Saturday, February 28, 2015

Lucy's birth

I only caught the tail-end of Lucy's description of her birth in China. Here she is explaining how her Chinese mom called her Chinese dad to let him know "the baby" was coming. Then she describes how her Chinese mom pushed "the baby" out. Kate was asking her if she kicked her Chinese mom when she was in her belly and then goes on to tell Lucy that she (Kate) used to stick her butt out and push against my belly.
China parents from Lisa on Vimeo.
Both girls ask me every so often to describe the events surrounding their births and the birth itself. We've talked a lot about how Lucy's birth might have gone but as I don't have any information about it she has appropriated portions of Kate's birth story for herself in order to make some sort of sense out of her beginnings.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy New Year (Chinese, that is)

Although the official Chinese New Year started on Feb. 19, the holiday is celebrated throughout the month with various parades, dances and music shows. We again opted to walk to our neighborhood parade on Saturday rather than face the crowds (and the extremely low temperatures on Sunday) in Chinatown. The weather was a rather mild 23 degrees so we layered up and headed out for a little lion dance in front of one of our favorite restaurants.

An offering of lettuce or cabbage as well as red envelopes with money is made to bring good luck for the coming year.
The lions did an elaborate dance before accepting the offering.

Notice the large mountain of gray snow behind the dragon?
I got a little video footage of some of the dance.
Lion dance from Lisa on Vimeo.

The lions then head over to accept the offerings.

 Christy, Fernando, Lucy D and Joy joined us in the frigid weather.

The parade was a major let-down this year. It consisted of one band and the lion dancers/drummers. That's it. So very strange. But we did manage to see a local shopkeeper setting off good luck firecrackers in front of his shop!
  Firecrackers from Lisa on Vimeo.

The girls wanted to follow the lions to all the shops so in total we probably spent about 2 hours outside in 20 degree weather. Needless to say, we needed something to warm and fill our bellies so naturally we got several bowls of pho and a pot of hot tea!
That was a good bowl of noodles!
Warmed up, we ordered a watermelon (for Kate) and coconut (for Lucy) bubble tea and headed home.
Xin Nian Hao Ya!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Making friends

I was lucky to meet a new friend, Lily, at an event I attended a few weeks ago. After chatting for a bit, we discovered that as chance would have it, she had applied at our school for her daughter to start in the fall. Lily is from Sichuan province in China and her husband is an American. They invited us to their house for a Chinese New Year lunch and playdate with our daughters. Emily is 3 and will be in the girls' classroom next year.

I totally need one of these! A tower of dumplings all steamed to perfection!
I totally flubbed this picture and cut Lily out completely.
Yum! What a happy circumstance when you meet someone new and unexpected and you can share a lovely afternoon around a table of good food.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A little birthday cooking

Today is Len's official birthday--49 years old! Yesterday, though, was the day we celebrated. Ms. Julie came over in the morning, much to the girls' delight,
and took them to the Children's Museum so Len and I could have a date (during the day, when we are much more awake to enjoy it). We started out by walking to our local coffee shop for sustenance.
Then we walked to the local kitchen store where I had registered us for a cooking class. The theme was Ramen noodles (yes, the staple of college kids everywhere!) and the menu sounded great. We made our own noodles and then cooked up a soup, a salad, a main course and dessert. When all was cooked and eaten, 3 hours had passed by and we were full and happy.

 BBQ pork ramen noodle soup
Ramen noodle salad on the left, fried chicken and shrimp glazed ramen noodles

 Japanese donuts with lavender syrup
It was a great way to spend some time together and I love that it was all in our neighborhood, no driving required! Happy birthday Len!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Choosing to listen

Sometimes I am so glad that I just keep my mouth shut. This morning was one of those occasions and I'm happy because I learned something (as is often the case when I listen instead of talk).

I walked into the living room to find Lucy diligently setting up this:
She asked me to play a game she had made up so I sat down to listen. The game was to go thusly: you choose a letter and then looked to see where it would go. Then after you had looked at it, you were blindfolded and you had to fit the piece into the puzzle. Now I ALMOST said, "Why are you looking at the pieces and the puzzle and then blindfolding yourself? You already know the letter and where it goes...why don't you blah blah blah, mommy knows best and this is how the game is supposed to be played...?"

Instead, I kept quiet, followed her lead and realized that something amazing was happening.

A. She had voluntarily chosen a spelling game to play with (so NOT something that she would normally choose).
B. She had sorted the letters so that like was with like.
C. She had set up her game much like she sets up her work at school.
D. She was choosing to learn the letter by using senses other than sight or sound--feeling the shape of the letter in both positive and negative space and then matching the pattern up (yay for Montessori school!).

I'm so happy that I got out of her way and let her choose the best way for her to learn. In turn, I learned a lesson as well.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rapunzel dancing

Lucy loves to dance and she loves my sweater. When she can dance with my sweater on...well, life is very good indeed then. She was pretending it was her hair for a while and then it morphed into a cape. Either way, it was a fun way to watch her dance.
Rapunzel dancing from Lisa on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Low notes

After learning how to change the tone of her flute by covering the headjoint, Steve has now taught her how to change it with her lips. I had to film her from behind as she gets distracted otherwise.
Getting the low notes from Lisa on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Couch potato

I guess when you go from lounging on the couch in sub-zero weather to outdoor walks and Pilates Reformer classes in sunny, 70 degree weather, you might end up with a little muscle strain. That was the conclusion of the oncology tumor board yesterday. Dr. Z called me this morning with the results of their analysis of my MRI scans: the ill-defined area looks like a muscle strain/tear. Which makes sense to me since the day before my MRI I did a pretty intense (for a beginner) Pilates Reformer class and both of my thighs were on fire afterwards.

I guess I should work out more often to avoid straining my muscles and sending everyone into a panic. On the other hand, I never had these problems when I was prone on the sofa...

Bottom line is that I've been released from scans until next year. What a relief!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Well I thought it was good news (possible new cancer site)

I just returned from my oncology checkup at MD Anderson in Houston, happy that all had gone well. I met with Dr. Zagars in Radiology Oncology and he assured me that my tumor was continuing to show signs of shrinkage. He checked my abdomen and said all felt fine and that my MRI scans had indicated all was going well. He released me from my 9 month checkups and said to return in a year.

Then I get home and check the website for the report. Nothing is entered yet from the radiology department but I did notice that Dr. Zagars had filled out his report with this little note tucked in amongst the positives:

She had a pelvic MRI performed yesterday and the lesion continues to decrease in size but there is mention of a poorly defined new area in the pectineus muscle. I will have this reviewed in the Sarcoma Tumor Board next week.  I believe that her disease continues to show a response to treatment. The patient will return in 1 year with a repeat MRI of the pelvis pending a review of her imaging next week.

Uh. What? This was not mentioned AT ALL in our discussion! WTF?! And now it's Saturday night and they are closed until Tuesday for the holiday. I cannot believe he didn't at least mention that this was being discussed. Why in god's name would he tell me "all is ok, see you in a year, all is well!" when clearly he is concerned about a possible new lesion.

So now I'm trying not to worry but of course I am. I feel like I would be less worried if he had at least informed me...it's my body and I have a right to all the information that he has, even if it's just a suspicion at this point.

Oh, and Happy Valentine's day.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Love Letter, Month 61

Dear Kate,

You are 61 months old today.
This month has seen you much calmer and happier for the most part. With the excitement of the holidays and your birthday over with, you have settled back into school with open arms. You thrive with order and routine ruling your days and only get super grumpy and out of sorts when you are worried about upcoming events, even if those events are something you want to do.

Case in point: flute lessons. You were so excited to start flute lessons but as the day approached for your first lesson, you were a ball of tantrumming nerves until Mr. Steve showed up.
All went well and you even worked on your homework with minimal fuss on my part but by the next Friday and Saturday before the second lesson, you had completely lost it. Tantrum doesn't seem to do it justice, it was just so....monumental. Colossal even. And it lasted for a good bit of Friday and all of Saturday. I'm not sure why you didn't believe me when I said I was going to cancel your lesson if your behavior didn't improve but alas, you pressed on. It was so bad that I had to call Mr. Steve an hour before he was due to arrive and cancel your lesson. You were furious (FURIOUS!) and even though I didn't think your raging storm could expand further, you proved me wrong.

"I hope you die! I hate you! You are the worst mama ever! I don't love you anymore and I'm going to never do anything you say ever again!"

I thought I wouldn't hear these words until you were at least a tween but since you seem older than your years in everything else, I suppose it follows suit that your tantrums would be advanced as well. You completed the tween/teen drama by stomping to your room with your hands on your hips and slamming the door. It was textbook Lisa---as a teenager though. I was not quite so volatile as a 5 year old, or so I'm told.

As these things do, the storm calmed, you apologized, we discussed how actions have consequences and we moved on. I think the lesson stuck as your behavior improved so we commenced with lessons once again. This time you were able to pretty consistently make sounds out of the head joint so he taught you how to assemble the body and foot and position your fingers.
Your homework now is to play the B note consistently and to play two songs (Mary had a little lamb is one of them) with just the head joint using your finger on the end to change the note.
Your face positively glowed when you were able to actually play a song this way! I am not normally a very emotional person but seeing your face light up with the sheer joy of your accomplishment made me tear up. You looked at me, concerned, so I had to explain the difference between happy and sad tears which made your face flush again with joy.

We've had some exciting adventures this month but I have now learned NOT to tell you about ANY of them in advance. You just don't do anticipation well at all. You fret and worry and work yourself up to such a state that by the time the event arrives you are a ball of nerves (and so are the rest of us) and I'm sorry I ever planned anything. Now I just wait until an hour or so before we are to leave for the event, announcing it nonchalantly like it's just another trip to the grocery store, and you are much happier.

The biggest event, which I was DYING to share with you since I purchased the tickets in December, was Disney on Ice--Frozen.

(By the way, I should get some sort of prize for keeping these kinds of things under wraps. I love more than anything to surprise you two with an outing and then relish the days leading up to said adventure. I ENJOY having something to look forward to. And I don't keep surprises very well. I cannot tell you how many times I almost slipped up and told you, especially since there was a giant billboard of the Disney event on the train bridge right in front of daddy's building. We drove past that damn thing every day and every.damn.day you and Lucy would comment about how nice it would be to go to the show.)

The lack of drama surrounding the day of the event confirmed that I had made the right decision in springing it on you so off we went. Daddy surprised you both with Frozen pillows to hug as the show commenced.
You and Lucy are still talking about how great the show was and when you can go again.
Other adventures included a trip to the Children's Museum. You and Lucy joined forces to make a pretty interesting clay face.

You enjoyed your first drop-off cooking class although you were quick to point out to the teacher that the mac and cheese would have been much better with kale. You scarfed down the peach cobbler instead, leaving the mac and cheese for Lucy to have as leftovers.
Otherwise this month has been about snow! We got our first blizzard much to your delight as it meant two days off school, lots of outdoor playing and many mugs of hot chocolate floating with marshmallows.

You even made a picture of our house.
As always, your use of language continues to astound me:

You: Mom! I can't find Luce.
Me: If you're playing hide and seek then you need to go seek her.
You: I'm not aware if we're playing hide and seek or not.
Me: Well, if she's hiding then I'm assuming you're playing hide and seek.
You: Well, no one made me aware of this.

You to Lucy: Pretend it's my 38th birthday.

Since you are 5 going on 40 I thought this was a pretty appropriate thing to pretend.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Balancing Act

The girls have gotten much more confident on the balance beam! Kate is on the right in the black leotard with the pink "belt" and Lucy is on the middle balance beam all in black.
Balancing act from Lisa on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Desmoid tumors -- dangerous when not treated as cancer

As I mentioned last May, I was released from every 6 month MRIs to every 9 months. My 9 months is up next week so I will be traveling to Houston for another MRI-cation. Although the news has been good I always seem to have some anxiety in the weeks prior to another scan. As I was online checking my appointment schedule, I came across a podcast with my surgical oncologist that I had not heard in all my research following my diagnosis. Although Dr. Pollock has since taken a position with Ohio State, and although I still do my followups with MDA since my radiation oncologist is there, if and when I find that I need surgery, I will most definitely seek him out again.

This podcast is a bit shy of 20 minutes but it's a pretty comprehensive overview of what I have. I was one of the patients who he tested for beta catinine, which indicates a high rate of aggressive recurrence, (I was positive for that) and he gives a pretty good explanation of that in here as well.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

More Snow Day pictures (and some sweet parking skills)

Since we couldn't get out of our alley yesterday, the girls stayed home from school. Not wanting to waste a beautiful (albeit cold) day inside, we headed out around 10am to make some mischief.  We pretended to be on an arctic adventure as we walked around the block to the closest playlot. We made X's in the snow so we could find our way home and "climbed across the mountains" (all the giant piles that were shoveled off the sidewalks) to get to the winter wonderland that was the park.

The slide was much more fun filled with snow!

Because using the stairs was too boring, they kept climbing up onto this bridge except that Kate's legs were too short (and all the puffy clothes don't help with stretching) so Lucy kept helping her up.

They spent about 1/2 an hour on this slide. By the time they were done, there was no snow left on it.

My little snow angel.
By the time we got home at 12:30 they were so exhausted that they ate lunch and went down for a rest with no complaints. Lucy slept about an hour...Kate did not sleep but at least she stayed in my bed with the lights off for an hour.

Today was back to school as we finally made it out of the alley...but coming home was dicey. I managed to get stuck trying to back into our garage--the snow is just piled up everywhere so there is simply no turning radius to get into our space. But I got very lucky. We have one spot in a three car garage and neither of the other two cars were in their spaces today so I managed to finagle my way (with some help from neighbors pushing my car) into the two car spot. Then I did about a 55 point turn to get my car from a sideways position in a two car spot into a straight position in my one car spot. This is no easy feat as there is a post in between my garage spot and the other two.

The pics below were taken back in January 2011 when all three spots were filled but it will give you an idea of how much snow is in our alley (it's pretty comparable) and how much maneuvering I had to do to get into our garage spot. I'm not quite sure what I'll do when our neighbor's cars are parked there!

Here is our car. All this snow gets shoveled up against the walls and fences so there is only one narrow lane down the center. If you veer off the main snow rut, you get stuck. Thus, no place to turn.
A view of our spot and the other two spots in our garage. The snow is already up to the top of the fence across the alley.
So I basically backed in at an angle into the two car spot and then inched forward and backward until I could get our car straight in. 
So that wasn't fun and I'm dreading the next week or so of this every time I leave the house. I miss summer.


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