of them had ever so much as picked up a racket before, they enjoyed the quick bit of playing we did.

Kellen enjoyed it especially, once he figured out that a tennis racket is NOT the same thing as a baseball bat.

Kendrie never really got the hang of it, and decided pouting on her side of the court was a better outlay of energy than actually chasing the balls around.

Judging by the cheerfulness, cooperation, and gratitude our children showed us for taking them to Family Camp this weekend (I guess they think those suitcases just pack themselves? And unpack themselves at the cabin? And the van loads itself? And all the luggage and bags of crap schlep themselves to and from the cabin? And the dog walks himself to the kennel before hand? And the snacks and drinks just magically appear? You get the picture…….) Blaine and I have decided that our next few vacations will take place at Couples, or Sandals, or some other type of resort that doesn’t allow anyone under the age of 25 to step foot on the property. Not that we don’t love our kids, we do. We just have no desire to travel with them again until they are old enough to vote, pay their own way, sleep in their OWN hotel rooms, and NOT argue with us 24/7/365.

A few of the photos from this weekend that I didn’t take, but that would back up my version of the events:

1. The photo of our kids fighting over whose turn it was to select the movie for the DVD. For Pete's sake, it's not like they haven't seen ALL those movies a dozen time apiece!!!

2. The photo of our kids arguing vehemently with their father and me that Fruit Gushers and Gatorade are a HEALTHY and perfectly rational breakfast choice.

3. A photo of our kids fighting over who got which bed in the cabin (never mind that there are TEN beds to choose from!)

4. A photo of our kids protesting that to walk eight feet to the suitcase to get their own pajamas was simply too exhausting.

5. A photo of the kids fighting over whose turn it was to ride in the wagon, and whose turn it was to pull.

6. A photo of the kids repeatedly, REPEATEDLY, smacking their gum in the van, despite my frequent requests for them to chew with their mouths closed.

6 1/2. A photo of my face turning red as I scream at them politely and lovingly ask them one last time to quit smacking their gum!!!!

7. A photo of me (I am so not making this up) throwing a cup at my children and yelling at them to spit the damn gum out. In my defense, it was a plastic cup so there was no real chance of bodily harm. And I didn’t technically throw it AT the children, I just threw it over my shoulder in the van, towards the general direction of the smacking children. The fact that it hit Kellen in the arm was really more bad luck and unfortunate aim than harmful intent on my part.

8. A photo of Blaine rolling his eyes at the entire lot of us.

Thank goodness the weekend ended on a high note, as finally, in a scene eerily similar to last weekend, we stalked another Canadian family who were visiting the United States on vacation, and showed up on their holiday doorstep. This time, it was Katie and her family, staying with relatives in Atlanta.

Also an ALL patient, Katie was diagnosed a few months before Kendrie and went off-treatment a few months after. Her protocol was slightly longer than ours, but now Katie is reveling in her life post-chemo, and we were so happy, after “meeting” online over two and a half years ago, to get a chance to meet their family in person.

The kids had a great time playing together for the afternoon (or at least *my* kids did … perhaps I shouldn’t speak for Katie and her brother Alex!) Just like right after we met Finn’s family, and Julianna’s family, my kids want to know how much longer until they can get together and play again with their new friends. Obviously, they haven’t quite yet grasped the concept of borders, passports, and ve-e-e-e-e-e-e-errrrry long car rides. And after this past weekend, we’re taking no car ride farther than their elementary school or the local grocery store. But maybe after we win the lottery, we’ll buy ourselves an RV (with a soundproof cabin for Blaine and me) and tour North America, re-visiting these great families, and so many others. We can be the dysfunctional cancer family version of MTV’s Road Rules.

Until then, Blaine and I figure at the rate of one family a weekend, we will be able to party-crash all the families on our All-Kids list in a short five years or so.

So, who’s next??? Any volunteers??? :)


PS. All kidding aside, I am looking for a little bit of help here. Blaine starts his radiation tomorrow, and as WONDERFUL as the support and information I found online for pediatric leukemia has been, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction for head and neck cancers. I’m not sure if it’s because people are more inclined to step up when their children are involved, or perhaps adults are more private ….. I just don’t know why there isn’t a support network to be found (and believe me, we have looked!)

Specifically, we would love to talk to someone who has undergone radiation for salivary gland/sinus cancer …. Even more specifically, neutron beam radiation. But we’re not choosy, we’ll take anything in the ballpark. We would just like to hear from someone who has “been there, done that” and would be willing to give us their know-how with regard to treatment difficulties, severity and length of potential side effects, long-term experience, etc.

It’s too bad there’s no way to “search” these Caringbridge sites by diagnosis. Privacy issues aside, it sure would be helpful! So if you know of anyone, or know of anyone who knows of anyone … etc …. And wouldn’t mind passing our names along, we would certainly appreciate it. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006 8:59 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 131 OT
Blaine -- Radiation starts one week from today

Well, I tried. Tried hard. Tried hard and failed. (Sounds like me and my history with dieting) No matter how much I wanted to wait and update, and not blurt out the fun news from last weekend, I just can’t stand not updating the site and letting everyone know what we got to do. A few of you guessed (correctly) in the guestbook, but in case you’re not sure, let me fill you in:


Having ice cream for lunch -- not as dessert *after* lunch, but as lunch itself -- at 10:30 in the morning --- YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Getting to play dinosaur putt-putt --- YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Getting to interact with the dinosaur putt-putt because the balls kept disappearing down in this one particular dinosaur --- YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Getting to play with Daddy in the swimming pool (although it was awfully fun) --- YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Getting to go on a mighty lizard hunt --- YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Realizing that the UV protection we were giving our eyes was at the expense of our soon-to-be-cauliflower-ears --- YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Getting to treat Dad like the pack-mule he is --- YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Getting to stand around in our new sunglasses and look cool --- YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Getting our faces painted (althoug this was the end of the evening and the faces underneath the paint were pretty tired) --- YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Have you guessed? Huh? Huh? Have you???? Any ideas at all????

How about: Getting to hang out with the entire Clan Banana for the day at Give Kids the World Resort Village in Kissimmee, Florida!!!

You guys, seriously. I know they think we’re stalkers. They flew down from Manitoba on their Canadian-U.S. peace envoy, and we totally showed up and crashed Julianna’s Wish Trip!! Not only did we follow them around like puppies, sitting with them for dinner, attending Mayor Clayton’s birthday party, and inviting ourselves to go swimming with them, but we even invited ourselves to their villa where my kids drank all their juice and ate all their Pringles! No wonder people think Americans are greedy and selfish and insensitive --- we totally are!

But they were gracious and hospitable, and had the decency to at least pretend they didn’t mind. And their family is just as funny, just as nice, and just as friendly in real life as they are on Caringbridge. Julianna and Nicholas are great kids, sweet, even-tempered, and much better behaved than those Escoe hooligans, I can tell you that. I don’t know what the hell kind of excuse I’m going to have to use to wrangle our way up to Canada so we can visit with them again, but I’m sure going to do my best to make it happen.

We were even lucky enough to witness Julianna’s inaugural swim after getting her lines removed. I got some great photos, but out of respect for her First Bikini in Years Event, will send them directly to her parents. I was a little worried that Proclaiming Myself as the Great American Nuisance was bad enough and didn’t want to repeatedly point my camera in their faces as well. So I waited until the very end of the evening to ask someone to take a group shot --- and wouldn’t you know? My camera wouldn’t take in the dark. I have NO idea why that happened, but I was extremely disappointed and hope their camera worked better than mine.

Well, I’ve probably gushed enough. Terry, Mary, Julianna and Nicholas, thank you so much for allowing us to suck the life out of your first full day in Florida. I hope the rest of Julianna’s trip is awesome ---- and much easier for you to enjoy without us five obnoxious leeches hanging on.

Your bestest, best new friends from Georgia (are you terrified yet?)

The Escoe family.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 3:47 PM CDT


Ok, I think this journal has gone on long enough with talk about depressing stuff like cancer. And more cancer. And cancer again. It’s time to take an insightful moment and truly reflect on situations that require a deeper plane of thought. Life-altering things. On states of current affairs that require us to search our inner core for our value and significance as human beings; our emotions, our morals, our true principles. Am I talking about world peace? Or world hunger? Or world anything?

No, I’m talking about the recent claim made by the media that Disney’s High School Musical is to this generation what Grease was to mine.

I know! The audacity!! Can you even believe it? The exaggeration is so absurd it almost doesn’t warrant consideration. But since I’ve complained alluded in the past to how much my kids are obsessed by enjoyed High School Musical, I thought it deserved a comment or two.

I came home from {what seems to be my daily run to} Target last week and made the comment to Blaine, “You know what’s funny? I was in the music department, buying my {completely inappropriate for children and totally deserving of the explicit language parental warning advisory} cd by Pink, {which I love, by the way,} and noticed that the soundtrack to High School Musical was in the Top 20 section. Not Top 20 Kids, or Top 20 Musicals, but Top 20. Regular music. Like on the charts with Bubba Sparxxx and Ne-Yo and Busta Groove and other performers I’ve never heard of.”

And since we not only own the soundtrack, but I enjoy it so much myself that I’ve listened to it even without kids in the car (gasp!) I thought it was kind of sweet that Disney was keeping up with Mary J. Bilge and MC Smash Your Angry Face and whoever else currently comprises the Top 20 Billboard.

To which Blaine responded: “I know. I saw on the Today show, or Good Morning America, or whatever, something like that, how it’s this surprise blockbuster hit, and taking over as this generation’s Grease.”

What? Taking over as this generation’s Grease? No, no, no. That is just WRONG.

Now, I’m willing to admit the storyline for High School Musical is ok, and there are some humorous moments, and the music is actually pretty good. But there is no way a silly little fluff Disney musical (with absolutely no sex or violence, I might point out) can come even close to touching an institution like Grease. Grease is an ICON of pop culture for anyone between the ages of 35 and 45. Admit it, who amongst you out there didn’t want to BE Sandy? (Or even Rizzo, in your more rebellious moments?) Who didn’t want to race for pinks? Or attend Rydell High? Or kick Cha Cha’s ass after that dance competition?

I remember seeing Grease in the theater for the first time when I was 12. It was Brenda Strahan’s 13th birthday, and her dad (brave soul that he was) took ten or eleven of us pre-teen girls to the movie theater to watch Grease. I fell in LOVE with the movie, and made my mom and dad take me again the next night. Being products of the 1950’s themselves, they also enjoyed the movie, although I think my mom was a little worried I would see the characters and situations in Grease as a true representation of life in the ‘50’s. Which of course, I totally did. And became convinced I had been born in the wrong generation.

My obsession continued, after I bought the record (yes, kids, before cds, before cassettes, before 8-tracks, we listened to round black things called RECORDS. On something called a RECORD PLAYER.) I clearly remember hanging out at my friend Jani Bales’ house, listening to Greased Lightning and Beauty School Dropout and making up really cheesy dance routines in her living room, which we subjected her poor mom to watch us perform, over and over. In fact, the only time in my life I’ve been drunk brave enough to perform karaoke without a group of girlfriends surrounding me, was to Summer Lovin’. So that should tell you how deep my affection for Grease actually runs. Or my affection for Amaretto ..... I'm a little confused by the whole hazy memory.

But my point is, for “them” to claim Grease is being replaced by High School Musical for the pre-teens of today ….. well, that’s one claim I’m going to have to refute. There’s just no way to compare the two!

Sure, Disney and Grease both tackled class consciousness and social order, but Grease had leather pants! Condom talk! Tacky dream sequences! Frankie Avalon! A drive-in scene! Who doesn’t love the drive in scene???

I’m telling you, take my word for it, no movie will ever surpass Grease as the coming-of-age teen-angst (which is ironic, considering how old those actors were when they made that movie …. What was Kenickie, like, 40?) rite of passage. And in case you don’t believe me, or don’t have the rose-colored view of Grease that I do, here are a few quotes, some of which have gone down in history, that you KNOW Disney doesn’t have the cahones to use:

1. “A hickey from Kenickie is like a Hallmark Card: When you care enough to send the very best.”

2. “I feel like a defective typewriter.”
“I skipped a period.” (yeah, like THAT one’s going to be in a Disney show?!?!)

3. “Oh, bite the weenie, Riz”
“With relish”

4. “And remember, if you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.”

5. “We have pictures of you so-called mooners. And just because the pictures aren’t of your faces, don’t think we can’t identify you.”

6. “Do you think these glasses make me look smarter?”
“No, you can still see your face.”

And the classic:

7. “Tell me about it (pause for dramatic effect and to stub out a cigarette with the toe of her insanely high heeled shoe) S-T-U-D.” (My gosh, I would have killed to be Sandy at that point in the movie! Until they drove off in the magical-flying car, which was the one part of the movie that I admit was totally stupid. Well, if we're being honest, the second part. The dream sequence with Frankie was pretty dumb, too. That's when I would get up and go to the bathroom on subsequent movie showings.)

The most risqué line I could find in High School Musical is “Shake your booty”. See? No comparison. Grease is the clear-cut winner, when it comes to shaping minds and morals of the youth in this country. Don’t you agree? Leave me a note in the guestbook with your favorite quote from Grease (you know you have one!) or if, for some inane reason, you liked High School Musical better. Although I can tell you in advance that you are totally wrong and nothing you can say will change my mind.

In the meantime, I am packing our bags for an event, taking place this weekend, of such magnitude, I can’t even breathe a word of it, for fear I will jinx it happening. I can’t let out a peep and blow the surprise -- I can’t even tell you until after the fact. (Yet notice I am still talking?!?!?) So until my next update,

PS. I guess I should point out that I appear to have done a really lousy job conveying information --- I'm not having this baby until the 19th of MAY. While I appreciate the notes of encouragement and support that I got yesterday, the 19th of April, it's still a little early for me to be serving up any kind of eviction notice for the little guy or girl. So, four more weeks. :)


Kristie, driving through a McDonalds drive-through: “OK, Kendrie, what do you want?”

Kendrie: “A cheeseburger, with ketchup only and pickles”

Kristie, “You don’t like pickles”

Kendrie, “No, I don’t like pickles. But I like pickle crumbs. So order pickles and I will take them off and have just the pickle crumbs.”

Kristie, “ I have no idea what pickle crumbs are, but OK, so you want just ketchup and pickles?”

Kendrie, “Yes. But no mustard. Or Onions. Or Caviar.”

Kristie, "OK, pretty sure they don't serve caviar at McDonalds."


I returned home one afternoon this week to find Blaine laying on the sofa, atop a heating pad.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Blaine, “I pulled a muscle in my back”

Kristie, “What exhausting, strenuous activity were you doing that made you pull a muscle in your back, you big hunk of man-candy, you?”

Blaine, “Brushing my teeth.”

I swear, I’m not making this up. How could I make this stuff up? He pulled a muscle in his back, brushing the few teeth he has left. I don’t even know what to say, so I’ll just end this now. Where the hell is the Ben-gay?

Saturday, April 15, 2006 10:11 AM CDT


Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport! The thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat! The human drama of athletic competition! This is Byron, Georgia’s: Wide World of Sports!

The always-tricky balancing a ball on a spoon race. I think it's supposed to be eggs on a spoon, but thank goodness it wasn't. As many times as those kids dropped the balls, that field would have reeked like Sulpher City by the end of the day.

I guess this is good practice for when they start stealing street cones in their teen age years????

Kendrie told me the night before she hated this event, the "Kangaroo Hop". Now I understand why. With all those short little kindergarten legs, it took almost fifteen minutes for all those kids to hop down the lanes!

The hurdle relay. One of the trickier events for kids who (unfortunately) get their Athletic Gene from their uncoordinated mom.

Ah, yes. A true test of athletic prowess --- the Beanbag on the Head relay.

And of course, the scene that took place repeatedly throughout the day, Kendrie doing whatever event was taking place, always, with her tongue hanging out of her mouth.


OK, believe it or not….. (wait, I have to throw some salt over my left shoulder with my right hand) …. Believe it or not, I think I have some good ……. (hang on, I need to find my lucky four-leaf clover before I say anything out loud and jinx myself) ….. some good news ….. (hold it, where is my unicorn horn? My leprechaun broach? My Aladdin’s lamp?) I really want to tell you what has happened, but I’m afraid if I don’t rub my rabbit’s foot, nail a horseshoe over my door, step over the cracks in the sidewalk, find a heads-up penny, break the long half of the wishbone, drop an eyelash onto my cheek, sight a shooting star, blow out an entire dandelion, coerce a ladybug to land on me, cross my fingers, and knock on my wooden computer desk in juuuuuuuuuuuuuust the right way, then it will all blow up in my face.

Yesterday was NOT Friday the 13th. It was Friday the 14th. And apparently the planets aligned, the prayers and good wishes of all of you were heard, and the Gods of Diving Timing smiled down upon us, because believe it or not, I think Blaine’s unexpected tooth extraction will wind up being a blessing in disguise! (OK, so maybe *he’s* not feeling that way, eating mashed potatoes for the last six meals in a row, but I sure am!)

We got a call from the radiation department at the University of Washington last night, and taking a “better safe than sorry” approach, they want to delay Blaine’s radiation by an entire two weeks. So instead of starting this Tuesday, he won’t go until the beginning of May. Which means, if you drag out your pocket calendar and count out the days, like I immediately did, his final two weeks of radiation, when they predict he will start to need help, are the two weeks AFTER the baby is due to be born! So I can pop out this kid, then hop a flight to Washington and help him myself, instead of sending my (completely willing but slightly overwhelmed) mother to do it. Instead, she will come here to be with me for the delivery, then stay with the kids while I go to Washington. I mean really, had I scheduled it myself, the timing couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.

Blaine is not happy about the delay, just because he had his mind wrapped around the treatments and was in his “mental happy place” and prepared. Now, he’s got to wait; unpack his suitcase (and his worries and concerns) only to re-pack in a few weeks. Plus, like he keeps telling me, “I’m walking around with cancer in my head. Excuuuuuuse ME if I want to get it out of there as soon as possible!” Yeah, ok, whatever. It’s all about ME, and this works out perfectly!!!!

Things we specifically need to go right (so those of you in the kneeling position, please keep right on slinging the happy thoughts upstairs):

1. That my body cooperate so the baby can show up on the 19th. Due to a previous c-section, I can’t be induced if I’m not physically “ready”.

2. That the delivery be uncomplicated. I need to be out of the hospital in time to catch a flight three days later.

3. That the baby be born healthy, beautiful, and happy. Wait, this should be moved up to the number one spot. It’s the most important.

4. That I immediately drop fifty pounds after the delivery. (Ok, so technically this is more of a vanity request than a legitimate prayer request …. But if I’m asking, I might as well ask for everything I want, right?!)

I realize the timing of everything leaves us with a very small window for error, and the way things seem to go for us, plans will change two or three times between now and then. But for TODAY, I feel huge relief. Seriously. Like someone has taken Stonehenge off my shoulders.

I wanted my mom here for the delivery; looks like I’m getting it. *I* wanted to be the one in Seattle helping Blaine, looks like I’m getting it. I’m like the spoiled rotten Paris Hilton of the cancer world, getting everything she wanted! The only thing I’ll miss is the kids' last week of school, but since Grandma will be here to cater to their every whim help out, they won’t miss me one bit.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all your good thoughts and concern. It worked!

Well, I better go fix some more mashed potatoes for Mr. Crabby McHole in the Mouth. I guess I should feel sorrier for him. I mean, I like mashed potatoes, also, but I suppose after two solid days it **would** get a little old. He started our grocery list this week with the following items: oatmeal, ice cream, yogurt. That’s just sad, isn’t it?


Thursday, April 13, 2006 9:17 PM CDT





Kendrie -- Day 119 OT and covered from ankle to knee in bruises, front and back, but I can’t even worry about it because I’m too busy feeling like my head is going to explode.

Blaine -- who freakin’ knows? Does anybody know? Really? ‘Cause I would love for you to tell me if you know.

Once again, I find myself having to apologize for the delay in updating this site. I confess that I’m struggling lately with whether or not to keep it going, and if so, in what fashion. I thought after Kendrie finished her treatment, I would continue to journal in more of a blogger form; detailing our experiences with the Disney channel, sports travails, humorous anecdotes, travel plans, homework sagas, and life off-treatment. With any luck, providing hope and optimism for those families still in the thick of their cancer journey, and maybe even giving the rest of you a laugh or two at our expense in the meantime. I figured I would utilize Caringbridge for six months or so, then make my way over to Typepad or Blogger and carry on there, in true mommyblogger fashion.

Now, given Blaine’s situation, I’m not quite sure where to go or what to do with this site. We still have chaos and insanity and fun stuff in our normal lives, but to blab about that without mentioning him seems rude. And fake. Because really, we’re completely distracted by what is happening with him. But to blather on about his trials is depressing. And I struggle with finding a balance. Plastic and entertaining? Gloomy and truthful? In the meantime, apathy strikes and I write nothing.

Here’s where we are now, with regard to Blaine. Let’s get the exploding head stuff out of the way first. Although, I must warn you. Only *MY* head is exploding. Yours will only explode out of dullness if you read the following, because even I am tired of listening to myself whine and complain. So if you have something better to do …. ANYTHING … like re-grouting the bathroom tile or cleaning out the bottom mildew-y vegetable bin in the refrigerator, I would go do it now. Otherwise, read on at the risk of boring your brain cells. To a mind-numbing, painful death. And really, if that's the end result, shouldn't there be alcohol involved????

He returned from his consultation in Seattle last week, sobered by the reality of what five weeks of radiation will entail, but almost excited, in a sick and twisted way, to just get things started so it would be over. The good news is the success rate he was quoted in using neutron beam radiation against this type of cancer: 80 percent. “Success” is defined as total remission. That’s a pretty respectable quote. Same statistic Kendrie was given in her ALL treatment. (Conveniently, he didn’t ask about the other 20 percent.) Not as good news are the side effects he can expect from the treatment: extreme fatigue, a permanent 10 percent hearing loss, greater risk of secondary cancers later (where have we heard that one before?) a permanent loss of the ability to produce saliva, therefore, chronic dry mouth both during the treatments and for life, severe mouth sores, possibly necessitating a feeding tube, possibly a permanent ban on solid foods, and life-long dental problems on the teeth he has left (yeah, because he hasn’t had THAT already for the past three years?) So, in a perfect world, he’ll be a tired, deaf, dry-mouthed, toothless cranky man existing on chicken soup and food in a blender. But hey, he won’t have cancer anymore. It’ll be like being married to my dad. (Those of you who know Calvin can laugh, right?)

But that’s ok, right? Because a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. So it’s fine. Timing has become tricky, since radiation was scheduled to begin next week, last five weeks, and he will need a support person there, at a minimum, for the last two weeks. Obviously, at 38 weeks pregnant, it won’t be me. So my mom was elected, which is fine, except she has always been our “helper” person during my deliveries, watching the kids while I am in labor …. So if she’s in Seattle with Blaine, I’ll be here by myself. Which is fine … I can give birth by myself, and pass the kids off to babysitters for a few days while I’m in the hospital, although that’s not an ideal situation. So, although it took an extreme amount of childcare coordination on her part, my sister offered to come here for the delivery, just so I wouldn’t have to go it alone --- problem solved, right?


First, Blaine has had an inordinate amount of problems getting the legwork for his Seattle trip taken care of this week. The military is great about our coverage, and what they provide for us, but Blaine has to do every bit of the groundwork and gophering himself. Travel forms, finance, hotel arrangements, hospital arrangements, medical records, etc. First, he went to the travel office to get orders so he could actually make the trip, and realized they put the wrong dates down for air travel. But they can fix that, so it’s fine. Then we found out the Air Force will pay for my mom to travel to Seattle, and to help Blaine back to Atlanta at the end of treatment, as his "official chaperone" but getting her back home is our problem. There was no working that one out. So we’ll either drive her home, or fly her home, which is no problem and fine. Just something we’ll worry about later. Because of course we don’t know exactly *when* they’ll be coming home, so we’re not able to make plans for that now. Then, he needed a few prescriptions refilled, but there was an exercise going on this week in the medical clinic on base, so his doctor didn’t return his calls for four solid days. This is the same doctor who has literally made house calls for us, so I know he wasn’t avoiding Blaine, he just wasn’t available. But in the meantime Blaine was getting panicky that he was leaving on Monday with no pain meds and no-one seemed able to help.

Then, on to today’s drama.

In an effort to protect his remaining teeth during this radiation, Blaine had to get fitted today for what is called a hidden bite block (I envision some sort of mouth guard like football players wear, but really, I have no idea what it is. For all I know, it’s like the dental equipment my sister wore all through junior high ….. wouldn’t that be unfortunate? A Jason radiation mask AND head gear???) His initial appointment with the dentist was this morning, then he planned on joining the kids and I for the annual Field Day Extravaganza at their school. He called me mid-morning to tell me the dentist found a cavity and they absolutely had to fill it before he could have radiation, so he’d be running late. Fine. Then, they got in there and discovered the cavity was so large there was no way to salvage the tooth, so it would have to be extracted. Today. Ok, well, he’ll miss Field Day, but that’s fine. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) radiation can’t take place if there is an “open” wound in the mouth …. So unless Blaine wants to risk some kind of radiation-poisoning-infection-scenario, and spend time in a hyper baric chamber, (I swear to you, they actually mentioned a hyper baric oxygen chamber!) radiation will have to be postponed by a week to ten days. Ix-nay and ancel-Cay on all the planning and reserving and coordinating Blaine had done this week in order to leave on Monday. All down the crapper.

Which would be fine …. But my mom and my sister have already gone to great lengths to clear their schedules and make travel arrangements for the days we told them we would need them. I arranged my delivery, and let the baby’s parents know exactly when to come, based on the supposed radiation schedule. And now, we have no idea when Blaine will be rescheduled. Naturally, the radiation-oncologist wasn’t available today to talk this situation over with us. Naturally. Why would he be? Why should one freaking thing go smoothly, or as planned. Why should we have any stinkin’ clue when he’ll be getting his treatments? Ten days later? Two weeks later? How does that affect my sister’s travel? My mom’s travel? This delivery? Seriously, I would throw my hands up in the air at this point, but the carpal tunnel is so bad I’m afraid I would never get the feeling back in my fingers.

You know the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons, whose face you never see, and whose voice is just a monotonous “Wah Wah Wah--Wah- Wah”? That’s how I feel, listening to myself. Every plan we have has a flaw. Every contingency plan has a flaw. If we do plan A, then **this** is our dilemma. If we move to plan B, then detail #3245 bites us in the ass. Plan C doesn’t work because *that* would be too logical.

OK, so, a couple of things I have to apologize for:

1. That this is so boring. Don’t deny it. I see some of your eyeballs rolled back in your head. I’ll get back on the site this weekend and post some photos from the kids’ Field Day …. Much cuter and more entertaining than the details of Blaine’s ongoing medical saga.

2. If it sounds for one micro-second like I am complaining about Blaine’s treatment. We are blessed and hopeful for full recovery. Thank goodness for this type of treatment, the people who can do it, and the opportunity it gives him for remission, even if it’s in Seattle. I just wish things were a little less complicated.

3. If it sounds for one micro-second like I am complaining about this surrogacy. I am blessed. This pregnancy has been uneventful and special. All that matters is that the parents get to welcome a beautiful, healthy child into the world. I’m lucky to be a part of it. I just wish things were a little less complicated.

4. My comment about the hardship of single parenting in my last post. First of all, I was only “single” for four days ….. I think even Mommy Dearest could’ve handled four measly days. And I sincerely want to apologize to how insensitive it must have sounded to my friends D.G. and K.E. (You know who you are, and why I need to apologize.) I am blessed. I love my kids beyond measure, even when I want to staple their little mouths shut. We will manage our five weeks alone just fine.

5. If it sounds for one second like I am complaining about the military. I am very proud and grateful for what the military has done for us. It’s just difficult to make arrangements, for major life events like this, when our family is so far away. As a "dependent spouse", I love being a peripheral part of the Air Force ---- but, have found myself gazing longingly at my “There’s no place like home” Dorothy-slippers more in the past three years then I did the previous fifteen military years combined.

6. If it sounds like I’m complaining because my crystal ball isn’t working. We’ve been dealing with this shit for three years. I just want to know the end is in sight. Right now, the end is so far away we couldn’t find it with both hands, a blow torch and a periscope. I know there are no guarantees in life ………….. but I would sure appreciate a “Get out of jail free” card right about now.

Well, there’s a 2000 word limit on Kvetching Posts, and I’ve exceeded it tonight. So I’ll sign off for now. I’m going to go bury my disgruntlement in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie, sleep off the sugar low, and hopefully awaken tomorrow feeling refreshed and cheerful. Of course, my kids are out of school for Easter Break, so my cheerfulness most likely won’t last past 9am, the estimated TTBFWOA (Time To Begin Fighting With One Another.)

But a girl can dream, right?

PS. One happy parenting moment today, proving I am a child of the 80’s: I taught my kids the words:

"Alfalfa, will you swing me before we have lunch?

Sure, Darla.

Say Romeo, what about your promise to the he-man woman hater’s club?

I’m sorry Spanky, I have to live my own life."

To my delight, they love the song as much as I do.
PSS. Hey! If you're reader #700,000 please sign the guestbook and let me know. Even if you're a few too early or a few too late. Shoot, I'm not actually going to DO anything about it, I just think it would be fun to know! :)

Thursday, April 6, 2006 9:26 PM CDT


Kendrie -- Day 112 OT
Blaine -- countdown to radiation

Sorry for the delay in updating --- I just have to say, in my defense, doing this single parenting thing stinks. Not so much the manual labor; the feeding and bathing and chauffeuring them to and fro …. that's the easy part. It’s the being all things (mediator, cheerleader, band aid-applier, guidance counselor, homework helper, social coordinator, father figure, referee, sympathetic shoulder, etc) to all different people, 24/7, and trying to do it with a cheerful attitude and a smile on my face that I find tiring. Tiring? Shoot, I’m exhausted, and I’ve only been at it 48 hours! What happens when Blaine returns to Seattle for those five weeks of radiation??? I’ll never make it! So anyway, the first thing to go this week has been my late-night computer time, because heaven knows how crabby I get when I’m sleep-deprived, so I’m on self-imposed early bedtime, hence holdup #1 in updating this site.

Ironic that because of cancer, Blaine has not been deployed with the military, and now, because of cancer, he will be gone from us for five or six weeks, which I’m totally complaining about (and it hasn’t even started yet …. what does that say about my positive attitude?) Yet, given the hindsight of 20/20 vision, I would give back the cancer and take a six-month deployment for him --- in a second. Obviously, I am way too fickle (something Blaine has claimed for years, and might actually be right about!)

Anyway, on to my topic of the day -- Caringbridge blessings.

I hope that those of you who take the time to surf Caringbridge pages, whether it’s two or three favorite sites, or two or three dozen, and sign notes of encouragement in the guestbooks …. I would hope that you know how wonderful that support is to the families going through whatever comprises their personal trials. I would also hope that as a Caringbridge supporter, you get something in return; whether it’s a smile at a funny story, the joy of seeing a child you care about finish treatment and re-start their “normal” life, or the good feeling that comes with knowing you’ve helped make someone’s day a little brighter, just by stopping by and saying hello.

As for me, it’s a win-win situation. Actually, win-win-win-WIN! I receive happiness in following along on the sites of families I’ve come to care about, the satisfaction of knowing I can make someone’s day brighter by signing a guestbook and saying hi, the cheap therapy of using Kendrie’s site as my own, personal “Lie down on the Internet couch and vent about my feelings” remedy, and also, one of the biggest perks of all, the friendships we have made, both online and in person, through this service.

Georgia … specifically, the Atlanta area, has lots of really great social support organizations. Since we only live a few hours away, we’ve been able to take advantage and meet other families, who we’ve come to care about in a way I would never have understood prior to our induction into this crazy world of pediatric cancer.

Local (or psuedo-local) Caringbridge blessings:

Kendrie and our sweet friend Catie.

Our weekend Atlanta visit with Brandon's family.

Camp Sunshine circus with Madie, Camp Jack, and Jacob.

An Atlanta Braves game, courtesy of CureSearch, with Brady, Keegan, and lots of other kids.

North, south, east and west Caringbridge blessings:

Tyler from Oklahoma.

Jacob in New Mexico. (although he was still in Georgia when we met his family!)

The entire group of All-Kids who attended the Easter Egg Hunt and Egg Roll at the White House in DC, 2004.

Andrew from California.

Alexis from Minnesota, who we met at Give Kids the World in Florida.

And there are other blessings as well, that I didn’t get photos with, but whose families I’ve met, such as Molly from New York and Jill from Missouri.

Our latest CB blessing came on Saturday, in the form of Finn’s family, returning to Ohio from their vacation in Florida -- I just KNEW living right off I-75 would pay off some day! When I found out they would be traveling only a few miles from our house, I begged, pleaded and groveled until they agreed to visit. Good thing, too, because I **totally** am not above putting a magneto-tron-ometer force field around their car and setting up a giant magnet in our driveway, if I had to.

I have followed Finn’s CB site for quite some time, partly because he’s cute as a button, and partly because his mom Natalie cracks me up. She reminds me of ….. ME! and a little narcissism never hurt anyone, right? Sure enough, their family is just as great in person as I thought they would be. Although I don’t think Finn thought too highly of us, seeing as how we didn’t have a SINGLE Thomas the Tank Engine train in the entire house --- what is wrong with us? But we had a great visit and I completely want to move to Ohio to hang out with them some more. Shoot, I’d move to Ohio just to listen to Finn’s dad Eamonn talk, since he’s British and has that really cool accent. (You know us Americans are suckers for a cool accent.)

Declan and Kendrie, the only two kids we could get to willingly sit on the sofa and pose for a photo.

The kids actually had a great time playing together, not that you can really tell in this photo. Kellen, aka Mr. Cheerful McSunshine, had just been awakened and wasn't real cooperative. And Finn, well, what can I say? He was NOT feeling the love on the couch! But I still think he's adorable.

Yes, this is how we treat our children when we think no-one is looking. Sometimes we get lucky and spare change falls out of their pockets.

Thank you Rooney family, for extending your vacation (or more accurately, your I-75 Endurance Marathon) long enough to spend time with us!!!

Then sometimes, the blessing that is Caringbridge is bittersweet, as it was for me on Monday when I attended the Celebration of Life Service for Baby Jay. I had never attended a memorial service for a child before and quite frankly, I was a wreck. It was too easy to watch the wonderful slide show presentation they had of Jay’s life … and see those pictures of him in the early days of treatment, swollen from steroids, laying in a hospital bed … or later, photos of him bald …. and realize I have many similar photos of Kendrie while she was on treatment. You hear about a parent who loses a child, and the first thing to come to mind is “I just can’t imagine” when the truth of it is, any parent whose child has been diagnosed with cancer, CAN imagine. Of course, cancer parents don’t have a monopoly on caring, as evidenced by the many, many wet eyes around me during the service. And the pain I felt sitting there was only a drop in the bucket compared to the ocean of sadness that I’m sure Jay’s parents are feeling. It was a really shitty reminder that while Kendrie has finished her treatment and we’ve moved on, pushing the fear of relapse to the back of our minds and living our lives in as normal, hectic, and chaotic a fashion as possible, cancer has marched on as well and is still claiming innocent children.

And that’s the other reason I haven’t felt like updating this site with rainbows and bunnies and funny stories this week, despite our great visit with Finn and his family. It seems almost insulting to the memory of Jay. Hmmm. Maybe we should substitute “fickle” for “dazed and confused”; might be more fitting, no?


Friday, March 31, 2006 9:02 PM CST


Kendrie -- Day 106 OT
Blaine -- gearing up for radiation

OK, confession number 1: Yes, yes, I admit it! I made my kids dress in matching green outfits so I could take pictures of their little coordinating selves at the strawberry fields for my scrapbook. All you scrapbookers out there caught me. (But I’d bet ten bucks that “it takes one to know one”! Ha!) Actually, when I woke up that morning the kids were already dressed in play clothes, so I made them change into their green clothes. Then it started raining and we decided not to go, so I made them change out of their green clothes. Then the sun came out and we decided to go and I made them change back IN to their green clothes. They were *really* not very happy with me and my anal photography tendencies. It’s amazing I got smiles out of them at all.

Confession #2: Fourteen POUNDS of berries. Need I say more? I feel like Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If I eat one more strawberry, I’m going to swell up and turn red, and they’ll have to roll me down to the de-juicing room.

Clarification #1: Blaine, although he is going to Seattle next week, won’t actually start radiation for a few weeks. Next week is his orientation/consultation/get-fitted-for-your-ever-so-pretty-Jason-from-Halloween-radiation-mask session. But we’ll still take all the prayers we can get for a safe trip, and that all our questions are answered. My close friends are sick of hearing about this, so I won’t yammer on, but I’m not allowed to travel with Blaine due to the pregnancy. So if you could spare a few warm thoughts for me …. that my head doesn’t explode from being kept out of the loop ….. that probably wouldn’t hurt, either.


We woke up this morning, the sun was shining, it was the last day of Spring Break, the kids were all in good moods (pretty much the miracle of the century) and Blaine felt good (hit or miss most days lately) so we decided to take advantage by doing something so wonderful, so extraordinary ….. so “making the MOST” of our life …………. So totally normal. Like take the kids fishing.

Sound silly? Well, since we only had about six weeks from when Kendrie finished treatment until Blaine was re-diagnosed, I don’t feel like we had much of a break from our preoccupation with cancer. First finding out his had returned, then his surgery, then finding out the tumors couldn’t be removed surgically, then recovering from the surgery, then the surgery complication, and since then, researching his treatment options, conferring with all his doctors, and doing the leg-work for the trip to Washington ….. well, we hadn’t taken the time lately to “do normal”.

And I hadn’t even realized it, until I got an e-mail from a friend of mine (and I didn’t ask her permission to link to her site, so I hope it’s OK) --- Haley’s mom Cheryl. Haley was a bright, beautiful, sweet, much-loved, musically talented young lady who passed away last fall awaiting a liver transplant. Through the blessing that is Caringbridge, I met Haley and Cheryl both online and in person. Cheryl reminded me recently that despite the small, medium, or extremely HUGE challenges we might face in our lives, taking pleasure in the little, daily stuff is what matters and what helps us get through life. In fact, it’s the best part OF life.

So Blaine and I decided that today, we were going to take advantage of the perfect temperature, the sunshine, the {moderately} cooperative moods of our children, and enjoy a simple day of spending time together as a family, NOT obsessed with cancer for a little while, getting out on the water and catching some fish.

I could tell it’s been a year since the kids have gone out and it made a big difference in their patience. We actually spent two hours on the water, with very little complaining or whining about how bored they were, or how hot they were, or how their life jackets were choking them, or that we must be at a bad spot on the lake because there are no fish, or how the lines keep getting tangled, etc. At one point, Blaine asked if they were ready to go home, and they all three exclaimed “NO!” I was so surprised, I about fell out of the boat. Usually, once we run out of Teddy Grahams to feed the ducks, and the soda gets warm, they’re done. But this time, they hung in there for the long haul. (Hey, when you’re six years old, two hours of fishing IS a long haul!)

The funny part of the day (if you’re the kind of person who thinks it’s hysterical when one family member is hugely insulting to another family member, especially one who is a little stressed out to begin with and extremely hormonal) is when we were putting the boat in the water. Now, it’s not a yacht. Or a speedboat. Or the kind with sleeping quarters. Or even anything you could inter-tube behind, much to the chagrin of the children. In fact, it’s about one step up from a canoe. Although at least we **DO** have an engine, and a trolling motor, thank the heavens because really, can you see me paddling?? Ha!

Anyway, Blaine had the truck backed down the boat ramp in the water and the kids were jumping around on the dock, all excited to get in. Blaine looked at the boat, looked at me. Looked at the boat, looked at the kids. Looked at the boat, looked around the lake, looked at me again. Looked back at the kids. Looked back at the boat. Seemed to be thinking hard, doing some kind of mental calculation.

“What?!?!?” I finally asked, “What is it?”

“Um, you don’t weigh over 200 pounds, do you?”

Oh, gee honey, let’s think about it. I’m seven months PREGNANT --- my thighs and butt ALONE must weigh close to one hundred!

Affronted, I replied, “Well, yes, at this point I’m pretty sure I *do* weigh over 200 pounds, you want to make something of it?” to which he responded, “Well, my boat limit is only 550. Me and the kids combined weigh about 350, so you’re going to put us over the limit. Let’s just hope we don’t get stopped by a warden.”

OK. That's good for my self-esteem.

Then, the only thing that could make me feel any worse, happened. Kendrie got in, Kellen got in, Brayden got in, Blaine got in. I stepped off the dock into the boat and sat down in my seat, only to have Kellen heave a BIG sigh of relief and announce, LOUDLY, to the public in general, “Good news, everyone! Mom got in and we’re NOT SINKING!!!

The skinny members of our family. Blaine offered to take my picture with the kids, but since I didn’t bring my WIDE ANGLE LENS, I turned him down.

Today’s total fish intake: Zero. Not one. Not one-that-got-away. Not even a nibble. Good thing, since that extra pound and a half would have sunk us right to the bottom!


Now, I already had this update written when I received extremely sad news this evening. Baby Jay from Macon lost his battle with cancer today. Jay and his family attended the same Middle Georgia Support Group, sponsored by Camp Sunshine, that we attended. Although we didn’t know them well, their family made a great impact on Blaine and I, as I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed two people whose faith, during difficult times, has been stronger. Our hearts are breaking for Cindy, Jason, and Jay’s siblings, Kaitlyn and Tanner.

After Blaine pulled the boat and trailer out of the water today, and we began to head home from the lake, I asked him what time it was. He replied 2pm … the only reason I remember that specific time is because I made the comment we had been out on the water for two hours, the kids had acted nicely, and it was a fun way to spend an afternoon. According to Jay’s website update, he passed away at 1:59 this afternoon. So while our family was taking pleasure in the beauty of “normal”, Jay’s family had just started down a road I can’t even imagine.

It makes me even more grateful that I took Cheryl’s advice to enjoy the small, daily things and find happiness in normal. Sometimes normal seems boring. Sometimes normal doesn’t seem worth updating this journal about. Sometimes I worry normal is trivial, or even insulting to those people whose challenges are greater than my own. Lots of times, I forget to appreciate normal while I have it.

This evening, especially, I appreciate it. I hope no matter your own situation, you can find a minute or two of normal and get pleasure from it for yourselves.


Thursday, March 30, 2006 9:24 AM CST


Kendrie -- Day 105 OT
Blaine -- headed to Seattle next week; preparing for radiation

Well, here are a few photos from our annual strawberry-picking outing that took place on Tuesday. No grumpy old people, no wild or crazy adventures to recap (unless you count the northern tundra wind that almost blew us away) and no amazing anecdotes, except for the fact my kids picked fourteen POUNDS of strawberries between them. Strawberry pie, strawberry shortcake, strawberry ice cream, strawberry preserves, strawberry jam, whew! I’ve been busy! ….. naw, I’m just kidding. I’m too lazy to do any of that stuff; we’re just eating LOTS of strawberries around the house these past few days.

See? What did I tell you about the wind? And her hair is long enough to blow straight up now!

And although this is totally cheating and lazy, I’m going to re-print the tale from our excursion to the strawberry field from last year, since it’s much more entertaining. To completely get the gist of it, you need to be reminded that Kendrie had just finished her monthly course of steroids and Blaine had just had unexpected surgery for the MRSA staph infection in his leg, following his reconstructive surgery. I, apparently, was dying of a brain tumor. So read, and enjoy.


Wednesday, April 6, 2005 10:32 PM CDT


252 Days of treatment to Go

How much do you love that new picture of Kendrie in the strawberry field on the top of this site?? Well, maybe the better question would be “how much do *I* love that picture?” and the answer would be “Pretty darn much”! Her Pre-K class took a field trip to a local pick-your-own field on Tuesday and we had such a nice time …. The weather was perfect, the kids were agreeable, and I even got Kendrie to laugh for this picture (I won’t mention the dozen or so others I deleted before taking this one.) But isn’t this one great?!

Anyway, she had a good time and was quite motivated to fill up her clamshell to share with the rest of the family at dinner that night. I was so carried away by the happiness and spirit of the moment that I even promised we could dip the strawberries in chocolate and have them for dessert.

In a small way, it made up for the day before, when I had to cancel our plans to go to a nature park for a picnic. My goal was to make the last day of Spring Break (Monday) a fun one for the kids, but they woke up in incredibly foul moods --- grumpy to the point of abuse, so I nixed those plans before 8am, explaining to them that I don’t take kids that act **that** ugly out to do fun things. Then I had the rest of the morning to watch them sulk. Except for Kendrie, who started complaining that she didn’t feel very good. I thought she was just tired, but around lunchtime she threw up twice and then laid down for a nap. I chalked it up to the chemo from the night before and secretly congratulated myself for keeping them home. So needless to say, having a nice day with her on Tuesday helped make up for the lousy day we had on Monday.

WELL! Fast forward to Tuesday night around 5:15pm. I was putting the finishing touches on dinner (Who am I kidding? My scrapbooking friend Renee felt sorry for us and brought us a meal, so all I had to do was set the table! Thanks, Renee!) when Kellen asked if he could have some strawberries with dinner. I said sure, and Kendrie reminded me, in no uncertain terms and VERY LOUDLY, that I had said we would dip them in chocolate for dessert. When I replied that it would be ok if we had them both ways, she informed me that SHE picked them, they were HERS, and SHE was the BOSS of the berries! My head began to pound a little.

We sat down to dinner, Kendrie still pouting because Kellen had the nerve to eat a few of HER berries, and I realized that my head was seriously starting to hurt. By the time the meal was half-over, not fifteen minutes later, it was a full-blown migraine, complete with nausea and hot and cold flashes and other bodily functions that don’t need mentioning here. I croaked at Blaine, “I’m sorry that you’re on morphine and basically crippled but I need to you clean up after dinner so I can go lay down” and stumbled into the bedroom. So I’m laying in bed, alternating between sweating to death and freezing, thinking to myself that under no circumstances can I throw up or my head will literally explode …… when I hear Kendrie screaming, “BUT MOM SAID WE COULD MAKE CHOCOLATE FOR THE BERRIES!!!”

Oh Dear God, somebody just melt some chocolate chips for the girl!

Apparently Blaine told her no, that it would have to wait until I got up, and she was crying because she knows that she is cut off from all food about half an hour after dinner and she’s going to run out of time, and she’s running into the bedroom, jumping on the bed (my head, Dear Lord, my head!) howling that her Daddy doesn’t know how to melt the chocolate. She’d been off the steroids for 48 hours, but it was one of the biggest tantrums yet. (And really, can you blame her? If someone promised me chocolate-covered strawberries and didn’t deliver, I’d probably do the same thing!)

So in the meantime I’m curled up in the fetal position, wondering what the heck has happened to me. I haven’t had a migraine in years, and I’ve never had one come on that fast, and I’ve never had one located directly behind my left eye. Was it allergies? I mean, I don’t *have* allergies, but everyone is talking about how bad the pollen is. Was this the same thing Kendrie had the day before?? Poor thing, no wonder she felt terrible. Was it the last vestiges of the measly cold I had? Was it a tainted bag of beef jerky? Then suddenly it hit me as clear as a bell. I mean, it’s obvious, given everything our family has gone through ----------- I have a brain tumor. Who the **hell** is going to hold this family together now?

And as I lay there, feeling sorry for myself because I’m obviously dying, all I can hear is Kendrie screaming about the chocolate for the berries. Blaine comes in to check on me and I whisper to him that there is some chocolate almond bark in the cabinet and if he’ll just melt it in the microwave for a minute the kids can dip the berries themselves. We do it a lot in the summer (I like them as much as the kids do!) and it really won’t be much work for him. So he’s grumbling, and limping out of the room (poor guy, like he needed THIS extra chore tonight?) and I hear him go in the kitchen, get the strawberries ready, take out the almond bark, melt it in the microwave, put plastic wrap on the table, Kellen and Brayden are hollering “Woohoo! Chocolate covered strawberries!” and the next thing I hear is Kendrie screaming, “Well I don’t even want any! I’ll make Mom buy me more berries tomorrow and I’ll make them all by myself and for now I want SPAGHETTIOS!!!”

I’m not sure what happened after that, but I distinctly remember Kendrie coming in to my room, bringing me a wet rag and the thermometer, and kissing me on the forehead, which was pretty much the sweetest thing she could have done. If it hadn’t made me nauseous to move I would have rolled over and kissed her back. She wound up falling to sleep on Blaine’s side of the bed and spent a good portion of the night there, until she got tired of having to share my pillow and gave up and went to her own bed.

So this morning when the alarm went off I cautiously opened one eye, sort of testing the waters to see how I felt. And when I got up, and realized my head no longer hurt and my stomach was no longer pushing the eject button on its contents ….. well, you know that scene from The Sound of Music where Julie Andrews is spinning around on top of the mountain, with her arms out wide, sunshine on her face, singing, “The hills are alive … with the sound of music” ? That’s pretty much how I felt today.

And I’ve decided it’s probably not a brain tumor.

AND! Kendrie extracted a promise from me to buy more strawberries, and more chocolate, for tomorrow. I was so happy to be alive I agreed.

Thanks for checking in,



WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Today was a good day. My mom was in a good mood and had lots of energy, probably from sleeping eleven hours straight last night. She was even willing to drive back home this morning to get me my Power Rangers watch that I forgot to wear to school. See? A good day!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Well, duh, the part about wearing my Power Ranger watch to school! And did you know that I am a champion strawberry picker???

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 7:54 AM CST


Kendrie -- Day 103 OT
Blaine -- still waiting………………….

Confusing comment #1, spoken by retired, elderly door-greeter volunteer at the Air Force Museum yesterday, as me and my friends Renee and Amy walked in the door with our six kids: “Are all those kids yours?” (he spoke directly to Amy, despite Renee and me standing only a few feet away.)

Joking, Renee replied, “No, but if you want to borrow one or two of them, we’re happy to leave them and come back and pick them up in a few hours” …. Said with a smile …..

Confusing comment #2, spoken by old man volunteer, with a completely straight face: “No. I hate kids and dogs.”

Um. Okaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy. This is who you want greeting the general public at a museum dependent upon voluntary donations to make its budget? Because he really gave ME a warm fuzzy talking about my kids like that!

My only regret was that my incredibly witty reply, “Really? Because what *I* hate are crotchety old people” didn’t come to me until ten minutes later. Story of my life. Sharp, stinging retorts, in a timely manner, are not my forte. Dang it. Because that was a good one.

Wish us better luck with the crotchety old people at the strawberry field today.


Sunday, March 26, 2006 10:15 AM CST


Kendrie -- day 101 Off-Treatment
Blaine -- we’re hoping to hear something this week

Two things I noticed this weekend with regard to my kids’ closets; proof positive that I’m going insane. Or that I’ve already been there for a long time, courtesy of my children.

Yesterday, hanging some of Kellen’s clothes up, a shirt of his kept falling off the hanger. I still use those kid’s sized hangers that you can buy ten for a dollar …. but the neck of some of his shirts are too big. After bending over for the second time to pick the shirt up off the floor, it struck me:

“UUUGH! I’m going to have to start hanging his clothes on ADULT size hangers!” (said in a grumpy voice)

Then it struck me:

“Waaaaahhhhh! This means he’s big enough for adult-size hangers!” (said in a sad, pathetic, how-can-they-be-growing-up-so-fast voice!)

Also, when I woke up yesterday morning, the kids were already outside playing in the backyard. More specifically, digging up roly-polys, their latest obsession. I peered out the dining room window, looking closer, and realized that although it was Saturday, Brayden was completely dressed in a school shirt, khaki pants, and favorite school shoes. On her hands and knees. Digging in the dirt. Looking for bugs. My mantra, I swear, should be “Do you think I do laundry for the fun of it?” because honestly, I must say it a thousand times a day.

So I called her inside and told her to change into some play clothes. Which of course meant she had to STOP digging for roly-polys, a fact which upset her greatly, causing her to argue with me, “But we’re going out for dinner tonight for Kellen’s birthday and I’m already dressed.” Yes, I know we’re going out for Kellen’s birthday dinner tonight, but that’s not for ANOTHER TWELVE HOURS and in the meantime you are not going to dig in the dirt in your school clothes on a Saturday morning.

Stomp, stomp, grumble, grumble, in she came to change into sweats. That she wore outside for half an hour, before deciding she was done playing outside, coming inside, changing BACK into her school clothes, and putting her sweats in the dirty laundry basket. Half an hour later, she decided there was nothing good on TV, so she wanted to go back outside. I told her to put her play clothes back on, a suggestion which upset her GREATLY. I look up ten minutes later, and she was outside, wearing a completely different set of clean play clothes!

Am I the ***only*** person who understands that when the laundry baskets in their rooms get full, that is a signal the clothes must be washed? Am since **I** am the one doing the washing, perhaps NOT wearing seven different outfits a day, some for only half an hour, and then putting them ALL in the basket, would conceivably be helpful??? Is nine too young to be taught to do her own laundry? Or maybe I should just charge her a quarter for every load I have to do for her, taking it out of her allowance, until she figures it out for herself, or goes broke, whichever happens first.

Maybe I should just focus on the positive …. the fact they actually put their clothes IN the basket, instead of leaving them laying all over the house. {{ Stay grateful … deep breaths …. silver lining… at least they use the baskets }}

I guess the flip side is Kellen, who would wear the same underwear and socks all week if I didn’t remind him to change every morning when he gets dressed. And I’d assume that’s a boy thing, but Kendrie is the same way, so who knows?

Oh well, if that’s my biggest problem this week, then I’d say our Spring Break is lining up to be a good one. Full of laundry, yes, but good nonetheless.

PS. Happy birthday, Kellen, my 8-yr old boy, with big-fat neck shirts!

Hope you are all having a great weekend,

Thursday, March 23, 2006 6:51 PM CST


Kendrie -- Day 98 OT
Blaine -- who the heck knows, but he had his lip repaired today and said it hurt like hell.

Yes, it is indeed a small world. Or maybe it’s just that MY worlds are so small they occasionally bump into one another. That happened this week, in sort of a funny way. Not funny as in ha-ha, but funny as in coincidental, fluky, small-world-sort of way. Or could it be that my worlds are so BIG that they occasionally bump into one another? Like my thighs?

Wait. What was my point again?

Oh, yeah, small world stuff. I spent the weekend before last cleaning out my kids’ closets, getting ready to put away their winter clothes and drag out the summer stuff. I have to confess this makes me very happy, considering Kellen and Kendrie SHARE a closet the size of a coat closet in their bedroom, no lie, so having all those jeans and sweaters in there makes for pretty crowded quarters. Shorts and t-shirts are much more manageable. Regarding the cramped space, Blaine put in an extra bar, I’ve tried putting shoes on the top shelf ….. I’ve even considered calling in the Dream Closet people, but with only twelve square feet of space, I’m not sure they could accomplish much.

Wait. What was my point again?

Oh, yeah, closets. In going through their clothes, I began to separate the too-small outfits into three piles: good enough to sell on ebay, mediocre enough to donate to Goodwill, and so crappy not even the hurricane victims would want this stuff.

Several of the “good enough to sell on ebay” outfits were actually matching brother/sister/sister outfits that the kids have worn the past few years for church and Easter photos. On a side note, wish me luck that they don’t turn up their noses this year, thinking they are too “old and mature” for silly matching dresses --- especially considering I’ve already bought them for this year! I keep waiting for the day they refuse to humor my oh-you’re-so-cute-in-your-matching-clothes requests …. I’m not sure if the matching Easter outfits, or the matching PJ’s at Christmas will be the first to go, but I’m not ready to give up either just yet, let me tell you.

Wait. What was my point again?

Oh, yeah, ebay. I’m not any kind of power ebay seller, like my girlfriend Renee, who has dozens of items going online at any given time. I only sell two or three times a year, and I just sell clothes that don’t fit my kids any more, but are still in good shape. I don’t make hundreds of dollars …. Heck, sometimes I don’t even make enough to cover the ebay fees and postage and I wind up LOSING money, prompting me to wonder why didn’t I just take it to Goodwill to begin with??? But it’s fun to track the items and if I’m lucky, I make a little bit of money, at least enough to pay for the gas to drive the bags to the post office. I really should check into that postal delivery from home option.

So I called Renee this week, the Queen of All Things Ebay, and asked her opinion: “Hey, I’ve got several sets of matching outfits that the kids wore for Easter the past few years. I think it might bring more attention to the sale if I put a photo of the kids in their matching outfits up on the site …. What do you think? Is that a security issue? Pictures of my kids just floating around on the internet?? Am I risking their safety in the hopes of making a few measly dollars?” But, she reminded me that I’ve been putting their pictures up on this Caringbridge site for over two years now and have never given it a second thought, have gone public with the dates our family is gone on vacation, dates we’re going to be certain places ….. yeah, good point. So up the pictures went, notions of security by the wayside.

Two days later, I got an e-mail from ebay that someone had a question about one of my sale items. “Good!” I thought, “at least someone is checking out my stuff.” It’s depressing to put items up on ebay, pay the insertion fees, and have not one single person bid on it. Like the universe is sending me the message, “Hey, lady, we don’t want your crap.” So when someone sends a message, usually a question about an outfit, or combining shipping charges if they buy more than one thing, I take it as a good sign. At least someone is *considering* my crap.

I opened the message, only to have the text of the message read: “Oh my gosh! I follow your daughter’s story on Caringbridge!!”

Now, how funny is that? She must have recognized the photo of Brayden, Kellen and Kendrie that I had previously on this site, the same photo that I had just put up on ebay in an attempt to sell the clothes ….. that cracks me up. Maybe that’s a great way to increase my ebay sales …. Try to coax all of you CB readers to go to ebay and check out the sale items listed under kristieokc, my ebay name. You should go there just to see what Kendrie looked liked before diagnosis, when she really had hair. Or, I could end every ebay auction with a web link to this Caringbridge site, and try to bring two of my worlds even closer.

What’s even more interesting is that this is the second time something like that has happened. The first time I was selling a bunch of outfits with matching hats, purchased during Kendrie’s Bald Phase #1, and the lady who bought them told me how happy she was to have found them because she was trying to adopt a little girl with leukemia ….. so I wound up introducing her to my online support group. Again, I’m telling you, it’s a small world.

Anyway, I just found that pretty coincidental. It’s not like I have millions of people reading this site, or that there can possibly be millions of people scouring ebay for matching brother/sister Easter outfits. And yet one person managed to find me on both. Small world, don’t you think?

One more thing before I sign off ---- I hope you guys have been following Keegan’s site the past few weeks as he has begun his relapse protocol. He’s having a rough go of it lately with some ara-c fevers and unplanned ER visits and I’m sure he could use the support from all of you. And in extremely depressing news, an adorable little girl named Hunter on our list serve found out this week that she has also relapsed. What makes Hunter’s relapse even more insulting is that she just finished treatment in February, and had gone in this week to have her port removed, and to get one final “all-clear” spinal, only to have the spinal show leukemia cells in her CNS. Thankfully Hunter’s bone marrow was clear … small consolation for a child who finished two plus years of chemo, only to have to start all over again. Please take a moment to go to Hunter’s site and give her some words of encouragement as she faces this newest battle.

And Pssssssssst, in the meantime, if you need some Easter clothes for your kids, I can HOOK YOU UP!!! Remember, ebay, look for kristieokc!! :)


Tuesday, March 21, 2006 9:00 PM CST



Kendrie -- day 97 OT
Blaine -- countdown to radiation

I have a confession to make: I have a new, favorite device for the bedroom. In fact, I have TWO --- one for each hand! Woo-hoo!!! Now, before your minds go crashing any further down in the gutter, let me back up:

There is nothing as ugly on this planet …. not even a fat man in a Speedo …. As ME, when I am sleep-deprived. And I don’t mean physically ugly, despite the crazy hair and bags under my eyes. I mean ugly as in grumpy, crabby, mean. No patience, no humor, no interest in anything that doesn’t involve ME and a NAP.

So when I came home from my scrapbooking getaway this weekend, slightly sleep-deprived because my girlfriends forced me at gunpoint to stay up late, gossiping and eating chocolate every night, Blaine recognized the (not too bad at this point, but it was coming) Ugly-Face and quickly recommended I go to bed early and he would put the kids to bed … even though he was feeling a wee bit “off”, himself. Not one to turn down a suggestion like that, off to bed I went, with visions of me, sleeping soundly through the night in my OWN bed, dancing before my eyes.

Now, I have to tell you that in addition to the fat, swollen feet, I have also become the proud owner of fat, chubby hands the past few weeks. Hands that no longer can accommodate a wedding ring … OR an anniversary band. Or even a watch because my wrists are so … well, shall we say, pleasantly plump. So, when you have big-fat-pregnancy-hands that can’t be held at higher than a 5-degree angle without going all numb and tingly, sleeping becomes an issue. And never more so than Sunday night.

I woke up, no lie, at least once every half hour with aches and pain and tingling and numbness in my wrists and fingers. Miserable, I tell you. First I would flap my hands about, like a demented bird with broken wings, trying to get blood flow resumed. Then I would have to sit straight up, hands hanging down my sides, for ten to fifteen minutes each time to finally get the blood flowing again. Then I would lay back down, only to wake again half an hour later. Finally I tried sleeping sitting up in a chair in the living room, only to realize how far it was to the bathroom (since I’m now getting up a dozen times each night to use the potty, too.) It was the most pathetic night of constantly interrupted sleep I have ever had, and that INCLUDES when I was breastfeeding my children so many years ago!

Add in to the mix a 9-yr old daughter who came stumbling into our room around 1am, complaining that she was itchy. Ah, yes, here comes my Mother of the Year Trophy now. I bought the kids St. Patrick’s Day tattoos last week (because I am *SO* cool, right?) and she had some kind of allergic reaction to the soap we used to wash off her face and forearms, hence the complaining and the itching and the HIVES all over her.

By the next morning, I’d had a total of about 23 minutes sleep. I had one daughter who was covered in red, itchy welts, and a husband who, like it’s not enough recovering from major surgery and oh, yeah, having CANCER, had decided to catch whatever stomach bug it is going around. I swear, he didn’t get out of bed all day except to steal some of Kendrie’s zofran, then throw it up four minutes later.

So I’m stomping around the house on my fat, puffy feet, grumbling about “who do you people think I am? Florence-freaking-Nightingale?” and gazing longingly at the sofa …. it was overcast and raining, NONE of the anti-itch creams I had were working on Brayden, she was bitching, Blaine was moaning, and all I wanted was a NAP people, a NAP, IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK????

Anyway, we made it through the day, and on the recommendation of a friend, I went to the drugstore last night and bought wrist splints, specifically advertised as “good for carpal tunnel sufferers”. I mean, it’s not like I earn a living splitting chicken bones or anything, and I have to tell you how ugly they are --- they make me look like the really serious guys at the bowling alley, know who I’m talking about? But I was desperate for sleep and willing to try anything.

Oh, my gosh! They totally worked!!! I slept great last night! (Well, I still got up a dozen times to go potty, but that’s another story.) No numbness, no tingling, no aches or pains --- it was fantastic! I woke up with a completely different attitude; refreshed, happy, eager to embrace my beautiful children and start the new day (ok, I know, I’m exaggerating now.) But you get the point.

Blaine feels better, Brayden has been properly treated by a doctor (the hives have spread and she now looks like a “before” picture on a Proactive infomercial -- but I think we've got a handle on it now) and the sun came back out today. Wow, what a difference a good night’s sleep can make!

Now, just crossing my fingers I sleep as well this evening. Actually, no, I’m not going to cross my fingers. They might start to tingle.

Hope you are all doing well,

QUOTE OF THE DAY: When the doctor told Brayden she would be starting a five-day course of prednisone, I said to her, “Hey, you’re going to be on the same steroids Kendrie was on” and Brayden replied, “Oh, great. Now I’m going to get grumpy.”

2ND QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Holy Crap, are you KIDDING me????” said by me, when Brayden announced she was too big for the kids’ menu and asked if she could order off the regular menu at lunch today, only to tell the waiter that she wanted the steak and shrimp combo, costing $14. I don’t know which was worse … that I felt so sorry for her little hive-covered face that I let her order it, or the fact she actually ate most of it!!! Um, did my children not get the memo I sent, about them staying kids a whole lot longer?!?!?!

Thursday, March 16, 2006 8:21 AM CST

A few issues I think I should clear up, in good conscience:

I’m not advocating the use of tanning beds, especially for those people with a history of skin problems. I am also very aware of the dangers even *fake* UV rays pose, and you can bet that when my children go outside in the summer, they are lathered up like greased piglets at the County Fair. But I have to admit that I grew up in the “Bronze is Best” era, when there was no such thing as “too tan” (or too much blue eye shadow), when baby oil and iodine were the order of the day at the city pool. I have perhaps been brainwashed a bit by the Coppertone Cult, and am biased into thinking people (especially ME) look a little better with some color on their cheeks. Like the person in the guestbook said, “tanned cellulite is better looking than white cellulite”. That’s practically my personal motto. That, and “pass the Cheetos”. I don’t smoke (too unhealthy), don’t use chewing tobacco (nasty), don’t drink coffee (if only it tasted as good as it smells), drink de-caffeinated pop (even though some days I could really use the caffeine), rarely drink alcohol (can’t handle the hangovers) …. Tanning beds are my one vice, and I can’t even do *that* when I’m pregnant!

Speaking of pregnant, while I appreciate the vote of confidence that I am insane competent enough to handle a fourth child …….. I think most of you have figured out from the guestbook entries that I am actually a gestational surrogate. I did mention it {briefly} on this site in my Christmas Letter, but for the most part don’t talk about it online out of respect for the privacy of the baby’s parents. So, to answer a few questions: YES, I just love being pregnant. YES, Blaine and I struggled with infertility so we know how they feel, and one of the reasons I got into this. NO, it’s not hard to do. NO, I am not biologically related to the child. YES, it’s a very open process. YES, I stay in touch with the families afterwards. YES, this is my third time. I delivered a baby girl in 2002. I was pregnant with twin boys in 2003 when Blaine was first diagnosed with cancer. Six weeks after I delivered the twins is when Kendrie got sick. Ironically, although I knew I wanted to do another surrogacy, I waited until she was almost done with treatment so I could have a stress-less, cancer-FREE experience. ---- I can pretty much hear the Gods of Fate and Crappy Timing laughing now.

And one last thing --- how funny that so many of you mentioned you have gotten your first pedicure of the summer, coincidentally, after reading my last posting. Guestbook entries and personal e-mails show both sides of the issue pretty much neck and neck, with half of you professing your love for sandals and bare toes, and the other half agreeing with me that feet are an ugly necessity of life. (I especially loved the guestbook comment about the wife, threatening to bury her husband in sandals, which he hates, and him saying he will put his funeral attire in writing!) Blaine and I were talking about Fear Factor today, and he said his biggest fear on that show would be being buried alive …. I said mine would be a day at the spa, complete with massage and pedicure.

So to those of you who enjoy that sort of thing, more power to you. The rest of us will hang on to our tennis shoes just as long as we possibly can.

Hope you all have a great weekend, (I’m headed out of town to scrapbook!)

Kristie, confessing, I even wears socks to bed.


(One last story about pregnancy, and feet, then I swear I will drop both these topics and quit subjecting you to my unsolicited opinions) I wasn’t joking when I said my feet were getting swollen, an end-of-pregnancy symptom many of us enjoy. I was getting dressed this morning, putting on my one-size-larger-than normal-white-leather-Keds because that’s the only pair that will fit at this point, and Kendrie said, “You’re going to wear *those*?” (disdain evident in her voice) …. “but Mom, they are SO not cool!”

Great. Now I’m taking fashion advice from someone who thinks “camouflage” is the new black, and the only designer name worth wearing is “Universal Studios”.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 3:08 PM CST


Kendrie--Day 89 OT
Blaine--Who the heck knows how to classify him?

Yep, summer is definitely coming to Georgia. Or at least to the part where WE live, as evidenced by the outdoor-thermostat earlier this week, reading in the high 70’s, the sheen of perspiration on my upper lip (and lower lip, and forehead, and cheeks, etc) and the returning humidity which has my hair looking like something out of a Carrot Top infomercial. I was out running errands yesterday, and noticed a few things that can only correlate with the advent of the warmer weather:

1. God invented tanning booths for a reason, people. If you feel its warm enough to yank those short-shorts out of the back of your closet and put them on with a sleeveless tank top, please do the rest of us a favor and make sure your legs and arms don’t BLIND us when we encounter you in Target. I swear, I thought a few of you must be albinos, only to discover that was your natural pigment color. Now, I know the whole stink about tanning booths, and sun tanning in general, causing cancer, and wrinkles, and faces that will look like leather when you’re older --- and how it’s now “cool” to be “pale”. Well let me tell you, that only works if you have a beautiful ivory-white complexion like Nicole Kidman. The rest of you are PASTY, people, and you need to do something about it! Spray it on, rub it on, I don’t care, but get it on there. My sunglasses only have so much UV protection.

2. The feet. Oh, my GOD people, the FEET!!! Now, if you’ve been following along in this journal at all, you know I have a wee, tiny hang up about feet. Mainly, that I hate them and think they are disgusting, hideous appendages. If they weren’t so necessary for walking and running and total mobility, I would spearhead a “Get Rid of the Feet” campaign. But alas, I cannot. So, if you have them (and most of you do, after all) and you decide its warm enough to also pull sandals out of the back of your closet, then do something about the feet. Loofah sponge, pumice stone, emery board, pedicure, etc. I don’t care which method you choose, just do something.

Now, you should also know that the only thing more horrifying to me than a massage would be a pedicure, so this is a case where I'm definitely NOT practicing what I preach. But I’m not the one wearing sandals, now, am I? (And never mind that it’s because I’m 30 weeks pregnant and they don’t MAKE sandals big enough to fit over my puffy, swollen, bloated extremities) If I *were* wearing sandals, I would at least make sure my haven’t-seen-the-sun-in-six-months feet were fit for public display, puffiness notwithstanding.

Oh, and if you’re a man and you’re reading this? There is no reason, ever, for you to wear sandals. E. V. E. R. Not thongs, not flip-flops, not any kind of sandal. Really, they should be outlawed for men. The only exception to the rule is if you are walking to or from the pool or ocean. The rest of the summer time, if you are out in public, you should wear tennis shoes WITH socks. And if you’re hanging out at MY house, you may take off your shoes ONLY if you have socks on. Go with me on this one --- NO sandals for men. Your feet are uglier than mine, and trust me, no-one wants to see them.

3. Last but not least, have some sympathy for the middle-aged lady, driving the mini-van with the juice box straw wrappers in her seat, the soccer chairs in the back, and the local elementary school magnet on the door. In high school, I had a boyfriend that drove a Mercury Cougar with a (excuse my French) KICK ASS stereo system. When the weather got nice, like it is now, we would fill up the gas tank (remember when $10.00 could do that?) and drive around with the windows down, sun streaming in on us, wind in our hair, and Quiet Riot blaring. I always thought, judging from the looks we got, that older people hated us. Now, being old myself, I know the truth. They were just jealous. Much like I am jealous now. I have no sunroof. I have no loud stereo. I drive a MINI VAN, for heaven’s sake, usually with a Disney or Sugarbeats cd playing. So although summer is coming, and you are reveling in the glory of your youth, please understand that I am mourning the loss of mine, and it’s just a little bit painful. Have some respect.

So anyway, how does any of this relate -- in any way -- to Kendrie? Well, in the last month, despite the fact her treatment is over and she’s no longer taking chemo, she has stayed home from school several times complaining of stomach pain or headache. Do I think she’s sick? No. I think she wants to stay home with the grownups. She did it again yesterday, and in an attempt to foil her plans to lay around all day watching Star Wars on the dvd player, I made her stay in bed. All day long. I figured in the event she *was* really sick, the rest would do her good. In the event she was faking, at least I wouldn’t play the role of enabler.

Fast forward to 3:30 pm yesterday afternoon: Since the weather has gotten nicer, we’ve ditched our usual “home work as soon as you get home from school” routine in favor of a more direct, “let the kids play outside until they are ready to drop from exhaustion” strategy. Works wonders at bedtime. Yesterday, Brayden and Kellen hadn’t been home five minutes before the bikes and scooters and basketballs were in full play. Kendrie ran into the garage and started strapping on her roller blades, only to have me come out and tell her no, if she was too sick to go to school, she was too sick to play outside. (Geez, when did I start sounding like my mother?)

Oh, the tears and whining and crying and tantrum that took place! Seriously, she cried for close to an hour, leaving me to believe she couldn’t truly be ill, or she wouldn’t have had the stamina and energy necessary for that kind of fit. In the middle of it, she yelled at me, “Well if I had known you were going to let them play outside, I would have gone to school!” to which I replied, “Well, that was a bad gamble on your part, wasn’t it?” to which SHE replied, “Well, I thought it was going to RAIN and it wouldn’t matter!”

So apparently I am not the only one upset by the sun-shiny weather lately. Miraculously, Kendrie felt well enough to attend school today, and is outside roller-blading as I type this. Maybe she’ll decide the nice weather isn’t so offensive, after all. But I’m telling you, blinding white legs and nasty feet will ALWAYS be offensive.

Thanks for checking in,

Saturday, March 11, 2006 8:35 PM CST


Even if you've never gone into a Caringbridge Guestbook before, GO INTO MINE NOW!!! My FABULOUS Pflugervillian girlfriend Jadine wrote the funniest, most touching entry and you simply HAVE to scroll down and read it!!! It's witty, it's wise, it's poignant, it's .... hey wait. Once you realize she is a better writer than me, the public will clamor for HER to start a journal and then no one will visit here anymore. So never mind. Whatever you do, do NOT go into the guestbook and scroll down and find Jadine's entry.

(Kidding, of course. Jadine, it was perfect and you know how much I love you, in a platonic-Zamboni way.) :)


Day 86 of Kendrie’s OT

Yes, I confess, I’m still feeling a little mentally unstable this week.

Still? THIS week??? How does *this* week differ from any other time of my life, when mental instability is the norm? Well, now, I have this journal and you lucky people get to hear about it --- something you’re thrilled about, I’m sure. So, let’s just get started, with Kristie’s Tour of Unstable Emotions:

A is for Annoyed: Yes, I admit it, I am just plain annoyed. Annoyed at cancer, annoyed that we’re facing it again, annoyed that we haven’t really had a break from facing it for the past three years. First Blaine, then Kendrie, now Blaine again. In a small, demented way, I'm even annoyed with Blaine, as if any of this is his fault, something I'm sure we'll need marital therapy for when this is all over. Just annoyed, annoyed, annoyed (not to be confused with “annoying”, which is the adjective some of you might consider more appropriate!)

B is for Blessed: OK, so we’ve been beat with the cancer stick twice. But we’re blessed because Kendrie’s cancer came with an 85 percent chance for survival, she handled treatment like a champ, and Blaine’s cancer is a slow-growing, not-too-aggressive kind. You hear about people like my great aunt, who was diagnosed with leukemia two weeks ago and died seven days later. We are blessed we’ve been handed a chance. Twice.

C is for comforted: Comforted by the kind e-mails, notes, cards, meals, phone calls, etc, that people have been thoughtful enough to send.

D is for discouraged: Is it ever going to freakin’ end???

E is for embarrassed: Embarrassed that my emotions are all over the place. But I suppose it’s normal in a situation like this. So really, why should I feel embarrassed? I mean, it’s not like I don’t have cause to feel emotional. So why is it embarrassing for me? Because I am a schizoid-freak, that’s why. It’s so embarrassing.

F is for frustrated: I don’t know who to turn to, which doctor is in charge, who is making decisions, who has the answers, or of whom I should be asking them. Blaine has a Primary-Care Manager here at Robins Air Force Base, who is consulting the medical board here. His first surgeon, in Augusta, is recommending we go to Seattle. The Seattle doctor has referred us to his tumor board, who is recommending five weeks of radiation. In addition to surgery? In place of surgery? What about the chemo they talked about? The Air Force is recommending we go to Walter Reed. Who is the doctor at Walter Reed? What would they do there? What is the best treatment for Blaine? Who decides? Do we have any say in the matter? Who’s the boss? ‘Cause it sure as heck ain’t Tony Danza, I don’t think.

G is for grateful: (See F) At least we have options, and doctors who care about Blaine enough to try and make the best decisions on his behalf. I am grateful that they all want to do what is best for him, and help him. {Reminder to self: beat head against the wall to the tune of “grateful, grateful, grateful” when I start feeling frustrated.}

H is for hopeful: I have to tell myself that even though this has been dragging on, and he's already had eleven surgeries in the past three years, at some point we are going to look back at this as nothing more than a bad period in our lives. I am hopeful we will eventually return to a semblance of normal, that Blaine will feel healthy and happy again, and that cancer will be simply a blip in the rear view mirror of our life. Then we’ll win the lottery, and things will be especially dandy. {Note to self: need to actually PLAY lottery.}

I is for impatient: For pete’s sake, can these doctors not just get together in a phone consult or something and make a decision already? How can we make plans, if we don’t know what THE PLAN is???

J is for jealous: Jealous of families whose biggest problem is whether little Timmy should play soccer or t-ball this spring. Jealous of families who aren’t putting their spring, summer and fall plans on hold because they have no idea where they might be, or at what phase of treatment. Jealous of military officers whose careers haven’t been derailed by cancer. Jealous of families whose children DON’T think it’s normal for everyone to get cancer.

K is for keeping a stiff upper lip: Hey, I didn’t say that what I’ve been DOING, I said that’s what I’ve been feeling I should do. I am not succeeding, as evidenced by the (yet another) self-absorbed, depressing post that you’re reading now.

L is for lucky: We are lucky that our military insurance has been so wonderful (knocking furiously on wood) and that we are not in financial ruin from all this crap. Sucks for all you taxpayers, but lucky for us.

M is for mad: Just how, exactly, is this fair? Just when, exactly, will it be over? (Oh, that's right, "fair" and "cancer" have no correlation, as millions of people all over the world can attest. Do they all feel as mad as I do?)

N is for nervous: This doctor said the radiation they are recommending has a 60 percent success rate. Um, what happens to the other 40 percent? What does that MEAN, exactly? And who do I ask?

O is for offended: I feel like cancer is sitting back, sticking its tongue out at our family, and quite frankly, I’m pretty damn offended.

P is for peeved: See A.

Q is for quiet: Sometimes, a little pouting is in order. Not publicly, but quietly. Preferably with lots of chocolate.

R is for resentful: See J.

S is for self-conscious: I mean, could we BE bigger shit magnets if we tried?

T is for thankful: Kendrie had an oncology follow-up appointment on Thursday. Despite the six-inch bruise on her shin, her blood counts were perfectly normal. I’m beyond thankful she is doing so well. She’s grown an inch since she finished treatment! How can I whine like I’m doing now, when my daughter is thriving off treatment so far?

U is for uptight: Three years ago, when Blaine was first diagnosed, if you had told me we would be in this situation today, I would have rolled my eyes and thought it impossible. Now, I get all clenched wondering where we’ll be three years from now.

V is for vexed: Could just one stinkin’ thing go right for the guy? You know the surgery he had two weeks ago? Well not only could they not remove all the tumors, or do the reconstruction they had planned, but the incision they made through his upper lip is a disaster. When they removed the stitches, his lip literally split. A big chunk is missing, and its forked, for lack of a better description. So, add another surgery to the litany of things he still needs done.

W is for worried: Imagine where my mind goes in the deepest, darkest parts of the night.

X is for xtremely (spelled wrong) self-absorbed: It’s not so much that I’ve *felt* self-absorbed, as I have been, and I feel guilty for it. I’m not answering e-mails, I’m having trouble returning phone calls, I’m not posting messages in Caringbridge guestbooks. I just can’t seem to move past myself lately, and let me tell you: MYSELF is boring me to tears, what with all her whining and complaining and bitching and moaning.

Y is for yellow-bellied: I want to crawl in a hole, hide my head, and have someone wake me when it’s all over.

Z is for zealous: I have been all over the internet, looking for support groups and information for Blaine’s kind of cancer and the treatment(s) they are proposing. It doesn’t exist. I have searched high and low, and have come up with nothing. Zealousness is only satisfactory if it pays off, let me tell you that. An empty-handed zealot is pretty worthless.

So there you go. If you’re considering sending me a straight jacket, I wear an XL.

In the meantime, thanks for putting up with us. Well, more specifically, with ME. I’m the obnoxious, self-centered one in the family who obviously needs a good kick in the pants. But here’s proof that despite the circumstances, life goes on as normal, in definite “Kristie-style”:

Kendrie and I met friends for lunch on Thursday after her clinic appointment. As soon as we sat down in the booth she needed to go to the restroom, so I got up and took her. Apparently, without realizing it, I returned to the table with a long string of toilet paper stuck to my boot. Yeah, that’s attractive. What makes the story even better is that when our meal was over and she said she needed to use the restroom (yet again), I got up to take her and noticed the toilet paper on my foot. I made a joke, laughed it off in front of our friends, and went back to the bathroom, only to discover there was a wrapper from a juice box straw stuck to my ass the whole time.

Really, could I be any classier?


Wednesday, March 8, 2006 7:30 AM CST


Day 83 OT

Well, I confess that I’ve sat in front of my computer the past two nights, trying to think of something -- anything -- funny or witty or even remotely interesting to post, and I’ve come up blank. If I were being honest, I would admit that I have a head cold and all I want to do is sleep. If I were being even more honest, I’d admit that I’m still licking my wounds a bit from last week and just don’t feel very entertaining at the moment.

We bought a new rug for the living room yesterday and it took less than half an hour for Kellen to drop a melted fudgesicle on it. I’m sure there’s a funny story in there somewhere, but I can’t find it. Just give me time …. I have no doubt that there’s a “and I thought that sort of thing only happened to ME” story just lurking on the horizon -- you know I’ll share it with you as soon as it does.

So, until we’re back up to our normal level of insaneness, I’m going to direct you to a few other sites that have cheerful news this week:

Katie from Canada, who finished her treatment for ALL this week! Katie’s was one of the first sites I found after I joined my online support group list, and I liked that her mom Sue had a similar take (to mine) on so many things that affect ALL-families. Congrats, Katie! Here’s to a lifetime of good health and happiness!

Molly from New York, who also finished her ALL treatment this week! I’ve actually been lucky enough to meet Molly and her family in person, which makes her completion of treatment even more special since I know what a wonderful family they are. Congratulations to all of you!

Keegan, one of our Georgia friends, who relapsed earlier this year …. But got the fantastic news yesterday that he is back in remission! His road is still long and hard, but this is the first, wonderful step towards beating this #(*&$#* disease once and for all. To Audra and Keegan and the entire family, may yesterday’s news be the first of nothing but good news for Keegan!

If you have an extra minute, drop by these sites and congratulate the families. It wasn’t so long ago that Kendrie finished treatment and it’s still fresh in my mind, the joy and happiness (and inexhaustible RELIEF) that they are feeling!

Have a great week in the meantime,


Saturday, March 4, 2006 7:37 AM CST


Well, we are home, safe and sound, and I don’t even have any good stories involving bus tires and medicine to share. His doctor simply checked him out with his duffle bag of narcotics, and home we drove. The dog appears to be completely healthy (well, as healthy as a 15-yr old dog can be) Grandma managed admirably, the kids didn’t pine away in our absence, and life will trudge on now in a normal fashion. We keep reminding ourselves that we’re lucky.

Yes, it stinks that Blaine’s cancer came back, but we’re lucky because pathology shows it is the same kind of cancer as before ….. slow growing and (normally) not too aggressive, so we don’t have to go into panic mode about our next step. The Army Hospital that has been treating him since Day One has been fabulous and we love his doctors there. But they admitted after this surgery that the location of (one of) the new tumors, within a centimeter (I think? Details have become foggy, along with everything else in my brain) of his carotid artery, that treatment now is beyond the scope of what they can offer with the services at their facility. Their recommendation is that Blaine needs a team of specialists (ie, head and neck vascular surgeon, radiation-oncology, etc) and those kind of people aren’t just hanging around the halls of defense-fund-depleted military hospitals.

So, once again, we consider ourselves lucky because Blaine already has a relationship with the doctor in Seattle who did his free-flap procedure last spring. He is one of the best head and neck oncologists in the country and works at a teaching hospital that offers all the services we might need. If they decide surgery is the best way to go, they can do it there. Radiation, chemo, etc., whatever the doctors determine is the best route.

We did talk to his Ft. Gordon doctors about getting a second opinion, and we all decided that Blaine already did his “shopping” for a doctor last year, when he traveled to Emery in Atlanta, and MD Anderson in Houston. And with the red tape that is involved with the insurance, he doesn’t want to take the time to doctor-shop again, when he has a surgeon in Washington that he already knows and trusts.

So, now we begin the process of getting insurance approval to travel and have things taken care of in Seattle (assuming the Seattle doctor agrees to take him …. Which I can’t imagine he wouldn’t ….) It’s already March, and what with the pre-authorizations, and consultations, and all that other rigmarole that goes along with it, we’ve got a June-July-ish timeframe in mind. So, chances are good Blaine and I will get a mini-vacation to the beautiful Seattle area this summer. (See? Do you see how lucky we are?) :)

We appreciate all the kind thoughts and sentiments the past week, and will keep you guys updated as things progress.

We also talked about the fact that although this wasn’t the outcome for which we had hoped, we are so grateful that complications arose in Blaine’s case, and not Kendrie’s. Kendrie’s cancer treatment was textbook, with hardly a complication or variance. Blaine’s treatment has been skewed from day one, with nothing turning out quite like we anticipate, and complications and delays dragging things out forever. I mean, it’s been three YEARS since his original diagnosis, and the reconstruction work isn’t even done yet. Partly that’s our fault, since we shoved his care to the back burner when Kendrie was diagnosed. And partly it’s the “two steps forward, one step back” philosophy that has plagued him from the beginning. Nothing has been easy, nothing has been simple, nothing has been straightforward. Wait, I'm getting away from my lucky theme here.

Anyway, this is getting depressing. My point is that even though this is discouraging, we are still blessed, and we won’t forget it.

So, on to more cheerful things. The kindergarten PTO performance was stellar, to be sure. While I don’t know that Kendrie necessarily has a future as a Radio City Rockette, I can say with absolute certainty that she was adorable as a jelly bean (although don’t you think it looks suspiciously like a lima bean?)

And yes, that is a dress you see her wearing. She wears one every Sunday to church, without complaint, but a few of her friends at school seemed shocked at the reminder that she actually IS a girl.

She didn’t collapse with shyness like I worried she might, and she got to stand next to the love of her life, Nicholas, for the show, so she was perfectly content.

We have Kellen’s end-of-season basketball party this afternoon, and otherwise we are laying low this weekend. Blaine is functioning, but doesn’t feel quite back to normal yet, so we will take things easy for a while. I think he has 30 days convalescent leave, most of which will be spent getting the ball rolling for his Seattle trip. And have no doubt, once he is feeling better, I’ll find some honey-do’s to work in there. :)

Again, thanks for checking,

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 7:46 AM CST


Can someone please explain to me why it is that every television set, in every hospital waiting room in the country, is apparently pre-set to Divorce Court? Or Jerry Springer? Are there little waiting room fairies, or goblins, whose job it is to find the dumbest, most inane shows, and make sure those are turned on? And why is it my fellow waiting-room family members (not MY family, mind you, but the other families who are also waiting) seem to find actual enjoyment in these useless programs? And why, also, everyone around me is usually DEAF, or at least hard of hearing, and why the televisions must be turned to FULL VOLUME?!?!?! SO THAT THERE IS NO WAY TO IGNORE THE STENCH OF FILTH THAT IS BEING REGURGITATED FROM THE TV?!?!?!?!?!?

(deep breath)

Now, I am by no means an intellectual snob, or highbrow. I like a good "Friends" re-run as much as the next person. But I truly don't understand why we must scrape the bottom of the FCC barrel while waiting around in hospitals. What's wrong with The Today Show? Or maybe a little Discovery Channel? Twice yesterday I was left alone in the waiting room, and both times I turned the tv to CNN and turned the volune down. Both times, within ten minutes, someone had come in, flipped the channel to Judge Hatchett, or Judge Judy, or Judge Somebody-or-another and sound-blasted the room again.

Why? Why??? WHY??????????

If I have to listen to one more episode of 19 year old Jerry Lee trying to tell his 17 year old wife, Taneisha, that he has no idea where the red thong panties she found in his glovebox actually came from ....... or 20 yr old Juan complaining that his nosy, bitchy mother-in-law is interfering in his marraige, while his 18 year old wife, Bobbie Sue, who happens to be the mother of his baby, cries on the plaintiff stand ...... or (GASP!) yet another SURPRISE PATERNITY DNA TEST RESULT ---- No, NO, "HE'S NOT THE FATHER OF YOUR BABY, YOU LYING, CHEATING SCUMBAG!!!" -------------- Well, I swear I will lose my mind.

Not that I actually *listen* to any of this. Oh no. There is a reason God invented portable DVD players and earphones, and this is it. But still, just glancing around the room, at the vapid, idiotic faces around me, who are captivated, who actually find this sort of crap titillating, it nauseates me.

While I definitely prefer the 1:1 Nurse:Patient ratio of Intenstive Care, I have to admit that the solitude and peace of a private room is becoming more and more attractive.

I promise, I won't even complain when Blaine wants to watch The Weather Chanel. Or even The History Channel for 24 hours straight. Unless they're airing a special episode about "Was Thomas Jefferson REALLY the Father???". Then, when you see a report on tonight's news about the crazy lady who threw the tv from the 9th floor of Ft. Gordon Army Hospital, you'll know what happened.


Friday, February 24, 2006 8:46 PM CST


Good news #1: Lager, the wonder-mutt, is home and much improved. He's walking again, and even eating and drinking a little ... I wasn't even upset when he got white dog hair all over my black sweater yesterday at the vets (that should tell you how happy I was to see him!) I had completely steeled myself during the drive home from Augusta yesterday that I would be making the decision to have him put down when I got to the vets. I showed up and the vet said, "I think we should let him go home" .... and I assumed he meant the great playland in the sky. When I realized he meant home, as in OUR home, I was so relieved I burst into tears right there in the office. He might be old and deaf and arthritic, but he's ours and we love him.

Now, he's taking nine pills a day and I'm reminded of the days of giving chemo. Just like Kendrie, we crush up his pills and hide them in his food. Getting a dog to take pills is a talent; one that I don't have. So as long as Blaine, the official pill-giver, is in the hospital, we'll be playing "hide the big blue pill" in the Alpo.

The only bad part was when the vet came in to talk to me (remember, my mother, who I love dearly, but who is 63 years old, took the dog to the vet on Friday.) The vet said it would be ok for me to bring him home .... then asked "When will your daughter be coming back from out of town?" --- OK, he thought I was my MOTHER??!?! I mean, I had just driven three and a half hours home in a rainstorm, and I know I possibly wasn't looking my best .... but my MOTHER?!?!?

Good news #2: Kellen's basketball team, with a record of 8-1-1, won the league championship yesterday. So although the SICU nursing staff thinks I am the most neglectful wife in history for leaving my pain-ridden, drug-addled husband alone, it was worth it for the smile on Kellen's face.

I'm headed back to the hospital today and will stay there until Thursday, hopefully bringing Blaine home with me at that time. Otherwise, we'll play it by ear. In the meantime, I can hopefully update from the hotel's computer, although I am unable to get into my e-mail ... so to the people who have been kind enough to send me personal e-mails, please know I'm not ignoring you, I just can't answer them until I get back home. But I do appreciate them. :)

PS. This song, "Hit Me Baby, One More Time" is not a reflection on the recent life events in the Escoe family .... it's just Kendrie's "newest favorite" song and I promised her I would put it up on the site. No sarcasm intended. :)

The most embarrassing thing that happened to me today:

Falling asleep on a sofa in the Surgery Intensive Care Waiting Room. (Hey, cut me some slack. Blaine was first in line for surgery today and we had to get up at the insane hour of 4am to make it to the hospital in time!)

What made it even more embarrassing:

Waking myself up because I was snoring so loud.

What made it even more, MORE embarrassing:

Realizing that I was not only snoring, but drooling.

The icing on the humilation-cake:

Hearing a young boy across the room stage whisper to his mom: "Wow, that lady finally quit snoring!"


Thank you all so, so much, from the bottom of my heart, for all the warm thoughts, prayers, and kind messages in the guestbook. It's truly heart-warming to come here and see so many notes of support.

Surgery did not go as well as could be expected. They weren't able to do all of the reconstructive work, nor were they able to remove all of the tumors, so we're most likely looking at radiation in about six weeks. The good news is that there is a business center here in the hotel I can use, and they served my favorite whitefish in the hospital cafeteria today. And really, isn't that all that matters? MY appetite? :)

We'll know more in a few days, when the final pathology report comes in. In the meantime, he's in good hands in Intensive Care, although in a lot of pain this evening. I feel terrible leaving him here, but I have to get home tomorrow because Kellen has a basektball game, and because (are you ready for this?) it appears our wonderful, gentle, loving 15-yr old dog has picked this weekend to die. ***SERIOUSLY!! All I'm waiting for now is lightning to strike and burn down our home, or a plague of locusts to attack and eat all our crops! *** Poor Grandma got way more than she bargained for with the dog, and he's at the vet now on IV meds and fluids. The vet says I need to be there by noon tomorrow, so I'm glad Blaine is being taken good care of here (how's *that* for a grammatically incorrect phrase?) so I can go home and deal with the poor old, deaf, arthritic pooch, who will hopefully rebound and go back to driving us crazy.

So, specific prayer requests for us:

1) Pain relief for Blaine.
2) Miracle-recovery for Lager, the wonder-mutt.
3) A vat of liquor for Kristie so deep I'll have to take stilts and a snorkel with me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 9:42 PM CST

Well, this is a journal entry I’ve put off typing, because I wasn’t sure *if* I should share, let alone when or where or how. But for purely selfish reasons, I’ve decided to go ahead and let you all know: Blaine’s cancer is back. So, in what is becoming typical-Escoe fashion, now is when we sit up and beg and solicit once more, in an entirely self-absorbed manner, for all of you to send up warm thoughts and prayers for him, his doctors, and his recovery.

I won’t go into great detail for those of you who are already familiar with his story (I heard there’s a shortage of Kleenex and I don’t want to bore you all to tears.) If you aren’t familiar with what he’s gone through, you can go back in the journal history to March of 2005 and read the long version.

The short version is that pretty much anything that could go wrong with his reconstructive surgery, has. Hell, pretty much anything that could go wrong at ALL for the poor guy, has. Staph infections, additional surgeries, collapse of the flap, repair of the flap, a hole in the repair ….. and now, two new malignant tumors. We found out for sure last month and have been sitting on the news, waiting until closer to time.

His *next* step in the reconstructive process was scheduled for this Friday, and the surgeons have decided to go ahead with the surgery and remove the tumors at the same time. He’s extremely apprehensive a little nervous because (warning, graphic imagery ahead) they will be peeling his face off like they did before, which he said hurt like hell was a wee bit uncomfortable. One of the tumors is near his carotid artery, which scares the shit out of me makes everyone a little anxious.

But when all is said and done, he should be tumor-free, the hole on one side of his defective flap should be repaired (with tissue from somewhere else in his body, I’m not really sure where --- at this point I’ve simply lost track of all the anatomy-borrowing that has gone on in the Science Experiment That Is Called Blaine) and he will have implants, which puts him one step closer to having TEETH!!! Hey, you don’t realize how much you might hate being a toothless person until it happens to you, is what he keeps telling me. Apparently, “not having to floss” is not perk enough, and he longs for the good ole’ days of sinking his chops into a double cheeseburger.

Anyway, he’ll be in ICU for several days and in the hospital for at least a week. Since the hospital is three hours from our house, and there’s no real way for me to drive back and forth every day, once again, Grandma has flown in to save the day and the kids are thrilled. I’ll be coming back home this weekend for a day or two, assuming everything goes ok with Blaine, and I’ll try to update then.

I feel a little shameless asking yet again, but if you could spare some well-wishes his way come Friday morning, it would mean a lot to us.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006 5:25 PM CST


Day 68 OT

Kendrie accidentally spilled her water bottle in her book bag last week, soaking the contents with water. Contents included a school agenda, mittens (why?) and her library book. She was most worried about the library book and the trouble and punishment she was just certain the elementary school librarian would inflict upon her small person. We tried laying it flat, even blow-drying it, but to no avail. Not only were both the pages and the binding warped, but it had begun to mold (We do live in the southeast, after all.)

So today when I took her to school, I told her I would take the book to the library and explain what happened. If need be, I would even pay for the book. But I assured her she would not be in trouble. She protested and explained that particular book was part of the Accelerated Reading Program at school and she needed to take her test and get her points before returning it to the library.

AR tests are taken on the computers in the classrooms, and I always feel a little funny sitting there while my kids take their tests. I enjoy watching, but then I get a little paranoid. If they get a 100 percent on the test, will the teacher think I slipped them the answers? Like I really *know* the storyline of every Mystery Treehouse book in the library, or that I actually give two hoots about Danny and his Dinosaur? But still, just to be on the safe side, I told Kendrie to go take her test and I sat myself on the other side of the room and waited for her to be done.

While I was waiting, the teacher from the gifted program at our school came into the room and handed Kendrie’s teacher two envelopes. The teacher turned to me and said, “Oh, here. One of these is for you.” I opened it (here is where the moment of obnoxious parental pride comes in) and found a request to have Kendrie tested for the school’s gifted program. It doesn’t begin until first grade, but they want to test her now to see if she qualifies, and if so, then she could start next year.

So I’m sitting there, swelling up with delight. Literally, swelling. And a wee bit of smugness, if I were to be honest. I mean, the kid missed an entire year of pre-school due to cancer, but today came the realization that ALL THOSE MONTHS OF FREAKIN’ PUZZLES AND WORKBOOKS AND READING AND GAMES THAT I PLAYED WITH HER REALLY AND TRULY PAID OFF!!!!! I mean, in a psuedo-sense, I took over her education for that year, and now they think she might be gifted???? That’s my girl!!! It’s thrilling!

I looked up at the teacher, pride and happiness shining in my eyes, to be sure, and just then Kendrie walked over. My prodigal child, my beacon of intelligence, the fruit of my loins that will someday win a Nobel Peace Prize. And what bit of remarkable wisdom would she bestow upon us lowly earth creatures????

“Well, I sure failed THAT test!” she proclaimed loudly, in front of all of us.

“What do you mean honey? You failed an AR test? You FAILED a test? You haven’t failed a single test all year …. Are you joking???” I stammered, worried the gifted teacher was going to reach over and snatch the envelope out of my hand and rip it into shreds right in front of my eyes.

So close …………. We were Soooooooooooo close!




Proof that the gifted request might very well have been a mistake: The kids are required to keep a reading list, and were attempting to complete six hours of at-home reading to qualify for free Six Flags tickets next summer, as part of a school reading program. The lists were due today, and my kids haven’t been the most faithful about writing down all their books. So last night found them frantically trying to remember every book they’ve read for the past month that they might have forgotten to include. I *know* they’ve read six hours because we read together almost every night, so I was just sort of half-listening as they tried to remember all the book titles.

Kendrie turned to me and said, “What was the name of that first book, the one in the Bible, with God, and the garden, and his friends Even and Odd?”

Yeah. We’re SO not making it into gifted, are we?

Monday, February 20, 2006 11:18 AM CST

MY BUSY, BUSY, BUSY, BUSY DAY (aka I’m So Important)

Day 67 OT

So, yesterday being Sunday, and us being heathens and all, we didn’t take the kids to church. Instead, we decided to have a “lazy day around the house”, which translates into “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do” in nine different languages. I have to thank my girlfriend Jadine, though, who on my recent trip to Texas taught me the golden parenting nugget of: “Only stupid people say they’re bored …. You have a perfectly good brain, so think of something to do and quit complaining.” Now, my kids were still complaining that they were bored yesterday, but Kellen, at least, added the following: “Well, I know I’m not stupid, but I *am* still bored.”

Anyway, just to give you a glimpse into the demanding, fulfilling, rewarding life of Kristie Escoe, I thought I would break down yesterdays’ schedule for you:

7:30 am: Wake up. Think about how much I would like to go back to sleep.

8:00 am: Get out of bed

8:10 am: Tell everyone that they are eating Cocoa Krispies cereal for breakfast because I am just too lazy to make pancakes. Promise to make pancakes tomorrow.

8:11 am: Pour myself a bowl of Cocoa Krispies cereal. Hey, these things are pretty yummy. Who needs pancakes?

8:15 until 9:30 am: Lounge around on the sofa, watching cartoons with the kids. (This is what the experts call Parent-Child Quality Bonding Time, in case you need to justify this sort of behavior.)

9:30 am: Tell Blaine all the quality bonding time has left me worn out and I’m going to go lie down for a nap.

11:30 am: Wake from nap. Change from sleep t-shirt into daytime t-shirt. This is noteworthy because it constitutes the productivity highlight of the day.

11:40 am: Wander into the kitchen, sit down and watch Blaine unload the dishwasher. Think to myself, “I’m bored.”

11:45 am: Eat left-over vegetable pizza for lunch. If you purposely choose the leftovers that you know none of the kids like, then you get out of having to make them lunch at the same time and can enjoy your own lunch in peace.

12 noon: Sit back down in the living room with the kids, who are watching a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Despite your protestations that this might be the dumbest movie ever made, find yourself getting sucked in and watching it with them. Well, we’ll just classify it as even *more* quality bonding time.

1 pm to 3 pm: Honestly, these hours were kind of a blur yesterday. I remember sitting on the sofa, reading a book. And playing on the computer for a while. And supervising the building of the world’s biggest pillow/blanket infrastructure known to mankind. I also remember thinking about doing some laundry, and taking another nap, but I never did. I’m not quite sure what else I accomplished. Or didn’t accomplish.

3 to 4 pm: Ahhhh, Blaine finally caves in to the children’s demands to go outside and play basketball with them. I refused all along, since it wasn’t even 50 degrees. But once he took them out, it gave me an hour of peace and quiet to, uh, what did I do? Oh, yeah, I sat back down on the sofa and read some more.

4 to 6 pm: Blaine took Kellen to basketball practice, so the girls and I sat down and watched two hours of The Learning Channel; “A Face for Yulce” and “The 750 pound Man”. Although their total TV time for the day is already up to about ten hours, and I’m pretty sure their brains will be leaking out of their ears soon, I tell myself that this is an educational opportunity for me to warn them of the dangers of playing with fire and eating too much junk food. So really, I’m not a lazy parent, I am a concerned one.

6 pm: The boys come home from practice and I realize, belatedly, that I have prepared nothing for dinner.

6:01 pm: Immense relief that there is still half of a pot roast in the fridge from dinner that nobody wanted Friday night.

6:15 to 8 pm: Again, a blur. I’m not really sure *what* we did. Or didn’t do. But I know it involved a lot of kvetching about the pot roast.

8 pm: Sigh loudly, and agree the kids can stay up to watch “Max Keeble’s Big Move” on Disney. Truly, is another two hours of tv going to hurt at this point? Under the guise of "parental observation", I lay down on the sofa and watch it with them.

10 pm: Put the kids to bed, and then go to bed myself because I am so exhausted from the events of the day.

So, today is President’s Day here in the US, and my kids and my husband are both home for the day. Without a doubt, I need to get out of this computer chair, into the shower, get dressed, and find something for us to do.

Otherwise we risk another day as laborious and arduous as yesterday. And I just don’t know if my butt can take it.

So, how are YOU spending your President’s Day?


Wednesday, February 15, 2006 3:23 PM CST

PS. UPDATE: 48 hours. That is how long it took Blaine to notice. And he didn't even notice then, he read the website and realized it that way. Truly, his observation skills are outstanding. And although I really don't think the bangs are photo worthy, here you go:

Although now instead of obsessing about the big fat wrinkles on my forehead, it looks like my new concern should be the bags under my eyes.



I got my hair cut today.

Ok, wait. Let’s back up. When Kendrie was diagnosed with leukemia, I was 37 years old. I had been trying to grow my bangs out …. in earnest ….. for about 15 years. I could get them nose length, lip length, once I even got them down to my chin, but I always caved in and cut them before they were long enough to pull back into a ponytail. Women everywhere know what I’m talking about, right? That pivotal moment, hair hanging in your eyes for how many days in a row, when you snap, “I just can’t TAKE IT anymore!” and hack away at the poor innocent bangs, dull kitchen scissors in hand. (Admit it, you’ve all been there, haven’t you?)

About two months after Kendrie was diagnosed, I had my bangs down to mid-eye length (the MOST offensive length, in my opinion, requiring the constant wearing of sunglasses to keep the bangs from poking you in the eyes all day long.) I was standing in my bathroom, brandishing the scissors, grumbling about the stress and hardship of growing out my bangs, and then I looked over. Over at my nearly-bald four-year old, who was close to losing the last few wispy strands of hair she had on her entire head.

I felt really small and ashamed of myself and my petty griping at that moment, and vowed right then and there that as long as Kendrie was on treatment, I wouldn’t cut my bangs. NOT cutting my bangs would be my symbolic gesture, my “giving the hirsute finger to cancer” and in some {insane} way, I just knew Kendrie would stay healthy as long as I didn’t cut my bangs. And so I didn’t. If that brave little girl could endure 2 plus years of chemotherapy, I figured the least I could endure was the well-known Growing Out Of The Bangs Phase. Thus began the employment of barrettes, clips, headbands, sunglasses, ball caps, and anything I could use to keep those wretched bangs out of my eyes for the next 26 months.

So the bangs grew. And grew some more. And now they are down well-below my chin, almost to shoulder-length, and if I say so myself, they look fabulous. What DOESN’T look fabulous are the wrinkles across my forehead that the bangs had been hiding all those years. From raising my eyebrows in shocked surprise at my children all the time, I am sure. But there it is, in all it’s glory: my big, fat, wrinkled-y forehead. Botox, anyone?

So, today I went for my first haircut since Kendrie finished treatment. Two guesses what I did, and the first one doesn’t count. The second one doesn’t take a rocket scientist, either. If you still haven’t guessed, go back and re-read this entry from the beginning.

What really cracks me up about the whole thing was Blaine’s response when he got home from work and saw me for the first time: “Hey, honey, your hair looks really nice. Did you get it colored?” because he knew damn good and well that I did. I told him that this morning. But you could totally see him, patting himself on the back for remembering, and thinking I would be oh-so-impressed with him for noticing. What he didn’t notice, were the bangs. That I haven’t had in over two years. That are suddenly there now. That he still hasn’t noticed, several hours later, as of the typing of this journal entry. I’ll lay you odds that he doesn’t notice at all, until he reads this journal update for himself, then he’ll most likely try to convince me that he knew all along ….. nope, honey, I’m not buying it.

You know who noticed? My friend Jeanette, because she is a hairdresser and notices everything that has to do with hair, and Kendrie, the Kid-Who-Used-To-Be-Bald. It was the first thing Kendrie said to me when I picked her up at school: “Hey, you cut part of your hair!”

I mean, it’s not like I’m so self-centered I thought everyone would stop and take notice. It’s not even a drastic change. There’s no need for a billboard or marquee. I just thought it was interesting that Kendrie, of all people, noticed. Maybe it takes being bald, or having been bald, to truly appreciate a haircut. To truly appreciate the choice of bangs or no bangs.

As for me, I haven’t decided if I like them or not. After two years of no bangs, it’s going to take some getting used to. And if I decide I hate them, I can always grow them out again, right?


Monday, February 13, 2006 8:48 PM CST


Dear Brayden,

Happy Birthday! Nine years ago today Blaine and I managed to fool someone in Heaven's Baby Placement Department into thinking we were mature enough to be parents, and that afternoon, you were placed in our arms. I’m not quite sure what they were thinking, as we could barely keep a houseplant alive, but we were thrilled. In fact, we haven’t stopped being thrilled since the day you were born.

I am sorry, though, that you got “starter” parents and have had to endure some of the dumber parenting mistakes that have been made in our family. Like the time I hit the “collapse” lever on the stroller and folded the whole thing by accident, with you still inside. Like the time I accidentally got your tummy-skin caught in the high-chair buckle and couldn’t figure out why you wouldn’t quit screaming. Like the first time we flew with you, a 10-month old, and let you gnaw on the flight-safety-instructions …. only to have you come down with the worst cold EVER a few days later. Like the time I lost you at church (although really, that was sort of your own fault, since you got on the elevator and pushed the button all by yourself at eighteen months and were perfectly content to wander the upper floors of the church building all alone, until a total stranger brought you back down to me, as I was near sobbing and hyperventilating by then.) Like the time … actually, maybe I should stop before I incriminate myself.

What small bits of parenting wisdom Blaine and I have gleaned over the years have most certainly come at your expense. When you are “first”, your mommy and daddy have to learn on your shift. No book or magazine prepares someone for being a parent. It might help us to develop a theory or two, but let’s be honest, all practical experience is done on the firstborn, the guinea pig of the birth-order. Then the next kid comes along and we feel like pros. So thank you for giving us nine years worth of confidence.

Thank you for bringing us, also, nine years of joy, laughter, and happiness. We love you dearly. Happy Birthday.


PS. In my previous post about the gentleman on yesterday’s flight, I want to make sure you realize that it wasn’t my intent to gripe about heavy people. I’m hardly a pixie-fairy, myself. Maybe that’s my point. Perhaps the airline should match people up at the same time they print the boarding passes, based on their physical size. I most likely wouldn’t mind sharing my seat with my neighbor’s ass, if I only weighed 100 pounds. BUT I DON’T, PEOPLE. My ass needed a seat all its own. That was my point.


Kendrie: “Well, Kellen is one inch taller than Brayden, but Dalton (our OKC cousin) is one inch skinnier than Kellen.”

PSS. M.E., we love you dearly and will be grateful to you always.

Sunday, February 12, 2006 11:27 PM CST


Day 59 OT

Attention to the hefty man who sat beside me on the airplane today: The cost for my round trip ticket to Austin was $300. That makes the cost for today’s flight home: $150. Since you took up not only the armrest, but also one-third of my seat, I think you owe me one-third of today’s cost; That will be fifty dollars, please. I take cash, check, or money order. I will use it to pay for the chiropractic appointment I need, after spending two and a half hours leaning half-way into the aisle, since I was unable to sit upright in my seat, thanks to your arm. Or perhaps I will need to give it all as recompense to the poor woman I tripped as she walked to the lavoratory, since I had to cross my leg and stick one foot way out in the aisle thanks to you and your thigh.

I didn’t want to come across as disagreeable, because you seemed pleasant enough, but next time, let me just tell you that falling asleep and snoring for an hour does not endear you to your cabin-mates. And that really, you should consider buying yourself a first-class seat.

Maybe I should use the $50 to develop a prototype of some sort of device to use on airplanes, with dividers at the shoulder, butt and thigh, so that it’s not possible for one person to appropriate another person’s space. Like a car-seat for adults.

Anyway, despite this one small inconvenience, I had a WONDERFUL weekend away! Julianna Banana, rest assured that the city of Pflugerville is all you had hoped and your term as mayor someday will be very enjoyable! And Jadine, Brianna and Madison all say HI!

As I was driving the 100 miles home from the airport, I realized how content I was. I didn’t die in a fiery crash, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in Texas, I was on my way home to children who would be sleeping angelically by the time I arrived, and Monsters of Rock was blaring in the cd player. Truly, nothing identifies me more as a child of the 80’s than my love for big-hair-arena-rock bands.

Life does not get any sweeter.


Friday, February 10, 2006 9:05 AM CST


Day 57 OT

I mentioned in yesterday’s journal entry that I was going out of town this weekend and would miss Kellen’s basketball game on Saturday. I AM the sort of mother who leaves her children two or three times a year to visit friends, or go on scrapbooking getaways …. I am NOT the sort of mother who feels guilty about it. Blaine takes perfect care of them (probably better than me, if the truth be told, since he’s willing to actually go outside and *play* with them, unlike me, who feels that feeding them and applying band-aids to bleeding wounds is enough to show adequate parental responsibility) and I know their world doesn’t stop turning simply because I go MIA for 48 hours.

I DO, however, feel great angst whenever I fly. Specifically, I worry that whatever plane I am on will fall out of the sky, plummeting me to a fiery (although blissfully quick) death and my children will grow up motherless. Or worse, with a step-mother from Hell because Blaine just couldn’t wait to get married again to someone younger, prettier, and skinnier than me.

And it’s not like I’m flying off to the Noble World Peace Summit, or to save the rain forest, or anything like that. I’m just getting away for a weekend of chocolate and gossip --- enjoyed, but not particularly necessary. So I feel anxiety whenever I fly, wondering if I’m risking the future happiness and security of my children for my own selfish whims. Although, as Blaine-Mr.-Logical so eloquently reminded me this morning as I was yammering on about it, “Look, there’s a much greater chance you’ll get killed in a car accident on the way to the airport so just shut up about it already.”

So, in the off-chance I am killed in a plane crash this weekend (I know, what kind of reasonable person sits around and obsesses about this sort of thing???? …. Oh wait, I know --- MOTHERS) I wanted this morning to be a wonderful, happy, loving, laughing time with my kids. That way, their final memories of me will be warm and affectionate.

I bought Krispy Kreeme donuts for breakfast as a treat. Can someone tell me why my 7-yr old son has not yet learned to chew with his mouth shut? No matter how many times Blaine and I remind him, he’s like Bessie the Cow chewing his cud at the dinner table. We even tried putting five nickels in front of his dinner plate and taking one away every time we caught him smacking, thinking the monetary incentive would be helpful. Nope, not a bit. Not one time did he leave the dinner table with a nickel to his name. This morning, after asking him repeatedly to please chew with his mouth closed, I finally turned to him and snapped “If you smack that donut in my ear one more time I swear I’m going to spank you!” Ah, that was warm and affectionate, wasn’t it?

Then, Brayden and I got into a fight because I was quizzing her for today’s spelling test and she didn’t know ANY of the words, because she forgot to bring home her spelling homework not once, but twice this week, which made me angry. So I kept quizzing her, which made her frustrated, which made her argumentative, which made ME insane. By the time it was over, she had stomped (literally, not figuratively) from the room muttering, “I HATE this family!” under her breath.

Then Kendrie decided she wanted to wear Kellen’s Old Navy sweatshirt (never mind she has an entire closet-full of clothes herself) and he said no. They must have bickered for ten solid minutes before I threw my hands up in the air (figuratively, not literally) and stormed out of the room, yelling, “I don’t care if you go to school NAKED, just get dressed!!!!” {That sentence doesn’t even make any sense! But that’s what they’ve reduced me to.}

Fortunately, we still had fifteen minutes before it was time to leave for school and we managed to salvage the morning. No-one was *laughing* when we walked out the door, but the tears and yelling had all stopped (theirs, and mine). There were even hugs and kisses when I walked them to their classrooms and said good-bye.

So the point of this journal entry is that if I do indeed die in a fiery plane crash this weekend (or in a car accident …. Thanks, Blaine, Mr. Voice of Reason) would someone please let my kids know that the crazy screaming woman who sat at their breakfast table actually did love them more than life? And that they better learn to chew with their mouths closed, remember their spelling homework, and dress themselves without arguing, or their new evil stepmother will eat them alive.


PS. Did anyone hear me on the Radio-a-thon for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society fundraiser this morning??? Did I sound like the biggest goober on the planet??? That's just a *little* too close to public speaking for me to be comfortable, but I really wanted to do a good job, in thanks for all the LLS does for families like ours!

Thursday, February 9, 2006 11:30 AM CST


Day 56 OT

GUILT FOR LYING: The emotion I felt driving Kellen to his basketball game Tuesday evening when he asked if I knew what team they were “versing” (his word, not mine) and I told him no, actually, I don’t.

RELIEF: The emotion I felt when he saw the giant mutant blue team walk through the doors (ducking their heads so as not to bump them on the door frame) and he didn’t immediately burst into tears or wet himself.

BIGGER RELIEF: The emotion I felt when the first quarter team lined up and Kellen was NOT guarding the giantest of giant mutant boys, #13. Here’s a visual shot from the last game, in case you missed it:

EMBARRASSMENT: The emotion I felt when Blaine looked over at me during Kellen’s first quarter of play, my fists clenched, and reminded me, “It’s just a game, honey.”

HOPEFULNESS: The emotion I felt when half-time rolled around and our team was actually ahead by four points.

ANXIETY: The emotion I felt when the teams lined up for the third quarter, and Kellen *WAS* guarding giant mutant boy #13.

GRATITUDE: The emotion I felt when the quarter ended and giant mutant boy had not squashed my son flat as a pancake.

EXCITEMENT: The emotion I felt as the minutes ticked down and it looked like our team might win the game.

EMPATHY: The emotion I felt for the little (well, comparatively speaking, anyway) boy on the other team who double dribbled three times in a row and lost the ball each time in the fourth quarter.

EXHILERATION: The emotion I felt when the final buzzer went off and we had WON!!!

SHAME: The emotion I felt when I realized that MY adult inner happy dance was at the expense of the young boys on the blue team, who were now standing to the side, trying manfully not to cry, just like our boys were doing last week when *they* lost.

LIMP WITH RELIEF: The emotion I felt when I realized the game was really and truly over and I could quit holding my breath.

DREAD: The emotion I felt when the coach reminded us that now we are tied with the blue team for first place and will most likely play them again in the championship game. Here we go again!

No wonder I was exhausted by the time we got home that night!

They’re seven, for Pete’s sake. Blaine asked me, “If it’s this bad in elementary school, how are you going to be when he’s playing for a high school championship?” and I replied, “I’m writing a sick-note that day to excuse him from the game…. I just can’t take the pressure.”

I am not a competitive person! We refused to play Pictionary with our neighbors in North Dakota twenty years ago because the wife would continually jab the pencil in my direction and yell “In your FACE!” whenever she drew a better stick figure. I don’t need that kind of tension in my life ---- yet there I sat in the stands, sweaty and anxious, for a 7-yr old basketball game. Soccer didn’t do this to me; neither did baseball. What is it about that round, orange ball that mocks me …. Calling my name …. Heckling me???

Thankfully, I will be out of town and unable to attend Kellen’s game on Saturday. I think a little breather, a little time away from the sport that taunts me so, might be just the thing. Lord knows my cortisol level could use a break.

Hope you all have a great weekend,

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 1:07 PM CST


Day 54 OT

Just in case any of you think now that Kendrie is off-treatment and our lives are plugging along (more or less) like normal, that we’ve forgotten or are less involved with the friends and families we met along the way, let me reassure you that isn’t the case. I still belong to my online support group and can’t imagine letting go of that yet. I still spend WAY too much time reading Caringbridge sites (the dust on my living room furniture will attest to this) and I still worry, celebrate, cheer, and grieve for all the kids we’ve met along the way.

A few families struggling right now that could use some support are:

Keegan, who had a relapse scare last fall, only to find out he actually *has* relapsed at this time. He is beginning a tough new protocol this week and I know his family would most likely appreciate a note of encouragement in his guestbook, if you have a spare minute or two.

Cam, who is dealing with numerous leukemia relapses, yet keeping his game face on and living life as normally as possible while awaiting yet another transplant. Truly, if you look up “tenacious” in the dictionary, you will find a photo of Cameron there! Drop him a note of support, if you can.

Alexia, also dealing with a leukemia relapse, but dealing with a whole lot more…. She and her family have relocated from their home in South America to North Carolina, just three weeks ago, so Alexia can have the transplant necessary to save her life. Although I don’t like to, I can imagine Kendrie relapsing …. I can imagine going the transplant road, although I cringe at how awful and stressful it must be and hate that ANY family has to face it. But what I can’t imagine is doing it in a foreign country, speaking a different language, far, far away from family and friends. Please drop them a quick note; Alexia’s transplant will be in less than ten days!

So don’t think that we care less, or worry less, just because the journal entries I write now are filled with the chaos, insanity, and total gooberness of our mostly-back-to-normal family. We still care about our online friends and know they would appreciate any support you can give them, too.

On to other stuff:

Kendrie stayed home from school on Thursday with a head cold. Nothing more than a case of the sniffles and the need for a good afternoon nap. Of course, always one to “practice what I preach”, I laid down with her for a few minutes and we were enjoying some together-time. Do you remember when your babies were teething, and wanted to be hugged and cuddled most of the day? Dinner didn’t get cooked and the house was a mess and the laundry piled up like Mt. Everest, but it was ok, because you got to cuddle with your baby? You knew they weren’t seriously ill, so you could just enjoy the one day where they weren’t running around like a cyclone and were content to lie on your shoulder and sleep??? Well, *I* remember it and felt like I got a small taste of that on Thursday with Kendrie. I even said to her, “I’m sorry that you don’t feel well, but I’m happy to have you home with me today so we could spend some time together” and she replied, “I remember when I first got cancer and I stayed home with you all the time. Then I got too old to hang out with you.”


This is public plea to the makers of young girls’ clothing in America (or China, or Bangladesh, or wherever the heck it is they make those clothes) to please add at least an inch or two to the waistband of blue jeans. I monitored 5th grade testing last week, and watching those girls bent studiously over the desks, pants inching down like it was a 10-yr old plumber’s convention, was not attractive! Personally I’m going to pray to the patron saint of buttcracks that something be done to stop the insanity.


I don’t know if I ever mentioned it, or said a public THANK YOU to all of you who gave donations to Kendrie’s End-of-Treatment collection (that was *supposed* to be done in lieu of gifts, even though too many people did BOTH!) We were able to make a $170 donation to Caringbridge and a $170 donation to CureSearch in honor of Kendrie, thanks to everyone’s generosity. Thank you so much!


I’m sorry we won’t be able to join all our friends at Camp Sunshine’s Family Day at the Circus this weekend. We went last year, and except for the huge fit Kendrie pitched beforehand because I had brought her the wrong clothes to wear, we had a great time. I hope all of you have a wonderful time this year, also.


One last thing --- Kendrie has re-named herself “The Handsomeness”. More specifically, "Troy ‘The Handsomeness’ Bolton", after the lead character in Disney's High School Musical. (PS Marni, I think it was you that sent the picture …. She adores it!) I only know she has given herself this new nickname because one morning last week on the way to school I heard her talking under her breath. She was practicing a public speech of sorts, mumbling things like “Don’t worry, don’t worry, you’ll all get a turn to sit next to The Handsomeness ….. wait your turn, everybody, there’s enough of me to go around” and I said to her, “Kendrie, who are you talking to?” She informed me that she was practicing what she would say when she got to school that day and all her friends wanted to be with her. I don’t know whether to call that arrogance, confidence, or just a really active imagination!


Well, wish us luck. Kellen’s basketball team is having their second game of the season against those giant mutant boys tonight. I can only hope one or two of the biggest ones have tested positive for steroids at this point and will be kicked out of the game. Otherwise, coming off last week’s loss, things could get ugly. Very, very ugly.

Hope you guys have a great night,


Friday, February 3, 2006 12:36 AM CST


Day 50 OT

***DISCLAIMER*** The following journal entry contains graphic language and imagery. It is most likely not suitable for minors, anyone who is squeamish, or anyone with a penis who has never given birth. Please read at your own risk.

I am a terrible parent. Obviously, I got cocky after the chocolate sauce episode, and seeing that shiny white tooth come out of Kendrie’s mouth. Cocky and overconfident. All that came crashing down. Twice -- not once, but twice -- in the past 24 hours I have been reminded that Blaine is actually a much better parent than me. I’m not sure why, but he is. In fact, I should hope he doesn’t file for divorce anytime soon because not only would he be granted sole custody of our children, I wouldn’t even get unsupervised visitation.

First, it was the basketball episode last night. Kellen’s team, undefeated (or “undefeatable”, as he liked to say) for the season, lost their first game. It was one of those extremely painful losses, where your team is only behind by one point with ten seconds left and you actually have a chance to sink a shot and win, and then someone on the other team steals the ball and makes a long, lucky shot and then you’re behind by three points with eight seconds to go and you know its hopeless. Painful like that. And even though they are only seven years old, and it was by no means the Final Four Championship Game, they took it pretty hard. Kellen wasn't the only team member with a quivering lip at the end.

It’s about a twenty minute drive home from the gym and Kellen was very upset. I ran the gamut of unsolicited parenting advice: “Son, losing is a part of life … at some point in time you’re going to lose homework, a job, even a girlfriend (I stole that from his coach’s talk) and there’s no reason to be upset. As long as you did your best and had fun, that’s all that matters.”

That didn’t work, so I tried a new tactic: “Kellen, it’s ok to feel sad and disappointed because you didn’t win, but it’s not OK to be a quitter” (This was after he informed me he hated basketball and never wanted to play another game.) New, cheerleader attempt: “Kellen, you’ll get ‘em next time!” but nothing was working. We got home, he went straight to his bed, pulled the covers over his head and cried for twenty minutes.

So Blaine went in the room and shut the door. Ten minutes later, Kellen came out, if not SMILING, at least markedly less depressed. I asked Blaine, “What did you say to him?” and Blaine replied, “I just told him losing was a part of life, and it happens to everyone and it’s ok to feel sad and the next game will be better.”

Um, ok. And *what* was it I had been saying the entire drive home? But obviously it worked better coming from Blaine. Episode #1, proving he is a better parent than me. I’m still not sure how or why, but chalk one up for Blaine.

Then, this morning at breakfast, we somehow got on the subject of the kids when they were babies, and newly born. My kids, like many others (I can only assume) love hearing details about their births and subsequent first year of life ….. “Who was the fattest when they were born? Who had the most hair? Which kid was it that pooped on you the first time you gave her a bath?” Those sorts of things. (PS. Kellen, Kellen, and Brayden, in that order.)

Somehow, this morning’s conversation started with Kellen commenting that all boys come out of the stomach (he was a c-section baby) and all girls come out of the pee-pees. Let me just reiterate the conversation for you, so you can form your own opinions:

Kellen: “Boy babies come out of the stomachs and girl babies come out of the pee-pees.”

Kendrie: “That’s not true. Some boy babies come out of the baginas.”

Kellen: “Well, I’m glad *I* didn’t come out of a vagina!!!”

(At this point, the giggling has started in earnest. I suppose when you’re in elementary school, “Vagina” is the funniest word on the planet.)

Kendrie: “Well, I came out of a bagina and it was fun!”

Kellen: “Fun??"

Kendrie, “Yeah, it was fun!”

Brayden: “Oh, like you really remember?”

Kendrie: “Yeah! It was like a roller coaster ride!”

(even the adults are giggling at this point)

Kendrie: “Yup, it’s a good thing I had my seat belt on!” and she proceeded to throw her arms up in the air like she was going down a big hill. “Wheeeeeeeeee!!!”

All five of us are laughing now at how silly she is being, and I see what I think is the perfect opportunity to redeem my lackluster parenting episode of last night by furthering the frivolity at the breakfast table. I say to Blaine, “Hey, hand me the salad tongs” and then I hold them up and wave them around, saying, “Yep, but at the last minute you wouldn’t get OFF the roller coaster, so the doctor took a pair of these and pulled you out this way!” (me, smiling, thinking all the kids would think that was sooooooo funny)

Instead, total silence.

Kendrie, with a horrified look on her face: “That’s not true. That didn’t happen.”

Kristie, still laughing and thinking we were all having big-fun: “Yes, it is. Your head got stuck so they grabbed hold of it with a big pair of tongs and pulled you out that way.”

At which point Kendrie renders an earth-shattering scream, runs from the table, and throws herself on her bed, crying hysterically.

And once again, I’m left sitting there, thinking, “What the hell did I do wrong? I thought we were having fun.”

Blaine looks over at me: “Smooth. Real smooth”

So he goes into her bedroom, talks to her for five minutes, and then she comes back out, giggling once again, and points to Kellen, “Yeah, but Dad says when you born, you were blue!” which she finds hysterical. (Never mind that it’s not even true.)

My point is, everything I say is wrong and everything Blaine says is right. Why is this so? I mean, *I* was the one with a baby’s head stuck in my bagina, why is she upset with me for pointing it out???

Obviously I need to re-take Parenting 101 and brush up on the chapter on age-appropriate information. Otherwise none of them are going to want to talk to me about ANYTHING! Of course, with the birds and the bees conversation coming up in a few years, maybe that’s not a bad thing. The way things are going, Blaine will be better at dispensing *those* golden nuggets of wisdom, anyway. Knowing me, I’ll just brandish salad tongs and traumatize them further.


Tuesday, January 31, 2006 8:57 PM CST


Day 47 OT

If I ever needed proof that my sister-in-law hates me, I got it today. Actually, I got it about a month ago when she sent all three children Wal-Mart Gift-Cards for Christmas.

Let me repeat, in case you didn’t catch that:

Wal-Mart. Gift-Cards. Children.

Are there any three words in the English language that when put together, can strike such fear and terror into the heart of parents? ESPECIALLY the parent who gets stuck taking them to spend the gift-cards????

I don’t mean to slur the reputation of Wal-Marts world wide. Maybe it’s only the Wal-Mart here in our town that serves as the stomping grounds to every white trash hillbilly in a tri-county area. Night or day, rain or shine, the place is packed. Packed! Where do all these people come from?? Why do they bring young children in the store at 10 pm at night? Do they really NEED all that crap they’re buying? Why are so many of them in motorized scooters with little buggies on the front? Why are the check out lines always so long? Do these people actually LIKE shopping at Wal-Mart?? And today (sigh) I had to join the masses, to spend gift-cards that had been burning a hole in my kids’ pockets ever since the holidays.

In an effort to make our after-school shopping trip as painless as possible, and allow me to keep my sanity, I laid down a few simple ground rules:

1. Any child who fights, whines, argues, pouts, or bickers, with me OR with his/her siblings, will have every item they have chosen put back on the shelf and they will go home empty-handed.

2. Each child must have one hand on the cart at all times (Even though I *know* my kids aren’t going to be snatched away from me, let’s face it …. Every urban legend about child abduction takes place at a Wal-Mart, doesn’t it?? And I’m certainly not immune to the panic those stories create.)

3. Any child who wanders off and does not stay in the same aisle as me will lose all shopping privileges for the day. Plus I will beat them when we get home.

4. If you want an item, you better make your decision and pick it up. Because I am not wandering over the hundred-acre countryside that is Wal-Mart, back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, while you change your mind twelve times about what you really want and try to maneuver me from the toy section to the music section to the sporting goods section and back to the toy section again.

5. NO!! We will NOT be buying candy at the end!! Don't even ask!

I took a deep breath, and off we went. Miraculously, we made it through the parking lot, which so many of the shoppers confuse for a Nascar speedway, and into the store without bodily harm.

Immediately, I realized there was a problem with rule #2. When you’ve got three kids hanging on to the cart, all wanting to go in different directions, it’s really hard to steer. So we quickly revamped #2 to “must be within eye sight of the cart at all times.” Very similar to rule #3, but if repetition is what it takes, so be it.

First, to the grocery department because we were out of milk at home. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend half an hour in Wal Mart and forget the milk at the end! So, milk first.

Second, to the music department, the first stop in the strategic loop of the store. I am only making ONE loop, and there will be NO back-tracking!

Brayden is obsessed with purchasing Kids Bop 9. Sadly, Wal-Mart only carries Kids Bop 1-8. So she chooses yet another Star Wars soundtrack (don’t even ask me what is up with that) and is relatively content.

Next, the disposable camera bin in front of the electronics department. Brayden claims to want one, so I put it in the cart. Then, several aisles later, she realizes that the camera combined with the CD means all her money is gone, so she’s backpedaling, fast. Kendrie says she’ll take the camera ….. but then changes her mind. Raising my voice and telling the two of them that “This is the one and the ONLY time I will put it back once we’ve left the department”, I sneakily and deceitfully put the camera on a shelf in Housewares. I hate people who do that. See what Wal-Mart has reduced me to???

Then, it’s sporting goods, where Kellen has to fondle every football in the department, before deciding he doesn’t want a football, or any kind of ball, at all. Rushing them past the protective cups before they start asking questions. And explaining to Kendrie that even combining the three gift cards will not be enough to buy them the trampoline she wants so badly. Then, moving on.

At long last, over to toys. Here’s where images of Dante’s Inferno are brought to mind, as I try to navigate my way through this section, with one kid who wants to be in the Star Wars aisle, one kid in the Bratz aisle, and one kid in whatever aisle carries the swords and weapons. Reminding the kids five hundred times that there are other shoppers who need to get through the aisle with their carts, as well, so would you please move over and quit standing in the middle of the aisle??? Telling my kids over and over that there is no need for them to push every "Try Me" button they see. Although they grumbled about rule #2, modified, they did indeed stay within eye sight of the cart, even if it meant spending twenty minutes waiting for Brayden to decide between Cloe’s or Yasmine’s Bratz Head. Waiting ten minutes while Kendrie searched high and low for an Annikan Skywalker ANYTHING, sadly disappointed. Waiting while Kellen pondered the choice between a cheesy plastic bow and arrow, or a cheesy plastic combat set. Then, in order to finish off the gift cards, because Lord knows I’m not coming back to Wal-Mart for a return visit, we head to the .88 cent aisle, where the kids have to personally inspect every piece of crap they think looks good. Or squeezy. Or even remotely interesting.

Can you believe Kendrie bought another whoopee cushion?

Finally, FINALLY, after spending half my life in toys, we head to the check out line, where Brayden sees, of all things, another disposable camera display and decides the world will stop turning if she doesn’t get one. And my heart drops to my stomach when Kellen pays and I realize he still has 92 cents left on his card ….. man, I hope he doesn’t figure that one out.

So, an HOUR AND TEN MINUTES LATER, we are back in the van, headed for home. I am exhausted. Do people actually do this sort of thing for fun? I mean, I only have three kids, and they were relatively well-behaved, for a change. But I had no choice. Damn cards. But I saw people there who I think were just spending money for the fun of it. Going to Wal-Mart by choice, not being forced as I was. Who does that????

Now, give me a quiet morning in Target, by myself, and I can browse peacefully with the best of them. But joining the frenzied fray that is Wal-Mart, in the middle of the day, with three kids, is just craziness talking. In fact, I think I might have a little PTSD at the moment. I should probably go find a jar of chocolate fudge sauce and unwind.


Sunday, January 29, 2006 7:27 PM CST


Day 45 OT

Kendrie lost her second tooth today. After jutting out at an obscene and vaguely disturbing angle for the past week or so, it finally gave way to all the pulling and poking and prodding that has been done. It’s amazing how a tiny little tooth like that can hold on for so long. But at long last, it came out.

And when it did, it was perfect. Small, white, gleaming. Pristine. No sign of cavity, crack or crater. No erosion of the enamel. And do you know why?

Because I am a perfect mother. One who doesn’t subject her children to un-necessary sugar consumption. One who would hide in the laundry room, finishing off the jar of chocolate fudge sauce herself rather than risk exposing her innocent babies to a lifetime of dental decay. See? SEE? See what I endure for the sake of these kids??? The personal sacrifice on my part?

****If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go back and read the previous journal entry.

Feeling smugly justified,

One big bag Oreos
One stick butter
One half gallon vanilla ice cream*
One large jar chocolate fudge sauce**
One large tub Cool Whip

Crush/chop Oreos (leaving the filling in) and mix with one stick melted butter (leaving a few crushed Oreos in reserve). Spread in bottom of 13x9 pan as “crust” then place in freezer for ten minutes to harden. The next layer is the ice cream. It’s easiest to buy it in the rectangle container, then use an electric knife to cut it into slabs. Place over crust, making the layer as even as possible. The next layer is the hot fudge ….. then put back in the freezer to allow the fudge to firm up a bit. The next layer is the Cool Whip, then sprinkle the reserve Oreos on for looks. Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Another version calls for using Nutter Butters instead of Oreos, caramel sauce instead of hot fudge, and adding in a layer of peanuts.

*The original recipe called for Coffee flavored ice cream (blech!) I’ve also made it with Mint Chocolate Chip, which is good. Use your imagination!

**If you want to be a good mom, hide in the laundry room with any unused fudge and eat it all yourself. Do NOT share with your children. Their teeth and their dentist will thank you later.


Friday, January 27, 2006 3:30 PM CST



Day 43 OT

I have done a bad thing. Not felony bad. Not penance and rosary bad (especially considering I’m not even Catholic). But slightly-feel-guilty-as-a-mother bad.

We were invited to a friend’s house for dinner tonight. I offered to bring dessert. I have a pretty yummy Oreo Ice Cream Dessert that is usually a success, so I went to Kroger today to buy the ingredients: Oreos (big surprise), butter, vanilla ice cream, one large container Cool Whip, and one large jar of chocolate fudge sauce. Only Kroger didn’t have any large jars of chocolate fudge. If you know me, you know the chocolate fudge is the most crucial part of any recipe. Not one to take chances, I covered my bases by buying two medium jars, to make sure I had enough to ensure proper fudginess of the dessert. I am nothing if not prudent.

Sure enough, while making the dessert after picking the kids up from school, I discovered I had too much fudge. No crises there, I had several choices. Re-cap the left-over fudge and put it in the fridge for some other time, yell for the kids to come in the kitchen and give them each a spoonful of fudge as a treat (that is the option that a good parent would have chosen, in my opinion) or just pitch the leftover fudge in the trash. Can you guess which option I chose?

That’s right, Option D, none of the above: I hid in the laundry room and ate the rest of the jar all by myself, without sharing. At all. With anyone.

I should feel guilt. I should feel shame. I should feel gluttonous. Actually, I do feel a little nauseous from the sugar high, from which I am currently crashing. The real irony is that I made my kids eat fruit for an after-school snack, insisting there weren’t enough Oreos left for them to have any.

But all told, no real guilt. Nope, none at all. Not one bit.

Fudge, anyone?


Wednesday, January 25, 2006 8:40 AM CST


Day 41 OT

Ok, so maybe I don’t have PROOF-proof, unless you count the brains splattered on the windshield of my van from when my head exploded this morning during the drive to school.

Did anyone else, with kids under the age of 12 or so, have to endure the High School Musical Disney Countdown last Friday night? I mean, the hoopla leading up to this magnificent event would have led you to believe its importance rivaled the birth of the baby Jesus, or something. And Disney didn’t help matters either, by beginning the previews, oh, about last October, for pete’s sake. My kids were more excited for the premiere of High School Musical (“Premieres at 8 o’clock, 7 o’clock central, Mom!!!”) than they were for Christmas. One good thing to come out of it was that I was able to get 48 hours excellent behavior out of all three of them, just by threatening that anyone who argued, whined, pouted, sulked, fought, or so much as breathed funny would be sent to their rooms, at precisely 8 o’clock, 7 o’clock central. So I guess I should thank the marketing wizards at Disney for that. And maybe it even helped them with their time-telling skills, considering there was a countdown timer in the right hand corner of the tv screen all day. Who knows?

But we watched it as a family, and were appropriately impressed with our children’s sing-along abilities, and Kendrie’s break-dancing talent, that she insisted on showing us during this song (that is playing now) which is her new favorite song. We laughed, we cried, we cheered as Troy and Gabriella overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles in order to fulfill their destinies of starring in the Twinkletown Musical ….. you get the picture.

In case you were one of the lucky few who didn’t actually see the show (it’s really not that bad, as much as I’m making fun of it) it’s about a star basketball player and a “brainiac” who decide they want to try out for the school musical, much to the chagrin of their friends, team-mates, and families. According to the friends and team-mates, everyone has one thing they are good at, only one. To attempt doing anything else will apparently irrevocably alter the order and harmony of the universe. Or something like that.

The co-captain of the basketball team is especially offended, and thinks Troy is jeopardizing the team’s chances of winning the championship game, by not focusing on the team and thinking of the musical tryouts instead. He’s obviously never head of multi-tasking, or seen a mother cook dinner, help with homework, bathe the dog, and fold a load of laundry, all at the same time.

So anyway, long explanation notwithstanding for me to get to the point!!! The message the basketball players are trying to give this guy is “Stick with what you know, go with the flow”, ie, don’t mess up the one thing you do well by trying to do something new. There’s a big musical number in the cafeteria to this effect, and that is what leads me to my conversation with Kendrie this morning.
It was actually the third or fourth time we’ve had this conversation since she saw the show last Friday. It goes pretty much like this:

Kendrie: “Mom, I have a question about High School Musical”

Kristie: (rolling eyes, thinking Dear Lord, here we go again) “Yes, sweetie, what is it?”

Kendrie: “You know how in the cafeteria, and the basketball team is being so mean to Troy, telling him he can only do one thing?”

Kristie: “mmm-hmmm” (Yep, here it comes)

Kendrie: “Well, were they really being mean, or were they just pretending?”

Kristie: “Well, in the show they were really being mean. But you know that they are all actors, and it’s just a movie, so really they were just pretending.”

Kendrie: “So they weren’t being mean?”

Kristie: “Well, they were pretending to be mean”

Kendrie: “So they really WERE being mean?”

Kristie: (getting a little exasperated) “They were *supposed* to be mean when they were acting. But it’s all pretend.”

Kendrie” “Because they were acting pretty mean.”

Kristie: “Yes, that’s what they want you to think.”

Kendrie: “So for real, truly, they were being mean?”

Kristie: “Well, yes. But only in the movie. I’m sure they’re not mean in real life.”

Kendrie: “You don’t understand what I’m asking you!!!” (getting very upset)

Kristie: (breathing tightly through nose … wondering who that Job character is and if I can borrow some of his patience) “No, I guess I don’t. Ask me again so I can understand and try to explain better.”

Kendrie: (gathers thoughts, tries a new tactic) “Well, ok. In the cafeteria, were they ***really*** being mean, or just pretending to be mean???”

Oh, dear God, and it just goes on and on and never stops!

Does ANYONE understand what she’s asking me? I'm actually looking forward to our little talk about the birds and the bees in a few years, as I can't help but think that it's gotta be easier than this!


Sunday, January 22, 2006 10:00 PM CST


Day 38 OT

Well, I only need three words to sum up the experience we had on Saturday night:

Ho. Ly. Cow!

Wow, what an evening we had! And of course, as you all know, I’m not able to answer even a “yes or no” question in only three words, so let me go ahead and give you all the details!

We got an invitation from the Georgia chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society about two weeks ago to attend an Atlanta Thrashers Hockey Game as part of their All-Star Kids Initiative, a program designed to support the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer charitable program. I won’t go into great detail, but you can find more information on this wonderful program at Hockey's All-Star Kids.

Now, I am the first to admit that we’ve gotten to do some pretty neat things due to Kendrie’s leukemia. We’ve attended Camp Sunshine Family Camp Weekends, the Lighthouse Family Retreat, Give Kids the World Village, Light the Night, attended a Braves game with CureSearch, attended the CURE Family Picnic, and various other activities as well. I’ve said it before …. I’d much rather have sat at home watching Lizzie McGuire re-runs, with three healthy kids, but it didn’t work out that way. So I feel very blessed that so many organizations work so hard to offer these programs, and very fortunate that our family has been able to take part.

So, ok. Back to the hockey game. Not only did the LLS invite our family to attend the game, but Terri with LLS wanted to know if Kendrie would be interested in helping throw down the puck before the game! Wow, are you kidding?? Seriously??? Would she be interested??? ------- Um, what exactly does that mean? See, what I know about basketball could fit in a thimble, and I know even less about hockey.

Plus, my mind immediately leapt to last summer’s grand opening of Tooner Park at Turner Field before the Braves game, where Kendrie was supposed to stand on stage while the ceremonial ribbon was being cut. She didn’t have to touch the scissors, or do anything more than stand there with a group of about fifteen other kids, and she wimped out. Total chicken. And now we’re asking her to step out on the ice before the Thrashers game, in front of 15,000 or so screaming hockey fans, and actually **DO** something?????

So I told Terri that while I appreciated the invitation, I had a more-than-slight concern that she might back out at the last second and I didn’t want to take any chances on messing up the big event …. I thought it might be safer to find another kid. But Kendrie insisted she wanted to do it, and Terri was a good sport about it, so with some hesitation, we accepted.

Fast forward to last night’s game.

First, we received premium parking passes and were able to get into the stadium half an hour before the general public to take advantage of all the cool, free, kid-friendly things that were happening. I felt quite smug walking past all the fans standing outside in the rain, as we munched on free popcorn and ice cream.

We were supposed to meet at our seats at 6:15, but weren’t quite sure where they were, so we asked for directions. I knew there would be a group of us sitting together, so I was sort of hoping for one of those boxes that companies sometimes reserve. But instead of going down near the ice, we were taken up, up, up; rode in an elevator that had an official button-pusher-person, and then were told to check in for our suite so it could be unlocked for us …. Blaine and I just sort of looked at each other. Suite? Unlocked?? Were we in the right place?

Then, they showed us to the suite and I knew for sure that they had us confused with Donald Trump!

Kellen’s first comment was, “Hey, this is nicer than any of the hotels we’ve ever stayed at!” Boasting a fridge, ice maker, wet bar, with food and beverage bar already set up, you’re right, son! Sofas, tables, tv screens, and seats that jutted out over the rest of the arena …. Let’s just say that our three-dollar general-seating tickets to the ball games back home won’t ever be the same!

Apparently we were in the private suite of one of the Atlanta players, Ilya Kovalchuk. Now, I have no idea who that is, but maybe this picture of him as a bobble head that they were passing out last night will help:

I did a little online research to find out more about him …. All I know now is that he was born in Russia (oh yeah, with a name like *Kovalchuk* I thought he must be from Iowa!) and that he was born in 1983. Blaine and I were extremely depressed to realize he hadn’t even been born when we graduated from high school, yet probably made more money last year alone than we’ll ever make in our lives. Oh, well. Whatever.

I was told that he owns (rents?) the suite for the entire season and sometimes when he’s not using it personally, he’ll give the seats away to organizations, like he did for the LLS last night. So while I still know nothing about him, I think that is a wonderful thing to do.

We sat around for about half an hour, the kids gluttonously-fascinated by the hot dogs, sandwiches, chips, chicken tenders, cookies and soda that was all just there for the taking. (Honestly, it was a little embarrassing. You’d think I never fed them at home.) The other cancer-kid who was going to help drop the puck, a cute 6-yr old lymphoma-survivor named Flynn, showed up and soon it was time to head downstairs.

We had been talking this event up for the past two weeks with Kendrie, making sure she understood what was going on and that she was still excited (and more importantly, WILLING!) to do it. She purported great enthusiasm in the days beforehand, and again in the suite, but began wilting on the way down to the ice. She wanted to hold my hand, then she wanted me to carry her, then she was burying her face in my leg and with only a few minutes to go, it was all-out tears and protestations that she was NEVER going out on the ice!!! “It’s too scary!” “There are too many people!” “What if the players accidentally smack me with their sticks when I’m out there?”

I, of course, ran the good-mothering gamut of responses, from “It’s ok, honey, mommy will be right behind you” to “You’ve been so brave to fight cancer, I just know you are brave enough to do this, also” to “Kendrie, sweetie, it’s not going to be that bad” to “Get your butt out on that ice right now, young lady, you said you would do it and you’re going to!”

Thankfully, the representatives from LLS and the Thrashers were extremely patient and encouraging, and she actually sucked it up and agreed to go out there, but only if I could stand right beside her. So we waited for a few minutes in the penalty box while the lights were flashing all around, and the music was blaring, and the players took to the ice while the crowd roared all around us. I was worried all these things would start to overwhelm her, but exactly the opposite happened. Flynn was standing there, calm as a cucumber, and I guess Kendrie decided this was pretty stinking cool after all! And hey, if HE could do it, surely she could, too! She leaned over when it was time, grabbed hold of her side of the puck, and marched right out there without a backward glance at me! (Which, of course, left me standing there looking pretty stupid, but I guess it was worth it.)

Being introduced to the sold-out crowd at Philips Arena, and meeting the players. I asked her if they said hello to her, and she said, “No, they said ‘Pleased to meet you’ “ I don’t know why that struck me as funny, but it did.

Tossing down the puck for the team representatives to swat at. After, she and Flynn were both given actual NHL pucks as keepsakes, which was extremely awesome in her book. PS. I have to give Blaine kudos for getting these pictures. He and Brayden and Kellen were still up in the suite, and he grabbed my camera with my mamba-jamba telephoto lens, and did a pretty good job, if I say so myself!

Then, when we were walking back through the “backstage” area to head back to our seats, there was a lady who was kind enough to “recognize” Kendrie and tell her what a great job she had done and ask her for her autograph. I’m sure I’ll never see her again, but if I did, I would tell her thank you for doing such a nice, un-necessary thing. You should have seen how proud Kendrie was to put her John Hancock on that lady’s ticket.

Funny thing, though. Later in the game there was a private autograph session for the All-Star Kids with Bobby Holik, an Atlanta player on injured-reserve. When we told Kendrie it was time for the autograph session, she assumed *he* must want *her* autograph and took her pen with her. She asked me, “Mom, why are all these kids here? Do they ALL want mine and Flynn’s autographs?” I had to explain to her that it was actually the other way around, and she was supposed to be happy to be on the receiving end!

Shortly after the Thrashers Mascot made a private appearance in our suite, thrilling all the kids (and a few adults as well!) it was time for us to go.

We had eaten all the free food, drunk all the free sodas, gathered our bobble heads, pucks, jerseys, autographed items, blow-up hockey sticks and Thrashers bracelets that we could carry. We staggered under the weight back to the van, with smiles on our faces the whole way.

Considering I don’t even understand hockey, and the Thrashers got beat, it was still a remarkable evening. From the amazing hospitality we were shown, to the pride I felt when Kendrie conquered her nerves and stepped out on that ice, it was a night to remember.

Many. Many thanks to Terri with LLS, the Atlanta Thrashers, and Ilya Kovalchuk for their graciousness. I’m sure every All-Star Kid there had just as wonderful of a time as we did.

I hope everyone else’s weekend was just as fun,


Thursday, January 19, 2006 8:11 AM CST


Day 35 OT

Yet another way my children differ from me, in the same vein as athletic ambition, is their bizarre-o desire to exercise. They think it’s fun. What’s up with that????

Anyway, we were watching my girlfriend Renee’s two sons the other night while she and her husband were at the Bon Jovi concert (yeah, see? Standing on my chair, waving a cigarette lighter in the air, and ogling Ritchie Sambora, that’s my kind of exercise!) and the kids decided they wanted to have an “Exercise Contest”. As long as they didn’t expect ME to take part, I agreed to humor them and serve as the Exercise Judge. I’m still not exactly sure what my duties were, since basically they just jumped around the living room, screaming “Watch me! Watch me!” before colliding with one another and then falling down and laughing hysterically. (Confirms my personal suspicion that endorphins are actually NOT good for you!) But they seemed to have a good time, and anything that has the potential to burn off a little energy before bed is A-ok in my book.

Always remember to stretch out and warm up those muscles, right?

Kendrie and her boyfriend Nicholas have apparently been arm-wrestling at recess (ah, young love) and she is trying to bulk up so she doesn’t lose to him anymore. Obviously, doing reps with your tongue sticking out of your mouth is better for you, so she's well on her way to arm-wrestling glory.

Jumping jacks, now, everyone together!

OK, could my son look any dorkier? Is it even possible? Don’t worry Renee, “total dorkdom” isn’t contagious.

Er, at least I don’t think so.

Well, it’s good to know SOMEONE is making good on my New Years Resolution to exercise more!

Have a great day,


Brayden was reading her library book to Blaine last night and I was in the same room (cutting out laminated papers for a teacher, imagine that!) while she regaled him with the life story of Babe Ruth. She got to the part about “Babe held the home run record for many years with 60 home runs until Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa broke it...” and I looked over at Blaine, crooked my eyebrow and said, “And hey, Babe Ruth did it without taking steroids.”

The next page of the book stated, “Babe Ruth died in 1948 of cancer…..”

Brayden paused, and then looked at me and said, “Well no wonder he died of cancer, if he wouldn’t take his steroids!”

Sunday, January 15, 2006 9:22 PM CST


Day 31 OT

Thanks so much to all of you (many of you teachers yourselves!) who wrote in the guestbook to let me know you would rather run through Hell wearing gasoline-soaked underpants than listen to children read at school. I have to say, I’m feeling much better about myself, knowing I’m in such good company!

Now, we turn our attention to an equally drastic matter: The fact I appear to be turning into one of those obnoxious sports parents.

Let me just say, in my own defense, the words “sports” and “Kristie” have never been used in the same sentence. I’ve never played team sports, or any kind of solo sport, unless you count cross-stitching. The most athletic thing I did in high school was sing in the Glee Club. Well, that’s not completely true. I was a member of the Drill Team (those girls in the short skirts who march with the band at halftime and carry pom-poms) but definitely not the most coordinated one.

Once, when we were lined up doing our high kicks (which were not very high for me because my legs were too chubby .... sadly, there goes my Rockettes career) I got my shoe caught in my best friend Susie’s skirt and essentially de-pantsed her in the front of the entire school. She wasn’t so happy about that. And once I got Jimmy Paisley’s trombone slide caught in my pom--pom and vaulted it into the crowd at a football game. That probably wasn’t the high point of my Dance Squad career, either.

My point is that outside of catching a fabulous shoe sale at Nine West, I’ve never really known the thrill of athletic conquest for myself. Reached out and grabbed the golden ring, as it were, or tasted the spoils of the victor. Nope, a rousing game of Cranium is about as vigorous as it gets for me.

Luckily, our kids take after Blaine and have a smidge more athletic ambition than I did. So far, they’ve partaken of soccer, t-ball, baseball, dance, and gymnastics. They’ve not been particularly fabulous at any of it, but at least they are coordinated enough that they don’t embarrass themselves like I probably would have when I was young. And I have always been the parent who sits on the sidelines, cheering and rooting them on, but clapping for the other team as well. I really do hate poor winners as much as I hate poor losers, so it’s been easy for me to stress the fun of the game, as opposed to the importance of winning over losing. Plus, up to this point, sports for my kids has been all about the snack at the end of the game. And honestly, is that such a terrible way to live your life?

Then, Kellen started playing basketball this season. What I know about basketball could fit in a thimble. But that’s ok because Kellen already has a coach and he doesn’t need me hollering at him. I show up, I clap and cheer whenever anyone on our team makes a basket and don’t get worked up about anything else. I mean, it’s just a game, after all.

Until the game this Saturday, when my unbeknownst-to-me, long-lost, deep-buried competitive nature reared its ugly head.

It started out as a normal day, much like any other. We arrived at the gym a few minutes early and got to watch the game before ours play out. Then, just as Kellen’s team was warming up, we saw the opposing team walk through the door. My first thought was, “What is a high school team doing here in a 7 and 8 yr old league?” If you know Kellen, you know he is tall for his age. Not freakishly tall, but a good half a head taller than most of his classmates. He’s 7, and is still one of the tallest on his 7-8 yr old team. But, check out the kid he was assigned to guard:

All I can say is that 8 yr old's parents must be going BROKE buying Wheaties for the boy!

Needless to say, at the end of the first quarter, the score was 10-1 …. and not in our favor. But since I’m not competitive by nature, that was ok. Just remember, it’s all about having fun. Fun and snacks. Then, something amazing happened. Our team, shorter and smaller though they were, began to find chinks in the armor of the mutant giant team. By halftime, the score was 18-10, and our boys weren't backing down at all. Hey …. this was starting to get interesting.

The third quarter, the crowd around me was rallying our team and we managed to gain on them even more, only trailing by six points when the fourth quarter began. And point by point, basket by basket, we began to close the gap, while the clocked ticked away in the quarter.

Before I realized what had happened, I was on my feet with the rest of the parents, “Woof, woof!”-ing every time we scored and pumping my fist in the air, actually working up a bit of a sweat with my whooping and hollering. When we sank the basket that tied the game in the final seconds, I was jumping up and down on the metal bleachers and making quite an impressive racket with the heels of my favorite boots (I told you, Nine West has nothing on me!) and screaming like we had just scored Olympic gold. Brayden looked over at me, with a horrified look on her face and simply said, “Mom, what are you doing?” I hadn’t shown that much emotion since Rupert won a million dollars on Survivor.

When the final buzzer went off and the other team realized we had tied them (the only game this season they haven’t won, apparently) the lady behind me was shouting, “Uh, huh, now THAT’S what I’m talking about!!!” and I was gesticulating wildly in the stands, supplying my own “You go girl, tell it like it is!” and knocking people about the head with my victory dance.

Truly, me discovering my untapped athletic competitive nature in this fashion, was ugly. But I had tasted the fruit of rivalry, of coming from behind and thwarting a competitor, and I liked it. I was already planning where I could purchase orange and black face paint for next week’s game, and maybe buy one of those hats with the can-holders and straws on the side, when Kellen ran up to me and said the one thing that could pull me back to reality: “Mom, look! The snack lady brought my favorite flavor of Power-Ade, woohoo!”

Ok, whew. Thanks for bringing me back down to earth, kid, and for reminding me that all that matters is having fun. Well, that and the snack.

Hope you all had a great weekend, as well.


I was driving the kids to a birthday party on Saturday which was being held at a bowling alley we had never been to. Kendrie was worried I didn’t know the way, despite my reassurances that I knew where the alley was and that we wouldn’t be late. She kept saying, “But are you sure you know where it is?” and finally Kellen replied, “Of course she knows. She’s a mom, she knows everything.” (Because this is what I tell them all the time) to which Kendrie replied, “Uh-uh. I bet she doesn’t know how to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” At which point I turned around and spelled it for her. Whether I got it right or not, who knows? The important thing is that *she* doesn’t know how to spell it either and I still have my bluff in on her!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 8:24 AM CST


Day 27 OT

Everyone has a few things in life that, no matter how hard they try, no matter how much they want to succeed, they are simply not good at. Or don’t enjoy doing. Or have tried, and should NEVER, EVER do again. For me, it’s singing karaoke in public. Playing any kind of sport that requires any athletic ability in the least. And finding the image in those damn Magic Eye Pictures. No matter how hard I try, listening to my friends go on and on about how easy it is … “just relax your eyes, can’t you see the {insert} duck/bunny/house in the middle? You’re not relaxing” No, no, NO … I can’t see it!!!!! AAAaaggggghhhhh! I hate those things!

Oh, and one other thing I don’t like to do and try to avoid at all costs: spending time with children.

Now, obviously, I have three kids, so I spend time with them, no matter what. And even though they drive me crazy, I usually enjoy being with them.

No, I’m talking about spending my FREE time with children. Specifically, with children that are not my own, doing things that I don’t like to do. Even more specifically, volunteering to read with children at the elementary school my kids attend. Even more, more specifically, ***being volunteered*** to read with kids. Stay-at-home moms everywhere know just what I’m talking about, don’t you?

I spend a LOT of time volunteering at my kids’ school. And I like it. I spend every Tuesday helping three different teachers organize their weekly take-home folders. I am the official PTO secretary and the un-official PTO photographer. So far this year, I have worked Picture Day, the Book Fair, the Secret Santa Workshop, PTO fundraisers, and proctored 4th grade and 5th grade testing. I am in my kids’ classroom for every holiday party, Parent’s Day, Career Day (even though I don’t technically have a career …. at least not one I get paid for!) Craft Day and Cooking Activity, and I have helped make cupcakes to celebrate the PTO monthly birthday party. I have shelved books in the library and helped pass out pizza for reading reward parties. You know what? I don’t mind at all. In fact, I kind of like it.

I like being able to keep an eye on my kids, and on the kids that my kids hang out with. I like getting to know the teachers, the administration, and the other parent volunteers. I like being a part of the activities, most of which are fun. There’s a reason Blaine and I decided I wouldn’t work (besides the fact I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up) …. that we don’t live in a bigger house or drive newer cars or vacation in Acapulco every Spring Break. For now, *this* is my job, and I like it, even though the monetary compensation leaves a little to be desired.

But there is one thing I do NOT like to do: read with children. Read to children. Have children read to me.

I do not like to read to kids,
I do not want to, God forbid.
And if I had to, if I did,
I’d rather eat a giant squid.

If I wanted to work one on one with kids, especially kids who are struggling, I would have gone to school to be a teacher. Or a tutor. Or even taken the class to be a substitute. But it’s not a passion I have. It’s not even something I do very well. I have a tendency to yawn --- a lot --- whenever I’m being read to. It’s boring. It’s even boring when my own kids do it. And really, yawning in front of your own kid is rude enough …. Yawning in front of some other kid, not even related to you, is even ruder.

I’m not good at it. I don’t enjoy it. I. Don't. Want. To.

I tried it last year. For six weeks, I showed up every Thursday afternoon to read with a very sweet boy in the 5th grade. He was a quiet, polite, well-mannered kid. His reading skills were atrocious. Listening to him read made me want to plug my ears with those little things you stick in the ends of your corn on the cob. I was not good at pretending to be fascinated, or thinking up questions to ask him, or quizzing him on what he had just read to see if his problem was actually reading, or retention. Don’t you think if I had ANY of those skills, I would have gone into teaching as a profession???

So, I did what any normal, cowardly, person would do. I lied. I told his teacher that since my youngest daughter was being treated for cancer and I never knew exactly when we might need to go to Atlanta, or when she might be feeling poorly, I didn’t think I was reliable enough to be a weekly reading helper. It was not only a lie, it was a big fat lie. Truth was, I just hated it, but didn’t have the guts to say so.

But it got me out of it, and that's all that mattered.

Then, yesterday, it happened. A different teacher asked if I would be available to come in once a week to be a (sigh) reading tutor. Believe me, I understand that some kids need an extra boost. I understand that there just aren’t enough hours in the day for the teacher to do it all herself, and that stay-at-home moms like me … who have **chosen** to stay home so we can be as involved as possible, are sometimes their best hope for back up.

But please, ask me to help kids make an igloo out of cotton balls, or help with the costumes for the Literary Parade. Ask me to organize the games for 50's Night, or donate for the Bake Sale. Ask me to bring three dozen juice boxes for a class party, or take home seven hundred laminated papers that need to be cut into the shape of Mount Rushmore. I’m happy to sit in for the 3rd grade writing tests next Wednesday and Thursday (that reminds me, I’ve got to put that on my calendar!) or help decorate the bulletin boards in the commons area.

Just whatever you do, don’t ask me to read with kids. Because now that Kendrie is off-treatment, I’ve got to come up with some other fib about why I’m unavailable for that particular project. Who would have ever thought I would long for the “good ole’ days” when I could use her chemo schedule as an excuse???

Wish me luck coming up with another one, because I sure as heck won’t find the courage to just tell the truth,


We were sitting at dinner the other night, trying to entice Kendrie to actually eat some of the fresh fruit I had put on her plate and not make an entire meal out of the shredded cheese we had sitting on the table. I was explaining that shredded cheese is a “topping” for spaghetti, not a food group in and of itself. She said cheese is what she likes (simple enough, right?) and all she wanted for dinner. Exasperated, I made the comment, “Kendrie, before chemo, you used to eat fruit all the time …. You *have* to start eating it again because it’s healthy for you” and Brayden, always the helpful one, chimed in with, “Yeah, but Mom, I remember you saying that the medicine she took might have made her taste bugs like different things.”

Taste bugs?

It was so cute I barely had the heart to correct her. But I did. Because that’s my job as a parent, to squelch every cute thing they do. And try not to yawn when they read to me.

Friday, January 6, 2006 8:25 PM CST


And by “They”, I mean those never-ending, life-sucking prescription refills!

Day 22 OT

Kendrie had her first off-treatment check up today in Atlanta. She was not real happy about the finger-stick, and was showing off the “giant hole” in her finger to anyone who would look the rest of the day, making quite a production out of it. I think if she could have gotten away with adding a limp, or perhaps an ace bandage around her head, she would have.

Her blood counts were perfect, though, right where her oncologist wants them to be. He even said that unless she starts having any troubles, we don’t need to bring her back for two months. He does want to check her blood work every four weeks, but next month we can just run her to the lab on base and have the results faxed up. She won’t miss an entire day of school, and I won’t have to drive back to Atlanta until March --- how odd will that seem?!?!? No complaints here, though. She does have what appears to be a fairly-typical post-treatment rash on her arms and one side of her face. No treatment necessary except for a topical anti-itch cream, unless it doesn’t go away in a few weeks. And that was it --- fairly anticlimactic for our first visit ….. JUST the way I wanted it to be!

So I was driving home this afternoon, feeling all smug about how we seem to be successfully leaving our treatment days behind, one baby-step at a time, and what a nice feeling it is to be cruising along with nothing more treacherous than a monthly finger-stick in our path … when it happened. The wake-up call that no, indeed, reminded me I have no business being so full of myself, thinking we’ve left the world of leukemia behind. The wake-up call disguised as: PRESCRIPTION REFILLS.

Now, although Kendrie is technically off-treatment, she still takes two different oral pill prescriptions each night for chemo cough, still takes her Bactrim (antibiotic) four times a week, and we keep a stash of both Zofran (anti-nausea med) and Miralax (stool softener) on hand just because *those* lovely side effects could pop up at any time and we certainly don’t want to be caught unprepared. Naturally, four of these five prescriptions came close to running out right around the same time this week … even more naturally, they are all four filled at different pharmacies in our town. Just what is UP with that???

Only one pharmacy in town can flavor the Bactrim, so we go there for that. Only one pharmacy (naturally, on the other side of town) has dissolvable Zofran, so we go there for that. The pharmacy closest to our home is where one prescription is filled, and Blaine gets the fourth filled at the pharmacy on base. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but that’s just they way it worked out. We’ve been doing it this way for the past twenty-seven months, so no big deal, really, until they all run out at once.

Now, being the savvy cancer-parent that I am, I called all the refills in ahead of time so I wouldn’t waste time standing around in the pharmacies. Lord knows I’ve got important things to do with my time …. like organize Kellen’s underwear drawer, or arrange all of Brayden’s Bratz dolls in alphabetical order, or something. I was going to be wasting enough time driving all over God’s green earth from pharmacy to pharmacy as it was. So, after dinner tonight, instead of spending quality family time with my husband and kids, I drove to the pharmacy closest to home and got the first refill … no problem. I then drove across town to the second pharmacy, only to be told they only had ten of the thirty pills on the script, and could I come back Monday to pick up the rest??? Fine (sigh) I’ll come back Monday.

Then I drove (across town the OTHER way, of course --- visualize a triangle, and me making trips to all three points) to the third pharmacy, only to have the tech tell me “it was too soon to get the med refilled”. Of course, she said it loudly …. “YOU’RE TRYING TO GET IT REFILLED BEFORE YOU ARE ALLOWED ANY MORE” Why not just put a flashing neon “Drug Abuser” sign over my head??? Really, how embarrassing. I replied, (in an equally-loud voice so the people in line behind me would know I wasn’t really a drug-seeking loser) “Well, my DAUGHTER only has enough ANTIBIOTIC to see her through the weekend, so I don’t see how it can be too soon.” She double checked and said, “Oh, it says right here that your insurance company says they won’t refill it until tomorrow. You’ll have to come back then unless you want to pay the whole thing now.” Tomorrow. Are you kidding me???? One measly day? Embarrassing as it was, I couldn’t stop the snort and “Oh, for God’s sake” comment that came out of my mouth. I seriously considered paying for it, bearing in mind it would be another hour of my time the next day, and the gas it would take to get over there …. But decided not to, on principle. Of course, tomorrow when I’m driving back to one pharmacy and Monday when I’m driving back to the second, I’ll probably be grumbling a different tune.

So as I was driving home (oh, and by the way did I mention that I managed to spend $80 in the grocery store that houses pharmacy #3?) complaining to Blaine on my cell phone about how I spent two hours and $80, and was still only coming home with one and a half of my four refills, I realized ….. we still have a ways to go. Kendrie will be on these meds at least three months …. More like six for the Bactrim. I guess it’s to keep me humble. Or just drive me crazy, I’m not sure.

I’m telling you, pharmacy school would have been worth it just for the free samples. In the meantime, Kendrie and I will both keeping trying to find our Grail. Although I’m not a huge Monty Python fan (as in, not at all) I just love this song that was sent to me and think it’s perfect for coming off treatment. Especially for a mom who's being driven insane by presciption refills --- for a kid who doesn't even technically *have* cancer anymore!!! (But that's so fun to say!) :)

Please keep our friend Catie in mind as she and her parents Jenny and Tre’ prepare for her surgery on Monday, a third attempt by the surgeons to remove ALL the remaining tumor from her brain. I’m very hopeful that this is IT for sweet little Catie and she can move on to her life WITHOUT cancer, like she deserves!

Hope you all have a great weekend,


Wednesday was our final day of Christmas vacation and I wanted it to be a good one for my kids, so we: ate lunch with friends at one of their favorite restaurants, went to see a matinee of “Cheaper by the Dozen 2”, went with said friends to a local park for an hour and a half, and went to a friends’ house for another hour to jump on their trampoline. Then, it was time to take Kellen to his first basketball scrimmage and I made sure to pack crayons and coloring books for the girls so they wouldn’t’ be bored.

By the time it was over, we had been gone from 11am until 7pm, no dinner, and we were all hungry. Kendrie said she wanted to go to McDonalds for dinner and I said, no, even though we needed to do fast food, for time’s sake since it was a school night, I would prefer Wendy’s so I could get a baked potato … something with a little more substance than Chicken McNuggets. Kendrie had the nerve to look me right in the face, after I spent eight hours and countless dollars doing fun things with her this day, and say, “NO fair! I never get to do anything that *I* want to do!!!”

I’ll remind her of that on the next vacation day that I make them spend all day shopping for groceries, putting away laundry, cleaning the gutters, and re-grouting the tile floor in the bathroom.

Monday, January 2, 2006 12:20 AM CST



Day 18 OT

So, like everyone else, I’ve made my New Years Resolutions for this year, and once again, have vowed to lose the same twenty pounds I’ve been trying to lose since I was a teenager. (snort! I’ll never lose those twenty pounds unless I have them surgically removed!) Quite frankly, I’m too lazy to work for world peace, or save any whales or rain forests, so this year, I set my sights a little lower. I set goals that I thought might be “do-able” for me. I’ll detail them for you, with photo hints, and we can play a little game called “Succeed or Fail?”

Yesterday, Jan 1st, the bright, shining, optimistic NEW day to a NEW year, did Kristie succeed or fail already at her resolutions??? Let’s play:

Resolution #1: No more washing laundry, and then drying laundry, and then leaving the clothes either a) in the dryer for a week, or b) in laundry baskets in my bedroom, waiting to be folded. I am really, really bad about this. So, did I succeed or fail?

Well, since this was the view from my bed late last night, three baskets of clean laundry that needed to be folded and put away, obviously Resolution #1 was a big fat FAILURE already. It’s always so sad to be off to such a dismal start, isn’t it?

Resolution #2: Eat healthier. I officially give up on the twenty pounds, but really, would it kill me to lay off the snack food and soda? So, the first day of the first month of the new year, did I succeed or fail?

Well, this is the bag sitting beside my computer late last night …. So you can pretty much guess for yourself. (But honestly, was it a big surprise to anyone???)

Resolution #3: Get more exercise. Ha! Who am I kidding????

(Ahhhh, wiping the mirth from my eyes and giggling …..) This is what my treadmill looks like, and this is most likely what it will always look like. Let’s just be truthful about it. A little honesty never hurt anyone. But a treadmill ... now, THAT can hurt you! Muscle pulls, ligament aches, ankle pains, groin strains ..... no wonder I don't use it, it's dangerous!

Resolution #4: Don’t lose my patience as much with my kids. Don’t yell. At least not as often. Find creative, inventive ways to solve arguments and problems. Be the kind of nurturing, smiling, happy mother you see in the magazines.

Well, ***this*** didn’t go so well. I made it until 9:42 am without yelling, which really isn’t so good considering I didn’t get up until 8:42 am. All three kids were in time-out before noon, Brayden and Kendrie were put to bed at 7pm as punishment last night, and before falling asleep, Brayden managed to yell at me, “I don’t even know why you HAD kids!” Now, if that’s not a loving family, I don’t know what is.

So, this morning, I awoke determined to right my wrongs from yesterday. By noon I had folded and put away all three loads of laundry, cleaned off the treadmill (although I still haven’t actually walked on it yet) and worked much harder to keep my kids happy. I had hoped they could go outside and burn off some energy today, but it is raining here (thunder and lightning and everything) so instead, I played eight games of Boggle, innumerous games of Toss-Across, and let the kids color Easter Eggs with some coloring kits I found in the back of my closet while putting away the Christmas decorations.

Don’t adjust your monitors, yes, it’s January 2nd, and yes, we’re coloring Easter Eggs. Then, I cooked lunch (well, that’s a generous description for heating up Bagel Bites) and hooked up the dvd player so the girls could watch a movie in Brayden’s bedroom. So far, so good.
But, I must confess, I ate at least ten Hershey kisses while typing this, and it’s only 1pm. So the potential for total resolution failure is definitely there. Don’t pass me that parenting trophy just yet.

In the meantime, hope your own resolutions are holding strong. :)



Last night, while both girls were *supposed* to be in bed already, you know, what with the punishment and all, I was in my bedroom reading when I heard all kinds of giggling. They came in my room with orders to “Close your eyes, Mom, we have a surprise.” So, dutifully, I closed my eyes. Kendrie said, “OK, open them” and I did, to the disgusting sight of a FROG being held not two inches from my face. You can imagine the scene that unfolded, flailing limbs, bedclothes flying, screaming, and me trying to get to the other side of the room as quickly as possible.

Kendrie had very few limitations during her treatment, but one of the biggies was NO reptiles of any kind … frogs, turtles, lizards, etc, because they can carry salmonella and her immune system might have had problems. So for the past two years she has not been allowed to touch any of those things, much to her great disappointment. Apparently when Blaine saw one on our back deck last night he called them out there and well, the temptation was just too great.

All I have to say, is yuck. I SO could have done without that.

Thursday, December 29, 2005 4:20 PM CST


Day 14 OT --- Two weeks already, wahoo!

I feel slightly like a teller of “tall tales” to call the past twenty-six months of our life “troubled water”. Oh, sure, the first two months after Kendrie’s leukemia diagnosis were rough and choppy … it felt pretty much like being rushed downstream of a swollen river, not willingly, by the way, without a life jacket, going under and gulping for air, and crashing into uprooted, floating trees and churning, bloated animal carcasses, all the while terrified that when you turned round the next bend, there would be a giant, rushing waterfall just waiting to suck you over and plunge your defenseless body down onto the slippery, pointed, jagged rocks below. You know, something like that. If I were prone to exaggeration. Or whatever.

Once we got past the first two months of induction and consolidation, however, we were lucky. We were pretty much able to tread water for the next two years with very little in the way of turbulence. But that in NO way stopped the outpouring of love and care we received from strangers, friends, and strangers who *became* friends. To say you were our “bridge over troubled water” is like calling Paris Hilton “slightly” ego-centric. Our friends and supports weren’t a simple bridge. You have been the Golden Gate Suspension Bridge of our lives!

I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all the wonderful notes, e-mails, guestbook messages, cards, care packages and gifts you have sent our family. I tried answering every single one personally, but just ran out of time before it seemed like it had been “too” long. I’m still working on the official thank you notes, but wanted to take this chance to publicly thank all of you for your kindness. Add in the fact Christmas was just a week later, and my kids are basically rolling in it. Short of winning the lottery (which will be difficult since we don’t *play* the lottery) they will probably never have another year like this one, so I sure hope they appreciate it as much as I do! Thanks to all of you.

Now, it's almost two weeks after the fact, but better late than never, right? Here are the photos and details of Kendrie’s Off-Treatment Party, which I am happy to say was a complete success. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t speak for the guests, some of whom drove ten, a hundred, or a thousand miles to be with us …… but *I* had a great time! My only complaint about the entire day was that it was a little bit cool and damp. BUT! My specific prayer was for “no rain” and I got that (it stopped about two hours before the party!) so I’m not going to gripe about the weather. Any more. At least not out loud.

And let me say up front that there is no way my Geocities site can support all these photos at once, for long periods of time, so if you can’t see all the pictures, please visit the site again later. Those pesky little red x’s should be gone eventually.

We knew the party was off to a great start when we blew a fuse heating up the hot dogs … er, I mean, chicken cordon bleu, in the microwave(s). Thank goodness none of the kids were in the bounce house when it collapsed. You can tell by the excitement on my nephew Lawson’s face that this was the coolest part of the entire celebration.

The TRUE miracle of Christmas was that I was able to stand up in front of 75 guests and give a welcome speech without vomiting or fainting. My speech started out like this: “If you had asked me prior to October 13, 2003, what my biggest fear was, I would have told you -- honestly -- public speaking. On that day, the day Kendrie was diagnosed with leukemia, my priorities certainly changed and I learned about real fear. But if you were to ask me today, I could tell you -- honestly -- that standing up in front of a crowd and talking is STILL in the Top Three, so bear with me while I fumble my way through this.” (Notice my pink Julianna-Banana wish bracelets on my wrist? Kendrie is done with treatment, but Julianna still has a few months to go, and those bracelets aren't coming off yet!)

Blaine and I wanted our guests to know how very, VERY much we appreciated them joining us for the party, so I sucked it up and talked. Not well, but I did it. We had friends who were local, including four of the teachers from Kendrie’s school, friends who came down from Atlanta (part of our “cancer crowd”), friends who came up from Moultrie (also part of our “cancer crowd”), friends who drove up from Florida, friends who drove down (over?) from Virginia, friends who were here from Maryland, my family who came from Oklahoma, and my best friend Kim who surprised me by showing up on my doorstep the night before the party from Ohio. Not only that, but she came bearing four gallons of ice cream. Now I ask you, is that a best friend or what?!?!?

We also wanted to do something to let Brayden and Kellen know how proud we were of them and all they went through themselves during Kendrie’s treatment. This part of my speech went something like this: “You’ve been dumped off at friend’s houses, left with grandma, and learned the meaning of after-school care. You’ve stuck up for Kendrie at school, hung out with her at home, and definitely gotten the short end of the stick the past two years …. Etc.”

So we bought them trophies that said, respectively, “Brayden Escoe, December 15, 2005, World’s Best Big Sister”. Kellen, especially, seemed to like his. At least he hoisted it overhead like it was an Olympic medal, so either he liked it, or his arm really needed some exercise.

And then I called Kendrie up. I have no idea what I said to her because I was practically hyperventilating at this point (have I mentioned I have a real fear of public speaking?) But she really liked her trophy and has it sitting on a place on honor in her bedroom.

Then, because we wanted to acknowledge all the kids there who have fought the same fight as Kendrie, we passed out medals that said, “No #1, I’m an Official Cancer Butt-Kicker” to Brandon, Brady, Mary Grace, and Chandler. We were sad that several of our other friends from this pediatric cancer world got sick and couldn’t join us, but I have the medals and plan to send them on to you all this week! We know you were there in thought.

Then, in order to thank all of the kids there …. whether they lived far away and sent Kendrie cards, or hung out with her at school, or invited us to their houses to play … they all helped her to have as normal of two years as is possible to have when you’re undergoing chemotherapy. So we gave all of them the following buttons to wear:

(Wow, I didn't do a very good job re-sizing this photo, did I?)

This is when I realized that I had used the word “Butt” an awful lot at this party. I mean, did you see our family shirts?

Kendrie's says, "I'm a Survivor; I kicked Cancer's Butt". Mine and Blaine's both say "Our Daughter Kicked Cancer's Butt" and Brayden and Kellen's both say, "My Sister Kicked Cancer's Butt". If you're interested, we ordered them at cafepress.com.

So to all the parents at the party, my sincere apologies that I sent your child home with a party favor that had the word “butt” on it. Really, my bad.

Then, on to the entertainment of the day (in case my speech wasn’t as entertaining as I had hoped when I practiced it in the shower that morning, ha!) we had a magician come and perform. He’s really good, and has a great sense of humor. I think the kids and adults alike enjoyed it, except my brother-in-law Cliff, who was determined to figure out each and every trick. (Cliff, I’m telling you, I don’t know *how* he got all eleven coins back in my hand!)

The perk of being the “party girl of honor” is that you get called up with your brother and sister, and cousin, for almost every single trick! I don't know if you can tell it in this photo, but Kendrie was cracking up. Normally when she is in front of other people, she pulls the incredibly annoying "I'm so bashful I'm going to bury my face in my mother's big fat thigh" routine. But here, she was in her element and loved every single minute of it.

Then, on to what was the highlight of the party for me: letting Kendrie throw her leftover chemo pills in the lake! Er, pond. Well, ok, big ole’ puddle of rain water. But it worked! (Guess I should be grateful for that rain after all, since it meant we didn’t have to schlep over to the other lake.)

“Seriously, you’re going to let me throw this in the water????”

Kendrie gets ready to throw……………..

Kendrie throwing pills (if you look in the bottom right hand corner of the photo, you can see the pills flying through the air) …………

The remains of the pills, floating in the puddle. I should point out that my mom was freaking out that if we threw the pills in the “real” lake, a fish would eat them, then someone would catch the fish and take it home and fry it and feed it to their family, then the entire family would start glowing or something. So I’m sure my mom was exceptionally happy that we threw them in a puddle, instead. I’m quite positive that once they re-fill the lake next spring, whatever plant life grows in that one spot will be very large, and very green.

Anyway, the rest of the party was all about eating (hot dogs and chips, soda, and a big ole; make-your-own-sundae bar …. Are we high-class or what?) chatting, and watching the kids enjoy the moonwalk.

A few other fun things we did: I filled a jar with M&Ms to represent the number of chemo pills Kendrie took during treatment, then we let everyone take a guess and gave the jar to the person who guessed closest: The winner: (no cheating involved, I swear) my nephew Dalton …. the actual number of pills: 2121.

We also posted a few questions to see who might know the answers (it was funny to me that the other ALL mom at the party said to me, “You know, those questions were pretty easy” --- for her, I’m sure they were, ha!)

1. Number of ambulance rides Kendrie has taken: Two.

2. Number of days she has been inpatient during treatment: Twenty-five.

3. Number of times she has been stuck in the chest, arm, or leg, for flu shots, peg shots, arac shots, blood draws, or chemo: 115.

4. Number of blood transfusions she has received during treatment: Eight.

5. Her preventative antibiotic, Bactrim, she takes in a liquid form. How much has she taken over the past twenty-six months? Three and a half gallons.

Those sorts of questions …. I don’t know if anyone else found them interesting, but some of the numbers surprised me when I went back through her treatment protocol and added them up. Bear in mind that the 2121 pills she has swallowed is a fairly LOW number in comparison to other ALL kids. Chemo is based on weight, and obviously, lots of kids on treatment are older and heavier than her, so they get more pills. Also, Kendrie is a girl, which means one year less of treatment than the boys get (and not because they are stinky, like it says above, but because the testicles are sanctuary sites for leukemia cells) and like I mentioned earlier, she took her Bactrim in liquid form, not pills. So if *you* ever get invited to an Off-Treatment party and they play the M&M challenge ….. remember Kendrie was at 2121 and you’ll probably want to guess up from there! (Who would have imagined that taking over two thousand pills in two years would be a LOW number?)

And that was pretty much the party in a nutshell. Thanks to the guys who helped load up the cars afterwards, and helped put away the moonwalk, thanks to Susan and Ray for helping put away the chairs, thanks to Renee for the potato salad, thanks to Renee and Erin and I’m not sure who else for putting together all the hot dogs while I sat on my keister and visited with people, thanks to Andrea and Kelly and Kim and BoBo for being on picture patrol, thanks to everyone who made the effort to come to the party. … especially those of you who gave up an entire day, or entire weekend, to join us! Thanks to Postcard Cindy for the providing the sundae bar, thanks to everyone for their donations for Caringbridge and CureSearch (even though lots of you completely ignored my NO GIFTS rule!)

I know there is more, and that the second I hit the “post new journal” button I’ll remember and feel bad because I left someone out. But for now, thanks, thanks, thanks!

Monday, December 26, 2005 6:25 PM CST


Day 11 OT

Signs you have had a successful family Christmas celebration:

1. Your children happily and merrily pose for pictures in their new matching Christmas jammies. Smiling, loving, caring, affectionate. Children who feel the peace in their hear ---- Oh, who are we kidding? They were just delirious with joy that there was only twelve hours left until time to open presents.

2. In an attempt to pass the hours until bed-time, the children quietly and peaceably play several rounds of Go-Fish. You didn’t even know they knew HOW to play Go-Fish, but it bought you half an hour of peace and quiet, so it was great in your book.

3. You feel the delight in your heart that your children still believe in the magic of setting out Reindeer Food on Christmas Eve. Well, your youngest two, anyway. You lost the Miracle of Santa with the oldest this year, thanks to two cousins who shall remain nameless.

4. The children enjoy opening presents so much they are able to stop and approve of one another’s bounty with selfless admiration. For about an hour, then the jealousy and bickering starts in because “he got the blue one and that’s the book *I* wanted, etc, etc.”

You know you’ve failed miserably as a Christmas parent when:

1. You come downstairs Christmas morning and catch your oldest sneaking hits on the world’s biggest bong. Oh, no, wait. It’s a marshmallow gun. Cool, huh?

2. Your middle child doesn’t even make it to noon before asking, “Is Santa already watching us for next year, or is today a freebie?”

3. Not 24 hours after the beauty of the holiday has ended, you are already a screaming lunatic, threatening to take everything they got and throw it in the trash if they won’t pick up ONE DAMN THING RIGHT NOW!!!!

Ahhhhhhh. Only 364 days until we get to do it all again. :)

Hope yours was jolly, as well,

QUOTE OF THE DAY: In an attempt to expose my children to a little bit of cinematic culture, I bought Brayden a copy of “The Sound of Music” as a gift this year. She and I were watching it this morning while Kellen and Kendrie played in the other room. Suddenly, the gazebo scene with Lisle and Rolph comes on, and the actors are singing, “I am sixteen, going on seventeen……” and my younger two came running in the room, hollering, “The Pacifier, The Pacifier! Hey, that song is from The Pacifier!” Vin Diesel v. Julie Andrews???? Oh well, so much for culture.

Saturday, December 24, 2005 7:04 AM CST

Merry Christmas, 2005

Well, it’s that time of year again --- wrapping gifts, baking cookies, singing carols with our angelic-voiced children, sipping hot cocoa by a roaring fire while my family harmoniously watches “A Christmas Story” together, tucked under a warm flannel blanket --- and obviously, lying and fabricating things for our annual Christmas letter, so that we sound like a happy and functional family. :)

This has been a year of ups and downs for the Escoe family: Blaine and I finally traveled to Seattle in March for his major reconstructive surgery (two YEARS after he was originally diagnosed) UP; Blaine contracted a staph infection after the surgery and had to have six weeks of self-administered IV antibiotics, and two additional surgeries to clean up his leg, DOWN. The Seattle surgery wasn’t a complete success, DOWN; so he traveled to Augusta for corrective surgery this fall, UP. *That* surgery wasn’t successful, either, DOWN; but his doctors reassure us they can fix everything in the spring (Perhaps back out to Seattle we will go --- we’re still hoping for an UP ending to this whole saga!) Kendrie caught a virus that her whacked-out immune system just couldn’t handle and spent two weeks in the hospital this summer, DOWN; all her hair fell out again, DOWN, but we remembered just how cute she is bald, UP! :)

On a sad note, Blaine’s mother Shirley passed away while we were in Seattle … but helping to balance the sad news is the fabulous, excellent report that Kendrie finished her two years and two months of chemotherapy this December the 15th! I have no doubt that Shirley is cheering from above as we head toward that wonderful finish line.

Blaine started a new job this summer …. Doing something for the Air Force; I’m not sure what. Something to do with contracting, or program management, or something. Whatever. He loves it, likes his co-workers and his boss very much, and we put in for yet another extension here in Georgia, which was granted -- we’ll be here until summer of 2008. And with regard to his ongoing, never-ending reconstructive process, well, seriously, I figure it should culminate with the doctors finishing everything, and him finally getting a full set of teeth, about the age of 92, just in time for them to yank them out and give him dentures. I don’t even think he cares anymore, as long as he can work in some hunting and fishing in between surgeries. Funny how “getting rid of his cancer” wound up being the easiest, least-stressful part of this whole process.

I’m doing well; I began another surrogacy journey this year and am currently (depending on when you read this) about 18 weeks pregnant -- just one baby this time. I knew I wanted to do another surrogacy, but waited until Kendrie was close to the end of her treatment so I could give this pregnancy the time and commitment it deserves. I’m happy to say that all is well so far. I also traveled to NYC in August to visit both previous families and their kids, and helped the twins celebrate their 2nd birthday --- I’m so fortunate to be included! Closer to home, I serve on the PTO and volunteer at the kids’ school, but not as much as I did last year. I still haven’t grown a spine or learned to say NO, so now I just avoid making eye contact with as many teachers. Seems to be working for me, so far. I also got a few weekends away for scrapbooking with some of the best girlfriends in the world, so all is good in my neck of the woods.

The kids have been good this year; busy, wonderful, obnoxious, typical kids. Brayden is eight years old and is enjoying 3rd grade. She loves everything about school, except for the days I come to volunteer in her classroom because apparently I am the biggest embarrassment on the planet. She started gymnastics this fall, is in the Ecology Club at school, and loves arts & crafts, “That’s So Raven”, and blue fingernail polish. She is asking for her own phone for Christmas (don’t worry, she’s not getting it!) and I’m worried we are at the top of the very slippery slope of pre-teen-hood, and staring down a giant mountain of hormones and attitude. Good thing she’s so lovable 95 percent of the time, or I’d have to lock her in her room permanently.

Kellen, “Mr. I’m a Boy, All-Boy, unless it involves a spider or a bug within a 50-mile radius, in which case I squeal like a girl at a Jesse McCartney concert” has had a good year. He’s seven now and in the 2nd grade. He still loves recess and lunch best, although he does pretty well in the classroom, too. He played baseball, soccer, and basketball this year and tells us next year he wants to try football and track. The optimistic part of me hopes he will be a well-rounded sportsman; the pessimistic part of me just thinks of all those practices we’ll have to sit through. My only complaint about Kellen is that when he hugs me (thank goodness he’s still willing to hug me in public!) I can rest my chin on the top of his head. Just when did *that* happen, and how can I stop it?

Kendrie, well, where do I start? She is still gender-confused, and wants to legally change her name to either “Nicholas” or “Dash”. Of course, one of those might fit better with the camouflage and Spiderman clothes she insists on wearing every day. She is six, tearing through kindergarten, played t-ball for the first time this past spring, and most recently conquered the tasks of tying her shoes and learning to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels. Now, I realize she might or might not be a little late on those milestones, but considering she spent most of age four lying on the sofa, nauseated from chemo, we’re still pretty stinkin’ proud of her! Now, if we could just get her to knock off the incredibly annoying “baby-talk” that she does all the time, life would be a success.

I realize that lots of people use these annual family update letters to brag and wax nostalgic about all the mah-velous things their fabulous children have done throughout the year. I’d love to go on and on about the brains, beauty and brawn of my three (all true, of course) but it would be remiss of me not to mention that they also seem to have some sort of alternate personality disorder, where all they are capable of doing for long periods of time is fighting, bickering, and arguing with one another. I spend my days half horrified, and half hopeful, that SuperNanny will show up on our doorstep. When I’m not loving them to death, I just want to pinch their little heads off. And that, my friends, is an Honest Christmas Letter. :)

In between the squabbling and skirmishing, we did have some family highlights this year: the Make-A-Wish organization sent us to Disney World for Kendrie’s wish trip, which we enjoyed greatly (when the kids weren’t fighting … do you see a pattern here?) We also spent a long weekend at the beach in Florida with The Lighthouse Family Retreat, and a weekend in Atlanta with Camp Sunshine. We drove to Ohio to visit our friends Kim and Kenny and their four boys this summer, and down to Florida to visit our friends Erin and Joe and their three boys, and take advantage of their easy-beach access. Although we gripe and moan about our kids’ obnoxious behavior, which is even worse when we travel, we sure don’t seem to learn our lesson very well, do we? I guess we’ll keep vacationing and trying until the kids get it right, or until Blaine and I throw our hands up in despair, whichever comes first.

I hope your family had highlights this year, also, in between the daily grind, chores, activities, work, school, and LIFE that seems to speed by so quickly. I give thanks not only for the blessings in our family, but for this time of year when I’m forced to sit back, relax, and ponder the good things. I mean, I HAVE to, if I want to keep pounding out this letter year after year!

Hope yours was fabulous, as well. Lots of love, the Escoes

Thursday, December 22, 2005 6:31 PM CST


Day 7 OT

You know, we’ve been so busy this past week with family coming in for Kendrie’s OT celebration, and then our early-Christmas, that it’s hard to believe a week has passed already since Kendrie took her last pills. I guess this time of year flies by for everyone (unless you are one of the poor schmucks stuck in a never-ending line at Wal-Mart for last-minute gifts!) What a great feeling though …. one week down, and assuming she lives to be 104 years old, only 5,096 to go before we can quit worrying!

We drove up to Atlanta yesterday afternoon for her pre-op appointment with the surgeon who was removing her port. It was the same doctor who placed the port in her chest at the time of her diagnosis …. He made the comment while examining her, “Wow, I put in one of the baby-ports… the really small ones. How old was she when I did this?” I replied “She had just turned four” and he said, “I’m surprised it held out through the entire treatment and she didn’t need to get another one. You’ve had some extremely good nursing care if they were able to access this tiny thing the entire time!” Um, ok. Good to know, I guess! (But of course we've known all along that Nurse Mary is da bomb!!)

Since we had to be at Day Surgery at 6am (My word, can you believe people actually get up and go to work at that ungodly hour???) we elected to stay overnight in Atlanta for convenience sake. Luckily, we were able to spend the evening having dinner and visiting with our friends the Connors, whose son Brandon recently received the wonderful news ALL CLEAR FOREVER!!! On his previous neuroblastoma diagnosis. If you’re having trouble finding your miracle this Christmas season, go back in Brandon’s journal and read about his cancer journey --- miraculous, indeed, and a great reminder about the blessings that are out there.

Anyway, despite some grumbling from me {understatement}when the alarm in the hotel room went off at 5am, we made it to Day Surgery just fine and the port-removal went off without a hitch. Kendrie was a good sport beforehand and only cried when they were wheeling her bed down to the operating room and I wasn’t allowed to go with her, but the nurse promised to hold her hand while she was being put to sleep and that seemed to make her feel better. At our clinic, I’ve been able to stay with Kendrie for all her spinal taps; and for her previous bone marrow aspirations, which took place under general anesthesia in an operating room, I was allowed to go back with her until she was put to sleep. I’m not sure why this time was different, and she wasn’t very happy about it, but she did ok.

Afterwards, she was groggy and hard to wake up, and fussy. Extremely fussy. {understatement} She gets really pathetic and whiny after any kind of ‘sleepy’ medicine … I’ll have to remind her of that before she heads off to college, won’t I? Nobody likes a sobbing mess at frat parties, "So remember kids, don’t drink alcohol!" (Think she’ll fall for it?)

I did have a surreal moment when I was pushing her in the stroller from Day Surgery to the parking garage. First, the sun was blinding me and I couldn’t find my sunglasses …. Then I realized I was freezing cold …. Then it hit me; it’s sunny, the air is crisp and clean, and we are NOW officially done with cancer! Sure, we were done the first time after the final spinal, and done the second time after the last clinic visit for IV chemo, and done the third time after the last batch of pills at home ……… and yes, we still have to continue seeing her oncologist for follow-ups for the next few years and watching for any late-term side effects from the chemo, yadda, yadda …. But barring any relapse, God forbid, we are now, this time, finally, at long last, for sure, no more do-overs, DONE! And with the port gone, if she runs a fever, I can just fling Tylenol at her and put her back to bed like I do the other two ---- er, um, I mean, soothingly rub her back and press cool compresses to her brow while humming comforting lullabies under my breath. Just like I do the other two. Yeah, that’s what I mean.

But what a great feeling to know that except for some follow up visits and follow up meds, she is finished. How much nicer it is to be at the end of the treatment road, instead of those frightening days at the beginning. I took a deep breath of that cold air this morning, squinted my eyes against the mid-day sun, and said a prayer of thankfulness for all the blessings she has been given. And for the fact I had a close up parking space and didn’t have to push her very far in the stroller. I guess *that* is the perk of arriving at the hospital at 5:45 am!!

Thanks for thinking of us today.


WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Ok, this really bites. I razz my mom and give her a hard time about things, but I have to admit that she has been like a bulldog throughout this entire process when it comes to me and my irrational hatred of anything sticky -- band aids, tegaderm dressings, surgical tape -- I hate it all! She has almost always been there to remind the nurses not to put any of that crap on me, but today, she was defenseless. The doctor not only covered a big spot on my chest with tegaderm dressing before bringing me out of recovery to her … tegaderm, the REALLY sticky kind, but I have to leave it on for four to five days! Something about germs, and keeping it dry ….. stinks, stinks, STINKS! I was NOT happy when I woke up from my surgery and found that on my chest. The IV in my hand, I was ok with, the E.T. light on my finger, I was ok with. I think I've proved through the last two years that I can put up with a lot of junk! But this tape crap has GOT TO GO!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 7:48 AM CST


Day 5 OT

OK, just a quick update from us ….. I am so happy to report the OT party went well (NO RAIN, NO RAIN, NO RAIN!!!) and I just need a few minutes to go through my photos and organize my thoughts before I update about it (well, considering it’s MY thought process we're talking about, maybe more like half an hour will be necessary!) but things have been crazy-busy-wonderful here.

We are enjoying our OKC cousins visit to the nth degree, and have been trying to see everyone we want to see and do everything we want to do and go everywhere we want to go, all in the five days that we have. Add in the fact we had friends come for the party from Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day! But I will get some photos put up on this site in the next day or two.

In the meantime, BIG NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT: Kendrie lost her first tooth last night at Stone Mountain! Right in the middle of “Emily’s Magic Christmas Experience” show; I’m pretty sure the most magical moment of *that* performance was the look of joy on her face when it popped out (helped by the Frisbee-sized lollipop she’d been sucking on for an hour).

Also, please keep her in your thoughts as she and I head to Atlanta for her port-removal surgery on Thursday morning. I *know* that it’s a relatively minor procedure … I *know* it’s done on an outpatient basis and we’ll be home before dinner ….. I *know* kids have this done all the time. But still, when it’s YOUR child’s name and the words “general anesthesia” mentioned in the same conversation, it’s enough to make any mild-mannered parent nervous, let alone a full-fledged paranoid-freak like me! Oh, well, at least we don't have to worry about the breathing tube knocking her tooth out during the surgery --- it's gone! (Although she is eagerly working on the next tooth already!)

OK, well, I’m off to start the turkey and dressing … it might only be the 20th, but we are having Christmas here today …. Seven kids under the age of ten …. Gifts …. Sweets and treats …. the frenzy of present-unwrapping that will take place later today … the mess ... the noise.... the fun.... the frivolity …. Oh, dear, someone just pass me the Tylenol now.

Hope your week is going great,

PS Several of you asked for the name of that beautiful song (lullaby?) that was in the site previously. It should come as no surprise to you that it's TSO (yet again!) "A Final Dream" off their Beethoven's Last Night cd. I'm asking you, could I love that group any more???


WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Ha-Ha! I don’t have it anymore!

Sunday, December 18, 2005 6:03 AM CST


Day 3 OT

Last night, we put our daughter to bed (well, to “sleeping bag”, anyway) on the living room floor with her siblings and the one cousin who was brave enough to sleep over. For only the second night out of the past 800 or so, we put her to bed without force-feeding her toxic chemicals. Chemicals that I was more than willing to give her, don’t be mistaken, but chemicals nonetheless. Really, how should you feel when the instructions are for the parents to wear gloves and masks, but “here, it’s ok to put it in applesauce and let your kid eat it!”

But not last night. Last night she drank a glass of chocolate milk and curled up next to her cousin ….. sleeping the innocent sleep that a six-yr old deserves. And Blaine and I went to bed, knowing our biggest concern for the evening was that she not wind up in our bed again, especially after watching The (slightly intimidating for a six-yr old, if I do say so myself, especially if your six-yr old is like ours) Chronicles of Narnia.

I love this song. The first time I heard it, I earmarked it for her first night of sleep without chemo. Knowing that in her dreams last night, the moon is her guide, the stars they have kissed her …………… no more chemo, no more cancer ….. safe on a fairy tale stream. Start a new dream, Kendrie, start a new dream.

Friday, December 16, 2005 9:38 PM CST


Day 1 OT

While I realize I had been talking and whooping up the ice-cream experience, and letting everyone know how much Kendrie was looking forward to it, I didn’t understand that perhaps I hadn’t explained it properly, until my sister made a comment to me tonight. My sister, her husband, their four boys, my mom, and my dad all drove in from Oklahoma today to join us for Kendrie’s OT celebration. After a chili supper and bowling (our family is nothing if not highbrow!) we headed straight for the Baskin Robbins in town. As we were sitting and eating our ice cream, my sister made the off-hand comment, “I can’t believe Kendrie has gone a year and a half without eating ice cream!”

OK, obviously, that can’t be true. She sprung from *my* loins, after all, and you can tell by looking at the size of those loins that neither me, nor any child of mine, is going a year and a half (shoot, a week and a half!) without eating ice cream. Uh-uh, nope, not gonna happen.

It’s just that dairy products interfered with her nightly chemo meds, so she wasn’t allowed ice cream, milk, or cheese anytime after dinner each night. For a kid who was accustomed to going to bed with a sippy cup of milk when she was diagnosed, that was a jolt. For a kid who was going through chemotherapy treatment with steroids, whose dex cravings usually consisted of string cheese, cheese slices, or mac and cheese (sometimes all together!) it was just plain cruel and unusual punishment. So more correctly, we simply hadn’t been able to go out as a family and have ice cream as an evening treat.

That changed tonight, though! There I was, taking pictures of her eating ice cream like she had never seen the inside of a Baskin Robbins before. Considering our family drove sixteen hours to join us for this monumental ice cream cone, it was fabulous. Considering three of my sister’s kids are lactose-intolerant, it was actually pretty ironic. But they were good sports, and we were so happy to take part, once again, in one of life’s simpler pleasures: "One scoop of chocolate on a cake cone, please." Then, when we got home, despite the fact there was no way Kendrie could still be hungry, she asked for two cheese slices before bed …. just because she *could*, I’m sure. Now, what was that her oncologist said about girls her age gaining weight when they go off treatment? Surely, I can’t imagine what he means!

“Hmmmmm, decisions, decisions. Yep, I think I’ll go with the plain chocolate.”

“Thank you sir, and please don’t assume that lunatic with the camera is my mother. I have no idea who she is or why she is taking photos.”

All our OKC cousins get into the act!

“You know I’m enjoying it when I can’t be bothered to stop and wipe my mouth”

“Ahhhhh, I’ve waited a long time for that creamy, cold taste of delicious dairy delight …. Can we go again tomorrow night?”

Hope you are all having a good night, also.


Thursday, December 15, 2005 9:45 PM CST



Final Day of Pills --- Starting Tomorrow, No Mo Chemo!!!

Wow! Exciting, surreal, bizarre, thrilling, stirring, awesome, dreamlike, odd …. There just aren’t enough adjectives to describe how I felt at 8:17 pm tonight, when Kendrie sucked down those final three pills! What an incredible feeling, and I know she was excited, too! Then I started doing the cabbage patch in the kitchen and her only question was, “You’re not going to take a picture of *THAT*, are you?????”

We had a really great day, all around. Yep, it was a beautiful day! Well, the weather here stunk, so it’s not like we celebrated with a picnic or anything, but we did mark the occasion the best way we know how … with a party! I had approached her kindergarten teacher about bringing in cupcakes or cookies or something today, and the teacher told me yes, she’d been thinking of doing a little something for Kendrie, too, but she’d like for it to be a surprise. Her idea was to title the party “Kendrie Kicked Cancer” and have us bring in snacks that start with the “K” sound …. You know those teachers… always thinking, they are. Me? I’d still be searching for a way to make a party educational, but what can I say? She’s a lot smarter than me.

So I agreed to keep it a secret from Kendrie and went out and bought Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy Corn, and Koolaid Jammers. Now, unbeknownst to me, was the fact that the entire party was a surprise that they were also keeping from me! I showed up today to bring my party supplies, only to discover they had sent notes home with the other kids, who had also brought in treats (they had cherry cheesecake, chips, more cookies than you could shake a stick at, more cupcakes, cashews, candy, cantaloupe, kettle corn, candy canes; those kids could have holed up in that room for a week and not run out of food!) They had decorated the door to the room with posters, the kids had all signed a huge congratulations card, and one of the moms made her a quilt that all the kids got to sign…. and they managed to keep it all a secret from Kendrie. The school nurse came down for the party (I could practically see the relief in her eyes that Kendrie won’t be bothering her all the time now -- although she professed that wasn't the case!) and several of the other kids’ parents came in to help as well, so I didn’t have to do a darn thing. Now, that’s my kind of party!!

They kept Kendrie out of the room for a extra minute and when she walked in, all her classmates yelled “Surprise, Kendrie! We love you!” (which made several of them break out in hysterical giggles) and she got to sit in the seat of honor and open her gift. They really went above and beyond what I thought they would do and I couldn’t have appreciated it more.

Kendrie, opening her blanket and seeing all the names on it. I was very impressed with this, especiallly seeing how I can't even sew on a button.

Kendrie with her long-time companion, Nicholas, aka Koolaid Mustachio’d Man. Today was also Polar Express Day at school, hence the pajamas and slippers.

After school we were busy running to get haircuts (not hers yet, although she’s already asking for one!) and then going to a PTO meeting tonight where the 2nd graders (Kellen’s class) performed. So by the time we got home for the evening, it was already late and time for the final pills! Then, of course, Kendrie wanted to know if she could have ice cream, since she is now “done with cancer.” Sorry, honey, one more night!

"You mean this is it? This is really and truly it?" I didn't have the heart to remind her she'll still have to take her Singulair and Claritin every night ....

"Ugh, Dad, let's just get it over with!"

Sorry, I couldn't help it. This is the face she has made every night since she started Long-Term Maintenance in Aug of 2004. If anyone ever invents yummy-flavored chemo, they'll make a mint.


Since we started this morning with ONE DAY TO GO, I thought I would share with you some of the special “Ones” that happened to me today:

**One really stupid thing I did: I went grocery shopping this morning and was pushing the cart when I picked something up with a poor grasp and dropped it. When it fell out of my hands, I thought I broke a fingernail (I know, tragedy) and immediately popped that finger in my mouth because it hurt. Ewwwwwwww! I had my hands all over that cart, all over the store, touching Lord only knows what other people had been touching all day, and I stuck my finger in my mouth without any sort of Purell precaution!!! Disgusting! (Trust me, cancer-parents everywhere are cringing at the very thought … guess we know who’ll be sick for Christmas at our house!)

**One bad parenting moment before I even left the house this morning. You would think, after four years of school, hence four years of getting ready for school each morning, my kids would understand that we have a routine at our house. Breakfast, clothes, teeth, hair. It’s not complicated …. four simple steps. Actually, in general they do really well, which is why mornings like today, when we have to leave the house in three minutes and people still aren’t dressed and can’t find a hairbrush and haven’t brushed their teeth or packed their backpack yet and lost their socks and what have you, it just makes me insane. So after talking at breakfast in my “pleasant, happy mom” voice about what a special, heart-warming day this is for our family, I ruined it before 8am by yelling at my kids to “Get your butts in the car NOW--I don’t care if you have to go to school barefoot --- THAT’S YOUR PROBLEM NOT MINE!!!” Ahhhh, joyful family memories.

**One unexpected welling up of tears --- Kendrie has been in class both years with an adorable little boy named Kobi whose dad is one of the custodians/maintenance men at school. He’s a quiet man and probably hasn’t spoken two words to me ever, besides a passing nod and smile each morning. This morning he was working the drop-off car ramp and since it was raining I decided to drive my kids through instead of walking them in like I usually do. (I know, lazy me.) They were taking a while to get out of the car (still looking for that damn sock, I think) and we were sort of backing up traffic. Kobi’s dad walked over to my car and I rolled down the window, fully expecting him to tell me to pull up and quit blocking the lane. Instead, he looked me right in the face and said, “My wife told me today was Kendrie’s last day of treatment and I just want you to know how happy I am for your whole family …. It’s truly a blessing. I’m really, really pleased for her”. What a kind way to start my day!

**One episode of bad timing: Kendrie’s Polar Express Day was today, Kellen’s was yesterday; pajamas to school, and they get on a decorated bus and drink hot chocolate while the vice-principal reads the story … it’s a really cute tradition at their school. On an unrelated note, every year I buy my kids matching Christmas pajamas and I was disappointed that they hadn’t arrived in time for them to wear them to school for Polar Express Day. Plus, I was annoyed that I had to go buy them new pjs to wear, since theirs are all high-waters and while no on calls them "The Escoe Orphans" to their faces, I figured pajamas that actully fit might not be such a bad idea. So, after buying three brand new pair of pajamas on Tuesday, guess what came in the mail THIS AFTERNOON????

**One unexpected surprise: Walking into Kendrie’s classroom and seeing the other parents there …. Especially her boyfriend Nicholas’s mom and dad. After all, since they are her future in-laws, it’s nice they got to be there to help celebrate such a special day.

**One not-so-serious-but-in-a-way-yes prayer request: After being given such a gift, twenty-six months of chemo with relatively little problems, and reaching this end of treatment, I feel a little selfish asking for more ….. but we’ve got lots of kids coming for a party this weekend and I’ve got footballs and hula hoops and horseshoes and a moonwalk waiting … and they are forecasting 47 degrees and rain. Now, I’ll do my Victory March to the Lake in the rain if I have to, but it would be great if we could get a slight break in the weather for just a few hours that day…. Pretty, pretty please???

**One slightly-more-serious prayer request: As exciting as today was, and as grateful as I am to everyone who helped make it so special (that includes all of YOU by sharing this journey with us) I would really prefer that this be the ONLY TIME EVER that she finishes chemo. In other words, I would love more than anything for her never to have to START chemo again. I am perfectly content to settle into finding our new normal, even if it takes awhile.

Again, thank you all so much for following along this past week or two and leaving such touching messages in the guestbook. It’s truly the icing on the cake, or the cherry on the sundae, or some other sort of "finishing touches" metaphor. The countdown is over …. Although I’ll continue to update, probably daily, at least through the holidays. I hope you guys will be able to keep checking in on us as we segue back into a normal life again. Well, as normal as things get around here, anyway. And if you are willing to keep touching base, dog barf and all, then I’m happy to stick around, too. I certainly check enough CB sites myself, and I’m just as happy to keep Kendrie’s site updated, also. But you guys have to promise to tell me if the updates get too painfully boring. We can have a secret code word you can leave in the guestbook ... like "lobotomy" or "comatose". Or, if I forget to use my spell check on a regular basis. Trust me, THAT is worse than boring!!!

Take care,

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of our lives … blah blah blah, but doesn’t it ring true? :)))))))))))))) (that is one big happy smiley face!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005 11:06 PM CST


2 Days to Go, in case I haven’t made it obvious enough.

Hey, thanks to all of you who offered up your opinion that the journal could actually be publish-worthy after all. I counted, and I think eleven people offered to buy it. If I could talk my mom, my sister, my college roommate, and my husband into buying one, I’d be at an even fifteen! Hey, even Oprah’s Book Club authors had to start somewhere, right?

And especially thanks to all of you who are taking the time this week to sign the guestbook. It means a lot to our whole family (but mainly me, since I am the one who is pathetically, obsessively on this computer all day long) to have those notes and well-wishes for Kendrie and our family. And hearing from all of you during this very special week makes it even better …. So sign if you haven’t, and sign again if you’d like!

Now, we’re down to two. And I’m *thiiiiiiiiisss* close to saving the best for last …. but tonight’s list runs a close second: Kendrie’s Two Biggest and Most Important Supporters Throughout Her Leukemia Journey.

Brayden, thank you. Thank you for doing such an excellent job helping your Dad and me take care of Kendrie. Thank you for bringing her blankets and pillows when she needed to rest, for giving up your spot on the sofa when she was whining that she couldn’t see the tv, and for (usually) being a good sport about letting her have her way when she was being obnoxious. Thank you for not being jealous when she slept in our bed. Thank you for running for the barf bucket when she needed it and for always coming to tell me, no matter where I was at the time (potty, shower, etc.) Thank you for reminding me to give Kendrie her chemo before school and for sticking up for her that time at the park when those girls were being rude and making fun of her for being bald. Thank you, also, for letting me know when you had had enough, which usually meant Kendrie was pushing things a little bit farther than she should have, and thinking she would get away with it. Thank you for understanding that spring when you couldn’t play soccer. Thank you for helping her look for “Elephant” every time she lost him. Thank you for not turning up your nose when I served mac & cheese with dinner seven nights in a row trying to appease Kendrie’s steroid craving. Thank you, even, for that one night when you announced, “Don’t worry, I’ve already given Kendrie her chemo tonight!” Frightening, yes, but heart warming just the same to know you were so vested in her care. I love you, and Daddy loves you. I credit you with a large portion of Kendrie’s well-being and hope you are always proud of the job you did.

Kellen, thank you. Thank you for being such a fun big brother to Kendrie. Thank you for not ignoring her or avoiding her, even though she is younger and smaller and slower and not always able to keep up. Thank you for including her in your games and adventures and rough-housing, even if I yell at you guys all the time to knock it off. Thank you for sharing a bedroom with her and never complaining. Thank you for (sometimes) giving her permission to wear your clothes. Thank you for introducing her to Super Heroes and trading cards. Thank you for the extra attention you gave the dog when your Dad and I just couldn’t find the time. Thank you for being the sort of older brother that Kendrie could look up to. Thank you also for fighting with her and arguing with her so she never forgot she was still part of a normal family, and that there were expectations for her behavior. Thank you for teaching her how to surf Playhouse Disney and helping her work puzzles on the days she didn’t have as much energy. And for the days she did have energy, thank you for being such a cool brother, so she was motivated to get off the sofa and try her hardest to keep up with you. I love you, and Daddy loves you. I credit you with Kendrie’s get-up-and-go and her physical stamina; she was trying so hard to hang out with you that I think sometimes, she forgot how really sick she was. Thank you for that gift, I hope you are always proud of the job you did.


I’ve been updating the journal each evening after Kendrie takes her meds and we count down another day. So even though after Wednesday evening we will be down to ONE DAY TO GO, I will wait to update the journal until Thursday night so I can include pictures of those final few pills being swallowed (I promise not to take a photo of the grimace she makes every single night …. Totally not attractive.) And I’ve already got updates in mind pretty much daily through Christmas. I can’t quite make up my mind about this journal …. Do I end now, at the perfect stopping point, and let our family live Happily Ever After? Honestly, I’d love to keep writing and keep the site as a tribute for those kids who successfully complete treatment without any major problems ….. a "Good News" site, if you will. Heaven knows new parents could use the encouragement.

But honestly, if she’s not on treatment, what on earth would I talk about? I’m sure you don’t want to hear about my kids arguing, or leaving their dirty laundry on the floor, or the dog barfing in the dining room, or any of the other mundane things that happen around our house on a daily basis. (Well, not the dog barfing … thank goodness that’s not a daily basis!)

Hmmmm. We’ll see. I think I’ll keep it going at least until I investigate the possibility of printing the journal …. Otherwise, how else would those eleven people find out where to buy the book?!?

Have a great night,
FUNNY COMMENT BY KENDRIE TODAY: “Mom, I know all my vowels, wanna hear? OK, there’s the I’s, and the nose, and the ears, etc.” It took me a minute to realize she meant EYES, not I’s, and she was talking about senses, not vowels! (OK, maybe that was one of those “you had to be there” things.)

Monday, December 12, 2005 9:22 PM CST


3 Days to GO!

Wow, my three-things list almost got changed at the very last second …. about thirty seconds ago, when I started typing this, to be exact. When it comes to the written language, I have three pet peeves: People who don’t know how to spell, people who don’t know how to use proper grammar, and people who type in ALL-CAPS, REALLY IS THERE ANYTHING MORE ANNOYING THAN THAT?????

So imagine my horror this evening when my hand slipped, I hit some bizarre combination of keys, and suddenly my Caps-Lock key was locked in the ON position. I was afraid this entire journal entry would be in ALL CAPS, which would be incredibly aggravating for those of you trying to read it, and incredibly aggravating for me as well, since my sarcasm and cynicism …. Er, I mean, wisdom and thoughtfulness might not come across as clearly without the ability to HIGHLIGHT and EMPHASIZE certain words.

Thank heavens for the delete key, is all I can say, and I was able to delete whatever command (I still haven’t figured out quite exactly what I did) that had it stuck that way. Whew!!! Now, you’ll know if I type in ALL-CAPS IT’S BY CHOICE BECAUSE I WANT TO DRIVE YOU CRAZY AND NOT A MICROSOFT GLITCH AFTER ALL.

"Three Days to Go, Baby!"

So! Back to my original Three Things List: Three Goals I Have for Off-Treatment; Short-term, Medium-term, and Long-term.

1. My Short-Term Goals for When Kendrie goes Off-Treatment:

a) That we are able to settle into a quasi-normal routine fairly quickly. No waking up at 3am, hyperventilating because we forgot to give her medicines (for the record, we have never forgotten her evening meds, but I fully expect to have the 3am panic attack sometime in the next week or two!) No undue alarm if she runs a fever or complains of an ache or pain (yeah, right, like we’re going to be able to relax *that* much???) No wondering about her ANC level before sending her to school or going for a playdate, no planning our vacations around clinic visits, no double-checking that I have emla cream in the car, no fear we will run out of her latest steroid-craving, no running to every pharmacy in town to get all her prescriptions filled, no driving to the school in the middle of the day because her stomach is upset and she’s out of zofran, no limiting her dairy intake before bed, no refusing to allow her to touch a turtle or frog for fear of salmonella, etc. NORMAL people live without those sorts of limitations, right? And although I would hardly classify us as "normal", hopefully we can, too. The one exception is my obsession with Purell and antibacterial wipes. I cannot, will not, learn to stop. This habit could not, should not drop.

b) That Kendrie remain cancer-free.

c) That I lose 20 pounds (Ok, not cancer-related, but a goal is a goal, right?)

2. My Medium-Term Goals for When Kendrie goes Off-Treatment:

a) That we somehow find a balance as a family between being proud of all she has gone through, and no longer letting her milk it for all it is worth. Not that I think she necessarily tried to play us too often, but I do know she got away with a lot more than her older siblings did at her age. We overlooked a lot of tantrums and whiny behavior and demands, and blamed them on the side effects of chemo, specifically steroids. We often (probably too often, if I’m being honest) let her have her way, and made her brother and sister give in to her more than was fair. We let her stay up way past her bedtime, often, so she could eat again after her 2-hour medication window. We let her sleep in our bed with us … oh, that one is **SO** going to stop! I'm tired of waking up with her size 12's in my back, or an arm across the bridge of my nose! Please don’t think she is a brat, she’s really not. At least not most of the time. But we need to figure out a way to laud her accomplishment, and her status as a cancer-survivor, and yet reign her back in as a fully-functioning, rule-following member of our family again.

b) That Kendrie remain cancer-free.

c) That I lose 30 pounds.

3. My Long-Term Goals for When Kendrie goes Off-Treatment:

a) I want to figure out some way to make a positive contribution to the world of pediatric cancer. I don’t mean a measly donation to some charity once a year, I mean do something really worthwhile. Like Grainne Owen, or Kristin Connor, who turned their own pediatric cancer experiences into personal missions and are making such a difference! Like the parents who train and participate and raise funds through Light the Night, or Team in Training. Like the parents who start charitable organizations, or support group websites, or in some way dedicate themselves to helping kids in treatment. Like the parent who starts up an environmental watchdog group, or goes back to school to become a nurse or doctor. So, let’s evaluate. I’m too lazy to run a marathon and too terrified of public speaking to be a corporate fundraiser. And Lord knows I don’t want to go back to college for four more years or try to run my own non-profit organization! If I were being honest, what I’d really like to do is figure out a way to get this journal published and either provide free copies to cancer parents, or actually sell it and donate the proceeds to charity. It would make me happy to think I could give hope to newly diagnosed families, or perhaps provide a laugh, or some insight, to others. But I know nothing about the field of publishing and am pretty sure that literary agents have thousands of manuscripts sent to them, and file them in the circular file, each and every day. And maybe I’m kidding myself that anyone besides my Caringbridge friends would find it interesting, anyway. Many of you have a personal connection to this cancer and/or disability world …. Someone never affected by cancer, especially pediatric cancer, might not be interested or entertained in the least little bit. (sigh) Does this mean I’m going to have to get up off the couch and run a marathon after all???

b) That Kendrie remain cancer free.

c) That I lose 40 poun --- oh, the hell with it. Where do I sign up for a tummy tuck???

So, those are my goals. January 1st is coming up …. What are *your* goals for the New Year?


Sunday, December 11, 2005 8:19 PM CST


4 Days to GO!

Yep, as luck would have it, and the way the calendar fell, of Kendrie’s last seven days on treatment, five of them are being spent on steroids. (See above photo if you don't understand what that means.) Well, hey, we’ve put up with the steroids and all the fun that they entail for two years now, might as well go out with a bang! Or a whimper. Yes, it’s definitely more of a whimper and a whine. LOTS of whining. Whining and crying. At least she’s consistent.

So, four days to go, and I thought I would share with you the Four Most Clueless Things Said to Me While Kendrie Was On Treatment. I’ve heard about some of the doozies said to other parents and feel fortunate that we seem to have escaped relatively unscathed. That, or I’m just so dense I don’t even know when I’ve been insulted. That is entirely possible. Ironically, one comment was made at the beginning of treatment, one in the middle, and the last two have been made in the last two days. We’ve got four days to go (have I mentioned we’ve only got four days to go?) so maybe someone will zing me yet!

Clueless Comment #1: The day after Kendrie was diagnosed, I walked my other kids into their classrooms to explain, briefly, to their teachers what was going on … that I would be out of town, that their grandma was flying in to take care of them in case the teacher needed anything, please understand our house is in turmoil and try to be sensitive to my older two children, etc. We had just received the leukemia diagnosis the day before and I was a wreck. Truly, a wreck. It was difficult for me to even say the words out loud without crying ….. and when I said to one of the teachers, “I need to let you know, my youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia yesterday” and took a breath to try and calm myself, the teacher grabbed my hand, gasped, and said out loud -- in front of Brayden -- “Oh, no, don’t say leukemia. My best friend’s son DIED from leukemia!”

Clueless Comment #2: “Are you having that baby so your sick son over there can have a transplant?” Said to me, by the cashier at Food Lion, this past summer after Kendrie’s hair fell out again. I was offended on so many levels I didn’t even know what to say. First of all, I was fat, not pregnant. My “sick son” is actually a girl, and how dare a total stranger presume she need a transplant and ask such a personal, potentially-upsetting, question??? (Although I do give her kudos for having even a basic knowledge of the transplant process.) I stood there, stunned, then simply replied, “No, that’s not why I’m having this baby”, paid for my groceries, and left, taking my “sick son” with me.

Clueless Comment #3: Said to me yesterday, by Kellen’s coach, when I told him Kellen would be missing the first basketball scrimmage of the season next Sunday afternoon because that is when we are having Kendrie’s off-treatment party. I explained, briefly, that friends and family are coming in from all over and the party has been in the works for months … sorry for the inconvenience, but Kellen will miss the scrimmage. The coach congratulated me (on Kendrie’s behalf) and said he completely understood. Then he said, “But do me a favor and ask Kellen if he’d rather go to the party or the scrimmage. If he wants to come to the scrimmage, I’ll make sure the Team Mom can pick him up and bring him home so he doesn’t have to miss it.” Now, I *think* the guy thought he was being helpful, which is why I classified the comment as “clueless” and not ignorant. But missing the party for the scrimmage? Not an option.

Clueless Comment #4: Said to me this morning, by KELLEN, while he and Kendrie and I were flipping through the Music Choice channels on the TV. (Don’t ask me. Some kids want to watch cartoons, my son wants to listen to Bluegrass.) As we hit each channel/station, Kellen would name off the kind of music (Classic Rock, Contemporary Country, Smooth R&B, etc.) and I would give a little commentary, then we would all give a thumbs up or thumbs down on the song. We got to the channel entitled “Retro-Active Rock” and Kellen asked, “What is retro-active?” I explained, “Well, retro-active means to go back and do something … something that happened in the past. Like, this music goes back and was the music I listened to when I was in school.” Kellen smiled and said, “Wow, it must go Waaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy back!”

OK, so maybe that has nothing to do with cancer, but there’s no better way to start your day than for your son to tell you you’re old. Its even worse when you know he’s right.

So, in case you are the friend or family member of someone recently diagnosed with cancer, and you’re wondering just what exactly is the *right* thing to say …. Here is the Top Four List of the Most Helpful Things People Have Said to Us:

1. “Hi. I just wanted to call and let you know we are thinking of you. How are things going?” (said in a sincere, concerned voice, and not as an opening to tell me about your crummy week instead. Then, if the person feels like giving details, listen. If the person doesn’t feel like talking about it, don’t take it personally.)

2. “I am bringing over dinner one night this week. What night do you need it?” (Most helpful the first few weeks after diagnosis. Don’t ask if you can bring dinner, or offer to bring dinner. Most people feel awkward accepting help. TELL them you are bringing dinner and ask when.They might protest, but believe me, in the beginning, they will appreciate it more than you know.)

3. “Hey, I checked your Caringbridge site and I’m glad/worried to hear things are going well/rough. I’ll keep checking the site for updates; thanks for keeping us posted like that.” (OK, so maybe I’m the only one who got a kick out of knowing people were going to the site …. It’s even better to let people know you visited the site by signing the guestbook.)

4. “Let’s go out. If you want to talk about cancer all night long, that is fine. I promise I’ll put on sunglasses if my eyes start to glaze over and roll back in my head, and you can just keep on talking. But, if you don’t want to talk about it at all, that’s fine too. Just let me know.”

And in case you are sick of reading MY lists and opinions of things to say/not to say, I’d like to share with you an e-mail that was sent to me this past week by an online friend who is a pediatric oncology nurse in Washington. Mindi, thank you so much for sharing a perspective that only someone who has worked in the field like you can possibly know and understand; I appreciate it!

“Thought I would pass on a little bit more perspective and in the end I think I may only be serving to date myself : ) When I started this kids cancer gig some 16 years ago there was:

* There was no Zofran, Kytril, or Anzamet. We told parents "Our goal is for them to sleep through this part of treatment" We had no choice

* There was no Emla and there was no anesthesia for spinal taps of bone marrows, NG tube insertions, foley catheters or most moderately invasive procedures. We held each and every screaming, terrified kid down.
I still HATE myself for that!

* There was no Neupogen and most kids died as a result of Neutropenia. "Most" would equal more than 70 percnet..... Treatment killed more than 70 percent of kids.

* There were no child life specialists...nurses did everything (still do for the most part) and while we were good at it, we were not that good.

* There was really no outpatient. All procedures, transfusions, and IV chemo required a minimum 7-10 day hospitalization. If your ANC was less than 1000, whether or not there was fever, you were admitted.

* For patients undergoing stem cell transplant (by the way it was called Bone Marrow Transplant, we didn't know how to apherese humans yet) the average length of stay post transplant was 47 days. Today it is 12.

* We did not allow kids with ANC's <500 who may or may not have been on steroids to eat any fresh fruits or veggies, no fast food, no HappyMeals, no Pizza Hut, Domino's, nothing that sounded or tasted good.

* We were so worried about mouth sores that as nurses we were instructed by older MD's (peds MD's mind you) that thumb sucking had to be stopped. Okay the Catholic in me requires I confess...I thought that was bullshit and cheated on a regular basis.

"Kristie my dear sweet and loving mom, we had no clue what the hell we were doing. But we learned. And hundreds of kids, and even more, their parents allowed and encouraged us to learn. I'd like to think their spirits live on in Kendrie and Mary Grace and Jack and precious Catie who is fighting like hell. We have come so far. We will come farther. We are so close.”

So there you go. Four things *not* to say (Kids, do NOT tell your mom she is old!) four things that are helpful to say, and one truly unique perspective. I’m hopeful I can continue with our Top Three, Two, and One Lists, but Steroid-Girl might not give me any more photos. Hmmm, wonder if I can train the dog to hold up one paw?

Hope your weekend was wonderful,

Saturday, December 10, 2005 10:10 PM CST


5 Days to GO!

All parents have dreams for their children and what they should be when they grow up …. Doctor, lawyer, ballerina, etc. Sure, Blaine and I would love to raise tri-lingual neurosurgeons who walk on the moon and summit Mount Everest ….. but realistically, as long as they stay out of jail, we’ll be pretty happy.

Our kids, of course, have dreams of their own. Currently, Kellen wants to be a “Spy Agent”, Kendrie wants to be a doctor, and Brayden wants to be (shrug) “I don’t know.”

There are a few limitations placed on Kendrie, however, due to her leukemia diagnosis and subsequent chemo treatment. Blaine and I were discussing the career options that are no longer available to her, and thought we would share them with all of you, The Top Five Careers That Are Off-Limits to Kendrie:: (and in a few minutes, the Top Five Surprises at her Final Clinic Visit)

1. Professional Basketball Player. It’s a medical fact that chemo can stunt a child’s overall growth, and there’s very little chance of hanging on the rim for some sweet air time if you’re not much above five feet when you grow up. Sure, we could blame Kendrie’s genetic vertical challenge on her paternal grandmother who only stood 4”11, but it’s much more satisfying to blame the chemo. Either way you look at it, I don’t think the WNBA is in her future.

2. Professional Baseball Player. As many steroids as we’ve pumped into her system these past two years, her drug screen would light up like Barry Bonds disguised as a Christmas tree. No way she’d pass THAT test!

3. Nuclear Radiographic Laboratory Technician. I’m not exactly sure what it is these people do, but considering Kendrie is already at increased risk for secondary cancers, I don’t think working at Three Mile Island is really a good choice for her.

4. Professional Blood Donor. OK, so maybe no-one actually makes a *living* doing this, even the people who donate platelets for money. But since there is (currently) a lifetime ban against Kendrie, or any blood cancer patient, ever donating blood, I don’t see a ten-gallon pin in her future. It’s a shame, too, because they give out great juice and cookies at those places.

5. Crack Addict. Obviously, not the career choice of a proud mom and dad …. But isn’t it good to know that as many times as she has been poked and prodded already, she is statistically less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol later? I mean, hey, who wants to voluntarily jab themselves with a needle when someone else has been doing it for you the past twenty-six months???

And there you have it …. Career paths Kendrie will most likely NOT take!


I wanted to share with you a few photos from her last clinic visit yesterday. It was such a profound, exciting, emotional day! Final IV Chemo!!!

We started the day by meeting friends for celebratory lunch at the Fuddruckers near the hospital, Mary Grace and her mom and dad, and Katie, one of our wonderful Camp Sunshine counselors (and a twenty-year Ewing’s Sarcoma survivor!!!) Kristin, we’re so sorry you couldn’t make it and hope your pup is doing well!

Then, over to the clinic, where I practically wore a sandwich board strapped around my body and a neon sign glued to my forehead, announcing to any and everyone who would listen that this was her last day of chemo!!! I told the receptionist, the triage nurse, other parents in the waiting room, the medical sales rep who walked by, the parking garage attendant, and the guy who works in the deli downstairs.

Since this was the last time, Kendrie and I discussed beforehand how nice it would be if just once, just this one single time, she could allow the nurse to access her port without sitting in my lap and crying the whole time. She agreed it would be wonderful. In theory. Then she climbed in my lap and started whining.

But once she was accessed, she did agree that she’d like to flush the line herself, since this would be her last chance to do it. (Did I mention this would be the last time her port was accessed????)

"Kendrie, flushing her port before getting chemo"

The nurse drew blood for her counts, then injected her with vincristine …. Then un-accessed her, and viola! It was over!!!

"Look at me!!! No more pokes in my chest! I DID IT!!!"

I had a nice conversation with her oncologist, while he was examining her, about what life entails for us now, and how things change, and things to watch out for. During this conversation, I actually got a few surprises (not coincidentally, to go along with today's list, FIVE surprises!):

Surprise #1. Kendrie has osteoporosis (soft, weak bones.) Not unexpected, this happens to most kids after chemo. The doctor says with a healthy diet and exercise, it should reverse itself over time. But watch out for increased risk of broken bones in the meantime.

Surprise #2. Her taste buds might be permanently altered. Not only has she not voluntarily eaten a green vegetable at any point in the last twenty-six months …. But she might never want to again. Some kids return to a normal diet, some don’t. We’ll have to wait and see.

Surprise #3. Sometimes, chemo can permanently alter a person's metabolism. Two of the chemo drugs she has been getting nightly for the past year and a half, 6MP and Methotrexate, actually serve as a counter-agent to the weight gain caused by the steroids. Dr. B told me it is extremely common, in young girls like Kendrie, for them to experience significant weight gain after treatment is over. His exact words were, “The biggest concern at this point for Kendrie is that she not suffer from biscuit poisoning.” At the extremely confused look on my face, he clarified, “Weight gain.”

Although she is active, if her taste preferences continues to run towards bacon and cheese like it has the past two years, and her metabolism doesn’t kick in soon, she runs the risk of ….. (if I may be un-PC) getting pretty fat. When she was diagnosed, she was in the 50th percentile for both height and weight. Now, she is in the 30th percentile for height and the 80th percentile for weight. So, great. She’s got her grandma’s short genes, **MY** chubby genes, and the chemo all working against her. What career option is she genetically pre-disposed to be? Working as an Oompa-Loompa???

Surprise #4: Because her immune system is still weakened, she will continue to take Bactrim (a prophylactic antibiotic) for the next six moths … I actually already knew that. And she will continue her nightly Singulair and Claritin for at least three months. Although not necessarily at a greater risk for getting sick, if she WERE to get sick with a respiratory infection, bronchitis, sinus problem, etc, she IS at a greater risk for it to turn into something more serious. Fortunately, Kendrie has never been prone to colds or illness (well, except cancer, I guess!) But it is something we’ll need to keep an eye on, especially this upcoming winter season.

Surprise #5: This is the one that shocked me the most. Well, maybe “shocked” is too strong a word, but I was a bit taken aback. I made a comment, sort of half-joking, that I was looking forward to next Thursday, when I could change my grammar from “Kendrie HAS leukemia to Kendrie HAD leukemia. Right? When exactly can I change from HAS to HAD?” and the doctor’s reply was, “Never. She will always have leukemia.” OK, just why the heck did we complete these past two years of chemo, then, if not to get rid of every single cancer cell in her body?????

He explained to me that they never think they got rid of every single cell, but the assumption is that we’ve hit those abnormal cells with enough chemo that whatever leukemia cells are left, will remain dormant for the rest of her life. *IF* they were to re-awaken, hopefully her immune system will be strong enough to recognize that they are abnormal and would shut them back down. *IF* her immune system can’t shut them back down, and they begin to multiply, that is when a relapse would happen, and that kids who are destined to relapse are going to relapse no matter what. He said you could keep a kid on chemo for twenty years, but if they’re going to relapse, there’s nothing you can do about it. A little discouraging, but actually not a huge shock.

He has been an pediatric oncologist for eighteen years and obviously, he knows the vast majority of kids never relapse. The ones who do, almost always relapse in the first two or three years. In his eighteen years, he has had one child relapse after five years and one child relapse after eight. But he said relapses have been known to happen up to twenty years after completing treatment. I said, “But is that a relapse, or a new occurrence of disease?” and he said, “It’s a relapse. Always a relapse.”

The whole conversation was very interesting …. not panic-inducing, but thought-provoking. I always thought the goal of this treatment was to kill all the cancer cells ….. the thought that she still has leukemia cells floating around her body is a little unsettling to me. Not in a hysterical way, but in a disquieting way. If any of you whose children also have ALL have been told differently by your doctors, I’d love to know. I have full faith in her oncologist and if he says it, then I believe it. It just wasn’t what I expected to hear …. and I’m wondering what others have heard.

Anyway!! After our conversation, he told Kendrie to sit tight and he would be right back. He and all the nurses came back a minute later and gave Kendrie a standing ovation, and this balloon, which she carried like it was a fragile gemstone all the way home last night.

She was so happy about that balloon, I don’t think she even cared that she’ll never play pro baseball.

Thanks for checking in,
PS. It's a souvenir t-shirt from Gatorland in Florida ... what did you think? That I was letting her walk around with some giant, terrifying, reptilian nightmare on her chest????

Friday, December 9, 2005 8:29 PM CST


6 Days to GO!

Tonight’s journal entry and Top Six List is a blatant cut-n-paste from a previous journal entry --- but really, how can I NOT reminisce about the six most interesting cancer hairdos EVER??? (Hair entries narrated by Kendrie.)

Stage One -- The Beginning


Wow, it's hard to remember when I had this much hair! What I DO remember is fussing every time Mom tried to brush it!!

But Mom always said she thought I looked like the Little Dutch Boy. (((Mom wonders if I heard her saying this, and that's when the gender-confusion began???)))


Stage Two -- Going, going ......


Oh, geez, the hair is really starting to come out now -- see how thin it's getting? You can actually see my scalp in certain places. (Mom was surprised to find this photo ... she doesn't remember me smiling, let alone laughing, any time before mid-December!)

But hey! If Donald Trump can pull off the comb-over from Hell, I think I should be able to do the same thing!


Yeah, it's getting hard to avoid the truth .... it's definitely on the way out.

But you know what? This Mark Miller guy sings lead for a band called Sawyer Something and *HE* looks pretty cool with his bald head and a microphone -- maybe there's still hope for me with my karoke Christmas present! I just have to work a little harder to pull off the rock-star thing!


Stage Three --- GONE!!!


Well, it's March, and its DEFINITELY gone now! Here I am, bald as a cue ball, practicing medicine on my poor dolls and stuffed animals (who, by the way, are much better sports about getting stuck and poked and prodded than I am.)

Check it out, though -- this guy was pretty kick-ass, from what my mom tells me about TV shows back in the 70's. And if HE gets credit for being so tough just by chasing bad guys and sucking on a lollipop, shouldn't I get even more credit for kicking so much cancer butt?????

And this guy is well-known for kickin' alien-ass .......

Hey! She kicked ass, too!! These people are all tough just like me! Maybe being bald is a badge of courage in this case! (do you think I'll get in trouble for saying "ass" so many times?)


Well, I guess Dad figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. We make a pretty cute team, don't you think?

My dad must know how to handle dirt just like this guy. In fact, sometimes I hear him saying "Who do you think I am, Mr. Clean????" At least that's what he mumbles when he's mopping the kitchen floor.


Stage Four -- The Rebellious Look


Hmmmm, why does mom start humming "White Wedding" every time she lubes up my head with suntan lotion before we go swimming??? Can anyone tell me????


Stage Five --- What on Earth????


What the heck??? It's gone again! How did that happen????

I heard a rumor that this guy is pretty noble. Or at least he plays somebody noble on tv. So maybe I'll go for "nobly bold." Ugh, stinks anyway.


Well, here I am on the first day of Long-Term Maintenance -- and I'm still in ass-kicking mode! Plus, my mom is hoping I see that girls can be bald and beautiful and tough at the same time, just look at the lady below!

Don't tell mom, but I already knew that. ALL kids that fight cancer are tough and bald and beautiful.


Stage Six -- Houston, we have growth again


You know what I love about this picture of me, and the picture of the girl below me? When *SHE* went out in public like that, people all around the world commented on how bald she was and how on earth could she go out without being embarrassed?? We look almost exactly alike, and when *MY* hair finally got this long, I quit wearing hats --- I thought it was a long, flowing mane at this point!!! Heck, I've even started using shampoo again!


And One Stage to Grow On ..........

(Narration by Kristie) OK, anyone born after 1975 is probably not going to get the extreme social relevance of the following celebrity hairstyle comparison, but I think my fellow age 30 comrades will grasp the connection immediately, and, dare I say, enjoy a bit of nostalgia at the same time ..........

At the rate Kendrie’s hair is growing, I’m concerned we’re going to be looking like this before too long:



And notice that we didn't add any of the photos from when her hair fell out a THIRD time this past summer, during long-term maintenance!!! But there you have it, the six stages of hair growth that cracked me up the most.


Please take note of the How Many-Days-To-Go photo at the top of the page … Kendrie and her oncologist Dr. B holding up their combined six fingers! Today was the 2nd-best end-of-treatment marker, Kendrie’s LAST IV CHEMO IN THE CLINIC!!!! I’ll post more tomorrow about details and (as you probably guessed) will include a few photos, along with our top Five list, but rest assured we are all going to bed tonight with smiles on our faces (well, except for Brayden who got put in time out and sent to bed half an hour early … I’m pretty sure she’s still scowling) knowing Kendrie got her port accessed for the VERY LAST TIME TODAY!!!!

Woo-hoo! Despite the four-hour drive home (what was *with* that Atlanta traffic this afternoon?) it was a fabulous, wonderful, marvelous day!

Hope your day was just as wonderful, although short of winning the lottery, I just don’t see how it could possibly beat ours. :)


Thursday, December 8, 2005 8:50 PM CST

7 SWANS A SWIMMING (oh, wait, wrong song)


7 Days to Go!

Not that you ever *want* your child to get cancer, of course, but if it’s going to happen, it’s great if it happens in Georgia. Well, wait, that didn’t sound quite right. Hopefully you understand what I’m trying to say. The whole thing blows, but I don’t think there is anyplace else in the country we could have gotten the same kind of amazing social support that we have received here.

It’s funny (as in ironic, not as in ha-ha) when you’re in the military and you think you know where you’re going and where you will live and what your next job will be, and you have a 3-yr or 5-yr or 10-yr plan for your career …. and then nothing goes as planned. There were two places we were supposed to go instead of Georgia, but like a giant-falling-domino-game-of-LIFE, and assignments that didn’t work out for one reason or another, this is where we wound up. Robins AFB, Georgia. And, it’s exactly where we needed to be. Fate? Luck? Divine Intervention? You choose… I already know what I think.

Not only is Kendrie’s hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Scottish Rite, ranked in the top three for cancer services by "Child" magazine, the Aflac Cancer Center was completely renovated and redone last year and is like the Rolls Royce of pediatric cancer clinics. Not only do they have arcade games and pinball machines and dvd players and personal tvs and games and books and magic screens and big screen TVs (even in the sedation rooms!) and child-size furniture and a stocked kitchen …. But the doctors and nurses and personnel have been wonderful to us. Most importantly, they have taken excellent care of Kendrie and treated us kindly …. We weren’t just another patient family, ever. I can’t imagine getting her treatment anyplace else, and thanks to Uncle Sam agreeing to let us stay here in Georgia for six years total (something that is unHEARDof in the military!) we won’t have to. Hey, you didn’t think we were staying here because we enjoyed the ants and humidity, did you? We're tough, but we're not that tough!

Medical basis aside, another reason we are so fortunate is the vast network of organizations in the Atlanta area that support pediatric cancer patients and their families -- socially, collectively, emotionally. Other families have become like extended family to us. I normally run into at least one family we know at clinic, often several. Sometimes we’ll meet for lunch beforehand, or go out for lunch after our appointments. If you’ve never appreciated the significance of peer-support, well, you sure would if you lived here and experienced this like we have.

My online group is great … hundreds of leukemia parents … they *get* it. But these other Georgia parents, some leukemia, some brain tumor, some neuroblastoma …. and others …. They get it as well. And even better, we get to meet and hang out and laugh and cry and pray and socialize and bullshit with one another, thanks to the organizations that understand what a benefit that is for us, and work so hard to make it happen.

So let me take a moment to thank 7 Super Social Supports and what they’ve done for our family (even before we realized we needed support!)

7SSS #1:

CURE Childhood Cancer --- the first group to reach out and help us .. our very first day in the hospital! Bringing us a Welcome Bag and inviting us to their weekly Open Arms Gathering at the hospital, I was still too "deer-in-the-headlights" to fully appreciate this at the time, but I sure do now. We also appreciate the fun events they plan for local families each year, like their annual CURE Family Picnic (photo above) and the Off-Treatment celebration they hold each year at Six Flags --- reserve our spot for the 2006 Celebration NOW!

7SSS #2:

The Lighthouse Family Retreat --- there just aren’t enough wonderful things to say about this organization and the people who run it. Begun in 1999, their mission is to serve children with cancer and their families at a seaside retreat and help them to laugh, restore family relationships, and find hope in God. Words can’t explain how great this was and how great it was to spend time …. real, quality time, with other families. Families who became friends. We’ve been fortunate to attend twice, and have already begun saving our pennies so we can go back as a volunteer family in a few years. If they'll have us, that is. *That* might be still up in the air. :)

7SSS #3:

Another fantastic Atlanta organization run by wonderful people: Camp Sunshine. They have a Camp Sunshine House in Atlanta where they offer family support group meetings, spa nights (my favorite!) and all kinds of local activities. If we lived in Atlanta, we’d probably be there so much they’d issue a restraining order against us. As it is, we consider ourselves fortunate that we’ve been able to attend so many of their events; several Family Camp Weekends at Camp Twin Lakes, Middle Georgia Support Group Get-togethers, Big Apple Circus, etc. Next summer, I think Brayden and Kellen want to attend Sibling Camp … and since we are living here in Georgia a few more years, Kendrie will even have a chance to attend as a camper herself. Not that I think she’ll ever be that courageous, considering she still tries to sneak into bed with us most nights, but it’s good to know it’s there if she wants to!

7SSS #4:

“CureSearch unites the world's largest childhood cancer research organization, the Children's Oncology Group, and the National Childhood Cancer Foundation through our shared mission to cure childhood cancer. Research is the key to a cure.” Although it’s a national organization, CureSearch offers local happenings for families, fundraisers, and special events like the Quiet Heroes Luncheon I got to attend this fall, with 100 other mostly-local cancer moms. The photos above were of us at an Atlanta Braves game, tickets courtesy of CureSearch.

So as you can see, we are the fortunate beneficiary of some great Georgia support. There are other organizations that have helped our family as well, for which I’m grateful:

7SSS #5:

Supersibs! has made sure Kellen and Brayden haven’t been lost in the shuffle or overlooked during this process. Ok, who are we kidding? Of course they’ve been overlooked at times! But the trophies and t-shirts and cards and newsletters that they receive from Supersibs! do help them to feel less neglected. It has certainly helped balance the extra attention that Kendrie has received. Kendrie, of course, would deny that.

7SSS #6:

I don’t have a photo for Candlelighters, unless I go to my kids’ bookshelf and take a picture of all the smart, sweet, funny books about kids with cancer that I’ve received from them. As new books come out, like “The Amazing Hannah”, “Oliver’s Story” and “Chemo, Craziness and Comfort”, they are offered free of charge to cancer parents. Those books have been very helpful to Kendrie and her siblings, especially at the beginning of her treatment, and I appreciate receiving them. Let’s be honest, the “I’m a Kid and I’ve Got Cancer” section at the local Barnes & Noble isn’t that big …. so this was a real help for our family.

7SSS #7:

When Kendrie was first diagnosed and in the hospital, the social worker came to talk to Blaine and me about all sorts of things … supplemental insurance, educational programs, financial aid, counseling services … and near the end of the conversation, she sort of threw out there, “Oh, and don’t forget, Kendrie will be eligible for a Wish now!” A Wish? A WISH??? Like something those dying kids get????? I burst into tears …. who wants their kid to be eligible for a Wish? (In hindsight, I really think that lady should be trained to handle the situation a bit more delicately.)

But eligible we were, so we took advantage of the opportunity for our local Make-A-Wish chapter to send us to Disneyworld/Universal Studios … the very trip we had planned as a surprise for the kids, scheduled for the month after Kendrie was diagnosed. (Whew! Thank goodness we hadn’t actually told them about it! They’d STILL be whining about not getting to go!)

While in Florida, we stayed at the single most remarkable resort village in the world; Give Kids the World. You have to be on a Wish Trip to stay there, and you can only go once, although you are allowed to go back anytime as a Day Visitor. I’m not even going to try and put in words how much we loved this village. You can go back in my journal history to last February if you’re interested … but suffice it to say, when I grow up, I want to work at GKTW.

So, all this waxing nostalgic about the opportunities afforded our family by these organizations leads me back to a perplexing situation I have found myself in before …. How can I feel lucky that we’ve gotten to experience these things, and still stay grumpy (as is my nature!) about the cancer in the first place? The comment “Relax, enjoy, your family deserves these things” annoys me as well. We didn’t do anything to deserve these things, any more than Kendrie did anything to deserve cancer. And it’s hard to stay mad at cancer when I feel so blessed about the chances it has given us.

As grateful as I am for all these things, and these organizations, and the heroes who run them, I’d trade them all back. In a heartbeat. Except for the friends we’ve made. Those, I don’t want to give back. But that's it. Otherwise, back it goes.


Wednesday, December 7, 2005 9:36 PM CST


8 Days to Go!!!

My gosh, I’m starting to feel like Dick Clark on New Years Eve …. Will the damn ball EVER drop?!?!? Just kidding, these days are passing by very quickly and while there have been times during the past two years I thought we would NEVER get here, I’m sure next Thursday night, our personal Times Square Celebration will be here before we know it. :)

Just a few comments from the guestbook I want to address:

**All these songs have been from the TSO CD “The Lost Christmas Eve”. They have several other really great Christmas CD’s that I’m too lazy to walk out to my car and retrieve, so for now, everything is coming off that one album that I happen to have here in the computer room.

**Yes, the “okc” in Kristieokc stands for Oklahoma City. That’s where I was born and raised and lived for twenty happy years until my military husband ripped me from the bosom of my family. Whatever. I’m not bitter, just eager to return home when he retires.

**Yes, we would be happy to give out our personal address if you would like to send Kendrie a congratulations card for finishing treatment …. I just have a “thing” about putting it out there on the web, so please e-mail me privately (address at the bottom of this site) and I’m happy to give it to you in a return e-mail. Burglers and axe-murderers need not apply.

**My camera is a Canon Digital Rebel …. I think the good photos have less to do with photographer talent and willing subjects and more to do with an expensive telephoto lens and high-quality photo-editing software!! Now, if I could just figure out how to erase my double chin and big butt, I’d be in business.....

**I didn’t want to make anyone else feel guilty about the fact I am done shopping, wrapping and all the gifts are already under the tree, so today’s photo was taken in front of the small tree in Kendrie’s room -- no presents at all. Yes, I am a freak …. We have five decorated Christmas trees in our house, and no, we don't live in a mansion. Blaine is grumbling that it's starting to look like a rain forest in here. If it makes you feel any better, those of you who haven’t yet shopped or wrapped or decorated, I am a stay-at-home mom who rudely turned down the request to volunteer at the Secret Santa Workshop this week at school, so I could get all that stuff finished. Hey, my family is coming here from Oklahoma for Kendrie’s Off-Treatment party and an early Christmas, so I had pressure to finish!!

**In case you noticed, or didn't notice, no, Blaine himself was not listed as one of my "Nine Things I am Grateful For" items. In case you're not sure why, let me give you this little example: After reading my update yesterday, and reading the paragraph (which was intended to be humorous) about living in the backwoods and making our own butter and furniture and living without electricity or any contact with the outside world, he looked over at me and said, "What would be so bad about that?" And He. Was. Serious!!! Does that tell you the kind of man I am married to????

Again, thanks to all of you for the kind, enthusiastic messages in the guestbook. It is hard to believe we could be any more excited about this milestone, but your notes to our family have made it, if possible, even more special. And now, on to today’s list:

EIGHT BLISSFUL MOMENTS --- I hope it goes without saying that we’ve had more than eight moments that have made us happy in the last twenty-six months. I’m pretty sure I’d have to turn in my parenting license if I couldn’t find happiness, or provide happiness for my family, more often than that.

But these are photos taken during treatment that for one reason or another, really touched my heart. Some of these events took place *because* of cancer, some of them took place *in spite* of it. I seriously doubt that Geocities will be able to support ten photos in one journal entry (despite the fact they accidentally charged my credit card a $500.00 fee last month; it’s supposed to be $5.00!) so if you come to the site and see little red x’s instead of pictures, please check back again later. They reset the bandwidth every hour. Or something technical like that.

Photo #1:

Photo taken during her first week in the hospital after diagnosis, Oct 2003. Notice the bruises on the back of her hands from all the needle sticks??? Kendrie turned from a happy, laughing, bubbly child to a sullen, withdrawn, distrusting little girl in a matter of days. It broke my heart to see her so suspicious of every adult that had suddenly come into her life, and on this day, when I was able to simply color with her, and joke with her, and get her to smile for the first time …. it meant a lot to me to see her being silly again, even if just for a moment.

Photo Group #2:

Pictures taken Dec, 2003. The kids were out of school for the Christmas holiday and we took them with us to Atlanta for one of Kendrie’s appointments. This was the beginning of treatment, when we were often driving to clinic once or twice a week for chemo in one form or another. It was an unseasonably warm day and we spent the afternoon playing in a local park. The sun was shining, all three kids were laughing and having fun, after two months of turmoil and upheaval and confusion, and on this afternoon, I started to allow myself to nurse the very small flame, buried deep in my soul, that our family might just possibly come through this ordeal intact.

Photo #3:

The very end of December, 2003, Blaine had what is called a “Pinning On Ceremony” on base. (Another name for a promotion ceremony …. and by promotion, I mean bringing home slightly more money that we had to spend on Kendrie’s unbelievable, non-stop steroid cravings!) It was one of the first times our family had ventured out into public in such a social manner, and for one brief afternoon, for what felt like the first time since diagnosis, the spotlight was on something POSITIVE that was happening for our family. It was a really great feeling.

Photo #4:

a.) Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon.

b.) Jonas Salk inventing the vaccine for polio.

c.) The discovery of penicillin.

d.) The Wright Brothers taking flight for the very first time.

Yes, all these things were amazing, inspiring, and did much to benefit the advancement of the human race. But we had an event of such unbelievable magnitude take place here this week that I believe the history books will have to be re-written to include this earth-shattering incident. My palms were sweaty; my heart soared ….. are you ready to share in the mind-blowing, wonderful news?


Really, have you ever seen a more self-satisfied look? (Photo and journaling, June 2004)

Photo #5:

I know, I know, I’ve used this picture of Kendrie to death and you are all sick of seeing it --- but I just love it! We were attending our first-ever family Lighthouse Retreat in Florida, July of 2004. It was fabulous to see my kids enjoying themselves on the beach, escaping the cancer-routine for a week, and for the opportunity to make friends with other families going through some of the same trials as we were. I’d much rather have met them all at some community get-together, like a big ol’ pig roast with wet-naps and huge vats of cold beer, but I’m grateful for these families just the same. And I will always love this picture of Kendrie, embracing life.

Photo #6:

After being pulled out of pre-school the year before when she got sick, and being forced to spend an entire school year at home with boring old Mom, watching movies, reading books, and doing puzzle after puzzle after countless puzzle (my God if I never see another Clifford puzzle it will be too soon!) I don’t think this child could have been any happier about starting her first year of public school in Pre-K-4. How can you NOT be happy for a kid who looks this thrilled???? August 2004

Photo #7:

One of the few (and if you were following along in my journal entries back then, you will remember that I mean VERY FEW) happy moments on our Make-A-Wish trip. This hour spent in Curious George’s Water Play Area was one of the best hours of the entire trip. In hindsight, I guess we should have just spent the whole six days right there, stealing dry towels from unsuspecting tourists and having the Corn Dog and Dippin' Dots guys deliver to us.

Photo Group #8:

Kendrie talked about playing t-ball, dreamed about playing t-ball, strategized her t-ball career, and couldn’t wait to get out there with the other kids. I was never so proud in all my life as her first time at bat … seeing the sheer joy on her face to be taking part in an activity she loves and had so looked forward to, for months and months and months.

Then, there were other moments when we really weren’t quite as proud of her skills.

There's another photo I just love of Kendrie going off the slide at our friend Ms. Renee's house this past summer that I would like very much to share with you --- the goggles on her eyes and the smile on her face is simply priceless. But you know my tom-boy girl.... she was swimming in her brother's swim trunks and no top, and I'm pretty sure if I put that on this site, the Internet Porn Police will be after me straightaway .... So, that’s it for today …. Eight Blissful Moments, brought to you (hopefully!) by my web server. Thanks again for checking in,


Tuesday, December 6, 2005 8:42 PM CST


Thanks to all of you for your kind words in the guestbook and private e-mails you sent me, congratulating us on reaching the “10-Days to Go Milestone.” Believe me, we would be celebrating and counting down the days even if we lived alone in a shanty in the back-woods of Alaska with no phone or TV or computer or radio, scraping out an existence for ourselves by setting wolverine traps, churning butter ourselves, hauling water from the stream and making our own furniture out of corn cobs. But the fact we can have all of you celebrating WITH us (Man, I love technology. And furniture that’s not made out of corn cobs) makes it even more special!

So, today, we have NINE DAYS TO GO!! (Have I mentioned it's only nine more days to go?) And in keeping with my theme (it’s always me and a theme, isn’t it?) here is my list of the Nine Things for Which I am Most Grateful with Regards to Kendrie’s Leukemia:

1. Emla cream. Topical numbing agent, aka “Magic Cream” at our house. At this point in her treatment, I guesstimate Kendrie has been stuck with a needle in her chest, arm, finger, leg, or spine, approximately 115 times. She has either cried, fussed, whimpered, whined, or protested, or a combination of those things, 115 out of 115 times. And that is WITH the Magic Cream. Can you even imagine my life without it??? I considered using it myself for my flu shot last week but Blaine called me a wimp. (Have you **had** a flu shot? I’m telling you, they sting!)

2. Zofran. Anti-nausea pills, worth their weight in gold. And considering they cost $25 a pill, they practically ARE. (Obviously, this list is in no particular order, because believe me, if it was, Zofran would be in the number ONE spot!)

3. Good health insurance. (See number 2.)

4. Julianna Banana and her ghost-writer dad, Terry. I can still remember going to her site for the first time and seeing a cute little photo of an adorable kitten titled “This is Me”. Then, the corresponding photo was of a huge, roaring lion, “This is Me, On Steroids.” I think it was the first time since Kendrie’s diagnosis that I laughed out loud. Thank you, Julianna and Terry, for showing me that it was not only OK, but therapeutic to poke fun at ourselves. Or at other people, which isn’t as nice, but lots more fun.

5. ALL the Caringbridge sites I have visited over the past two years, and the families who opened themselves up and allowed me to follow along on their journeys …. And the people (YOU, if you’re reading this!) who have been kind enough to follow along on ours. I’ll be honest, there were close friends and family who let us down, and I was severely disappointed about that in the beginning. But, I never reached out for support on this site that I didn’t get it. For that, I am profoundly thankful. (And a little bit concerned that you people can’t find something more interesting to read than stories about my dysfunctional family and my corny analogies all the time! You know, CNN has their own website that would probably be LOTS more informative!) :)

6. The friends I have made via my online support group, All-Kids. I have sympathized, laughed, worried, grieved, gotten advice, given advice, and celebrated with these families. I talk with some of them more than I talk to my “old” friends and relatives. (What, exactly, does that say about my personal-relationship skills?) I have made arrangements to meet them in person from coast to coast --- California, DC, New York, to name a few, and there are several families in Canada that aren’t safe yet, if I ever get my passport updated! I’m so sad about the common thread that brought us all together, but so grateful for their support.

7. To my children, as bizarre as this might sound, for their fighting, bickering and arguing. For letting me know, in a million disagreeable ways, that they are still normal siblings with the normal urge to kill one another on a regular basis, or more likely, band together and thwart me in the process. If they were *too* nice to each other, I’d know that the thought of cancer and its possible consequences was always on their minds. Instead, although they drive me crazy with their skirmishes and attitudes and power struggles, I know that they are typical, ordinary kids. Usually. Or, sometimes I just think they’re insane.

8. Oncologists, nurses, med techs, lab techs, nurse techs, child life specialists, appointment clerks, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, researchers, secretaries, receptionists, insurance specialists, triage specialists, ER nurses, ER docs, pharmacy techs, hospital kitchen staff, janitors, maintenance people, Volun-teens, pediatricians, fundraising specialists, corporate donors, private donors, psychologists, and anyone else who has ever given even a single penny or a moment of their time --- or, made it their life’s work to take care of these kids and work towards the day when pediatric cancer is 100 percent curable and not so miserable in the meantime. For my daughter’s life, I thank you.

9. Georgia’s Toll Authority Speed Pass. I love that little device on my windshield that lets me zip through the tollbooth on the way to and from the hospital more than anything.

And there you go. I know there are others --- many, many others. Perhaps I should have started this countdown list several weeks ago. But that’s it for today. Check in again tomorrow, when I list the eight …. Um …. the eight, ugh, well, I’ll think of eight of something!

Hope your week is off to a good start,

Monday, December 5, 2005 11:02 PM CST


(not that we’re counting down, or anything)

***OK, technically I realize the date and time at the top of this journal is still Monday … but I’m in Eastern Time Zone, so it’s Tuesday here, so it’s TEN days to go!***

First things first, thanks so much to all of you who checked in over the weekend and helped push our visitor counter over the 500,000 mark. What a nice milestone to hit right before going off-treatment (have I mentioned we only have ten days to go before Kendrie is done????)

I have a sneaking suspicion that five or six or you might have pushed refresh a time or two …. but that’s ok! Whether it’s half a million different people checking in on us once, or ten or twenty family members and close friends who check in on a regular basis, we’ll take all the support we can get! Special thanks to Dagny D. from Powder Springs, GA, for being right on the money with 500,000 and letting us know who our special visitor was. Ironically, 500,001, Pam D, was ALSO from Powder Springs, GA … they must have some speedy internet connections in their neck of the woods. I also want to offer a shout out to Cindy, the Postcard Lady from Sonoma, CA, who has been a great support to our family …. She was number 500,002 and is blaming the Fed-Ex man who rang her doorbell and made her late for checking in.

So, with only ten days of chemo to go, what is going through our minds? Here is a snippet:

Mom: “Kendrie, do you realize that you only have to take chemo for ten more days and then you are done with cancer? What do you think of that?”

Kendrie: “Does that mean I can eat ice cream before bed again …. Finally???”

Kellen and Brayden: “Woohoo, if she can, that means WE can, too!”

(Happy dance around the living room, in anticipation of the ice-cream frenzy that is sure to take place next weekend.)

No profound, life-altering declarations about the strength and courage of our cancer survivor ….. it’s all about the chocolate and sprinkles, baby!

So since I can't depend on my kids for any kind of wise, sage comments, I thought I would share with you the TOP TEN THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN MOST DIFFICULT FOR ME. (After all, I might *pretend* this site is about Kendrie, but surely you have figured out by now that it’s Really. About. ME.)

1. First thing that was difficult:

This photo was taken about three weeks before Kendrie was diagnosed. She had been complaining off and on of leg and arm pain for a few weeks and on this day, we took the kids to an amusement park as an end-of-summer treat. Kendrie didn’t even last an hour before she started complaining about her legs and begging to be carried. I remember snapping this photo not because I thought she was cute, but because I was annoyed with her for being so lazy. In fact, I think my exact words to her were, “You are annoying me by being so lazy … there is nothing wrong with your legs …. WALK!” I planned to scrapbook the photo about “Our 4-yr old lazy kid who still wants to be carried everywhere”. Of course, you can imagine my guilt when we found out what was wrong.

2. Second thing that was difficult:

I took this photo in the hospital on the day after she was diagnosed. I was in shock, Blaine was in shock, and she was NOT a happy camper about the needles and tubes and wires everywhere. I remember feeling morbid about taking my camera to the hospital to take pictures of my daughter who had just been diagnosed with cancer, but (no drama intended) I honestly thought she was going to die. No-one had explained to me yet that there were relatively successful treatment options for leukemia. We weren’t sure what kind of leukemia she had, and I remember thinking if she only had a few weeks to live, I needed to take lots of pictures of her. I have never been so sick to my stomach with fear. I hope I never am again.

3. Third thing that was difficult:

The physical changes that the Induction stage of treatment – and more specifically, the boat-load of steroids we gave her – brought about. This photo would almost be funny, if you could get past the sad, chubby look on her little moon face. Hmmmmm, let’s take stock, shall we? Grilled cheese, French fries, cheese and crackers, mac and cheese, Pringles, apple juice, Pepsi … anything else? By now, 28 days later, I understood better that we had a good chance of beating this. Kendrie was in remission …. I could take photos with a slightly lighter heart (although I was still sick to my stomach most of the time in private.)

4. Fourth thing that has been difficult for me: Accepting help in all the varied ways it came to us. Whether it was my scrapbooking friends and military wives who cooked us meals at the beginning, my friends who watched Brayden and Kellen while we were in Atlanta, sometimes even overnight, the gifts, cards, toys, and everything else that poured in …. Accepting help means you have a NEED, and that’s never easy to admit. At least not for some of us.

5. Fifth thing that has been difficult for me: Acknowledging that I can’t fix this. I can’t trade places with her, take away the pain, make her feel better. All I can do is be the best parent I know how to be, and show up for my job with Zofran and a warm, loving touch. Listening to your 4-yr old beg and cry, “Mommy, please don’t let them do this to me anymore” when the nurse is coming at her with a needle is something NO parent should have to go through. I still feel nauseated just remembering it.

6. Sixth thing that has been difficult for me: Knowing we have sometimes neglected our older kids throughout this ordeal, and wondering if they are scarred for life because they got the short end of the stick for twenty-six months. Are there unflattering tell-all autobiographies in their future? Counseling? Shock therapy? Family reunions on Jerry Springer???

7. Seventh thing that has been difficult for me: Accepting that nothing I did or didn’t do could have prevented this, or caused this. I took pre-natal vitamins, ate well, breastfed, immunized, rocked, cuddled and loved. Was it the landfill we lived on in Ohio? I hope not, because that means Brayden and Kellen are at risk, too. Was it some defective gene I passed on in utero? I hope not. Am I being punished for some prior transgression? Nope, that’s not how I think. But as a parent, it’s your job to protect your child and it’s hard to think of yourself as a good mother when something like this happens.

8. Eighth thing that has been difficult for me: My total and complete loss of empathy for other people and their petty problems. Well, that’s not completely true. I’ve always hated self-absorbed assholes. It’s just now I can blame my lack of empathy/sympathy on cancer, instead of some personality defect of my own. I don’t CARE if you’re having car trouble, or in-law trouble, or school trouble, or work trouble --- JUST SHUT UP! (Oh my gosh, it’s a miracle I have any friends left!)

9. Ninth thing that has been difficult for me: Some people just don’t get it. They never have; they never will. The people who (true story) twenty five months and twenty days into Kendrie’s treatment plan, who are shocked to find out she gets chemo EVERY DAY at home --- what?!?! They thought it was just once a month at the clinic?!? Not only have they just outed themselves as someone who never checks our website … and has no idea what is going on … they are also the ones who will ask in the most ingratiating way in public, “So, just how is she doing? Really, truly doing ??” like they really, really, really want to know.

10. Tenth thing that has been difficult for me: Listening to myself bitch and moan and whine like this. I drive myself crazy --- tomorrow’s Top Nine List is going to be the Top Nine things I am most grateful for!

Hope your week is off to a good start!

Kristie PS. Did I mention that we only have ten days to go?!?!?!

PSS. New Trans-Siberian Orchestra song: Christmas Canon Rock. I would LOVE to sing like this girl. I would SO go on American Idol and kick everyone’s butt!

Friday, December 2, 2005 6:07 PM CST


13 Days to Go

1) Anyone who has been around Caringbridge very long knows the song “He’s My Son” by Mark Schultz. It was written for a friend of the songwriter whose son was diagnosed with leukemia, and it’s beautiful. I’ve never put it on Kendrie’s site because although she *thinks* she is a boy and she *wants* to be a boy, she in not, in actuality, my SON. Today, however, I saw the live performance video of the song. You remember I mentioned that since Kendrie was diagnosed I cry at the drop of a hat? Well, it’s official, I am a wreck after watching the video. I cried for the entire seven minutes and forty-six seconds and went through two perfectly good Kleenex. Visit it for yourself if you'd like to see it. But be prepared ... have a Kleenex ready! (there is a commercial at the beginning, so just be patient.)

2) A much HAPPIER video follows: TSO Wizards of Winter. If you followed Kendrie’s Caringbridge site last holiday season, you know I am a little obsessed with the songs of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. That’s the music you are listening to now, and the music which I’ll have on the site for most of the season. I’ll change it every few days, though, just for variety. I think most of the internet-world has seen this video already, but just in case you haven’t, take a look.

3) Kendrie came home from school again today, complaining of a stomach-ache. She tried to come home Wednesday, but since I didn’t answer the phone, she had no choice but to stay. (oops) She likes school; she really does. So I know when she comes home, that she genuinely doesn’t feel well. They say chemo can be cumulative. I would guess after two years, one month and two weeks of treatment, she might be feeling the effects. She doesn’t miss that many days overall, but I am happy that her treatment is coming to an end, just in case. I hate that she feels punky, even occasionally. I’m sure she hates it, too. Oh my gosh, Kendrie has been taking chemo for two years, one month, and two weeks --- her treatment is two years and two months long --- do you realize what that means??? Two weeks baby, only two weeks left!!!

4) Check out the counter at the bottom of the page --- sometime this weekend or early next week, we should hit the magic number 500,000!!! What’s magic about it? Well, absolutely nothing! But I still think it’s exciting, so please log in to the guestbook and let us know if you are visitor 500,000 …. Or even CLOSE to 500,000!

Hope you all have a wonderful weeeknd. We will be watching Brayden ride a fire truck in a local Christmas parade, attending our first Christmas party of the season, and avoiding the mall at all costs. :)

Take care,
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Said today, by Kendrie, to me, when she saw me return from the hairdressers after having my blonde highlights replaced with red ones, "Um, maybe you should stick to yellow next time."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 7:40 PM CST


16 Days to Go

So, can you guess what the highlight of our Thanksgiving vacation was? Take a close look at the photos ……….. what is missing? Yep, you figured it out, training wheels!

Check out our cyclist in action:

Oops, obviously we haven’t perfected our technique yet. Braking and turning were the hardest maneuvers to master. Thankfully she figured both out before any serious damage was done.

And as long as you hold your tongue just right, balancing is easy!

That’s the lucky part of living in the south-eastern part of the country ---- the last day of November, and it’s still 60 degrees outside. Of course, if there’s also a brisk wind blowing, mom might be sitting in a lawn chair with her winter coat and gloves on, but the kids are still happy to be playing outside! Well, I should clarify, “happy” until Kendrie rode her bike under the basketball goal, just in time for Kellen to miss a lay-up and the basketball to fall in a perfect, well-defined, slow-motion arc …….. and land square on the top of Kendrie’s head. I’m telling you, they couldn’t have done it again if they had tried!!!

So even though there were tears shed and lots of yelling, maybe NOW they will understand why I make them wear a helmet ….. the heck with spills and injury and concussion, it’s all about those pesky stray basketballs!!!

Hope you are all having a great week,

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: I felt sort of punky at school yesterday so I had the school nurse call my mom and do you know what? My mom had left her cell phone in the car and didn’t realize it ---- so she never called back! I think I should file some sort of abandonment charge or something! Good thing Nurse B. has my back.

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Did you SEE the number at the top of this entry???? Only sixteen days to go, baby …. SIXTEEN!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2005 8:52 PM CST



19 Days to Go

When kids are first diagnosed with cancer, and we parents are sort of walking around in a fog, it’s understandable that we would be distracted. … burn dinner, forget to cook dinner, forget to BUY food for dinner, etc. We even have a term for it on my ALL-Kids Parents Support List: “Chemo Brain”. I’m not sure, though, what the time limit is for using chemo brain as an excuse for forgetfulness. We have 19 days to go … can I still use it?

Three weeks ago, I put my checkbook in my purse one morning before leaving the house so I could pay for Brayden’s gymnastics lesson that afternoon. I ran errands all day, went home for dinner, then went to the gym, where I discovered the checkbook was gone. Obviously, it hadn’t grown legs and wandered off, so I did what any rational woman would do. I called my husband and ripped him a new one for taking the checkbook out of my purse without asking me. Imagine my embarrassment a few minutes later when Circuit City called to tell me someone had turned in the checkbook they found in the parking lot, with my name in it . Oops.

Two weeks ago, I drove off and left my debit card in an ATM machine. Apparently, if you leave a card in the machine for more than so many minutes, the machine sucks it back in. I was unaware of this, all I knew was that I tore my car and my purse apart looking for that card, to no avail. So, I felt pretty lucky when I called the bank and found out they were holding it for me.

Earlier this week, I lost my sunglasses. Not a big deal, really, except they were the first pair of REAL (ie, over $20) sunglasses I had ever bought, and I really liked them. I called the restaurant where I’m positive that I left them, but no one had turned them in. Darn it. Guess I didn’t get as lucky the third time.

So today, I went to Sunglass Hut to buy another pair ……… only to have the Sunglass Hut clerk call me tonight at home to tell me I left my credit card in her store --- what the heck is wrong with me??? Forget the learning disabilities and growth issues and emotional problems Kendrie might have to deal with for the rest of her life --- a much greater concern is the empty black-hole vacuum where my brain used to be!!!!!!!!!

Here’s another story that might clue you in on how my week went (actually, it went great, but hey, I’ve got to talk about *something* in this journal, right?!?)

As you know, we are planning an off-treatment party for Kendrie next month. I would love nothing more than to invite every single person who follows along on our Caringbridge site, and pay to have you all flown to Georgia for the party. If I was Donald Trump, or Bill Gates, trust me, I would. But anyway, we have been planning this party for some time and reserved a lodge on the Air Force base to hold it at. The lodge sits on a small, pretty lake, and I thought it would be very picturesque to have the lake as the backdrop for the party. And, most importantly, the pinnacle of the party, the highpoint of the entire celebration, was going to be the moment when we all follow Kendrie out onto the dock and clap and cheer as she raises her arms triumphantly overhead and pitches her final chemo pills into the blue depths of the water. (Not that I’ve been anticipating that moment for a long time, or anything.)

So, we drove out to the cabin the other day to pay the balance of the reservation fee …. and rounded the corner to the lodge …. imagining how fun it will be on celebration day …. and how beautiful, with the lake in the background …. Only to discover THEY DRAINED THE FREAKIN’ LAKE!!!! It is nothing but a big dry lake bed now, with a lot of rubber tires and mud out in the middle!!! Excuse me, but what the hell is that about????

Seriously, I was speechless. As I sat in the car, mute, wondering if it could possibly rain enough in the next month to fill it back up, or how many garden hoses it would take, Blaine points to a teeny, tiny puddle under the dock and says, timidly, “Well, would that work? I mean, it’s still sort of symbolic, right?”

Aaaagggghhhh! Thankfully, there is another lake around the corner, we’ll just have to walk a little ways to get there. By golly, she is THROWING that chemo in a lake, no matter what it takes --- plant and animal life be damned!!! I have had my mental image of this moment for the past twenty-six months --- and lake bed or no lake bed, MY DAUGHTER IS THROWING HER CHEMO IN THE LAKE!!! So, I hope all our local friends who are able to attend realize that not only is it a casual affair, but you might want to wear tennis shoes, especially if you want to take part in the “Victory March to the Lake” part of the party. :)

Anyway, on to more serious matters.

My online group, the one I am so thankful for and mention all the time, has gotten lots of bad news lately. In fact, I can’t remember a time in the two years that I’ve been a member that we’ve had so much all at once. Since most of these people are scattered all over the country, and the world, there really isn’t a lot I can do for them but offer up my hopes, prayers, best thoughts and warm wishes …. and encourage the rest of you to do the same.

Please visit one, some, or all of the following sites and leave a message in their guestbook. You might not think a note from a total stranger could make a person feel so buoyed, but I speak from personal experience when I tell you that it can.

New to our list, Bradley is a new diagnosis who is technically in remission but struggling a bit with his protocol, with suspicious cells still showing up. Since his family is new to Caringbridge, let’s take this opportunity to show them what a supportive community we can be.

Only a few short weeks from finishing her treatment, Hunter received the bad news that her last spinal (the same “Final Spinal” that we celebrated with Kendrie only a few weeks ago) showed some suspicious cells on the slide. They are waiting for a follow-up spinal to see if this is a fluke, or a relapse. Obviously, we are all praying for fluke, but this is a very stressful time for Hunter’s family. Please visit them so they know they are not alone during the wait.

In the same situation is Keegan, who is still awaiting word on whether his relapse is official or not. I can only assume the waiting is unbearable. Making it more difficult is the fact Keegan was hospitalized for pneumonia this past Thanksgiving weekend. I know his family still needs our support.

And yet another child also waiting to hear if he has indeed relapsed (I didn’t even know relapse could be a “maybe” situation until this past week …. And now we have several???) is Gabriel. Please visit Gabriel’s site and wish his family well during this difficult time.

A child who has already started her relapse protocol is Libby. I remember the grueling, exhausting days of induction, at the beginning of Kendrie’s treatment, and I know the relapse protocols are even more punishing and taxing on these poor kids’ little bodies. Please drop Libby and her family a note of encouragement.

I’ve written before about our online friend Cam. Cam has relapsed twice and received transplants from his brother both times. Frustratingly, his bone marrow is acting up again, and they have begun a new, experimental treatment. Cam is tolerating it well so far, but he and his family need prayers that this will be the final step on his road to a TOTAL recovery … enough is enough for this poor kid.

Recently relapsed is Alexia, who lives in South America. It is imperative that they get Alexia back in remission so she and her family can travel to the United States for a transplant. Unfortunately, she is currently suffering from typhilitis (sp?) and is in ICU on a ventilator, which means chemo is halted, which means she’s not getting closer to the remission she needs. I know Alexia could use all the good thoughts you could send her way.

Saddest of all is the news we received that Isabel passed away last week. I didn’t know Isabel’s family well through our list, but my heart breaks for them just the same, and I offer them my most sincere condolences.

The news that hit closest to home for us this week was the news that Catie’s scans came back with something questionable on them. Yes, this is the same Catie with whom we just celebrated finishing her treatment less than two weeks ago. This is her first set of scans post-treatment, and it’s about the most unfair news they could have received. Couldn’t they be given one stinking holiday season of normalcy before being hurled back into the pediatric cancer world? I’m really bitter about this one, and can’t let loose and say what I want to say here ……. But Jenny, Tre’ and Catie, you know we love you guys and are praying hourly for good news on the next set of scans.

And because I think it’s important to end this journal entry on an upbeat note, let me re-introduce you to Kevin. Kevin holds a special place in my heart, although I’m sure he has no idea (and let’s be honest, he’s a teenager, so he probably could care less, ha!) because the day I joined All-Kids was the day Kevin relapsed ….. three years after he finished his original treatment for leukemia. I had no idea what was going on, or what it meant. All I knew was the parents on my new support list were so upset! I admired this family even more when I discovered Kevin’s older brother Brian also won his battle against leukemia when he was young. I’m telling you, some of you might look at any of these Caringbridge families and think, “I just don’t know how you do it”. Well, I look at this family and think the same thing --- I don’t know them personally, but am awed by them just the same. Not because they got through it; hell, cancer parents everywhere will tell you that OF COURSE you get through it, what choice do you have? But Kevin’s mom Lisa has been a wonderful example of courage and spirit the entire two years that I have followed their journey. Believe me, they have had some serious scares throughout Kevin’s treatment, which makes this news even better: Kevin is now finished with his treatment! All my best wishes for a long, healthy life for both boys --- and HUGE congratulations!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and that none of you overdosed on turkey and dressing, like I practically did. While I’d like nothing more than to blame my obsessive need for naps this weekend on the L-tryptophan, I suspect the eight plates of food I had each day had more to do with it.

Take care!
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Said by Brayden, to me, in a parking lot today, “Hey, Mom, look at that old-timey car!” I turned around, fully expecting to see a Model-T, or an Edsel, or something. What did I actually see? A 1980 Volkswagen Bug. Yep, that was *her* idea of “old-timey”. Ouch, that hurt.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 8:43 PM CST



23 Days to Go

Two years and a month ago, give or take a few days, Kendrie was diagnosed with leukemia. It took me three weeks to discover Caringbridge. It took about three weeks after that for me to start using Caringbridge not as a method for keeping family and friends updated on her condition, which is how it started, but as the cathartic, therapeutic, beneficial tool it has become for me. I’ve said it all along, CB has kept me off the couch. Actually, this **is** my couch; virtual, online, cheap therapy.

But my very first, honest, laying-it-on-the-line Caringbridge entry took place on Thanksgiving, 2003. I was still pretty raw from diagnosis, and emotional, and exhausted, and felt the need to clear up a misconception that seemed to have occurred: That I was taking Kendrie’s leukemia diagnosis in stride, and was even pretty optimistic. That couldn’t have been further from the truth!!

So I wrote an entry telling people how my emotions were really running …. And you know what? Getting it off my chest like that felt gooooooooooood! And so you guys have been stuck with me and my absurd ramblings ever since. But I figured there was no need to ramble afresh today, since that Thanksgiving 2003 entry still rings true for me. Sure, things are slightly different now. We are nearing the END of treatment, not just starting out. Ignorance is bliss and I’m no longer ignorant to the unfairness of childhood cancer. The crap sandwich we have left on our plate is crumb-sized ….. we’ll be choking down the last few bites in the upcoming weeks and then OUR. PLATE. WILL. BE. EMPTY!!!

But, we’ll be required to hang out in the bar of the restaurant for the next five years or so. We won’t order off a menu, or make eye-contact with any employee on purpose, heaven forbid. For the next five years we will sit in the bar and keep a low profile and hope and pray the waitress doesn’t come back to our table. I’m not sure when we can ever pay our check and leave ….. and as long as we’re here, we’ll continue to see crap sandwiches being slung out of the kitchen on a regular basis. You don’t want one yourself, and you hate to see anyone else getting one, either. But you know they’re coming. So you just duck and pray you don’t get hit.

Anyway, those of you who didn’t follow along in our journal back then probably have no idea what I’m even talking about! (Although to be fair, do you ever? I do have a tendency to go off on some pretty bizarre tangents!) So I’m going to repeat the journal entry now, and hope that all of you enjoy it. Again.

Here goes:

Friday, November 28, 2003 0:21 AM CST

First of all, I have to say how much we appreciate those of you who check on this web site and take the time to sign the guestbook. Several of you, and some who have e-mailed me privately, have made the comment you are glad to see me (try to!) put a humorous spin on things, and that you’re glad to know we’re coping so well. To be honest, I have no idea if we’re coping well at all. I just make it a point to do my crying and worrying and stressing in private, and put on a happy face, USUALLY, in public. But today, in this journal entry, I’m going to be a little more honest about things and the way I am really feeling. I’m not sure what has brought about this pathetic moment of self-introspection, but feel the need to get some things off my chest. If you don’t want to hear it, exit now, it won’t hurt my feelings. I promise to kick myself in the butt and be back to normal tomorrow. (No, I will not be taking volunteers for the chance to kick me, so all of you just put your hands down now. No, no, do NOT form a line!)

I think it’s the whole Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving. Giving thanks. Something I’ve found pretty easy to do most years, and took for granted pretty much every year up until now. Sure, I know a little bit about worrying about the health of family members. Who doesn’t? My dad has muscular dystrophy. My mother-in-law is on dialysis for renal failure. My husband had two major surgeries to get rid of a cancerous tumor six months ago, and had a nice chunk of the inside of his head removed at the same time --- reconstruction still a work in progress. So I thought I was a veteran at worrying, but always managed to give thanks irregardless. WRONG. Nothing prepares you for the fear and worry when your child is ill. More than ill. Ill with a disease that, even in this day and age, still claims innocent victims. And now you want me to give thanks????? So here’s the lame analogy I came up with:

Imagine every year for Thanksgiving that you and your family go to a wonderful all-you-can-eat buffet. The food is always great and you look forward to getting the same delicious meal, year after year. So this year, you give your standard order to the waitress: an appetizer of “love”, a “caring” salad, the side dishes, “thoughtfulness” “compassion” and “laughter” and a big, juicy entrée of “good health and happiness for everyone”. The waitress brings you everything you asked for but the entrée. Instead, in front of you on the table, she places a big, fat crap sandwich. And the conversation goes a little something like this:

You: “excuse me, I didn’t order this crap sandwich”

Waitress: “house special. You got it without asking”

You: “but I don’t want a crap sandwich. I want good health and happiness for everyone.”

Waitress: “well, you got a crap sandwich.”

You (getting upset) “well take it back and give me what I asked for instead!”

Waitress points to a sign that says “Absolutely NO substitutions”

You say adamantly: “there is positively no way I am going to be able to choke down this crap sandwich and I think it’s really unfair for you to expect me to”

And the waitress replies “hey, look. You’ve still got love, caring, thoughtfulness, compassion and laughter, so try to appreciate those. Oh, I almost forgot, here’s your condiment tray for the crap sandwich. You also get big overflowing bowls of fear, worry, anger, guilt and resentment. Bon Appetit!”

And so you’re looking around the restaurant, feeling really grumpy about your crap sandwich, and you realize that there are a lot more people with crap sandwiches than you ever thought possible. And from the looks on their faces, none of them ordered them, either. Then you see a couple of tables with really, really big, Dagwood-sized crap sandwiches and you summon the waitress again. “Excuse me, why are their crap sandwiches so big?” And she explains that those people are facing situations even worse than yours. Their kids haven’t responded well to treatment, have had cancer relapses, or worse yet, died. And you start to think maybe your crap sandwich isn’t so bad after all. Maybe you should keep your big mouth shut, choke it down, and be glad when it’s all gone and everyone is well again. And then, right then, your waitress reminds you of one last thing: “Management reserves the right to serve you another, bigger crap sandwich, anytime they want”

That’s a little how I feel right now at Thanksgiving, living in this surreal world of leukemia. I know there are other people who are having a rougher time of things than we are. I know Kendrie is responding well to her chemotherapy. She is in remission and God willing, will stay there. But I am having a very difficult time Giving Thanks for this crap sandwich, and I’m unbelievably resentful that there are more crap sandwiches being made in the kitchen even as I type this, and terrified more than you can possibly know that our family might be due another platter.

I resent that “in remission” doesn’t mean cured. It doesn’t mean anywhere near cured. It means cured for right now. Today. Kendrie could relapse tomorrow; next week; next month; ten years from now. When are we ever supposed to relax? When will this knot in my stomach go away? It’s the last worry on my mind at night and the first thought in my head when I awake each morning.

I resent that for the rest of her (my) life, every time she complains of an ache or a pain or runs a fever, I will fear that the cancer has returned. Prognosis is no where near as good for kids who have relapsed. Dear God, don’t let her relapse.

I resent that I can no longer brush her forehead or cheek without covertly checking for signs of a fever.

I resent that despite my best intentions, my other two kids are getting the short end. There are only so many hours in a day.

I resent that I am so tired, and then feel frustrated with Kendrie for being the source of that, then feel ashamed of my frustration.

I resent that I saw Kellen had bruises on his shins tonight and for a split second, all I could think was “Dear God, not two of them.” It does happen; two kids in one family. What family could endure that? The ones that have to, I guess.

And that’s my point --- to all of you who say, “I don’t know how you do it” or “I don’t think I could do it” Well, of course you could. Do we have any choice? We do it because to do otherwise would be to shortchange Kendrie, and all the kids with cancer, which simply isn’t an option. And I try to do it with a little bit of grace and humor and optimism because quite frankly, if I wrote too many journal entries like this, I would depress the shit out of everyone, myself included. In fact, I don’t know what I hope to accomplish with this one, except maybe trying to explain that underneath the jokes and “looking on the bright side” is a terror so real that sometimes I lie in bed at night and can’t breathe. And I’m not trying to be overly dramatic. I’m trying to be honest. Leukemia kills children. Yes, the “cure” rate is 85 percent (For ALL, which is what Kendrie has. Other kinds have lower rates than that.) That means 15 percent still die up front, and the other 85 percent ONLY have to worry about a relapse for the rest of their life. I’m feeling a little sick to my stomach just typing all this, so maybe I should move on.

There are some things I am truly grateful for:

I am grateful that it looks like a CVS pharmacy exploded in my kitchen. That means there are drugs that can be used in an attempt to cure my child and beat leukemia.

I am grateful Kendrie has tolerated the treatment so well so far. I am grateful for remission.

I am grateful my husband has a good job with good insurance and that so far, finances are not one more worry to add into the rest of this.

I am grateful for the friends and family, both near and far, who have supported us so kindly, and who will read through this awful journal entry and love me anyway.

I am grateful that when Kendrie was diagnosed, my mother was able to drop everything to come to Georgia and be with us. I am grateful that my dad and my sister so willingly held down the fort in her absence.

I am grateful my husband had cancer this spring. Had he not, he wouldn’t have been placed on the “Do Not Deploy” list and he would have been in Sarejavo when Kendrie was diagnosed. As hard as that week was, I am grateful we were able to face it as a family.

I can’t come up with a reason to be grateful that Kendrie is going bald, but I’ll work on it.

I am grateful that my crap sandwich isn’t any bigger than it is.

Monday, November 21, 2005 11:11 PM CST


25 Days to Go

After posting my last journal entry about my fascination with Harry Potter, it occurred to me that I actually have cancer to thank for learning about him. (If you’re a HP fan and didn’t get a chance to read the entry, go into the journal history and look at it, because I gave a link to a really humorous site.) Of course I had heard of the Harry Potter series ….. who hadn’t? But I never thought I would enjoy it; sci-fi, fantasy, wizards and witchcraft … SO not my thing!

Then one day, three or four months after Kendrie was diagnosed with leukemia, she and I went to the clinic for one of her chemo appointments. I had gotten confused (imagine that) and thought that particular day’s appointment was a short one when in actuality it was a long day of IV chemo and transfusions. I was completely unprepared; no dvd player, no books, no magazines, etc. Kendrie, of course, was pre-medicated with Benadryl and slept through the entire process, but there I sat with six hours stretching out in front of me and absolutely nothing to do to pass the time. This was back before our clinic was remodeled and we didn’t have private transfusion rooms, so I couldn’t even stretch back in my chair and take a good nap myself.

In desperation, I walked over to the kids’ library cart, hoping to find ANYTHING to read to kill a few hours. As I browsed my choices (along the lines of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Curious George, and a few Captain Underpants books) I saw the only book that appealed to anyone over age eight --- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I scoffed a bit, since I just knew the book would be so stupid and boring, but hey, if you’re desperate, you’re desperate, and I settled in with the book, my introduction to Harry and Hermoine and Ron and the gang.

Needless to say, when Kendrie woke a few hours later and I hadn’t yet finished the book, I snuck it into my purse and stole it from the clinic! By the end of the week I had purchased and read every HP book written to date, and thus, my obsession began. (PS. I DID return the book at our next visit, just in case you were wondering about my kleptomaniac tendencies!) So anyway, I consider Harry Potter to be one of the unexpected perks of Kendrie getting cancer. In a very weird, twisted way. And I’m thankful.

I’ve heard people say that a cancer diagnosis is a gift; making us better people, more appreciative of the little things in life, more patient, happier with our children, more grateful for every moment we get to spend together, etc. You know what I say to that? I say blah, Blah, BLAH! (imagine me making little “talking” motions with my hands) I would much rather be less appreciative, less grateful, less patient, and a suckier person all around, if that meant my daughter never had to go through ANY of this! If you think I’m going to say I’m thankful she got cancer, you’ve obviously dipped into the holiday eggnog a little early this year.

But, like my discovery of Harry Potter, there are some things I can *indirectly* thank cancer for, and I think this Thanksgiving Week might be the perfect time to do so. So, here are my top five, "Good Things That Have Come From Cancer":

1) I have cancer to thank for getting in touch with my “feminine side”. While I am still anti-pedicure, and the thought of someone touching me for a massage gives me hives, I am able now to give hugs a little more freely and let people know how much I care about them. I’m not so uptight about expressing my emotions. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always cried at appropriate moments (like when they took “Thirty Something” off the air, and when Bill Clinton was elected President. Both times.) But now I find myself crying all the time….. reading books, listening to music, Hallmark commercials on tv … I’m pretty much a sobbing fool. And things that should be normal rites of childhood, like watching your daughter step up to bat for the first time at t-ball, or singing with her fellow kindergarteners at her Thanksgiving Feast … well, most parents simply smile proudly. I, however, am reduced to sniffling and dabbing at my eyes with Kleenex, so very thrilled with all Kendrie has overcome, unable to stop the torrent of happy tears that threaten. On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be thankful for the blubbering mess I’ve become. It’s actually quite embarrassing.

2) I have lost friends, and I am, in reality, grateful. Being a military wife for the past eighteen years, I spent way too much time and energy trying to maintain friendships and relationships (some up-close, some long-distance) that really needed to die a natural death. I was the sort of person that always thought, “One more letter, one more phone call or e-mail, I’ll keep trying …. I hate to lose a friendship, even if I am the one doing all the work.” I know it sounds clichéd, but after Kendrie was diagnosed, we learned quickly who our real friends were. We had some casual acquaintances who stepped up to the plate and became good friends, and we feel blessed to have made new, valuable friendships along the way. We’ve even met total strangers who have made it their life’s work to help families in our situation. This experience has freed me up to say, “You know, if you couldn’t bother to call and check on us, or drop us a note, or check this caringbridge site, when our daughter was diagnosed with cancer, for Pete’s sake, then it is clear to me that our relationship was one-sided, and I feel no guilt about letting it go.” The people who are in our lives now actually care about us. Do you have any idea how empowering that is???? Plus, it saves me money on Christmas card postage during the holidays.

3) I have a much clearer perspective and can now see the difference between a crummy day and a true tragedy. I used to be guilty of complaining about “having the WORST day ever!!!” You know the kind, when you discover someone else finished the box of your favorite cereal, or you get a flat tire, or the shirt you want to wear is still in the washer, or your kid spills milk on your pants just as you’re walking out the door, or you leave your lunch sitting on the counter when you go to work, or you can’t find your favorite earrings, or your cable goes out and you miss your favorite tv show, or you get a “C” on a test, or you get a parking ticket, or any number of things that seem to happen to people on a daily basis. And my favorite (or least favorite, depending on your point of view) is how I can now put my own childrens' illnesses into perspective. If Brayden has a cough, or Kellen throws up or has a head-cold … yes, I feel bad for them. Yes, I comfort them and give them medicine and baby them just a bit. But I do NOT walk around believing (and complaining to anyone who will listen) that this is just the worst day EVER because my child is sick. (Or because I dropped the mayonnaise jar and it broke on the kitchen floor, or something equally inane.) When someone tells me how terrible their day has been, I want to look them in the eye and ask, “I’m sorry … did a doctor tell you today that your child has cancer? Because if not, then I don’t think your day was that bad after all.” And while it might sound harsh, an attitude like that is also sort of empowering. People don’t tend to whine around you when they realize they are not getting a smidge of sympathy.

4) The flip side of my crappy-day reason is that having known a TRULY crappy day, the day Kendrie was diagnosed, I realize there are people having much, much crappier days then me and it helps to stay in balance with my own feelings. I don't resort to throwing myself pity-parties near as often. Yes, I still gripe when the microwave breaks, or my kids are fighting, or the dryer goes out, or I burn dinner, or any other number of annoying things happen. It’s life, after all, and some days just don’t run smoothly. But I’m able now to remember that a crappy day is OVER at midnight and you get a fresh start the next morning. And as long as I don’t hear that one of my children has cancer ….. or has relapsed … or worse, which parents everywhere are forced to hear on a daily basis, then I know my day is really not that bad after all, even if the dog did throw up all over the living room carpet. And that’s empowering, also, to know that every 24 hours you get a do-over.

Obviously, I’m all about the empowerment. I just need to figure out a way to make weeping in public seem empowering, then I’ll be all set. :)

5) And ok, it’s trite and hackneyed, but I honestly do appreciate the good moments a little more. Sure, I still get upset with my kids (understatement of the year.) Not every day is gloriously happy, full of bunnies and rainbows, but I don’t take it for granted anymore. And while I know I’m not the best parent on the planet (Shoot, I’m not even the best parent in North America … or in Georgia … or in Byron …. Or even in my own house!) I do treasure the good moments, and enjoy them, and never forget to tell my kids I love them (when I’m not yelling at them for being obnoxious hooligans.)

So that’s it, my list of five things I can be thankful for *because* of cancer …. Because I will never be thankful for cancer. But I can be thankful for the changes it has brought about in me, hopefully for the better. (again, except for the crying …. I’m still trying to figure that one out!)

Hope you are all having a great week,

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: I’m getting so close to the end, I almost forget there is supposed to be a worst part every day!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: No doubt, hands-down, going with my family to the Immunization Clinic on base today and watching while my dad, my mom, Brayden and Kellen ALL had to get their flu shots and knowing I already got mine during my last spinal tap!! Can you believe my mom said “Ouch!” louder than my brother or my sister? Obviously, courage doesn’t come with age, or she would have been the bravest one there!

Friday, November 18, 2005 10:50 PM CST

I had a big night tonight. A night so big, perhaps, that if I confess, you will realize that deep-down, I am 12 years old. Can you guess???

I attended the Harry Potter IV "Goblet of Fire" movie, wahooooo!!!! If you're a Harry Potter die-hard fan like me, you've already seen the movie because it's been out 24 hours and what the heck would you wait on?

If you're not a HP fan, especially if it's because you have concerns regarding witchcraft and sorcery and the possibility it might lead children down deep, dark paths ....... well, seriously, you need to lighten up. It's a fabulous coming-of-age tale of good vs. evil, simply brimming with friendship, loyalty, adventure, etc. But, if you've never read them, don't bother going to the following website; I just don't know if you would appreciate it.

I have several favorite non-Caringbridge sites I visit on a regular basis that I've never shared with all of you because once I sent you there, you would realize that these people are all funnier than me, and then you'd quit coming here.

But, in celebration of HP4, I just have to share; go to this site for a serious laugh: Spellcasting 101: Don't Try This at Home Even if you're NOT a HP fan, I promise you'll get a chuckle out of it!

Have a great night .... I'm off to count down the days until the premiere of HP5!! :)


Tuesday, November 15, 2005 8:06 PM CST


31 Days to Go

You know how depending on your perspective, some things can be seen as a positive, or as a negative? Well, I have recently come to the conclusion that my children are either budding literary geniuses, or total scam artists. I’m not sure which.

Last week, Kellen started writing stories at home. Not homework, or school assignments, but stories out of his imagination, for fun. And quite a project it became. He got special paper with no lines, folded and stapled it so it would look like a book, entered a table of contents, chapter headings, and even had Brayden do illustrations. He slaved over the spelling and punctuation; really, I couldn’t have been prouder, watching him work so hard on his creation.

Then he sold it to me for a dollar. PLUS a quarter for the artist-fee.

His first story was entitled “Brayden and Kendrie and the Big Fight” (who only knows where he comes up with these wild, crazy, unbelievable, tall tales???) It was a very detailed narrative involving sisters who get on each other's nerves. They start out with name-calling and making faces at one another, progress to pinching and hitting, and then the story culminates in a public de-pantsing. Needless to say, Kendrie cried when he read the book aloud, so you can guess which character became pants-less. Brayden’s drawings were a bit biased, as well, as most of the time the character of Kendrie was portrayed laying on the ground, crying. All told, it was a very mean-spirited little tale.

The second story, entitled “The Big Happy Family” was much more to my liking. Peace, harmony, hand-holding; the whole nine yards. When I told Kellen how much more I liked that story, and how I felt it was a better depiction of our family, he replied “Oh, that’s not OUR family! Our family’s not like that!”

Well that’s the last dollar the little troll got out of me, that’s for sure.

I decided to try and steer this budding talent in a more positive direction, and perhaps more experience-based, so I asked both of them to write a story about a family whose youngest daughter gets cancer, and what happens to the family. (It doesn’t take much more than Psychology 101 to know I wanted to see what’s going on in those little pointed heads of theirs.) Kellen refused once I told him I wasn’t paying him another dollar, but Brayden agreed. I thought I would share her story with all of you:

“A Tough Time”

One day when Kendrie was diagnosed with cancer it was October 2003 and it was her 4th Halloween. But she was only 4 years old. So it was a tough time. And she was nervous so much. But years gone by but she does hate getting her port accessed. And my dad remembers that he was going to the hospital in Macon, saying a prayer, talking to his parents and talking to Dr. B. And my mom remembers that Grandma flying out here to take care of me and Kellen. And now she is 6 years old and she has gotten braver than she was before. And today she went to the clinic to get her port accessed. But she always cries when she gets her port accessed. And she gets to go to the treasure box but she does not want to stop going to the treasure box so she is a little disappointed. But on the other hand she is almost done on December the 15th year of 2005. And so she only got one month to go and after she is done with cancer she will get her port out. Then we will give Kendrie a party for her cancer being over but she will have to go to Dr. B for check ups.

PS. Kendrie went to lunch with Catie and she has cancer, too. And Catie is done with cancer and we are so excited for Catie to get hair because she has never gotten her hair, ever.”

So, I don’t know if it’s particularly profound or wise, but I do think she got the gist of the story, even if we do need to work quite a bit on her grammar. All told, though, I think her 8-yr old perspective is a good one.

Take care,
PS. Quote of the day:

Kellen, placing his hands over his breasts: “Mom, did you know these are your pet turtles?”

Kristie: “What are you talking about? Pet turtles? PET TURTLES??? What dorky kid at school taught you that stupid name for breasts? Just call them breasts!”

Kellen: “I didn’t say pet turtles. I said Pec-torals! We’re learning about them in gym class.

Kristie: “Oh, well. Of course you are.”

Friday, November 11, 2005 11:03 AM CST


35 Days to Go

Thanks so much to all of you who responded to my nervous ramblings as kindly and empathetically as you did. It’s comforting to know that more experienced cancer parents have “been there done that” and that all parents, those whose children have other illnesses, and even those whose children are healthy, sometimes get caught with dark thoughts in their head. Thankfully, like almost everything else in my head, nothing sticks around long!

And so, because Rule #1 in Creative Writing Class is “Don’t Depress People on a Regular Basis” (Actually, I have no idea if that’s rule #1. I don’t even know if there ARE any rules in creative writing. I dropped out of college. What a loser. Kids, do NOT try that at home! ) I was feeling pretty unsettled with my last entry, so I’m giving you guys good news with today’s entry. No more depressing babbling. Otherwise, coming here to visit this site would be about as appealing as your annual proctologist’s visit. So read on for much cheerier stuff!

Kendrie had her next-to-last clinic visit for chemo yesterday ….. it’s getting very surreal, to say the least. She will continue to go to Atlanta once a month (or perhaps once every other month, getting local labs drawn in between) for a year after she goes off-treatment. Then the visits will gradually get spaced out more and more …. Once every three months for a year, once every four months, every six months, etc. I was so busy talking to her oncologist, in a half-joking-but-not-really sort of way about “is he absolutely, positively sure it’s ok for her to go off chemo?”, that I completely forgot to get a school excuse, a note for the flu shot, and an excuse to get out of jury duty next month. (Scheduled the same week as her final chemo.) So if I wind up sick with the flu, sitting in court with an expelled child by my side, you’ll know why. Oh, and he turned down my request for additional chemo, with a bemused, “I *think* this lady is joking” sort of look on his face.

But that’s not my good news ---- are you ready?!? OUR FRIEND CATIE HAD HER FINAL RADIATION TREATMENT YESTERDAY AND IS FINSIHED WITH HER MEDULLOBLASTOMA TREATMENT!!!! Or, as Kendrie so nicely put it, “Catie is finished with cancer!!!” (Of course, first she cried because Catie is finished and she’s not and that’s just not fair and why does she have to have cancer longer than anybody??? Then I reminded her that Catie *started* cancer before Kendrie did, so then it all balanced out and Kendrie was fine with it. Obviously, she’s six.)

Yep, Catie was diagnosed on her first birthday with medulloblastoma, a brain tumor. Now I don’t care who you are, that timing just SUCKS! Her mom Jenny and I met online, then our families got to meet in person at the 2004 Lighthouse Retreat, and Kendrie and Catie have been fast friends ever since. Honestly, I could not have been happier for them yesterday! I even shed a little tear on her behalf, although if you had asked, I would have insisted I had an eyelash stuck in my eye because everyone knows I am not the touchy-feely type and I don't cry in public.

After living for seven weeks at the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House, four hours from home, they were packing up the Explorer and heading home! We treated them to a gourmet lunch of McDonalds Happy Meals a) because it seemed fitting since it would be Catie’s last meal at the Ronald McDonald house b) because Kendrie really wanted the Chicken Little toy inside and c) because I only had $10 in my wallet and that’s the best I could do.

Kendrie, posing outside the Ronald McDonald house.

Catie is by no means finished, as she will continue to have speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, not to mention follow up visits, scans, bloodwork, physicals, Brain Tumor clinic, etc, etc. BUT NO MORE CHEMO!!! And she has made a public declaration that she is getting herself some hair for the first time ever, and Santa Claus is bringing her some bows and ribbons this Christmas!

Catie, dear, you deserve no less. All our best wishes to you and your beautiful family.

Please drop by Catie’s site and leave her a note of congratulations on finishing over two years of chemo, surgeries, and radiation to kick cancer’s butt!

Woo-hooo, Catie! You get the party started, girlfriend!

Take care, Kristie

PS. Thanks also for your encouragement and support for Keegan. The best news of all is that his bone marrow results from yesterday came back clear! Now they are still waiting on some other test results (that are inconclusive at this point .... talk about a head game for his poor parents) before charting their course …. Keegna, Audra, Mike and all, we are continuing to think of you guys during these stressful days!

Monday, November 7, 2005 9:02 AM CST

Tuesday morning update

Well, in a very discouraging "See what I mean?" sort of update, I found out yesterday, just a few hours after posting the journal entry below, that our friend and fellow Scottish Rite patient Keegan has relapsed. We've been lucky enough to get together socially with Keegan, his mom Audra, dad Mike, and his brother and sisters a few times since they moved to Georgia. They are a great family and I feel extremely sad and frustrated for them at this set-back. They know for now it's a CNS relapse and Keegan will get a bone marrow aspiration done on Wednesday to see if he has relapsed in his bone marrow as well. Please join me in praying that has NOT happened .... please also visit Keegan's site to leave his family a note of encouragement and hope as they square up and make some decisions about his care ... Keegan's a fighter, like all these kids are, but that doesn't make news of a relapse any easier to take.


39 Days to Go

Wow, I had no idea there were so many people out there (ok, I admit, mainly girls) who have never seen Star Wars. No doubt, we’re the minority …. but, still, isn’t it great to know you belong? For the record, I have also never seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy or any of the Matrix movies …. although I am a huge Harry Potter fan and am holding my breath until the 18th when The Goblet of Fire hits the big screen-oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-wait!!! But I digress.

Also, to answer Ali's mom Marey’s question in the guestbook, yes, the Book Fairy did make her annual Halloween Night appearance at our house this year. For those of you unfamiliar with the Book Fairy (the Tooth Fairy’s more cerebral cousin, I believe) after trick-or-treating, that night, my kids can eat all the candy they want, as in “stuff your face until you make yourself sick” kind of binging. Then they choose five pieces of candy for the next day, and everything else goes back in their bag and is placed on the front porch. While they sleep, the Book Fairy comes and takes the candy, leaving new books in its place. The candy magically disappears (with just a few choice pieces “accidentally” left behind, hidden in a special “parent’s only” cabinet) and we don’t have to deal with the sugar high for the next month. I don’t remember where I originally heard the idea, but I think it’s a great one. I fear, alas, this will be our final year for the Book Fairy, as Kellen was overhead grumbling that next year, he’d rather have the candy. Damn.

So anyway, on to bigger and better things.

I was having a phone conversation the other day with a dear friend --- and by “dear”, I mean someone who actually visits this site, so I’ll be changing a few personal details so that person doesn’t recognize herself (or maybe his-self) in this journal. And if you *do* recognize yourself, please know that the following journal entry is nothing more than a personal observation about life, in no way meant to be complaining or gossipy or mean-spirited. (I save those qualities for my face-to-face conversations!)

Ok, so this friend and I were talking on the phone. This friend has great kids; lovely and healthy. So although she doesn’t “get” the childhood cancer journey from a personal perspective, she has been extremely supportive of our trial from the beginning. We were actually talking about another family that she knows, who has a child recently diagnosed with the same kind of cancer as Kendrie. This family’s cancer experience has been nothing like ours …. quite frankly, they are looking for a miracle at this point and it’s difficult for those around them to know what to say and do right now. Or at least that was the gist of our phone conversation. My friend was telling me she wants to help, but doesn’t know what to say to this family …… here’s her comment, verbatim: “It’s just so awful, and we’re all hoping for the best but fearing the worst ….. I remember when Kendrie was first diagnosed and it was such a shock that I didn’t know what to say to you, either. Of course, now that you know she’s going to be ok, I don’t feel weird bringing it up.”

Let me reassure you that I “get” the “feeling weird bringing it up” aspect. Even within our own cancer community, there are some families I am unsure with, because as much as you want to be supportive, you realize some families are more private than others. What is seen as helpful by one family might be considered intrusive by another. Somebody like me, who pretty much puts our whole life out here in this journal …. Obviously, I’m not that reserved. But I do appreciate the hesitation some people have and have it myself on occasion. But that’s not my point, nor what I found odd about her comment.

Rather, it was this: “Now that you know Kendrie’s going to be ok” ………………. Wow. OK. We do? Really? “Know”, as in, with confidence? 100 percent sure? We KNOW Kendrie is going to be ok? Hmmmm. What an unusual choice of words. That’s kind of a shocker to me, because despite the fact we are 39 days away from finishing treatment, I am nowhere near confident or convinced that she’s going to be ok. I’m hopeful. Optimistic. Prayerful. Encouraged. But do I KNOW? No, I don’t. And, for one of the (very) few times in my life, I was surprised into silence by her comment. (I know, write it down, it doesn’t happen very often!)

Believe me, I sincerely appreciate the optimism of the thought. But it’s so far from the truth that I felt compelled to address it. Maybe my “look on the bright side” attitude belies the panic and fear that is often in my heart. Just how DO I feel now that we are so close to the end of treatment? I guess the only adjective that comes to mind is “Scared Shitless” (is that really an adjective?) …. But since that’s how we’ve felt since the beginning, it’s not news. I mean, she’s doing so well on chemo, with relatively few side effects, and it seems to be keeping the leukemia at bay …. Well, why can’t we just keep her on it for a few extra months? Or years? Would her oncologist think I was crazy if I made that suggestion? Sure, I know there are long-term effects to worry about ….. growth issues, learning problems, secondary cancers. So she’s short, and needs a math tutor, who cares? If it’s keeping her alive and healthy, why not just keep it going?

There are so many analogies I’ve read and heard about ending cancer treatment and losing your safety net of chemo --- chemo is like carrying an umbrella; you started in the rain forest, and by the end of treatment, you are in the desert, but once you stop treatment and put away the umbrella, you are terrified it will rain again. It’s like a plaster cast you’ve had on a broken leg for the last twenty-six months; you *know* the bone is healed, but you’re still terrified to take the cast off, throw the crutches away, and actually put weight on the foot. What if it breaks again? Or (my personal favorite and one I made up myself) it’s the difference between going to prom in a strapless gown or one with spaghetti straps. Technically, you don’t *need* the straps to hold the dress up, but you feel a lot more confident with them there. What if you cut the straps (end chemo) and the whole contraption falls down around your knees???

I’ve heard several different time frames for when Kendrie will be considered “cured” …. The definition of cured being that the chance of the cancer returning is no greater than the chance of any healthy kid getting the same cancer. The number I hear most often is five years after she finishes treatment. Five years. That’s a long freakin’ time. Should I start my journal entries after December 15th with “1,725 Days to Go!” ??? Is that how long before we can relax? Would you guys even stick around that long?? So, for **only** the next five years is it that we have to worry she is at a greater risk for relapse. And, no chemo entering her system to battle any errant cancer cells that might still be lurking. Every bruise, every fever, every tired day, we worry that it’s back. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. But I’m also excited to get to that point. I feel eager to be done, and grateful she has done so well, and terrified and worried she will relapse, and feel annoyed for feeling worried, and feel guilty for feeling annoyed, and feel sad for feeling guilty …. Wonder if my middle name should have been Sybil?

All along, I’ve said, *this* is the crux of childhood cancer. The never-ending worry in the back of your head that it’s Not. Over. Yet. Yes, cancer stinks, and yes, the treatment for cancer stinks. But if your child comes through it (even better, relatively unscathed) and you could be guaranteed a lifetime of good health, you would consider that stink no more than an unfortunate step in a blob of doggie doo. It’s the fear and concern, like a black cloud that won’t go away, that is the big stink. The “Oh my gosh, did they hit a sewer line? No, kids, that’s the lovely rotten-egg aroma of natural sulfur” kind of stink that cancer parents everywhere feel. I’ve asked it again and again, *when* do we get to quit worrying?

When did the following families quit worrying?

Victor's family, Leah's family, Matt's family, Caleb's family, Thomas' family, Jonny's family, Colin's family, Alex's family, Clare's family, Spencer Rocket's family, Kevin's family, Chloe's family, Matthew's family, Isaiah's family, Ashley's family, Collin's family, Marcus's family, Julianna's family, Chris' family, Jake's family. And of course, there are many, many more.

Some had just barely started treatment when they relapsed, some were in the middle of treatment, some were soooooo close to finishing, some were finished with treatment --- by as much as three years! Now, some are done with their relapse protocols and doing great, some are still battling, and sadly, tragically, some have passed away.

So, I say, if there’s any kind of benevolent promise or prediction of which I’m unaware …. that lets me KNOW that Kendrie will be OK, I’m all ears. I would love nothing more than to KNOW she will be OK. In the meantime, I guess I’ll keep babbling my concerns to you guys. Caringbridge is therapeutic, if nothing else. Or maybe I’ll just try Prozac. If you get tired of listening to me, visit Julianna’s site today. She put up a pretty profound entry on the same subject and is looking for her normal, as well.

As always, when I really sit down and think about it, I’m feeling “crazy”. Thank you, Seal. And thanks to all of you for checking in as well. Especially if you made it to the end of this rambling entry.

Take care,


Kendrie, after finishing up her lesson on Farm Animals at school: “Mom, did you know that baby cows get milk from their mother’s others?”

Tuesday, November 1, 2005 8:34 PM CST

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU (or with me, since I’m the one raising these kids, I’m probably the one who needs it the most)

45 Days to Go

I have a confession to make. I am probably the only person on the planet … or at least the only person on the planet not living in a cave or under a big rock, who has never seen any of the Star Wars movies. (Nor, might I add, do I have any desire to.) Oh, sure, I understand it’s some sort of phenomenon …. I had male friends in Jr. High who watched the first one (or is it the FOURTH one? I’m so confused) two hundred times in the theatre, but it just never did anything for me.

I realize that to die-hard Star Wars fans, that statement is nothing short of un-American. (Much like Blaine tries to tell me it is un-American that I don’t like Mexican food … but that is cultural argument for another day.) I don’t know the difference between Princess Leia and Princess Padme. I thought Obi-Wan Kenobi played power forward for the Celtics. I don’t know the difference between Luke Skywalker and Annikan Skywalker, although I have a sneaking suspicion they are somehow related (come on, with a name like “Skywalker”???)

I’m not sure whatever happened to Han Solo … who I used to call Han Sulu, until Blaine explained that was another character on another show altogether. I’m also very perplexed by the Luke/Annikan/Darth Vader connection ---- somebody is somebody’s father, or maybe his brother … or maybe it’s like in The Terminator, when Linda Hamilton’s son comes back from the future to save her from Arnold before she even gives birth to him ??? Or something like that? Do you see why I’m confused?

Anyway, you can imagine my delight when I discovered my children did NOT want to be superheroes for the third year in a row this Halloween, only to find out they all wanted to be Star Wars characters. Thank goodness **they** knew which ones, because if it was up to me, they would all have been cute little Ewoks or Yodas or something. But they had definite opinions and put their costumes together with pride and excitement. (Ok, I confess, they pointed to the ones online that I needed to order. No homemade costumes or originality here.)

In case you can’t tell (because Lord knows I can’t) Brayden is Padme, Kendrie is Annikan Skywalker (NOT Luke, she was quite adamant, and she was also adamant that I NOT order the attached fake braid for her to wear) and Kellen is Darth Vader. OK, even **I** know that one. So here they are, in all their Star Wars glory, although I think Brayden has herself confused with one of the Charlie’s Angels.

No costume would be complete without light sabers and a duel.

Making it even more fun were our friends Kody (also a Skywalker) and Ryan (Yoda, who someone mistook for Shrek??? What was *that* about?) and their parents, Princess Leia and a grown-up Vader, who are obviously WAY more fun than plain-clothes Blaine and me. I was unable to get in the photo because I was too busy smuggling Kit-Kats out of the kids’ bags.

But here you have it, the 2005 Halloween adventure. Hope yours was wonderful, as well.


Saturday, October 29, 2005 9:04 PM CDT


48 Days to Go

Just a brief update to let you know that Blaine made it home safe and sound (and relatively quickly; it's a miracle!) yesterday and is now relaxing quietly and comfortably on the sofa. Ha, yeah right. He wasn’t home ten minutes and the kids were all over him, but at least he knows he was missed. In between him and his Percocet, and my mom and her Lortab, we’re running a veritable Narcotics Hospital in the kitchen, but at least everyone feels pretty good.

Also wanted to share with you this years version of The Lazy Man’s Guide To Carving Pumpkins:

Kendrie, Brayden, and Kellen show off their Halloween 2005 Masterpieces.

Those of you who live in the Atlanta area are familiar with CURE: “CURE Childhood Cancer was founded in 1975 as a non-profit organization dedicated to conquering childhood cancer through research, education and support of patients and their families. Until there is a cure for every child diagnosed with cancer - CURE will be there.”

The rest of you might not know that CURE is a wonderful organization that helps families affected by childhood cancer in a variety of ways, in addition to working towards finding a cure for pediatric cancer. Each year, they send out a fundraising letter, asking the parent of a local child to contribute to the letter. I was really flattered to be asked this year and thought I would share the text of the letter with all of you. For more information, or to make a donation, please visit CURE's website.

"Fall 2005

Dear Friends,

There are certain moments in life when you have no choice but to laugh: like when you come out of the ladies restroom and realize your skirt is tucked into your pantyhose. There are other moments in life when you really *shouldn’t* laugh, but can’t help yourself: like when your sister comes out with her skirt tucked into her pantyhose. And, then, there are certain moments when a person wonders if they’ll ever laugh again: when their child’s doctor places his or her hand on their shoulder and says gently, “I’m so sorry, it’s cancer.”

That moment came for our family in October of 2003 when our daughter Kendrie, who had just turned four, was diagnosed with leukemia. Devastated, disbelieving, distraught, despairing -- there aren’t enough “D” words to express how we felt at that moment. When the security of your boring, normal life spins away from you in the blink of an eye, what exactly do you DO? Well, you worry, lose sleep, experience fear like you’ve never known, cry, bargain with God, obsessively surf the web, and in MY case, stress-eat a boatload of chocolate. Then you wake up and realize “Thank goodness we don’t have to go it alone.”

Researchers have made amazing strides in the treatments for childhood cancer. Although still the #1 disease killer in children, statistics have improved greatly. In 1975, a child diagnosed with leukemia had only a 20 percent chance of survival. Today, that chance is closer to 80 percent. Sounds good, huh? But when it’s YOUR child, anything less than 100 percent isn’t acceptable. Consider this: If one in five kids died on the soccer field, would you sign your child up to play? And we’re the “lucky” ones with leukemia; other forms of childhood cancer have odds nowhere near as high as 80 percent.

CURE Childhood Cancer is dedicated to conquering childhood cancer through research, education, and the support of patients and their families. Our first day in the hospital after Kendrie was diagnosed, we received a Welcome Bag from CURE and an invitation to their weekly Open Arms gathering at Scottish Rite. On this, their 30th anniversary, CURE continues to help fund research so a cure can be found in our lifetime. In the meantime, they are providing valuable support and services for families. So much progress has been made in 30 years -- won’t it be wonderful to reach the day when NO child dies of cancer?

You can help make that day possible by donating to CURE. Feel confident that you are helping CURE fulfill its mission of helping families both in the short-term, and towards the long-term goal of eradicating childhood cancer.

As for us, Kendrie is enjoying kindergarten, doing well and is slated to finish treatment this December, after 26 months of chemotherapy. It’s been a long two years, and at times, a struggle to remain cheerful and to remember that laughter is the best medicine. (Well, laughter, steroids, vincristine, 6mp, methotrexate … the list goes on and on!) For our family, though, there is light at the end of the tunnel. And unlike those dark days at the beginning, we no longer think that light is a train headed our way. Other families, however, are in the thick of the fight, or just beginning. Please donate to CURE and help those families to realize, like we did, “Thank goodness we don’t have to go it alone.”

Thank you"

Well, I hope all of you have a wonderful Halloween on Monday --- assuming my kids survive the sugar high, I'll post photos afterwards. :)

Take care and have a nice weekend,

Thursday, October 27, 2005 9:15 PM CDT


50 Days to Go

Thanks to all of you who checked in on Blaine this past week --- the notes in the guestbook about me and the boob job especially made me smile. :) I actually left Blaine in the hospital on Tuesday and came home, but the solo parenting thing, even *with* Grandma’s help, has left me no extra time to update this journal until now. (And some help she is --- she was jumping out of bed this morning because she had a cramp in her foot, moved funny, or too quickly, we’re still not sure which, and wrenched her neck, pinching a nerve. We spent all morning at Urgent Care …. and now my mother, the lightweight who practically goes into a coma from taking an aspirin, is knocked out on Lortab and muscle relaxers in Brayden’s bedroom … how funny is that? I just hope she wakes up in time to pick the kids up from school tomorrow!) Anyway, we got word today that Blaine is cleared for release tomorrow, so I’ll be driving back up to Augusta to bring him home. Crossing my fingers, and everything else that I have, that we don’t have a repeat performance of last time, when it took seventy-two hours to check him out of the hospital. I STILL haven’t made up that day-from-Hell to my girlfriend Renee.

I thought I would share something that all of you “parents with kids who never get a free night out” can probably relate to --- since we were getting to Augusta Thursday evening, and mom was home with the kids, we figured we would take advantage of our “free” evening to have a date-night before the surgery. Plans were to arrive in Augusta early enough for dinner, and then go out to a movie. Half-way to Augusta (a three-hour drive) I decided I was hungry so we stopped for fast-food. Then Blaine pulled over to buy gas and bought candy for both of us. So when we finally arrived, neither of us was particularly hungry, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to eat again for quite a while and was determined to have dinner. We received a phone call informing us that we had to be at the hospital by 5am, and quickly agreed there was no way we could stay out late enough to watch a movie. So our BIG DATE wound up being us, watching tv in the hotel room; me laying on the bed and complaining about how miserable I was from all the junk food I ate in the car, and Blaine wolfing down a chicken sandwich from Popeye’s. Now, if that’s not true love and the most romantic evening ever, then I don’t know what is.

Anyway …. Why did you come here? Oh yes, to check on Blaine. Surgery went well Friday and he spent three days in Intensive Care afterwards, more as a precautionary measure than anything. They pulled his feeding tube out yesterday and today, when they realized he was tolerating a liquid diet without problem (Blaine says even jello and chicken broth taste good if you’re hungry enough) and could manage his pain medication orally, they cleared him to come home tomorrow. I know the kids will be glad to see him, especially Kendrie. She seriously doesn’t handle separation well. I fear for the day he’s actually deployed with the military and leaves for months on end. (Something we’ve been able to avoid so far --- hey, I told you there were perks to having cancer!) She will have to stow away in his rucksack or something; she’d never handle being apart for that long.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since he was first diagnosed (Dear Heavens, have I ever told you *that* story?) and the reconstruction process is still ongoing. We are hoping (one more surgery and one more procedure to go) that he is finished by next summer. No more chemo for Kendrie, no more surgeries for Blaine (my mom will hopefully have regained full use of her neck muscles by then!) --- we won’t know what to do with ourselves! I’ll be forced to abandon this journal due to lack of subject matter!

Once I get him home and get him settled I will update again .... after all, we've got the Halloween plans brewing for Monday. :) He’s on convalescent leave for the next four or five weeks …. I have visions of free time during the day, shopping, preparing for Christmas, and getting things done around the house while he is here to help me with the children. Something tells me his visions are nothing like that, and more likely involve the sofa, a pillow, the remote, and a lot of college football.

Again, thank you for checking in on him, and on Kendrie. Our whole family may be falling apart, but it’s good to know we have friends!!

Take care,

PS. I didn’t have a computer while I was gone, and am very behind in checking on all “my” CB kids. I am planning to catch up on everyone this weekend, but truly hope that everyone is doing well in the meantime!

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Grandma managed the chemo while Mom and Dad were gone just fine, but Mom forgot to tell her about the ointment I need on my face due to my methotrexate rash. I look a little like a baby alligator now! Good thing the rest of me is so stinkin' cute, because I'm sure not winning any Gerber baby contests with this complexion!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Ok, this has *so* nothing to do with cancer, but we went to a Mexican restaurant tonight and there was this merry-achii band playing -- you should have seen me doing the chicken dance right there at the table. I got some SKILLS, girlfriend!

Thursday, October 20, 2005 12:30 AM CDT


57 Days to Go

Just a quick update from the land of Escoe this week --- Blaine and I are headed out the door for his next round of reconstructive surgery, so if those of you so inclined could hold him in your thoughts tomorrow morning during surgery, I would really appreciate it. He normally holds a relatively admirable “let’s just get this over with and move on” sort of mentality, but after his tango with a staph infection this past spring, following *that* surgery (geez louise, I’ve lost track of how many he’s had!) he’s understandably a little gun shy this time around. I guess my job as chaperone will be to take him out tonight and get him good and drunk so he doesn’t have the mental capacity to worry about tomorrow’s surgery. (Think his doctor would have a problem with that?) If you can only hold one person up in prayer tomorrow, perhaps a better person might be the kids’ Grandma, who flew in to take care of them while we are away. She certainly has more reason to be nervous than Blaine does!!

I did want to share with you, though, a few pictures from their 50’s Night at school this week. Hula hoops, hamburgers and hand jive, a fun time was had by all. But mainly by Brayden, who discovered the carnival games where they were giving out candy before the other kids did. And, be sure to take a good hard look at these photos, since it might very well be the last time in history that Kendrie appears in public in a pink dress. I thought she was adorable … and was especially annoyed at the kids who kept asking out loud, “Why is that boy wearing a dress?” Obviously, I need to conduct some sort of elementary-aged-public-awareness campaign, entitled, “Please teach your child not to be such a rude, ill-spoken brat.” Or maybe I just need annoyance-management classes. If there is one lesson my children learn through all of this, I hope it is to have empathy, compassion, and that if they want to ask questions about other people in public and the way they look, they should whisper in my ear!

Kendrie and her teacher, Ms. Pinky Tuscadaro.

"Aha! I knew that hula-hooping talent that I cultivated at the Lighthouse Retreat last week would come in handy again someday!"

And yes, to answer your question, the tongue DOES make a difference!

Apparently all those spinals have paid off and Kendrie is now limber enough to be a 70's Solid Gold dancer --- too bad this is the wrong decade.

Anyway, I’ll update again when Blaine and I return. Kendrie is doing well in the meantime (and very emphatically wore camo shorts and t-shirt to school the next day, lest anyone get confused and think she actually *enjoyed* wearing a dress!) and we are all still counting down the days. 57 to go, as of today!

Thanks for checking in,

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: It's my dad's cancer today that stinks, since he and Mommy are going away for a few days because of it. Obviously I am not well-adjusted enough to enjoy the separation because I was crying already this morning and they hadn't even left yet! I hope Grandma has lots of tricks up her sleeves for these next few days -- she's going to need 'em!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Grandma showed up yesterday off the plane with a dozen gingerbread cookies from Mommy's favorite bakery in the whole wide world --- and when Mom wasn't looking, us kids ate 'em all!!! Woohoo!

Monday, October 17, 2005 1:35 PM CDT


60 Days to Go

After attending our first-ever Lighthouse Family Retreat last summer in Gulf Trace, Florida, and having what was basically one of our best vacations EVER, we were beyond disappointed when this year’s retreat was cancelled due to the damage caused by Hurricane Dennis. Actually, to be correct, I should explain that only two of the retreats were cancelled …. Lighthouse runs six-ten retreats a year, we just happened to have scheduled ourselves for the retreat following the hurricane (impeccable timing on our part, as always!) We were fortunate that the Lighthouse was able to schedule an additional retreat at the end of the season for many of the families who got hurricane’d out earlier in the summer --- needless to say, we were thrilled for another opportunity to attend.

Just like last year, it was a relaxing, inspiring, fun-filled stay at a beautiful beach -- this time, the location was Watercolor, Florida. Watercolor is a really neat resort-community, with dozens of rental properties, three community pools, a spa (which believe it or not, I actually used) a workout center (didn’t use that, no surprise there) a fabulous restaurant, bike rentals, walking trails, etc., and of course, the beach at your fingertips. If you are considering a Florida panhandle vacation, you would be well-done to consider staying at Watercolor. We loved it! Five stars!!

But better than all that was the time spent with the other Lighthouse families, family volunteers, and Lighthouse workers. Once again I find myself unable to express proper gratitude for all these people do … not only during the retreats, but year-round. Their mission is to serve children with cancer and their families at a seaside retreat and help them to laugh, restore family relationships, and find hope in God. If you visit the Lighthouse website and browse around, you’ll find several photos of Kendrie, and other Caringbridge kids that you’ll most likely recognize, on their site. And one embarrassing photo of Blaine in a coconut bra, but I promised him I wouldn't mention that.

Lighthouse is a truly deserving organization. I’ll write my formal thank-you this week, and include a donation. But Blaine and I talked about it, and our long-term goal is for our family to return to the Lighthouse in a few years in a volunteer capacity, helping another family to benefit from their time at the ocean just like ours has benefitted these past two trips.

So, thank-you’s and praise for this wonderful organization and the people who run it aside, I thought I would share with you some of the photos and wisdom we gained on this long weekend. You know that Escoe family ---- always learning, they are. Here are a few of the things we learned this time:

1. There is nothing quite as neat as an early morning, just-off-the-shore greeting from a family of dolphins. (No photo, darn it, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera! But trust me, it was really cool!)

2. It doesn’t matter if it IS Florida, unheated pools and the ocean are a little cool in October.

3. It doesn’t matter if it IS October, playing Beach Olympics in the middle of the day is still hot and sticky. But fun. And that’s what matters. That, and hanging your tongue out of your mouth to make you run faster.

4. Did we mention that Watercolor is a really cool resort?

5. We discovered the secret to a successful rock climb is to wear goggles on the top of your head. Something to do with reverse gravity and polarizing the sun. Or something. Maybe just looking cool.

6. It doesn’t matter if you think the fountains are lame. Your mom thinks they look like fun, and you will pose for a picture until she is happy or she will not let you rest.

7. Sometimes, kids honestly are willing to pose for a picture. There is no sweeter moment for a scrapbooking, camera-wielding, photo-obsessed mom.

8. Oh, look, here’s another one. They must have all been on sugar highs to be so cooperative.

9. The whole point of a beach-trip is the beach. Too bad there weren’t any minnows to be found, after Blaine made a last-minute trip to Wal-Mart at midnight to buy nets for the kids this year. That, of course, follows our trip last year, where there were minnows by the thousands, and not enough nets for all the kids. They did use their nets to catch lots of hermit crabs at night, though. No pictures there …. Those things give me the heebie jeebies.

10. When all else fails, and you don’t want to admit that the ocean is too cold, and your steroid personality makes you unspeakably rude to those around you, just pretend you are digging in the sand. You don’t have to talk, and no-one will be the wiser.

I mentioned Hurricane Kendrie in the last journal entry; thankfully, she was down-graded to a Category Annoying this past weekend in Florida. No blatant tantrums or meltdowns, but lots of whining, pouting, and my personal least-favorite, refusing to talk to other people. I mean, here these volunteer families are, spending their own perfectly good time and money to VOLUNTEER to serve in this caring, kind way for our family, and my child won’t look them in the eye. Or answer their questions. Or recognize their presence in any manner. Little brat. You know how, when you ask a two-year old their name, or their age, and they bury their face in their mother’s shoulder, it’s kind of cute? Well, when a six year old does it? Not so much.

Oh, and I forgot the most important thing we learned this weekend, the one lesson above all lessons to which we will stay true, no matter what:

11. The Escoe family will not be traveling more than one hundred miles from our home in any direction. Ever. Again. Ever.

Granted, that’s going to make our life-long dream of visiting Alaska rather difficult. In fact, we won’t be able to leave the state of Georgia, but it’s a small price to pay to avoid the travel-nasties that seem to afflict my children every time we are in the car longer than two hours.

The drive down actually wasn’t so bad. We made it all the way to I-10 in Florida before I whirled around and launched into my “Oh, no it is NOT too late for your father to turn this van around and drive all the way back to Georgia and you can just miss the whole weekend for all I care if you don’t start behaving” diatribe. The threat of going back home without dipping their toes in the ocean seemed to work pretty well, and they kept things under control the rest of the way. And the actual three days we spent at the beach? They were in reality, fairly pleasant, with only a few over-stimulated, under-rested “moments” taking place. (Any family who doesn’t experience at least one or two of those moments on vacation, well, I don’t want to hear from you. You’ll just make me feel lousy. Plus you’ll be lying and we’ll all know it.)

It was the drive home that made me consider building a time machine and traveling back in time about ten years to have my tubes tied. I understand you’re tired! I understand you’re feeing cranky! I understand you don’t want to leave the beach! It’s when they launched into “you’re stupid you’re stupider this is a dumb family he’s touching me make them stop I can’t hear the movie get off my side how much longer my butt hurts are we ever going to get there I’m hungry I’m thirsty” rants that I wanted to puncture my own eardrums just so I could stop listening to them. And how is it that the drive home is always twice as long??? Five unsynchronized bladders, Blaine’s never-ending need for coffee, his never-ending quest to find a gas station that makes decent coffee, us fighting over the a/c controls in the front of the van, the kids arguing …. and the ugly battle of wills over whether to watch Little Rascals or Home Alone 3 on the dvd player about pushed me over the edge. I was never so happy to see the sign at the front of our housing addition in my whole life, is all I can say.

But I’m still glad we went. Given the opportunity, we’d jump at the chance to go again next year. Even if it does mean breaking our “no travel more than 100 miles from home” rule. I’ll just invest in a really HUGE pair of ear muffs for the drive. For me. Blaine and the kids are on their own.

Thanks for checking in,

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Hmmm. Today I am feeling pretty good; well-rested and refreshed from hanging out at the beach. Did mom tell you that I took part in a karate exhibition for the Talent Show? I wasn’t really very talented, but it sure was fun! And I was way cooler than Brayden and her lame hula-hooping, that’s for sure. Mom is going to have to buy us Escoe kids some actual talent, if we go back next year!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Well, if you ask *me*, it’s that we spent the weekend at the beach. But the best part about today specifically is that it’s my first day off steroids and hopefully the “good cop” part of my personality will begin to return!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 1:30 PM CDT


65 Days to Go!

Wonderful News!!! (aka; The Cake) : You have no idea the joy I felt when the nurse turned to me during Kendrie’s lumbar puncture yesterday and said, “You realize this is her FINAL SPINAL, right?” What magnificent words, indeed! Of course, it’s also a bit scary to know that was the last time they will inject protective chemo into her spine, to prevent leukemia cells from entering her central nervous system. But if I can let go of my safety cord, and my fear and paranoia and panic and alarm and obsession and terror, then it’s a wonderful thing indeed. No more NPO procedures, (until she gets her port out, anyway) listening to her complain about how hungry she is and when will she be able to eat? No more driving to Atlanta the night before and staying in a hotel room; no more sleepy medicine, no more back pokes, no more all-day clinic appointments. Final spinal, baby --- what a milestone!

More Wonderful News (aka: The Icing on the Cake) : We had allotted ourselves enough time yesterday for Kendrie to receive her 2-3 hour IVIG transfusion, but her counts were high enough that the doctor didn’t think it was warranted. So once we realized we were sprung from the clinic earlier than planned, we called our friends Jenny and Catie, who are staying at the Atlanta Ronald McDonald house while Catie undergoes radiation treatments for her brain tumor, and promptly invited ourselves for lunch. There is a slight chance that Jenny and Catie were just being polite, having no real choice in the matter since we barged in on them like that, but I think after staying far away from home for weeks on end, there is definitely a remote possibility that they actually enjoyed the company -- I know we sure did! Thanks, Jenny and Catie! We will miss you this weekend at the beach!

Worrisome News: (AP report, Watercolor, FL) : Residents of Watercolor, Florida, a beautiful seaside resort located near Destin in the panhandle of Florida, are battening down the hatches yet again in anticipation of the fourth hurricane this season, expected to rip through their sleepy community sometime this weekend. Despite the head-on devastation of Hurricane Dennis in July, and the remnants of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita this fall, residents have feared nothing as much as they fear the havoc that might be wreaked by the latest in the string of fury released by Mother Nature: Hurricane Kendrie.

With steroid-force winds and gales raging at 100 TPH (tantrums per hour), Kendrie is expected to make landfall in Watercolor at approximately noon on Thursday. According to the Farmers Almanac, Thursday *should* be a day of celebration -- Oct 13th -- as Kendrie revels in the two-year anniversary of the day she was diagnosed with leukemia and subsequently began kicking cancer’s butt. However, locals fear the side effects from this month’s steroid-storm system will overshadow any anniversary commemoration plans. Instead of planning merriment for the two years Kendrie has been a survivor, Watercolor residents are stocking up on mac & cheese, bacon, and zofran.

Other Georgia residents, converging on Watercolor in anticipation of joining the Escoe family at the Lighthouse Family Retreat, are warned to take cover and be prepared. Destruction effects could possibly include whining, crying, extreme hunger, disagreement, surliness, unfriendliness and hostility. Lingering effects could include weeping, howling, bickering, and pouting. Be afraid, people of Florida --- be very afraid.


WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Geez, Louise, where should I start? I have an entire laundry list of ways I was tortured and baited and set upon by cruel adults yesterday while I was at the clinic. First, I had to get sleepy medicine, which always makes me cry and moan, but overall, wasn’t too bad. But THEN, those nurses, who are nowhere NEAR as sneaky as they think they are, came up while I was still on the table and stuck a big needle in my arm ---- a Flu Shot! Did they think I wouldn’t notice??? And the only thing I hate worse than needles? Band-aids! Guess what they gave me over my flu shot? Band-aid #1. Then, the nurse-practitioner doing my LP stuck a band-aid on my back -- band aid #2! Then, like that’s not bad enough, like I haven’t suffered enough at the hands of these people, she couldn’t get all the tape off, so I came home with more tape on my back that I had to peel off ---- I WAS NOT VERY HAPPY LAST NIGHT WHEN I GOT IN THE BATHTUB AND KEPT FINDING BANDAIDS AND TAPE ALL OVER MY LITTLE BODY!!!! It’s not steroids that makes me crazy, IT’S ALL YOU STUPID BIG PEOPLE!!!!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: No doubt, it was getting to see my friend Catie at the Ronald McDonald House for lunch. Her grandma gave me a brownie (and I embarrassed my mom by not eating it all after I asked for it, but I was too full from all those goldfish the nurses gave me after my sleepy medicine) and I got to play in Catie’s room with some of her toys from home. It was a neat place, but I’m sure Catie and her mom are ready to be done with radiation and get back home with Catie’s daddy where they are much more comfortable.

Thursday, October 6, 2005 8:54 AM CDT


71 Days to Go

We have attended Camp Sunshine Family Weekend Camp a total of three times now. The first two times we went, there was this awesome singer (how embarrassing that I can’t even remember his name) who played guitar and sang silly songs during mealtimes. The song that is playing now, “Love Is”, is sort of the theme song for Camp Sunshine. Everyone stands up and does the hand motions and sings along …. feeling a little self-conscious and embarrassed, but enjoying themselves nonetheless. I was quite indignant when I found out this weekend that Mr. Guitar Man (John? Joe? What the *heck* is his name???) moved to Texas and isn’t able to come to Family Camp anymore. What’s up with that? Does the guy think he has a LIFE or something? Doesn't he realize we enjoyed that?? As much as I used to roll my eyes while making my “faster than a jet plane” movement, deep down, I was having a good time! I missed him this weekend, darn it!

But absence of silly songs aside, Family Camp was once again, fantastic. Held at Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, Georgia, it is the perfect compromise for me (Mrs. City Mouse) and my more “rustic” family members. Lots of outdoor activities, but running water, beds complete with mattresses, and electricity in the cabins … now that’s my kind of camping. Although I’m hesitant to return, as I found out on the last morning that the cabin of our friends, Mary Grace’s family had visitors ….. of the cockroach variety. SO not something I would have been happy about! We had our share of grand-daddy long legs …. those, I can stomach …. but roaches? Um, no thank you. To put it mildly. I know there is a camp doctor in attendance each weekend, but I don't think resuscitating me with CPR from the HEART ATTACK I would have if I found a roach in my shoe like Mary Grace's brother did is part of their job description!

I’ve talked before about how great it is at Camp Sunshine to meet other families, and also for the kids to spend time with other kids whose lives have been impacted by cancer. Most of the volunteers are former campers themselves, so they have a great connection to the children. And it goes without saying that it’s inspiring to Blaine and I as parents, to meet these young people (who seem young to me but are actually in their 20’s, out of college, working, living as adults!) who serve as a testimony to not only surviving cancer, but embracing life afterwards.

One thing that struck me this weekend, as compared to the previous two weekends, was how "ready" Brayden and Kellen both were to go off with friends and do their own thing. We've always hung out as a family before, but this weekend it was all about playing football for Kellen (not well, I might add) and spending time with "her new best friend Cheyenne, and her new best friend Kacee, and her new best friend, etc" for Brayden. I've never broached the subject of the Camp Sunshine Weekend Sibling Camp held just for the siblings .... but I think next summer we might check into it. I don't know whether to be excited, or a little bit sad. :)

Our family was a “middle” family this year ---- sunk into the cancer world two years ago; not new, but not finished yet either. I loved seeing the kids there who had finished leukemia treatment four and five years ago …. And I hope the parents of the kids diagnosed as recently as July found hope in the other families, as well.

So, kudos and thanks to Camp Sunshine for providing us with another fabulous weekend out of the way, I wanted to share with you some of the lessons learned by the Escoe Family this weekend:

No stretch of monkey bars is too long if you’ve got a strong shoulder helping you along the way. Of course, even the strong shoulder will get sick of it after your three hundredth trip across .... just remember that.

It is important to have a nice smile when you’re fishing ….. makes the fish less suspicious.

It is even more important to be willing to actually **touch** the fish when you catch it … a concept that still doesn’t make sense to Kellen aka “Girly-Girl” Escoe.

While mastering the “touching the wildlife” concept, it is also important to realize when you are entertaining yourself with the wrong end of the food chain. I'm sure these poor worms were relieved when the time came for them to be impaled on the hooks --- probably less painful that the Worm Olympics that Kendrie was putting them through.

Falling down a lot does not automatically make you a football expert. Kellen is the "butt" in the middle, in case you couldn't tell.

Getting in the baby swing and swinging is fun. Getting out is sometimes a problem.

Sometimes slightly blurred photos can be a blessing. Wrinkles and extra pounds are not as noticeable this way.

I mentioned our friend Mary Grace above …. If you’ve never visited Mary Grace’s site, now might be a good time to do so. The day after they returned home from Family Camp, MG went in for a routine scan, after completing her treatment for a germ cell tumor this past February. Doctors found a spot on her lungs …. Chances are it’s nothing more than congestion ….. I imagine if most kids had scans run, you’d see all sorts of funky stuff going on at any given time. But to a child with a history of cancer, this is a scary thing. They will have a repeat scan in a month, and are hopeful it is nothing serious, but I know the family would appreciate some encouragement to get them through this stressful time.

And thank you in the meantime for the support you have offered to the families of Haley and Clare. I’m still struggling to accept these losses and can only imagine how their parents and siblings must be feeling. A few people have asked me about obtaining a copy of Haley’s CD. I’m not sure how, but I’ll try to find out and spread the word. I’m sure it would be comforting to her family to know that we can continue to enjoy her music, and she'll continue to touch others with her talent.

In the meantime, have a great weekend!

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: You want to hear something gross? (even if you don't, I'm going to tell you) I threw up this morning! That hasn’t happened in a while and I think it took my mom by surprise … but then she remembered that last night was my weekly methotrexate night. Anyway, one zofran and breakfast later, I was raring to go, so no harm done, right?

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Well, at least I don’t have to take any more methotrexate for another week!

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 4:46 AM CDT

I still can’t get over the loss of Haley (turquoise shirt in the photo above at Chilis.) Although not one of “my” ALL-kids, she nonetheless held a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of many.

In case you’ve never gotten to hear her wonderful singing voice, I’ve put one of her songs up on Kendrie’s site as a tribute (Billy Rubin …. my kids love this song!) and you can hear Haley’s Dirty Rotten Liver Blues over at Julianna Banana’s site. We have one of Haley’s cd’s and the kids listen to it quite often. Kendrie keeps asking me to call Ms. Cheryl, Haley’s mom, and ask “if she can be Haley’s back-row singer?” the next time she performs.

Again, my heart goes out to the Vincents on the loss of this very special little girl. We will hold her dear through our memories of her, and her music.


Thursday, September 29, 2005 6:01 PM CDT

***Monday afternoon update***

Once again my heart is heavy and the news I have to share is terrible. Haley Vincent, the beautiful girl in the turquoise shirt in the Chili's picture at the top of this page, passed away this weekend. I am simply stunned; we just had dinner with them last week. We went out of town and I wasn't even aware Haley had become suddenly, critcally ill until today, when I learned of her passing. Her mother Cheryl and I have become online friends this past year or so and this family is a good one; I'm sure their hearts are broken right now, and mine is also, for them. Haley has a beautiful voice and I know the angel-choir in Heaven is even better today ... but that doesn't diminish the sadness we are feeling down here on Earth. All my condolences to the Vincent family; I am so sad for them and the loss of their beautiful daughter Haley.

***Friday morning update***

It is with a sad heart I tell you that Clare from Maryland passed away yesterday, after a brave battle with her ALL relapse in May and transplant in July. Like many of you, I have followed Clare's story closely these past few months and have been so touched by the unwavering love, support and dedication her family has shown. This is every parent's worst nightmare, and I wish I had words adequate to express my sympathy to Clare's parents, Karen and Benno, and sister Phoebe. Please visit Clare's site and leave her family a note of condolence and support.


78 Days to Go

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. Always, always, always. Since I was a little kid and my parents used to have friends over to watch the Sooners play, and I would eat myself sick from the relish tray of cheese cubes, Vienna sausages, and sweet pickles (who says we didn’t have class?) -- since I was old enough to enjoy back-to-school rituals (yes, I was one of the dorks who loved going back to school each fall)…. shopping for supplies, new school clothes, even the smell of freshly-sharpened #2 pencils. Knowing that football season is starting -- that’s the absolute best. I am a huge college football fan. The State Fair (corndogs and caramel apples; need I say more?) The drop in temperature, the chill in the morning air, the beautiful colors of fall leaves, dragging my sweaters and sweatshirts out of the garage, pumpkin patches, hay rides, even that smell you get the first time you turn the heat on in the house. I have **always** loved this time of year.

Autumn in Georgia isn’t quite “real”. Although my calendar tells me it is officially “fall”, it is 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity. We’re still wearing shorts and sleeveless tops and sweating away the afternoons. Leaves don’t really change (at least not for long) and our two local pumpkin patches both take place in church parking lots, on asphalt. No meandering hay rides or corn mazes there. But that’s ok. I can envision myself in New England, hiking through the forest trails, crunching the fallen, golden-red leaves beneath my Doc Martin hiking boots. (Me? Hiking? Ok, it’s only a fantasy!) So even in Georgia, thanks to my imagination, autumn is still my favorite time of year.

Now, thanks to leukemia, autumn, while still my favorite, is bittersweet to me. Two years ago, I was apologizing to Kendrie’s pre-school teacher for not being able to chaperone her class field trip to the Georgia National Fair. “I’m sorry, Mrs. C. It’s just a virus, I’m sure, but since she’s still running a fever, I don’t think we should go.”; wondering if the teacher could bring me back a caramel apple. Two years ago, I was outside with Brayden’s Brownie Troop enjoying the crisp evening air when Blaine called me, to say, “Something’s really wrong. … she just fainted on the porch. I think we should take her to the emergency room.” Two years ago, my only view of the changing autumn leaves was from out the ambulance window, as my daughter was taken to Scottish Rite hospital to begin her treatment for leukemia. Two years ago, I brought my youngest child home from the hospital and then took my older two children to a pumpkin patch at a local church. Watching them enjoy picking out pumpkins, the bright sunlight in the clean, cool air --- how could life be any more surreal? My daughter has CANCER for goodness sake, how dare the fall weather be so beautiful? Two years ago, I took my youngest daughter trick-or-treating for Halloween, dressed in the Superman costume that she had picked out months before; home from the hospital only a few days, her face already puffy from steroids, her expression sad and confused, her legs too tired and painful to walk far, so we pushed her the entire way in a stroller, until she begged to go home. Is that how a four-year old should enjoy Halloween?

This year, I’m trying hard not to dwell on the “bitter” part of fall, but to focus instead on the “sweet”. Kendrie is doing well, nearing completion of her twenty-six months of chemotherapy. I don’t know if it’s over for her ….. as we discovered all too well, there are no guarantees on this ride called LIFE. But hopefully this will mark the end of her battle with leukemia and soon be no more than a blip in her rear view mirror. My other two children, while obnoxious as hell some days, have remained healthy these past two years. I have most definitely learned that that is the best you can hope for. We have made friends with families whose children are doing well …. that is sweet. Other families have children who are struggling … unquestionably, that is bitter.

It makes me sad that no matter how clean the air, how cool the morning, how beautiful the leaves, or how viciously the Sooners kick Longhorn tail, I can never take autumn at face value again. I will never see a pumpkin that I don’t remember that day in the pumpkin patch, trying vainly to carry on a normal conversation with the worker and not break down crying. I will never carve pumpkins with my kids without remembering the year Kendrie didn’t have the energy to get off the sofa and take part. No matter how much fun she has this year, running from house to house on Oct 31st, gathering all the sweets and goodies she can carry, I’ll never forget the year she cried to go home and lay down. I don’t think I will ever feel a cool fall morning without remembering that stretch of mornings after diagnosis when I never left her hospital room.

My rose-colored glasses appear to be working in reverse. Although I still love autumn, I no longer embrace it without hesitation, enjoying only the sweet. There is no way to forget the bitter --- the sadness and fear that struck so deeply that one beautiful, crisp autumn day. Fall is tainted, just a little.

But with the experience we’ve gained throughout this journey (I hesitate to say "wisdom" or "maturity", for fear those of you who know me will laugh!) perhaps bittersweet isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe appreciation earned is better than blind appreciation? Who knows? What I do know is that as I type this, I can hear my husband and my children outside my window, playing football in the front yard. The temperature has not fallen and the leaves are not changing, but for this moment, I will do my best to appreciate the beginnings of autumn. (Now, where is that cooler weather???)

Have a great night,

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 1:25 PM CDT


Around the world in 80 days

Hey, if someone was able to fly a hot-air balloon around the world for 80 days, enduring wind changes, cold temperatures, dodging high wires and small planes, and avoiding territorial high-altitude birds, surely we can plug along for 80 more days of chemotherapy treatment, right?

This update will be brief. Now, when you are finished sobbing into your Starbucks napkins (oh, wait, those were tears of joy???) I’ll explain: In an effort to cut gasoline costs, the governor of Georgia made the request that all public schools be closed on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Something to do with the gas expense of filling up the buses for transportation, yadda yadda. What this means -- basically -- to us stay-at-home moms, is two sudden, unplanned, never-ending days of bored children and waaaaayyyy too many hours stretching out before us. Sure, in the summer, you’re prepared. You’ve got a plan; a strategy. But two days, in late September, no warning, mid-week, just *launched* at me like that?? What’s that about?? I mean, do these people expect me to ENTERTAIN these kids for two days???

So, anyway, my point is that after having my 39th birthday earlier this month, I suddenly am unable to stay awake past 9pm at night. And now that my free time during the day, while my children are USUALLY in school, has been depleted-- you, the faithful Caringbridge readers, are stuck with a two-paragraph update this week. Well, three or four now, now that I’ve been rambling and complaining like I have.

Thanks so much to everyone who took part in the Chili’s Live A Little, Give A Little campaign. Kendrie enjoyed the peppers that were made for her, and we had a great time at dinner last night at our local Chili’s. We got to sit near Jay, from Macon, who is an actual patient at St. Judes and brought quite a crowd out to support the fundraiser. (Cindy, somebody at your table left a Matchbox car on the floor and the hostess took it!)

We got to share our dinner with our friends Renee’ and Keith and their boys Kody and Ryan (the ones whose hunting clothes Kendrie tries to steal every time we go to their house) and also with our Caringbridge friend Haley and her family. Haley lives in Tennessee, but is treated at Egleston while awaiting her liver transplant. Either way you slice it, she and her parents Cheryl and Bruce drove a long way for dinner! We really enjoyed spending time with you, though, and are grateful you made the drive.

Thanks also to Mercer student Holly who came over and introduced herself to us at the restaurant (Amanda, you should have come over! We would have loved to meet you, too!) Holly, you might not have realized it, but I was about five seconds away from snatching my kids bald-headed due to their obnoxious behavior. Your perfectly timed arrival prevented what would most likely have been an ugly scene --- thanks for your introduction, and your wonderful timing!! If anyone hears how much Chili’s wound up donating to St. Judes, I would love to know.

“Snatch you bald-headed” ….. that was a threat my mom issued to my sister and me while growing up on more occasions than I can count. In light of the duck fuzz, maybe it’s not appropriate for me to say to my children, but it’s one of my favorite phrases and I just can’t help myself.

Ooops. See? Now you’ve got six paragraphs. What with the extra rambling and all.

My kids are going back to school tomorrow. I don’t care if the whole state is out of gas and I have to strap all three of them to my back and carry them myself. I'll balance them on my head like those Ugandan women carry pots of water. I can almost hear the silence now ……. (blissful sigh)

Take care,


WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: OK, what is UP with this rash all over my body? It’s mainly my face, neck and shoulders. Mom keeps mumbling something about a methotrexate rash, but I have no idea what that means. She keeps lubing me up with some greasy lotion that makes me shinier than Donatella Versace and it’s still itching anyway! Aaaggghhhh!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: I am still basking in the glow of Mr. Bruce and Mrs. Cheryl telling my mom last night how cute I am. Of course, they haven’t seen me today, fighting and arguing and wrestling with Brayden and Kellen ….. somebody please tell me I can go back to school tomorrow! I know Mommy will be sad, sad, sad, and missing us all day, but it’s really what I want to do, no matter how difficult it is for her.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 4:37 AM CDT

SPEEDING TOWARDS THE END (or trying to speed, anyway)

86 Days to Go

Actually, I don’t feel very speedy. I don't feel speedy at all. Like when you have a really fantastic, wonderful, much-anticipated goal in sight … high school graduation, wedding, season premiere of Survivor …. and time seems to slow down, the closer you get. Does that happen to anyone else? It sounds a little selfish (OK, a LOT selfish) for me to talk about how weary I am of this cancer gig, when Kendrie is the one doing all the work. But now that we’ve got our sights set and an end seems firmly in place (Have I mentioned to you that there are only 86 days to go?!?) it seems to be taking longer to get there.

Thank goodness for the wonderful social support organizations we have met along the way that have helped smooth (and in some cases, speed up) the process with their encouragement and behind-the-scenes hard work. Some of the biggest for us have been Camp Sunshine, The Lighthouse Family Retreat, CURE, and SuperSibs! I hope everyone knows that I would trade every family camp weekend, every beach retreat, every Quiet Heroes luncheon, every picnic and party and care package and meeting and get-together in a heartbeat. It goes back to the “We’re so lucky Kendrie got cancer!” attitude that I worry a little it must sound like I’m saying. If ever there were a case for a big resounding NOT! … this would be it. But once again, I am thankful for the friends we’ve made along the way and the people who have made it their life’s work to provide support and encouragement to families struggling with pediatric cancer. (Hey, I could describe a few of you Caringbridge junkies the same way!)

Saturday, we got to take part in the first-ever Camp Sunshine Middle Georgia Family Fun Day. Camp Sunshine was kind enough to start up a monthly Middle Georgia Family Support Group Meeting almost a year ago, since most of us live too far away to take advantage of their Atlanta-area activities, where they are based. And this afternoon spent at a local “amusement” center was a fun way for more of the middle Georgia families to get acquainted. It was something like 184 degrees outside (only a slight exaggeration) and by the end of the afternoon, Kendrie (aka “Finishing up her Steroids-girl”) was pooped. But we had a wonderful time and I thought I would share some of the pictures with you.

In the meantime, we can look forward to a few other upcoming activities, like Family Camp Weekend and our (once-hurricane-postponed-pray-it-doesn’t-get-canceled-again) Lighthouse beach retreat. We’ll plug along, putting one foot in front of the other, and focus on the finish line. It’ll get here eventually, even if it feels like we’re speeding through molasses to reach the end, right?

Kendrie, hanging out "in the pit" (This was before she actually worked up the courage to get in one of the go-carts by herself ..... coward, but cute!)

While Dad's 2-seater go-cart was much faster, Kendrie decided she liked hers better. Her comment for Blaine was, "Why is this road so bumply?" Obviously, not the smoothest ride on the road.

Ahhhh, the first-ever taste of being airborne. It's fun, but a lot of work to get bouncing that high.

Kendrie, bless her heart, just didn't have the poundage behind the jump. She never got more than a foot off the trampoline, but she loved every second of it.

If there is a rock climb within a hundred miles, this boy will find it, and conquer it. OK, maybe "conquer" is too strong a word ... but at least give it a good go.

What a perfect way to end up the day .... shooting at your brother from the Bumper Blaster Boats, and trying to avoid his shots in return. At this point, I was dripping with sweat and seriously considered commandeering a Blaster Boat myself and "accidentally" falling in the water. But I thought I might look silly -- a lone adult amidst a group of 7 and 8 yr olds, all of us aiming to steer ourselves under the waterfull on purpose, just to cool off. So instead, I contented myself with sitting on a park bench in the shade, fanning my face with a sheet of paper, like an old lady, and taking the following picture of a very tired Kendrie:

One last thing before I go --- if you haven't heard, Chili's is sponsoring a "Live a Little, Give a Little" campaign on Sept 26th, and will donate 100 percent of their profits (minimum of $100,000) to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. You can also go to their web site Chili's Create A Pepper and create an online "Pepper" in someone's honor and make a donation, if you'd like. Please find a Chili's near you and make sure you eat there on Sept 26th -- what a wonderful event! If any of you are reading in the "Middle Georgia" area, we will be having dinner at the Chili's in Macon (Tom Hill Sr. Blvd, I think is the name of the street?) and we'd love to have you join us -- just e-mail me!

Thanks for checking in,
your non-speedy friend,


WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Well, I have no idea. My mom is an insomniac and is writing this update in the middle of the night .... obviously, nothing too traumatic has happened YET!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Still sleeping ...zzzzzzzzz, zzzzzzzzzzz, zzzzzzzzzzz.

Friday, September 16, 2005 1:42 PM CDT


91 Days to Go! Woo-hoo, double digits!!

Ten-yr olds are weird. I can say that with the smugness of someone whose oldest child is only eight, therefore I have two years to go before someone can accuse *my* ten year old of being weird, although I’m sure that day will come. But for now, I am positive that all other people's ten-year olds are weird. How do I know this? I am speaking with the authority of someone who has spent fifteen hours this week “proctoring” the ITBS testing in a 5th grade class in my children’s elementary school.

Now, I have to say, that even though I am *only* a stay-at-home mom, and not exactly out finding the cure for cancer (wouldn’t that be nice?) or saving baby whales or the rain forest or feeding orphan tree monkeys or anything like that, I DO have a life, and fifteen hours cut quite a bit of chunk out of it this week. Which is basically my cheesy way of saying, “Sorry it’s taken me an entire week to update this site.” Thanks for checking in on us despite my lack of an update.

Now, back to the weird ten-year olds. Here is a partial list of their weirdness, compiled by me, during my proctor duties:

They dress weird. They either spend way too much, or way too little, time on their hair in the morning. They bring bottled water to school with screw-top lids and spend ten minutes puncturing little holes in the top of the lid, so they can dribble the water into their mouths. It would be much quicker to just unscrew the lid, but they don’t see that. They think it is funny to place a snack-sized bag of potatoe chips on the ground and stomp on it to make a loud noise, but rendering the actual snack into dust. They are extremely uncoordinated, as evidenced by the eight million pencils, books, and test sheets that fell or rolled off their desks this week. One girl came to school with a price tag hanging out of her skirt (Although I shouldn't poke fun because that has happened to me as well.) Many of them refuse to blow their nose and prefer sniffling and snorting their way through life. THIS, especially, is not entertaining to me.

The role of a proctor is excruciatingly boring. I would have driven spikes into my own brain but couldn't summon up the enthusiasm. Besides trying to surreptitiously pass Kleenex to a few of them, I spent all week praying to the Heavens that someone’s pencil lead would break so I would have something to do. What does that say about my life, when sharpening a pencil has become a high point in my daily routine? In an attempt, however, to not convey my extreme and total boredom to the class, and also to prove myself in my quest for “Cool Mom” status (you all know what I’m talking about, don’t you?) I had the following conversation with one of the students the first day, while I was collecting their library books off their desks:

Me: “Oh, Harry Potter, I love this series”

Boy: grunting noise.

Me, still trying to be cool and hip: “Have you read them all?”

Boy: “uh-huh”

Me. Still undaunted: “Did you know the new movie is coming out at Thanksgiving?”

Boy: “uh, huh”

Me, floundering a bit: “I’m very excited to see it, are you?”

Boy: grunting noise again.

Me, still trying: “I’ve seen all the movies so far, have you?”

Boy: “uh-huh”

Me, accepting defeat: “OK, good luck on your test”

Then, I walked away, but not before I caught, out of the corner of my eye, the look he exchanged with the girl sitting next to him. NOT, as I would have hoped, the “Wow, I wish my mom was cool enough to like Harry Potter” but rather, the “Oh, my, GOD, some grown-ups are so pathetic!” look. As I skulked away, I wondered if I could break his pencil lead without him noticing.

This morning, I took doughnuts to celebrate the last day of testing. If I can’t impress the class with my Harry Potter prowess, then I’m not above blatant bribery in an attempt to try once more for the elusive “Cool Mom” status. And I had the following conversation with another student:

Boy: “Hey, did you bring those doughnuts for our class?”

Me (feeling quite proud of myself): “Why yes, I did”

Boy: “Dibs on chocolate!”

Me: “Well, actually, I brought all glazed”

Boy: “You men there’s no chocolate?”

Me: “No, I thought it would be easier if they were all the same:

Boy: “No sprinkles?”

Me (wondering why I am explaining myself to a ten-year old): “No, all the same”

Boy: “No crème filled?”

Me: “I thought it would be easier this way”

Boy: “No raspberry glazed? No bear claws? No munchkins?”

Me: “No, you ungrateful little shit, I brought GLAZED! I spent fifteen dollars buying three dozen GLAZED donuts and if you don’t like it then I will take them and I will eat every single one and NONE OF YOU WILL GET ANY!!!!!!!!!”

No, wait, that was only the thought that went through my head; I didn’t really say it.

So anyway, that’s how my week went. And I can only imagine that you're wondering what on earth possessed me to share it with all of you. Hmmmm. No idea, really. So, since I can’t come and regale you with tales of my Mom-Coolness, I’ll regale you instead with photos of Kendrie’s birthday party. Never mind that her birthday was two weeks ago, and by the time I get the update posted she will be eligible for social security …..

Much to her dismay, we did NOT have a Spiderman party …. which everyone knows is the dream of every 6-year old girl on the planet. Instead, I had the audacity to plan a pony-party, with moonwalk, hayride, horses, and a horse-cake. (Sigh--- I’m obviously not getting any cool points with my own kids, either.) Despite her initial hesitation that this would be the most boring party EVER, everyone seemed to have a good time. Naturally, I thought I would share some of the photos with you. (I pay for unlimited photo storage and transfer with Geocities, but seem to have a problem getting little red x’s instead of photos whenever I put several pictures up in one journal entry. So if you see any little red x’s, curse the forces that be at Yahoo, and come back later and check again when the site has re-set itself.)

Brayden, the only one of the three, that would consider wearing boots to the horse party. But at least she *looks* cool, doesn't she?

I am the biggest hypocrit on the planet. This summer, during our Ohio visit, I threw a complete fit about how Kendrie is not allowed to go to any kind of petting zoo because they are nothing but germ filled cesspools, full of disease and illness .... but at her birthday party, I let a horse practically lick her hand off.

The highlight of the day, getting to share her special moment on the hayride with the ever-present Nicholas. PS. Notice she has not only a crossbite, but *also* an underbite? We have years of dental therapy ahead.

Horses, pony rides, a moonwalk, a hay ride ... and what is her favorite thing? The plank of wood hanging from a rope in the tree, otherwise known as a "swing".

A friend of mine made the special horse-cake... which was adorable, even though Brayden was disappointed to discover the entire horse's head was NOT actually filled with icing.

Kendrie and a few of her cronies, determined to make sure Spiderman still has his rightful place as action hero of the day.

Our family, posing for an image of happiness and togetherness. Shortly after this, Kendrie freaked because Brayden touched one of her gifts, and Kellen panicked because there was a fly in the van. And such ends a fabulous day!

And in other news -- cancer related, imagine that! -- Kendrie had her monthly chemo appointment on Monday of this week. The appointment wasn’t until 1pm anyway, and then she received another IVIG transfusion, which takes several hours…. we were hungry and stopped for dinner ... and wound up not getting home until 9:30 that evening. She was perky because she slept for two hours through the transfusion --- next time, I think I’ll take a nap at the same time!

Speaking of next time, despite the fact that her counts have remained strong on 100 percent of 6mp and 66 percent of methotrexate, I was given the option to continue the IVIG transfusions through the end of treatment in December. It was an odd feeling, to have the oncologist look at me and say, “We’ll totally leave the decision up to you” ….. I don’t know if I *want* that kind of power!

Considering “cold and flu” season is coming up, and the only downfall to the transfusion is the time it takes to administer, I opted to go ahead and have Kendrie continue receiving it. We’ve already driven 100 miles to the clinic, and have another 100 to go to get back home; might as well get the most bang for our buck while we’re there, right?

Making the appointment for next month was both complicated, and surreal. She is due for a spinal, so must be NPO (no food for six hours before hand) but also needs a block of three or four hours for the IVIG transfusion ….. We had to coordinate transfusion rooms, sedation/procedure rooms, etc., how long will she have to go without eating that day, etc. But what made it surreal to me is that this will be (God willing!) her last ever spinal tap!!! One final time of someone sticking a needle in her spine, sucking fluid out to look under a microscope and make sure it is still leukemia-free, and then injecting poison into the empty space left by the fluid to prevent leukemia cells from hiding out in the spinal fluid/ central nervous system area. Yahoo, only one more! Who knew I could get so wound up about such a barbaric procedure???

And, it’s obvious we are in the midst of a steroid week here. No hellacious attitude, or hellacious appetite, but she sure feels punky. Lots of whining, lots of tears. And that’s how it affects ME, think how Kendrie must feel. In fact, I just returned from picking her up at school for the second day this week. She comes home and sleeps all afternoon --- and this is the kid who never naps. So I know she feels pretty crappy. Funny, they lowered her chemo doses due to low counts, but steroids are one drug that apparently never gets reduced --- it will definitely be the drug I will miss the LEAST when we get off this crazy chemo train. And that's saying something, ha!

Lastly, car #400,000, where are you??? Whoever the 400,000th visitor to Kendrie’s Caringbridge site, you didn’t let us know in the guestbook! So, like horseshoes and hand grenades, “close” is going to have to count! So, the winner, at 399,996 is Sarina from Pennsylvania! Thanks, BIG thanks, to all of you for checking in on us so faithfully, and Sarina, we will be making a Caringbridge donation in your name…. thank you!
And thank you to everyone for continuing to hold Clare and Jay in your thoughts, and for visiting their websites.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: I am missing a perfectly good cooking activity and reading time today at school because I don’t feel good. It’s barely 2 in the afternoon and I’ve already put on my new Yu-Gi-Oh pajamas that I got for my birthday. Now, I like my creature comforts as much as the next girl, and those pj’s *are* pretty darn soft, but I do not like feeling so icky and laying down during the day!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Only two doses of steroids left this month … that’s the best thing I can think of so far.

PS --- Please visit Julianna Banana's Journal Entry from 9/16/05 for a very touching tribute to a wonderful angel named Marcus. I consider myself a devoted JB cult-ee and never miss an entry --- but this one especially spoke to me.

Sunday, September 11, 2005 11:19 AM CDT


**Quiet (kwi’it) adj. 1. making little or no noise or sound 2. free or comparatively free from noise 3. silent 4. restrained in speech or manner etc. etc.

Ok, well, THAT’S not me!

**Hero (her’o) 1. a man of distinguished courage or ability admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities 2. any person who has heroic qualities 3. the principal male character in a story 4. an individual possessing godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a deity

Well, I’ve got to admit that #4 is intriguing…. But it’s really not me, either.

Yet, despite the fact I am neither quiet nor heroic, I was thrilled yesterday to be invited to attend the CureSearch Quiet Heroes luncheon, honoring the moms (and a few dads) of children with cancer.

(In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this journal entry is ALL. ABOUT. ME.)

This luncheon was the brainchild of Chris Glavine, wife of NY Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, who works with the MLB Commissioner’s Initiative for Kids, which lists CureSearch as one of their beneficiaries. Chris’s idea, and then put together with the hard work and tireless efforts of Kristin Connor and the numerous CureSearch workers and volunteers.

Chris (since I don’t know her personally, I feel it would be more respectful to call her Mrs. Glavine, but I’ve got to be at least ten years older than her, so then *that* sounds silly, too) wanted to do something to pay tribute to moms of kids with cancer …. the “Quiet Heroes”. She stated in her welcome speech yesterday that it started out as an intimate gathering, perhaps a hundred people total, where moms could be made to feel special for a day and enjoy one another’s company. A time of reflection, celebration, comfort, and understanding among peers. And despite the fact the event grew to include several hundred people, from all over the country, they certainly managed to accomplish all of those things!

I so very much enjoyed getting to visit with the moms I’ve met online, at Camp Sunshine, The Lighthouse, while inpatient, while at clinic, etc. Friends of friends, Caringbridge sites that I follow, people who kindly follow our Caringbridge site, members of the medical community, etc. And especially, the people who worked so hard to put the event together, and the sponsors and volunteers who donated their time, efforts, money, gifts, silent auction items, and most of all, their love and support for the moms who were able to attend.

We had a wonderful meal at the Westin in Atlanta and were able to enjoy the keynote speakers Linda Armstrong Kelly … mom to that guy, oh, what’s his name? The one that rides a bike around???? (Kidding, of course. The part of her speech I found most amusing was when she admitted that while pregnant with Lance, she wanted a girl and planned to name her Erica, after “Erica Kane” on All My Children …. )

I enjoyed the first keynote speaker even more, Liz Scott, mom to Alex Scott of Alex’s Lemonade Stand. If you are not familiar with Alex Scott of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, it’s an inspiring story of selflessness and compassion; a touching story of a little girl with neuroblastoma who accomplished more in a few short years than most adults do in a lifetime. While it sounds insensitive to say I “enjoyed” Liz Scott’s speech, I can honestly say I was touched and so grateful for the opportunity to hear her, and even managed to laugh between the tears.

In addition to the luncheon, goody bags and gifts on our tables (thank you again to the sponsors and donors!) there was also a Silent Auction/fundraiser beforehand that I sincerely hope raised a boatload of money for CureSearch. Yes, it’s fabulous that CureSearch worked with Chris Glavine to honor the moms … but the most admirable work they do is continually raising funds to research a cure and bring awareness for childhood cancer. Raising funds is HUGE, and I was happy to help out by bidding on (and winning!) a 3-night stay in a Callaway Gardens villa! Although Blaine gave me some good-natured grief for spending that much money, I know our family will love the getaway and it’s easy to justify when you consider the cause. And a big thank you to Denise, who surprised me by outbidding me on an item I wanted and then giving it to me as a gift ….. pretty classy, if I say so myself! Thank you, Denise!

The photo above is me with some of the moms who sat at my table:

Catie's mom, JohnMichael's mom, Chandler's mom, Mary Grace's mom, McKenzie's mom, and Jake's mom.

As I looked around the table, there was no doubt in my mind that I was sitting amongst heroes. You can visit their children’s sites and read story after story of chemo, radiation, surgery, transplant …. and more importantly, courage, hope, and love. And as I looked around the room, I saw even more:

Brady's mom, Gwen's mom, Camp Jack's moms, Madie's mom, Jacob's mom, Benjamins' mom, Jack's mom, Will's mom, Joshua's mom, and William's mom, just to name a few. I know there are others that I've missed .... Special tribute going out to Hayley's parents and Carter's family for sharing the day with everyone.

And even more moms and dads that I’ve never met and probably will never meet.

The timing of this luncheon was profound to me, for several reasons. First of all, of course, is the fact it was held one day before the anniversary of 9/11. People all across our country suffered, and continued to suffer, the effects of that tragic day. Currently, people in our country are suffering the effects of Hurricane Katrina. While so many of the news reports disturbed me to the point of turning off the TV, I am especially haunted by the elderly, the infirm, and the children. And even more especially (which I think is appropriate, given our place in life) by the children whose cancer care has been disrupted by the hurricane. I can’t imagine how frightening it would be if Scottish Rite blew away and we were left floundering to receive critical care for Kendrie. I know the care is out there, and I’m hopeful people are able to receive it without too much trouble, but sometimes I just wonder, when is enough, enough for these people?

There was an outpouring of public and government support after 9/11, as there should have been. There appears to be an outpouring of support for the victims of Katrina, as well there should be. Childhood cancer is not yet getting support on that scale, but the people at CureSearch are working to change that. Events like yesterday’s Quiet Heroes Luncheon can only help to highlight *our* tragedy, the one our families live with day in and day out.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that? Does anybody know that? I know what month October is. Who doesn’t? September will long be remembered for the anniversary of a tragic event in NYC, and now, one of the greatest natural disasters in our country’s history. The littlest victims in our country deserve attention, too.

I’m rambling now, aren’t I? And what makes it worse is that I sound ungrateful. I just wish everyone in our nation could be as outraged that kids are dying of cancer --every single day-- as they are about the other terrible things that have happened.

So for now, I will pause in my gratefulness for people like Chris Glavine, Kristin Connor, and CureSearch who are helping us both short-term and long-term, and thank them for recognizing the moms …. the quiet heroes, and hope that the smallest, most innocent heroes get the help and recognition they need to beat this disease once and for all. The “Mistress of Ceremonies” yesterday ended the luncheon with the comment that she thought this was a wonderful event, and she hoped the first of many … that she hoped to see us at the next one hundred and fifty. I understood her sentiment; it was a heartwarming day and deserves to be repeated … but I turned to my dear friend Jenny sitting next to me and said, “Good heavens, I hope she’s wrong. It would be better if we never had a need for one of these luncheons again.”

There are lots of schmaltzy poems on the internet about Motherhood….. and although I don’t normally consider myself a schmaltz kind of person, I’ll leave you with my favorite today:

(author unknown)

I loved you from the very start,
You stole my breath, embraced my heart.
Our life together has just begun,
You’re part of me, my little one.

I daydream of the things we’ll share,
Like late-night bottles and teddy bears.
Like first-steps and skinned knees,
Like bedtime stories and ABC’s.

I think of things you’ll want to know,
Like how birds fly and flowers grow.
I think of lessons I’ll need to share,
Like standing tall and playing fair.

When I first saw your precious face,
I prayed your life be touched with grace.
I thanked the angels from above,
And promised you unending love.

Each night I lay you down to sleep,
I gently kiss your head and cheek,
I count your fingers and your toes,
I memorize your eyes and nose.

I linger at your bedroom door,
Awed each day how I love you more.
Through misty eyes, I dim the light,
I whisper “I love you” every night.

I loved you from the very start,
You stole my breath, embraced my heart.
As mother and child, our journeys begun,
My heart is yours forever, little one.

Have a great day,

PS. We have two friends who are really struggling right now and I'd like to ask you to visit their sites and give them some encouragment: Clare from Maryland, whose parents have set aside Monday morning at 10am for a world-wide moment of prayer, thoughts, and well wishes for Clare and she continues to struggle in her ALL relapse treatment. Also, Jay from Georgia, whose family attends our local support group. Jay is in Memphis receiving experimental treatment at St. Jude for his medulloblastoma relapse and I know his parents, Cindy and Jason, could really use some encouragement. You might not think something as simple as a kind note from a total stranger in a guestbook can be as heart-lifting as it can ... but trust me ... those notes are priceless and mean more to us parents than you could ever know.

Monday, September 5, 2005 6:24 PM CDT

Wednesday morning update: Well, although Kendrie is home from school again today with a nasty sounding cough and runny/stuffy nose, the fevers have stopped. We spent the day driving to and from the clinic for IV Rocephin, but since her ANC was 1500, we were able to go home .... just warned to watch for more fever, or if she starts feeling seriously punky. So, the verdict appears to be nothing more than a late-summer cold, which for normal people is just annoying, but for a kid with a port-a-cath in her chest, is just a little bit more. I'm pretty sure she'll be back at school tomorrow, anyway. And thanks for the happy birthday wishes for me, too. Yes, Natalie, you are correct. 25. :) (Kidding. I am frighteningly close to finding out for myself if 40 is *really* the new 30!) :)

Tues morning update: Well, scratch my optimistic comment about "no fever". Kendrie woke up at 3am running a little over 101, and it hasn't broke yet, so the on-call oncologist has instructed us to head to the clinic for a fun-filled day of bloodwork and IV antibiotics. Not to blab toooooo much personal information, but happy *&^*&^# birthday to me.


First of all, thanks so much to all of you who left Kendrie birthday wishes in the guestbook over the weekend. I was out of town and didn’t check the guestbook between Friday morning and last night, so logging in and seeing all those well wishes for her was truly heart-warming. I print out the guestbook every so often and I know that the same messages that mean so much to Blaine and I, as a show of support now, will mean just as much to Kendrie someday. She likes hearing them nowadays, but I’m confident that when she gets older they will be even more precious. I will update with photos of her birthday party after the weekend, also. (holding your breath, aren’t you?) :)

Now, for our “big” news ---- she only has 100 days of treatment left! Actually, I think its 102 and that I must have miscounted somewhere, but we’ll jiggle the dates in a later entry. Today, we feel like celebrating this milestone! Can you believe that when she started we were staring down 786 days of protocol?? One hundred might sound like a lot to some of you, but compared to 786, I think it will fly by. Let me sum it up for you in another way:

Only 120 doses of oral chemo pills left. Some nights it’s four pills, some nights it’s eight, but she gets them all at the same time, and she only gets morning steroids five days a month, so “technically”, it’s only 120 doses to go!

Only 56 doses of oral prophylactic liquid antibiotic to go. Sort of. She’ll stay on this antibiotic for several months after treatment, as a preventative measure …. but only 56 "official" doses to go!

Barring any complications or unexplained fevers, only four port accesses to go!

Only four doses of IV chemotherapy to go!

Only two transfusions of IVIG to go!

Only ONE spinal tap to go!

I really feel as though we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The picture at the top of the page is supposed to be all three kids, holding up fingers to show the wonderful number 100 …. but Blaine had to be recruited because Brayden was too busy pouting and telling me how much she hates me to pose. Five minutes later, she and Kellen were doing the cha-cha around the living room. Truly, she’s a sweet child. Either entering the pre-teen years, or possessed by Satan. I’m not sure which.

Regarding these final 100 days, I’m guessing most of the parents out there can identify with some of my feelings. When your first child is born, you are so excited to reach each milestone (First bath! Solid food! First tooth! Crawling! Walking!) that you wind up wishing away their first year and then sitting back wondering where the hell the time went.

With your second child, you’re so busy making sure everyone is fed and clean and dry and safe and not flushing the remote down the toilet that at the end of *their* first year, you look up and wonder where the hell the time went.

With your third child, especially if you know it will be your last child, you have finally learned to stop and smell the roses. (Which is better than the smell of dirty diapers you’ve been firmly entrenched in for the previous two years!) With Kendrie, I snuggled more, relaxed more, and simply enjoyed the present for what it was. Hey, I had three kids under the age of two and a half, but I was just getting the hang of this peaceful, savoring-the-moment thing.

Fast forward to October 13, 2003, the day she was diagnosed with leukemia.

On October 16, the day she began her chemotherapy treatment, I didn’t think those 786 days would ever end. I was terrified we wouldn’t GET to the end. I admit it, I have blatantly and willingly wished away the past two years of her life (Intensification! Consolidation! First Interim Maintenance! First Delayed Intensification! Second IM! Second DI! Long-term Maintenance!) and, I admit, I will be wishing away the next 100 days as well.

I’m sure when these twenty-six months are behind us, I will regret that I spent so much time wishing for it to hurry up and be over. I’m sure there have been moments …. the present … that I have missed because my eyes were too fixated on the goal at the end. Just getting to the end is a miracle. Maybe being excited about it isn’t such a terrible thing.

I hope everyone is having a nice Labor Day weekend. We had plans to take the kids fishing, then out to dinner to celebrate Kendrie’s birthday. Unfortunately, she woke up this morning with a stuffy/runny nose and a cough. We started the summer with a cold, I guess it’s only fitting that we end with one as well. Hopefully she’ll be feeling better in time for school tomorrow. No fever, so we’re not too worried yet. In light of everything that has taken place a few hundred miles to our west, it seems a little frivolous to be having a birthday dinner anyway. I feel I should write something profound about the loss and devastation, but there really aren’t any words. Plus, to be honest, I’m giving thanks for the last 686 days, and looking ahead to the next 100. I wish the same peace for the hurricane survivors.



WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: I don’t think it’s cancer-related, but I am getting dang sick and tired of coughing and sneezing today, and of my mom and dad checking my forehead all day. They think they are so sneaky, but I can see right through them! “Checking to see if any more hair has grown” …. My foot!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Well, at least I just took my last dose of Bactrim a few minutes ago and don’t have to take any more of that foul-tasting crap for the next six days --- that’s a good thing, right?

PS. Hey! We have been truly blessed by the family and friends that have followed along on our journey and who faithfully continue to check in on my insane journal ramblings. According to my calculations, we should hit visitor #400,000 sometime near the end of this week! If you are that person, would you please sign the guestbook and let us know? I'd be honored to make a Caringbridge donation in your honor ... much like our dear friends Mr. Bruce and Mrs. Sandy did for Kendrie last week. Thank you!

Thursday, September 1, 2005 1:44 PM CDT


104 Days to Go!

I just have to say how funny it is to hear that so many of you share your homes with hair twirlers like Kellen. His new nickname, based on your suggestions, is “Tornado Head” (which is much better than what I was calling him {predictably} “Alfalfa”.) Based on everyone’s personal experience, I have great faith he will either stop twirling it on his own, twirl it until he’s 80 years old and there’s not enough left to twirl, or fall somewhere in between. At least we have it narrowed down, right? :) But the fact that so many other kids out there twirl their hair is really comforting.

Now, the fact that there are so many other duct-taped whoopee cushions out there is really, truly frightening! I wonder if the manufacturers of whoopee cushions and 3M Tape are in cahoots? And why is it that husbands nation-wide think anything can be fixed with duct-tape, a Phillips head screwdriver and bungee cords? Anyway, Kendrie’s popped in another spot, and is duct-taped yet again, so I fear the life of the whoopee cushion might be coming to a slow end at our house. Oh well, there’s always Christmas, right? And we could always try to find one with a remote control…..

At any rate, I wanted to talk to you for a minute about having goals. (But let me interject here that I have no idea what is up with this song. I had this journal entry in mind and searched iTunes for “goal” and this is what I got. It’s a little bizarre, actually, but I paid 99 cents for it and I’m going to use it, by golly!)

Now, where were we? Oh yes, GOALS. I have many goals in my life, most of which are unattainable. Even if I actually lost 40 pounds (Goal #1) and somehow contrived to meet Brad Pitt (Goal #2) I doubt I could convince him to leave Angelina Jolie and come live in my house with me (Goal #3). I’m not looking for any kind of relationship with the man, I’d just like him to hang around so I can look at his chiseled features and amazing biceps all day. But I digress.

One goal that I’ve had for years, that I’ve had much more success in meeting, is that of sitting down to dinner as a family every night. Some nights it’s hard to squeeze it in between soccer and gymnastics and homework, but we mange most nights to eat together at the kitchen table. My children usually meet their dinnertime goals as well, which seem to be, in no certain order:

**Don’t eat anything Mom cooks.

**Make sure Mom knows you don’t like what she cooked.

**Poke things around with your fork, looking like you have a very bad smell on your upper lip.

**Ask Dad repeatedly if there isn’t something else you could have, avoiding the grumpy look on Mom’s face.

**Refuse to eat your dinner and then ask for a snack ten minutes later because you are “still hungry”.

All of this “not eating” gives my kids lots of time to regale us with tales of school happenings, jokes, deep, profound comments about the meaning of life, and for us to listen to them practice their farting armpit skills. Last night was no exception. We also play a game called “Two Good” where the kids take turns telling us the two best things that happened that day. This is the gist of how our conversation went last night:

Kristie: “OK, Kellen, your turn. What were your two-goods today?”

Kellen: “Um, playing soccer at recess, and staying on the green card at school”

Blaine: “The green card means you didn’t get in trouble all day, right?”

Kristie: “Kellen, you’ve gotten the green card every day since school started … good job!”

Blaine: “Is that your goal, to go the whole year on green card?”

Kellen: “No, my goal is to live to be 100”

Kristie: “I thought your goal was to eat pizza at school every day this year.”

Kellen: “That was my old goal. My new goal is to live to be 100.”

Kristie, seeing an opportunity to work some life-lessons into the conversation: “Kellen, that’s a good goal. I can think of at least three things you could do to help you live to be 100. Can you tell me what one of them might be?”

Kellen, poking discontentedly at his meal, and sounding unenthusiastic: “Um, eat your vegetables?”

Kristie: “That’s right! Very good! Take a bite of that casserole. Now, Brayden, what about you? What would help a person live to be 100?”

And the conversation went back and forth for a moment while suggestions like “Don’t smoke” “Exercise” and “Take vitamins” were issued by Brayden and Kellen. I noticed Kendrie hadn’t spoken, so I turned to her and asked, “Kendrie, can you think of anything that would help Kellen live to be 100?”

And with the wisdom and clarity of her almost-six-year-old mind, she suggested, “Um, just don’t die?”

It’s really sobering when you realize your kindergartener is smarter than you are.

So, I’m going to suggest a few goals for you Caringbridge readers as well, this holiday weekend. First of all, please take a moment to visit the site of an online friend of ours who is having a very hard time right now, Clare from Maryland. As you might remember, she relapsed with her leukemia and had a transplant almost two months ago. She is having an extremely difficult time of things right now and could use some support. Please visit her site and leave a message of encouragement for Clare and her parents.

Secondly, I mentioned the strong need for blood donations in my last journal entry. Well, it was true then, but even more true now in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Please, if you are able, take an hour out of your day to donate a pint of blood. Your can visit the Red Cross website to find a blood drive near you and sign up online to donate.

I’m going to leave you with some statistics about blood donation that are very interesting. I blatantly stole them off of Cali Ali’s page, a remarkable young woman who finished her ALL treatment just in time for her high school graduation, and is now preparing for her freshman year in college. Her mom Marey is a strong advocate of blood donation, and if you search the journal history on Ali’s site you can see pictures of Marey and her other daughter Lexi donating. Like Ali, Kendrie will never, in her entire life, be allowed to donate blood. So those of us who ARE able to donate …. should.

Here you go. Please read through this, paying particularly close attention to numbers 48 and 55 (hey, I only need to donate 40 times to reach my #1 Goal!) and then go donate yourself. Make that YOUR goal for this week!


56 Facts About Blood and Blood Donation
One for each day between your blood donation!

1. 4.5 million Americans would die each year without life saving blood transfusions.
2. Approximately 32,000 pints of blood are used each day in the United States.
3. Every two seconds someone needs blood.
4. One out of every 10 people entering a hospital needs blood.
5. Just one pint of donated blood can help save as many as three people’s lives.
6. The average adult has 10 pints of blood in his or her body.
7. One unit of blood is roughly the equivalent of one pint.
8. Blood makes up about 7 percent of your body's weight.
9. A newborn baby has about one cup of blood in his or her body.
10. The average red blood cell transfusion is 3.4 pints.
11. Blood fights against infection and helps heal wounds, keeping you healthy.
12. There are four main blood types: A, B, AB and O. AB is the universal recipient and O negative is the universal donor.
13. Blood centers often run short of type O and B blood.
14. Shortages of all types of blood occur during the summer and winter holidays.
15. If all blood donors gave 2 to 4 times a year, it would help prevent blood shortages.
16. If you began donating blood at age 17 and donated every 56 days until you reached 76, you would have donated 48 gallons of blood.
17. About three gallons of blood supports the entire nation's blood needs for one minute.
18. Blood donation takes four steps: medical history, quick physical, donation, and snacks.
19. The actual blood donation usually takes less than 10 minutes. The entire process, from when you sign in to the time you leave, takes about 45 minutes.
20. Giving blood will not decrease your strength.
21. You cannot get AIDS or any other infectious disease by donating blood.
22. Fourteen tests, 11 of which are for infectious diseases, are performed on each unit of donated blood.
23. Any company, community organization, place of worship or individual may contact their local community blood center to host a blood drive.
24. People donate blood out of a sense of duty and community spirit, not to make money. They are not paid for their donation.
25. Much of today's medical care depends on a steady supply of blood from healthy donors.
26. One unit of blood can be separated into several components (red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate).
27. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s organs and tissue.
28. There are about one billion red blood cells in two to three drops of blood.
29. Red blood cells live about 120 days in the circulatory system.
30. Platelets help blood to clot and give those with leukemia and other cancers a chance to live.
31. Apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis) is a special kind of blood donation that allows a donor to give specific blood components, such as platelets.
32. Donated red blood cells must be used within 42 days of collection.
33. Donated platelets must be used within five days of collection.
34. Plasma can be frozen and used for up to a year.
35. Plasma is a pale yellow mixture of water, proteins and salts.
36. Plasma, which is 90 percent water, constitutes 55 percent of blood volume.
37. Healthy bone marrow makes a constant supply of red cells, plasma and platelets.
38. People who have been in car accidents and suffered massive blood loss can need transfusions of 50 pints or more of red blood cells.
39. The average bone marrow transplant requires 120 units of platelets and about 20 units of red blood cells. Patients undergoing bone marrow transplants need platelets donations from about 120 people and red blood cells from about 20 people.
40. Severe burn victims can need 20 units of platelets during their treatment.
41. Children being treated for cancer, premature infants, and children having heart surgery need blood and platelets from donors of all types.
42. Anemic patients need blood transfusions to increase their iron levels.
43. Cancer, transplant and trauma patients and patients undergoing open-heart surgery require platelet transfusions to survive.
44. Sickle cell disease is an inherited disease that affects more than 80,000 people in the United States, 98 percent of whom are of African descent. Some patients with complications from severe sickle cell disease receive blood transfusions every month – up to 4 pints at a time.
45. In the days following the September 11 attacks, a half a million people donated blood.
46. Females receive 53 percent of blood transfused; males receive 47 percent.
47. 94 percent of all blood donors are registered voters.
48. 60 percent of the US population is eligible to donate – only 5 percent do on a yearly basis.
49. 17 percent of non-donors cite “never thought about it” as the main reason for not giving, while 15 percent say they’re “too busy.” The #1 reason donors say they give is because they “want to help others.”
50. After donating blood, you replace these red blood cells within 3 to 4 weeks. It takes eight weeks to restore the iron lost after donating.
51. Granulocytes, a type of white blood cell, roll along blood vessel walls in search of bacteria to eat.
52. White cells are the body's primary defense against infection.
53. There is no substitute for human blood.
54. It’s about Life.
55. Since a pint is pound, you lose a pound every time you donate blood.
56. Anyone who is in good health, is at least 17 years old, and weighs at least 110 pounds may donate blood every 56 days.

PS. BIG NEWS ALERT!!! Although the celebration isn’t until next weekend, tomorrow is actually Kendrie’s 6th Birthday! Please leave her a note in the guestbook, wishing her a happy birthday. I’ll be sure to update with party details and pictures next weekend. Then, be sure to go to Clare’s site and leave a kind note for her as well. Thanks!

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