Tag Archives: back to school

Why NOT a puppy?

There are times when I find my journey has changed my outlook. Holidays are certainly one of those times. I was always a Christmas girl – my grandmother was literally Mrs. Claus on her stocking and it rubbed off. Last year, this year, more special – cramming as much fun and frolic into the season. The elf, bon bon parties, extra big live trees, etc. This year, a puppy.

Yes, a puppy.

Just about everyone thinks I’m crazy. I have been working on Davis for over three months, but I desperately want a puppy and we are getting her on December 26th.

I was thinking today about why.

Cameron is a great dog – my therapy dog and companion in all of this and in all of our last ten years. He is such a good dog with the NOTABLE exception of the counter surfing – only one place in the entire kitchen is safe – a three foot square plot of land at the back of the range. But he’s getting old. I want to spare my family the pain of losing a dog and having a void. I want our new dog to enjoy his company, to teach him, and for him to have a burst of puppy energy.

But I’m sure there’s some Freudian reason for my desire – a cathartic rebirth, seeing my mortality reflected in the eyes of my dog, an existential crisis.

For me, it’s the pursuit of happiness. What’s a few hours of sleep missing, a few chewed fingers, an extra mouth to feed, when you consider the joy and love that will come. Of course I say that now before we are inundated with housebreaking and a pouting septuagenarian.

This week, this holiday, may your gifts be merry and bright, and may you be 10% as excited as my kids are about the presents that await them. And 1% as excited as me.


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When You Follow Joy

As we head into the season of giving and receiving and joy and family it’s also a time for hilarity – at least at the Ward house. And, these days, the way we roll is to just let it go.

I want to illustrate with science fair. There will be time for elves later.

Those of you who know our family know that Davis and I are scientists by study, and certainly organized by nature, but it shocked even us to hear that the kids wanted to do science fair projects this year. All three of them. Even though all three aren’t required – below third grade – all three wanted to do it. Even though all three aren’t due until January 29th, they wanted to do it early. Sunday. And, even though there are only two parents, all three wanted a parent, all the time.

Emmy originally wasn’t going to do a project but then she thought about doing it, and thought about drawing a science book, and decided she should. She has a book she loves that shows the layers of the human body and she wanted to make it. One of my gifts is execution – helping achieve a certain vision. She had the vision – layers of plastic, held together with clips. She brainstormed the layers: blood/heart, tummy, skeleton, brain, skin, lungs. We drew it and then she wanted to make a board. And we did and it has typed out facts she dictated to me and stuck on the board and it looks like a six year old made it and she did. Maybe it looks like an eight year old made it. It’s amazing. Did you know it takes 20 seconds for blood to circulate through your body once?

Carter decided he needed to do something too – and they had just learned the planet song at school. SO, a model of the solar system. As we are in process on purchasing sytrofoam balls and a base and a board (2nd trip to Michaels if you’re counting) he says “And, Mom, the sun needs to light up.” Of course it does.

I ask at Michaels – thinking I can get a lamp if I need it, but no, now they have LED lights that you can put into objects after you “turn them on” so Carter has a glowing sun solar system – each planet painted, in order, and a board with facts. Did you know that Pluto is in the Kuiper Belt? Had you even heard of the Kuiper Belth?

We weren’t able to complete Carter’s project Sunday because the planets had to dry. On Monday when he got home from school all he wanted to do was finish the project. In fact, he started crying because he didn’t want to take piano lessons since he wanted to work on science fair “Mom, all I wa-a-ant to do is finish my so-o-lar s-s-system.” Tears streaming down his face.

Henry (from Davis) got the idea to test paper airplanes. Together, they developed 10 prototypes – each named and numbered, and a series of experiments: how far, how many and type of tricks, flight time, and weight it could carry. He flew paper airplanes for three hours straight. Data collection. Of course, he still hasn’t formulated a hypothesis, but he did some great drawings in his journal of his process – little stick Henry on the balcony with a little triangle plane – distances marked where known.

I couldn’t stop smiling all day. It was complete chaos – at one point I was whispering letters into Emmy’s ear for her resource list in her journal and turning to Carter and doing the same for his list (“P-A-P-E-R, Emmy and Carter B-A-L-L-S”. Davis and Henry went up and down the stairs in our house for hours – literally. It was a beautiful, organic, crazy day.

On that second trip to Michaels we met a frazzled family trying to determine which boards to use for a display. I asked if they were working on science fair. The Mom, exasperated, said YES, it’s so much work (in front of her kid and mine). I said “Yes, we are doing three projects at home right now. And we’re having a great time.” She said “I guess I shouldn’t complain about our one.”

I thought, you shouldn’t complain at all. You have a happy healthy family and a kid who wants to learn. Facilitating that may be annoying at times – we had tears, spent $50, and were exhausted just from Sunday – but the joy is infectious. Emmy has started bringing her book into class to show her friends. Some of the other kinder kids now want to do projects.

Happiness, despair, excitement – so much comes from within. I learned from my cancer battle that attitude is a huge chunk of the fight. So at the Ward house, we go with happy.

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Praise for a Rainy Friday

oh how I have missed the rain. In Austin we have rain about once a quarter – a sight so rapidly diminished by global warming that the principal had to send out a special alert all message today about how to pick up your child in the rain. STAY IN THE CAR it read. The dog cowers in the corner, and hubby has to go get leaves off the rain gutters in his all weather gear, but I rejoice. Because not only does this mean I won’t get dinged for not watering the garden all week Davis was out, it also means we might not play that team of ringers tomorrow on the soccer field.

To recap, life is normal again although schedulng an appointment to get nipples was a little out of the ordinary. How will I feel during the surgery? “Like you’ve had a few margaritas” – whee and new nipples?!

I celebrate my new job – at which I am actually quite good, and had my first “inquiry” which means the next step in this sales funnel thing that I’m doing. Regardless, I am enjoying it, and finding that there are advantages to being old – I mean seasoned – I have a network and you don’t. I’m not cheating I just have gone through more junk and have a nice perk – friends in high places. Occasionally.

Henry and I spent two hours last weekend on Chinese homework. There were tears – and not just from Henry. Ni jao wo ma ming sur?  I think I am asking What is your name, but really I had to picture his teacher wielding a ninja sword and jumping on a pogo stick to get “lao sur” in my head. This is hard. Henry wanted to quit. I wouldn’t let him. I said – you don’t get to quit when things are hard. You don’t get to leave the field. And you know what, he got 100% on his quiz today. Yes, they had a quiz and he is in 2nd grade and most of the class is 7. That’s another conversation.

Carter has discovered a game on the ipad called mindsnacks Mandarin – a friend’s recommendation. One of the “levels” is to connect the dots on a little cube indicating which way the accent mark goes on a word. Does it go down? Up? Straight across? Or like a little V? I couldn’t even tell what the dots meant. He has now reached the 21st star in under 3 minutes. I have no idea what any of that means.

Emmy and I went to JoAnn fabrics – Mommy can we go to the store where we get all the craft activities like the elephant that I sewed together? In the plethora of options for her to choose under $10 she chose to pick a soccer outfit for her American girl doll. We got home and she burst into tears because she thought the shoes wouldn’t fit. They did, but after we had tot ake the teeny tiny shoelaces off and then retie them. Next thing I know whe’s drawn and illustrated a globe and can sing Head Shoulder Knees and Toes in Mandarin.

And, I finally called the electrician – we have four new light fixtures installed and canned lights that make me happy to see them and a whole bunch of holes in our ceiling that I will need to get patched.

I carried a new fan out of Home Depot and Emmy was with me – on the JoAnn run – “Mommy I think you are getting much stronger since you had the cancer bugs”.

I find I don’t even think about it daily – until I see myself in the mirror or my sore left muscle gives me a little ping. Everything changes and the more it stays the same.

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The Good Problems to Have

Yes, it’s 5.45am on a Saturday. I am so excited and nervous and my mind is buzzing so I can’t get back to sleep. It’s ridiculous, because I just got off a two week stint with Davis gone and an obscenely packed schedule. But I can’t help it – I feel alive again and my mind is pacing on normality.

I am running through my activities as coach of the Under 8 Blue Jedis – our first game is today and we may have one player missing so I spent 40 minutes last night working on a rotation schedule where everyone gets to play sweeper and striker and an even amount of time and two of my more excitable boys aren’t on the bench at the same time and two of my four kids that have played soccer before with the big kid rules are in and I think I deserve some kind of problem solving award. I was about to look online for a logic puzzle that could help. If two fo players 1,2,3,4 need to be on the field, and players 4 and 5 shouldn’t be out at the same time, and all players need to be position A and position B at some point, and all players need to play the same amount, create a rotation schedule for players 1-7. seriously.

I am excited because Davis is home – we have had a rough time with homework and managing our schedule and having a partner here to share in the commitment is necessary.

I am excited because we have decided to start working on the house and have a few projects pending – some glamorous like new light fixtures … other not like new windows. I am thinking of our bank account, what we can set aside for the next refresh project, and how we can somehow manage to do a master bath remodel and a backyard patio in 2014.

And, I am obsessed with puppies. Our dog is wonderful. He is our fourth child. He is hilarious, sweet, a complete food monger – usually nabbing at least one item a week be it a loaf of bread or someone’s hot dog – but he’s 10 and I want another little guy to learn from him. I have allergies as does Emmy so instead of rescuing a dog this time around we are aiming for a doodle. (We can’t seem to rescue one because A-they don’t get loose very often and B-the rescue organizations that do handle them won’t adopt out to a family with small kids). SO I am patiently waiting until Christmas. OK, maybe not so patiently, I will wear down Davis shortly.

I know he’s overwhelmed after a two week trip for work, but I am too – it’s things like how to help Henry master Mandarin – he apparently does fine orally but needs tow work on written comprehension. Really? Week 3? How to get everything done during the week when I am working the entire time the kids are at school.

But ultimately, these are extraordinarily good problems to have. I will take these problems any day and wake up early ready to tackle them. I truly have a new outlook thanks to cancer, and I will forever be grateful.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t need an “atta girl” every once in a while – so if you see me, feel free! (And be sure to tell Davis – ha!)

And, I scheduled my last surgery … in October … I will get nipples after 14 months without. How about them apples?

Now off to a day of soccer – Team Ward truly.


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Crispy on the Edges

I’m not going to lie. I know this is going to be another NOT fun month. I am trying to keep up with the fun stuff (the soccer, the kids, Halloween decorating) but the radiation has already started giving me the burn. And by the burn I mean a full on sun burn over the upper left quadrant of my body front and back.

Yes, I was warned. Yes, I have meds – aquafor, Nivea, specialized aloe, miderma. But I am purposely going each day to lay down and get sunburned. Each day. My days haven’t been as good because tummy sleeper that I am it has suddenly gotten complicated at night. Uncomfortable.

The radiation websites say to “wear loose clothing that doesn’t touch the areas impacted” and to “avoid contacts with binding materials.” UM HELLO. Are we not supposed to wear a bra during this six week thing? Stay at home in bed with an old T shirt on? I did that yesterday but I couldn’t today. And what about kids? I know they are trying to be helpful but there should be a guide for “how to cope with radiation when you HAVE to wear a bra because your boobs are in it and you have three young children you don’t want completely freak out” Now that would be helpful.

As it is, I nap just about every day now – and we are only entering week three – the little bump in energy I had from getting over the surgery is moving downhill. I’m sure if you polled my cells they would be growing increasingly disenchanted with the “state of my body” – probably foreign and domestic both.

And why do they weigh you in every time you go to the doctor? I am sure that I have changed body shape – I am back to a medium sized top consistently, but not my weight number … and I am not a medium on the bottom. It’s an uncomfortable feeling when you put on your 6 foot three inch husband’s shirts and they no longer swallow you up.

But, October 29th is in sight. The end of this part of this leg of this journey. Then a break from treatments and surgeries until at least 2013. Small victories after large ones. I went shopping and got some new jewelry and makeup and get constant comments on that. Along with my fabulous haircut. Gennifer Goodwin totally copied me.

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Happy Birthday Henry, Happy Radiation Mommy

The most important thing is Henry is seven. He is a gifted, sweet boy – according to his teacher although I am unabashedly biased. His birthday was an overwhelming success, and the piles of robot, Star Wars, and LEGO presents around the house show how well his friends know him. It was an amazing day – we had two soccer games on Saturday and a birthday party in the afternoon – hosted thankfully at a local gym instead of hour house.

But, it was a big day – even without my body still reeling from surgery and chemo and inactivity. And, of course, as a former soccer coach – former not by choice – I couldn’t sit still. I paced the sidelines, kept time, yelled in orders. I am sure I was a terrible parent but I hope I was a helpful co-coach. Don’t tell me if I wasn’t.

Last night I had a realization. I am going to have to schedule naps. I am going to have to put time on the calendar for resting, for blogging, and will have to give up much of what I gathered back. It is the natural order of things for the pendulum to swing from busy to lazy and back again. My pendulum swang too fast.

It’s all about choices at this point – some are not mine. I went to see a gastroenterologist today because with all of the stress and hormonal imbalance I have started having debilitating cramps and IBS. SUPER fun. I was given fiber and a muscle relaxant. Not my choice. I had a meeting with my radiation oncologist. He said “I hope you don’t hate me because you’re doing this.” “I don’t,” I said, “I came back didn’t I?” But it wasn’t my choice. Not really.

Today when I told the twins I would not be able to pick them up at school because I was going to see another doctor. Emmy says from the back seat “Why do you have to go to another doctor, Mama? The cancer is all gone?” Because, honey, I don’t want it to come back. (That’s my choice.)

The radiation oncologist took a CT scan of me to help with positioning. I have red sharpie crosshairs on my body – the kids wanted to make sure that it didn’t hurt. Not yet. I start on Thursday for 33 days of chemo – every morning at 10:20am for basically the next 6 weeks.

In “form” news my boob is wandering around the state of Texas I guess. No word from Nordstrom. I told a friend and she said maybe we should take pictures with the form like Flat Stanley. Here it is on the Riverwalk. Here it is at the Alamo.

I would like to get used to the forms – I am sure that my back will be tired after getting used to nothing on the front. I now understand why some women have to get reductions because of their back. Honestly, the irony is not lost on me.

We got a package yesterday and I was so excited – it was from Nordstrom’s. No boob – just a swim suit and two bras. I was disappointed. For once, UPS had not brought the happiest! How odd for our UPS man that once he brought gifts for our wedding, then for our children, and now I wait for a boob?

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I realized after finishing my post it was a symptom of my mood … After two naps today I was struggling to determine how to voice my moving forward speed. But I didn’t tell of the joys of this week. The small joys, the big ones. The news that keep me going, us all going. Henry and I had a special movie night in his honor Wednesday …SAM seminal moment for any child of our, the watching of the first star wars movie. He had been playing wii Lego star wars and so knew the characters .. C3po “worries too much” he would say in the movie, and I was there when he got worried. What happened to Obie wan? Did he die? Was he part of the force? After, he said it was way more awesome than he thought and less scary, now he is planning for our next movie … I’m hoping we move to Indiana jones 🙂 I also made a decision this week for me. There are some clothes I have in my closet that I save for special occasions … Like china for our wedding. I decided this week to wear the pretty clothes, wear what I want and feel good in because that’s what really matters … Not if the sequins fall off or the thing has to be dry cleaned. Right now we are going with happy, in between the naps …I think it’s a good philosophy.

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Real Life is Exhausting

I was kidding myself. I was kidding everyone. Or maybe I just didn’t want to believe. After all, seven months of forced solitude, forced inactivity can lull you into believing that when you feel good you can go into your wheels fall off. Boy did the wheels fall off today.

Close your eyes and imagine three children – precocious, happy, energetic and independent. Starting school – three different classes, two different schools. Activities: two soccer teams (Dad coaching the twins team), robot building, dance, math pentathlon, cub scouts, art, and cooking. This is 1st grade and preK, mind you. We are operating at full bore after a week and a half.

This would be exhausting for any of us – even with out my previous life, right?

Now imagine, me – three weeks after bilateral mastectomy surgery, finally able to walk, to move and to sleep in my own bed. I have a haircut that people think I got on purpose. I have a wardrobe pieced together from previous purchases and additional elastic waistbands. And, I’m driving. But, I have no battery as a friend compared.

I had so much on my schedule yesterday it expanded beyond the confines of the calendar onto a separate piece of paper. And, it truly highlighted what has now become my new normal – two lives. One, lunch with Pink Ribbon Cowgirls complaining of share issues with radiation (starting next week for me), weight gain, hot flashes, hormone regulation, reconstruction. The other life, curriculum night for school – learning that my 1st grader will have Chinese instruction in his classroom twice a week as part of our elementary school immersion. Ni hao!

It’s an odd place – people I meet think this is my life, I have chosen this hair, I have chosen this body. I look in the mirror and see a work in progress – a paper doll with no identifying characteristics and realize how lucky I am to be standing there. I realize that I don’t like how I look – who does, really – but hopefully it will be transitory.

Then, I learn of the steps yet to take in my journey – the fatigue that will arise, again, during radiation. The hormonal shifts from the endorcrine therapy (tamoxifen) for the next five years. The additional procedures during reconstruction. But, I’m here – and tomorrow, we have two soccer games and Henry’s 7th birthday party. So much for dismantling the care calendar.

Finding the balance between my two lives – between my old life and my new life will become the order of the week this week. How can I shoulder some of the parenting burden while also taking care of myself? And, my beautiful, amazing, talented children – continuing to love and support, engage and learn.

All while waiting for my second boob to arrive in the mail from Nordstrom. It’s on backorder.

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Because Everyone Loves a Happy Ending

I had to be reminded this weekend that I am not the same as before. It’s good that every waking moment, every visitor, every thought is no longer about cancer, or recovery, but sometimes just about life.As a result I’m so tired tonight I can’t really make this blog make sense.

In fact I am more tired than I have been in a while – real, honest tired. Not fatigue. I worked on the weekend. I was a helper, a participant, a driver (literally) and then I was up until 2am last night for the right and wrong reason.

We are headed on a Disney cruise for Thanksgiving and today marks the 75-days-until-cruise mark. Well, with all of our family traveling we wanted to be SURE we got the right Port Adventures, the EARLIEST embarkation time. And, we weren’t clear on the demand – this is the first fall that Disney operates out of Galveston and with 2400 of our nearest and dearest friends also onboard, we wanted to get a jump. SO comes our story of Davis and I with all associated reservation numbers and birthdays, logging on at midnight, hitting refresh – panicking when we couldn’t get into the open website. It was the adrenaline rush of an ebay auction couple with the excitement of class registration and Christmas morning all rolled into one. We couldn’t get everything settled and my brain rattled around for another hour, luckily I have the super hubby to pick up the slack and let me sleep it off a bit.

Sleeping on my stomach. Yup, that’s right, though I am stiff and a little tight in places, I am back to my belly flop. In my bed. Tonight I am already fighting the droopy eyes. Who needs physical therapy when you have kids? And, real life.

In some ways I won’t ever be the same because of this journey – the battle hardening my attitude, loosening my parental concerns, allowing my strength to surface. In some ways I want to be the same – menu planning today for a week, shopping at Target, sweeping the garage in 100 degree heat.

This week, we are going  to test the Ward fall scheduling system. Also known as the chaos that is back to school, and the organization that is a dual-MBA house. We have multiple written calendars to determine what we can add into the system – will Cub Scouts tip us over the edge? Will robot camp? Dance?

There was a time in my life when the mere removal of a mole caused a scar whose keloid was objectionable enough to have us revisit it – twice. I even have stories for it: barbed wire fence, shark attack. I was reminded when I received a get well card – some stories to tell about your scar – that my positioning on scars is a little different. After all, I now have two big ones. But I don’t really see them the same way – they are a means to an end. Although this ending is pretty good.

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Two steps forward, thirteen new questions

It’s a two week milestone today – two weeks from my bilateral mastectomy for those of you new to the story. Seven months from the mammogram that changed the move to Dubai into a stay and fight … and a week from the cancer free report card.

Today I did 15 things. OK, maybe it was 10 or maybe it was 18, but it was a lot – some seemingly incongruous with normal life (aka buying boobs at Nordstrom’s with my Mom) and some totally normal (grabbing breakfast on the run) and some totally normal but in this new normal somehow special (driving around the block by myself). But the important thing is that it was a list – a big list – and it all happened today. There was a time not that long ago where I dared myself to do one thing a day. To make one extra phone call, to write a blog post, to do just one thing outside of the pure process of living and healing and surviving. How fast things can change.

The oddities start piling up at this stage in the game as well – I am healthy looking and so most people I meet will no doubt believe I purposely chose this haircut, that I look this way physically. Oh how I wish I could tell them.

I have conversations I never thought I would have – just tonight, with my Mom and my husband we had a conversation about when I should put my boobs on in the morning. At Nordstrom’s today, I got my new “forms” – I have a pair for regular use (that sit inside of pockets sewn into my bras) and a swim pair (lighter weight, and able to withstand chlorine – for the Disney cruise and the last few days of summer). The swim forms were a splurge – can you believe that’s what I now call a splurge? But a girls gotta have girls on a cruise.

We showed off my forms – Davis, my Mom, the nanny – they are fascinating (ask if you want to peek). The amount of engineering – lifelike, yet clearly imitation. With wicking components, multiple angles, and yes, even a nipple. They are not real, but they are darn close. In fact, by the end of the day my back hurt – was it from the new weight adjustment?

Anyhow, back to this conversation -about when I need to put on my boobs – and I’m curious about other Moms out there. Clearly, I am not a sight for preschool eyes. unclothed. It’s not like I was parading around naked before, but occasionally Emmy would dress me. Now I have a reluctance to even get out of bed when she’s around in the morning – and she always is – hugging me, loving me. In this totally odd conversation, we decided that as long as no one sees me without my shirt on we should be OK. It’s only six months.

Those of you who think I am brave consider this – each day I grow stronger. I think of putting on my bathrobe each night after these glorious showers and the effort it takes and how it gets easier each day. I think of men and women for whom things get harder each day, and yet they keep pushing ahead. I am reading about WWII and am thinking about the sacrifices so many made for us – for our lives – and how people still do. I think that is bravery. I am just dealing with the hand I was dealt.

In the motherhood column, we are working hard on the settling in of routines – Carter cried when I dropped him off today great big gulping blue eyes brimming. His teacher emailed that within minutes he was fine. Henry is pleased as punch with his teacher’s record card system – each good day we put the card in a jar on the table. What he wanted most for his birthday was unveiled today – a rolling office chair for his room with up and down. They spent two hours putting it together and testing it out. I got it at Costco for $60 and it’s red vinyl and he thinks it’s manna from heaven. Next year he might ask for a cubicle. Emmy drew a diagram of the chair with actual anatomical detail and arrows indicating all its features.

I stand in wonder of my children, of our journey, but most of all of our help. I sit in jammies donated by my friend Sara (they are just TOO stinking cute I hear her say. We enjoyed a meal brought by a Doss family, and accepted a bottle of wine from our new neighbors. I look at my new earrings and think of my friend Jessica, my card today in the mail and think of my sister-in-law.

What you don’t know is that with each act you have given me strength. I will pass it along. Maybe tomorrow – I probably have at least 16 things I can do.


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