Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Post that Probably Shouldn't Be

So, yesterday didn't turn out how I had planned. It was supposed to be port installed by 1pm and chemo right after but I was bumped from the OR because of a baby in distress that needed to be released from the womb. The baby was born via C-section around 2:30 and I was on the gurney and being sung to by 3 (it was my birthday yesterday so the OR nurses sang 'Happy Birthday' to me as they prepped me for surgery). By the time I was released from the Day Surgery section the cancer section was closed up tight for the night so no chemo for me yesterday.

By the way, my port is a little gadget that they installed under my skin. Its about the same size as a loonie around and about 3/4 of an inch deep. There is a catheter that is threaded into my vein near my heart and that's how the chemo drugs are pumped in to me. I've been calling it my Star Trek communicator ... the only problem is that Scotty's voice in muffled because the whole thing is under my skin.

Anyway, this morning Mr. Awesome and I reported to the cancer treatment room bright and early, fascinator on (me) and coffeejuice in hand. I thought I would be more emotional or something about today but I wasn't. It was actually a nice way to spend the day, if it didn't included injecting poison into my veins. A couple of friends stopped by to visit and one of my nurses is a pal from church. I met some other patients and their families. It was kind of a mellow day.

Then I came home.

Still mellow but trippy too.

I hardly ever take medicine for anything; not for headaches, upset stomachs or anything. I am kind of a light weight when it comes to these kind of things so it didn't take much to get me stoned. I am taking a pile of anti-nausea meds and the main side affect has been kaleidoscope vision, mildly slurred speech and an overwhelming sense of mellowness.

When I texted my pal about these side affects (affects or effects, affects or effects, potato/potato ... you know, when that is typed you lose the affect/effect of the different pronunciation. anyway...) she told me to post a blog. I told her I thought that would be a bad idea but I ate a cinnamon bun that my lovely neighbor baked for me and I realised that blogging is always an excellent idea. So here it is. The post that probably shouldn't be.

I know I will regret this in the morning. Well, maybe not tomorrow morning because I'll be on the same meds for a couple of days but some morning, eventually I may regret this but hey ... why be loopy if you can't do a couple of things you may regret.

Now, to decide on what tattoo I want to get this evening! ;-)

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritation and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place. ~Mark Twain

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lessons from the 36th Year

So, today is the day. Today I get a port installed and start chemo and today is also the day I say good-bye to 35 and hello to 36. Today is the epoch of Nicorama 2012. Today is the day.

As I busied myself last night with preparations for spending my birthday in the hospital I thought long and hard about what I was going to write today. I wanted today's post to reflect my year, my journey and all the good things yet to come. My contemplations brought back a flood of memories and lessons learned during my thirty-sixth year on the planet and I figure that there is no better way to honour this year of growth than to share some of the highlights and moments of wisdom gained during this past year.

I have learned that I am stronger, smarter and more resilient than I thought.

I have learned that no matter what life throws at us or what dumb mistakes we make, Mr. Awesome and I are a team. We're tight. We love each other and always have each other's back. We are friends first and live in a bubble of forgiveness, respect and kindness toward one another. We. Are. Awesome.

I have learned the power of celebrating life everyday in all of its quirky wonder. Each moment is a gift and each day brings something to be thankful for. Even when the circumstances suck there is reason to celebrate because "it came to pass" and I don't have to stay under the gloom of unfortunate happenings.

I have learned that my kids hear me and see me. Even when I am sure that they aren't getting the things we are trying to teach them they are ... they just chose when they are ready to reveal their Yoda Wisdom.

I have learned that there are more people who are for you than against you and that even people who seem like they are against you aren't really, they just don't understand you. People are waiting for opportunities to help, to get involved and to feel as though they have contributed to a solution. Sometimes the greater blessing is to allow others to help you rather than muscling through life on your own.

I have learned that new friends, old friends, facebook friends and friends of friends have one thing in common ... they are all friends and friends are an incredible thing to have.

I have learned that circumstances are circumstances. They are neither good or bad. Your attitude frames circumstances and gives them the attribute of being either good or bad. And for the record, good is easier to deal with than bad. A bad attitude is draining, a total joy suck and helps nothing.

I have learned that they are called inspirational quotes for a reason. Words have power. They can lift your spirits, encourage your heart and give you the strength to keep on fighting. Words, the right words, are awesome!

I have learned that coffeejuice, peanut m&ms and hazelnuts were put on this planet for me to love. I have learned that people smile at you more when you were a fascinator, therefore I shall wear one more often. I have learned that fuzzy Christmas socks are the key to happiness and no one really hates snow because snow has the magic quality of making everything seem new and fresh and clean.

I have learned that laughing is better than crying but that crying isn't that bad after all. I have learned that no matter how defected my body is, its still mine and I must take care of it because it will be with me for the duration. I have learned that love and acceptance and encouragement is the strength of who we are and that everyone is waiting for the opportunity to be more than they are right now.

Finally, I have learned that I am blessed beyond measure because of you, my friends, family, readers ... because of my people. Your words of encouragement, notes of appreciation and shared stories of life survival fill me with joy and add to my sense of purpose. You are magnificent!

I am looking forward to many, many more lessons and many, many more years to learn them!

Thank you!

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day. ~Elwyn Brooks White

Monday, February 27, 2012

Extreme Make-Over: Random Edition

WARNING: This post may stray to the side of TMI for some readers. Read with caution!

So, in the weeks since my surgery I have been asked a lot of questions about about the surgery and my upcoming treatment. Some questions have come from friends bold enough to ask the intrusive questions that everyone is wondering about, others have come from acquaintances who are dying to know details but feel awkward about asking and still others have come from readers who know someone who was recently diagnosed and need to know that everything will be okay ... eventually.

 I have written about the funny side of dealing with incisions, drains and wound care but not much about the details of the surgery itself. I wasn't sure how much to share and how I would feel about everyone knowing everything about this journey but Mr. Awesome and I have always said that "shame is the enemy of success." So with that in mind, here we go.

I have a surgery called DIEP flap, which is the way they reconstruct the breast after a mastectomy. Just to back track a little, the decision to have a mastectomy was made because of the size and rate of growth of the tumor. A few people have commented that a mastectomy seemed extreme and barbaric but the mastectomy saved my life and the reconstruction saved my dignity.

So .... here's the graphic part.

The biopsy I had in October showed that I had a invasive mammary carcinoma (meaning breast cancer that has spread past the point of origin). In fact, I had two types of breast cancer; one in my milk glands and the other in my milk ducts. At the time of the biopsy the tumor was 2.5 centimeters and my lymph nodes were unaffected. Six weeks later, at the time of my surgery, the tumor was just over 5cm and 16 of my 26 lymph nodes on the affected side were cancerous.

The surgery took about 4 hours. During the surgery one doctor removed my nipple and about two centimeters of skin and tissue around it. She then removed all of my breast tissue through that opening. She also made 6 inch incision under my arm and removed my lymph nodes. All of that tissue was sent to pathology to confirm the type and grade of cancer (turns out the type was consistent with the biopsy results but the cancer was at stage IIIA, which means that there was in fact a tumor and my lymph nodes were affected).

Once the first surgeon was done a plastics oncologist stepped in and did the reconstruction. The first step was what is essentially a tummy tuck. I have an incision that goes from hip to hip along my abdomen where the doctor removed about 10lbs of stomach fat and tissue. He then pulled the remaining skin (that used to reside above my belly button) down to meet the remaining skin along the bikini line and stapled them together. He also made an incision to pop my belly button through my new, flatter stomach.

The surgeon then took the 'flap' that he had removed and scouted out a section with good veins and arteries and, thankfully, minimal stretch marks. He chipped the cartilage away from my breast bone, hooked up the vein and artery (to keep the new flap viable) and then stuffed the  flap into the cavity that had previously been my right breast. So, in essence, my right boob used to be my lower abdomen.

This surgery is a miracle and I am so thankful that we have doctors here, in our province, who are skilled in this technique. It is less traumatic physically and psychologically that the types of surgery they used to do for women with my diagnosis. And although I no longer have a nipple (they can reconstruct one complete with natural looking tattoo colouring) I do have a breast and I do have my life.

The next step in chemotherapy, which starts tomorrow, and with that hair loss and the possibility of premature menopause. I get a lot of questions about how I am doing, mentally and emotionally, with all of these changes and honestly, for the most part, I'm doing really good.

My life is more than my breast, my hair or my physical appearance. My scars, whether they are stretch marks, from childhood mishaps or from surgery, tell the story of my life. They are battle scars, each one hard earned and in their own way, precious to me. The stretch marks are gifts from my children, an outward sign of the mark they have left on my heart. The childhood scars tell of days full of adventure, tree climbing, crazy spinning, bike riding adventures. And my surgery scars are a map of my fight and victory over breast cancer.

This is my body, scars and all. This is my life, full of laughter, joy, loss, heart ache and healing. And the transformation that is happening with my body is no different than the make-over that is constantly happening in my heart and soul, as I daily strive to grow, learn, be more and do better.

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. ~Helen Keller

**This post was meant only to educate my readers and friends to my journey, not to promote a specific course of treatment nor to open a debate on treatment options. Each individual walking the cancer road must make their own, informed, decisions about treatment ... and be respected for the choices they make for themselves.
If you have any questions, don't be shy ... ask away!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Uniquely, Wonderfully You

Yesterday evening I had the privilege of hanging out with some pretty stellar women. We got in to a discussion about comparison. It started out as a talk about sibling comparison and how it can be difficult to grow up in the shadow of a high achieving older sibling. Then the conversation morphed into a discussion about how moms so easily jump to comparing themselves with other moms.

I joked that there are a million ways to feel inadequate when you are a mom in a room full of other moms, but its true. When your kids are babies your confidence is slowly chipped away by hearing about infants who emerge from the womb potty trained, sleeping through the night and with a grade seven reading level. Then your kids go to school and every project they do and test score they get are a direct reflection of your parenting skills and intelligence level. And this comparison game doesn't stop just because your kids are grown.

When your kids hit the teenage years your ability to instill morals and an open line of communication is put to the test; why does my teen just grunt when I ask how his day was and Janet's son confides his deepest secrets and dreams to her? Then with adult children its the whole education-career-marriage-family measuring stick that trips us up every time.

Aside from our skill as mothers, we compare how we measure up as wives, career women, volunteers, cooks, homemakers, crafters, readers, athletes and philanthropists. It seems like no matter where we go or who we're with, that old comparison trap is sitting there, jaws open, teeth sharpened, waiting for us to walk right into it ... and we do, time and again.

Occasionally, well meaning, kind hearted readers and friends will comment on what a super mom I am or wonder at how I do it all. Although they mean to pay me a compliment, I cringe. I am not a super mom nor do I 'do it all'. I do the things I like to do as well as I can and I get by with the rest. There are things that I am good at, and even a few things that I excel at but there is a lot that I don't do well and that's okay.

I learned a while back that if I spend all my time trying to be an imitation of someone else, I will miss out on all the things that are wonderful about me. Each one of us has unique strengths, wisdom and talents that are ours to enjoy, to share. We are each gifted with the responsibility to be the best 'us' that we can be, not the best copy of someone else. There are moments, circumstances and people that only we can make a difference to, if we are being genuinely ourselves. Don't discount that.

Don't downplay your strengths or minimize your gifts. Don't diminish yourself because you think the light from someone else is brighter. Don't underestimate your own magnificence for you, YOU are a spectacular being with a great big life to live and a heart full of love to give. You are the only one who can live your life the way it was meant to be lived.


Just as you are.

So there.

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.

~Judy Garland

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Its the Place to Be

Today is the 100th day of school so naturally Mischief and his classmates were invited to dress like 100 year olds to celebrate the day. As I spent a few quick minutes this morning hiking up his beige pants to show off his white tube socks, tying his tie, baby powdering his hair and zipping his cardigan to make him senior-home ready for the day. When we were done he looked in the mirror and declared, "Wow, time does fly! I am a pretty cool old dude!"

After he explained to me the Circle of Life ("We are born bald, with no teeth and can't walk and we die old, bald, with no teeth and can't walk. Its just life ... in a circle") we hustled him off to school. About an hour later I received an email from his teacher about an encounter another teacher had with him earlier in the morning ...

"So I just met Mischief in the hall walking VERY slowly for a 100 year old man!  I told him I would give you a call and tell you it might take him a while to get to the classroom.  He replied.  “Don’t bother. She’s pretty old.  She’ll likely be dead by the time I get there.”  ! ha!"

From an art project on Day 50
Along with that funny little anecdote was a picture of Mischief, some of his centenarian pals and his teacher ... dressed like an old man! I have a stack of pictures of Mischief with his classmates from the last year and a half. They dressed like they were from the 1950s for the 50th day of school, they celebrated Dr. Suess' birthday by wearing their clothes backwards, they built an igloo out of milk jugs for I love to Read Month and on Tuesday they had a heart shaped pancake breakfast for Valentine's Day. Mrs. Kyle's class is the place to be!

When you walk into her classroom there is a sense of excitement and comfort. There is a carpet in front of the smart board and there's a reading nook with comfy cushions and couches in the corner. The students are encouraged to work where they feel most comfortable and inspired ... as long as they work. The walls are covered with the usual educational tools but there's also posters about respect, kindness and friendship. Art work and words of encouragement cover every spare inch of wall space.

I have volunteered in this classroom a number of times (she does an exceptional job of inviting parents to participate at every opportunity) and I have never heard her loose her cool or raise her voice in anger. The kids aren't angels; they are a group of very energetic, quirky, funny seven and eight year olds but instead of being afraid of the chaos she embraces it, joins in and sets the tone for the classroom. She is funny, silly and creative with the kids and they love and respect her for it.

She celebrates each of her students as individuals in a million little ways every day as well as giving each of them the opportunity to be the classroom star for a week. She finds ways to encourage and esteem the kids for their talents and accomplishments and she empowers them to make better choices and make amends when they have made a bad decision. She honors the people they are and equips them to continue to grow as life long learners and respectful citizens of the world. She considers, not only who they are now but who they are becoming.

Every one moves to their own rhythm, especially teachers. They each have their own style and technique to running their classroom but I think schools would be the place to be if more teachers took a page from Mrs. Kyle's guide to classroom management. She finds a reason to celebrate everyday. She shows up excited to teach, inspiring her students to be excited to learn. I often joke that Mischief is being taught by the missing Disney Princess but its kind of true ... and I'm thankful for it!

Excitement and passion are contagious, we see it every day. Mischief struggles with reading a little and with following the rules ... alot. He often finds himself in hot water at recess and lunch time. School could easily be a downer for this kid, but its not. He loves learning, loves going to school. He can't wait to see what Mrs. Kyle has planned each day and he can't wait to show us what he's learned at the end of each day. He is excited about school because she is excited about school.

Mrs. Kyle has made school the place to be!

I hope his enthusiasm for school and for learning stays with him for the rest of his life. I hope these two years with this exceptional teacher will be just the beginning of his excitement for education. And I hope that Mrs. Kyle's creativity, charisma and compassion for her students never wanes. She is a treasure to our kids, our community ... we are so blessed to have her!

Thank you, Mrs. Kyle!

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. ~Carl Jung

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Future Investments

There's been a lot of hoopla over the past several days about the passing of Whitney Houston. I'm not really a celebrity watcher but you can't turn on the radio or watch a news program without hearing her music. She was kind of a big deal with extraordinary talent and its sad that all that her talent was swallowed up by industry pressure and bad life style choices.

At any rate, yesterday I caught the tale end of her song Greatest Love of All and this morning, while meeting with the superintendent of our local school division, those lyrics kept scrolling through my head.

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be


This morning we met to discuss certain initiatives that are happening within our school division and the impact they could have on the middle school in particular. We discussed the school culture, staff involvement in extra curriculars and inspiring the desire for change and growth within our school communities. I was so impressed by his creative thinking and passion for our schools and community.
It has become so cliche to say that children are our future but seriously, they are. The kids you see walking down your streets, hanging out in your malls and filling your classrooms are the executives, professionals, tradespeople, workers and criminals of our future. These same skateboarding, saggy pant wearing teens that loiter at 7-11 are going to be your doctors or drug dealers, teachers or career criminals, productive members of the community or drains on society. 
So what will make the difference? What will help to determine who and what they will become?
You. You will make the difference ... if you want to.
If you know a kid you have the opportunity to make a difference on a global scale. If you take the time to talk to a kid, inspire a kid, empower a kid you have impacted eternity. Seriously. I'm not being grandiose or dramatic, I'm just telling it like it is.
Kids are sponges. They are constantly taking in information, interpreting it and reacting and readjusting accordingly. They watch us, learn from us and imitate us. They are so eager to be grown up that they will copy the actions and attitudes of nearly any adult they deem cool. That's what's so wonderful yet dangerous about kids.
They need people to talk with them, not at them. They need to be given boundaries and instruction, not only discipline. They need to be taught how to treat each other, not just left to their own devices. They need active, engaged, enthusiastic adults to care enough to invest in who they are becoming. And these adults don't need a title or position in order to have influence, they just need to show up and be genuinely interested.
I'm just saying, if you know a kid, a niece, nephew, babysitter, neighborhood kid, be nice. Be interested. Be a person of positive influence in their life. Believe in them. Mentor them. Encourage them. Teach them. Show up for them. Empower them.
Before you freak out this doesn't have to be an all consuming, time hog commitment. You make make a difference to a kid just by letting them know that you see them, you are glad they are alive. You can mentor a kid by modelling positive behaviour, putting your actions behind your words. You can empower them by supporting their ideas and allowing them to make mistakes and, most importantly, helping them to recover from their mistakes.
Like it or not, cliche or not, children are our future and they are a direct reflection of the investment we all have made into them. What reflection do you see when you look at the kids you know?
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. ~Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Family Love Day - Revisited

This is a blog post that I wrote a couple of years ago and I'm reposting it today because there is nothing else for me to say about today ... today has been made a day to celebrate love yet way too many people are left feeling less than on days like this. That's not okay.

Today is Family Love Day in This Random House ... here's why.

Love Day

Today is Valentine's Day. The day where once a year everyone goes crazy for pink and red hearts, stuffed animals and roses. This is the day you celebrate being part of a twosome by being worried that your lover will forget to love you properly. And if you are not part of a twosome you depress yourself by pondering your aloneness while you eat copious amounts of heart shaped chocolate. Happy Valentine's?

Or you take a healthier approach to this day and you broaden your scope of love.

I have never been a fan of Valentine's Day. It felt like a day when a lot of people were left feeling out of the loop. It seemed that for this one day if you were not part of a couple you were no one and to me that has never been an okay message to send. Not even for one day.

So the first year I was with Mr. Awesome I told him in no uncertain terms that I do not expect nor want any type of love fest on Valentine's Day. I do not need a grand gesture of love on February 14 because he loves me in a million small ways every day of the year. He went along with that, partly because he agreed with me and partly because it got him off the hook. Our ban on Valentine's Day lasted about three years and then I caved. I fell in love with a new man and everything changed.

The first Valentine's Day after Dude was born we celebrated Family Love Day. It wasn't anything we did intentionally, we were just so taken with this kid and this family love that Valentine's Day became something totally different for us. That first year when our wee pudger was 11 months old we celebrated the day with an extra long group cuddle in our bed, pancakes for breakfast and all the hugs and kisses Dude could handle. This tradition has carried on since then. Every year we treat Valentine's Day like an anniversary for our family, a day when we love each other on purpose.

This year as we prepared for today I began to think about what this day means for our kids now and what it could mean to them in the future. Right now they are all pretty young and they see Family Love Day as a day to get some chocolate and a little gift. A day when we make a point of saying 'I love you' to each other and spend time just being together. Its not about being a couple, its about being a family.

It is our hope that as our kids get older they will continue to see February 14 as a day to love the people who are important to them instead of focusing on and seeking out romantic love. We hope that we are teaching them to be content with themselves just the way God made them. That they are enough and whole and complete on their own and that when the time is right God will help them to find another whole and complete person to make a life with...if that's what they desire.

And I'll say the same to you.

Today and every day, you are perfect and complete. You have gifts and talents and abilities that make you the treasure that you are. You are love and goodness and kindness. You are everything you need to be and everyday you are become more. Celebrate that. Celebrate you.

Today is Family Love Day ... anyone you love is family ... love everyone.
~Some Random Mother

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Experience Someone

Yesterday we made our 17th unscheduled trip in to the city. This one was to get my pre-Chemo blood work done. Since this cancer journey has begun I have been to three different CancerCare centers, a breast clinic, a plastics emergency clinic and a lymphodema clinic. I have had a mammogram, an ultrasound, a biopsy, three scans, a surgery and countless blood tests and I have learned one important thing; unless you purposefully look up and notice the people around you, you will drown in your own nasty circumstances.

When you are in the middle of an illness or medical emergency, your thoughts can easily be consumed with your own stuff; your worries, your fears, your future or lack of future. You can get tunnel vision and begin to think that you are the only person who is in the middle of a crisis, the only person with stress, anxiety and a heavy heart. You can get so wrapped up in your own situation that you become self centered, inconsiderate and hurtful to others, even others in similar situations.

I see this almost every time we head to a hospital or clinic. I can't count how many times we see people rudely plow past others, cut in front of others in line, steal parking spots and try to interrupt medical professionals while they are caring for someone else. The people with the 'Me First' mentality are locked and lost inside their own trauma, they can't see the others.

I often joke that Mr. Awesome would talk to a lamp post if he thought he could make a friend and its true. He talks to people EVERYWHERE we go, so I'm never surprised to finding him chatting away to a perfect stranger whenever I leave him alone anywhere. Such was the case when I went for one of my early scans; I came out of the procedure room after an hour or so and found him talking and laughing with a woman who was waiting for her scan.

When he saw me he stood, helped me with my coat and said good bye to his new friend. She thanked him for the conversation and said that it helped to pass the time and made her feel less anxious. As we walked to the car Mr. Awesome told me all about his new pal, her cancer journey, treatments and difficulties. She had been fighting a rare cancer for years and her battle had left her unable to work, financially strapped and all but alone, her friends had burned out long ago. Despite all this she was still optimistic and upbeat for her recovery and future.

Months have passed since that afternoon and I still think about Mr. Awesome's pal, Sheila. We've never seen her again but the lesson we learned from her is never far from our thoughts. Its vital to look up, look around and engage with the people around you because the truth is there is always someone who is sicker, sadder, more fearful, more alone. There is always an opportunity to bring a little hope and even a little humour into someone else's day.

Yesterday, someone cut us off in line for the parking lot. Then we saw an older gentleman push passed a young , tattooed and pierced guy who had recently been badly beaten. Then a young woman elbowed in front of an elderly woman at the reception counter at CancerCare and middle age man impatiently thumped on the counter at the lab when he thought it was taking too long to get to his number.

We also saw a young couple with new born twins let an pair of elderly ladies go in line ahead of them. We saw a young mom give another young mom change to use the payphone. We saw a nurse gently comfort an elderly woman as she leaned over her husband's stretcher, a young man hold a door open for a lady in a wheelchair and a man randomly walk up to a hospital volunteer and thank her for the work she was doing.

We've spent a lot of time in hospitals, clinics and waiting rooms and there is no better place to be overwhelmed with worry but there is also no better place to practice kindness, to talk to people who need a little pick me up and to experience someone else's perspective.

We all go through stuff and we all have emotions about the stuff we're going through ... but ... we all go through stuff and we all have emotions about the stuff we're going through. Look up, look around and take a minute to see someone, really see them.

If you do not raise your eyes you will think that you are the highest point.  ~Antonio Porchia

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Plight of a Pee-Wee

 ... similar to The Flight of the Bumble Bee just shorter.

Ever since Mischief obtained the power of speech he has lamented his small stature. He has whined, cried, raged and bemoaned being dwarfed by younger pals, counted as one of the shortest kids in his class and by far the smallest person in the family. Apparently, it is one of the greatest injustices in life, being wee.

I wouldn't know.

My school memories include standing on the highest choir riser, being positioned at the back center of the class pictures and being sent to the end of the 'by height' line. I was always the tallest girl in the class and on a few occasions the tallest kid in the class, period. I was 5'9" by the time I entered the eighth grade. I felt like a giant, a giraffe, a freak. I stood inches taller than most of my friends, a full 7 inches taller than my best friend. I was a monument to all that is dorky and awkward in Teenagerdom.

It wasn't until my late teen years, when more friends hit their growth spurts that I stood out less and was able to stand tall more. So when I hear my wee, sweet boy complain about being the smallest I don't get it. Small things are cute, cuddly and lovable. Small people can squish in to tight places, don't ever have trouble finding pants long enough and can blend in to a crowd. I think being small would be awesome; and I told Mischief so.

Evidently, I couldn't be more wrong. Small people get patted on the head, picked up and moved against their will, can't reach things on high shelves, always have to sit in the front for class pictures, can't see over taller people at the movies, can't sit in a chair and have their feet touch the floor, get in trouble more than tall people (namely for climbing things), get stuck standing with girls in the choir, have to roll up their pants and stand on their tip-toes a lot. Small people get picked last for basketball (unless they're really fast), have to stand closer to the other guy in a fight (because their arms are shorter) and can't see over the counter at 7-11 (so their brother scoops the change before they even know its there).

Being small sucks!

After hearing Mischief's looong list of complaints we tried to encourage him. We told him that he's only seven and he's the perfect height for a 7 year old. We told him that Mr. Awesome was wee until he was 16 years old and then he had a major growth spurt. We told him that if he fills his body with good fuel (fruit and veg instead of sugar and coffee) that his body will have everything it needs to grow. And we told him that most of all, he has to be patient and that God made his spectacular ... just the way he is.

A few days later we were driving to church and Crafty was singing a song she had learned in Sunday School.

"Read your Bible and pray everyday, pray everyday, pray everyday. Read your Bible and pray everyday and you'll grow, grow, grow!"

"That's the problem!" Mischief exclaimed.

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"The reason why I'm so small is that I pray every day but I forget to read my Bible ... I gotta remember to read that thing so I'll grow faster!" He beamed.

Crafty and I looked at each other and chuckled.

"Oh man!" Mischief groaned. "I just remembered, I don't really know how to read too good. I'm gonna be stuck this small forever!"

Sadly, even though he may not realize it now, I know that Mischief won't stay wee forever. I look at Dude, nearly 12 years old, and marvel at the young man he is becoming. When did that roly-poly baby turn into this tall, lean preteen?  And Crafty, the shadow of my chatty, quirky toddler is disappearing in the light of this beautiful, witty young lady whose laughter fills our home and my heart. Even Wee Mischief, that sweet little thumb sucking baby has morphed into this brave, storytelling ball of action. What happened to all those years between now and then? Can I pause today, this day, this moment, to savour their childhood a little longer?

Can I? I know I can't. I can't even stop Dude for wishing away his childhood so that he can become the great scientist that he knows he is destined to be or slow Crafty down as she weaves a cocoon around her little caterpillar self and prepares for the butterfly she can't help but become. And I definitely can't convince Mischief to revel in his wee-ness, to stay a boy child for as long as possible and that being bigger isn't all that its cracked up to be. I can't.

All I can do is hold them, hug them, smell them, savor them. All I can do is make memories, hold each wonderful moment in my heart and celebrate the children they are and the full grown, big people they will inevitably become.

We've had bad luck with our kids - they've all grown up. ~Christopher Morley

Monday, February 6, 2012

No-Fail Recipe for Insomnia

WARNING: This post is written at 1:45am. This Random Mother cannot be held responsible for rants, incoherent sentences and poor grammar that may result from lack of sleep and subsequent crankiness.

For the bazillionth time in the past couple of weeks I have been driven from my cozy duvet cocoon by chaotic, aggressive snoring and seizure-grade twitching. I am tired, cranky and a little terrified (the tired and cranky are from lack of sleep, the terrified is from the three episodes of Criminal Minds I watched this evening).

A couple of weeks ago Mr. Awesome fractured his rib. I'm not sure how he did it but apparently the incident involved our driveway, ice, the Jeep and Mr. Awesome's own special brand of clumsiness. Ever since that fateful afternoon I have spent more time sleeping in the living room than in my own bed. Not good.

Mr. Awesome's sleep positions are limited because of his injury; he can sleep comfortably on his back, resulting in annoying loud snoring, or he can sleep on his uninjured side and spend the night painfully twitching every time he repositions. Both options leave me not sleeping and plotting his demise ... so I take to the chaise lounge.

Normally, I sleep pretty well in my comfy chair but today I cooked up a No-fail Recipe for Insomnia that has left me jittery, paranoid and wide awake despite my desperate need for sleep. Curious about my Sleep-No-More concoction? Well, here it is ...

Start with a 2 hour, late afternoon, nap. Add two steaming, delicious cups of coffeejuice and stir in three episodes of the most intriguing, yet terrifying, crime drama on TV. Add two hours of snoring, twitching husband and let simmer. Remove from bedroom and place in dark living room in front of large picture window with the curtains wide open. Guarantee no sleep in the foreseeable future.

I know. The logical thing would have been to close the blinds, think happy thoughts and go to sleep. Instead, I am cowering in the basement, listening to Veggie Tales Silly Songs and writing this little ditty for you fine folks. I have contemplated sleeping on the basement sofa but that would mean I would have to walk through the Lego minefield that is my family room ... I don't think so. I have also considered crawling in to bed with Crafty but she has every stuffed animal ever made in bed with her so, no dice.

I also have a guest room with a moderately uncomfortable bed that I could sleep in but that option poses two problems. Problem one, I'd have to walk back through my dark house to get to the guest room and who knows what kind of UnSubs are lurking in the dark. Problem Two, which is infinitely more scary and possible fatal to Mr. Awesome, I can still hear him snoring when I'm in the guest room.

So ... here I sit. 2 am. Listening to The Dance of the Cucumber. Wondering just how much force and for how long one should hold a pillow over some snoring person's face to stop the snoring but not induce death. Just wondering, is all.

People who snore always fall asleep first. ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Healthy Boob is a Happy Boob

Welcome to our first ever #CheckYourself!

Today we will cover the basics because a healthy boob is a happy boob! The only way you'll know if your girls are healthy (and happy) is if you know your girls. Its important for you to know what is normal for your girls because no two girls are alike ... including your two! This is why Breast Self Exams (BSE) are important, they are a tool by which you will get to know your girls.

In recent years there has been some controversy about the effectiveness of BSE as a screening tool. I've read that there are studies that show that BSE don't necessarily increase early detection or survival rates and can be blamed for unnecessary invasive medical procedures. I have also read that BSE can cause unnecessary worry in women. Despite these studies I do feel that when you have all the facts, BSE are a woman's first line of knowledge and defense.

Breasts are naturally lumpy, bumpy, texturally diverse things. They change as we age and they change as our hormones do their monthly cycle. has some really great info on their site about BSE. They liken your girls to neighborhoods.

"Breasts tend to have different “neighborhoods.” The upper, outer area — near your armpit — tends to have the most prominent lumps and bumps. The lower half of your breast can feel like a sandy or pebbly beach. The area under the nipple can feel like a collection of large grains. Another part might feel like a lumpy bowl of oatmeal."

Once you get to know your 'neighborhood' its important to keep perspective. The percentage of lumps found that are actually biopsied and are actually cancerous is relatively small, so if you come across something during your BSE don't automatically jump to worse case scenario. Make notes on what you found, when you found it and where it is. Make an appointment with your doctor and then LISTEN to what they have to say.
A good doctor will take your concerns seriously an educate you about breast health. The more you know the better prepared you are to take care of yourself. BTW - being prepared does not include googling breast cancer and reading every horror story on the Internet. Hope and common sense thrive in a mind that is protected, balanced and responsibly informed; don't feed your worries with whatever junk you come across.
When you actually get down to checking yourself its important to be thorough and consistent.  gives a comprehensive five step method of checking the girls, including pictures. I know this might be uncomfortable for some of you because it was for me, especially step 1, but I am going to tell you in all seriousness that step 4 was the first step to saving my life.
The point is, I want you to take responsibility for your own health. Modern medicine is full of miracles. Doctors and scientists have been clever enough to figure out all kinds of ways to screen people for all kinds of deadly illness. Check your boobs, your cervix, your colon, your heart. Check yourself, take care of yourself. You have an amazing life to lead and it would be a tragedy if you missed it because you were too embarrassed to be informed about your own body, your own health.
To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another. ~Katherine Paterson