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16 posts from February 2012

February 28, 2012

I'm his Princess

Leia, and he is my Anakin (yes, this might sound odd, but it works in his mind....).

 

 

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Tried to snap a picture while he cradled the lightsaber, but then he flipped around. Some kids sleep with teddy bears...

 

A few minutes later, he will become Han or (occasionally) Luke, as his character changes on a moment's notice.  The need for a lightsaber?  That never ends.  The fact that he wants to sleep with his lightsaber or that he normally walks around with two of them hooked into his pants?  Nothing short of charming.

Can I say how much I am loving this age right now?  Does it have to end?  Someone say no....

February 27, 2012

I may well regret this

 

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The Daily Mile stats are the 'real' stats, as the C25K didn't capture the extra time I tacked on.

in the morning, later tonight or maybe even 20 minutes from now.  Yes, I restarted the Couch to 5K today.  I'm either brilliant or completely insane.

If you recall, 7 weeks ago today I was still recovering in the SICU at Fairfax Hospital from stage 1 (the most involved procedure) of my DIEP.  8 hours of intense surgery generally leads to quite a recovery.  I felt, up until yesterday, that I was doing quite well.  I was getting around, walking quite a bit, have been driving and caring for the kids nearly full-time for the past three weeks.  Then maybe I complained a bit too much about pain and someone let me have an earful.

Perhaps, the implication stated, perhaps I was still having pain because I wasn't doing enough. Harumph was my answer to that one.  Given that this person had not been through anything similar, I failed to understand how he/she could have a clue what I was going through.  Then I woke up today and I was still in pain, not constant, but it was there and after I dropped Nicholas off at school, I tried to plan out my day.

Suddenly I realized I could skip the trip to the grocery, as I had everything I needed for dinner.  Perfect, naptime, right?!  Well, I still had to start dinner and by the time I finished, I realized maybe I didn't want a nap, so much as a bit more exercise.  I had walked last night, but the weather is gorgeous today.  Cold, clear, sunny and skies that are so, so blue.  Why not up my Vitamin D levels a bit more with a good long walk?  Maybe the exercise would help shake the remaining pain or at least give me something else to ponder.  Or...

Or, I could try and run.  

Now, I don't mean 3 miles start to finish, I mean more of starting over with the Couch to 5K.  Given that it has been a few months since I have really been running, I thought starting off slowly might be my best bet.  I realized I had plenty of time to check email, perhaps get a quick snooze in and then, yes, give the run a try before picking up Nick.

At 10:55 a.m., I picked myself up out of the recliner, redressed quickly (yes, I had reverted to jammies, as I can only take so much Spanx time and my scar is still sore at times).  My Garmin was charged, I turned on the C25K app, pulled my hair back, slipped on my headphones, put on the ole running shoes and off I went.

I can't lie, I felt tired at first.  Then I looked at my Garmin and realized that not only was my walking time good, it was AS good as it had been prior to surgery.  I knew if the running didn't go well, I could always stop and as long as I was careful, I figured it would be okay.  And?

Oh, MY!  I had forgotten...I had forgotten how amazing it feels to zip around powered by nothing more than your own two feet.  I had forgotten about that moment when I run...the one where all of the sudden my legs seem even longer.  The muscles seem to stretch and relax and my running picks up instead of slowing down.  The beat of the music certainly didn't hurt.  Not only wasn't I in pain, but I was picking up speed on each run.

Now, I know you are thinking, but..."you only ran like 8 minutes!"  Trust me, when you've been out of it this long, 8 minutes could be a lifetime.  In my case, though, it wasn't.  I was actually only supposed to run 6, but upped it because I could.

I returned home gleeful and excited, and stretched before running out again (by car this time) to grab Nick.  It's now three hours later and while I can't say I'm not tired, it's a good tired.  The kind of tired that makes you giddy when you remember why you keep feeling like it's naptime.  The kind of tired that reminds you that sleep will come easily tonight.  Even better?  The kind of tired that will hopefully wear off tomorrow and will have dissippated completely by Wednesday a.m., so that I don't think twice about lacing up my shoes, setting my Garmin and knocking out Week 1, Day 2 of the C25K.  

 

February 26, 2012

Yesterday was set to be one of those

days.  Friday night I was innocently putting Nicholas to bed, when I realized I needed to get something.  I oh-so-carefully pulled myself into an upright position, but somehow still did it too quickly.  I was rewarded with swift and intense pain in my right side, so much so that it was minutes before I could move.

The problem with doing something like the above is that the pain doesn't just hit and go away.  It comes and goes in large waves, then dissipates to a continuous cramp-like scenario for the rest of the night.  Lovely, eh?  My bad for doing the surgery, I suppose, but given the outcome (ahem, my improved mood and body image), I will just continue to deal with it.  And, no, no reason to talk with a doctor, it's simply part of the very long healing process.  Did I mention there are no sit-ups or crunches in my near future?

I was worried, though, as I had a rather long Girl Scout event Saturday morning.  I had not originally planned on attending.  However,  the troop was participating in Thinking Day and it promised to be an exciting day for the girls.  I decided on a whim to go, figuring Peter could always pick me up if I started to feel poorly and there was always the afternoon for a naptime.  So at the crack of dawn, we loaded ourselves up in the neighbor's car, taking all possible ethnoplunder for our display and headed off.  

It was a day I am so glad I did not miss.

Thinking Day, if you don't know, used to be called International Day.  Each troop that participates picks a country to study and then puts their knowledge (and food samples) on display during the event.  I'll give you one guess what our troop chose:

 

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So, what was the big deal?  What is the yummy bubble tea one troop sold?  Perhaps the egg and spring rolls the cadettes were selling for a fundraiser?  Guess again!

Yes, it was the chance my girls had to share their experiences of living overseas.  Every picture on our posterboard came from our time in Iceland.  The photo on the swaps (little pins the girls create & trade) was taken by none other than Mr. Salty Dog during the Salty Dog Icelandic Adventure of 2008.  We sold cups of Skyr (which was gobbled up) and had a plethora of Icelandic books and toys to review.  We actually had children wanting to buy the Icelandic toys, which were fake sheep bones (based on Icelandic toys from years past).  

 

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Scooping out the Skyr...

Instead of just reciting what had been learned in an encyclopedia or picked up via Google, the girls in the troop learned from Kelsey and then helped share the knowledge on Saturday.  Those who reviewed our stand had the additional benefit of talking with Cait (who registered as a Girl Scout just for this event), who could write a novel about her three years there.  We didn't just display trinkets we picked up on a trip, but a Buff Kelsey wore to preschool every day, the toys they played with, the books they read, the Icelandic study guides they used (to include from horseback riding) and the medal Kelsey won in the Latibaer Marathon in August 2007.

 

 

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Caitlin swears she would have smiled had I told her I was going to post this photo. I beg to differ, but....

It was one of those wonderful days when you realize that all the sacrifices you make to join the Foreign Service, schlep around the world, and move every 2-3 years are completely worth it.  Your children didn't just visit a country, they inhaled it....lived in it and breathed in the experience every day for 3 years (exactly) of their lives.  They have friends and times they will never forget because they stepped out of a huge comfort zone and into a whole new world.  More importantly, 3.5 years after leaving the country, they are still excited to share it with others.

 

While I am sorry we haven't gone back out sooner, there is nothing like such an event to remind you how excited you are with regard to your next move.  More importantly, that even while State-side, you can still share the excitement of living overseas with others.  It's truly a gift, and one I am so glad to have given to my children.

 

 

February 24, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

 

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Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  

February 23, 2012

Giving It Up

Each year, I rack my brain to come up with something to give up for Lent.  This year, the first time I was asked about my sacrifice, I somewhat jokingly replied that I was giving up Peter for a year.  I honestly had not thought about what I might give up, as I was still in the throes of recovery, thinking that Kelsey would be having surgery today and in overall planning mode for Peter's departure in May.

I've thought about all of the standard things I *could* give up, but here's the deal:

  • As it is, I rarely wear make-up.  So I could humble myself even more and give it up, but that would be maybe one day a week. I don't really see that as much of a sacrifice and certainly nothing that I might even notice.
  • I gave up soda (as in caffeinated beverages made with HFCS) in 2006 for Lent and have rarely had a sip since.  I don't have the desire to drink anything but seltzer now (or maybe an occasional ginger ale), so there goes that idea.
  • Sugar and/or chocolate.  Quite honestly, I don't think I eat enough of either to justify that being a reasonable or noticeable loss in my life. I'm the only person I know who can buy a gallon of ice cream, put it in the freezer and forget about it for 6 months.  Also, sometimes I do need a small lift and a tiny piece of good, dark chocolate helps.  It's not a crutch, but I don't want to feel guilty if I truly need something.
  • Social Media.  A-ha!  If I really wanted to give up something, I suppose I could try giving up FB, Twitter and the like.  Though honestly, I don't use Twitter constantly (I'm lousy at Tweeting) and FB helps me keep in touch with others.  Not sure whether I would seem like I was sacrificing or just suddenly seem very out of touch.
  • Coffee.  Really?  Not gonna happen unless everyone wants a major sacrifice for the next 6 weeks.

Finally, it hit me.  I found something that has been an issue for me for ages and something that I truly need to work on.  It's not just something I cut out of my diet for 6 weeks and then forget about it when Lent is over.  It's an issue I've struggled with for years and have finally realized that I really, really need to get control over this:

I'm giving up being a night owl.

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Now, this might sound like a most ridiculous thing to some, but for me I see this as being a very big challenge.  While I have had issues with insomnia, there is nothing I enjoy more than staying up late, reading a good book, blogging beyond midnight or just catching up with friends (via Words With Friends, Facebook, what have you).  I'll throw laundry in the washer and use the excuse of needing to put in the dryer as a reason to stay up even later.  Then I end up overtired and not able to sleep when I do finally cozy up in my recliner and tend to be a cranky, tired mess in the morning.

So, for the next six weeks, I will sacrifice my ability to stay up late.  

Call it silly, but I see this as a way to touch on several things that I *could* give up and combine into one:

  • Since I won't be staying up later, I will be drinking less coffee
  • I tend to go on FB late at night and/or use the time to blog.  I'll have to find a way to do that earlier in the day.  So less time on social media right there, but I won't feel like I'm ignoring anyone or out of touch. 
  • I might eat less chocolate, since when I do have a good piece, it tends to be later at night when I am having a cup of coffee (and no, the coffee doesn't keep me from sleeping, that's just me).

The benefits I hope to achieve:

  • I'll wake up earlier (naturally) and be less cranky and feel less rushed in the mornings.
  • Perhaps will get Nick to school a tiny bit earlier (he's not really late, but he could get there sooner and I'd have a bit more time for errands and exercise).
  • Other family members (who will remain unnamed) might try to quell their night owl tendencies and also get more rest, since the house will be quieter.
  • My day might be better organized?  Granted, with three kids and a husband departing for a UT soon, there is a lot of upheaval.  However, the more sleep and earlier start to the day might give me extra time in the a.m. to think my day through.  Even a few extra minutes would help.
  • Perhaps this will help me get over my insomnia issues.  Since I do get tired early in the evening (but I just push through until I get a second wind), this exercise might help me get over resisting that exhaustion and just recognize that I am not doing anyone any good (most of all myself) by staying up later.

Technically, I am starting a day late.  I had a fabulous Girls Night In to attend last night and therefore, exempted myself from starting this until tonight. No way was I going to miss the night out and to say that the evening gave me a huge lift is the understatement of the century.  Good friends, yummy Thai food, wine, chocolate, and fun.  Who could ask for more? 

Since today's surgery was canceled, we have no meetings or activities, and nothing but dinner together tonight, I have nothing to prevent me from trying to get to bed at a decent hour.  Now my only quandary is figuring out exactly when to sleep.  I have a time in mind and will give that a go at first to see if that is enough sleep for me.  

Maybe this will be one of the most ridiculous ideas I've ever had.  On the other hand, it's only for 6 weeks and if it works, it could be life-changing in many good ways.  I'm thinking that daily updates will be difficult, but I am going to try to keep tabs on improvements (more sleep, less crankiness) on a weekly basis.  It might not seem like a sacrifice to some, but if you know me, this might be one of the hardest things I've tried as of late.  Wish me luck?

 

February 21, 2012

I'd be more shocked

that Kelsey's eye surgery for Thursday has been canceled, but let's just call it par for the course, at least for our family.  I am so used to mishaps on the part of anyone and everyone having anything to do with our medical care (to include payments for such care), that I am now surprised when things go the way they should.  Oh, the eye surgery?

Yes, not so much, at least not this week.  Well, I guess it could be Friday, but no one will call us back. Apparently, it was not realized until today that Kelsey could not have her eye surgery in Virginia, as our insurance won't cover it.  Nope, they won't cover us doing an outpatient procedure at the office minutes from our house.  What will they cover?  Apparently, shlepping downtown to Michigan Avenue to the main hospital.  So forget all of our careful planning and coughing ahead of time, we now are waiting to hear when the surgery will be performed.

Kelsey is annoyed as she was hoping to have two days off this week.  Peter is perturbed as once he sets his schedule, he generally needs to keep it as is.  I'm a tad bothered as now I have to figure out all new arrangements for Nick for surgery day, but don't have any dates to plan around.  On the other hand, I suppose at least they let us know before the surgery took place.  I don't want to think about how livid I would be had they waited until the day of surgery or worse, after it was all said and done and a huge (and not covered) bill awaited us.

Now, it would be in keeping with our other insurance/medical billing mishaps, but the mistake would likely have eaten up our entire FSAFEDs account. By some miracle, we have only used $50 thus far this year (Seriously, pinch me, I'm dreaming!).  If you remember, last year we hit our cap by mid-August.  So much for refiling those dental claims.  

This doesn't mean we won't use all of our money (we darn well better), but I'd like it to be a bit more spread out this year.  I had a brief upset when the first claims coming from my plastic surgeon were in the $34K range (no deductible, just a $6K co-insurance).  Then I calmed down, as I noticed that neither the insurance company nor the hospitals or doctors could seem to get anything right billing wise.  One minute a claim is being paid, the next minute it's rejected.  Well, I'm still a teeny bit nervous, but trying not to show it.

Claims are still bouncing back and forth, insurance isn't paying half of what the hospital requested (special rates and all) and no one seems to care.  Peter even called the anesthesia people (who tried to stress me out with a $5K bill) and they said to ignore it for now.  The insurance rejected it, of course (cause it's fun to be awake for an 8 hour procedure?), but okayed my post-surgical anesthesiologist visits (to check how much morphine I wasn't using...not even half of what was recommended, thank you very much).

In fact, one hospital, that will remain unnamed, isn't even billing the insurance for the corrrect person for a procedure from last April.  They have refiled the same claim THREE TIMES.  Each time it is rejected for "the correct diagnosis for sex" (which just makes me giggle) and Peter has to call them and explain that if they continue to put claims for my treatment in his name, they will never get paid.  They promise they will fix it, then they ignore said advice, and 6 weeks later, we get another explanation of benefits that has been rejected because they didn't listen to us.  It's like a little game now.  In fact, I'm not really sure anything since 2010 has been completely resolved, but you know what?

I just don't care anymore.  At this point, as long as we are not receiving random bills for $3,095 or $17K (or so) in the mail, I just don't care.  I am so over this whole mess and wondering if maybe I shouldn't consider being some sort of insurance specialist in my next career.  Just as long as I am the person that gets to put the notation about the diagnosis for sex....

 

 

 

 

 

February 20, 2012

Pinch me!

 

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Celebrating at his Montessori...

As it absolutely cannot be 4 years ago, nearly to the minute (as I typed this post), that the Little Guy arrived in this world.  Mind you, according to him, it's his birthday every time he celebrates.  Therefore, Friday was his birthday (party at school), today was another birthday (a fete courtesy of the Salty Dogs) and tomorrow we will celebrate again with a trip out of town.

 

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Can you guess the theme of the party at Chez Salty Dog?

Since all 3 kids and Peter have the day off, we decided we will spend the day in Baltimore.  We'll see as much in the Maryland Science Center as we can and enjoy an early birthday dinner in Little Italy.  We thought about the aquarium, but as Kelsey put it so succinctly, "Nick needs a place where he can run around.  At the aquarium, you just look at things, while at the science center, you can DO things."

 

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A creation by Cait for the Little Guy.


We all know Nick never slows down.  Well, he does have moments of calm, but they are surrounded by hours of action and to say this makes him a bit different from his sisters would be an understatement.

 

 

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One of the few pensive moments at the party...

It is a welcome difference, though.  From his blond hair and blue eyes to his need for so much activity, it has been a wonder watching him grow, interact with his sisters and enjoy life the way that he does.  And while I am a bit sad that it seems he is changing so quickly, it is so amazing to witness and I really can't wait to see what the next year brings.

 

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A plasma car makes an awesome birthday gift, especially when in Spiderman colors!

Happy 4th Birthday, Little Guy!  We love you!

 

February 19, 2012

744 boxes

later:

 

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In other words, the cookies are here!  We picked them up Thursday night after the Girl Scout meeting and Kelsey and her friends quickly loaded all 717 boxes (27 boxes were donated and thus went straight to the recipients).  It was so much fun to watch them eagerly and happily load up all of the cars.

 

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He really was quite a big helper.

Then, of course, we had to UNload at home, so that we can sort and ship out cookies to 5 states and more than 20 countries.  The Little Guy put himself to work and shlepped in at least 10 boxes on his own. We are now in the process of sorting, delivering locally and packing up those cases that will go overseas. Only 697 boxes actually made it into the house, as 20 were delivered that very evening, so they could taken overseas the next day as a special treat from the States.

 

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One view of 697 boxes....

 

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And another...

Now, back to the sorting, packing and shipping!  On the off-chance anyone wanted to order cookies and missed out on the first go-round, just send a note, as there may still be a few boxes available.  And if cookies are the on the way to you, thank you and enjoy!

February 17, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

 

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Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  

 

February 16, 2012

Ssh....

Kelsey doesn't want anyone (at school) to know, but she will be taking two *sick* days next week.  After years of discussions with her opthalmologists, patching, and updating her prescriptions yearly, Kelsey is finally going to have her bilateral inferior oblique anterior transposition for strabismus.

Translation?  Her left 'lazy' eye, if you will, is going to be fixed.

 

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Note how her left eye seems pushed back...

If you remember years and years ago, we had a wee bit of craziness with Kelsey and medical issues when she was born.  My little nugget came out with a bit of craniofacial asymmetry that was fairly obvious at birth, but became more pronounced as she grew.  She was misdiagnosed not once, but twice with serious genetic disorders that had no cure.  We were told at the time of the second diagnosis, while we were on obstetrical medevac to the U.S.,  to get her to Children's Hospital in DC once we moved back to the U.S. from Caracas.  Well, that is all fine and dandy IF you can get an appointment.  We did, but it was not until May of 2003 (she was born in March 2002) that we could actually see a geneticist at Children's.  

When we finally arrived at the appointment, the geneticist took one look at Kelsey and asked why we hadn't visited pediatric neurosurgery months ago.  Well, had she not been misdiagnosed, perhaps we would have, but until we saw the geneticist, no one ever suggested that Kelsey's 'fix' might be as easy as cranio-facial reconstruction.  While no one agreed with the second (pending) diagnosis, no one suggested it might be as simple as craniosynostosis.

Kelsey did not fit any of the standards except for the facial asymmetry.  She was growing as she should, developing normally, walking, talking, eating, doing everything a baby/toddler should do and right on schedule. The only issue that scared us was the increasing facial abnormality.  From the moment I first recognized the asymmetry, I wondered if plastic surgery wasn't the right (and only answer).  Turns out a mother really does know best.

After making appointments for a CT scan, having said CT scan completed, and having numerous tubes of blood drawn (for a genetic work-up that revealed the craniosynostosis was an isolated incident), we met with the now Division Chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Children's, Dr. Robert Keating. He gave us two options:  we could either schedule a 4 hour craniofacial reconstruction or get a second opinion.  Given that Kelsey was nearly 14 months old and the surgery is ideally performed between 6 and 14 months, we went with option #1.  Dr. Keating had an amazing reputation and resume and would be working hand-in-hand with an equally talented plastic surgeon.

Exactly 3 weeks later, on June 27, 2003, we took Kelsey into Children's in DC at a terribly early hour. We checked in, took her to the pre-anesthesia room and stayed with her until she was asleep in the pre-surgical area.  Four hours later, we were called up to the PICU, as she was out of surgery and would be ready for us to see her soon.  By midnight, she was in the step-down unit and when we returned the next morning, they were ready to transfer her to her own room.  

 

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Mom visiting Kelsey in the PICU. 
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Not even a day later and the change was amazing. 

Four days later, we headed home with the wee one who now had a scar from ear to ear across her scalp, but no other visible clues to her recent ordeal.  She was eating and playing within one day of the surgery, and a week later outside with friends and going to the playground as though nothing major had happened. However, now instead of looking at her and seeing one eye (painfully, in my mind) pushed back, her eyes were nearly equal.  The only problem is that 14 months of being asymmetrical led to muscle weakness in the left eye.  We had monthly and then yearly follow-ups with her pediatric neurosurgeon, but that was it as far as the surgery went.  The eye, however, was a different story.

 

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2 months after surgery...
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Her first pair of glasses.
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Wearing the eye patch and holding a nearly newborn Nick.

For years she has worn glasses as her vision is not fabulous in either eye, and the left eye continued to be a bit lazy.  Her ophthalmologist in Iceland tried patch therapy on it and while it helped, it did not cure the problem.  However, her doctor in California did not feel she was quite old enough to have the corrective surgery and suggested we wait until we moved back to this area. By the time we found a doctor here (who, lo and behold, works on her pediatric neurosurgeon's team at Children's!), he felt enough time had passed and we could soon seriously consider the surgery.

We had a follow-up with her neurosurgeon who was extremely pleased with her progress. We then scheduled the CT scan that would show whether or not the prescribed eye surgery would be of any use. A few weeks later, Kelsey met with the ophthalmologist again and he indicated that not only would it help, but now would be the best time to take care of it (especially since you know who is going you know where soon...).  So, Kelsey will have nothing to eat or drink after midnight next Wednesday night and Thursday, the 23rd, in the early morning, we will head to Children's in Fairfax.  

I have to admit, eye surgeries freak me out a bit.  The eyes are just so...delicate.  However, I did a bit of reading on the technique and it is not nearly as, well, scary, as I had assumed. It is a relatively simple outpatient procedure and Kelsey will not even require an eye patch.  Given that she will have general anesthesia, she will not go to school Thursday or Friday, but we don't anticipate any other issues.

If you are curious, no one knows exactly how much this will help regarding her overall vision.  Her right eye is not perfect either, so it is a given that she will likely continue to wear glasses for the rest of her life.  However, her left eye will no longer drift and it will be interesting to see how this helps her.  While no one has ever really bothered her about this issue, I know she does not like it and has come to realize that the surgery may be a good idea.  In fact, she was completely against it 6 months ago, but decided at the last visit that she could "handle it."  I don't know if this has anything to do with seeing me go through major surgery and come through just fine, but if so, well, good!

If you feel like sending Kelsey a comment at her new email addy or a card, please feel free to do so.  I know she appreciates any and all well wishes, so long as no one at school finds out (eye surgery isn't the 'in' thing this year?).  Maybe she'll start randomly coughing and sneezing Wednesday afternoon to justify her illness, who knows, but we will just be happy to have one more surgery out of the way.  After all, I get to go back in for yet another procedure on April 16 (yes, it's been scheduled) and with Peter leaving for you-know-where on May 21st, we only have so much time to get so many tasks completed. 

February 12, 2012

Just call me Martha

not.  Though I desire to be uber-crafty, I rarely ever get it going on like I should, at least not in the manner of the Crafty Dog.  However, my girls somehow inherited a crafty gene that I had no idea existed in our family.  They can draw and draw and draw all day long.  Not only that, the drawings resemble the ideas that they are based on! Picture that!  

Despite my lack of ideas, I can do things like cut out cards from cardstock AND score them.  It only took me years to figure out how to do this correctly (without wasting oodles of paper), so I am extremely proud of myself (the little things, you know) and like to show off this talent.  Today for the 18th time, I asked Kelsey whether she wanted to make or buy Valentine's Day cards, and she finally decided to make again this year (woot!).  

Now I don't know about anyone else, but to me there is something so sweet about a homemade Valentine's Day card. I figured as long as I could find the paper trimmer and enough cardstock for 20 cards, we were in business.  Lo and behold, I managed both.  We quickly reviewed the card sizes and realized a 4 x 6 card folded in half would be perfect.  They are the size of store-bought cards and since the names were going on the front of the card, no envelope to worry about.

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Ten minutes later, cards were cut and scored, and Kelsey was working away.  I realized right as she was about to start that marker on red paper (even black) would be hard to read at best.  Out came the silver letter stickers that needed using and that problem was solved.  I stuck on the letters, Kelsey wrote the greetings and drew hearts on the inside and an hour later (max), we were finished. The card may not turn into a car or have Sweetarts inside (I can hear her friends' parents thanking me already...), but she put more effort into those than I ever did into the pre-made cards (which we did buy Nick, but I only have so much energy).

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Note to self:  Always check previous year's cards to see if they were fancier;  they were.  Oh, well, I tried.  Now to make the ingredient list for the cupcakes....Oh, all right, I really just wanted to post photos of her making the cards as I think it is so darn sweet and, sniff, one day she might not want to make cards and I'll need this post to remind me of the fun we had....

 

 

 

February 10, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

 

Photo-12

 

Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  

 

February 09, 2012

What next, health insurance?

Oh, dear God, don't take me seriously!

If you are unaware, benefits for federal employees and their families are under attack once again. As my friend Digger asks, "How long do we have to be our country's whipping boy?"  This week, not only has it been proposed that our step increases be frozen (don't forget that annual raises are already frozen), but now there is a bill that wants to screw around with our retirement benefits.

When is enough ENOUGH?  When will federal employees be looked at as those who help you?  Why are we seen as overpaid (ha!) and underutilized?  Is our family not looking at a second unaccompanied tour (voluntarily, I might add)?  Due to the needs of the Foreign Service, will I have not spent nearly five years* as a single parent by May of 2013?  Does it mean nothing to promise certain benefits and then allow those who apparently understand us the least to simply yank them away?  

I don't know what more to write.  I have worried about so much this past year, and really don't need another item to add to the list.  Yet, it seems that every day, another benefit is under attack and I am just exhausted by the stress of it.  Yes, we chose government service, but we were also made a promise.  Let's just hope that promise is kept.

*If you recall, I was basically a single parent while Peter spent three years on the Secretary's detail.  Naturally, such jobs have a rigorous schedule and travel can be at a moment's notice.  We accept that, but we also ask that we get the benefits we are entitled to receive DUE to that service. The above is not a rant, but a reminder that just because we are stationed State-side does not mean that we are always united as a family.  

 

 

February 07, 2012

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it's off to work

Pete goes....which leaves me (drum roll):

exhausted and cranky.  Yesterday was not too bad in some respects, as due to an appointment with the plastic surgeon, Nicholas went to daycare in the afternoon.  Took a bit of convincing, but finally he heaved a big sigh and said, "Oh, all RIGHT, I'll go to daycare!"

It's not as if he hates it, in fact, by all accounts, he loves it.  The classes from the Montessori (well, those who go to aftercare) are mixed in one room.  They eat lunch, nap, play inside, play outside, play inside and yes, sometimes watch a children's television show (at the end of the day).  He has fun, I know he is safe and happy, and even better, I can send him only on the days that he really needs to go.   Call it a gut instinct that an afternoon at the plastic surgeon's office would not be the highlight of his day.

Peter arrived home not long after noon (just as I was enjoying a daily nap), and off to the doctor we went.  The doctor did his usual look-see, checked symmetry (he seemed surprised by how symmetrical the results are) and we discussed the next steps, to include a pre-op visit for the last procedure.  My final (?) surgery should be in April.  I know you didn't ask, but...I'll tell you just because!  I will be having a tweak on the left, minor tweaks on the right, removal of the dog ears (basically where the stitches held in the drains on the stomach incision) and, ahem, construction of the nipple.  

Now that I am 4 weeks out, the question of the day:  regrets?

Nope, none, zilch.  Yes, I still wear my Spanx faithfully and my rather regretfully sad, but comfy surgical bra.  No, I'm not perfect and if Playboy called, it would be a wrong number.  You know what though?  I LIKE it and that's all that matters.  

Four weeks later, even with a bit of numbness (more in the abdomen than anywhere else), some pain (especially when a certain someone accidentally sits on me in the wrong area), a bit of tightness (okay, more than a bit) and me being a tired and cranky momma no matter how much sleep I get:  I still like it.  I feel more normal now than I have in 16 months.  Even going to the PS does not disturb me and everyone is happy and cheery at (the other) appointments, which are few and far between.  Okay, minus the mean nurse practitioner from early January.

I'm walking every other other day (up to 2.25 miles!) and having weekly massages at the Teal Center. In fact, I was praised at my last visit by my ability to "already" lie flat on my back.  I had been doing stretches at home and needed to be flat on my back to complete, but apparently I was bouncing back faster than Lucille, the massage therapist expected (if you ever go to the Teal Center, Lucille is awesome).  If I had known this was so impressive, I would have shown them much sooner!  

So, napping and doctor's appointment equaled Good News.  The bad news for the day?  Well, I'm really not the right person to relay the news, but sadly the bloggy community lost not one, but two members yesterday.   Rachel, of the Cancer Culture Chronicles and Susan, of Toddler Planet, both died.  I knew Susan from sharing a few Tweets regarding a newspaper article and her blog and had kept up with Rachel via her blog.  Suffice it to say, yesterday was a very sad day in many respects.  If you had not kept up with them online, please visit their blogs.  They capture two amazing spirits who won't be forgotten and shared so much with the world.

And today?  Today I was a cranky, rotten mess. Nicholas had a huge issue with having his teeth brushed before school.  I hate to play the mean mommy, but can't back down on this issue.  I brushed them and he had the fit of fits.  And me?   I just broke down and cried and retreated to my recliner.  Two days in and I was ready to call it quits.  The morning had been going so well, and then that...

Fewer than five minutes later he was asking if he could carefully crawl into my lap.  He hugged and kissed me and apologized.  We finished getting ready for school and had no more problems.  Even a trip to the grocery store in the afternoon proved to be (okay, utterly exhausting) without too much craziness.  And then I came home, tried to pull it together and collapsed.  I was supposed to go out tonight and I couldn't even do that.  I grabbed all my pillows, my blankets, curled up in the recliner and took a long, overdue nap.

And now?  Now, I remember why I thought this morning was to be so easy.  Nicholas woke up, came downstairs this morning and snuggled with me in the recliner.  He then looked at me and said, 

"You are beautiful, Mommy, so beautiful.  And you know what?  I missed you.  You know, when you went to the hospital so the doctor could fix your tummy and your na-nas and Shannon took me and my sisters to her house?  I missed you then!"

I missed you, too, Bud, but I'm back now and feeling. So. Much. Better. and more normal.  Wait, in that case, cranky and exhausted might not be so weird after all, eh?  

 

 

 

 

 

February 05, 2012

Stunned

might describe how I have been feeling the past few days since I penned this post.  As some of you might recall, I was a bit hesitant about publishing.  I worried about backlash in a variety of respects and in hindsight, that was, at best, silly.

If you scroll to the bottom of the previous post, you will see 38 respectful and thoughtful comments. They are in addition to the overwhelming amount of positive feedback that I received on my Facebook page.  Now this begs the question:  why on earth did I wait so long to say anything?

I honestly can't say.  Perhaps I felt guilty that I would somehow hurt someone's feelings and I know I was worried about stirring up a political debate.  Either way, while I commented on others' blogs, joined various anti-Komen FB pages, and followed their Tweets, I could not bring myself to post on the matter, until Thursday.  Might I just note how much better I feel finally saying something?

I feel, in a sense, as though I have come out of a closet of sorts.  I have had anti-Komen feelings for years, but this latest move brought everything to a forefront for me.  I cannot sit idly by anymore and allow people to believe that this giant corporation has my best interests (or anyone else's, for that matter) at heart.  

Now you might be wondering if the 'reversal' of their decision will affect my beliefs in any way.  

Absolutely not.

As Kathi at the Accidental Amazon notes, this is just the "tip of the pink iceberg" and does not mean anything has changed.  I did not trust them before and it is clear their leadership is confused about direction.  A company that is that large needs to be focused, not muddying the waters by making one quick (and poor) decision, then completely reversing two days later.  Instead of solidifying their following, I think they now have simply earned more mistrust no matter how one looks the situation.  

I think this issue has caused many to scrutinize this 'charity' and hopefully direct their money elsewhere. As one commenter mentioned, a good place to start is Charity Navigator, however, please use the site carefully.  Yes, Komen is rated as a 4 star charity, but that does not mean they are accomplishing the goals their donors believe them to be.  Look at the reviews from those who have dealt with them in one way or another.

When I checked the site on Thursday, Komen had approximately 400 reviews.  They now have 615 reviews with an average score of 1.3.  The highest score they can receive per review is 5 stars and the lowest would be 1.  They have a score of 1.3 from those who are donating to them and those they are purportedly helping.  If that isn't a great indication of how they have lost their way, what is? If you want personal stories, read this post from a fellow blogger.  

Now, one might wonder if blogging will change at all for me.  No.  I'm still going to keep the chirpy updates and, of course, lots of weekly photos of LG and the Sissas.  However, I will also post on this topic when I feel the need.  I can't ignore the fact that the pink ribbon identity does so much more harm than good.  

In fact, I am very ambivalent in my feelings about this upcoming film (thank you to the commenters who linked to it!):  Pink Ribbons, Inc.  On one hand, I think a documentary like this is long overdue.  On the other hand, I'm not sure if I'm ready to see it.  I do have time to decide, though, as it is not due to be released in the U.S. until April.

We are aware of breast cancer, we are MORE than aware.  What we need is actual action, not just massive amounts of fundraising that do not affect the actual individual suffering or recovering from the disease.  We also need to take back our lives.  I know the less pink I see, the more normal I feel.

Remember, we ALL have had to deal with something in our lifetime.  It may another type of cancer, recovery from an accident, a genetic disorder, the list goes on and on.  We need to support each other in all of our fights and struggles, not just one.  No matter where you choose to send your money, do not forget to research the organization and ask  before you send in your check.   A few questions might be:

  • Is the charity actually meeting the needs of those it is supposedly serving?
  • Are they taking advantage of fundraising that is cost-efficient?
  • Do executive salaries appear to be more in-line with a charity or with a for-profit corporation?
  • Are you receiving rewards for your fundraising efforts that you don't need or want?  
  • When you contact the charity, are you actually able to speak to someone who can give you clear-cut answers or do you feel you get the run-around each time you call?
  • Can you stop by and see the charity in action?  This is not always possible, but for some is a great way to get a feel for the way it is run. 
  • Are you able to give constructive criticism, and, if so, how does the organization respond?

I have been following several blogs since my diagnosis in October of 2010 and, in fact, their existence gave me the courage to click publish the other day.  If you are interested in reading more blogs that have critiqued Komen in the past few days, please click over to any of the above that I have mentioned and/or the following listed below.  Remember that this is just a small sampling and each blog has many links of its own to peruse.  :

I think, if nothing else, this will confirm that the issues with Komen have existed for a long time. Hopefully, now they will see the light and either work harder towards their real goal.  Perhaps, even more desirable, they will remove themselves from the charitable organization arena permanently and allow those who can do better thrive in their stead.

February 01, 2012

I never thought I'd blog

on this topic.  It's a sensitive one in several different respects and not one I have been willing to touch with a 10 foot pole.  However, the time has come as I am sure at least one person is curious out there. If not, for the sake of this post, perhaps you can pretend?

During the fall of 2010, I went to hell and back, quite literally.  From discovering my lump (on my own, thank you very much) to the not-so-good doctor's appointment, to the horrible first 'ogram, sonogram and biopsy and all that followed.  It was a season that was supposed to be filled with changes and colors and instead was filled with misery and change, but not the kind we wanted.  

Despite all of the days that seemed so full of uncertainty, there were several things that kept me going.  I blogged about nearly everything (very cathartic), I had friends come out of the woodwork to help us (and we will forever pay forward the kindnesses) and my husband's employer showed amazing urgency and flexibility.  I would like to make it abundantly clear just how grateful we are, as I fear this post may indicate something otherwise and that is simply not the case.  However, I am so very tired of pink-washing, everything Komen-related and, in a small, sad way, glad that they pulled their funding from Planned Parenthood.

Make no mistake, I am no fan of Komen and I do appreciate the good Planned Parenthood has accomplished.  Oh, and before I go any further, this post is NOT a political debate.  I appreciate everyone else's views on heady political topics and pray for the same respect in return.  This is NOT a debate about abortion (yes, I know some will say it is no matter what) and given that I completely respect other people's views, I expect that I will not be railed for my personal and political views here or in person.  I know there are people who have made up their mind with respect to how I feel on certain topics and I will simply state that they not only have never lived in my shoes, but they might well be wrong.  

I am not glad that the funding has been pulled so that numerous women lose the opportunity to have needed health care.  Yes, Planned Parenthood does offer health care and does not just spend their days trying to "trick" people into abortions.   While I am grateful I have never needed their health care services, I am glad that they exist.  Why on earth would I then be even remotely excited that Komen has pulled their funding?

I am not happy, but simply relieved that many, many people are waking up to the greed of the corporation called Komen.  They beg for money from those who don't have it.  They spend a mere 20% of their received funds on actual research.  They withdraw funds from organizations that actually need the money.  They fund-raise by labeling products with pink ribbons.  Many of these products not only are not necessary for us to survive, but may in fact harm us, and yes, cause cancer.

Shocking?  Not really.  Komen says they want a cure, but they have recently developed a perfume that may well contain cancer-causing ingredients.  The scent costs $59 per bottle, however fewer than $2 goes to research.  I can't imagine anyone purchasing this, knowing that most of the cost is not even going to the purported mission.  

I hesitated to write on this topic, partly because I had so many blogs turn pink for me in 2010.  They did it as a show of support and I appreciated it more than anyone will ever know.  However, turning pink in support and following up with virtual and local assistance is not the same thing as the pink-washing that Komen does day in and day out.  

I spent a good portion of the last year mortified about the type of cancer I had.  I received a pink basket in the hospital (for my original surgery) filled with pink, plastic items that included a poem and a "tiddy" bear. I was supposed to be cheered up by the poem, as it was about another woman and how she received a fabulous new set of breasts.  I was also supposed to be thrilled by the junk in the basket.  Instead I was mortified.  A gift basket of organic fruit would be one thing (and, yes, we did receive those and loved them), but this was just beyond painful.  Rubbing the pink-washing in my face once again.  The basket just reminded me that because I had this recent blip, I was supposed to become a member of another club.  Well, no, thank you.

Please understand that not everything pink disturbs me and I know that many pink ribbons are truly meant as a sign of support. However, Komen is not supportive.  Coloring buckets of fried chicken pink is not supportive.  Putting pink ribbons on products that we don't need or want is not supportive.  In fact, for many of us, it's a reminder of times we'd rather forget.  If anything, Komen was extremely unsupportive when I was diagnosed.

Did they come to my house and cook me meals when I was sick?  No, but my friends ensured we were had groceries and dinners for months.  Did they visit me in the hospital or take care of my kids?  No, but my friends and family made sure that happened.  Well, what did they do?

They stepped up their efforts to get money from me.  It was almost as if my name was on a new high priority list.  As though because I had been diagnosed, I suddenly had the ability and desire to give to an organization that, in my opinion, has done little towards their supposed goal.  It took three letters from me and three phone calls from Peter to have my name removed from their mailing list.  

I do think it is a shame that they pulled their funding, but finally the truth about this organization is coming to light.  Komen, in my mind, has a lot of explaining to do for years and this issue was finally the straw that broke the camel's back.  I am happy to report that all is not lost for PP, as today I read that:

Tait Sye, a spokesman for the agency, said Wednesday afternoon that "more than $400,000 from 9,000 donors came in the last 24-hour period."Add that to a $250,000 "Breast Health Emergency Fund" from Texas oil executive Lee Fikes and his wife, Amy, and the group is closing in on the $680,000 it received from Komen in 2011.


It doesn't thrill  me that the funds had to come from other sources.  If I had any respect for Komen, then it would have been due to them truly understanding that Planned Parenthood is not the end-all, be-all of evil organizations.  However, they clearly don't.  I must say the more I learn about Komen, the more I feel that they are truly evil.  A corporation founded on a promise that, in my opinion, has not been kept and likely can't be.  A corporation that preys on guilt and tries to deny the link between environmental hazards and breast cancer.  A corporation that has a budget just for suing other small non-profits just because they used the phrase "for the cure" without THEIR permission? Well, why wouldn't they, considering the millions in funds they receive?

I am not asking for anyone out there to read this and suddenly desire to support Planned Parenthood.  I am simply asking that if you have contributed to the Komen Foundation, walked in a walk or even thought about supporting them in any way (perhaps by purchasing something pink?) to rethink your options next time.  There are many decent organizations in existence, e.g. Breast Cancer Action that support those with breast cancer and are not in any way funded by pharmaceutical companies or companies who do not have our breast, I mean, best interests at heart.

If you were considering a donation to Komen because of their decision, please reconsider your plan. Support a local organization that helps unwed mothers, perhaps volunteer through your church or donate to deserving organizations overseas, like Mercy House, who truly need your assistance (and, yes, we will be supporting them this year).  Please give your money or time directly to those who need it, not to an organization who has not only ignored its mission, but left behind those who could have truly used its help.