Tag Archives: celebration

A Good Cancer Day

Today is my birthday.

Today my little girl started a new chemotherapy drug.

Today we cut her hair off, because it is going to start falling out soon.

This doesn’t seem like the recipe for a good birthday. Or a good day. Or even a tolerable one. I was fully prepared to let this whole ‘celebration’ concept slide. Not really feeling it. My smiles are pasted on, replicas of the real thing; polite reflexes to communicate my real appreciation for the ridiculous amount of support pouring our way.

There’s nothing like cancer to awaken the selfless impulses. Not the saintly ones forged in empathy, discipline and hard-won maturity. The parenting ones that roar to life in fear and desperation. I barely blinked when we cancelled our Christmas trip to Disneyland, and our 20th anniversary getaway to Mexico, and postponed my writing projects and school aspirations. I happily camp on a mat on the floor beside her bed. I hardly remember to eat or wash or go to the bathroom. Life and death is in play, and the world has narrowed drastically.

But this is no short term crisis. Life doesn’t begin after cancer. Life is right now. Two long years stretch ahead of us. And they will be different, hard, with all sorts of frustrations and heartaches. But if we’re going to make it through, we’ve got to live.

Today had it’s hard parts. Kissing my son goodbye with the vague promise to see him “sometime this weekend.” Holding my daughters arms and legs down so the nurse could hook the IV up to the tubes in her chest. Catching a glimpse of her cropped hair, looking shorn and strange.

But it was still a good day. Today I took a break. I woke up in my own bed, snuggled my son, talked to my big girls, ate a casserole for breakfast (so much better than granola bars and pilfered hospital food). Today I enjoyed a visit with a friend who just happens to specialize in cool haircuts, ate ice cream for lunch and hugged my husband. Today she felt good, her counts were up, the nurse hep-locked her IV and we got to explore the far reaches of the hospital, including a huge empty stairwell. Today I howled like a dog and laughed and sang and listened to the echoes without ever checking the clock, or worrying about the next thing to do, or feeling silly for acting like a child. Today I lay beside my daughter and listened to her breathe until she fell asleep. I can’t remember when I was more acutely aware of how precious each moment we have together is.

I suspect cancer, for all the many ways I abhor and despise it, will also make life sweeter. As long as I remember to live it.

So here’s us, on the brink of death, like every other human being on the planet. We just notice it more.

 

 

 

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Unpacking: Two Years Ago Today

The tag on the back says “12 mos” – a measure of size and not age. I shake out the blue and white checked pants before folding them, tangible proof that our almost two-year-old is much smaller than most his age. Tiny shirts, pants, footie pajamas and an impressive array of cute onesies emerge from cloth shopping bags, filling the mostly empty drawers. I move the size 2 outfits we’d purchased to the closet. The weight and height measurements we had gleaned from medical files did nothing to prepare us for the Lilliputian dimensions of our brand new toddler.

Brand new to us, that is. Up until now he’d been an abstraction, the idea of a son sketched out in black and white via e-mails and social workers’ reports. He had seemed to come to life in daydreams fueled by my own fervent desires and charitable impulses. Caught up in my excitement, his big sisters painted this very room themselves; a sloppy, but affectionate gesture. Jungle green smeared over princess pink walls. Lions, tigers, bears and a miniature Webkinz elephant were rescued from stuffed animal purgatory to serve as both decoration and entertainment.

He came with his own stuffed animals too. Clothes, toys, soothers, a neon mobile that plays nature sounds and lull-a-byes at the press of a button; I’m told he prefers falling asleep to Bach each night (classy). He has a favourite blanket, book, game, food, way of being woken each morning and, no doubt, a thousand other things I didn’t even think to ask about. In real life, we have more questions than answers. I have no idea if he’ll like his room.

When I brought my daughters home, these same drawers were bursting with clothes. From day one I was the acknowledged expert on who they were and what they needed. It wasn’t that complicated; newborn infants are more potential than established personality. But almost two-year-olds don’t fit neatly into the boxes my imagination had constructed. He came with his own things. He came with his own identity.

A worn blue T-shirt, obviously a favourite, clutched in my hand, it finally occurs to me that, in all their wisdom, the Government of Canada, under the auspices of the Ministry of Child and Family Development, has seen fit to give us an actual person.

First steps in the door bringing our new son home forever!

First steps in the door, bringing our new son home forever!

So here’s us, two years after first bringing home boy. We’ve learned a lot and we still have a lot to learn. It’s been a wild ride! It never ceases to amaze me that they gave us a real, live person. For Keeps!

We love, love, love this little guy. Happy FOR KEEPS Day to us!


For Keeps: the Big Day Arrives

My son is 25% boy and 75% snot. Although we were finally getting the hang of sleep at night, all night long, today we are bleary-eyed and grumpy. And slimy (see above re: snot).

It’s not what I pictured when I imagined this day. In my daydreams we are smiley and dressed in our best (and naturally I’m 20 lbs skinnier). We stand before a stern but fatherly judge and solemnly vow to love, honour and cherish our son forever and ever amen. The audience of happy, tearful friends and family cheers wildly. The sky is filled with fireworks and/or flower petals floating in the wind (I can’t decide), as our family walks arm in arm out the front door of a quaint old courthouse.

Choruses of angels sing. A flock of doves bursts into flight. Adoption Finalized!

Roll the credits.

Reality is a lot less like the wrap-up of a sitcom. Today, at 11:41 a.m. on a Tuesday, we get an email from the Social Worker. “Congratulations! It’s official. His new birth certificate is in the mail.”

No fireworks. No cheering audience. No solemn vows. Just a lot of paperwork and waiting and an anti-climatic finish.adoption-Paperwork

“What to Expect When You’re Adopting” has a lot more blank pages than traditional family growth. There’s no standard 9+month timetable. No firmly established rituals as we transition into a new version of us. We make it up as we go along. And I wonder if the rest of the world realizes that it’s every bit as Miraculous, Thrilling, and Magical.

We were “expecting” for almost 3 years. The labour and delivery wasn’t quite as bloody as most, but terribly hard work. We don’t track it in hours or even days, but months. 7 1/2 months since we brought him home. 7 1/2 months of making him our own. 7 1/2 months of making us his own. Until today, at 11:41 a.m. on a Tuesday. Adoption Finalized.

We’ve been a family for a long time. I wondered if this would make any difference at all. Would it calm the last vestiges of irrational “what-ifs” in my mind? Would it matter?

Despite the lack of fanfare, the answer is: absolutely.

Another heart clenching, surreal, overload of emotion as we close this chapter. And I held him extra tight, snot and all, in the middle of our everyday, hustle-bustle life. You might not know it to look at us, but something amazing happened today!

So here’s us, officially, legally, forever a family.


10 Ways to Celebrate Leap Day

Sometimes it’s more of a curse than a blessing to have a child with a long memory. My, now 11 year old daughter clearly remembers celebrating Leap Day last time, when she was 7. Those were my homeschooling days when I spent a lot more time coming up with fun and “educational” things to do everyday.

Today, I have a sick child at home, 2 papers due for school (now that I’M the student) and a backlog of household chores that make me want to cry. But I’ve decided that they will still be there tomorrow.

February 29th only comes around once every 4 years. It hardly ever happens. I’m always complaining that I need more time, and here I have a whole extra day! Of course, it usually gets eaten up with the ordinary hustle and bustle. Just one more day in the rat race. What a shame! What a waste!

Why not take advantage of this bonus day to do something special?

Or, if you can’t think of something special, here are 10 silly ideas the girls and I came up with to celebrate Leap Day:

1. Play Leap Frog. The girls remember doing this last Leap Year with our friend Shannon, who was quite pregnant at the time. They were impressed!

2. Sing and Dance to “Jumping Songs”. If you have children, you can let them join in too!

    • 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
    • If You’re Happy and You Know it Leap Around
    • Jump Your Jigglies Out
    • Jump for my Love – Pointer Sisters
    • Jump Jump – Kriss Kross (remember them!)

3. Declare this to be EXTRA day – and give everyone extra. But only the good things: extra hugs, extra game, extra ice cream, extra Wii time…

4. Hide frog gummies all over the house. These are always fun, because you find candy in weird places for months to come.

5. Buy a box of EXTRA gum and hand it out to everyone you know.

6. Serve food that LEAPS: Kangaroo Steak, Bunny Tail and Jumping Beans for dinner. I suggest steak, mashed potatoes and green beans, but you can be as realistic as you like.

7. Watch Annie and try to work “Leaping Lizards” into every conversation.

8. Make a frog cake, then sing “Happy Leap Day to you!” Or you could be like me and buy an ice cream cake instead!

9. Write letters to yourself for next Leap Day, then put them in a time capsule to be opened in 2016. Futureme.org allows you  to e-mail letters and photos to yourself, and will send it to you at some future date. You can even include pictures. This is so much easier than trying to keep track of it myself!

You can even get an app for your iPhone or iPad – only $0.99!

10. Watch Larry’s Leap Year Lesson. I must admit that I floundered when they asked me why we have leap year, something to do with the earth’s rotation and how we calculate the calendar… Larry the Cucumber cleared it right up for me.

 I’m always looking for more ways to build memories and embarass my children. How do you celebrate Leap Year?

So here’s me, celebrating my made up holiday, because that’s how I want to use my extra time. I wonder what my kids will remember 4 years from now.


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