Chemo Round 6

This week was round 6 of chemo, round 2 of the new drug. As you can see, my attitude has improved. Also my regular nurse, Aimee, was back after a couple weeks away for various reasons and I was super happy to harass chat with her again.

The entire thing went a little quicker this time since I tolerated it so well last time. I only had half the Bendaryl (It still made me sleepy enough that I napped through most of my infusion), and the chemo could drip a little quicker–one hour. So I was in and out in under 3 hours this time.

And just like last time, I napped in the afternoon at home, and was ready to rock today!

The boys had their last day of swim lessons for this year this morning, and then I took Eddie to school with me to get some things done in my classroom (the little two went to daycare).

It was pretty fun to spend time with him. He’s at an age where he is so helpful and fun to hang out with. Although he talked NON-STOP while he worked, so I had to busy myself with things that weren’t thinking-intensive so I could listen and chat back with him. The teachers who were around all commented, “well, he’s basically you, isn’t he?” Yes, yes he is. And I love it.

I am back to work on Monday, so it was important I get some stuff done today, and he helped with that. I have teacher time to work some more Monday and then meetings all day Tuesday. Wednesday I will be out for chemo, but kids will be walking through that door!

It’s hard to believe summer is pretty much over for me. I feel like I really only got two weeks, but I am grateful to have gone through the really hard, comatose days during the summer and not during the school year.

I’m grateful to my co-workers who have helped me move desks and work around some scheduling things for my students while I’m out to give them some routine. I appreciate how supportive the administration has been to find someone who can be a regular presence for my students and for me.

I’m excited to start the school year, but get some anxiety looking at the calendar since I know I have to work in time to do my PhD class and help bring kids to sports practice and scouts. Plus we want family time and fun time too.

I know some of you like specific things to pray for, so here you go: my anxiety, my body continuing to do well with this drug, and the kids as they transition to back to school in the coming weeks (we find out teachers tomorrow! Woot!)–especially Charlie who has some anxiety with change.

6/16 Done

Chemo Round 5

Holy moly what a difference a new chemo drug makes!

This round was the first of the “second leg” of my cancer treatment tour, if you remember. The first “leg” was an A/C drug (don’t ask me to spell them right now). There were four dense dose treatments (in other words: super potent, crippling doses). The reason for this new drug (and up to 12 rounds of it) is because while the A/C treatment is super powerful, we want to make sure all the cancer cells get blasted.

You can think of cancer treatment as a sort of war on cancer. Each treatment type is a different branch of my cancer-fighting military. Surgery was the first surge. It wiped out what we hope to be all of the enemy. We wanted to be sure, so we sent in the second branch: A/C treatment. While chances are, those drugs got anything remaining, research shows that coupled with my new drug, Taxol, the eradication of cancer cells is even more successful. So Taxol is the newest branch of the cancer-fighting military we are sending in. The last will be radiation.

I got my back to school hair cut the day before treatment (it’s not actually growing, but it was looking patchy. It’s even shorter now)

The difference in side effects is almost inexplicable. A/C treatment made me feel like I was dying about 24 hours after treatment. It felt like I would never feel better again.

Before infusing the Taxol, they loaded me up with antihistamine and Benadryl (because pretty much everyone is allergic to Taxol–it’s an irritant. I got quite loopy from that, naturally. Then they pumped in the drugs. I had zero reactions, so I may be able to go lighter on the Benadryl next time.

The side effects are still hair loss (see that picture above), and sometimes nausea (I didn’t have any), low blood counts (because it’s attacking fast-growing blood cells), and mouth sores (none of those yet either). It can also affect my nails and give me joint and muscle pain. The only irreversible side effect is peripheral neuropathy, which means loss of feeling in my fingers and toes. That one they monitor super closely because they can adjust the med or skip one altogether to reduce that happening if I start to notice tingling. That is really my biggest fear.

Anyway, I got home Wednesday and took a nap while the rest of my crew headed up north to spend a long weekend with my parents at a cottage they rent with us each year. When I woke up, I felt great! So different then A/C treatment! I was refreshed and actually worked on school stuff Wednesday evening!

Thursday I woke up and packed myself up and headed to the cottage!

Grandpa and Grandma play some cards with the boys.

Saturday I even went to the beach! This is the first (and probably only) time I have been able to sit on the beach all summer due to my treatment. Chemo makes my skin SUPER sensitive to the sun. Cortney bought two SPF 50 beach umbrellas, I had my SPF 50 hat, plus I slathered in SPF 50 (twice because I reapplied) for the two hours we were at the beach, and I still walked away with a little coloring.

But it was worth it!

The kids could have stayed here all day! (Also isn’t my mom the cutest?)

She would not go near the water without her daddy.

She has mastered the art of relaxing on the beach…just like her mom!

See? Proof I made it to the beach this year!

Even though we couldn’t hit the beach for the entire time we were there, the cottage happens to be on a small, inland lake and the boys had almost as much fun swimming at the end of the dock.

Charlie and his popsicle “floaty” tricks

Eddie and his clowning!

I would say I spent most of the time in the shade near the cottage with my book or watching everyone play, but it made me feel like a real person doing real summer things to be able to even go. With the A/C treatment this weekend would have been impossible right after a round of chemo. I would have been comatose all weekend.

Yes, I still got tired quickly and sat down a lot, but I was there to watch my goofy kids have all the fun and live their best lives.

I don’t even know. These two were nut jobs the entire weekend.

And of course, to round out the weekend, my dad took us all out for huge ice cream cones for lunch on Saturday. Because is it really vacation if you don’t have ice cream for at least one meal?

I am so so so SO thankful for this new drug. I hate that I have to go through any of it, but since I do, feeling more like myself is the way to go.

I will be getting Taxol infusions weekly on Wednesdays until October 24 (we are hoping to get in 12 rounds total).  Please pray that my body keeps handling the meds well (my doctor told me that after all the A/C treatments, my blood counts were so good, you couldn’t even tell I had been on chemo! Keep doing that, body!)

This is my final week of summer before I go back to school (Eddie and Charlie still have three more weeks until their district goes back), so please pray for my anxiety and for my students as they get ready to have an English teacher who is out ever Wednesday and dealing with, well, cancer treatments.

5/16 done

Chemo Round 4

I’ve been calling chemo a roller coaster, but that is not accurate.

Roller coasters are all fun the whole time. Ups, downs, twists = all fun.

Chemo is zero fun the whole time. Zero.

And after my last round, I really thought I couldn’t make it through anymore. I fell into such a dark pit of depression that I thought chemotherapy might kill me.

I just pulled through Round 4, though. The last of the Dose Dense treatments…or as they call it at the infusion center: The Red Devil. If my treatment was a World Tour (because concerts are infinitely more fun and better than stupid cancer treatment), I would be able to say the first leg of the tour is over.

My sister-in-law, MacKenzie drove me to treatment this time since Cortney needed to take Eddie to a critter camp at the Outdoor Discovery Center. I was so glad to spend time with her. I was afraid taking me would be hard on her, or bring up really sad feelings from when she brought her dad. But she told me that she has fond memories of spending that time with him, so it felt good to have her there. Plus we are both so busy all the time, we don’t get to hang out as much as we would like, so it was quality time laughing and just being together.

I told anyone who would listen that it was my last dose dense. I actually cheered when my nurse pushed the last of the stupid red drug into my IV. I knew the worst was still coming, but it was in and done.

Thursday after the boys left for their sleep over fun, I crashed. I could feel the fog coming over my brain and I knew if I feel asleep, that would be it. And it was. That evening I said to Cortney, “I’m going to start my 36-hour sleep now.” And that is what I did.

I don’t know how to describe how awful needing to sleep can be. The need to sleep is so powerful, food doesn’t sound good, drinking doesn’t sound good, nothing is more needed than sleep. That means as I sleep, I also grow super weak and yuck-o feeling. I got out of bed at 10am on Friday, moved to the couch, and slept there straight until 8pm when I took a shower, put on clean jammies, and went to bed for the night.

I didn’t check my phone.

I didn’t turn on the TV.

I ate one bite of food, and a few sips of water to take my meds.

That was it.

Saturday I was tired, but was sick of sleeping, but couldn’t stop napping. Saturday is the day I have to start fighting my urge to not eat or drink. Saturday is usually a battle, and it makes me weepy and feel like there is no end to the awful.

Sunday I woke up hungry. Sunday I tried to eat regularly and drink water. Sunday was the first time I woke up from a big nap and felt refreshed.

Sunday was when I could see the other side. It always comes, but I get lost in the pit each time.

I’m told the next leg of this tour will not be so hard on my body and mind. August 8 I start weekly treatments, and I pray so hard that it’s easier.

School starts in three weeks, and my doctoral class starts in four weeks. I need my “pep” (as Eddie and my mom call it) and my brain.

We have LOTS of fun planned for August: cottage weekend by the lake, Pearl Jam concert, pool party with friends–not to mention all the Back to School stuff I need to get started on.

Prayer requests: Low anxiety, and an easier time on the new chemo drug.

4/16 done (Leg one of three complete)

Looking Forward

As my mom and Charlie would say, “Mom’s pep is back.”

Round 3 was hell. Monday I totally hit rock bottom. It was the perfect storm of fatigue, not leaving the house for 4 days, not eating properly, and a big dose of depression. I sobbed in the shower.

Then Cortney sat by me, affirmed my feelings were valid and just, and then told me to get ready because we were going to a minor league ball game with friends.

The laughter and adult conversation and fresh air did it. My smile came back.

Along with my smile, my ability to look forward to things came back with a rush. I realized that I only have a month before students will be walking through my classroom door ready (or not) for their 8th grade year of school.

Between now and then I will have my last dense dose chemo treatment, and two of the Taxol chemo treatments. In fact, because school starts on a Wednesday, I will be having a chemo treatment rather than meeting my students. I will be leaving a video of myself for the sub to play. I hate it, but I’m hoping to teach my students flexibility from Day 1.

This is the first summer I have not done an full inventory on my classroom library. I just haven’t been able to get into my classroom due to my health. I did go through my Book Check Outs and mark what was not returned and added those back to my classroom library wish list on Amazon. I also added some new titles that are either soon-to-be published or popped up on my radar as excellent.

When I don’t have chemo brain, I’ve also been reading a lot to try to make my own teaching better. Some of my main goals this school year are: better student engagement, more student-teacher conferencing, and more student-to-student talk. A classroom library goal is to make book check out smoother/student led, make my library even more inviting, and offer more options (audio books, magazines, etc.). I created a separate teacher wish list on Amazon for those things along with some other school supplies that we tend to go through super quickly.

I’ve saved up and ordered my favorite lesson plan book (it should be here on Monday!), and have already started planning the first few days in a notebook. I getting super excited about a new crew of 8th graders, trying new routines and strategies, and just being back to work.

So many people have asked how they can help me through my journey and I honestly don’t know other than prayers and positive thoughts. So rather than me, you could bless my students if you want to check out my wish lists. I will be out every Wednesday for treatment through October, so they will be affected by all this too. I’m looking at it as a lesson in empathy and flexibility for them this year. It can be a super positive experience for them if I can manage to put that spin on it.

Thank you all for having hope and strength and faith when I hit the pit. Thank you for always supporting my family, and the extension of that, my students. Because to me, they become little families each school year.

Chemo Round 3

I have been sort of waiting to feel better before I write about it this time, but the truth is that it’s getting harder.

After the first round, when I realized that I wouldn’t be barfing my face off or have horrid bone pain, there was a moment of relief. But as it came time to do it again, dread set in anyway.

This third time has been the worst so far.

I have some major chemotherapy depression.  (Don’t worry, I have an appointment this week with my therapist and an appointment with a specialized oncology therapist coming soon too)

As my chemotherapy approaches, I get a horrible sense of dread. I cry. I get tired. I don’t want to put myself in that chair of poison.

This time as I sat there, I wanted to barf or sleep. It made me nauseated to think about this shit being pumped into my veins.

I hate my bald head.

Thursday I barely made it until the boys were picked up before falling asleep. I used to love naps. Now I lose DAYS to naps and don’t feel better after.

Friday didn’t exist because I slept through it.

Saturday was more of the same, but more depression set in because it starts to feel like I will never feel better. Ever.

And I hate my bald head. I hate it.

I know that is shallow and it will grow back and it’s a sign of being a warrior or whatever, but I hate it. I want a ponytail. I want to be able to at least LOOK like nothing is wrong even though it is.

I’ve completely lost interest in fun because I just assume I won’t have any. I’ll be thinking about my stupid head. I’ll be worrying that I am tired or nauseated. I’ll be thinking about getting enough rest to deal with the children the next day.

Just typing that makes me cry.

I’m just so tired all the time. Part of it is chemo, part of it is depression.

I only have one of the dose dense chemo rounds left. The next drug they give me (up to 12 rounds) is not supposed to be this difficult, but it’s hard for me to believe that. It’s hard for me to believe I will want to go back to work because right now it feels like there would be no way. I feel unable to do my life at all.

And I hate it.

My positive attitude is waning.

3/16 done.

Ode to My Mother

If I have a regret from my teen years, it’s that I didn’t insist on pictures of me with my parents. We weren’t exactly a family of huggers, and my parents usually took pics of us kids, but rarely got in the shot. Now that I am adult, I hate that.

Today my mom is 65–which is awesome by itself–but she is also retiring today from a job she has worked incredibly hard for over the past 30 years. And when I flipped through my albums for pictures, there just weren’t many.

So she gets what I have (sorry, not really sorry, mom). If you’ve ever wondered where I get my drive and determination from, look no further.

I think we can both agree this is better of her than of me

When I was writing my essays to get into college, I had to choose someone who had an impact on my life. The choice was simple: my mom. Looking back though, her impact back then was so tiny compared to what it is now.

Today she retires from her job of 30 years, which is a big deal for anyone, but to me, it’s the culmination of years of modeling for me what it looks like to be a successful working mom.

I come from a long line of really hardworking, passionate, humble women. My great grandmother, Katherine, had 14 kids. My grandmother, Grandma Jo, pushed through a terrible marriage to an abusive drunk and was a single mom to four girls. She took in laundry, cleaned houses, and collected welfare. She worked hard, but was so loving and compassionate to others.

My own mother, Patti, worked part-time while being a stay-at-home mom for my early years. When the tiny grocery store she worked in since age 15 closed, she had two school-aged kids and wanted something more. She took typing classes and began to take in typing work for the company she is retiring from today. When I was 12, she decided she wanted to do more than just type invoices, so she went back to college for her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting.

It took her about six years to get her degree because she was working part-time, momming and wife-ing full-time, all while putting in 100% for each class she took. She was still involved at church. She still brought us to all the things and showed up for all the things. She still cooked full meals 5 days a week and vacuumed (seemingly) every day.

At the time I very much took advantage of everything my mom did all at once. Now, as a working mom going to school myself, I just shake my head. I swear she had superpowers.

My mom was never late.

Our house was never trashed.

No one ever missed an appointment.

She got groceries and meal-planned and we always had a full meal on the table Mon-Friday.

She never missed a deadline.

She got straight A’s in all her classes–even the literature and composition ones that she claimed were “hard”.

She moved WAY out of her comfort zone for her physical education classes and group work and readings she would have never chosen on her own.

We still had family vacations.

We still went to church every Sunday (twice because RCA in a small town, yo) and youth group on Wednesdays.

She is 40 in this photo and I can honestly say that between the two of us, SHE has the better haircut at 40.

She was the budget-keeper of our family. The one who kept the calendar. The maker of school lunches and appointments and reservations. She kept us going so smoothly, we didn’t even realize the work involved.

And she never complained.

Or if she did, it wasn’t in front of any of us.

And she graduated from Hope College in the spring of 1996 the same spring I graduated from high school.

She went from just typing invoices to becoming the controller for the whole company. She has so much responsibility it has taken literal months to train her replacement. She is trustworthy and responsible. She is kind, but fair. Above all, she is a hard worker. I don’t think my mom has half-assed anything in her whole life. And people know that and count on her.

My mom worked hard her whole life for every goal she set for herself. She made time for volunteering and charity. She spent time with her kids and husband. She made a happy home for all of us.

She is exactly who I want to be as a working, schooling mom and wife.

(by the way, she still takes her role as mommy very seriously and checks up on me after chemo and brings me donuts to help me feel better.)

And now that she is retiring, I am so proud of what she has built. I’m excited for her for what she can do next.

I’m excited that she will be home during the week to possibly do fun things with her grandkids. I’m excited that we can invite her along to the park or the zoo or the beach. I’m excited to just stop in for coffee. I’m excited for the adventures she and my dad can have now that they are both retired.

She has always been my role model for being an awesome, loving working mom and wife. I have no doubt she will become my role model for retirement too!

Congratulations and Happy birthday, Momma! You deserve all the love and appreciation sent to you today!

PS. Let’s take more pictures together!

Chemo Round 2

Wednesday was my second round of chemotherapy. It took a couple hours extra because my port was blocked. Apparently my body was trying to heal it by putting a scab over it. It took a couple hours and some different meds to dissolve the scab. Gross, but necessary.

The bonus to having to sit in the chemo chair an extra two hours was that I was there when my friend the RN (with a bunch of other important letters after her name plus she’s getting her doctorate next for even more letters because she is a crazy school nerd like me. Boom.) came in to the clinic. I like the RN because she is sassy, knows my family well, and loves Pearl Jam. I love the RN because she is like best friends with my brother and still likes me.

Anyway, when you’re going through something like chemo, it’s one of the biggest blessings in the world to have someone like the RN on your friend list and in your contacts. She “gets” to answer all of my fun questions like, “is this (fill in the blank with something weird) normal?” and “can I take a bath?” and “should I keep my lip wax appointments during chemo?” The answer, by the way, to all of them is “yes”.

The last picture taken of me with hair.

The rest of chemo went pretty much the same as last time: Fluids and anti-nausea meds followed by the Red Devil chemo drug and then the bag of other chemo drugs. My hair had started thinning out the day before, so we talked about shaving it and head wraps and wigs.

Thursday the boys were home with me for the morning and early afternoon, then they were picked up for a sleepover and pool fun with some of their best friends since birth. They lived their very best life Thursday to Friday.

Thursday afternoon I started getting super tired, and I bottomed out on Friday. Just like last time I had trouble being awake for more than 20 minutes. It was good the boys were gone and Alice was at daycare because I barely woke up to even eat or pee.

Saturday was still pretty drowsy, but I started to come around a bit by evening. I had more nausea this time, but I think that is because I didn’t do as well drinking lots of water as I did last time. It’s hard to drink when you’re sleeping. And I only woke up enough to take another pill and fall back to sleep, so I am sure my body had a harder time bouncing back. I haven’t had a ton to eat either, so I’m sure that is not helping. Nothing sounds good.

I also had Cortney shave my head on Saturday.

My hair started falling out in clumps and it was getting unmanageable and sort of traumatic for me. I’ll write more about the process I’m sure, but there was crying and hugging and Cortney will say he did a terrible job, but it was quick and painless. I don’t love my buzzed head, but it is what it is for now. Charlie loves to touch it because it’s soft.

Today I’m still dragging a bit, but I haven’t taken a nap yet (although my yawns are getting long). Tomorrow Charlie will be home with me and we have one appointment in the afternoon we have to make, but other than that we can lay low. Which is good because the heat index is well over 100 and my body is NOT a fan of that (as if anyone’s is).

While this all sucks and I hate feeling so run down and depleted, I will say tears of gratitude sprang up numerous times during this round. From having a friend on the inside, to having friends love our boys so unconditionally, to having a place where Alice feels love and routine, to having so much food we actually skipped getting groceries this weekend–we are very blessed even in this time of trial.

2/16 done.

Peace in the Storm

I know this may come as a shock, but I would rather be the helper, then be helped. I’m not good at asking for assistance with anything.

In my marriage, I have had to learn to ask for things because, surprise! Cortney can’t read my mind. I’m still not always good at asking because many times I don’t like to admit I can’t just do things myself. Since having kids and going through depression and anxiety, I have learned strategies for knowing when I am getting overwhelmed and need to reach out. I still battle with feeling shame and apologizing when I ask for help.

Even in my career I have a tendency to take everything on. I love planning and scheming up awesome things to do, but when it comes to doling out responsibilities for making it happen, I will usually do it all (or most of it) myself. I know this is not just bad for me, but bad for my relationships with my colleagues too because we need to have a trust that we can rely on each other to make the awesome happen. I’m working to be better in this area, and honestly I have some of the best teammates in the world, which has made it easier.

When life turns crazy, and we journey through a storm, I get even worse. When other people are going through hard times, you can count on me to send cards, gift cards, and meals. I want to help. I want to make the storm less stormy in some way.

I am learning to accept–and even ask for–help during our storm.

Because as positive of a spin we are trying to put on it, chemotherapy is definitely a storm. I’ve only had one treatment, but having it wipe me out of commission for at least 48 hours is no joke. I lose energy quicker than usual, but can suddenly find myself dealing with insomnia. I can get sunburned while it’s cloudy and raining (ok, maybe that’s hyperbole), and my immune system is not as hearty as it used to be.

This affects my whole family, not just me, as you can probably guess. I would say other than me, Cortney is probably affected the most. He has to navigate how to pilot our family through the storm on his own for those days when I am pretty much just sleeping. Those waters can be rough, friends.

It means feeding the children, getting them to childcare so he can work, making sure my needs are met, and managing all his other normal obligations to our team. It’s a lot emotionally.

The kids are also affected. Mom looks normal (for now), but can’t stop sleeping. She seems normal, but needs to be careful of public places and germs and being outside too long.

I can’t speak for Cortney or the kids, but I have found peace in this storm in a way I didn’t think I would: the help of others.

Cancer takes a ton of control away. It feels like it should be life stopping, but the thing is, life does not actually stop. It keeps moving even when you want to push pause to be able to work through what cancer and treatment all mean. Life laughs at stopping.

So a storm brews.

And the only way to weather it is to reach out and know there are people there who will love you right through it.

My close friend, The Pastor (not to be confused with the Pastor’s Wife who is not the wife of this particular pastor. Follow?), said to me, “Create a meal sign up. Ask for help. If you take charge it will be empowering for you.” She was right. Naming the things that would help, helped me to feel at peace.

But it didn’t stop there. People saw those requests and went beyond.

We have received meals, yes, but we have also been blessed with

  • a prayer shawl from the knitting ministry
  • books and devotionals
  • coloring books
  • treats for the kids
  • treats for the adults
  • head scarves
  • gift certificates to food the kids like
  • gift certificates to get frozen yogurt
  • bluetooth earbuds for chemo treatments
  • notebooks
  • and other care package items you are all so creative to think of

I have been daily learning the power of reaching out and the power of letting grace and love surround you. They bring peace.

While our life is anything but calm, leaning on others and letting their prayers and good thoughts wash over us has brought soothing waves of peace.

Thank you.

We feel you standing, sitting, and walking with us.

 

 

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Nine is Just Fine

My dear, sweet Eddie, how are you possibly nine already?

showing off your fishing badge you earned with grandpa

This past year has been maybe the moodiest since your colicky days as a baby. I can tell you are starting to grow out of little kidness in some ways, but not in others.

You are getting “too cool” for things your brother and sister still love like watching Curious George before bed or Paw Patrol at lunch time. You get a little bossy with your siblings and we have to remind you that while yes, you are their big brother, you are not their parent. You would LOVE if you were able to hand out consequences to them for various infractions. The problem is they–Charlie especially–rage against you as a machine.

 

 

 

In other ways you are still my little dude. You love to snuggle at bedtime and read Harry Potter with me (we are currently in the home stretch of The Goblet of Fire). Your stuffed animals and toddler pillow still have a prominent place in your bed, and you love to be wrapped up in a blanket (who doesn’t!?!).

Speaking of Harry Potter, that is probably the biggest thing that happened this year: you (and ok, I too) became obsessed! One of my most favorite things is our bedtime reading sessions and discussions. I love that you think about the books all the time and bring up plot points and theories out of the blue. We have been watching the movies after each book, and hearing you compare them critically is…man, I don’t know how to do describe it. I’ll say this: when my students really get something we are doing and they start taking off on their own with the learning and connecting and analyzing, I am known to get welled up and tears fall. It’s about a million times bigger watching it happen with you.

You conquered third grade this year. It was by FAR your best school year since Kindergarten. You’ve never had a rough year, but you loved your teacher this year, you made really close friends, and you learned so much. You’re still working on your social control (you tend to interrupt and chat rather than get work done), but you come by those things naturally (sorry, not sorry?) and you are kind and respectful when redirected. That is important.

Your classmates voted you to get the LOL (laugh out loud) award, and none of us were surprised. A girl your age at church once commented, “Everything is fun when Eddie is there!” It makes my heart smile to know you bring joy to those around you.

3rd Grade Folk Dance Night

This year you were a Bear Scout. You did a ton of work this year and earned a couple elective badges. One was your fishing badge with grandpa. You found out you enjoy doing badge work on your own, so when you crossed over and got your Webelos book, we dug in to see which badges would be fun to do this summer and next. And of course, you even crossed from Bear to Webelos scout with your own personal flair.

This year you played both soccer and baseball. You didn’t really love either. Soccer was too early on Saturdays for you and baseball this year was Little League and you felt you were bad at it. I’ll tell you what your dad and I have told you over and over: you are actually quite good…if you practice. You can pitch and hit and field, but you don’t practice. When you don’t get something right 100% of the time, you feel you are bad at it. This could be a good, motivating trait, except rather than use it to want to be better, you quit.

I was the same way at your age, but I don’t want to tell you that right now. I don’t want that to be an excuse. I want you to do better than I did. You are more interested than I was in sports. You like being part of the team. You just have to learn that you can’t be good at things without a lot of practice.

You still love Pokemon cards, drawing comic strips (your own original character, Sargent Socks, which to be fair is really just Captain Underpants meats Dogman fan fiction, but whatever), and watching all the TV you can (which we have had to pull the plug on, so to speak because it was getting clear you couldn’t manage yourself).

Your relationships with your siblings are, shall we say, passionate. Especially with Charlie. You guys can be the best of friends or the worst of enemies. You play nicely together, plot together, and even have after bedtime chats about school and bullies. He looks up to you and wants to be like you. You often say Charlie is stronger and better at things than you, but when I ask Charlie who he wants for a teacher he says, “whoever Eddie had.” And when I ask him what sports he wants to play, he answers, “whatever Eddie does.” He thinks you are the coolest. He sees that people love you at school, and he wants a part of that too.

Most of the time, he goes about it wrong by tackling you or picking fights. We are working on that. But behind all of it, he just sees how confident you are and wants to feel that way too.

Alice loves you unconditionally. You two rarely bicker. Sometimes she is a little annoying–she is three and you are nine and you don’t always want to have a tiny tot watching your every move. But mostly she knows you will help her or read to her or play with her.  You two have very similar personalities, so she is drawn to your silliness. This keeps us all chuckling pretty much nonstop.

My Eddie, my Bear, I can’t believe you’ve been here for 9 years already. I look at your adorable freckles, your almond-shaped blue eyes, your long lashes, and your crooked smile and wonder where did you come from? How did I make you in my body? Where were you before you were here? Your long legs and expanding feet are proof that you are growing from baby to little boy to now that weird tweener age that will soon geek-a-fy your whole body until you burst into adolescence and puberty to becoming a man.

It’s wonderfully weird to watch.

I’m so thankful you ask me all the questions that come to your head from who gets to have a godfather? How does 911 know which emergency service to send when you call? and what is suicide? I love that you still trust me to have answers and to be truthful with you. I promise to always be as truthful as I can with you.

I hope you will continue to show kindness and compassion to others. As you get older, it will be easier to just be sassy and whiney and ignore those who are in need. It’s easier to think about your own wants and what people think of you. Don’t give in to that. Think about the feelings of others. Be generous with your thank you’s and your let me help’s.

I love you, my dear boy.

Happy 9th birthday.

Love,

Mom

Lucky 13

Nothing about our story has gone as expected.

Nothing.

Admittedly, many of those unexpected turns have been unwanted.

We have had our fill of sadness, loss, disappointment, rage, and grief.

We have gotten more than our share of bad news.

For some reason, “lucky 13” can’t be any different.

I know you want me to stop staying “I’m sorry.”

But I can’t help myself because I am so very sorry it is happening this way.

I know it’s not my fault,

but damn.

Our anniversary is always wrapped in a weird cancer ribbon anyway,

white for lung cancer,

celebrating the birth of our marriage in June,

the death of your dad in August.

We sat in the pew where he sat to witness our vows,

to witness his memorial.

And now a pink ribbon is being woven into the fabric of our life

and I hate that it’s my ribbon.

I hate that my trauma is yours.

But I am thankful that you stay.

That you stand.

That you take my hand and walk.

That your words are, “you will never be alone.”

Some of the unexpected turns have been beautiful:

Edward

Charles

Alice

Our friendship that has grown deeper.

Finding a church family

and friends who are happy to be family too.

Throughout all of it,

we have woven our own threads of

trust, friendship, love, humility, generosity.

And finding it every single day for 13 years

is nothing short of a beautiful miracle.

But I think that is what good marriages are: beautiful miracles.

Ours is still so young,

but I promise to keep holding your hand,

seeking your friendship,

laughing with (and at) you,

and appreciating all you give and do for us,

for our team.

Happy Lucky 13, my love.

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