Saturday, February 24, 2018

PSA: Get your skin checked!

Public Service Announcement: Get your skin checked, wear sunscreen, grab a hat!

Several months ago I noticed a spot on my lip that didn’t seem to go away. The dermatologist tried freezing it a few times, but when that didn’t work a biopsy confirmed basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is 100% treatable and rarely spreads, in other words, if you have to get cancer, this is the best one to get. A simple procedure called Mohs’ Surgery takes care of it all. Moh’s surgery is designed to get rid of 100% of the cancer and leave as much as the healthy skin as possible. To accomplish this, they cut out the cancer and then do a biopsy to see if there is still cancer along the edge. If there is, they cut again, biopsy again, and repeat. It can take several cuts and the biopsy takes about an hour in-between. They recommend you plan to spend 5-8 hours at the office.

The day of, I prepped well. I was in it for the long haul! I packed a bag with knitting, books, my laptop, and a handful of articles I’ve been wanting to read. Because this wasn’t a big deal, and I'm a proud independant woman, and I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, I made arrangements to ride the metro there and back. I was really discounting my irrational side as I made my plans.  I was pretty anxious the week before the surgery. What if they found more. What if they found melanoma. What if I come out looking like Frankenstein? Cancer is scary….even if it’s the nicest form of cancer there is. So I changed all of our plans the day before, sent the girls to a friend’s house and had Will drive me to my appointment. Will deals with change the same way I deal with cancer; it was not the most pleasant of drives and it involved a fair bit of sniping. 

Dr. Marisa Braun and her team at Braun Dermatology were amazing. The staff was friendly and efficient. They made sure I understood everything and answered all of my questions before we began. I thought I felt calm and ready, but after Dr Marisa did the first round of cutting, she cauterized the wound. It didn’t hurt. I’m not sure if it was the smell of burning flesh, the thought of being burned, or the relief of getting rid of cancer, but I freaked out. My whole body started shaking and I started sobbing. She had to stop cauterizing and I sat up on the table and swung around flinging blood from the gaping hole in my face. I probably had a wild-eyed look of a rabid panicked dog, but Dr. Marisa and the nurse were very patient and  calm in the face of my crazy. I am very grateful to have found them for this procedure. 

I had an hour in between each cutting. I didn’t want to exhaust everything I brought with me for entertainment so in between one cut and the next, I called into a meeting at work. In between the next set, I looked at a 3D printing project. I had just exhausted all of my non-packed entertainment options and was getting ready to dig in my heels for the long haul when I was called back in for the third cut. Imagine my delight when they told me it wasn’t needed. I was now 100% cancer free and it only took two rounds!!!! I had planned to be there until 5 and I was out before noon.

They took off the bandage so I could get a look at the damage. When I remarked how large it was, Dr Braun reassured me that this was TEENY compared to what she usually has to take off. Translation: I’m lucky! And I definitely appreciate how fortunate I am. Dr Braun gave me a few rows of internal and external stitches and sent me on my way. This is when I realized another flaw in my independence plan…the jostling and bumpy metro ride was perfectly timed with the fading of my local anesthetic.

The doctor’s office warned me of swelling, but I really pictured this to be more like mole removal and not REAL surgery. I was shocked at how quickly my lip swelled up when I got home. The icing and the Advil helped to keep it down, but it was still pretty large. I guess it was a shock when I got the girls off the bus. Anne refused to look at me. I explained to her that it was just a band-aid and a little cut but she couldn’t bring herself to look in my direction. She finally went outside and stood all alone in the rain for 20 minutes while she processed it. She came back into the house and gave me a hug. Elizabeth processed through painting. She made me a lovely water-color to commemorate the occasion.

I'm still pretty swollen and sore, but I'm so pleased with the outcome (and my family is pleased that I can't talk much thanks to the swelling). I think once the swelling goes down, you'll have to get VERY close to me to even see that I have them on face. I'll say it one more time, Dr. Braun was INCREDIBLE!!!!!!
 So this is me: skin cancer-free. To stay that way, I will be getting check-ups every 6 months, but I’ll remind you to get yours annually too! The damage to my skin could have been years ago (although I think it was probably from a particularly bad burn on my honeymoon), so Will and I are going to be more diligent with the girls' skin too. 
Big thanks to the friends who helped us out with the girls this week! And thanks to friends and family for your thoughts, well-wishes, and distractions. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Coochy Coochy Coo

Anne LOVES her puppy, Nash. LOVES. HIM. She snuggles him and pets him and talks baby to him. A while ago, she was sprawled across him, scratching his ears, and crooning, "I love my Nashy. He's my Cutie Puppy. My Cutsy Cutie Puppy. My Coochy Cutie Puppy. Coochy puppy. Coochy. Coochy." and just like that, Nash had a new nickname, Coochy.

Anne is usually chattering away and I've gotten really good at tuning her out. She was rambling on the other day about how great her dog was and how much she loved him when Will snorted to hide a laugh. I tuned in to Anne's chatter box, "I love to pet my Coochy." My Coochy is so soft." I leaned in and whispered to Will, "Should we tell her?" "Who cares?" Will responded, so we let it go thinking that she would wake up the next day and forget her new term of endearment for Nash, but not Anne. This phase went on and on and on. Every morning she'd greet Nash with a huge hug and, "MY COOCHY!!!!" We let this "phase" go on forever, at least until she went to friend's house and told her friend's parents all about her soft furry coochy. Time for this phase to end. I figured the next time the subject came up, I would just nonchalantly tell her what that word means and we would just move on.

The perfect opportunity came as we were driving to the store. Anne said she couldn't wait to get home to see her coochy. The car is a great place for meaningful, heartfelt conversations like this. The kids are strapped into their seats. They can't go anywhere. There is very little to distract them. It was perfect. I was nonchalant. I was calm. I was matter-of-fact. "Anne, do you know something funny. Some people don't like to say the word vagina so they call a vagina a coochy." There. I did it. It was out of my mouth. I didn't make a big deal out of it. We could move right along. Right? Who am I fooling?

Elizabeth mulled it over as we got out of the car and started walking into Target and then she started talking....LOUDLY. "Why would anyone call their vagina a coochy?!?!?!?!?!? What's wrong with the word VAGINA????? It's just like the word nose. If you say NOSE, you can say VAGINA." People were looking. This is when I realized that I am part of the problem. "Yep," I said aloud, "it's silly" but I was hunkering down and almost running with the cart. By the time we got into the store and started shopping, Elizabeth had processed it all and Anne thought it was all good fun. Anne went on and on and how much she missed her Coochy. Every time she would say Coochy, Elizabeth would remind her what it meant and then tell her not to say it. It took Elizabeth two full aisles of correcting Anne before she resigned herself to the fact that Anne is Anne and just doesn't comply. It took Anne one more aisle to realize that no one cared that she was saying Coochy anymore. It took me a few glasses of wine to get over that shopping trip.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Witching Hour

In the wee hours of the morning, Anne crawled into my bed. Just as I was falling back asleep, I heard her say something. She had to repeat it 4 or 5 times before it broke through my sleepy haze, “Mom, I keep seeing black things walking into the bedroom.” That got my attention. I sat up and saw nothing. So I just cuddled her tight and told her to go back to sleep.
Anne covered her head with the blanket and tried to go back to sleep until it got too hot and she popped her head back out. She looked into the hallway again, “Mom, I’m a little scared. See, she just turned her head to look at me. Did you see? She’s by the desk in the office.” Assigning a gender to the previously shapeless blob made it a little eerier for me and I was starting to get a little nervous. I sat up and searched where she was looking for anything, any shadow, any piece of furniture that could possibly be construed as human-like so I could logically and rationally explain what she was seeing. I came up blank. I decided to get up and turn on the light. As I started to climb out of bed, Anne’s arm shot across me protectively, “No, mom. I want to go with you. I don’t think you should go alone.”
Now I was officially freaked out so I closed the bedroom door. Out of sight, out of mind. That worked until this morning. The alarm went off and first thing Anne asked, “Mom. how can we sneak past the witch to get downstairs?” I flipped on the office light and Anne started laughing. “Oh. I’m so silly. It was just a shadow. I thought this screen was a hand but it’s not.” 

I may never walk into my office again. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bagel Bin Day

About once a week, I like to take the girls to Bagel Bin for breakfast. I look forward to those days. All I have to do is get the girls dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, and out the door.  No need to pack lunches, snacks, or make breakfasts because Bagel Bin does that for me. No fuss. No messes to clean up. We can be up and out the door in 30 minutes on Bagel Bin days.  I consider it my own personal life hack. Bagel Bin Day is one of my favorite days of the work week.

TODAY was my Bagel Bin day. Anne was up and dressed in no time flat (the promise of sweet treats does wonders for her motivation), but Elizabeth was just not feeling it today. She was slow to wake up and then she was SO STARVING that she couldn’t possibly locate the energy to put on pants and a shirt until she had food; Anne and I had some time to kill. While Elizabeth was eating, I walked into the playroom and saw that my brand new WHITE Pottery Barn craft table was now sported a ginormous oil pastel signature. “ANNE! I’m in the playroom. WHY AM I ANGRY?” This is a game I like to play with the kids to see if they really didn't recognize that they did something dumb. Elizabeth almost always knows exactly what I'm talking about and rushes to fix it and apologize. Anne knows, but her poker face is the best and this kid is all about denial.  Anne walked into the playroom. She looked at her name written on my brand new WHITE table and then looked at me all wide-eyed and innocent, “I don’t know. Why are you angry?” She finally conceded that her leaving her mark on my new table MAY  be the cause of my apparent irrational emotions and she fetched a paper towel to remedy the situation. This is when we learned that oil pastels do not wash nicely off of my brand new white table.  I grabbed the dish soap and poured it onto the table and we started scrubbing. We got it mostly clean, but if we didn’t leave soon, we were going to miss Bagel Bin day…and it’s my FAVORITE day of the week. I gave up scrubbing and just started to try to rinse off the mountain of suds on the table. I stepped out of the room to rinse out my rag and when I walked back in, Anne’s “helping clean it” by dumping the entire bottle of dish soap on the table. Grrrrrrrrr. Back to square one. The only thing harder than soap to clean is raw egg. I did not have a happy heart as I started to slough off the suds.

I managed to get most of the suds off of the table and at 7:45, I left Anne with one rinsed out dish cloth, firm instructions NOT to put ANY more soap on the table, and a final lecture on writing on furniture. I ran upstairs, got dressed and walked back down the stairs at  7:46. As I was walking down the stairs Anne was so excited, “Mom, I found a great way to rinse off the table. It's MUCH better. I get water from the sink and I dump it onto the table and then I use a dry cloth. It’s like magic,” Oh dear Lord. “Anne, are you making a mess?” “Nope, none of it’s getting on the floor,” she says just as I turn the corner and see her dumping an entire cup of water onto the table. Nope, none of it got on the floor…because the water fall is perfectly directed into the rolling storage carts underneath the table....the rolling carts that are used to store puzzles and paper which were now enjoying their own personal indoor pool courtesy of Anne.

So maybe Bagel Bin day isn't mess-free, but at  noon when I unpacked my beautifully-crafted roast beef sandwich on a jalapeno bagel, I was decided that Bagel Bin is my favorite day...especially when the morning is full of mess and fuss!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Holiday Frivalty

We got a huge box of fancy new Christmas lights. I mean, they are all kinds of high tech; they can go in waves, sequential, slo glo, chase, twinkle, and more. We bought 10 packs of these lights and they can be daisy-chained together. However, each string has its own control box so for the lights to be in the same mode, you have to turn each individual string to the proper setting on its own. This brought out the electrician in Will and with his eyes all aglow he said, “Hey babe, if you don’t mind me doing an electronic project, I could string a few of these together and get them on one control. What do you think?” I thought about it for a minute, “I don’t think that’s really necessary. It would probably be a waste of time, but if you really want to…” Deflated, he said, “Oh ok. I guess so.”
A dejected Will grabbed his cup of coffee and sat down next to me. “What are you doing by the way?” “Me? Oh...I am just sewing this dishcloth to our fruit basket so that I have a cute way to put the silverware out for our Friendsgiving Feast tomorrow.” Will looked a little confused. “I thought you liked that fruit basket. You don’t want to use it anymore?” Now it was my turn to be confused, “No, of course I still want to use it. This is just for tomorrow; I’m just sewing this on here for tomorrow and then I’ll take it back off.”
Without a word, he left the table. He returned with a set of wire cutters, some electrical tape, and three strings of lights. Grateful for my kind, caring, patient and handy husband.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I scream. You scream. We all scream...and it doesn't seem to improve behavior

One year later and I still haven’t figured out how to do mornings.

Willard and I are very different parents. We think differently. We respond differently. We have different habits and routines. For the most part, we just accept that each of us has our own way and that neither is better. The exception is our morning routines. Will is on a constant crusade to have me mirror my morning routine after his.
Will wakes up at exactly 6:00. He goes downstairs and makes his coffee, packs the girls lunch, puts all backpacks and gear for the day in the car and then sits and quietly sips on his coffee while catching up on the news. At exactly 7:30, he wakes up Elizabeth (Anne is an early riser), feeds the girls breakfast, and takes them upstairs to help them get dressed. They’re ready by 8 and have 30 minutes to play before he ushers them out the door, well-prepared for a day at school.

I’m a little less organized and prepared. I HATE waking up and I refuse to get out of bed any earlier than I ABSOLUTELY have to. So typically, my alarm goes off at 7, I get up at 7:30 and usually don't get around to waking up the girls at about 7:40 or 7:45

There are some days where our morning is smooth sailing. One particular morning that comes to mind, Anne was up early and she and I played some puzzles until it was time to wake Elizabeth up. We went up into her room and we all laid in Elizabeth’s bed just chatting and giggling for about 20 minutes. We laughed and played our way through breakfast and prepping for school. We happily started out the door when suddenly I realized that I had completely forgotten to pack the girls’ lunch. As I was grabbing things out of the fridge, Elizabeth came running up to me, “What can I do to help? Did you get the lunch boxes yet? I’ll get them.” And she jumped right into action. I just stood dumb-founded. “What can I do to help” is a phrase I have been trying to get my husband to use for years and Elizabeth just so naturally jumped in to help. That morning warmed my heart and is not one I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.

But most mornings aren’t so smooth. By the time I wake the girls up it’s all GO TIME!!!  Elizabeth is whiny and sleepy while I’m trying to shove food into her mouth. Anne just likes making her sister cry so she’ll poke and laugh and tease until Elizabeth whines and cries some more. They procrastinate. I prompt them to focus. They whine. I prompt them to focus. They bicker. I prompt them to focus. They fight. I prompt them to focus. They procrastinate some more. Then I YELL. I yell at them to brush to their teeth. I yell at them to GET DRESSED. I yell at them to “JUST FIND THEIR SHOES FOR GOODNESS SAKE. JUST DO IT LIKE I ASKED YOU TWENTY TIMES TO DO.”  Then I yell at them to JUST GET OUT THE DOOR!!!!” As soon as we get out of the door, those mornings just disappear from my mind, but it turns out that they make an impact on the kids.
Driving home one day Elizabeth said, “Mom, I noticed that you have been yelling a lot lately, especially in the morning. I don’t like it and I would like you to stop.” She didn’t whine or cry. She just very matter-of-factly declared that Mommy has been acting a lot like an irrational asshole. “I noticed that too, Elizabeth, and I don’t like it either. I also noticed that you and your sister are fighting more and you don’t listen to me so how can we solve this problem. What can I do when you don’t listen to me after I ask you to do something 20 times? How can I get you to listen to me?” This was my way of telling her that I was only acting like an irrational asshole because she and Anne were acting like irrational assholes. She thought about it for a minute and said, “Well, maybe you can give us con—cones—consequences when we don’t listen. We’re just kids so we forget, but that doesn’t mean you should just yell at us.”

Sometimes she is so grown up. I learn a lot from that little dear, and I guess it’s time for me to learn from Will too. It's been a week since our chat and so far, she's right. It is WAY easier.

Anybody who has something sensible or worthwhile to say should be able to say it calmly and soberly, relying on the words themselves to convey his meaning, without resorting to yelling.  -Richard Dawkins

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Making Valentine's with an unhappy heart and a half-assed effort

A friend of mine likes to tell her kids, "If you don't do it with a happy heart, you might as well not do it at all." I thought of that phrase a lot as we lead up to Valentine's Day this year.