Lego love

Zoe bought her first Lego set this summer. She put the whole set together herself (Hagrid’s Hut) and then promptly took it all apart.

Mark’s childhood was spent mostly in his room playing with Legos and listening to a transistor radio. Having put in plenty of time with My Little Ponies and other such toys, he had been waiting for the Lego moment for a long time. I think that first night of Lego Love, I finished whatever book I was reading and had to keep reminding about bedtime while the two of them were completely absorbed.


Last night, while I was out with friends, Zoe and Mark got busy with her newest Lego set. No more Quidditch for Harry Potter, instead he and his buddies were transformed into…


Mark was in charge of Ringo and his drum kit. Zoe added the trapdoor in the stage for their “ear hats.” Ah, collaboration!


Of course they had to listen to the Beatles on the ipod in Zoe’s room while they worked. Again, childhood 2.0.


first days of elementary school in photos

Here they are. First days from the first year of preschool until 4th grade. I could stare at them forever. Did I really get to witness all of this growing up?

preschoolpreschool2kindergartenfirst gradesecond gradethird gradefourth grade

Next year we start the front door middle school montage!


favorite graffiti

Zoe and I have driven past this particular piece of graffiti many times this summer. It makes us giggle every time. I finally stopped to take a picture.
down with pants


what I’ve done on my summer vacation…

Mostly, I’ve been hanging out with my two favorite people…
But I also just finished a project that has been on my mind for a while now.
Weeks after I was diagnosed with metastatic disease, my sister took me to see the Quilts of Gee’s Bend. I’ve blogged about them before, since they inspired the quilt I made from scraps of Mark and my clothing. I had hoped to make another Gee’s Bend inspired quilt and had this postcard hanging above my desk in my study for probably 2years…
Finally, after getting a new couch-ish thing for my study, I was inspired to start a quilt. It came together quite quickly and is made only of things I already had in the house. No new fabric, thread, batting, anything. Here it is…
This is only the second quilt in the 18 years that I’ve been quilting that I’ve made only for me. It uses fabrics from so many old projects that it already feels like an old friend. Mark called the quilt “soulful” and Zoe said it was “awesome,” which made me immediately say yes when she asked me to make one for her.

We sat down with my Gee’s Bend postcard book and she chose this one as the inspiration…
It won’t look much like this since I’m using mostly patterned fabric. Zoe went through my bins of fabric and made a pile on the floor of the ones she liked. It looked something like this…
pile and is turning into something like this…start
When my sister took me to see the Gee’s Bend Quilts I wasn’t sure I would ever have it in me to be creative again. And now, five and half years later, I am experiencing the joy of playing with color and shape without worrying about perfect corners or consistent pattern. It is big fun. And I have the resourceful women of Gee’s Bend and the sister who could still see the creativity in me when I was at my lowest to thank for it.


dogs on the brain

daisy-and-me.jpgIt has been almost 2 months since Daisy died and I still think about her every day. Her absence feels very tangible and I expect to see her round a corner any minute.

Joining thoughts of Daisy, though, are also thoughts of other dogs. We are a dog family. All three of us love dogs. Mark and I bought our house so that we could own a dog. So, when do we welcome another dog into our lives?

This has become a tough question.

Mark believes we should wait 6 months from Daisy’s death until we think about adopting a dog. (This is also the opinion of the dog training book we trust.) I’m not sure I can wait that long. Mark would like to start with a puppy as we did with Daisy. I’m open to an older dog who does not wake us up in the middle of the night or chew like crazy while teething. Mark also thinks that the primary dog-walker (me) should be in good health so that we are not adding more stress to our rather stress-y lives. OK, he has a good point here, but I like to live in denial of my health issues (treatment going well, by the way–still have a full head of hair!!) and go on with as much “normal” as possible, so I’m willing to say that since I’ve walked on the treadmill the last two days, I’m good to go.

But here is the kicker. As long as I can remember in my adult life (let’s say, 12 years or so?), I have had a runny nose. When I cleaned out the front closet this summer, I found tissues is absolutely every one of my coat pockets, purse pockets, everywhere. I filled a grocery bag with crumbled tissues. Since Daisy died, my nose has stopped running. I’m no Columbo, but I’m guessing I’m allergic to dogs. And, in my mind, allergic to dogs=allergic to love. So, there will definitely need to be some investigation here to see what kind of dog we might even be able to adopt. Perhaps the shelter dogs I browse online daily will have to be passed over for a fancier breeder dog.

All this I mull over and over. All the while missing my trusty hairy companion. A runny nose a small price to pay for her sweet presence in our family.



Change #1:
Mark and I met with Dr. Campbell today and learned that my numbers had doubled in the past 3 weeks. This, along with the pleural fluid problem (though I haven’t been drained in 2 1/2 weeks and have been feeling pretty good), made him think that it may be time to switch meds. And, of course, we will do whatever he suggests.

I must admit I felt a little “clothes-lined” when he said my numbers were up. I was absolutely not expecting that when the numbers had just been down. After coming home, I kind of struggled to pick myself back up but am now feeling more ready to move on to this new drug. It’s called Epirubicen. It was part of the cocktail I received 8 years ago. Dr. Campbell has floated this drug out several times before and he was rather pleased when it showed up on my Van Andel report. There is no reason to think it will be as bad for me as it was 8 years ago since it is only one drug, not three. I’ll have the drug once a week which may make it easier to tolerate than the every 3 week option. It also may not necessary take my hair if I take it once a week and I may have more energy overall.

I also got the go-ahead from my nurse on Tuesday to exercise so have walked 2 miles each day since. This has helped me mentally as well. I’m hoping that I can continue to do that.

I’ll start the new chemotherapy on Wednesday.

Change #2:
I’m turning 40 in the morning. And, unlike others who lament leaving their thirties behind, I will greet my forties with a big ol’ grin.

Welcome, 40. Glad you’re here. Make yourself at home. We’ve been eagerly awaiting you. Oh, and have you seen 50? Tell 50 I’m eager to meet her, too!


sweet dog of my heart

daisy.jpgWhen I was a kid, even though I adored dogs, I would refuse to read dog stories because the dog always died in the end.

I even remember a Family Film and Fun Night when I was in elementary school being completely ruined by “Where The Red Fern Grows.” I spent the “Fun” part of the night sobbing in our VW van while everyone else got grab bags and played games in the gym.

And yet, all dog stories end this way, don’t they? The puppy ages. The fluffy frantic little thing slowly transforms into a plodding old pooch with a ridge of spine on her back. Nipping slowly giving way to napping.

So it has gone for feisty puppy Mark and I brought home in an orange pail twelve years ago. We had known Daisy’s kidneys were unwell, but her speedy decline was surprising. And her death at home yesterday morning leaves us bereft. In our minds, she has always been the perfect dog. We have adored her.

I may be sobbing (in my own minivan now) a few more times before I get used to her absence. But it seems a small indignity to pay for the years of delight she gave us. We miss you dearly, precious Daisy. Sweet dog of my heart.


never as bad is it seems

The phrase “it’s never as bad as it seems” is not one that I often say. Nor one that I think often applies to me. We’ve had a few things in our neck of the woods which have definitely been as bad as they seemed. Worse even.

But this week was the exception.

On Tuesday I had an appointment to get fluid drained from my lung after some very noticeable shortness of breath. They drained 1.8 liters of pleural fluid (fluid that had accumulated between the lung and its lining). It is normal to have a few teaspoons of pleural fluid. After draining, they estimated that there was still about a liter remaining. It would have been too traumatic for the lung to drain any more than they did at one time, but I can have it drained again (and will next Tuesday).

Shortness of breath is a new thing for me as is the rather impressive amount of pleural fluid. Added to the shortness of breath is a bit of panic–why can’t I breathe right!? Mark and I were, of course, eager to find out what was causing it and how treatment might change to address it.

After an eventful Wednesday (tree falling taking out electricity, phone and internet and starting a tiny fire on the side of the house) and another day of waiting on Thursday (power restored hours after the tree fell–thank you to all who made that happen!!), we found out that Dr. Campbell would see us this morning with the lab results from the pleural fluid.

Of course, we didn’t know what to expect, but having almost 2 liters of fluid drained from a lung, in our minds, would probably warrant something. I think we were both rather certain that we would at the very least lose the meds I’m tolerating so well after only a few months’ use.

But things were actually not as bad as they seemed. This pleural effusion was caused by the irritation of tiny cancer cells in the pleural lining. Like a tearing eye trying to evict a sand particle, the fluid keeps building in hopes of flushing out the tiny offending cells. Dr. Campbell was unconvinced that having tiny cells in the lining was an indication that the cancer was growing. In fact, the x-ray taken just after draining the fluid showed that the nodes in the lungs were stable.

So, I will have the lung drained again for comfort on Tuesday. I will go back up to my full dose of Magestrol (the oral med I’m on) and I’ll stay on Herceptin. We’re hoping that upping the Magestrol will clear up the tiny irritating cells. If it does not, there is an option of draining the fluid completely and then putting in a sealant between the two layers to keep this from happening again (amazing!).

While my breathing is still not normal (rats, i’ll have to sit in the chair and read again rather than scrubbing the tub), my spirits are back up where they belong. Things really are not as bad as they seem. Hooray!

In case you needed a visual reminder of how much fluid was drained…

(that was for you, Heather :) )


happy times

We celebrated Zoe’s birthday this past week.
First with a family party

Then breakfast in bed.

And finally a Harry Potter party last night. Complete with…
Hogsmeade shopping

Dinner in the Great Hall

And friends who make Zoe smile like this…

Zoe’s birthday is in many ways a marker for me as well. We learned the grim news of my metastatic disease on her 4th birthday. This year, however, we got to mark my 5th anniversary of living well with cancer with this news: the Herceptin and Magestrol I have been on seem to be arresting the cancer’s growth and possibly even shrinking it. This feels like whipped cream on the top of a cup already overflowing with the happiness of marking another year as Zoe’s parents. So lovely. We are so grateful for it all.


a definite sign of spring

sign of spring 2

Shoes at the clubhouse door. A definite sign of spring!