Christmas Spirit

December 22, 2010

Christmas last year

Every year, the Christmas spirit hits me at some point. I may have been preparing for weeks, going through the motions because I know I have to or I will get behind, but not really enjoying it like I want to. Last year, it hit me when a sweet friend sent Santa to our house because she knew we wouldn’t be able to get out to see him that year. He arrived in a black pickup truck and came in amidst shouts of joy from my kids. He snuggled my bald little girl and tried to coax Jake to sit on his lap to no avail. And when I hugged him goodbye, I whispered in his ear, “Thank you so much… I didn’t think we would get to do this this year.” And, he whispered back, “I know… that’s why I came.” POW! The Christmas spirit hit me like a ton of bricks!

This year, it has come in more gently. I’ve been trying to enjoy the kids being home and their anticipation of Christmas, but mostly it has seemed like too long of a week without school before Christmas this year. But, this morning, sometime between 10 am and 1 pm, Christmas arrived for me. We invited two families over to decorate Gingerbread houses. These are not just any friends… they are dear friends. These are the girls that showed up, silently, at the hospital to hold my hands as we waited to find out if Tanner would make it through the night when she had to be life-flighted to Vanderbilt for a drug reaction. They are the girls that bring food without being asked, bring crafts when they know we have been housebound too long and take Jake with them when I need to focus my attention on Tanner. They are those easy kind of friends that are more like having family around your house.

So, we gathered this morning, kids happily smearing glue-like icing on gingerbread houses and eating easily as much candy as they smothered on. The girls did a nutcracker show, the boys played batman and air hockey and the Moms got some much needed girl time in a long week with no school.

A sugar coma in the making

When they all left and I sent the kids to their rooms for some quiet time, I realized that I was finally in the Christmas spirit. I put some music on the ipod and made fudge and counted my blessings… my many, many blessings.

When John got home, we went to see some Christmas lights and then, after everyone went to bed, I made Christmas morning breakfast casseroles to freeze in anticipation of Christmas day.

Christmas is just a magical time when, despite all the hubbub, there are genuine moments of such kindness to be found. Like the other night when my friend, Ron, called to say they had a special package for Tanner on Christmas day. I met Celia in the Kroger parking lot (okay, it was the liquor store parking lot, but that didn’t sound so good!) and we talked for 45 minutes in the freezing cold, catching up. Celia and Ron had pulled some favors and got a signed copy of Taylor Swift’s new CD for Tanner. It says, “I (heart) Tanner.” Swoon. In addition, the daughter of the person who got the CD for Celia made Tanner a necklace out of a Taylor Swift guitar pick.

In the bustle of season our friends had remembered us. That is the Christmas spirit.

I know I haven’t written in a while, so here are some of the highlights of the past two weeks:

– Jake had his Christmas program at school where he wore one blue transformer glove the entire time he was on stage singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
– Tanner had pajama day, went can caroling for the Second Harvest Food Bank and enjoyed her last day of school before Christmas break.
– We had our picture taken with Santa. Started out as a kids only picture, but since Jake wouldn’t get anywhere near Santa without me, we all jumped in. As you can see, he is clinging to my leg for dear life.
– Beth, Tanner and I went to see the Nutcracker. It was beautiful and reminded me so much of when my Mom used to take me to see it in downtown Philadelphia as a little girl.
– Beth knew me well enough to offer to go with me to return Domino to the rescue organization he came from. She was a great distraction. We drove to Jackson, TN, and handed him over to, hopefully, find a loving home without little kids. I still miss him terribly, but we’re ready to start looking for our new, family friendly dog after Christmas.

If it hasn’t already, I hope the Christmas spirit creeps up on you or hits you right between the eyes!


A Plea

December 14, 2010

I’m writing this with my laptop propped on Domino’s back since he is nestled half on my lap and half on the bed. With great sadness, we have realized we cannot keep Domino. He has nipped Tanner twice in the past month and has begun chasing neighborhood kids when they run into the yard. We had a trainer coming next week to work with him, but just decided that he would be much better off with a family without children. So, he will be going back to the rescue organization that had him before he went to the prison on Saturday, UNLESS someone out there is looking for a beautiful and loving Dalmatian/pointer mix who would make a great pet for a family without kids.

Here are his particulars: He is three years old, neutered, micro-chipped, up to date on shots, heart-worm and flea control. He has passed his AKC Canine Good Citizenship test and knows sit, down, stay, come, give a paw, rollover and Bang! He is completely and very reliably house-trained and crate trained. He never chews anything up unless it is food or smells like food (he is quite a chow hound and has a great nose, so you have to be careful leaving food out). He is smart and silly and loves to be near his people. He has never shown any aggression towards John or I and does not challenge our authority. He would probably do best as the only dog and does not like cats. He is initially growly and seems aggressive when meeting a dog, but mellows out if the other dog does not want to fight. He needs regular exercise, but is definitely not as energetic as a pure Dalmatian and is very calm and docile in the house. He needs to be an inside dog with outside privileges.

So, if you or anyone you know are interested, please respond to the post ASAP. You wouldn’t be sorry. We are heartbroken to have to let him go.


On Its Way Out

I think the radiation is definitely on its way out. I feel much better today after several days of mild malaise and fatigue. Even stopped by the house today to pick up Domino and take him for a walk. The walk was tiring, but it felt good to get moving and be outside. I think my friend Kim is going to come home to find a permanent indention in her new sofa in the shape of my heiney. I’ve read two books and watched countless movies and even gotten a few (a very few) things done.

Mostly, I miss my family. John and the kids seem to be doing great, but I know it is unsettling for the kids to keep having me drop out of sight while I recover from the surgeries or now while I am hiding my glow from them. Tanner still doesn’t know I have cancer, but I think she is smart enough to figure out that it’s somewhat serious and it makes her anxious. But, mostly I think they just miss their mommy… and I miss them. Still, I think John has really enjoyed his time with them.

I’ll come home Tuesday. Even though I can’t touch the kids more than 30 minutes cumulatively each day, I can at least be around them by then and I can help. And, I can get hugs, even if they’re quick. That will feel good.

I go back to Vanderbilt Thursday for a body scan to see how effective the treatment has been and determine if the cancer had spread anywhere outside the thyroid. If it had, the cancerous tissue would have absorbed the radioactive iodine and it would show up on the scan. I think I have to lie still for 1 ½ hours (can you say, “Nap?”).

I ended my low iodine diet today at dinner time. John and the kids did a “drive by” and brought me Jets pizza, some candy and a cake in the shape of a turkey that says, “Glow, Mama, Glow.” I laughed out loud. Jake was so cute bringing me the candy. He put it on the ground and backed away from me and said, “You’re done with your diet!!!!” Sweet thing. It killed me not to be able to give him a big hug.

Tanner has her Annie callback tomorrow night. She seems to have gotten over her cold and cough pretty much, so I think her voice is back in singing form. I wish I could go so badly, but I’ll just have to get a report from Daddy.

Thanks for all the well wishes. People have been so nice… as always.


Headed Home — Minus a Thyroid

September 15, 2010

We’re waiting for discharge at Vanderbilt where I stayed last night after having the second half of my thyroid and, hopefully, all of my cancer, removed. Everything went very well, but we won’t know for sure whether or not I’ll need any radioactive iodine treatment until I see the endocrinologist. That’s the method of giving radiation to any remaining thyroid tissue by ingesting radioactive iodine, which is then absorbed by the thyroid. It would render me radioactive for a few days, but it has few side effects. The lymph nodes around my thyroid turned out not to be a real issue as they were, in my unique anatomy, down my neck further than normal. The doctor did take one parathyroid to test, just in case, and we won’t know about that for several weeks.

It takes a village. Beth stayed with me last night so John could go home. Mom and Kim got the kids to bed and walked Domino. Mom will be here all week and friends have started a dinner list, as usual. We are blessed beyond all understanding with the best friends and family anyone could ever hope for. We often feel we are wearing out our welcome, but they insist on helping anyway. Humbling for sure.

Just a short story about Tanner… she has been collecting soda can pop tops for Ronald McDonald house at school and home. She gets them from all the kids at her lunch table and brings them home and puts them in a little bag… all her idea. It has been driving her crazy that a little boy in her class won’t give her his pop tops. The morning of my surgery she asked me to print out a picture of her with long hair and with no hair. When I asked why she said, “I’m going to show Jordan so he knows why he should give me the pop tops.” LOVE that never give up attitude!

Thanks for all the well wishes. Can’t wait to get home.


The Runaways

August 4, 2010

We’ve officially run away. With no planning and little preparation. A spontaneous getaway to the faraway land of… Huntsville, Alabama! Just an hour and a half down the road, but it feels like a million miles away from cancer and sickness and impending surgeries.

John and had planned what we thought was a pretty spontaneous day trip to Huntsville last Friday night. I had seen an article in a magazine saying there was a cool Star Wars exhibit at the space museum and thought the kids would love it. After putting the kids to bed, we talked about getting up and jumping on the road early so we could get there and beat the crowds. About an hour later, Jake started throwing up. End of trip.

He had a nasty stomach virus, which put him pretty much out of commission for about three days, but he was fine to go to his first day of school on Tuesday. He was so cute. So proud of how “handsome” he looked in his new shirt (turns out another little boy in his class wore the same shirt that day!). So excited to carry his Lightening McQueen backpack and his Star Wars lunch box. He marched into his class and showed his teacher his new stuff and was smiling from ear to ear when I left. That’s my boy!

We had kept Tanner completely separated from Jake for the course of his virus. John and Tanner did all kinds of fun stuff and Jake and I hung around the house. We thought we had escaped Tanner getting it… until Tuesday night. She started throwing up at 8 pm and I was not far behind. Uggghhh. Let’s just say the girls did not fare as well as Jake did. It was awful! John stayed home from work all day Wednesday to care for Tanner, Jake and I and to liberally apply hand sanitizer and Lysol to avoid catching it himself. What a long week.

Sometime during the week – the particular day has faded from my memory – Jake also passed another milestone… he learned to ride his bike without training wheels. I took them off and after giving him a little push, he just rode away. No teaching, no hunching over and running behind the bike holding the seat… he just rode away and that was that. His balance is uncanny at three-and-a-half years old. Oh, did I mention he was wearing a batman cape at the time? Crazy.

So, today, I woke up and took Domino for a walk at a new park in Franklin that was once a horse farm. It’s about 56 acres of rolling green hills and dilapidated old barns. Just beautiful. It was cool and breezy and both of us came back rejuvenated. When I got home, John and the kids were headed out the door to go to downtown Franklin for frozen yogurt. I sat down on the sofa to check email and noticed that same magazine with the article about Huntsville. Suddenly, it seemed like the best idea in the world to run away for a night. Everyone was healthy for the moment, Tanner’s counts were good, it’s a short trip away from Vanderbilt… the stars were aligned. I called John on the phone and pitched the idea… he was in. I got the kids next door to take care of the dog, we threw some stuff in bags and we were out the door in an hour. It felt like we had escaped.

We arrived in Huntsville this afternoon and met my Aunt Debbie at the botanical gardens, which were beautiful and very fun. They had 12 tree houses throughout the gardens the kids could play on and scarecrows all over that had been decorated by local businesses. Super fun! Then, we checked into the hotel and went out to Huntsville’s awesome outdoor mall for pizza and a carousel ride. Back to the hotel and everyone’s in bed. Off to the Star Wars exhibit in the morning and then back home. Priceless.

This is the best way for us to do a vacation. Our best laid plans often end up in bitter disappointment and there are so many limitations. We just grabbed the opportunity because we could, and it has saved me from feeling like the beast had gotten the best of me.


All Went Very Well

July 29, 2010

Back home from surgery. Went so well, I didn’t even have to stay all night. I’m feeling better than I thought I would, but still tired and in some pain.

Domino faithfully by my side, stealing all my bed space.

God Bless Vanderbilt Hospital. We often wondered if the adult hospital was a wonderful as the Children’s hospital… it is. And Dr. Netterville, the director of head and neck center, who did my surgery, is awesome.

Thanks, as always, to all our wonderful friends and family who rally round when we need them. Love you all.


Nine Screaming Girls + Jake = One Good Time

July 10, 2010

I’m sitting on the sofa completely spent from hosting Tanner’s Rock Star birthday party for nine little 7-year-old girls. Two super teens from the neighborhood did the girls’ makeup and hair, Aunt Beth applied tattoos, they all decorated cardboard guitars and then we did some dancing and singing and got our rock star on! It was one of the most fun parties we have ever had for the kids. Pressure is on for Jake’s next party; we’re going to have to make it a doozy!

We’ve spent the last few days mostly preparing for the party and swimming at the pool. Thursday night (for Tanner’s actual birthday), we had pizza with E. and LaLa, cupcakes with some neighbor kids and caught fireflies outside. Tanner finally got to catch some fireflies. They had a great time!

Even Domino wants to check out Tanner's fireflies

Thanks to everyone who sent birthday messages… Tanner and I sat at the computer for two days and read them all. They made her smile and feel special.

Poor Jake had a little bit of a hard time with Tanner’s birthday. He’s apparently just gotten old enough to realize that he isn’t getting the same special treatment she is. He would ask in his little voice, “Why I not get a cake? Can I get a car cake?” We made him a special non-girly gift bag for the party, which he loved, but he hid in the media room for most of the party, playing Star Wars wii by himself. Poor little man. When the excessive girliness and screaming was over, he came back out, busted a move or two on the dance floor, got a tattoo and ate his ring pop. It all turned out okay in the end.

Domino attended the beginning and end of the party, but stayed in his crate during the rest, hiding from the chaos. He managed to snag a piece of pizza from the trash after it was over, though. Score one for the dog. He loves him some pizza.

It was a really awesome party and I think Tanner and the girls had a great time, thanks to everyone who helped!


Clinic Day #36 — Ever So Slowly

July 1, 2010

We went into clinic this morning for counts. I was expecting, after three weeks of being on 50% oral chemo dosage, for her counts to be well up above 1,000… but… no. 900. 900? That’s it? That’s only gaining 100 neutraphils per week… pretty slow, but I guess at least it’s in the right direction.

There is a theory that after a long time on chemo, the body develops bone marrow fatigue. As if to say, “Why should I bother to make any new cells, you’re just going to kill them?” Seems realistic to me.

So, we’re not quite ready to dine out in a restaurant again, but we’re not hibernating either. We’ll take it.

Been busy swimming a lot, playing with Domino and having playdates. Tanner’s friend, Meredith, came over yesterday for a “slumbover”… that’s when you have a friend over in the afternoon and they stay for dinner, you put on your pajamas and watch movies and they go home at bedtime. They had a super time.

Tanner got her birthday present a little early today (her birthday is July 8th). She wanted a new bike and we gave it to her today so she could ride it in the 4th of July parade in Franklin on Sunday. She opened up the garage door to go out and ride her scooter and just screamed in delight when she saw it… I love that.

Please pray for our little friend, Madelynn and her family. Madelynn is four and lives in our neighborhood and has ALL. She has just started maintenance and is experiencing the roller coaster that is the first months of this stage as they try to find the right dosage to keep her counts stable. Maintenance is such a dance; we’re still doing it. But, those first few months are very unstable. We were actually supposed to have a cookout with Madelynn’s family and Lily’s family last weekend and, ironically, had to cancel because Madelynn was in the hospital with low counts and a fever. Thankfully, it turned out to be a pretty benign virus and she got to come home pretty quickly. But, her counts continue to stay very low. I ran into her Mom, Amy, walking in the neighborhood early the other morning. We talked briefly about how disappointing it is to start maintenance… it seems like it should be so great, but it’s actually pretty rocky. It’s just a tough pill to swallow when you’ve waited for those first awful six months to be over.


You Get What You Need

June 27, 2010

We thought we wanted a golden retriever… a goofy, playful, ball chasing, loveable family dog. But, as Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, once said on his show, “You don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need.” (I wish I could do the accent; it sounds better with the accent.)

Domino has turned out to be exactly what we needed. He isn’t actually all that playful; I think being kept outside by himself for the first couple of years of his life didn’t teach him much about playing. He doesn’t even seem to notice when a ball bounces by his head. But, he is silly, which is actually more amusing. He is unbelievably adorable and super soft. He doesn’t really play with the kids, but his is unflappable when they play. He is the first dog I have ever seen sniff a tambourine when a child was shaking it… seriously. He is unfailingly gentle, completely bombproof and always ready for loving in any form. The kids can lay on him, poke his feet, pull his ears… it’s all good with him… he takes it as love, which is how it’s actually meant.

John ruining the dog

So, he may not be what we thought we wanted, but he is exactly what we needed. And, we have had a ball with him this weekend. The kids are taking turns having him on their beds at night while reading books… he loves it. Jake put his blanket over himself and Domino today and they lay on the floor and watched TV together.

If you or anyone you know is looking for a dog, I can’t recommend the Death Row Dogs program enough. You can find it at The whole experience was wonderful, from meeting the inmates to getting our super dog. He is very well trained; he knows all his obedience commands and basic good manners, is house-trained and crate trained. He doesn’t jump on you, or rush at the door or chew stuff up; it’s been a wonderful way to get a dog. They get 25 dogs every three months and Domino was the 484th dog they have rescued from euthanization. People come from all over the country to get their dogs and we feel lucky to have found them. They had four dogs from Domino’s class that had not yet found a home, including a beautiful chocolate lab. Surely, someone we know needs a trained dog….

Too hot to do anything this week, but swim and maybe, go to the movies. We go back to the clinic on Thursday for a counts check and, hopefully, they’ll be up so we can get a little more freedom after that.

On a sad note, Ellie, the little girl I asked you to pray for last week, passed away the very next day after my post. I don’t know what else to say about that, except to say cancer sucks.


Yay for Domino Day

June 23, 2010

Domino in the car on the way home

Finally, he’s here. Domino. Staring at me as I write on the computer. Trying to get me to scratch his ears. He is, believe it or not, cuter in person. And, so gentle and laid back. The Dog Whisperer would not have approved of his introduction to our household. Four kids screaming and playing with loud toys, six adults, everyone swarming him at once, Jake hugging him and laying on his back. But, he took it all in stride. He’s just great.

I’ll write more tomorrow about our experience at the prison. It was really inspiring. But, right now, it has been a very long day and there is a spotty dog who will expect a long walk at 6 am, so I’m going to have to stop being such a night owl from now on.

Sorry we didn’t take better pictures. We didn’t get home until 4:30 with Domino and the kids were so excited. We had a small dog fight with the lab next door and then we, ever so briefly, lost our new dog. Jake left the door open and he slipped out. John and I cornered him one street over, but it was a close call. Whew! So, it was a little crazy and we hustled the kids off to bed while we gave Domino a little break in his crate and then realized we forgot to take pictures. Tanner had trouble sleeping and came down later and we snapped a shot of the two of them, so that’s really all we have. We’ll take better pics tomorrow and I’ll write about meeting the inmates that trained him. They did a good job.

The Happy Pages + a Spotty Dog