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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Downtown Doctors

A Cancer Post ™

We went downtown this week to do the chemo infusion, because Laston's oncologist (the one close to us) is on vacation. Some of the same nurses, much bigger infusion suite. A few interesting things.

Sometimes the steroids in the chemo trump the antihistamines, and Laston goes to bed at 10:30 PM, gets up at 1:30 in the morning for a snack, and doesn't go back to bed. He finally went at about 3:00 PM, slept for almost four hours, and is just now getting back up for a few hours before going to bed properly for the night.

This week's food craving is apparently a Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger. It seemed to hit the spot.

On the Taking Care of Oneself front, I had completely forgotten about my own flu shot. But with an immune-compromised spouse, my own chronic asthma (and a stagnant air warning through Monday), it's in my interest and Laston's to get one sooner rather than later.

So that's what I did today, got my flu shot, took the kids' thank-you notes for Christmas gifts to my workplace and Laston's old one, took Abby on a girls' afternoon out (Leanna's with her mom and Lizzy's with Grandma), and then we came home and watched the series nine end of Doctor Who (except the Christmas Special, which we plan to watch this weekend). Now we're watching Leverage episodes, interspersed with tidying up and folding laundry and so forth.

It's a good time.


Monday, December 28, 2015

First World Problems

Not a Cancer Post ™

It started with a missing remote control.

They go missing on a regular basis around here, but it wasn't in any of the usual places where Lizzy someone forgets it when she someone absentmindedly moves it from its accustomed place on the side table by the couch.

This is at least in part because the side table is currently across the room from its usual spot, under a small Christmas tree. And the (slightly wobbly) little decorative rack that is normally in that space is where the side table generally lives.

Got that?

Because it's heavily involved in the next part of this story.

In the mad search for the remote (because we must watch the last episode of series nine of Doctor Who (not including the Christmas special, which we plan on watching later this week with my mom, so no spoilers please) and the season finale of The Librarians), we dropped the couch (more on the couch later), and knocked it into the little stand (and dropped it on my foot; there is no permanent damage).

That's when I lost it and ranted all over poor Abby for leaving a small glass bowl on the stand, which naturally hit the floor and shattered. Toes are throbbing (just bruised, don't worry) and I'm hauling out the vacuum to clear up broken glass, as well as ranting about Abby leaving her stuff everywhere and why the aitch ee double hockey sticks are there still things out from Christmas!? (Yeah, it was three days ago. This was not my best moment today).

We never did find the remote, so we changed the input and the volume manually, and we're watching things on Netflix instead of Comcast for tonight. We'll look for the remote tomorrow.

Oh, the couch? Yes, we bought it when we moved in. Two years ago. From a Reclinerland that was going out of business, which was apparently not our best move, because it started breaking down almost immediately. So the remote may still be in here somewhere... we won't know for a while.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Holly Jolly Christmas

Abby gets Real Manga
Art Supplies
Leanna's only wanted
this book and the
others she got
for AGES
Not a Cancer Post ™

It's kind of cool how well the kids chose things for one another. Abby and Lizzy got Leanna a shirt off her wish list. Leanna got Lizzy and Abby each a cool little toy like a mini-furby (they talk to one another, and are the origin of this post). Abby got Lizzy a cool set of fifteen Roald Dahl books (a Costco special).

Speaking of Costco, my mom renewed our Costco membership. Now that's a gift an adult can get behind.

But man, between gifts from coworkers and friends and family, and employee discounts here and there, a Christmas dinner with few calamities (one spill and one cough-induced vomit) and lots of great stuff (my sister's apple cake is to die for, and I had forgotten how much I adored the mushroom rice of long ago. Balsamic reduction-drizzled squash is no hardship either, and my cousin makes a lovely spinach salad with pear and cranberries and onions). Anyway (I digressed there for a bit), this has been a super Christmas, in spite of the C Word.

Daddy's Little Scientist
The Force appears to be with him
It's been lovely. The big girls are now all snuggled at their respective other parents' houses. Thank you so much, everyone. You have all really saved the holiday at our place. And now I am going to sleep off my food coma while Lizzy plays with her new Kinex dollhouse and Laston hangs out online.

After I post a few pictures. Because nothing says Christmas like excited children.

And adults.





Monday, December 21, 2015

Gratitude

Only peripherally a Cancer Post ™

 Peripherally in that this bastard of a thing called cancer has apparently been a catalyst for a lot of the spirit of giving and love and so forth. I mean, I've pointed out some of these things before, but tonight as I contemplate our little tree, I'm kind of seeing it all at once.

And I thank you all for it.

You know who you are.

So here's the thing: with Laston being sick and me being the primary breadwinner at the moment, I was pretty sure we would not have a lot of cash for things like Christmas presents. When it comes to asking for help for me (and Laston) I have a lot of angst; I don't like feeling like I'm not pulling my weight. But when the kids are potentially affected, I have no shame and all bets are off.

I signed them up for the Giving Tree at my work, wherein you can put your child's age and interests down and someone chooses a little gift (or gift card) anonymously and donates it to them. So we got some of those for the girls, all three of them. Add to that the gift card I mentioned in my last post (a bunch of my coworkers got me a gift card for Taking Care of Jenn so She Can Take Care of Her Family - also known as "fastening one's own air mask before tending to the child"), and the huge amounts of gifties given to our kids from Laston's work (told you they love him and would not have laid him off if it hadn't been for budget issues), and they just might have even more gifts than usual rather than less. And that doesn't even include the usual round of things from extended family and friends.

So I feel blessed and loved and most of all reassured that no matter what I hear on the news, not everyone out there is a raging nutjob. Lots of them have solid cores of decency and kindness, and for that I applaud them.

Update: Laston's old boss thinks he looks great, considering. Laston himself is generally doing well on the chemo, though tired much of the time. Most of his pain is gone most of the time.

In general, cancer or not, life's pretty okay!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Good News and the Kindness of Friends


A Cancer Post ™ (and some Not a Cancer Post ™)

So yes, we had heard last week that the tumors were somewhat smaller than before, in spite of the markers. I told you then that I would let you know the details when we knew them.

Now we do.

One of the tumors in Laston's liver is just over half the size it was four treatments ago, and the others have shrunk somewhat, though not as much. This is a big deal. And if he has food cravings and upset stomachs and all sorts of gastrointestinal discomfort as a result of the chemo, well... they're better than the alternative!

-+-+-+-+-

I am reminded of an entertaining, though not really connected, remark from Abby (now 13 if you can believe it) today. She said, "So in science class, we did some roleplaying. I was a kidney. It's my job to collect nutrients and hand my waste cards to the boy playing Urination."

Indeed.

-+-+-+-+-+-

The kindness of friends - especially when one does not expect it - is kind of amazing. Several of my coworkers clubbed together to get me a gift card for some pampering. A friend of my parents' whom I have not seen (except for Facebook) in decades is sending me a copy of his latest book as a Christmas gift.

And then there is this: a mutual friend of mine and Laston's over on G+ came to us last week with a suggestion: Laston has written plenty of  short science fiction stories; why not sell some of them on the Internet to help defray cancer care costs?

CLICK HERE for STORIES!!!
You know, it hadn't actually occurred to us. You see, Laston's been feeling less than creative (or energetic)  here lately so the concept of writing new fiction and marketing it and all that just seemed like too much work. This friend pointed out that not only is there plenty already written, there is a place online where you can sell them, and he'll be happy to help administer same.

Wow.

So, my friends, I give you Laston's page on Lulu.com (click either link to download a PDF or ten). They run from $1.99 for a single story to $9.99 for a collection of nine stories. And there may be more up once we get them formatted properly, so check back.

How cool is that? I mean, it's not like the man who came up with the idea is someone we've ever met offline; he's just a decent guy we know from online forums (fora?) who came up with a creative way to help. Kudos to him.

-+-+-+-+-+-+-

Also, Abby?

THIRTEEN

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cancer Sucks (But Slightly Smaller Now)


Cancer Post ™

Last week there was a certain amount of worry (over and above the usual worry in my family because cancer). This was because a blood test three or four chemo treatments in showed little to no change in the markers that shout HEY, TUMOR OVER HERE!!!

So they scheduled a CAT scan for Monday, and Laston went and did it, and today we got the preliminary results.

They are very good.

The markers may not show it, but the tumors in Laston's liver are shrinking (the side effects of the chemo are better left unsaid. Suffice it to say that they are very uncomfortable, jokes about pregnant women notwithstanding). And a manager at my work says that in his experience, the markers in most Things Medical are an iffy measure at best, because they go by percentages, the way that side effects do.

Have you ever had a doctor (I have trouble not capitalizing that word, thanks BBC America) write off something you are definitely feeling as a side effect because it's not on the list of side effects? Just because you are the only one appearing in the written records, doesn't mean it's not a side effect. We are not identical machines, after all; human beings vary, as do their reactions.

In any case, that's a long way of saying that just because the markers don't show it, doesn't mean other tests won't. That's why we ask for second opinions, is it not? Too many variables for a one-size-fits-all solution.

But mostly?

LIVER TUMORS ARE SMALLER!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dandelions

Yes, this is a Cancer Post. You can tell by the blue ribbon.

Not that Blue Ribbon; since the cancer is question is liver cancer, that blue ribbon is a Bad Idea.

Anyway, Laston himself brought THIS ARTICLE to my attention, and guys... this totally rocks it. It explains the concepts involved in cancer and chemotherapy and other treatments, and in ways that a literal-minded eight-year-old groks completely.

A random newbie on facebook shared our GoFundMe link because I was kind to her (she just wanted a friend in the Great Couturier game, and given her skill with the game and her facebook profile picture, I'd say she's played the off-facebook version for a long time). Anyway, she shared the link, which induced other people to share the link. Boost my signal all you like, ladies and gentlemen; I appreciate it.

This is also an other-than-cancer post, because life.

Abby has the first show of four of her school play tonight; it's Game of Tiaras, and if I understand the blurb in the front of her script, it's King Lear as done by Disney Princesses, with the body count of Game of Thrones. This is not what I thought we were talking about when they said "adolescent drama."

Lizzy is at home with Daddy tonight (because Game of Tiaras is rated Doctor Who, not Sarah Jane). She has promised to do her homework without fussing at her dad.

And now I've got to get my actress to her role as Peasant Number Two.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Wild Week...

...and it's only Monday.

But really, because last week was a holiday, it always makes me feel like the week starts on Saturday, so by that POV, it's Wednesday night!

So Thursday we did the usual sort of Thanksgiving-y things with the family. Laston's on the wagon for obvious reasons, so I had a couple drinks, which I rarely do. And of course we all ate ridiculous amounts of food, because Thanksgiving. It is a harvest celebration after all. That's just how it works. Even Laston ate a ton, and he hasn't had a lot of appetite. More on that later.

Lizzy (all eight years of her) told me she made the sweet potato pie. I was skeptical, assuming that she had helped my mom, but no, actually Mom tells me Lizzy really did do most of it; she found the recipe and mixed and all that. Mom bought the ingredients, ran the oven (Lizzy is only eight), and supervised.

That's kind of amazing.

I was really pleased with this pic I managed of the two of them just before we left the house on Thanksgiving. I think it's quite indicative of their respective personalities; the fresh-faced Abby smiling for the camera and trying to accommodate her sister's shorter height, and Lizzy's little sidewise smirk that makes you wonder what's going on in her brain.

A much better pic (and one I'm told should be used in Christmas cards, which I would do if I sent Christmas cards, which I do not. Consider this post an early Christmas card. It's okay, because Thanksgiving is over) is this one, taken after the first (of three!!) shows they did at Studio East on Saturday. That they do this again on the 6th, 13th, and 19th (and Cast B does it the alternate weekend days) at three shows a day... well, that's pretty dang amazing too. I can't even imagine how exhausted the adults who do this five days a week plus weekend performances must be.

Of course, with all the dancing, I imagine they're in a lot better shape than I am anyway. As evidenced by the asthma attack I had at work when they started tweaking the new HVAC system (I think that's what the saws and hammering sounds was about). And I was just sitting at my desk.

Amusing story from today: I had a customer who mentioned he has cancer (why it's imperative that his phone worked reliably), and I expressed my sympathy and said my husband does too. This customer went on to say that the chemo itself was not the most annoying part; it was more the "feeling like a pregnant lady."

That's when I started laughing.

Because in the last month, Laston has manifested the following symptoms commonly associated with pregnancy: early morning nausea, severe fatigue, intestinal upset (duh, it's colon cancer), and food cravings. It was beets for a while (they're good for liver function and the body knows), then all fall root veggies, clams (iron, probably, and maybe iodine), and this last one was black licorice.

With all the stops at the store, I suspect I have evened out the score from the Eternal Quest for Otter Pops in Early Spring I sent him on while pregnant with Lizzy nearly nine years ago.

He's doing pretty well as far as we know on the chemo (he goes in for a treatment on Tuesday and we will see what the tests are showing; it's time for them to take a look at how he is responding and adjust accordingly.

And if that goes well, all we need is for him to get a good job, or a Christmas Miracle, whichever comes first.





Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Other Side of Thanksgiving

I find myself disturbed by this holiday in a way I wasn't before. Possibly it's all those classes for the Intercultural Communications degree. Maybe it's the sheer number of friends of various cultures I have and therefore my recent comprehension of history being written by the victors (I understood it intellectually before but I did not really grok). Possibly it's all the culture clash going on in the world just now.

Most likely it's all three, with a side of public schools' and private preschools' take on the topic.

Abby (in seventh grade) says that they learned about how the Natives helped out and then the Pilgrims gave them diseases and things (I imagine this was in fourth or fifth grade; out here in Salish country the public school does a lot of Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea and Oregon Trail stuff. They try to be fair).

Lizzy, four years ago.
Miz Liz has learned that Native Americans got sick from Pilgrims and that the Pilgrims took over the Natives' lands. She got this from bits and pieces from preschool and the Magic Treehouse series of books.

You'll notice if you click that link that the negative side of Thanksgiving was not discussed back then, but Lizzy has picked it up anyway. This could be from friends and family (Abby was very vocal  on the topic during that fourth-grade year). And it could be from preschool things done at a time other than November; it was a very good preschool.

I tend to celebrate Thanksgiving in the same secular spirit (yes, I know it's an oxymoron) as I do Halloween or Christmas or Easter. To me it's a harvest festival, no more and no less.

Am I thankful? Certainly, and for several reasons. Not the least of which is having been born in a place that at its best tries to be fair... though it fails more often than not.

But that doesn't mean I'm not aware of the unwilling sacrifices made.




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Not So Black Friday!

Also, Not a Cancer Post!™

I thought that as a service to the country of the United States of America, I'd throw some homegrown products at the Internet at see what sticks. The listings below are from some of my favorite people, and I'm happy to offer them up for your approval (with their approval):

MiniatureMonkeyCreations is the brainchild and hard work of my friend Ann. Lots of these are super cute, but I think the owl and the elephant and the dreidel are especially darling. My favorite, however, are these Crocheted Holiday Lights. How cute are they?

For those of you in Seattle (or who miss Seattle while living elsewhere, or who just love the colors blue and green), we bring you Sharon's Seahawks Prayer Candles. Because honestly, around here Seahawks is a religion. Our state religion, mandated by the Twelfth Man, and reinforced by random shopkeepers and school districts. And Sharon and her fun little prayer candles.

Pris has been my friend for... well, I've lost track. It was before Abby was born though, which means at least thirteen years, and probably closer to fifteen or sixteen. Or even more. She makes some lovely jewelry over at the Prairie Parlor, and she can work on commission too.

So, ladies and gents, there you have it! A pretty and fun selection of holiday goodies. And you don't have to brave the (often evil) holiday shopping crowds!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thankful

No, I am not thankful for cancer. That would be stupid.

But given its presence in our lives, there are many things I am thankful for. Things petty and things portentous. Personal, professional, and political things.

I am thankful that...

...Laston is responding to treatment.

...People have respected our wishes to keep their mouths shut on the topic of alternative therapies (although many have suggested some in addition to chemo, and I'm thankful for that, too).

...The kids have adults, both family and friends (and teachers, and school counselors, and drama coaches, and stage managers, and Girl Scout leaders, and... you get the picture) to support them if they need to talk or whatever, with someone who's not intimately involved with the family crisis.

...We have decent medical insurance including five paid counseling sessions; although it's still expensive out of pocket, at least it's not insurmountable. And that my union was instrumental in that (thanks, CWA!). And that my boss, and her boss, and her boss are not shy about saying heck, yeah, use the counseling! Just do it! (and no, I don't work for Nike)

...FMLA exists.

...The people in my life seem to understand that I am a tiny bit touchier than usual due to stress. Most of them, anyway.

...My counselor rocks... and he thinks I pretty much rock too.

...I finally finished this damn 750 749-piece puzzle.

...My employer doesn't mind me doing puzzles between calls.

...I live in a state where compassion for people in need trumps race and religion and unreasoning fear... and even our governor says so.

...Our local school district is one of the best and most diverse in the state.

...Intermittent windshield wipers are a thing.

...My workplace honestly does not care about race, religion, gender identity, or a host of other things that the world at large seems to think are huge big deals. As long as you can get there on time, do the job, follow the rules, and show general human decency, you could be a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater and that would be okay with them (well, maybe not the people-eating; there's that basic human decency thing).

...That friends and family and bare acquaintances just kind of want to help. And they're all so nice about it.

Anyway, yeah, much of life sucks right now; the usual household worries are magnified a bazillion-fold.

But we still do have a lot to be thankful for.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Little Children Understand

I can say that with a fair bit of accuracy, just from what I've seen tonight.

In the elementary school gym, right under an enormous sign that says, "I WILL NOT BULLY AND I WILL NOT ALLOW BULLYING," there was a Culture Faire. Booths were set up with fun facts (and food samples!) from some of the various countries represented by children in our school. There are children there from all over the U.S., as well as Italy, Mexico, Japan, Korea, India, Bangladesh, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Brazil, and Canada.

And those are just the ones with booths representing them.

The Primary Grades Choir (why we were there; Lizzy is in the PGC) sang three songs - from different countries - and then one of the older kids' groups did three more. From three more different countries. Then there was piped in music for the kids to dance and play to, with everything from tribal chants to Gangnam Style, while we learned about the cultures and tried their food and toys and crafts (like origami from Japan and tortilla making from Mexico and henna tattoos from India) and they got out the dress-up chest with a lot of different hats for the kids to try on and take pix in front of the world map.

And these kids get it.

Lizzy is eight, and is more the book-learning and madcap-dashing-about type than the social one (the social one would be Abby). But during the course of the hour and a half we were there, I saw her playing or chatting with a girl from  China, a girl from Bangladesh, a couple of Mexican kids she knows, and the girl whose mom was in charge of the Italy booth.

That last may have had more to do with the presence of Nutella, but it still counts.

If I had had my camera ready, at the time, I could have gotten that lovely shot of a little girl in a kimono dancing to Gangnam Style with the child in full-on Bangladeshi costume, and a small boy in Indian clothes darting in and out between them..

It was marvelous.

And if a bunch of five- to twelve-year-olds can get along that well, and their parents and teachers can, why can't the rest?

Multiculturalism is a Good Thing.

I wish more (adult) people understood that.

 Because really?

We could all learn a little something from the kids.

Don't you think?



Monday, November 16, 2015

Distress

This is it, folks, the long haul. We are in it.

I wrote last week about how counseling is helping me, and it is.

But I still find myself stressed to the max, as we used to say (back in my day, sonny). Some of these stressors are large and some are so small as to be petty annoyances. And some are actually really sweet but also sad. And when every little thing sets you off (a couple weeks ago I kind of lost it when a bag of potato chips got stuck in the vending machine) because of stress or adrenaline or whatever, the big ones can bring you (figuratively in my case) to your knees.

I felt as badly as anyone else when I heard about the Paris terrorist attacks. And then came the realization - and the guilt - that I didn't really notice all this shit going on until it was a city I know, if only by reputation and in fiction. And then to understand that some of my own people - that is to say, Americans - are sure that refugees will have terrorists among them (some even assume any "different" person is a terrorist; how the hell do these people justify Bobby Jindal?) and are refusing to help them? I don't know why I'm surprised that there is a certain faction of people like this; goodness knows we've seen it often enough, with people wanting literal walls up and down the Rio Grande.

So I feel guilty, that issues in Lebanon and Syria and others made no real impression on me other than the gee-that's-too-bad sort of way when I hear things in passing. And the added guilt that the illness of one man (hi, honey!), along with everything else going on here locally with (lack of) jobs on Laston's part, and kids and the like, tends to make me ignore such things as refugees pouring out of the Middle East until the media slaps me in the face with it.

Aside: Please, please don't turn the posts replying to this into a political discussion of whether we should let Syrian refugees into the US; I'll delete them if I have to, because I am just not in the fucking mood.

Even my own run-on and/or incomplete sentences are making me crazy at the moment. Not to mention my foul-mouthed (foul-fingered?) typing. But really. Just don't. Please.

I can manage to hold it together when needed though. Lizzy had a meltdown tonight because the rub-on tattoo that was the last thing she got from her first-grade teacher at the end of the school year didn't last when she put it on her tummy (she pulled her shirt back down before it was dry). When you are eight and your life is in a bit of upheaval, these things are important. So I did not melt down with her; instead I helped her write an email to said teacher.

But I did tear up when I came home to the laundry all folded. Laston may not be entirely sure which clothes belong to whom (partly because Lizzy wears a Girls' Medium and Abby wears a Ladies' Medium), but he folded them and stacked them in neat little piles and now I'm misting up again because it was so unexpected.

Also, I cried when Bindi Irwin did a retrospective thing about her dad on Dancing With the Stars tonight.

I'm not the only one having the over-sensitivity issue either. Laston needs a ride to chemo tomorrow, so he sent my mom a text that started with "Cheryl, I need you..."

That was all she saw on the popup that happens when you get a new SMS. And she panicked, just a little, wondering why he needed her, and where the hell I was, and what if we all needed her, in the 1.2 seconds it took to open the text.

Like you do when you're a mom.

And having written all this out, I feel better. Which is the point.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Counseling, New Normal, and Work (oh my)

Not this Oh My.

And it's not really work as such. Work is fine. I love my job, my company, and my union.

It more the lack of work for Laston, because his waking schedule is so wonky while on chemotherapy. (Dear prospective employers, he's on my medical insurance; he's a good employment risk. Take my husband, please).

So here's the thing. He's on unemployment, he wants to work, and he even feels up to it most of the time. But every other Tuesday he has to be out for chemo treatments, the Wednesday and Thursday following he's generally okay (except that he has to have the pump thing removed on the Thursday), and then he passes out from sheer chemo-induced fatigue at unpredictable intervals for the next three days.

If he forces himself to stay awake and interact with people for more than one of those three days, he feels like crap on the Monday following.

As an example, last chemo week he was fine (albeit unable to drive) during and after the chemo, fine Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (with a nap on Friday and much time with the kids). He interacted with all three kids and took Leanna to his makerspace on Saturday (also fine), and had a friend and the friend's toddler over on Sunday (best friends ever; brought him homemade candied ginger and ginger syrup, and provided the gift I spoke of here).

Each of these activities is fine. All these activities in one weekend made Laston feel like he'd been  run over by a truck all day Monday.

So what he really needs is a job where he can interact with people Monday - Monday one week, take a day off for chemo, work part time for two days, then have three days off to rest. Or work from home on his own schedule, with occasional forays into the outside world to have people time, because although he is an introvert in many ways, he also finds himself to be depressed without human interaction, given his illness.

Anyone have a (legitimate only, please) work-from-home or own-schedule job? He's got major skills in ticket triage, high-end troubleshooting, telecommunications NOC, and technical writing. He's also qualified as a K-12 teacher and he can write a decent novella or an excellent short story, but the former is seriously germ-ridden and the latter has proven to be a) less than lucrative and b) difficult to do whilst depressed and lacking inspiration.

All right, that takes care of the Work and New Normal topics; let's tackle the counseling.

I was in counseling as a teen, due to family issues that manifested themselves in school issues, and I had forgotten how nice it is to just talk out the day to day crap with someone who a) is in your corner, b) has no skin in your game, and c) has the education to make suggestions that might help you. My counselor is not a psychiatrist and so can't prescribe, but he is free to mention things like half a benadryl to turn off the what-ifs long enough for me to sleep at night without making me so drowsy as to be non-functional the next day.

That worked really well, and I'm happy to report that it does not affect larger doses of benadryl and their effect on me; dammit, those quesadillas and that ice cream? They were worth the allergic response. And the sleepiness this morning because of the full dose of benadryl.

And let's face it, my day-to-day stress/worry/fretting needs hashing out with someone sympathetic but not necessarily a friend or family member. At least at the moment. I mean, I overeat as it is, and I don't sleep (or didn't before the half-benadryl) and that was before the New Normal. Some of this has its roots in issues experienced long before I even met Laston. Like decades before. And no, Dr Freud, it's not my mother (at least not primarily, right, Mom?).

In any case, there's a lot of relief to be had in talking to someone who understands but can remain objective-yet-caring.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Competence

I haven't felt very competent lately, for obvious reasons. When a situation is completely out of your control - or anyone's - competence is pretty far down the list.

It helped last week when the counselor told me I was doing my most important job - parenting - well. Although that feeling was mitigated somewhat by Miz Liz having a really rough week at school. She's more affected by what's going on around here than she lets on. Or maybe more than she can articulate. But we worked it out with her teacher, by adjusting bedtime and the like. A rested child is a happy child.

And then today? Today I did something I've never done before, and I did it well.

I changed a headlight on my car.

Now, this may not seem like a big deal. But let's just say that my mechanical skill is pretty much limited to hanging pictures on the wall, and even then I tend to have to tweak the positioning.

But I did it, allbymyownself. I went to the store and used the little computer to determine which light I needed (that's more my thing; I'm more of a software kinda gall). I popped my hood, turned the little gasket, pulled out the old bulb, popped in the new one, turned the gasket the other way, and did what we in tech support call Testing the Resolution (yeah, turned on the headlights).

So I feel competent today.

And it feels damn good.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Coping

CAUTION: Major overuse of the word "coping" in this post. Links to everydamnthing. You have been warned.

Everyone asks how we're coping, and I don't usually know how to answer. So I will attempt it here. In descending order by age.

Laston seems to be coping pretty well; the scientific aspect has taken over to some extent, and medical SCIENCE (yes, it must be all caps) is interesting. The fact that he has his own USB port is part of this, as well as cataloging his symptoms (sometimes at length and out loud) and then categorizing them. Is it a cancer symptom or a chemo side effect? How does he feel, what does the doctor say, and (this is the bad one) how does the Internet feel about it? Inquiring minds...

It doesn't feel like I'm coping (mostly because I can't sleep, which makes me short on patience and weepy), but the counselor assures me that I am coping, and pretty well at that. He's a professional, so that makes me feel better. I told him that the biggest issues for me were fatigue and stress eating (because no Laston-job, cancer, the little things that make life a pain in the ass), and we're going to talk about that more next week and come up with some coping mechanisms that are healthier than those two.

But in the meantime, it's nice to know that a) insomnia due to what-if-scenario mind-racing is normal, especially in someone who is prone to this under the best of circumstances (he called it "hypervigilance," which sounds very Mad-Eye Moody to me), and b) part of the problem is that I am good in a crisis until the crisis is over, at which point I fall apart. This crisis is long term, and therefore I'm in constant crisis mode. Adrenaline keeps going.

I don't really know how Leanna is coping; she seems to be okay on the rare occasions when I see her, but she hasn't been here much. Part of this is fifteen-ness (that's about when I started having too much to do to make it to my dad's every other weekend, and also Abby is super busy and Leanna doesn't really like to come for the weekend if Abby's not here to hang out with). Part of it is likely a bit of denial; she's not here all the time like the other kids so she doesn't see the day-to-day of the illness. EDIT: She's here tonight and seems pretty okay, actually.

Abby seems okay for the most part, although her fledgling organizational skills (she took a class last school year) are kind of in abeyance at the moment. I don't know how much of this is nearly-thirteen and how much is worry for Laston, but I've lost track of how many times in the past few weeks there has been a frantic search for whatever object, only to find it in the car. Glasses, cell phone, homework, script, whatever.

Lizzy is even harder to suss out. She's her father's daughter and interested in the SCIENCE aspect ("see, mom, white blood cells are really yellow, and remember how you and the Magic Schoolbus told me they're the ones that fight disease, and you said they get killed by the chemo-medicine like the bad cells do? And that's why daddy is so tired and can get sick easily."). She is also her mother's daughter and tends to escape into books and/or whining about how hard the tasks she does not enjoy are. Again, might be worry, might be age. EDIT: She's having trouble in school this week; her teacher says several of them had rough weeks though, so it's possible some of this is Fall Back Fall Out as well.

But the counselor's statement that we (and this includes my mom) are doing an excellent job of keeping the kids in the loop at an age-appropriate level (while not scaring them), that helped, and helped a lot.

So did getting gifts from friends, offers of help, etc. Now all we need is the cure for cancer, a day at the spa, and to win the lottery. Failing that, continued response to treatment, a good massage, and a job* for Laston that will take his current limitations and run with them. Then we'll be good.

*on that note, how many of you would buy F*ck Cancer or Cancer Sucks (or equivalent) figurines made by 3D printer?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Two Weeks Down (and Fifty to Go)

We hadn't realized that chemo would last a year of every-other-week infusions.

The silver lining - because I always have to find one - is that because this is a very regular schedule, and Laston feels pretty good between treatments except for the three days of hitting a wall of fatigue, he can probably find work.

Wednesday he plans to call the unemployment people (because he applied online but he's not sure it worked). Hopefully that will help with the income bits. It really needs to, because we got the first of the medical bills. It's not huge in and of itself, but it's the first of, well, a year's worth. Eeek. Scary.

Scary like our Halloween wasn't. We were concerned that it might be too much for him, but he did just fine. Started to fade around nine, but that wasn't unreasonable, especially as the kids had gone trick-or-treating and come back already.

They made out like bandits. With the no-nuts for Abby and the no-chewy for Lizzy, I took about a third of their candy to work. And Lizzy still knocks one off the top of the bowl every time she gets one; there's that much. This may be because it was pouring and a number of our neighbors probably thought what the heck, no-one else it coming tonight; take the lot.

And the generosity we're experiencing is amazing. Even aside from the ones I've described in previous posts, there have been some lovely gestures, a few even from strangers. A friend of mine from all the way back in high school - that's over thirty years, folks - got Laston (whom he has never met) a shirt from the cancer care wish list. A friend of a parent of a friend of the family gave a GoFundMe donation out of the blue. Another friend has offered to donate what we planned to get Lizzy as a Christmas present.

No, I'm not going to tell you what that is. Sorry. But I'll give you a hint; it has to do with her absolute obsession with reading...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

New Normal Meets a Holiday

We've discussed the New Normal, and today it gets put to the test.

You see, today is Halloween - always a family favorite in an extremely secular, cosplay and candy sort of way. There are the usual issues - no nuts for Abby, no chewy for Lizzy - and in addition, the New Normal issues, like hand sanitizer for all guests.

Because in spite of the germs, we're trying to keep things as normal as possible around here (hence school activities and drama classes) and Laston wants the usual suspects for Halloween. We have some of them; a few are not celebrating this year, a few more already had plans. But we have at least a couple of the usual kids, and some parents, and some unassociated grownups to help herd, since Abby's dad is not here this year (why drive for an hour for the priviledge of walking for an hour in the rain?) and Laston's not up to taking them around either (he's taking a nap at the moment, tired man).

Proud of the kids too, because we're kind of strapped for cash what with Laston's last day of his contract being this last week. Abby's dad bought her a few costume-y pieces (and between that and her newly developed makeup skills - thank you Studio East - she has made a seriously creepy Broken Doll costume), and Lizzy's happily dressing in street clothes... that My Little Pony hoodie she got for her birthday, plus pink and purple bottoms and a tiny witch's hat for Twilight Sparkle's alicorn horn.

See what I mean? Abby was not allowed to wear the mask - or carry the toy bloody knife - at school,and Lizzy's group didn't dress up at all. But again, her costume consists of street clothes; she just didn't wear the horn. And they went trick-or-treating in my nice dry work building yesterday (which is good, as Lizzy is still getting over the cold that sent us to the E.R. last week; at least her costume is warm).

Still and all, friends over, food, drink (not that kind; liver cancer plus alcohol is A Bad Thing), trick or treating for the hardier (and younger) types. And Laston in his Breaking Bad hat and probably one of his myriad SCIENCE t-shirts as a cancer survivor / mad scientist. Me? I probably won't bother; I'll just dress in black with the bat clips in my hair as I did yesterday while taking Liz Twilight Sparkle and Abbs Broken China Doll around my workplace.

But it should be fun.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Oof - I Already Need a Break

I'm wiped out, and I'm not the one in chemotherapy.

However, I am the one keeping the household going, with as much help from Laston as he can manage, a fair bit from Abby, a little bit from Lizzy (more on that that later), and tons and tons of help from my mom.

And from my friends; not only have some of them gotten us things from our cancer care wish list (see link to the right) or cash to our GoFundMe (ditto), but some have gone above and beyond, in some pretty big ways.

My friend Aileen is now an emergency contact for both little girls, and has offered myriad times to do other stuff for us. Not to mention quite a lot of propping up my ego she has done here lately. Some of my friends at work have been super supportive, doing everything from feeding me to getting me in contact with the mental health group for my five free counseling sessions (and for that matter, my labor union for getting those sessions in the contract!). You guys have been so very helpful and kind, and encouraging that I can in fact hold it together. I don't know what I'd do without you.

Extra special mention goes to my friend and neighbor (and baker) Carrie, who came by today while we were at work, and cleaned a ton of our living spaces. Those of you who haven't seen my place don't really know what a herculean task this is, and she not only did it by herself, she did it while towing her preschooler around with her. All surfaces and floors in our living areas are now clean, and that's huge.

And now, back to Mom (and Lizzy, as mentioned above). You see, Lizzy is eight, and like most children her age, prone to catching various bugs that go around the school / Brownie troop / wherever. Normally not a big deal, even with a fever, and (I was gratified to find out) she's far ahead in reading, moderately ahead in math, and right on track with everything else at school, so not too many worries about missing it.

But right now - New Normal Time - any high fever (hers was 103F) is cause for alarm, because her father is severely immuno-compromised. So off to the E.R we went. Where they said she had a "childhood upper respiratory virus" (read: "severe head cold"), and is contagious.

That's a big problem.

So we had face masks and fever reducers and juice for a few days. She stayed with mom instead of school. All day. She's going back to school tomorrow, but in the meantime I wanted to curl up and cry, because what the hell, add it to the pile.

I think I need a vacation.

It's just not in the cards right now, for obvious reasons. Even a day at the spa could be tricky to manage, financially if not temporally.

But there are five free sessions with a counselor... and I intend to take advantage of that.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The New Normal...

...is a pain in the ass.

It's not so much the cancer itself, nor the chemotherapy.

Mostly it's the severe exhaustion Laston feels after the chemotherapy, although he did manage to stay up most of today. Which is a definite improvement over yesterday (eight hours in two chunks) and the day before (Friday, when he was able to be upright from 7-10:30, and again from 1:30-3).

And the fact that Lizzy is in school choir and in a Studio East production ('Twas the Night, in which she plays a Toy and a Sugarplum), and Abby is in school choir, school play (Peasant Number Two), and two Studio East productions (Honk! (Mother Swan and assorted other waterfowl) is not yet over but 'Twas... (Caroler) rehearsals have begun). Honk! is pretty great though, and she's making lots of friends and learning a lot more about her chosen craft and also (maybe) going to audition for something that isn't a musical.

This in addition to normal school year stuff, Laston's illness and his layoff, and the holidays coming up is exhausting for everyone (though the kids'll never admit it). Keeping life as normal as possible for the kids is tiring.

If it weren't for my mom we couldn't manage at all. Mom as always gets more kudos than anyone; she feeds them, transports them, cuddles them, etc. Also the good offices of friends and family who have donated to the cause: money, tuition help through Studio East, driving services, babysitting offers, housecleaning offers, cooking offers, and stuff from our Cancer Care Kit Wish List on Amazon.com.

Speaking of which, his cousin Michelle bought him some stuff off that list - the "Breaking Bad hat," the book, and some disinfectant stuff.

Check the lid!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

That Was... Not Terrible


Truly, it was not nearly as bad as the horror stories online, or even as bad as other people who have been through the process have told us it was for them. Laston feels tired and his stomach feels a little upset, but otherwise he feels pretty normal.

We shall see how he feels tomorrow as well.

When he said he was hungry in the middle of getting chemotherapy, we realized that this was a Good Thing, and so I went to the store and got what he was craving (with the oncology staff's blessings) Today that was beets (again) and the sort of Asian BBQ pork with the hot mustard and the sesame seeds. Fred Meyer had both handy in the deli, so score!

One thing I rather liked - although no-one wants to do this all the time - was the air of Friendly Corner Pub going on in the infusion suite. I half expected more than one person to raise a glass and shout, "Norm!"

They didn't, of course, although everyone, patients and staff, was very friendly. Laston's the new guy. He's also the young guy (according to visual evidence). Baldness in the picture is due to neither age nor chemotherapy. It is a nice sharp razor. He said he may as well do it now, just in case.

He also said he needs a Heisenburg hat a la Walter White (Breaking Bad) to go with the "SCIENCE: I am one accident away from being a Super Villain!" t-shirt (he felt it was appropriate).

But Laston seems to feel pretty good, and although the infusion comes loaded with a little pack (called Freddy the Freeloader by our oncology nurse, and That Damn Pump by another patient in the room - and now by us) he has to lug around for a couple of days (it's dripping a little more of the chemo stuff into his USB port for the next 46 or so hours), he looks pretty good too. Certainly better than he did - say - after our Urban Adventure on Saturday... that was an awful lot of walking for a man with anemia and cancer, who also happened to be suffering (though we didn't realize it at the time) from fairly severe caffeine withdrawal.

So That Dam Pump. It's the size of oh, maybe a VHS tape, and comes in a little pouch on a strap. The oncology nurse - nice guy by name of John - asked Laston how he'd like to carry it, as it has to remain attached at all times. Would he like the Football hold (around his hips)? The Purse hold (slung over one shoulder)? The Darth Vader hold (in front like a pendant... of a voder box, I guess)? Or... ah, yes, Mr. Kirkland. The Bike Messenger hold it is (over his left shoulder and under his right arm).

More than one person has asked how they can help, and we so appreciate it. Mom has been invaluable as always, but even more than usual. A family friend donated money (and barf bags, just in case, although so far so good), and another is coming to help me clean on Friday. My workplace has been terrific about schedule adjustments. People have offered to drive the kids all over, and to be an emergency contact to pick them up from school in case the usual suspects are busy. And since the layoff news of yesterday, more than one person has suggested, some in public and some in private, both an Amazon wish list of Useful Things and a crowdfunding account to help us with medical bills and/or the day to day.

As of right now, though, we're doing okay, medically and mentally. That's a Very Good Thing.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Well... Oh, Screw It


Because just to add to the pile of crap karma?

Yeah, the company Laston works for is not renewing his contract after October 30th.

Now, don't go crazy; this is not - I repeat, not - due to his cancer. It's because the 2015 budget is gone and his contract is up. Both his current and former bosses said they would happily give him a glowing reference, and that in January - when the contract is renewed - they would be glad to hire him again. Assuming they have the budget.

This does not help us now.

Oh, he qualifies for unemployment, and he may qualify for disability. But even though his bosses at the consulting company said they'll find him something else ASAP, how do you go into a new job saying, "Oh, by the way, I have to have every other Tuesday off, and maybe sometimes Wednesdays and Thursdays; it depends on how crappy the chemo makes me feel?"

You really can't, at least not until you have some idea how much said chemo will affect the patient.

Not to mention the possibility of surgery in the next few months if the chemo shrinks the tumors enough to cut those bad boys out.

Which leaves unemployment and Social Security Disability. The former is a better bet, because the latter apparently takes months to set up. But it has been suggested to us that we check into it, and that's not a bad idea.

After tomorrow's first chemotherapy appointment. that is.

I just want to say here that people have been lovely; we have had more offers of driving the girls around and cooking and other things to help us through the day to day than we can count. And we appreciate it, so much, especially my mom, who has been an absolute champ, even more than she usually is.

And if I seem to be brushing off offers of help, or if I seem cold or even cavalier about the whole situation, please be aware it's nothing personal. I can talk about it here in my blog to the masses, and I can talk about it with people I barely know; they aren't involved. It's easier in writing than in person or on the phone too.

But talking with people, one on one or in small groups, especially those I know? That's when I fall apart a little. I know it's good for me to do that, but I seem to roll better by dealing with the upset alone, generally with a bit of chocolate and a silly (but well-written; I do have standards) romance novel. These let me escape into Somebody Else's Problems for a while.

And I need that right about now.

Friday, October 16, 2015

And Now for Something Completely Different...

...that is to say, something that is not (primarily) about cancer and how it has begun to shape our lives. It is there, of course, and affects scheduling and logistics if nothing else.

But in general, this post is about something else... the titular gamers' babes.

For one thing, Abby's play starts tonight (although her cast - it's double-cast, which to me always sounds like a wizard doing two spells in a row with no recovery time - does not start until tomorrow night). The play in question is Honk!, and is a musical take on The Ugly Duckling. If I understood what I heard at the parent meeting lo these many weeks ago, it got better reviews than even The Lion King when in London.

Here's a teaser-trailer:


Abby's in Cast B if anyone wants to buy tickets (of course, Cast A rocks too, but if you're reading this you probably want Abby in Cast B). The cast performance schedules are in the Buy Tickets link at www.studio-east.org.

And just to complicate our lives, before all this C-word stuff went down I promised both girls they could audition for the next Studio East production: 'Twas the Night. I don't know yet whether we're allowed to post the results of that casting call on social media so I'm not going to say here, but let me be clear for any of you who feel like some of my family members (and I for that matter) do: For Lizzy, this is a one-off. A big rule in our household is "Don't steal thunder," and Lizzy understands that drama at this level is Abby's thing. Her being allowed to audition for 'Twas is a special thing so she can do something with her big sister, she has her own skill set, and while they do overlap some, drama is her sister's shtick.

Besides, Lizzy herself is going to be tested for Hi-Cap, what our school district calls its accelerated program. Between that and Brownie Scouts, she will not suffer for lack of extra-curricular activities.

She wants to start a "reading club" at school (assuming there is not already such a thing).

That's kind of huge for a second-grader.

And that reminds me; I need to add, "Take Lizzy to Brownies," to our schedule this weekend...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Random Thoughts In and Around Cancer

In this post last weekend, I said that I didn't know what to do.

Well, now we're still a bit numb, but at least we have a clue and the beginnings of a plan. And if we're not to New Normal yet, we can at least see New Normal from here. It's sort of like Abby's allergy; there's this life-threatening thing, and we just have to work around it. It's a matter of degree, really.

We've also learned quite a bit.

...Stage Four, while still dreaded, is no longer an automatic sentence of Doom. There are treatments for everything, especially as - if I understand it correctly - the only reason Laston's cancer is characterized as Stage Four is that it's in more than one organ.

...on that note, we're sticking with the Western medicine here. That's not to say we don't appreciate some of our friends' and relatives' thoughts on alternative therapies, but if it's something that needs fixing right now, we choose Western. Just as with appendicitis or a broken leg, if it's urgent, we're doing it this way. Anyone who knows me knows that I am more than happy to tout massage therapy and chiropractic and aromatherapy, but to me (and even more so for Laston) those are for relief from pain and other symptoms, maybe even curing something chronic, not for killing cancer cells.

...we have even more friends and others to support us than we realized, to the point where people we haven't seen for decades are popping out of Facebook to say hi and give us a virtual hug. That doesn't even include those nearby who have offered logistic help: driving here and there, babysitting, etc. You guys rock.

...I still loathe underground parking garages. Elevators to and from them, and driving in the city after dark are nearly as bad. Thank Google all non-surgical procedures are up here in the 'burbs, a couple miles from both home and work. Because the city is scary for me and the Hubs. We have enough stress, thanks.

...Laston came through having the chemotherapy port installation with flying colors. No problems with his blood pressure or anything else. He did great. And I guess everything and its brother can be put in and out of that port. It's like a USB; it'll take anything that fits. He can get a flu shot through it, and the iron they're giving him tomorrow, as well as the chemo treatments themselves. That's handy.

...none of the kids have run screaming anywhere with an ax or anything else sharp. And if I'm a little touchy and overtired and stressed, well... I haven't either. Laston just doesn't have the energy to (and likely won't until after his iron infusion).

All in all, it could be worse. We could be in a place with no-one supporting us, no family or friends online or in person. We could have crap doctors.

It still sucks. But at least we're getting a handle on the suckage.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cancer Sucks.

I don't even know what to say. Or what to do.
dark blue for colon cancer

Laston has cancer, and probably has had for months, although we only found out about it recently. We thought for almost a week that it was Stage One or maybe Two, and only in the colon.Until we found out that it's Stage Four, meaning it has moved, spread to his liver in this case.

All through his liver, making it hard to get rid of it; livers are necessary to human life. So they want to do chemotherapy to get the tumors small enough that they aren't a problem anymore, before anything surgical happens.

Now, thanks to my job, and to the good offices of my union, we have decent medical insurance. And if you have to have cancer, Seattle's second only to Rochester, MN (where the Mayo Clinic is) for good treatment options. We go in Tuesday for more information with the oncologist, and Wednesday for a chemotherapy port to be installed (inserted? applied? What is the correct terminology here?).

(An aside: Am I the only one who thinks that dark (even TARDIS) blue - "the bluest blue that ever was" - as the color for colon cancer is ironic? Most Time Lords are absolute assholes, after all.)

Yeah, I laugh because I dare not cry and all that. Expect more cursing in my blog for the foreseeable future. Gotta keep it together for the kids; I can do my angsting after they're in bed at night.

Speaking of the kids, we're trying to keep things as normal as possible for them. So aside from informing all the other adults in their lives (family members (there are a couple we weren't able to reach though), teachers, school counselors, drama instructors, troop leaders and the like) that there is the potential for any of the kids to lose it and run screaming through the halls or something, we're sticking to our normal routines. Abby's still in drama at Studio East, for instance (as is Lizzy (if she gets in; we just had auditions) only for the Christmas show).

Also Abby plans on doing Relay for Life with some of her classmates this coming spring.

Anyway, we wanted you all to know, and we'll keep you updated as things happen.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Don't Blink. Don't Even Blink. Blink and You're Dead.

Because if you blink, you might miss the moment where "conservative politician" went right over the line into "dangerous asshat."

Yes, it is a political post by Jenn, which only happens a couple times a year, but this time it's gone beyond the pale into Nehemiah Scudder territory. And the post has very little to do with Doctor Who, in spite of the title.

I mean, most of the things I've seen happen in the last few weeks - by the far, very political right, mind you, I'm not talking about people I know who are actually voting on the politically conservative side instead of being grandstanding, pandering-to-the-highest-bidder idiots - go against common decency and common sense.

The God I believe in does not want you to take it upon yourself to decide that this child built a bomb, that this couple of perfectly nice guys should not marry in "your" district, or that the will of the actual voters in this country should not prevail.

Today I went to Panera Bread, and I asked how the turkey chili was. The cute young lady behind the counter said she hadn't tried it because she's a vegetarian, but she hears it's as good as the steak chili was before they switched. I asked her if she had a problem serving meat to customers and she laughed; she'd apparently been asked more than once. But she did tell me that she's not a fan of getting gay married eating the stuff, but it's not her call as to who else eats it. Lookie there; common sense, and actual good behavior. In a nineteen-year-old girl.

Imagine that.

My twelve-year-old is horrified that any child would be assumed to be bringing a bomb to school (even though you know that if they really had thought it was a bomb, they'd have evacuated the school, or confiscated the so-called bomb, moved it off the premises, and locked down the school. But nooooooooo... they had to humiliate a kid because he's different). And now that other, more rational people have pointed out publicly that they were wrong by standing behind the kid? They're playing the old, tired Muslim = Terrorist card. Gimme a fucking break. And yes, I said fucking on my blog. Deal with it.

I think anyone reasonable knows that if this kid was white with a name like Bobby or Mark, he'd have been heaped with praise. I wonder what would have happened if he was a white Muslim. Or a black Christian. Or an Asian. Hmmm...

Then there's Planned Parenthood. I think that the hysteria involved indicates that the vast majority of the Republican in Congress need a Valium. But now Planned Parenthood can't afford to supply them, because they have been defunded. Never mind that anyone who actually checks facts instead of going with the loudest shouter sees that abortion services are around 3% of all the services provided. And federal funds aren't used for those services anyway. And abortion is legal in this country. And - just in case you missed this bit - the recordings were heavily edited. Research, people; it's your friend. I've never needed Planned Parenthood's services for anything, and I hope I've instilled enough trust in my girls that they will come to me, but this... this is wrong. And it's a manufactured crisis, presumably to take attention of actual wrongdoing by hypocritical asshats.

(Edit: It has been brought to my attention that PP can't actually prescribe anything but birth control, but hey, call it artistic license on my part, k?)

What I truly do not understand, and I hope that my conservative friends will forgive me for saying this, is how any of you - anyone outside of rich white male Americans - could ever vote for one of these people. They don't like you. If you are female, or a person of color, or not a Protestant, or deity forbid you should be different in some way they don't understand, they want to hurt you. At the very least they see you as a lesser being, not worthy of their time.

Unless you're a fetus.

I don't know why you can't see that.




Saturday, September 12, 2015

Eight? EIGHT?! How the...?

Yes, I know Lizzy turned eight last week, (and went flying with her grandpa!) but having a birthday near Labor Day is hard for scheduling. So we had a party this morning.

Fourteen kids said they'd be here. A couple neighbor kids wandered over too. That's sixteen children, ranging in age from four (some neighbors and younger siblings of guests) to fifteen (Leanna). And one neighbor child showed up with three of her friends (or maybe cousins?) after everyone was gone, saying she had heard there was a party (there are social implications to being the friendly house in the area).

Um, yes, there was a party, but it's over. Sorry. Have a cupcake.

The cupcakes (as always) were fabulous. Our favorite baker made up Lego themed cupcakes with those little Lego brick candies on top. With fresh strawberries they picked themselves in the batter. So YUM.

Did I mention the Lego theme?

My mom, terrific Google Master that she is, found some party games, like L.E.G.O.S. (Bingo with Lego pieces, and she printed them out for us too), Pin-the-spot-on-the-Lego, and Guess How Many in the Jar. We queued up the Lego Movie for those kids who didn't want to play, and sent home party favors of mini-figs and little 20-piece Lego vehicles.

For a party with that age spread, and that many kids, only two sets of hurt feelings and one meltdown over Just Too Much Input isn't too bad a record.

We got some lovely gifts (mostly Lego, natch, and beading kits and stuffed toys), for which thank you notes will be written later.

Now we're off to another birthday party, this for a friend of the family (father of Lizzy's BFF Nat, and spouse of The Baker in Question)

A busy day, but fun. And my house is pretty clean too.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Oscar Uniform Tango Oscar Foxtrot Tango Hotel Echo Mike Oscar Uniform Tango Hotel Sierra...

Lizzy is going flying with her grandfather tomorrow (weather permitting) for a birthday treat, and so she and I have been going over our radio code words. I think my favorite was when I asked her the code for F (I gave her the hint that it is the name of a dance) and she said, "Flamenco."

And that reminded me that this, the first week of school and Lizzy's birthday week has had the best one-liners out of the mouths of my gamers' babes.

Last night, as Lizzy and I ate her Mom-and-Me Birthday Dinner (at the always-fabulous Lynnwood branch of the Old Spaghetti Factory), she looked at me with exasperation and said, "Mom! Please don't be Grandma about my table manners on my birthday!"

She was also very not-subtle about wanting to have them sing to her; she kept remarking that she "heard another person get sung to." Loudly enough to be heard by other tables even in a busy family restaurant on a Friday night.

Abby informed me with great seriousness on Friday that she now understands why "adults swear at other drivers. Because now I know, Mom, I've been in junior high school hallways between classes."

Speaking of other drivers, my mom referred to our mutual landlord as "Dick" (it is his nickname, short for Richard, but I don't call him that because I met him when I was a child) the other day while passing his truck in the street. Lizzy was absolutely horrified, because she always thought Grandma liked Mr G.

Of course, this is the child who thinks I'm swearing every time I use the word "asphalt." Why "assume" and "assassin" do not trigger the same indignation, I'm not sure.

It's been that sort of week.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Another Year, Another Post.

First day of school was great (although they look tired they both had a great day).

Second day looks to be great too... with a few glitches that need ironing out.

Who takes Abby to the bus in bad weather? (it's a mile walk on winding country roads without sidewalks, and currently (ha!) a couple of (deactivated) downed power lines from last weekend's storm). I did it and then came back here, but there are several neighbors we trust with children we know going the same place at the same time. Perhaps we should have worked this out last week (vague noises were made about same, but nothing was settled). I'll talk to the other parents this afternoon.

Why did Lizzy's alarm go off at seven? It doesn't need to. Oh, yes, yesterday she had to get up early because we took both kids to school on the first day, and Abby's starts an hour before Lizzy's. We just didn't reset the alarm.

Oh, crap, are those Abby's glasses? Note: have Abby add "glasses" to the list she has made up after yesterday's Butter on the New Shirt Incident (because now she has put "eat breakfast" and "brush teeth" before "get dressed"). Junior High. Goodness...

Hey, see what I'm doing? I'm online for half an hour early in the morning. Now all I have to do is retrain myself (out of years of bad habits) to go to bed at a decent hour and I'll be good to go every day.

Today is Lizzy's birthday dinner and Abby's audition call back (same place, Studio East, different production, Honk!). Tomorrow is Lizzy's eighth birthday.

Where does the time go?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's Time...

...to clean out the laundry room.

This sounds very simple in and of itself.

But the cat has now been missing - presumed dead - for nearly three weeks.

Three weeks, when talking about a 17-year-old, primarily-indoor cat, means she's almost certainly gone for good.

The presence of coyotes in our area just makes it that much more likely.

And the weather has certainly been warm enough that if her body was under the house we would know it by now.

I'm sad and depressed by this, albeit not surprised, because 17 years old, after all.

But Abby will be a wreck if we're still holding out hope in the form of a litter box and food and water and such in the laundry room, when she gets home from her yearly sojourn to her Nana's house. Abby is starting junior high in a couple weeks, and auditioning for another play in about a week, and she doesn't need to be a wreck right now.

So I need to get that all done by Saturday afternoon.

And I don't want to.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lizzyisms, August 2015 edition

She reads very well for her age, but some words are still a little tricky. Hence this conversation:

"Lizzy, could you get me the little white bottle of spray medicine in the bathroom, please?"

"This one? The one that says, "Pain Releasing?" I mean, "Pain Revealing?" I mean..."

"Pain Relieving. Please do not release or reveal my pain."

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I often forget that there are some things - especially brand names - than she may not know:

"I'd rather you used Scotch tape than tacks."

"Can't I use the clear tape?"

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And we must stay aware that her reading level does not always match up with her comprehension level... or her tolerance for scary:

"Goosebumps? Are you kidding? You know I get nightmares!"

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But she understands analogy and character archetype:

"Too Tall Bear is the Bugs Meany of the Berenstain Bears show."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Another August, Another Abbyless Week

As has been pointed out before, Lizzy-without-Abby is a different beast altogether.

But she's two years older than the last time I wrote about this, in that link up there, and the differences are palpable.

For one thing, she can read, and read well above her grade level - going into 2nd - at that.

This is a challenge... finding books that are appropriate both to her reading level (about fifth grade) and her emotional / social level (not quite second). I've written about that before, thanks, Encyclopedia Brown.

But back to Lizzy-without-Abby.

She's far more self-sufficient than she used to be, but she still misses Abby, and she needs something to be self-sufficient with. It's also back-to-school time.

So after dropping Abby with her Nana, Lizzy and I did her back-to school shopping. We got her this great backpack (it comes with a BPA-free water bottle, an insulated lunch bag, and a soft-side pencil case). That white strip in the middle is a reflective strip so drivers can see her if she's walking in rainy weather or dusk (common in the winter around here), and there are matching strips on the straps. We also got the other stuff on her back-to-school list, like crayons and paper and glue sticks.

Additionally, we got her the first four books in the Monster High series. There have been a gazillion posts in the blogosphere about Monster High and body image, but I like to think that my kids are bright enough to grok that the Monster High girls' shapes are not realistic. In fact, we've discussed it, and the general consensus is that Frankiestein and friends are "cartoon-person-shaped" rather than realistic. Same goes for the Ever After High characters and Equestria Girls.

Why not Ever After High, you may ask, since Lizzy is in a girly-princess stage at the moment? That one is easy; Abby has the Ever After High books, and she shares them with Lizzy when she's done.

And although Lizzy is in that girly-princess stage for the most part, that's not all there is to her interests either. Which is why, when she requested an alarm clock, we chose this one, to the left. Ninjago Kai, the Fire Ninja from the LEGO company. He's fully poseable (as much as LEGO figures ever are), and one pushes down on his head for snooze mode and to see the time glowing in the dark.

So cool.

Or hot, as the case may be: Kai is the fire ninja, after all.

He should be a hit at tonight's sleepover, as our sleepover guest introduced Lizzy to Ninjago in the first place.