Sunday, April 29, 2012


We were leaving Hema's house on Thursday after our playgroup. Before we headed on our respective ways, the girls decided to practice their jumping techniques. Since Kate has only just now learned how to jump on a flat surface, she wasn't too keen on leaping off a step. Lucy, Lina and "Other Lucy"* did not have any such misgivings. In fact, watch closely for Lina to actually leap off 2 steps!

I love that they are now at the age where they are making up games to play with each other. Kate takes on the Diva part, encouraging the other girls to pet and dote on her. Lina readily complies. I find it funny that when Lucy starts her fake Diva whine, Lina stands in her face and whines back but then goes back to petting Kate. Lucy and Lina are very much alike in temperament so play well together with the physical games. With Kate the play is much more low-key. It's nice to have friends don't you think?

Playdate from Lisa on Vimeo.

*Other Lucy is what our girls call Christy's daughter Lucy. Funnily enough, Kate is now actually calling our Lucy "my Lucy" now. Alternately, she'll call Other Lucy "my other sister Lucy." Too cute.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Coming soon to a mailbox near you

One of the ways we try to fill up our day is through copious sticker and crayon use. Since there is only so much room on our refrigerator for artwork, we decided to share some with family. That means that some of you will soon be receiving a very stickery, crayony envelope in the mail. Len took them to the post office and then to the mail truck lot today to show them how mail is sent.

Making cards Part 1 from Lisa on Vimeo.

I especially love Kate's manners coming out in the last few seconds of this video.

Making cards, Part 2 from Lisa on Vimeo.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Yes it is but only sorta kinda cancer

Turns out that I have a lazy-ass, under-achieving but pushy cancer. I have a fibromatosis tumor very deep in my pelvis that is surgically very difficult to remove and has a very high rate of recurrence. It is a very low-grade tumor of the non-highly malignant variety and is not metastatic. What makes it a cancer though is that it is not completely benign because it will recur if removed & will continue to grow if left in. So what to do?

Here's what's next on my agenda:

1. My case is *hopefully* going to be presented at their monthly sarcoma meeting this Tuesday. I say hopefully because they already closed the window for case files but Jennifer, my lovely nurse, said she was trying very hard to add it in. The pathologist who examined my cells as well as many other oncology professionals will review my case & make recommendations for treatment.

2. They have scheduled me for a colonoscopy on Tuesday morning to be sure there is no infiltration. The MRI was a little too sketchy about the relationship my tumor may or may not be having with my colon.

So, all-in-all, good news prevails.

- Posted using BlogPress from my fabulously wonderful iPad!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ballerinas in action

Yesterday's class was held in a regular classroom instead of the racquetball court with much better results. Both girls were still a bit whiny and clingy at the start of class but by the time we got to walking on tippy toes they were much more comfortable.
Here's Kate:

Kate ballet from Lisa on Vimeo.

And here's Lucy:

Lucy ballet from Lisa on Vimeo.

Still no news on the biopsy results. Thanks for all the comments on yesterday's post...it always seems crazy that so many people that I've never met are so invested in our story. The internet has certainly changed our lives hasn't it?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No news yet

Just a quick note because I know everyone is waiting along with me (which I do so appreciate!). I talked to the oncologist's nurse and she said the results are not back yet. She must have caller i.d. because she picked up right away when I called and simply said, "Hi Lisa!". She couldn't give me a definite timeline for when to expect a call but did say to call her back Friday afternoon if I hadn't heard anything. She also said it would not be unusual for it to be NEXT WEEK before I would know. What really made an impression with me though was this comment:

I will not be offended if you hound me with phone calls. I know how much you really want to know. I have you on top of the pile so I see it every day.

I have tried through this process to tell everyone who is working on me about Kate & Lucy; the circumstances surrounding their entry into our family (basically boiling down this blog into a manageable soundbite) so that they will remember me and maybe, just maybe, become invested in my case (i.e. put me on the top of the pile).

Unbeknownst to me, it worked with the head of the midwifery group where I delivered Kate. When I first met Sherri I was a few months pregnant and still startled by that fact. I told her all about my previous uterine death tolls and the horseback riding at 7 weeks. Sherri did not end up being on-call when my water broke (which was my good fortune as I finally got to meet the only midwife I had not previously met, Amy, who was the perfect person to have around when you are just a teensy bit panicked about what's happening in your girly nether regions) nor did I see her again until my 6 week postpartum checkup. That was 2+ years ago so I was more than surprised when she came in as one of the three initial people to grope my "suspicious mass" and totally remembered me. Do you know the first thing she said when I expressed my surprise?

Of course I remember you. You went horseback riding when 7 weeks pregnant!

So now three oncologists, a nurse and the entire team in the biopsy room knows Kate, Lucy, Len and our long and twisted journey to become our family of four. I feel powerless to really affect the outcome of this biopsy one way or the other. But I can control my story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dance like there's no tomorrow

Because today was our last day of Wiggleworms. I've been taking Kate to Wiggleworms since she was about 3 months old and we've had the same teacher, Ms. Julie, for every class. I'm afraid we have all become attached to each other so that made today even harder. We're taking the spring and summer off to explore other activities and we hope to catch up with Ms. Julie at Millennium Park this summer when she performs a few shows.

Kate and Lucy got to be pirates for a short while today.
Lots of dancing today...

Last day of Wiggleworms from Lisa on Vimeo.

Thanks Aunt Kathy for the cute outfits!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finishing up projects

Remember I was working on a few projects a while ago? They are finally pretty much complete.

The first is this family portrait over our fireplace. Both girls spotted it immediately and Lucy was thrilled to see herself up there!
We got a smaller photo made that will be mounted the same way, with chrome posts instead of a frame, but haven't had the chance to mount it yet. It will be in the girls' room.
Since Lucy's photos from her life at the orphanage were all originals (and I was afraid they would get damaged or lost, etc) I scanned them all in and had them bound into a book for her. She loves to look at her photos.
 A sample page inside.
 I also had a book made to house all of our China photos. The thought of printing them all out and then manually mounting them into an album made me exhausted before I could even start. Thank goodness for the internet once again. A few uploads, some text, some clicks of the mouse and a credit card was all it took.
 Some sample pages.
I'm not including photos of the last project which was to print out some current pictures of both Lucy and Kate to have in frames around the house and in their room. The girls noticed right away and I think it helps Lucy to feel as if she belongs in this house to see herself pictured in every room.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ahhh, the weekend. How lovely and how fleeting.

I am feeling much better this evening. I remember much more about Friday's procedure than I was promised I would. I ended up waiting well over 2 hours because they wanted me in the only room that is capable of housing both the ultrasound equipment and the CT machine. The room was enormous and freezing but I had a great team working on me. The doctor used the ultrasound first to see if he would be able to proceed without the CT machine. After much pressing and rolling around, he said it was a go. I was looking forward to being knocked out at this point because they were QUITE LOW on my abdomen...as in, not really my abdomen anymore...as in, shaving was next on the agenda.

Dry shaving.

By a man (barely a man though, if he was a day over 20 I would be surprised...) covered in tats. I told him if I ended up with someone's initials down there he would have some explaining to do.

This was quickly followed by a nurse "sterilizing" the area. Think alcohol. On a newly dry-shaved patch of very tender skin. And I'm asking, literally, "Where is my iv? Drugs? Anyone?"

They hooked me up to oxygen and turned on the iv and the world became, thankfully, blurry and dull around the edges. Most of the rest is a blur except I do remember telling them I could feel cramping during one of their forays for tissue samples and then I heard the doctor tell them to turn up the pain meds.

The rest of it Len covered in his post on Friday. Pretty uneventful. The only thing he left out was that I am not allowed to take a bath for a week, only showers. No bath?! I have taken a bath nearly every night for the past 45 years! It's how I wind down, relax, read my trashy mags...a shower just is not the same. Sigh.

Saturday Len let me sleep in while he took the girls to the park and then out to lunch. They both fell asleep in the stroller so he ended up walking them around for their naps, coming home around 2:30pm. I spent a decadent day lolling on the couch in my jammies, sipping hot tea and watching WHATEVER I WANTED. It was heavenly, except when I tried to move. I was sore and could not lift the girls which  made bath and bedtime difficult but we managed well enough.

I was allowed to removed the dressing in the shower last night revealing two medium-sized, slightly bloody holes, some pretty blue bruises and a haphazard shave. At least I didn't have a skull hedge or a cancer sign neatly trimmed into my feminine forest.

My fabulous friend Christy brought over some home-made empanadas, wine and alfajores. They were delish!
Len let me sleep in again today so I woke to an empty house. Len had taken the girls to the park for "soccer" practice. He met up with Lina and her daddy, Gustav, "other" Lucy and her daddy Fernando, and Sloane and Naia and their daddy Geoff.
Len said it mostly ended up being the kids all holding onto their own balls in order to keep them away from everyone else. They eventually ended up at the playground! Len took them to lunch again and got home around 2pm while I enjoyed the quiet solitude.

The other big event today was that Kate finally learned to hop! She has been practicing for over a month and finally both of her feet left the ground at the same time. She was so proud and thrilled!

Hopping finally! from Lisa on Vimeo.

You may notice another female voice in the background. That is the lovely Marisa who will soon be transitioning into our home as a part-time sitter.  She came highly recommended by a friend as well as Ms. Pat and this was our second interview with her. We knew Jessica would be around for only a short time so we've been working on finding a replacement to start this summer. Jessica will be around for a couple more weeks but has been hired back by the summer camp where she worked last year. We will miss her!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Biopsy completed! And now we wait...

Len posting, since Lisa is asleep.

Yes, that means we are home from the hospital and the biopsy was a success. Here's what we can tell you right now.

The surgeon (who had the coolest name, by the way, Jeet Minocha) was able to use ultrasound imaging to guide the biopsy needle, which made the procedure about an hour shorter than if they'd had to use the CAT scan. They took about eight different samples using three different needle sizes. The cytology people who will prepare and study the cells were in the OR so they could let the surgeon know when there was a sufficient amount of tissue for the study.

The cells will be prepared and fixed on Monday, and we're told to expect the results about two business days after that.

Lisa spent about an hour in the recovery area, enjoying juice and cookies after waking. Then she got dressed and practiced standing and walking to make sure she wouldn't get sick. Once the nurse was satisfied, she removed the IV line, gave us the discharge instructions and sent us on our way.

We stopped at a pho place near our house for so Lisa could experience the rejuvenating power of chicken soup (plus, she hadn't eaten since 9 am), and then headed home. Lisa promptly went to bed.

Despite some discomfort, Lisa felt relatively well after the procedure, and did a good bit of damage to that soup. We'll see what a good night's sleep does to help too, as I'm taking night and morning duty to allow Lisa to sleep in.

Miss Pat stayed with the girls and reported that they didn't seem too traumatized by having a little different bedtime routine than usual. Kate woke up a couple times before we got home, but a quick back rub and a few soothing words seemed to do the trick for her.

The bottom line is that we don't yet know what the "suspicious mass" is, but we are one step closer. It's a shame that it will take five days from now to take the next step. So now we wait...which is super fun for the person whose blog is called "Are we there yet Len?" and for those who love her and live with her.

Things that have made me happy today

Me to Kate as she is climbing up on the chair: Are you climbing like a mad girl?

Kate: No, I'm a happy girl.

Looking at pictures of my girls from yesterday:

Kate enjoying some hot chocolate:
 Lucy, Kate and Lina having fun with stickers.
Kate announcing that she needed to rest before climbing up the stairs to go home. Lucy promptly following her lead. Their dandelion collection grows ever larger...
Watching Kate try to put her pants on this morning.

Getting dressed from Lisa on Vimeo.

Listening to Lucy wail in the background was not quite as enjoyable.

Music time in their bedroom and learning the word, glower.

Playing some tunes from Lisa on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Big, fluffy tutus. Really, there's not much cuter than girls in tutus.
Sara and I enrolled our girls in ballet at the YMCA for a short session. Wiggleworms is ending next week and I was looking for an alternative class to enroll them in. Soccer was full (but we solved that problem by roping our husbands into forming our own league) and I couldn't find a gymnastics class that would allow me to enroll 2 toddlers with only one parent present for the class.

The first class was a bit of a disaster but I have high hopes that subsequent classes will be better. The normal classroom was having some construction work done so they moved the class to a raquetball court. Just imagine 10 toddler girls in a concrete enclosed room...the noise was so palpable that my head hurt after the 45 minutes were over. I think the sound was part of the problem with Kate and Lucy too. But the bigger deal was that I didn't realize that the class was a drop-off class...no parents allowed.

Panic contorted Lucy's face which then set Kate off and before I knew it I had two wailing toddlers strapped to my legs. The teachers said I could stay so I tried to sit away from the action. It started out ok...here they are being handed their stars to sit on. Lina and Kate are having a good time it looks like.
Still good but Kate's face is starting to crumple (she's on the far end) and Lucy is worriedly keeping her eyes on me (third in from right)
So I ended up moving closer, eventually sitting up against the wall on my own little star. But, I got some better pictures from my new vantage point. Here is Kate walking on tippy toes from one star to the next.
I finally convinced Lucy to give it a try. She was amenable only when I told her that they were giving out stickers for completing the tiptoe walk across the room.
 She made one loop and then made a beeline for Sara hoping maybe she would let her leave
Whatever Sara said seemed to make her feel better so she came back. Luckily it was time for twirling with ribbons.

Sitting back at the wall for the next set of lessons. Love the delicate way my ladies are squatting in very un-ballerina-like positions.
This one is blurry but I love the intense concentration that Kate has on her face as she is listening to the instructions from the teacher. She makes this face anytime she is learning something new.
 Still focused, right toe pointed, ready to go.
Class was over and they each got a ballerina coloring page to take home.
Kate was already asking tonight if we could go to ballet class again tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


"It was...my twin!" I'm seriously hoping that my biopsy will turn out to have teeth and hair...my long-lost twin. I am a Gemini after all!

My "bibopsy" is scheduled for this Friday at 3pm. It will be performed by an Interventional Radiologist at Northwestern. They are not sure yet whether he can complete the surgery with just an ultrasound or if he will need a CT scan...they have reserved both rooms for me just in case. The nurse said it will probably take about 2 hours and I will be sedated.

That's all I know for now. Will post more as I know.

Monday, April 16, 2012


I've never wanted to be the mom who relies on tv to keep my kid occupied and thus far, I'm proud to say that even with "virtual" twins, I limit total tv time to one hour/day. This normally takes place while Lucy naps so she actually doesn't see much programming at all. Kate, my dear non-napper, watches 2 episodes in the hour that Lucy is down so I can eat, check email, etc.

Despite its obvious uses (I can pee or eat without 4 hands and arms and legs climbing and grabbing), I've found one major adverse consequence to letting the tv babysit: my children tend to mimic what they have learned, the good, but also the bad. And by bad I mean very, very bad.

Is there any parent out there who does not think that whining is like nails on a chalkboard? Oh I can handle full-on crying and even tantrums, but my god, the incessant, grinding repetitiveness of a child whining will send me over the edge so fast I get whiplash. Both girls have always had a bit of whining (they're two after all) but ever since Kate has been watching a fairly popular and highly-recommended PBS show, Caillou, her whining has increased tenfold. She whines now pretty much ALL. THE. TIME. Asking for milk used to be, "Mama, can I have some milk please?" but has become, "MIIIIIIIILLLLLK! MIIIIIIIILLLLK! MIIIIIILLLLK!"


And although this show is pretty good with the pacing (not crazy-busy like Yo Gabba Gabba or Spongebob) and has good messages about sharing, etc. I have a huge, huge problem with Caillou's constant whiny voice. I have an even bigger problem with the fact that Caillou's long-suffering parents never say, "Shut the fuck up!", "I can't understand you when you whine like that. Please try again with your normal voice."

Funnily enough, when googling for some examples to show you, an entire thread on Caillou's whining popped right up.  Here are a few of the best:

After watching a LOT of the show "Peppa Pig," which features a kid Caillou's age without the neurosis, I now feel like telling Caillou to grow a pair.

Caillou spoof on youtube...love the father's voice-over towards the end!

Caillou's voice is like Chinese Water Torture

Hey Caillou, put a sock in it!

So the search began for a suitable replacement. I brought it up to my fellow mamas at playgroup and, at first, one mama recommended the new show, Doc McStuffins on Disney. By the next week, however, she had retracted it saying, "L is becoming a hypochondriac. Yesterday her tummy hurt. The day before she had a sore arm." 

I stumbled onto Bubble Guppies this week and so far, fingers crossed, it appears to be innocuous. So far I've been impressed. The two episodes I've watched featured colors in one and simple math at the supermarket in the other. Each show only tackles one theme but has common elements in each episode like "What's for lunch?" and "Let's go Outside". The bonus for Kate is that she's totally into mermaids (it started with her MerLion from Uncle RyRy and Uncle Paul) and dolphins (on her dolphin shirt from Nana) right now.

And the bonus: no whining.
For those of you wondering, no word yet about when my biopsy will be. I called today and the radiologist was still analyzing my films to figure out the best approach for a core sample. I will call again tomorrow morning. And I will keep calling until I get an answer. I wasn't a Project Manager for nothing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I love weekends. Len is home. The girls and I are much more relaxed with him here. There really is just nothing at all that I don't like about weekends, except that they don't last long enough.  Today was a great day. We had  brunch with the mamas in our playgroup but this time our husbands came too. It was a plot concocted by some seriously overworked SAHMs...how to get a few hours in our houses on a weekend morning...ALONE. I know! Let's get the guys to take the kids to the park for soccer: the kids get tired playing outside, we don't have to pay for soccer classes, the guys can form relationships, and, most importantly, the moms get some seriously needed downtime.

Amazingly, most of the husbands went for it. We met for brunch so the guys could exchange emails and ideas for when to meet. After brunch the guys and kids all headed to the park a block away while we mamas enjoyed a newly-quiet house and sipped mimosas. Quite a lovely morning!

A bonus for the girls: on our walk back to the car we saw three bunnies in a yard happily munching away on dandelion flowers. Kate exclaimed, "It's the Easter Bunnies Mama!" Surprisingly, this declaration and Lucy's plaintive, "Buba, Buba!" didn't scare them away. 

We got home about 2 hours later than Lucy's normal naptime so she was a bit out of it still when she awakened 1 1/2 hours later. The lovely thing about this is that Lucy is quite cuddly when she's sleepy. Love, Love, LOVE it when she cuddles up to have her back scratched! (Apologies on the grainy video...lighting was bad + used the older camera)

Lazy Afternoon from Lisa on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Love Letter, Month 27

Dear Kate,

You are 27 months old today. It's been a topsy-turvy month for you. I'm sad to say that I've had a lot of medical turmoil going on for the past 2 weeks and you, my perceptive bunny, know that something is up. You are clingier, more anxious and have been taking your dollies to the doctor because "they are sick". Amazingly, you have garnered all of this information without me directly talking to you about it. What I want you to know is that no matter what happens in the next few weeks, months and years, I LOVE YOU and am doing everything in my power to watch you grow and thrive and live to be an old lady like I hope to be in 40-50 years.

You started out the month lining things up but that seems to have quieted down in the past week or so.
Instead, you are lining up objects only so that you can count them. Items like your cereal for example.
Although you still have your nice-nasty moments when you don't like your hands to be dirty, you are more willing to dig in the dirt or splash in the rain than you were last month.

The on-going road construction in our neighborhood has been a great source of afternoon entertainment and you can name all of the equipment from the backhoe to the dumptruck to the bulldozer.
You also seem to get great enjoyment out of decorating your face...with chalk
 with cupcake icing as we helped Ms. Jessica celebrate her birthday

or with stickers.
You celebrated your third Easter and you were much more excited about it this year. Every morning and every night you would ask me if the Easter Bunny had come yet. You even woke up a few times in the middle of the night to ask me if he had hidden eggs yet. Cute...but not at 2am.

The day before Easter finally arrived and we invited Ms. Jen, Mr. David and Zadie up to help decorate eggs. You happily plopped into Ms. Jen's lap to heat shrink some designs onto our eggs.
(I love that you are really starting to not just recognize, but enjoy, your friends and their families. You can pretty much name all of your friend's mamas by name. You will run to them, give big hugs and sit in their laps during our Thursday playgroup.)

You loved looking for eggs in the front yard but were quite disappointed when the egg you bit into turned out to be one of the shrink-wrapped eggs.
After picking up a few other "real" eggs and discovering yet more egg (and no toys) were inside
you quickly became a champ at finding the plastic eggs. You found this bracelet and quickly put it on as you exhaled, "OOOOH!"
You were simply over-the-moon when you opened one of the plastic eggs to reveal a gorilla. You promptly exclaimed, "It's Goodnight Gorilla!!" and kept a tight grip on him for the rest of the day...
 until...OMG, you lost him. I never thought I would be the person going to Target on Easter night to buy another plastic gorilla and...I wasn't. I sent your father. Because THE WORLD HAD COME TO AN END as your wailing through dinner, toothbrushing, bathtime, storytime and bedtime about that $%#@!#$#$% gorilla went on endlessly. When you woke up the next day the first words out of your mouth were, "Where's Goodnight Gorilla? Did he come back from hiding?" (I may have fibbed just a bit by telling you he was hiding and then fell asleep as in...Why don't you go to sleep too and then you can both wake up in the morning together and laugh about how silly the gorilla was to fall asleep in the middle of hide-and-seek). I'm really going to miss it when you are not so gullible.

Your daddy went back to the store as soon as they opened and Praise Be!, found a replacement and brought it back to much rejoicing by us all. As it turns out, the original Goodnight Gorilla was hiding after all...underneath Daddy's computer bag where someone (KATE) hid him in the first place. So now we have twin gorillas which you have, amazingly, willingly shared with Lucy.

This one episode notwithstanding, your memory usually amazes me. You normally remember where every toy was left, what conversations took place, and events that happened. A recent conversation with Dr. Ettner was about Babar. I had to tell him that we did not have any Babar books yet and that was why he was getting the blank look. Not two weeks later, quite by coincidence as I had not mentioned it to anyone, your Yia Yia and Pappou sent a Babar book to us. When I told you the title of the book, Babar's Book of Color, you said, "Did Dr. Ett'er give me that book?!"

Speaking of Dr. Ettner, you had a well-baby checkup again this month. Here are your stats:
Weight: 26.5lbs in a diaper
Height: 34.5" recumbent length
Head: 45cm

You are growing up my love. I find it one of the most enjoyable and amazing things I've ever had the good fortune to experience.


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