budding photographer

In a silly evening a few nights ago, Zoe took the digital camera and giggled her way around the house taking pictures. Below are the results of her photo shoot. I think it is evidence that no matter what age a camera comes into our hands, our first photos always include arty shots of our feet. Wasn’t there a Scarlett Johanssen line in Lost In Translation about this?

You’ll notice the requisite self-portrait and overlit photo of the best friend here too.

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definitions.

Mark and I just returned from the oncologist with the reminder that we’re in this for the long haul, no matter what. The remission that we thought we had in March was, more likely, the large nodule hiding behind a rib on the x-ray. The nodule was visible this time, but still smaller than it had been before. So, still probably good news (assuming the nodule was hiding, not that it disappeared and returned), just not the over-the-top good news we had before.

And this leaves me thinking again about how to define myself. Before our supposed “remission” I was a “survivor living with cancer” or even someone who could make jokes about the nodules in my lungs. Then, when remission came (erroneously), I didn’t quite know how to define myself until I became comfortable with the word remission and then bandied that one about at will.

But what dawned on me when I was getting used the “remission” moniker is the same thing that comes to me today. That I simply can’t rely on a tag like that to explain who I am or what I am in the world. Just as “wife” or “mother” or “guidance counselor” cannot fully explain me. Really the only label that transcends all of this and is ultimately the only truth is the title: Child of God.

And Child of God is really all that I am, all I need to be, and all that is ultimately real when nodules hide behind ribs on the chest x-ray, when I have to expain to Zoe that I do have cancer after all, and when I it takes copious energy to keep my head living only in the day. Child of God.

Child of God.

Child of God who happens to have a tiny cancerous lump in her lung.

Child of God who has a spindly blond girl making art at the dining room table.

Child of God whose husband rides this roller coaster with courage and grace.

Child of God who intends to swim at the park this afternoon.

Child of God. Child of God. Child of God.

This moniker, my friends, can’t hide behind a rib. And won’t change in three months, three years, three decades, three…you get the picture.

That’s my mantra for today. Child of God. Child of God.

And that’s enough.

food critic

Every 5 year old is a food critic, I’m sure. Zoe is no exception. Add to her young and picky pallete her mother’s sugar-free vegan diet, and a few zingers are sure to come. My favorites:

“Too hot. No flavor.” (OK, this was actually about some eggs that Mark made)

“Tastes like dust.” At which point I looked at Mark expectantly. He gave me a faint regretful nod and looked back at his plate.

So, when this comic ran in the paper a few weeks ago, I laughed out loud. Were they sitting at our dinner table?! (The kid character is actually named Zoe too.)
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kindred spirits

Mark and I have often remarked on the amazing comfort we take in conversations we have with the people in our lives who have gone through the same things we have. When we’ve hit a tough patch, the first people we seek out are those who have been over the same tough patch and weathered it. Often, we have found these interactions to be tangible evidence of God’s grace in our lives.

Mark and I revel in this. We get antsy for it. And we’re so relieved when it comes our way again.

In all our conversations about finding these kindred spirits, we have never discussed finding anything like that for Zoe. Perhaps we hadn’t dared to think that there would be another person for her to talk to already at her young age. Instead, I guess we thought she’d just navigate it with us. But, we’re not in her boat.

Our mothers’ lives have not been threatened with cancer. We have siblings. Like it or not, we’re really not in Zoe’s boat.

Even as I’ve watched Zoe field questions about siblings and as I’ve heard her explaining my cancer to a friend, I never thought about her finding a kindred spirit to connect with. Someone who was walking through similar waters and could talk her language. Apparently, God had figured that out already.

Today, Zoe had her friend Eliza over to play. They have known eachother since they were babies and are just 10 weeks apart in age. I drove them out to a park to meet some friends. This was their conversation in the back seat.

Zoe: I don’t have a brother or sister.
Eliza: I have a brother.
Zoe: No you don’t
Eliza: Yes I do, he’s younger than me.
Zoe: I’ve never seen him.
Eliza: Well, I do have a brother.
Me: You never saw him because he died right before he was born. Eliza saw him though, and you saw Miss Allison when Caleb was still in her tummy.
Zoe: Oh.
Eliza: Yeah.
Zoe: I don’t have a brother or sister, but I have a dog.
Eliza: Daisy.
Zoe: Daisy can’t have any puppies. And Mommy won’t have any babies.
Me: That’s right.
Eliza: Why not?
Me: Because my body can’t make babies anymore.
Zoe: Yeah, Mommy had cancer and the doctors had to take out the part that makes babies.
Eliza: My mommy had cancer too and the doctors had to take out the part that makes babies in her too.
Zoe: Oh…. My mommy doesn’t have cancer anymore.
Eliza: My mommy doesn’t have cancer anymore either. She had the cancer after I was born and after she had my brother.
Zoe: Oh.
Eliza: Yeah.
Zoe: I like dogs. I like Daisy.
Eliza: I like Daisy too.

Now I feel quite strongly that God did not give me cancer. Or Allison either for that matter. But I feel equally as strongly that God did put Allison and my friendship together 10 years ago knowing that it would bless us in ways we had never thought possible. And I bet he also intended for those blessings to be reaped by our one-minute-giggly-one-minute-philosophical-five-year-old-girls. Conversations like that cannot be an accident.

Here are the kindred spirits in a giggly moment from a winter playdate.

Zoe and Eliza get silly

milestone

Zoe had her last day of preschool this week. Mark took her picture before she left. She had chosen the same outfit she wore for her school picture this year. On her school picture the orange shirt has a noticeable wet spot on it. She had been sobbing and sucking on her shirt a few minutes before the picture was taken. Her face looks normal enough, but the shirt was a reminder to me, as the picture hung in my office, that preschool did not begin easily for Zoe. It was a tiny dose of mommy-guilt as a I worked. Every mom needs a little, right? Oy.

But there she was on Thursday, in the same shirt. Beaming. Running in to show her teachers what she was wearing. Not even looking back as she joined circle time. And when I came to pick her up, she was holding her friend Anna’s hands and singing with the class “shalom my friend, ’til we meet again.” I could have become a puddle on the floor, had I let myself.

We capped off her last day of preschool by attending the yearly preschool ice cream social in the evening. I caught on film a candid moment with Zoe and one of her teachers. It’s no secret why Zoe’s preschool year turned around. She was, obviously, gently loved by her kind and amazing teachers into becoming a more confident child of God. Oh, those teachers could never know the high place they hold in my heart!

zoe's last dayZoe and Miss Natasha