Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom...

My mom, Sandy, was born in the same bed her mother and grandmother had been born in, and she was raised on the same farm that had fed and sheltered all the generations of our family as far back as our written history in this country records...back to our Cherokee fore-mothers and Gaelic ancestors. She was the 3rd of 6 children, and lived in her head quite a bit more than the others. She loved books for as long as she could remember, and read across genres with great curiosity. She was kind-hearted and had gentle hands, and longed to heal the broken things she saw in the world around her, both human and animal.

She was a healthy, happy, and homeschooled child who grew into a quiet, intelligent and interested young woman who decided to become a nurse. Her life changed dramatically on this day 37 years ago, on her 17th birthday. She was home after her first semester away at college, trying to recover from what everyone assumed was a lingering strep infection and exhaustion from a busy term, when she collapsed and was taken to the emergency room in the adjoining county. That day she found out that she had Hodgkin's disease, which is a type of lymphatic cancer. Today, Hodgkin's has a nearly 95% cure rate, but in 1971 (and especially in rural Appalachia) she was given a less than 10% chance of survival, due to the pervasive nature of the cancer in her system.

The oncologists told her that her death was imminent, and that they were going to give her a month to "get herself together" before doing an all-out assault on the cancer in a last-ditch effort at remission. She went home and shaved her head and then got married to my father. He was the boy next door. They'd known each other all of her life and had been dating for a year. He told her that he'd marry her for 6 weeks or 60 years, no matter how hard things might get, and he lived up to that promise even when nobody around her would have faulted him for giving up.

They told her she wouldn't survive the radiation, but she did. They told her the treatments made her barren, and that she would never survive to parent, so she gave birth twice and raised three motherless children into adulthood. She went into remission early in treatment and was declared "cured" on her 21st birthday.

Chemo and radiation had left her lungs and bones weak, and she was sick throughout much of my early childhood. She frequently taught our little crowd of kids from her bed. When she was well, we followed my father's ministry to the deep, dark, and horrible corners of the world. She brought the light with her. Her laugh was infectious and her voice in song would silence a room full of chattering people.

When she was 32, she got cancer in her left breast. There was more chemo, more radiation, and a partial mastectomy. I rubbed her aching feet as she prayed to live, and held her trembling head as she begged to die. Her chest wall was fragile from previous harsh radiation, and this second set was brutal and bordered on illegal. She literally reached the legal limits for lifetime exposure to radiation, and then got a bit more before the authorities caught on to the plan.

She survived again. Three times in her early thirties, we sat vigil at her bedside when they told us she would not survive the night. Each time, as morning dawned and she still breathed, she would look us in the eyes and say, "~I~ will tell you when I'm leaving, and today is not that day."

That was her mantra for the rest of her 30's and her early 40's. "Today is not the day I die." That was frequently followed by, "and I will rejoice and be glad in it". The second was her favorite line from a frequently sung hymn. When she couldn't walk or care for herself, and when her voice was so burned from chemicals that she could no longer sing and was barely able to whisper, she'd sign "REJOICE" to each of us as she sent us out the door to our lives. We sang for her. We lived big and open lives because she needed that for us. We rejoiced when most of us would rather have been weeping.

Her mid-40's brought uterine cancer, a 3 valve heart bypass, and the loss of her second breast. She was bed-ridden completely by 47, except for one miraculous year in 2003, where she had a completely stunning recovery and managed to travel the country, see Disney World with her grandchildren, and make good on lots of plans that had been on hold for decades.

In 2004, her cancer returned (metasticized breast cancer)in her head. She battled it via surgery and injected chemo, since she could no longer tolerate radiation. She won that battle, even though nobody expected it, but it was a very shallow victory since it left her entirely bedridden again and unable to care for herself. It took her freedom, but it did not take her faith or her sense of humor.

Throughout that period, and right up until November of 2006, she ended every conversation with, "I love you, and I'll let you know when I'm ready to go." In November of 2006, she started ending conversations with, "I'm so tired, and I love you so very much." We found out in December that the unthinkable had happened. After 25 years, her ORIGINAL cancer had returned. She had Hodgkin's lymphoma through her entire lymphatic system. Doctors told her to fight it. They told her that Hodgkin's is the most curable cancer on the roster. They told her she could fight again, and maybe win. It would be hard, it might be useless, but she COULD fight.

For the first time in her life, she said no. In her journal she wrote, "Life is a journey, and sometimes the road take you right back to where you started out walking. Hodgkin's disease formed the life I lived. It was the fire that forged my strength and my soul, and now it's the fire that lifts my ashes into the wind. Cancer isn't winning, because I am walking away from the game."

She told me she wouldn't die before Christmas. She didn't. She promised my father she would not ruin January, because it was his favorite month. February is the month for big changes in our family. Half of us have birthday then, and all of our closest relatives have died in that short but busy month. My mother last spoke to me at 8pm on the 31st of January. I was in Florida, and she was hospitalized for a routine procedure to ease reflux pain. During our last conversation, she told me to not let my emotions ruin my children's vacation, to kiss them all and tell them that she loved them, and to make sure that my Dad was not alone in February. When I protested and pleaded, she ended our conversation with the word I had feared for my entire life. "I'm ready to go, and now I've kept my promise to let you know. I'm tired and this isn't fun any more, and I've got bigger things to do that this body isn't made to handle. I love you. Get some rest."

She kept her promises. Always. She died on February 1, 2007. We didn't tell the children until we returned home. My Mama came home to the home she'd been born in, and she rested there until she was buried a few yards away under the dogwood she'd had planted for that very purpose when she was 17. I kept my promise and stayed in Kentucky until mid-March. It's what she taught me, and it's what I'll teach my children. I'll teach them that life isn't always fair, and it sometimes hurts even if you're doing the best you can to do what is right. I'll teach them to laugh, to sing, to keep their promises, and to REJOICE. And, most importantly, I'll love them just as much as my mother loved me.

Thanks for reading, if anyone actually made it to the bottom.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

He didn't even get dizzy!

Tonight Nate was surprised with a prize basket at gymnastics for the most cartwheels or forward rolls in the boy's division during their yearly fundraiser. More than 50 in two minutes!! Dave and I had known for a few days, since Dave had a peek at the results sheet, but we managed to keep our excitement a secret.

He was so thrilled that his little smile was a mile wide. Nate's the child in our family who rarely gets recognized for outstanding achievement. He has only recently been able to blend and achieve positive results socially, especially in things like organized sports.

His prize was a huge Super-soaker type water gun, a slingshot with three balls and a roll of Shocktarts. I hope that this is the first in a long line of successes for our boy Nate.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Sticky, Squishy, Sweet and Gooey

PisecoBabe can alway be counted on for a fun playdate, and she's more than willing to share her sticky, gluey gooey fun with us. The kids had a great time making yucky artworks and then squishing them back into blobs.

Princess DibbleDibbleDoo had no interest in the dough after a couple of minutes, and fell back to her favorite passtime...eating!

What was she eating, you ask? Well, pretty much anything she could get her fingers on, but the treat of the day was Rice Crispy squares made from PisecoMom's recipe and decorated by my three rugrats prior to our playdate.

All-in-all, not a bad way to spend a Monday.

Why, yes, we DO homeschool...

Just a little tidbit from the homeschool trenches:

Me (to Anna): What is the opposite of fast?
Anna: SLOW is the ossopit of fast.
Me (to Anna): Yes, slow is the OOOOPPPPIIIISSSSIIITTTT of fast.
Me (to the big kids): What is another term we use for words that mean the opposite?
Em (proudly): Oh, that's easy, it's an ANTONYM.
Me (to Em): Yeah! Great Answer! So, what is the antonym of antonym?
Nate (looking up vaguely from Super Smash Brawl): You're kidding, right?
Me (curious): Nooo? Do you know the answer?
Nate (bored): DUUUUHHHH! The antonym of antonym is........


I'm still laughing 15 minutes later. P.S. I did tell him that the word is synonym, not cinnamon. He's still not speaking to me because I laughed.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Old McDonald Had A Farm....

We spent our day today visiting farmers and their animals and wares in the most unusual of situations. Today was the annual Farm Days celebration inside the local shopping mall.

Our friends the Piseco Peeps were supposed to pick us up and explore the festival with us, but they were having bouts of feeling generally unwell, so we made it out on our own....


We started in the mall proper, and the kids took a quick ride on petal tractors near the doors.

After a moment, we made some crafty cotton ball sheep.

It was just after taking that picture with our fuzzy sheep that Nate began freaking out and bouncing around and screaming, "JediBoy, JediBoy and PisecoMom"* at the top of his lungs. I thought he had seen them somewhere in the mall because they'd decided to join us belatedly, but then realized that he wasn't quite seeing what I'd expected. Instead, we'd found the following on the board the kids were posing in front of for their photo op.

After our excitement wore off, we continued through the mall and enjoyed such varied activities as tasting Stone Soup and watching a sheep get her winter coat sheared.

It was a grand day, and we came home with loot bags full of crafts, snacks, and assorted treasures.

For more pictures, you can check out the album...

Friday, March 07, 2008

Like Clue...only, Better

We've recently begun hosting a Saturday night board game gathering for our grown-up friends (and their wee ones, too). We gather and play games together while laughing, snacking, and generally having a grand time being social. Many of our gatherings are themed, but some are just "let's play something awesome" type of nights.

One of my favorite games from our recent nights is Mystery of the Abbey. PisecoBabe did a great review of it over on her blog that I thought I'd share with everyone. I absolutely love deduction games, and Days of Wonder makes some great games in this genre. PisecoBabe does a great job with her game reviews, too, as well as having a generally adorable family.

Friday, February 29, 2008


And Happy 2nd birthday to Cousin Kendall, who was born a week after Em, but is 6 parties behind her in the present-opening race.

We celebrated the LEAP day but doing lots of jumping around the house, off the steps, and in and out of various hoops. Dinner was a celebration at Moghul, where we ate far too much lovely Indian food. There were more tikka masala, paneer, and naan variations than our family could eat in two days.

Here's for a great and peaceful March into Spring.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Swimmingly Good Times

The big kids celebrated their birthdays last weekend in a joint YMCA swimming pool party. We had a small crowd, mostly girls, and lots of great fun. The PisecoClan came, with PisecoBabe hauling her wonderful camera. There was great enthusiasm about the swimming, the home-made cakes, and the gifts.

Those wacky Pisecofolk also gifted Emily with the promise of a future Daisy Rock guitar (shipping times were lagging and it did not arrive for the party) to match the Hannah Montana wristwatch in her gift bag. She was ecstatic when she found the note on the back of the watch after the party was over.

All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend an evening celebrating the completion of one more year of crazy living for two of our growing monsters.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Very Veggie Congratulations...

Congratulations to Annick, who won the random drawing for Dave and the Giant Pickle. The kids and I had a great time choosing a random-number engine online and using it to select from our very small pool of applicants.

Annick, if you read this, please email to schedule delivery of your prize. Alexa, if YOU read this, pass on the information to Annick, please.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Very Green Giveaway- Veggietales

There are few things more inspirational than singing vegetables. Despite our shunning of traditional religion, my children have a strong love of Big Idea's Veggietales. We have the entire collection on DVD, and they've been playing regularly for many, many years. These movies probably have the longest "lifespan" of anything in our rather generous collection.

My kids love the novelty of talking produce, and the crazy music. I love the none-too-subtle wordplay and the irreverent way the introduce morality lessons.

We've ended up with a spare copy, still unopened, of Veggie Tale's Davey and the Giant Pickle.

This is our first bloggie giveaway since we switched to Blogspot. Just post a comment, including a valid email address, to enter. The contest will run through February 14th, just because that's easy for me to remember. The winner will be chosen via random number selection (courtesy of the internet).

Have fun!


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Kung Hey Fat Choi/Gong Si Fa Cai

May you all have a happy, prosperous and wonderful New Year.

Anybody else celebrating Chinese New Year tonight/this week? We had a wonderful New Year's Eve tonight, and my kids finally crashed after midnight which, according to tradition, means DH and I should live long lives.

Tomorrow we're eating a huge veggie feast and playing games all day. I've hidden the brooms, knives, and scissors and gotten the last of the dishes clean before putting out the disposable dinnerware. Everyone bathed and I've ironed and laid out the new clothes for morning. There are 2 dozen GORGEOUS roses on my dining room table, and a stunning orchid in our living room. Oranges, clementines, mangos, coconut, sesame balls, lychee, and candy are tucked in into their red and gold boxes on the table.

The kids went to bed happy and tired, and clutching their lai see (hong bao if you're Mandarin-speakers) in their hands. According to them, they're "richer than kings today".

Tomorrow there's no cleaning or cooking and I'll be trying to abstain from internet since I've promised myself that I'll try my best to be completely in the moment with the family during this holiday, which is the most important one of the year for most of our family. It will be good to feel almost obligated to simply enjoy time with family and not be rushing around to sweep up crumbs or wash dishes or do another load of laundry. Of course, I'll pay for that on Saturday when I have a 2 day backup of everything....but that's Saturday and today is the first day of the New Year so I'm not going to dwell on tomorrows until I've fully experienced today.

Here's a link to see the dragon:
Dragon Dance

Sweet dreams and, again, Happy New Year to all of my friends!

Friday, February 01, 2008

How about some cuteness...

Christmas came and went in it's normal whirl of insanity, and I forgot (again!) to get cards ready to send in time for the holiday. I think I've made the mistake of trying to do it all myself, from photography to design and printing, for the last time.

The Purple Stork is a great place to get custom designed holiday cards, party invitations and adoption or birth announcements.

Rosemary is creative, affordable, and her work is always professional. Next year, with help from The Purple Stork, I think I'll have my holiday cards out just after Thanksgiving. It will be a holiday MIRACLE!