Saturday, June 25, 2011

About the Hair

"The hair is the richest ornament of women."--Martin Luther

Fifteen months have passed since I shut my eyes tight and gripped my mom's hand as hard as I could while my hair was shaven off my head in response to chemotherapy treatments. The intense sorrow I felt during that hour at the salon was matched only by the horror I felt when I finally worked up the courage to look at myself in the mirror later that night.

They say that time heals all wounds. I disagree, but I would compromise and acknowledge that time takes the sting out of most wounds. As much as I hated it, I learned to live without my hair. Life kept going on all around me, and I made the choice to participate as much as I was able.

But my already-fragile self-esteem was shattered by my cancer-induced baldness. All these months, I've put on a brave face and a good show, but every time I looked in the mirror, I saw ugly.

Now my hair is growing. I've had it cut a few times, and recently finally got it colored because I've found that blondes really do have more fun. I begged my hairdresser to find a way to fix the crazy, kinky curls into a silky straight mane, and you know what she said? "You should embrace the curls." Humph. Some advice.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. Turns out she knows what she's talking about. After two agonizing trips and quite a few dollars to the beauty supply store, I found out that all the products and flat irons in the world can't fix this. Trying to straighten this hair only makes me look like I'm wearing a huge mushroom on my head.

So I have curls. Lots and lots of very blonde curls. I've experimented with a few different things, but the bottom line is the same every. single. day. It's still ugly. I can't comb it down or tuck it behind my ears or put a clip in it or anything. I can't even manage to make it look like I meant to style my hair this way!

Since the boys have been out of school, I have been wig-free for the most part. They have gotten used to the new look, so I know it's time for me to go public with my hair. Tomorrow will be that day. I don't mean to dramatize it, but I have great anxiety about going to church without my wig. I feel vulnerable and exposed. It's hard to explain...I think I should feel victorious and joyful instead of scared.

I've often said I wouldn't trade my cancer journey for anything because I've learned so many valuable lessons along the way. But how I wish I could have taken this same journey with a full head of hair! But then again, what I've learned probably wouldn't have mattered nearly as much. Like knowing that life has very little to do with my hair and everything to do with my heart.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Real Mom Kind of Day

I've never pretended to be something I'm not on here, so I will preface everything I want to say with a confession: I am drinking a glass of wine right now and it is the best thing that's happened to me today.

That being said, let's talk about my day. The alarm went off this morning, and I turned it off and went back to sleep. Yes, I set my alarm during the summer. It's weird, but I like being up early so I can enjoy a cup of coffee and quiet time before the monsters children get up. So the day was already off to a rocky start when I went in the kitchen late and it was a disaster from each boy getting their own breakfast. Um, hello? We own this great contraption called a trash can. It would be fabulous if someone besides me would use it to clean up after themselves.

The novelty of summer never lasts long, and I think I can safely say it's over around here. I had barely had two sips of coffee--not nearly enough for me to be patient--when I was surrounded by "Stop it!" "He took that away from me!" "I was here first!" "MOOOOMMM!!!" I'm not even kidding that I let them watch TV/play Wii/use the laptop for most of the rest of the morning.

Electronic Time was interrupted only by requests for snacks and me defending my recent hurried grocery trip. No, we don't have any more Gripz crackers. No, I forgot to replace the pretzels. No, I did NOT buy Fruit Roll Ups. (Why do they like those things anyway? They are so gross.)

Then it was time for lunch. We had to eat early today so we would have plenty of time to get Little Middle to Lego camp with his best and oldest buddy. Everyone wanted chicken nuggets. Everyone agreed that microwaved chicken nuggets were preferred over waiting for me to bake them in the oven. I left one brother in charge of lunch while I went to work on my wretched mop o' chemo curls, which led to me closing my bathroom door so I could say an unholy word to my hair in the mirror. When I returned to the kitchen, the brother in charge had fixed himself a plate and was happily eating while the other two were practically begging for food. I unleashed my wrath on him and said some unkind and hurtful things to him...which goes against the family rules that I constantly remind the boys are so important. Ugh.

I can not speak of the car ride to and from Lego camp. It was too ugly and involved too much shouting.

After Lego camp, we headed to the pool. Goliath reminded me that I am under doctor's orders not to go in the pool until Saturday, but I didn't care. That doctor doesn't have to stay home with three kids all day.

All three of my boys know how to swim. Well, Baby is still learning, but he is plenty tall enough now to touch the pool bottom in most areas. So I can't figure out why they must hang on me, cling to me, grab my legs, jump on my back, etc. while we are in the water. They don't NEED me. And it's not like I don't play with them there! I sure don't sit in a lounge chair like a lot of other mothers and watch them from a distance. I'm right there with them wherever they go. They're not even close to drowning, so I wish they would LET GO.

Goliath had to go to jiu jitsu, which required me to make elaborate arrangements with my friend at the pool, another friend whose son is in the same class, and Hubby. Three kids isn't really that many, but there are times (like today) when it feels like too many! I managed to get Goliath there on time, only to arrive and remember that I still had to sign him in. I had to go into the studio in my swimsuit cover-up and my semi-wet mop 'o curls. Awesome.

I went back to the pool and swam with Baby and Little Middle a while longer. Before I knew it, it was close to 7:00 and there was no way I would have time to cook. Chick-Fil-A for everyone! Oops. A few small someones might have been too busy complaining that there wasn't enough of their particular favorite sauce(s) to say "Thanks, Mom, for picking up dinner for us. We really appreciate all you do." Or maybe they were just too busy spilling 2 (!!!) glasses of water all over the table, floor, and each other.

Enter more brotherly bickering, a few more raised voices, tears, one go-to-your-room-and-don't-come-out-until-tomorrow-morning, and one removal of Wii privileges. I am flying the white flag of mothering...I surrender.

They're great kids (usually). I'm not a bad mom (usually). Just today was not our best...theirs or mine.

Thanks, Lord, for letting me be their mom. Thank you that when I wake up on time tomorrow morning, your mercies will be fresh and new. And thank you for wine. Amen.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hunting Wabbits

What do you get if you give a little cowboy a small gun and plenty of wide open space?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Peace and Quiet

It's Saturday night. My little cowboys are in West Texas starting their summer off right with their grandparents. Hubby is watching the UFC fight at his brother's house. Abby Dog and I shared a Schlotzsky's sandwich and now we are catching up on my recorded DVR shows and enjoying the peace and quiet.

I deserve some peace and quiet, if you don't mind my saying so. We bought a new house and moved. Preschool ended and I watched my Baby graduate. I kept on dragging Goliath and Little Middle out of bed and to school every day, long after every other school district in Texas was done. I had a less-than-enjoyable doctor visit (I am fine.). Finally--FINALLY--Summer 2011 is here! I usually am not a fan of summer. It's way too hot and there is a little too much quality time with the kids. But this year, I am more than ready.

The last day of school was tough. Because of our move, the boys will attend a different elementary school next year. I have done everything possible to get them excited: We visited the school book fair and bought--what else?--Star Wars books. We took a tour of the campus and met the counselor and the principal. We admired the playground. But I know that none of those things make it easy for my sons to leave behind their friends and favorite teachers. There were tears in all of our eyes when we walked out of the doors of their school for the last time.

We celebrated the end of school by heading straight to the pool. The first swim of the season was great! It's already 100+ degrees here. You know what they say about Texas...we have four seasons here: Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer, and Christmas. Anyway, Baby was triumphant at the pool when I showed him that he is finally tall enough to touch the pool bottom in the lazy river, and that he is tall enough to go down one of the big slides. Victory! Now if we can just get him swimming confidently like his brothers...

We love, love, LOVE our new house. It is nearly twice as big as our old one. Each of the boys has their own bedroom, and they are really enjoying having their own space. I have a huge bathtub, a kitchen with two ceiling fans and more than enough cabinet space, and a laundry room that is an actual room. That hasn't endeared me more to the laundry chore, but it makes it a little easier to keep up! We have nice neighbors and fruit trees in the backyard. Our own little piece of paradise...aaahhh. Of course, no experience in this family is complete without some sort of mishap. We had lived here almost three weeks when our washing machine went berserk and we had a flood. The water in the laundry room was deep enough to cover the top of my foot when I was standing in it. Even worse, the Gain-smelling river ran straight into the hall where we have wood floors. I ran around town like a crazy person before I finally landed at Home Depot, where I rented a wet-vac and made friends with a sympathetic old man with chewing tobacco in his back pocket. With a little help from my good friend Momma Wolg, I managed to suck up the water, but not before it damaged the flooring. The silver lining: My feet smelled nice and felt super-soft from all that sloshing around.

Things have been pretty quiet here in CancerLand. Back in the spring, I went to M.D. Anderson in Houston. MDA has been on my radar for a while, but I haven't felt well enough to make the trip for quite some time. My reason for finally going was two-fold: One, I wanted/needed to get a second opinion about "what's next?" and two, MDA is renowned for their clinical trials and experimental drugs to treat cancer. Having been assured that cancer will forever be a threat, I want in on that action! I spent nearly a week there and during that time, I had every test and met with every specialist imaginable. At the end of the week, I was informed that without a doubt, cancer is not currently present in my body. I worked out a plan to return for scans and to remain under "surveillance" by the staff there. And, I asked about and gratefully accepted a prescription for a drug that I hope will keep cancer at bay for a while. The drug is an anti-estrogen--theoretically, the less estrogen that my body produces, the less chance there is that cancer cells will be able to feed and grow. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but it would be silly and irresponsible for me to not explore any and all options.

My news about MDA was not greeted with the enthusiasm I had hoped for by Dr. M here in Dallas. In spite of that, he will be performing yet another surgery on me next week to remove my chemo port. I can't say that I'm excited about surgery, but I will be thrilled to have that thing out of my body! Hopefully I won't need one ever again.

With the little boys out of town for a few days, I've had time to explore a new obsession: Pinterest. PandaMom gave me a few pointers, and I am well on my way to digital organization! It makes me feel all artsy and crafty, which I am NOT in real life. Still, it's nice to imagine that one day I might be able to bake a pink heart into the center of my plain-Jane cupcakes or make a wreath out of crayons for Teacher Appreciation week.

Every year I buy Little Middle a new pair of flip flops, and every year he wears them for just a few weeks before he breaks them. Every. Single. Year. When I went to his class party on the last day of school, he was barefoot because his shoe had broken. So I gave up and I bought him a more solid, pricier pair. If they don't last him the rest of the summer, he's just gonna have to wear tennis shoes. That might have sounded heartless when I said it out loud when pulling out of the store parking lot, but Baby assured me, "You're the best mommy we could ever have." Little Middle retorted, "Yeah, but that's 'cause she's the ONLY mommy we can ever have."

And on that note, I'm gonna go enjoy my peace and quiet. Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Boys In My House

There are boys in my house - and Spiderman shoes
And 200 papers in various blues.
There's Bob (he's a builder) and Thomas the Train,
There's a fireman coat to wear in the rain.
They have cars on their shirts and frogs on their hats
There's a glove and a ball and a red plastic bat.
There's dirt on a face and a smudge on a nose;
Grass stains on knees and sand between toes.
There's bathtime at night with bodies to scrub,
And when we're all done there is dirt in the tub!
There's bandaids and bruises and curious bumps,
There's smiles and laughter and sometimes there's grumps.
There's odors most icky; there's boogers so green
There's more yucky things than I'll ever get clean.
There's piles of laundry; there's stories at night;
There's bedtime and bathtime and dinnertime fights.
There's cars and there's trains and there's books about trucks
There's Scoop, Lofty, Dizzy, and Travis, and Muck.
Sometimes there are bugs, and sometimes there are frogs;
Sometimes they are lions, or dinos, or dogs.
There are cute little vests and darling neckties
Dragged right through the mud - oh what a surprise!
There's running and climbing and jumping and falling
And laughing and crying and hugging and brawling
And rolling and losing and finding and creeping
And whining and stealing and sometimes there's sleeping.
There's tantrums and time outs and extra loud noise -
There's love in my house shaped like three little boys.
--E.J. Kilmer