Monday, June 27, 2011

Boston Girls' Weekend

I got together with Laura, Maria, and Steph this weekend in Boston. This is my third May '06 birth board girls' weekend, and they just keep getting better.

I've been doing a Planes, Trains and Automobiles thing for these weekends. I took the train to NYC and a plane to Vegas, so it seemed like an auto was the right way to go for Boston. I don't know why I thought that because I've actually driven in Boston before and I knew what I was getting into. Boston's roads make my stretch marks look organized.

However, I'm really glad that I drove, even if I did tick off a few of the natives with my Philly drive attitude. (I swear, I didn't flip anyone off!)

It's been a long year and I've been very busy, busy, BUSY! Spending the 7 hours on the way up, and 6 hours on the way home by myself was very relaxing. I was able to put my playlist on shuffle and chill for both rides. It was very enjoyable, and did me a world of good.

What also did me a world of good was hanging out with some wonderful ladies. We were there to run Warrior Dash, but on Saturday morning it was way too cold and pouring rain for Warrior Dash to be fun. We were all dressed for hot summer weather, and the thought of being cold and wet for several hours just did not call to us. So, for the day we decided we were shoppers, not warriors.

I guess shopping isn't really what we were doing. Wandering and chatting is a better description. I think one of my favorite times the whole weekend was when we all got some coffee slushies from Dunkin' Donuts and found some benches and just sat and chatted. It was very low key, and was an awesome chance to get to know everyone better.

Of course, the strange thing about these weekends is that there is always someone there that I've never "met" before. The first time, it was really weird to get together with a group of "strangers" and discover that thanks to the internet, we have met and we aren't strangers. This time, Steph was the "stranger" but it didn't even cross my mind until I was falling asleep Friday night and I realized that maybe it's weird for her to share a room with someone she's never "met". For me, it's becoming pretty normal. I was very happy to discover that Steph is as sweet and intelligent as I expected her to be. She was a little taller than I guessed, but I always get that wrong about people. She is certainly another friend that I love having in my tribe (to steal from Laura).

So, we didn't do anything crazy or note worthy. We mostly wandered and talked and laughed and ate. And it was just what I needed. On Sunday, we met up with Liz for a BBQ with her beautiful family, and I pretty much had to force myself to leave. Everyone is so kind and funny and the children were just too cute not to want to gobble up. It was perfect.

After an enjoyable ride home, I got to come home to my wonderful men and hear about all the fun they had down at the shore with my dad. I think their men's weekend was just as great for them, even if it does mean I now have plastic nun-chucks in the house.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chemo Update

My mom had her 3rd of four chemo treatments on June 9th. Her last treatment will be next Wednesday, and I cannot wait until this whole thing is over. (She feels the same, just a whole lot more!)

Chemo hasn't been as hard on her as I thought it would be, but I thought it would be a nightmare, so that's not saying much. In my mind, one of the worst things would be the endless vomiting. Surprisingly, that's the one aspect that they can treat pretty well with medication. What I didn't realize was just how much it would wipe her out. Two weeks after her last round, just walking down the hall of her building to drop her trash exhausts her. She did manage to go out to lunch with Michael and I the other day, but that was pretty much the whole day for her. At this point, being able to keep up with the dishes is a big accomplishment.

In addition to the sheer exhaustion, are all the small insults. Chemo can cause mouth sores, and my mom had one for a week that was an endless source of torment. Every time she'd try to eat, she would end up biting it once again. A constant painful reminder.

Another weird side effect was that her hands started to look sunburned. Since she hadn't been outside in a week, she knew that couldn't be it. After several days, the skin on her hands started itching and peeling. That lead her to call the doctor's office. The nurses reassured her that hot, peeling hands are normal.

Not any kind of normal I'd like, that's for sure.

Then, add in the neuropathy. At times, her hands go numb. Probably better than burning and itching, but it sure makes it hard to pick things up. At other times, especially when she's laying in bed trying to fall asleep, her hands tingle with the pins and needles feeling. I don't even have words for how much that sucks.

And of course, the most visible of all the side effects. The hair loss. Before my mom lost her hair, she said she wouldn't mind losing it. And, I don't think she did. She doesn't mind not having hair. However, what she does mind is going out in public where everyone can readily see that she's a cancer patient. She does not want people feeling sorry for her, so she simply stopped going out. And it made her very depressed for several weeks after her 2nd round.

Guys, this just tears me apart. It's so hard to stand by and watch as the treatment that is her best bet, makes her suffer. I hate it. HATE IT. And, I wish so badly that it were over and that she would at least be on the mend. But, she has one more round before she can finally start to recover. Even with an end in sight, it's hard to stomach.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Reading List

Last Friday I was poking around the website for the School Michael will be attending in the fall. They haven't provided any information about Kindergarten yet, so I wanted to see if there was anything on line. Nope. But, I stumbled across his summer reading list.

Yes, they have a reading list for children entering kindergarten.

OK, I'll own up to it. As an honor roll student, my first response was that I should order every book on the list and come up with an incentive plan for Michael so we could read them all. When I saw the time tracking calendar, I started trying to figure out how much time we spend reading each day, and how to best record that time.

Then, I stopped for a moment and realized that Michael just turned five. Why do kids going into kindergarten need a summer reading list? This is as bad as his preschool making him do homework once a week so that he'll be prepared to do homework in kindergarten. (Of course, I think they give kindergartners homework simply to prepare them for homework in first grade. If we keep this up, our kids will be doing homework in the womb.)

Stacey asked me a good question that hadn't occurred to me. What's the purpose of the reading list? I'm such a book worm and rule follower that it never even dawned on me to wonder about the purpose of the list. After looking over the titles and the tracking list and think their are two purposes. Several of the titles are about starting kindergarten. I'm going to pick those up for Michael to help him make the adjustment into the new school. That seems like a good purpose to me.

The second purpose, I think, is to encourage parents to read to their children everyday. We already read every night before bed, and he's already memorized several of the other books on the list, so I won't worry about the picture books on the list. Instead, we are going to continue to read chapter books every night because that's a whole lot more fun. And I think making reading fun is the most important thing you can do for a five year old, when it comes to books.

I'm still undecided about having Michael record all off the books we read on their tracking list. It's a good way for him to practice his writing and to introduce the idea of individual authors. On the other hand, do I really want to send him to school with a list of books on the 3rd and 4th grade level when some of the kids in his class may only speak English as a second language? Not sure what to do here. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weird Things

My life is weird, probably because I'm weird. I'm cool with that. But sometimes something weird stands out to me.

For example, the other day I was talking to my mom about things she needed me to pick up for her. She's not eating much after this 3rd round of chemo, so she didn't need any food. However, she did need me to pick up rat food for her pet rat. (The pet rat thing is NOT the weird thing in this.) As we are talking she tells me, "Make sure you buy the high quality rat food, not that cheap stuff from Wal-Mart. Ratzo doesn't like that. Make sure it has a mix of good stuff like seeds in it."

High quality rat food? I'm sure that Templeton from Charlotte's Web would be appalled!

Here's another one that I thought of yesterday while running before a rain storm. I wear glasses which can be a pain when I'm running. I hate if it starts to rain because then I end up with drips of water obscuring my view. One day I made a comment about this to Laura and she pointed out that I could wear a baseball cap.

It made me realize that I had never once in my life, despite the fact that Andy lives in baseball caps, considered baseball caps sports equipment. This huge light bulb went off over my head when I realized that the "baseball" portion of "baseball caps" actually meant something.

Do'h!

And the final weird thing I've noticed recently was when I was describing the Mud Run to some coworkers. "It was really hard, I ended up with mud up my nose, Andy almost drowned, I was frightened a few times. It was AWESOME."

And their response to such a crazy description? "We need to do that!"

Yep, weird.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mud, Mud Everywhere

And I do mean everywhere.

Andy and I ran the MS Mud Run on Saturday and it was the muddiest, craziest, second hardest thing I've ever done.

First, I want to thank everyone who donated to support the MS society. Andy and I raised over $800 which will go to support research and support for people with MS. Add that in with the donations earned by the other 4000 mudders, and they raised more than half a million dollars. That's a lot of money for such a great cause. So, once again, thank you.

As for the run? It was crazy. The only thing I have to compare it to was Warrior Dash last year. Now, I don't want to belittle Warrior Dash. It wasn't a walk in the park. It was hard and it was muddy. And, it was nothing like the MS Mud Run.

It starts with a straight run for over the first mile. It's hard to pace yourself when people are flying by you, but I knew I would never make it if I didn't hold back. Andy, who is much faster than I am, finally fell in behind me and let me control the pace. Even doing that, I probably gave it more than I should have, so I was hot and tired by the time we got to the first mud pit. I dove right in. It felt nice and cool and I appreciated it. I didn't appreciate it as much that night when I was picking dried clumps of mud out of my nose, but at the time it felt nice.

I'm not going to go into detail on all of the obstacles or this post will be way too long. There were about 30 of them total, and most of them ended in either a mud pit, or a water pit. We ran, slid, scooted, and dragged ourselves through warm mud, cold mud, stinky mud, shoe sucking mud. You name it, and we did it.

Getting through mud is gross, but not that scary or hard. Some of the obstacles were scary and hard! One of the most challenging was crossing thin logs over a ravine. The logs were split in half and had a diameter of about 7-8 inches. The problem is, the wide part was facing the bottom of the ravine. The tops were just curved, muddy edges that I had to edge my way over. The guy in front of me went down in a split and cracked himself hard in the...um...you know. A girl had fallen off and I saw them strapping her to a gurney when I got to the other side. I think the main reason I made it across was because I didn't want to have to jump down 7 feet to the ground.

That was followed by another one of the scary obstacles. It was a steep 15 foot dirt slope that you had to scoot/slide down. There were rocks in the way, which could be used to hold you up, or if you lost control, to give you bruises on your butt. I was very happy to get to the muddy pool at the bottom.

There were several high obstacles, which gave me a new appreciation for just how high 20 feet feels. The first they called a ladder, but it wasn't really a ladder. It was boards strapped together with the "rungs" about 3.5 feet apart. It was very rickety looking and feeling, and when I got to the top I realized I had no idea how to get myself over it and onto the other side. It took a lot of positioning and trial and error, but I did it. I admit, as I was going over I was realizing that I could get seriously hurt running this thing.

The scariest obstacle of the day was one that I had no problem with. It was an eight foot high platform over a muddy pool of water that we had to jump into. They called it the "leap of faith" because you have no idea how deep the water is. Andy and I grabbed hands at the top, counted to three, and then both balked. After a quick pause, Andy went for it and I watched him land into the water. The top of his head bobbed up, but his face didn't make it above the water. Then he went down again. This might be a good time to mention that Andy doesn't know how to swim. As I was watching, the top of his head appear again, and he was moving sideways in the pit, not forward to the slope up. Again, his face did not break the surface. That's when everyone on the platform started calling to the life guard. The guy did his job and dove in and gave Andy the shove he needed to get his feet out of the mud. I know it was Andy's scariest moment, but watching him struggle under the water also made it the scariest obstacle for me. I'll never forget that moment.

To his credit, Andy took a moment to calm down, and we were off again. We still had about three miles left at that point, and we were both determined to make it. And while there were no more water pits that were that deep, there were still tons of mud bogs, water holes, cargo nets, rope swings, and other crazy stuff to go through.

After over two hours, we finally came to the last two obstacles. You climb up a big dirt mound and then slide down a wet tarp into a muddy pit. Once you make it out, you have to drag yourself through mud on your belly under 12 inch high ropes. I had nothing left in my arms, so I had to push myself through with my legs. It took longer than I expected since I thought I'd just slide across the mud. The very last volunteer who was sitting in the middle seemed really nice. As I was going by, she rubbed my shoulder and encouraged me on. I was really touched until I realized she was actually smearing mud all over me. She finished off with a nice wad of mud on the top of my head!

At 2 hours and 17 minutes, Andy and I finished the race. Together. We were filthy, tired, and starving. After getting hosed down by the fire hose, we changed and had pulled pork sandwiches while talking over the crazy race we had just run.

Later, when we got home and showered, I discovered that I had mud everywhere. The mud on the bottom of my feet was so ground it that it took several showers to finally get it out, and my toenails still aren't grit free.

I cannot wait to do it next year.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Definitions

This is a conversation between Michael and I on the ride home from a not too great trip to the local outlets where a certain five-year-old may not have been behaving up to my standards.

Michael: Mommy, can we go to the bookstore?

Me: No.

Michael: Why not?

Me: Because of your charming behavior at the outlets.

Long pause while Michael considers what I just said, most likely trying to figure out a way to negotiate with me for a trip to the book store.

Michael: Mommy, what does "charming" mean?

Me: It means attractive or pleasing.

Short pause while I think about what I've just said.

Me: Also, the next word you may want to know the definition of is "sarcasm".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dropping the Tray

Yesterday, Laura did a wonderful post about ignoring the tray. Laura is a working mom with twin boys who runs, has a huge social network, and also managed to find some spare time to kick off her photography business. Trust me, I've missed about a bizillion things that she also does in her average week. I'm always amazed by how much she manages to pack into her life, and I'm pretty sure that not only does she not sleep, but that she also uses a Timer Turner like Hermione in Harry Potter.

Her point in her post is that one of her tricks to pulling all of this off is that she "ignores the tray". Or, that she doesn't focus on everything that's stacked on her tray, she just picks the damn thing up and carries it. I think that's an awesome philosophy.

It's also one that I haven't been able to pull off lately. In fact, not only have I failed at ignoring the tray, I think I dumped it on my head. Even worse, instead of cleaning up the mess and moving on, I've been yelling at myself for dumping it while kicking the plates around temper tantrum style.

I have a huge list of things that I need to get done. Huge. Dentist appointments that should have been scheduled six months ago. A slow leak in my tire that I drove on for months. My bathroom hadn't been cleaned in so long I refuse to confess to just how long I let it slide. This is just the tip of the ice berg.

It got to the point where I'd sit there listing everything I needed to do in my head, but instead of just taking one thing at a time and working my way through the list, I would get overwhelmed and not do any of it. Which only made the list grow over time. To the point where it felt like I'd never, ever be caught up again. All of the stress I was building up over it, made it even harder to think about tackling the monster.

Last week, Michael had some tummy troubles that lead to delayed bedtimes and me flip flopping between thinking I needed to take him to the ER and being angry because I thought he was playing it up for attention. After several nights of this, he had a particularity bad evening. Andy saw just how worked up I was getting and sent me away while he stayed with Michael.

I stepped away, and then I lost it. I just cried and cried and cried. Not just because I was concerned and frustrated over Michael's tummy troubles, but for the family issues I dealt with last fall. For the two months when I had strep/sinus infection/chest infection/messed up ribs and had to continue working because I had no sick time left. For the lump my mom found in her breast and all of the shitty stuff that has come with that. For the endless stress of trying to save up some time off while everything is conspiring to use it up. For being mad at myself for being overwhelmed by things that are overwhelming. For all of it.

I realize now what my mistake was. I decided to just plow right through everything. I didn't have a choice about going to work, or waiting for news from my mom, or any of the things I did. What I could have done, however, is recognize that it was hard and find ways to take care of myself through it all. You know, like maybe I could have asked for help. Maybe I could have cut myself a break when I wasn't pulling things off as well I I hoped. Maybe, just maybe, I could have sat down and had a good cry a few months earlier than I did. Maybe I could have cut myself a break. Getting it done was enough, I didn't need to do it with style and grace.

I've worked in the restaurant business and I've carried a lot of trays. Trays that were stacked way too high and were not balanced properly. I rarely ever dropped anything, but I'll be honest, until yesterday I had never heard of the the phrase "ignore the tray". I simply made sure that my hands were clean and that the bottom of the tray wasn't greasy. That was the only way to ensure a good foundation for carrying a tray, and it's that foundation that allows you to ignore the tray in the first place.

Last week, I took a little time to work on my own needs and help rebuild that foundation. Now it's time to get back out there and start serving again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Randomness

I'm having motivation problems at the moment. In fact, I was going to blog yesterday, but I just didn't have it in me. I had a whole post planned and everything. But, it just isn't going to happen. However, I really think I need to make an effort to get moving, so I think I'll hit you all with some randomness.

  • We went to my father in law's this weekend for a BBQ. After realizing that Michael had been gone for about 10 minutes, I went looking for him. I found him around the side of my father in law's house with his pants down getting ready to pee in the house.
  • I think my laughter may have overridden the lesson about not peeing on houses that I was trying to make.
  • Before the holiday weekend, I decided that I'm not having any beer until I drop the extra pounds I've put on lately. I realized I forgot to mention that to Andy when he came home with a case of Yuengling.
  • I liked Andy's plan better.
  • Michael has picked up a new habit of singing just one or two lines from a song over and over again. Songs include the original Mickey Mouse club song, the Mickey Mouse Club house song, made up words to "It's a Small World", and one of the songs off of the new Foo Fighter's album. It's driving Andy crazy.
  • It's not bothering me much (yet) and I even find myself singing along. I'm sure that's not helping Andy any.
  • Mickey Mouse!
  • Donald Duck!
  • After several tries, Michael has finally discovered that he really, really likes the Magic Tree House books so instead of reading several small books at bedtime, we are reading half of a Magic Tree House book. I'm very grateful for a little variety, and am excited for all of the other books we can start to dive into know.
  • This one's for Stacey - However, he does want to take the books to school with him. On today's ride he "read" several pages in mouse. So, it was an entire trip of him going, "squeak, squeak, squeak" and flipping pages.
  • An added plus with the books is that the Magic Tree House belongs to Morgan La Fey (not the Mists Of Avalon Morgan) and one of my mom's kitties is named Morgan. Michael loves this connection.
  • Squeak.