Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Never Forget to Tell Your Kids You Love Them

Sometimes I just really miss my grown kids. James is almost 24 and Joe is 21. So often, I find myself remembering the days when they lived at home; memories pop into my mind. Mothers always hear how kids grow up fast, but I think, until we actually experience it, we just can't fathom how true it really is.

James lives close by and yet we only see him every other week or so. He's just a busy guy with a busy work schedule, managing a small, upscale restaurant in town. He also has a girlfriend who we all love, and they spend most of their free time together. What I'm getting at is, I understand why we don't see him more often, but it doesn't mean I don't miss him.

Last night, I was just really, really missing him. I don't know why it hit me so hard, with such a rush, but I just had to call him. I knew he would be at work so I knew he wouldn't answer his phone but I wanted to at least leave a message and tell him how much I love him. I was very surprised when he actually answered! They had just closed the restaurant and for some reason, he heard his phone and answered it. Maybe he had a feeling it was someone who really needed to talk to him.

So, I told him how much I love him and had been missing him and he sweetly replied, "Mom, I know that. If there is one thing I absolutely know in my life, it is how much you love me."
Never miss an opportunity to tell your kids how much you love them. Kids really do grow up.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Lizzy!

I can't believe my sweet little girl is 14! She will be driving in a year! It seems like she was just born. I remember that day so well. What a shock!
We were all prepared for boy number four. When we had our ultrasound, we said we didn't want to know the gender but then the technician basically told us it was another boy! So, we had everything ready to go for a boy including a little baseball outfit to bring him home, a blue blanket and even a little baseball hat. The one thing we didn't have was a name but we were fairly set on Jacob.
Scheduled C-section, great doctor in an small Air Force Base hospital where I knew all the staff from my years as a Lactation Consultant. It always helps to be in with the nurses!
Part of our plan was for Eric to tell me the sex of the baby, so out comes the baby, the doctor holds "him" up and Eric just stands there speechless and FINALLY says, "Something's missing!" The way he was smiling I knew it wasn't an arm or a leg! I was so shocked! A girl? What's a girl?? We have it on video and they hand me Lizzy and I actually check to make sure she really is a girl. She was! And a big girl at a whopping 9 pounds 3 ounces! (At that point, I was GLAD I'd had a C-section.)
What would I do without my sweet Lizzy? She is a wonderful daughter! She helps us soooo much with babysitting and chores. She and I love to just hang out together doing scrapbooks or watching a movie. She is a good friend. She is a WONDERFUL daughter.
(And yes, I am one day late on her birthday blog because, well, life's just been a bit crazy lately. It's almost midnight so I'd better post this quick or I'll be TWO days late :-)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hope, the Holt Campout and Parents

Crazy, busy weekend.
Brief thoughts:
Joe is sick. Just feels generally lousy with a bad taste in his mouth. Yet, he tells me he is fine. The good thing--his kidney pressure is much relieved so his back pain is much better. Chemo works quickly. Ravages quickly too. I know someday we will look at chemo the way we look at how they used to bleed people.
Hope. I must live for the hope we have today and not look into the future. Too scary. Someone gave me a lot of hope when she said that if Joe can live another year, doctors will have many, many more treatments for cancer in that time. If he can live four years, even more. Now THAT's hope!!

On a happier subject, tomorrow is Lizzy's 14th birthday. She spent the afternoon at the mall with three friends from the Holt campout. If you haven't been to a Holt campout and you are an adoptive family, you have to go! Our kids have some of their best, life friends from the campout. WONDERFUL!

Everyone deserves to have parents like me. I was feeling overwhelmed with the "to do" list so mom and dad met me at the mall and helped me do some much needed clothes shopping for Kim and Paul. Kim has outgrown every single pair of pants we bought at the beginning of the school year. AND mom made dinner for us. Dad was the entertainment committee for Patrick. I LOVE YOU MOM AND DAD!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I Love Dora the Explorer

Many wonder how I find time to write. It's all thanks to Dora the Explorer! I am strict about TV viewing, but a couple times a week I will let my little ones watch Dora while I write. I also write before they get up in the morning or sometimes, in the middle of the night.
Today, I was thinking about how our adoption/family blog has morphed into a "Our Son Has Cancer" blog and I just don't want that to happen. Our family is about so much more than cancer. I will keep everyone abreast of what is happening with Joe but also want to keep our blog about everything else.
First, about Joe. (Wait a minute, what was that I just said?) I know, I know, but it's still at the forefront of all my thoughts. He is home from the hospital and doing okay. He is still in a lot of kidney pain from the tumors and we hope the chemo works quickly to remove the pressure. He is also exhausted but medication is helping keep his nausea in check. He remains in good spirits. His next round of chemo and hospitalization will occur in about two weeks.
An update of our adoption process. Eric and I discussed everything and decided that of course we want to proceed as planned with our adoption! In our minds, our child is already part of our family. To delay the blessed event would only make Joe's cancer more devastating. We expect Joe to live through this. He is a fighter with a strong will to live. His treatments will be a difficult time but even if we were matched with our child today, it will be at least six months before we can travel. By that time, Joe will be better :-)
Well, Dora is over so this blog is complete!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rainbows

Joe is doing great. We spent the last two days visiting him in the hospital. He lives over two hours from us so we spent a lot of time driving but we also got a lot of time with our son. He's such a trooper. The chemo has given him some nausea and hallucinations while sleeping but he still has his humorous wit and is full of spunk (not physically, but orally). I know that the chemo treatments will build up and become more difficult, but at least he's tolerating it well now. He looks very tired but was very, very happy to have us there. Patrick went down yesterday and while we were there he drew Joe a picture of a bad guy in Star Wars. Joe put it on his bulletin board and said that bad guy is going to help him fight his cancer!
Joe will go home today. He lives with his girlfriend and they moved in with her family when he got cancer the first time. For those who know the history, the girlfriend issue is getting better. It's still emotionally draining, but better. For those who don't know the history, let's just say his girlfriend would prefer Joe didn't have a family and wishes he wouldn't have anything to do with us. Hmmm. I think she picked the wrong guy since Joe comes from a VERY close-knit, loving, traditional family with LOTS of close-knit extended family.
Anyhoo, don't get me started on that whole subject! Let's just say I like the idea of arranged marriage more all the time.
At times I feel torn between meeting the needs of my younger children, who have been at home with Grandma and friends, and yet being there for my son. I've basically only seen Paul and Kim the last two nights just to tuck them into bed. I plan to spend the next several days having lots of one-on-one time together. I also realize I am going to need to take people up on their offers to help when it comes time for Joe to have his stem cell transplant. I don't like asking for help even though I love helping people in their own times of crisis. Weird.
One last thing. I continue to feel God is telling me He is right here. I saw a rainbow three days in a row. Although it rains a lot in the PNW, we don't see a lot of rainbows. There must be rain AND sun for a rainbow. Yesterday the rainbow was HUGE! God sends us rainbows to help us through our storms.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Keep Living Life

It's been a crazy weekend. It started Friday when I cleaned my house ALL day. It was the angst of waiting for my son to get his biopsy results and for some reason I decided to make my stress productive and CLEAN. My house is usually decently clean, but by the time I was done Friday I wanted to call ALL those people who ALWAYS seem to come over at 5:00 when my house looks the worst. "Hurry, come quick! My house is CLEAN!" (If any of you are reading this now, too late, you missed your chance. My house is now messy again.)
Life just doesn't slow down, even when someone gets cancer! Even when all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and cry all day. Lizzy had a soccer game yesterday and Paul had a sleepover to go to. Lizzy needed to go to a play at the school and Kim's Girl Scout troop cookies arrived and I was the pick-up person so I had to go pick up and sort a thousand boxes - literally. I'm so glad William can drive himself to his work and activities. He did arrive home after a basketball game with four friends in tow and they all wanted to remove the face paint they had used to dress up. Did you know that papertowels will not flush down the toilet? Uh - huh. I would think that high-schoolers would know that too. Did you know that high school boys are not very good about cleaning up a nice, clean bathroom even though they leave face paint all over it? Uh-huh. And why did they use BOTH sinks AND the bathtub????
On top of all this cacophony of activity, we had unexpected company arrive. I love these people and I'm glad they came to support us during this time. But let me give everyone a hint. If you ever want to support someone in a time of stress, don't stay over there ALL day AND ALL NIGHT without any prior notice. They decided at nine last night they would spend the night so I was changing sheets and figuring out sleeping arrangements for four people on a moment's notice. It's just not what I wanted to be doing in a catatonic state. STOP THE WORLD I WANT TO GET OFF!
Boy, I sure am venting, huh?
Well, today was calmer. In fact, at dinner we only had two kids at the table. TWO! Paul and Liz were at birthday parties and William at work. It was soooo quiet! Well, my husband and I both agreed that we LIKE loud better than quiet. We prefer lots of activity. I realized I should quit wishing I had been able to have a nice, quiet, silent, self-absorbed weekend. What was I going to do? Sit in a corner and cry and macrame my hair??? Yes, I am sad. I am devastated my son has cancer again. And I need to cry and have done plenty of that. But in the end, the joy of our other children and the activity they bring is a great reminder to keep living life.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Biopsy Results

This feels like the longest day of my life. I have good news and bad news. The good news is that our son does have Hodgkin's Lymphoma. (What a dichotomy! Can it really be good news to have cancer???) The reason this is good is because his doctors feared that perhaps he had been misdiagnosed and actually had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is much less treatable or curable. Doctors now believe the Hodgkin's he has is much more aggressive than they originally believed it to be.
The bad news is, in order to live and have the possibility for a cure, he will have to have a stem cell transplant. This is similar to a bone marrow transplant but the stem cells come from the blood as opposed to the bone marrow.
Our son will begin with very strong chemo on Monday. He will be in the hospital for several days. They will try to rid his body of as much cancer as possible before they do the stem cell transplant. The transplant will occur in a few weeks.
I'm scared for him, for his life. I'm sad to know he will have to endure yet more suffering. Yet, I am also filled with hope that he CAN be cured. Whatever lies ahead, I will trust.

A Life in the Balance

My emotions run the gamut today. I go between miraculous hope and bane fear. Today is the day my son will get the results from his biopsy. His life hangs in the balance on that simple piece of paper which will declare his future. One moment I have extreme hope that the doctor will say this is still Hodgkin's and that his outlook for a full recovery is very good. The next moment I have the terrifying thought they tell him he is terminal.
One word keeps running through my mind. Trust. I must trust God. He knows what that piece of paper says and what it means for Joe. I will trust.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How I Reduce Stress With Things I Love

1.) Read my Bible.
2.) Read in general. I love to read and actually, I am obsessed with reading. I read pretty much anything and everything from the back of the cereal box to that insert they put in the Tampax box about Toxic Shock--yes, it's absurd. I love books that help me see the world in a new light and finding an author that uses metaphors and similes in new, creative ways. I loved The Poisonwood Bible for those reasons.
3.) Take a 10 minute catnap. That helps as much as a two hour nap.
4.) Journal. I write in my own or one of my children's. And now I blog :-)
5.) I e-mail. I love to e-mail, maybe because it fulfills my need to write. I'm NOT a phone person and in fact, I actually think I have some sort of phone phobia. I hate making important phone calls the most--I'd much rather do it in person.
6.) Drink coffee. Yes, folks, what they say about Pacific NW people is true. We LOVE our coffee!
7.) Exercise. It's great--when I do it. I am a walker and a treadmill-er. I have also been known to use my stairs as a stairclimber and I read at the same time. See? I am obsessed.
8.) Spend time laughing with friends and family. I love taking my kids to the park and just watching them play. I never get over the fact that I am the luckiest mom in the whole world.
9.) Eat chocolate. Dark chocolate. Or chocolate chip cookies. Yum!
10.) Knit. I have just started to knit again. I love it!
11.) Watch a great movie. I like everything. Well, not horror or bloody violence.
12.) Drink a Green Monster Shake. It is basically a berry and banana smoothie with LOTS of green leafy lettuce/spinach added. Add 1 T. flaxseed oil and 1/2 tsp. spirulina/seaweed. Blend very well. It's wonderful. I drink a big one of these every day. It looks gross and tastes great.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Trusting God Through Hard Times

It's been a hard week. My son, Joe, 21, had cancer last year. He had Hodgkin's Lymphoma which is considered a "good" cancer because it is so curable. He finished treatment in November and everyone celebrated because he was through with chemo and radiation, which had been very, very hard on his body.
Several weeks ago he started feeling tired again and started having some of his original symptoms. He finally went to the doctor and they found the cancer had returned, full force. He had a biopsy yesterday to determine the course of treatment.
It's so hard to see our kids suffer. It's so hard to deal with cancer. I remember when he first got cancer and they moved him to the cancer ward at the hospital. There was a sign that said, "Welcome to 4th Floor Oncology". That is when it really hit me. My son has CANCER! This child had always been my healthiest child! How ironic that he was the one who got cancer.
This time around has been harder. We don't have the shock that we with the original diagnosis, but we were given so much hope then. All the doctors assured us that it was a very curable thing. This time, we don't have as much shock, but we do have a lot less hope.
Friends, family and faith. I don't know how people get through life without those three things. Most importantly, faith.
It is normal to ask God, Why? I spent some time in that conversation. But I do not believe that God chooses to give children diseases like cancer. I do know that God carries us through them.
I really needed a verse to hang onto during this trial. I thought of a verse but couldn't remember all of it and couldn't find it in my Bible. The next day at church, God helped me out. It was proclaimed on the big screen in the front of the church.
"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:30-31
God has told me to trust Him and I will. I know that doesn't mean that He will heal our Andrew Joseph, but I know that someday, I will understand everything. Please keep our son in your prayers.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

What Cancer Cannot Do

A poem for anyone who has a loved one with cancer.

What Cancer Cannot Do

For cancer is so limited--
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot steal God's gift of eternal life,
It cannot conquer the Spirit,
It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.

Author Unknown.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Kim!!

My baby girl is 10!! Double digits! We spent the weekend having her first big slumber party including ice skating and make-overs. The girls loved putting on fake nails and then realized over and over how difficult it is to do things like unzip a sleeping bag :-)
Today is her actual birthday so I plan to make a school delivery of balloons and ice cream and also her lunch request, a Nacho Supreme from Taco Bell. Tonight she will open her presents from us and will finally get her long awaited Heeley's (shoes that convert into skates). She will be a very excited little girl!
Along with the excitement though, I always think of her birth mother, especially on her birthday. I know this must be a bittersweet day for her and I wish she could know how happy and healthy Kim is. She was relinquished when she was 4 days old, very sick with jaundice and having difficulty eating with her cleft lip and palate. Oh, if she could just see her now! She is a stunning beauty with a personality to match. Her Korean name means "brilliant" and "intelligent". She is all that and so much more (proud mama talking here).
HAPPY BIRTHDAY KIM!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I Will Hold You 'Til You Sleep

I have been wanting to buy some things for our new child but I kept thinking I should wait to see how old our daughter is before I buy anything. Or if it even is a daughter. But I got some very good advice.
A fellow adoptive mom told me that some of her sons most precious possessions are clothes that he never even wore. In their case, they had expected to bring their 4 yo son home a year before he actually came so she had purchased many things for him. These items are now his "baby" clothes and his "baby" toys. Keepsakes. It doesn't matter to him that he never wore them or used them.
Let the buying begin! I bought our child's very first gift. A book called I Will Hold You 'Til You Sleep, by Linda Zuckerman. She is a Pacific NW author so it makes the book even more special. The pictures are beautiful watercolors by Jon Muth.
Here is a portion of the text on the inside flap.

"What is your deepest wish for the child you love?

To sleep soundly each night, sure of your protection?

To know that whatever lies ahead, you will be there. . . to share the joys of sunny days, to soothe the scrapes, the falls, the hard times? . . .

Here is a heartfelt wish for a life filled with love."

Little One, where ever you are, whoever you are, I can't wait to "hold you 'til you sleep".