Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Cancer!

My lymph node biopsy came back clean--no evidence of malignancy!!  The official diagnosis is reactive lymphoid hyperplasia, which means I need to keep an eye on the nodes in case they do grow further, but all is clear.  This Thanksgiving shared with my family will be extra-meaningful, and I feel humbled by everyone's well-wishes and support during these past couple of weeks of stress and worry.

Now if I could only get rid of this damn rash...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Me Too

My maternal grandmother was notorious in her preference for boys over girls.  My brother and I would often spend a couple of weeks up in southern Maine during the summers under my grandparents' care, where she quickly bestowed upon me the nickname 'Me Too'.  You see, I had a cool older brother, just 18 months older, so oftentimes what he wanted to eat, or where he wanted to go, I did too.  In the mornings, she'd make us brush our teeth and then drink a glass of orange juice before offering up cereal or oatmeal.  "Oatmeal, please", my brother would say.  "Me too," I'd pipe up. 

He's someone I've always looked up to (or in his words, he's spent his life knocking down brick walls with his head so I can walk right through).  I did manage to have children first (and that's quite a big brick wall to knock down), but through the vast majority of life I've been fortunate to have my brother experience somewhat of a trial run of life with me close behind as a witness.  It's given me the opportunity to know what I'm in for as I move through life, or as life comes at me.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was sweeping my hair up into one of my usual fabulous, fancy mom updos (read: ponytail), I noticed a lump right where my hair meets my neck.  Hmmm...and another one on the other side as well.  I was at the doctor's the next day-- my brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma a little over a year ago, so lumps aren't taken lightly, especially since studies do show a sibling correlation with the disease.  And these lumps weren't your usual, run-of-the-mill, tender but spherical swollen gland kind of lumps; they were painless, rubbery-hard, and an odd shape.

Fast forward through two weeks of the obligatory antibiotics to see if a viral infection happened to be getting those lymph nodes riled up--they didn't do anything for the nodes, but I am now nine days into my first allergic reaction to amoxicillin (whoopeeeee!).  It's a rare, cruel joke to be on the cusp of a high probability of a cancer diagnosis to also have one's body be overcome with dermatology textbook-publishworthy skin.  To use the word 'rash' does not accurately describe my misery--here's a picture of a small bit of my skin, if you can stomach it.
see my right leg?  It's one mass of redness.

Then multiply that by a million to cover my whole body (except my face, thankfully), and add the incredible itchiness.  Steroids, prescription-strength Benadryl--nothing is touching this rash as it continues to ravage my body.  A couple of nights ago, Sam made a late night trip to Walgreens and I shook with anticipation like a crack fiend as he came home and unloaded a bounty of Caladryl, cotton balls, oatmeal soap and some special aloe skin wash.  Cotton balls are fluffy and all, but I could have used a side trip to Home Depot to buy an applicator for applying deck stain, for the amount of area I'm covering here.  You know what, though?  Looking on the bright side, this unbearable misery has definitely taken my mind a bit off the potential cancer diagnosis looming over me.  And I don't want to come across as a Debbie Downer; throughout this whole thing I have felt wholly and eternally grateful that I am going through this instead of one of my boys. 

Anyway, the last couple of weeks have also included a fine needle aspiration biopsy (showed atypical cells but no conclusive diagnosis), blood tests, a CT scan, and the grand finale to this period of what-the-hell-is-going-on-with-me will be bright and early tomorrow when I have an open biopsy.  Removing a node or two should give them some answers, and I'm really looking forward to it.  Hook me up to the chemo machine; luckily, my big brother has knocked through this brick wall for me, so if I'm going to pull a Me Too with this cancer shit, at least I've seen him go through it first.

We've all been faring fairly well here, considering...last night I promised Jackson that I wouldn't look this way forever, and he told me that he was used to it and it didn't bother him at all.  Mental note--get that kid an extra Christmas present.  And for those that believe bad things happen in threes, I should get an all-clear biopsy.  This rash is a big number one, Kenyon was up through the night vomiting last night, and we woke up this morning to find that our beloved Gumball the Guinea Pig had died.

Are you there, Universe?  It's me, Annie.  This is enough for now; I think we've got all we can handle.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

You can take the man out of California...

My husband Sam was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California, which meant he grew up doing the obligatory California-y activities, boogie boarding, skateboarding, and dreaming of being a Banana Slug.  When he moved to Boulder, his trusty skateboard was his primary means of transportation.  Fast forward 15 years, and between shuttling at least one of our three kids to--name your poison--school, soccer practice, birthday parties, friend's houses, etc etc etc, and also getting to work with a trunk full of art supplies, there simply isn't much room in his life for skating.

Our boys have taken up riding scooters, so naturally one of my newer haunts is the local skate park.  The dynamic there is either (pause while I search for the hip skater term...) totally rad (is that what the kids are saying these days??), or...really uncomfortable.  It seems that between the ages of 18-25, boys turn into, well, assholes.  And I don't necessarily want to be that mom that walks over super momified, using momtastic language and pushing my momerific values on these boys that are so painfully oozing testosterone and angst...but one of these days it's bound to happen. 

The first time we were there, an early twenty-something dickhead on a bike rode by and intentionally jabbed his handlebars into Alex, who was innocently scooting around.  This loser made a point of stating loudly that he did it on purpose, and went on to spout a litany of foul words while frothing at the mouth about the hassle of all the young kids.  Um, Mr. I'm So Inadequate I Need To Assert Myself Against a Five-Year Old?  The skate park is adjacent to an elementary school.  Here's an idea--if you want a more adult scene, go to the downtown skate park, not the one in the Desperate Housewifey suburb next to the school that houses children that eat snack and have recess.  What kind of a jerk would purposely intimidate this little kid?  Lucky for him, he left after his diatribe, because he was about to get an earful from me.  All kids have to start somewhere, and I am eternally grateful for those days at the skate park where the older guys take the younger ones under their wing, giving them tips on how to drop in the bowl, yelling out words of praise and tapping their boards on the ground to celebrate when a kid nails something for the first time.

We hit the skate park jackpot earlier this evening, when our boys needed to blow off a little energy before dinner.  A few other guys about Sam's age showed up, and being well past the outer age of jerkiness, they all had such a positive attitude and mentored the younger kids the whole time.  Sam enjoyed himself, dusting off his skateboard that carried him everywhere in his youth and dropping right in the bowl.

 Kenyon kept himself busy doing his own 'tricks' and 'accidentally' tossing his shoes into the bowl so he had a reason to go in and retrieve them. 
My boys are well aware when the intimidation cloud hangs over the park--they stay a little closer to me and are more wary of trying out new moves.  I always make a point of talking about the vibe there, partly because I desperately want them to avoid turning into assholes, even if it's just a phase.  I also recognize that my days of hanging out at the skate park with them are numbered--I am well aware no teenager would tolerate having his mom there--so this is my only time to help instill some awareness of the asshole factor, and how it's not cool to act like that.  The chances are slim, but I would love it if, in ten years, one of the boys came home and mentioned that he helped a little kid drop in for the first time.

It was a perfect fall evening, crisp and cool, and by the time we walked through our front door we were more than ready to dig into the potato cheddar soup I had made for dinner.  Outside, the falling leaves swirled and our spider web and skeleton Halloween decorations swayed against the breeze.  Bubble baths were had, footie pajamas were put on, stories were read, and goodnight kisses were given.

I don't want teenagers just yet.  7.5, almost 6, and 2.5 are pretty sweet numbers to me right now.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Membership Card Enclosed

I met Meghan many, many moons ago (read: when I was single), when we were both teaching summer school. Meghan was a fairly new teacher, and for some strange reason, the school district allowed hacks with a mere substitute teacher's license (read: me) to teach those children that needed a little extra help. Not a ringing endorsement for public schools here in mighty Colorado, but Meghan and I had a lot of fun rockin' middle school English for two summers in a row.

Fast forward ten years, and Meghan and I don't quite have the free time we had back then, to lounge at the pool and go out at night. I married Sam later that second summer, and immediately had Jackson...and Alex......and Kenyon. We don't live all that close to each other, either, so our friendship has basically been reduced to dinners after months of planning and the occasional housewarming party or child's birthday party.

Life does not always go quite as planned, and a few years ago, just a few short weeks after Meghan married a great guy, she found out she had cancer. A rare kind. Like, that two other people have.  Somehow I doubt that was something she dreamed about as she envisioned being a newlywed.  But I don't want to devote my time or energy writing about f*cking cancer tonight; tonight is for good thoughts only, because Meghan is preparing to meet her three (count 'em--three) babies tomorrow. I am so thrilled for her to be embarking on this huge, life-changing whirlwind that is motherhood.

Meghan, I wish you all the good in the world; I can't think of anyone more deserving.  I can't wait to hear all about the healthy arrivals of three beautiful beings tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"This One Goes Out To My Nana..."

As soon as Alex picked up his first guitar at age two, my mom started brainwashing him by saying, "When you're a famous rock star and you're up on stage surrounded by your adoring fans, you'll dedicate a song to your Nana."  Now, despite the fact that she was at the original Woodstock, my mom is not known for her knowledge of pop culture.  To say the least.  When I was in high school, I'm sure she thought my interest in the Red Hot Chili Peppers had to do with a culinary pursuit.  If a song aired on a radio station that didn't have Teddy Pendergrass in their lineup, she didn't know it.  If she had any knowledge of the likes of Iggy Pop, Anthony Keidis, or Perry Farrell, she'd know that one does NOT become a rock star by giving shout-outs to their nana.
She has been in far-off Lisbon, Portugal for a while doing important things like sampling pork cheeks and eating custard-filled pastries, so she hasn't been able to get a good dose of brainwashing into Kenyon...yet.  But we did manage to capture Kenyon giving a non-Nana-shout-out rendition of a popular song.  Give a listen and see how long it takes you to name that tune...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Let me preface this post by saying that I want to compete in a triathlon.  Not one of the olympic-sized ones (I'm no crazy person), but a sprint-one.  Those of you who know me may already be chuckling, because if my friends had to come up with a list of adjectives to describe me, 'athletic' wouldn't even make the top 50.  Or 100.  I've been a bit busy for the past 8 years gestating, birthing, or parenting these children o' mine. As my mother often hears me say, "I am a mother of three."

Mark my words, I will do a triathlon in the not-so-distant future, but for now I will live vicariously like an annoying stage mother through Jackson, who participated in IronKids, his first athletic competition, this past weekend. 

At Jackson's age level, IronKids consisted of a 50m swim in Boulder Reservoir, a 2 mile bike ride, and a 500 yard run.  Apart from Sam taking him up to the Reservoir a few days prior to check it out, Jackson didn't do any training.  We wanted to keep it fun, and told him that he was only competing against himself and that simply finishing would be a huge accomplishment.  Besides, we figured there would be plenty of crazy-fit Boulder families who do like three triathlons every weekend, after scaling some fourteeners and doing some ice climbing.

The morning of the race, we pulled into the parking lot at the Reservoir and were conspicuously one of the very few cars without a bike rack and lots of other very athletic equipment-holding devices. 
I pinned Jackson's bib number on his shirt, Sam applied some sunscreen (or skwunskween, as Kenyon calls it), and we did some required Sharpie-marking of his age and bib number on his legs and arms.  Then we stood around amongst lots of sinewy, spandex and other high performance synthetic-wearing people trying to look as if we do this kind of thing, you know, all the time.  Jackson wore his swim trunks and his swim shirt, but there were tons of kids in those tri-suits. 

Jackson in his white swim shirt among the other IronKids
Jackson exiting the water in his white swim shirt

Now, I've mentioned before on this blog that I've got some weird crying disorder, and almost from the moment we arrived I had tears in my eyes as I watched the older division race.  As Jackson lined up with his group near the water's edge, I wanted to puke with nervousness and excitement.  And then he blew me a kiss, so of course I welled up with tears again.

For those of you who aren't hip to triathlon protocol, they stagger the kids' starts so there isn't a full-on stampede into the water, and each kid wears a timing chip on their ankle.  As the kid begins and ends each event, they run over a mat that records the time.  Jackson did really well in the swim, ranking 23rd out of 136 kids in his division.

After running up the path to the transition area, Jackson flung off his swim cap and goggles, threw on his sneakers and helmet, and hopped on his bike.  We couldn't see him for the vast majority of the bike race, but we cheered him on as he rounded the corner back to the transition area to start his run.  He was right in the middle of the pack for his bike portion, placing 66th out of 136 kids.  Later, he'd say that the passing a few kids during the bike race was his favorite part of the whole thing.

The run was also hard for me to get a good view of (especially while running around everywhere with Kenyon on my hip) but we caught him coming down the home stretch.  Running was the hardest portion for him, coming in 102nd out of 136 kids.

Overall, he came in 60th out of 136, which is solid, and he had an absolute blast.  He's looking forward to competing again next year, and maybe by then I'll be one of those sinewy moms with the ultra-high performance athletic gear.  Maybe...but I wouldn't bet on it.
Me with Alex, Kenyon, and Jackson with his hard-earned medal

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Plantation 2010

Summer, why hast thou forsaken us?  Somehow I blinked and I now find myself in mid-August, wondering where the hell this season has gone.  I would be remiss if I did not capture some memorable summer experiences on this little blog o' mine by at least tossing together a hodge-podge summertime post, but some things simply demand a post of their own.  Nobody puts Plantation Tree Farm in the corner, so here are some pictorial highlights of our annual trek back to my heaven on earth for a long weekend of family camp at my father-in-law's 500-acre redwood tree forest in Sonoma County, CA.
hanging out at High Trees camp...
Pete shimmied up the tree to make a swing for the kids.  He also made a few adjustments to the tree to make the giraffe Thalia imagined come into clearer view...
the giraffe!
The kids loved balancing on the slack line Casey set up...
the boys found a scorpion
Al Pal
Martina and Casey and their girls road-tripped out from Colorado!
Kenyon and Lucia
the lovely outdoor woodburning stove-heated shower
side of the shower/washing station
John and Ama (and Moe) prepping breakfast
Martina, kiddos, and I out for a hike
heading down to Ed's house

visiting the horses in the pasture
Ed's chicken coop, inspired by the Russian folktake Baba Yaga
hanging out by the koi pond in Ed's garden
free range kids
free range kids, part 2
exploring Lake Oliver
who knew goats were so adorable?
we visited Plantation Farm Camp down the road and were able to help make a human chain to herd the sheep for shearing
shearing a sheep
There is no other place I'd rather spend time with family and friends, and I'm so glad the boys will grow up with these experiences indelibly printed in their psyche.