Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's Almost Time

It's time to resume my regularly scheduled life. That means going back to work and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it.

Yesterday morning I had a bit of a meltdown. It occurred to me that if my cancer were to come back I'd feel like I'd wasted all the time I could have had with my family at work.

I understand that this isn't really true. I have the same school holidays as the kids. My school lets out before theirs so even with my commute I can be home at about the same time they are (well except Connor - he's still half days)

It will be more challenging for me and Sean since he's going to be working nights now. We'll see each other on his days off but since his days off usually aren't on weekends - that limits out time.

I'm anxious about going back after so long. I'm sure I'm working it up in my head to be more stressful than what it will be but until I'm there - it's anyone's guess.

I went in to school yesterday to drop off some of my things - I didn't want to be dragging everything in first thing Monday morning. I had a good talk with the teacher I'll be working with and we've agreed upon some improvements in the schedule and classroom set up so that things might run more smoothly for us both.

So, I just need to jump in with both feet.

We've sold out the Spring Tea fundraiser. I'm so excited. So now we've got to get busy planning our menu and getting the tickets and decorations in place. The baskets are made and ready to go.

As you can see from the ticker on the right, we've raised over $1700.  I doubt we'll reach the $5000 goal we've set - we'd have to raise another $800 and then my Uncle would match that $2500. But I'm not sure we'll get to that $800. We've got the raffle tickets but if everyone at the tea buys 1 set of tickets that will be $200. I'm going to put the change jar in the staffroom at school for the month of May to see if I can collect some pocket change from the staff. And we're having a garage sale in May.

I'm proud of what we've accomplished. After my Uncle matches our pledges we've already raised more money that we did last year. Yay!

I'm going to spend the rest of the weekend getting my work clothes washed and ironed, relaxing and maybe working on that quilt a bit more.

Wish me luck for Monday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Have A Great Wolf Day

This should fall under the Shameless Plug Sunday category.

We've been to Niagara Falls more times than I can count. Sean and I used to go two or three times a year when we were dating and before the kids were born and since they've been born we've still gone at least once a year.

After a while though, going to the same place, a place that doesn't change much, loses it's appeal. The kids were born before the casino went in and we've only been there once alone since the kids were born. So that's out. We've gone across the border and spent the day on the US side, both alone and with the kids.

We've resisted going to Great Wolf Lodge in large part because of the cost. It ain't cheap.

But now that we've been there I can honestly say, it's well worth the money!

The room was nice. (I wouldn't go so far as to say fabulous - we've stayed in better and the kids beds mattresses were like gym mats) but it was large and had a fireplace. And the kids had their own tv so we didn't have to watch Family Channel the whole time we were in the room. (Actually, we had to watch Treehouse because Connor didn't want to watch Family in the kids room so we had to watch Treehouse in our room.)

The restaurant was a buffet and the food was pretty decent. We only ate there for supper. See, we save money by hitting the grocery store, picking up milk, cereal, fruit and lunch foods (buns, bologna and cheese) and we eat in our room. 

The water park was fantastic. A perfect mix of things for the big kids and the little kids. Connor loved it. The girls loved it. Sean and I loved it.

The activities they offer in the hotel are fun. Some free things like hoola hoop contests and story time and some add on (read: expensive) activities like Magic Quest and the Scooops Spa.  The girls opted for mani's and Connor got a wand to do the Magic Quest. (which we all did with him and while it started out pretty easy by the forth quest even I was stumped by the riddles) 

But what won me over, above everything else was the staff. There was no one person there who did not say "Hello", "How are you?" or "Are you enjoying yourself?" to every one of us as we passed in the halls or in the restaurant or water park.  Everyone was smiling. Everyone seemed happy. Everyone was nice.  And they ended every conversation with "Have a great wolf day!"

It just makes you feel good, plain and simple.

So, while my back is killing me from sleeping in a bed that wasn't mine this little getaway was well worth the insane amount of money we spent and we will go back again. 

Have a Great Wolf Day!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Busy Busy

I'm not really one to analyze dreams. From what I understand it's part of the mind's way of converting short term memories to the long term side of the brain. So they aren't mystic messages from the other world and they don't have any deep seeded meanings. Your brain is just doing some filing.

Last night I had a dream that we were going to the Relay. But we were late. In my dream it was 6:00 and we still hadn't even taken the camping gear out of the crawlspace. I was trying to drag the basin out and the basement and up the stairs (we keep all of our camping gear in a giant Rubbermaid bin) and I was crying because I knew we were never going to get there in time and I was going to miss the Survivor Victory Lap.

I'm sure this dream was because the Relay has been forefront in my mind for the last month or so but I couldn't help thinking about why I was dreaming about being late for it and missing the lap. I'm not late for things, ever. I'm habitually early actually. And I signed up for the victory lap shortly after my diagnosis - I'm not going to miss it.

I'm excited about the Relay. Probably more excited than I am about going back to work. I don't think I can explain it properly. It's just the feeling of community, of hope, of celebration and even of mourning. But everyone is there for the same reason and you feel a sense of strength in numbers. 

Last year I spent a lot of time walking the track alone. I'd already found the lump in my armpit and had seen the doctor. I knew then it was cancer - deep down I knew. I hoped and prayed it wouldn't be - but sometimes you just know. And I knew. So I spent a lot of time thinking about it,  what the battle would be like and if I would win.

This year's Relay will be different. I am a survivor this year so I'm not walking just in the memory of my Dad but also in celebration of my victory.

Our Spring Tea Fundraiser is almost sold out. We've sold 33 tickets so far (we have room for 40) I'm so excited. That's nearly $500 raised in ticket sales alone! We've got the baskets for the basket raffle put together and ready to go. So we've just got to get started on the menu.

My Uncle has very generously offered to match anything we raise again this year up to $5000. In a perfect world we'd raise that full $5000 (for a total of $10,000) but it's not meant to be this year. So if we can get over the $2500 hump to put us at our $5000 goal, I'll be stoked. As you can see by my ticker, we've got a long way to go.

But if I can beat cancer, I can raise $2500.

Tomorrow we are headed to Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls for 2 days. We still haven't told the kids. I'm thinking we'll tell them they have doctor's appointments for needles tomorrow. Ha, I'm evil! I'm not sure they'll buy that though since the DVD player will be in the car (Connor doesn't travel well so we need the distraction for long drives). Either way, we're not telling them where we're going until we pull into the parking lot. 

Sean and I are celebrating our 14th anniversary on Wednesday. Wow. 14 years. We've been through a lot and have come out on top. I am so lucky to have him.

I've got a sewing list a mile long to tackle still. I'm halfway done hand quilting the quilt I made for the Relay silent auction.  Once I got the hang of it it's not hard, but quite time consuming. It's not perfect but I'm pleased with it and hope it draws a good penny.

I'm also going to tackle making Emily a pair of pajama pants - my first time sewing with a pattern. I'm sure I'll be calling my mother upstairs every 15 minutes to guide me through it.

And I've got to get my work life together. I've got a load of books, toys, games and other resources that I need to get to work. I think I'll bring them in next Friday so  don't have a load to take on my first day back. I've got to get my work clothes out of Mary's closet and back into my own - and ironed.

It's going to be a busy week but  fun one, no doubt. And before you or I know it, I'm going to be back to work.

Life goes on.

Friday, March 23, 2012

One More Week

I have one week left until I go back to work.

One week.

I never thought, when I left school last June that I'd be off for the next 9 months. I never thought when I left school last June that I'd have to deal with all I have. (though I'll admit, at that time I feared I would)

I'm glad the past nine months are over. I'm looking forward to getting back to my regularly scheduled program.

But the thing is, this is never over. It will forever be a fear in the back of my mind. It will always be a nagging 'what if?'. I will question every ache and pain. I will stress over every lump and bump. I will worry non stop probably for the rest of my life that it will come back. If it does, I will fight again. But I don't want to have to. It's hard and it's scary and it's taxing.

Cancer has changed my life and believe it or not - it's changed it in mostly a good way. And I've learned a lot.

I have learned that many of those cliche's are actually true.
I've learned who I can  really count on.
I've learned that kindness shows up in the most unexpected places.
I've learned that life is short.
I've learned that I'm not going to waste another minute of it stressing about things that really don't matter and to let things roll like water off a ducks back.
I've learned that I'm not interested in drama.
I've learned that you'll never make everyone happy so just be the best person you can be and the rest will fall into place.
I've learned that I would rather spend 20 minutes playing with my kids than cleaning my house. It will still be there later but my kids will be grown up.
I've learned that making time for myself is just as important and I shouldn't feel guilty about it.
I've learned that I'm a hell of a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be.

In short - cancer has taught me to live my life. And to love my life, imperfections and all.

And so I will, carpe diem, as it were.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dear People of WalMart in Canada

WalMart has only been in Canada since 1994. And we've only had WalMart Supercentres since 2006. For that reason WalMart doesn't quite have the same reputation in Canada as it does in the US. And the clientele who shop there are, for the most part....less Walmartish.  

You don't see many 300 lb women in daisy dukes or 60 year old men in unitard at our WalMarts - they shop at Zellers (at least until Target gets here)

But just because there are no 'boobs-to-the-knees-forgot-my-teeth-at-home-and-wearing-my-eight-year-old-daughter's-leopard-print-skirt' shoppers at our WalMart doesn't mean we're short of stupid. So I think should offer my opinions; nay, it's my duty to send out this PSA to all the people of WalMart Canada, lest we become like the dreaded "people of WalMart"

1. To the cashiers:  I have reusable shopping bags. I bring them because I am trying to do, what little I can for the environment. Shopping for a family of 5 means a lot of food and sundries and if I put them all in your plastic bags I'd not only be swimming in them but contributing to the demise of our planet.  So if I'm bringing my reusable shopping bags...PUT MY GROCERIES IN THEM!  I understand some people don't want their meat in the reusable bags but you see, I put my meat in those handy little plastic bags you have in the produce and meat departments (and no, the irony of my complaint is not lost on me) If my meat is nicely bagged in those bags...don't put it in another plastic bag. Put it in my bag. This also goes for bags of milk and potatoes.

See, in Canada we can buy our milk in bags like this

It's 4 litres of milk, in 3 separate bags that we put into these handy jugs. As a side note, those milk bags are da bomb for storage...snip open the top, wash them out and they are fantastic freezer bags.

Anyhow, the point of all of this is that my family of 5 goes through 2 of these 4 litre bags in about 3 days. So I have to buy 4 of these things a week. They are obscenely heavy. And a bit awkward to carry. So I'd like you, dear cashier to not put them aside for my to put into my cart...I'd like them in my reusable shopping bag...the ones with handles so I can carry the flippin' thing! And no, I don't want you to put both of my 4 litre bags into one shopping bag because I know I hide my 170 lbs nicely in my 5'3" frame but I'm not body builder and it's not a compliment to me to think that I can carry that shit.

Dear cashier of WalMart....I've never been a cashier before (unless you count when I worked at Wonderland in the Christmas store...yeah, jingle bells in July rocks!) but I'm betting it's not the hardest job in the world. I'm sure being on your feet all day sucks and you get some rude customers but I'm nice and almost always polite but holy crap....all I ask is that you put my friggin' groceries in the bags provided, kay?! And if all else fails, ASK ME!

2. To the shoppers behind me in the check out line:  If I am putting my items on the conveyor belt do not put yours on until I am done putting mine on. See how that belt moves everytime the cashier takes an item? It's a sensor that when the laser line is not broken more the belt up to bring the groceries closer to her. If I'm not done loading my groceries on to the belt before you start and the belt is moving forward, guess what? You're stuff will be in front of me and I'll have no where to put my things. I can assure you, I'm not going to pay for your stuff.
And dear shopper, if you don't have the sense to move your groceries out of my way I'm going to ask once...nicely....but only once. And then I'm just going move your shit for you. Now I'm clean person but since I'm also a complete stranger, do you really want me manhandling all your groceries? Plus, I'm not really going to be nice about it and I'm going to mutter under my breath bitch just loud enough for you to hear about your ignorance and that you are, in fact, not the only person on this fine earth.

So please, dear shopper, wait your turn.

3. To the people who set off the alarms at the door or perhaps know the greeters by name:

If you've set off the alarm or want to stop and chitty chat with the greeter by all means, have at it, but please do not stand right in front of the door. Some of us would like to leave. If you are standing right smack dab in the middle of the the theft detectors things or right in front of the door, the rest of us can't get out. It all goes back to that simple statement; you are not the only person in the world.

Dear Chit Chatter...stand to the side!!

4. To the young men who work at WalMart (in whatever capacity)  Please shower. Often. Please remember that as a teen or young man your hormones are at work and you create a lot of odor. I can promise you, it's really bad for business for you to be stinking to holy hell while stocking the bread shelf. I get it, you're not a stakeholder, why do you care if it's bad for WalMart's business. But you know, life has a way of shaking things up and you never know when the woman (or man, if that's the way your flag flies) of your dreams will be there shopping one day.You don't want the one you're destined to be with to pass you by because you were smelly that day.
Dear young man, on your way out of work today stop in aisle 7 and pick up some Irish Spring and Old Spice.

I hope my little reminder help. I like my Walmart, I really do. But beware...Target will be here in one short year and unless you smarten up your act we're gonna turn into this......


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's A New Day

I had my follow up appointment with my oncologist today.

I've talked about him before, his beside manner, his way of doing things. It's not for everyone, I know but for the most part I think he's awesome. He's been at this for a long time and I have to trust he knows what he's doing.

Everyone else I know who's dealing with cancer has had a CT scan when they're done their treatments to get the all clear. I, however, will not be.

His reasoning for this is that a CT scan is like 50 chest xrays. Why expose myself needlessly. He said for breast cancer patients his #1 test is the mammogram (of which I'll be having yearly - next one in June)
He doesn't see the need for any other follow up tests.

Part of me is happy but I'll admit part of me worries. I said to him that my concern with that is how do I know they got it all. He said, well, if there's any there it would be so microscopic a CT scan wouldn't pick it up. And if the primary cancer had spread it would be treatable, not curable and so a scan wouldn't change that. He apologized for sounding so negative but the facts are the facts. My doctor deals in facts, no false hopes and that's why I like him.

But - he told me that he's happy I've had radiation. He said that the 5 year and 10 year cure rate is not improved by radiation but the 15 year rate is. If my doctor is talking to me about my 15 year prognosis I'm feeling pretty good. Remember, no false hope. I've done surgery, chemo, radiation and herceptin. He said we've done all we've needed to do.

So, in the meantime I'm to see him every 6 months unless something concerns me before and of course every 3 weeks when I have my herceptin.

I guess the small part of me really wanted to have the CT scan to give me an all clear but if there wasn't anything that showed up in the scans before I started my treatments - if there was anything microscopic there the chemo and radiation would have zapped that shit.

So, today is a new day - the day in which I celebrate remission and pray I stay that way for the rest of my very, very long and healthy life.

Monday, March 19, 2012

You Know You're Old When.....

Emily is doing a music project at school. They will be assigned a genre of music and will have to write about the origins of it, giving examples of popular artists in that genre, etc.

She was reading the list of genres available to choose from: rock and roll, classic rock, jazz, blues, soul, country, reggae, folk, alternative, punk, new wave and hip hop. We were going through the list and I was telling her which ones I could help her with, rock, classic rock, reggae, folk, alternative...

She then said to me "I was hoping to get pop music, then I could do like Madonna and Michael Jackson for the history."

I'm rendered speechless for a few minutes and then, well, I'll own it, I cried. Seriously. My child just told me that Madonna and Michael Jackson fell into the 'history' of pop music.

Now granted, I understand that both artists were trailblazers but come on child....I was listening to Madonna and Michael Jackson when I was your age...I'm not old enough for it to be history!!!

All bets are off kiddo...if you want help with your project now, you'd better ask your father....he's a year older than me so he's got a firmer grasp of ancient history.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Green Thumb

We're having ourselves a little heat wave (it's been in the high teens (Celsius) for a week now - but remember this is Canada in March, we should be close to zero) and the kids are on march break. These two things together are giving me Spring Fever.  It makes me want to go outside, spend money, go on vacation and plant seeds.

I'm not much of a gardener. I love flowers and I love eating fresh fruit and veggies and I even enjoy planting but I'm not a fan of weeding and other maintenance that goes with it.

Earlier in the week I bought an indoor greenhouse/starter kit. It's got the little soil pucks and tray and I bought seeds to plant with the kids: tomatoes, watermelon, lettuce, carrots, peas and beans.

I'm not totally new to the world of veggie planting. Many moons ago when I worked in school age room at a daycare we planted a veggie garden each year. It was always the same: peas, beans and lettuce. And we always planted a border of marigolds around the edge to keep the grubs away.

It did well, our little garden. One year we had enough lettuce that the cook was able to make many salads for lunch for the centre. The peas and beans, they grew and the cook used those too.

I tried planting corn in our backyard once. It didn't work. I tried planting carrots. We got a carrot. It was super tiny. I can still  rock the peas and beans, but then I think any idiot can grow peas and beans.

At any rate, we've got our little garden planted now and sitting on the window sill in the living room. The lettuce, peas and beans are growing. Nothing from the carrots, tomato or watermelon yet. If by some miracle they are still alive at the end of May I'll transplant them outside to the new garden I'm creating. But if they aren't (which is the more likely scenario) I'll plant some new seeds in my new garden.

One can hope!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Best. Conversation. Ever!

This morning Connor wanted me to turn the Wii on for him. I told him it would cost him one kiss and one hug.

When he gave me a hug I said "I love your hugs, they make my heart happy."

He said, "Hugs make my heart talk."

I said, "Really, what does it make your heart say?"

He said, "It says, "grglrrlglrgl""

I love that kid!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


If I've ever been unsure about having a reconstruction done, all that uncertainty flew out the window today. For you see, I went bathing suit shopping.

Most women who weigh more than 16 lbs don't really enjoy bathing suit shopping. I mean, what other piece of clothing do we wear in public clings to us and reveals all that is evil about our bodies? Our gitch....but they're hidden under our clothes.

It's even less fun when you have to buy your bathing suit at the mastectomy boutique. They had a lot of really pretty suits, there were certainly enough to choose from but there are some logistical issues with having only one breast and trying to buy swimwear.

First off, the lack of cleavage. We've talked about this before here. I loved my cleavage once upon a time. From the angle I'm looking at myself, I can see the lack of muscle, fat, skin in that area. So despite the prosthetic building up the breast, it doesn't build up the cleavage. I notice it. I'm sure others don't though they might thinking something's ' not quite right but can't put my finger on it'. There's also the scar. It's not high up but it's high enough that wearing anything lower cut runs the risk of it peak a booing out.

Then there's the size of the girls. Prosthetics really do act like real breast, they do flop around and jiggle and such but when one is well endowed an underwire is usually needed in a bra to support them. An underwire is out of the question with a prosthetic because, well any woman who's ever worn and underwire bra can tell you, the underwire always ends up coming out of the bra. You don't want that bad boy poking a hole in your boob.

So here's the problem. You have one boob that is supported wonderfully because it's tucked into the pretty little pocket of the bathing suit. Then you have the other one that is slowly drooping down because A: lack of support and B: gravity.   After a while you've got one pointing north and one pointing south.

At any rate, I found a swim suit I'm somewhat happy with. My boobs are staying where they should. I don't look like a total cow. And it's only cost me $100. (yeah, shocked the shit outta me too) I'm hoping the insurance will cover it.

And now, I'm more certain than ever....I'm getting my reconstruction done.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Three Weeks

The countdown is on to my return to work. I'm getting nervous now.

As much as I want to get back I've settled into my being at home routine. I've never been a stay at home mom before. I was home with the kids for 8 years but I was working at home, not free to do what I want, when I wanted. But since September, besides my treatments and appointments (and bed ridden days) my days have been my own.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be a stay at home mom. I love having a life outside of my kids. I've got a fabulous job because it allows me to be home when the kids are: summer, march break, Christmas....but I get to have a life, colleagues, money. I get to use my brain and have adult conversations.

It will be a challenge for a while. Sean will go back to working nights so that we don't have to find child care for Connor. So our time as a couple and as a complete family will be drastically reduced. Sean hasn't worked nights in almost 5 years so we'll all need to adjust.

I'm looking forward to having money again, even if it's only for a short time. I'm not going to get enough hours in before summer break to get unemployment for the summer. So I've got to make the most of the money I'll be getting from the end of April to mid July.

I've been working on another quilt. At the Relay on June 1st they are having a silent auction. As part of it, each team is allowed to submit one item that will go toward their total fundraising total. So I thought I'd make a quilt to submit it for our team.

I've got it all put together and I have to say, I really like it. Kind of wish I could have it. Might even bid on it myself. It's quite large; it would fit a double bed and that is where I'm running into a problem. It's too large for me to quilt with the sewing machine.

So, I've watched some YouTube videos and heard from some of my mom's friends and have decided to try hand quilting it.

There are 12 small squares on the quilt that I'm going to quilt around. It takes me an hour and a half to quilt around one square. I've done two so far. I've got a ridiculous sore in my index finger now but I'm sure that will turn into a callous and I won't feel it. Gross, but productive.

I have to have the quilt done by the end of May. No problem.

I think after that I might make a quilt for that I actually get to keep!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We're Not All Idiots.

I think I've out grown of my parenting magazine.

I'm by no means a parenting expert. My oldest child is only 12. But I've been around the block a few times. The benefit of making a career of children is that you see all sorts, you get to know all sorts on a deeper level than say, your friends kids or playdates. So in fairness, I add the 100's of kids I've cared for over the the past 18 years to the tally.

I get a parenting magazine every month and have since Mary was about 6 months old. I'm not going to name it because it is a well respected magazine and in many parenting circles it's a leading authority. But for me, I've lost faith in it. It talks down to me.

It has articles in it about super parents. Over achieving parents. Perfect parents. It tells us how to throw epic themed birthday parties that prepare your 5 year old for their appearance on My Super Sweet 16.  It tells your how to cook gourmet meals for a family of 4 for only $20. (we won't mention that for the most part, I don't see many 3 year olds eating the stuff they want you to make)

The articles that aren't about perfect parents are the ones that are reprimanding us for not being perfect. "You yell at your children? You'd better take a time out."  "You let your children eat fast food?  Try our recipe for Portabella Mushroom Tower a la Proven├žale."  "You say no to your children? They'll be scarred for life!"

Even more annoying is the Q & A sections. I really can't believe there are parents out there who are this numb to child rearing.   "I allow my kids to play video games for an hour a day but my neighbour says she only allows them an hour a week. Should I be doing the same?" 

Really? If Johnny is plugged into his xbox for 5 hours a day you might have a problem (says the mom who allows her 4 year old to play Wii for up to 3 hours a day sometimes) but seriously, why are you worrying about parenting the same way your neighbour does?? Are you raising the same child??

If your kid is healthy, gets exercise, and doesn't have a mind like jello then who the hell cares how much (or little) Susie Neighbour let's her kid play video games.

It just seems to me that the articles I read now in the parenting magazines are full of common sense. Yes, breast feeding is best but if you gave it a shot and it's not working buy some formula. Do we need a 1000 word article on this? Are people going to let their children starve because they couldn't figure out that if they couldn't breast feed they should buy a can of Enfamil?

Perhaps I'm not remembering what it was like to be a first time Mom; the fear that I'm going to ruin my child for life if I don't do everything Just Right.

But I look at Emily and see a bright, happy, kind, wonderful young woman and I think, I did all that without a parenting magazine telling me how.  I used my God given gifts, not the least of which is a little thing called Common Sense.

But I guess that's what it all comes down to. There are those of us with Common Sense. For everyone else - the parenting magazine.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Want to See the World

Some of my fondest memories of growing up were the family trips we took.

When I was 5 my mom took me on the Via to New Brunswick to visit my Great Grandmother. It was just me and my mom. I remember stopping to switch trains somewhere in Quebec. We stopped at an Orange Julius stand (shaped like a giant orange). I asked the lady how the machine made juice when she threw a bunch of whole oranges in it and she didn't answer me. I was pretty put out. My mother had to explain to me that she spoke French and probably didn't understand me. It was an overnight train ride and we got to sleep on the train. Pretty exciting to a 5 year old.

Our family drove to Sault Ste. Marie many summers as well, to visit some family friends. It was only a one day drive but it seemed like an adventure to us and to spend a week at a friends house for a long slumber party was always exciting. I still hear certain songs from the 80's and thing of those trips to the Sault. Especially this one. Steve Perry's da bomb!

My brother John had the tape (yeah, tape!) and played it on his walkman (yeah, walkman!) and I would beg him to share an earphone with me.

When I was 16 my parents and I drove to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to visit my uncle, making all kinds of stops in between. I was at that age though, where I didn't appreciate the adventure as much (though I loved the shopping) and would love to make some of those stops again (especially Washington D.C.)

15 years ago we drove to Las Vegas. (we being me, my parents, my brother and his wife. Yep, 5 people in a sedan for 5 days. One way. Awesome!) And as cramped and hot as it was, it was awesome. A true adventure.

These are the things I remember. This is where my parents made some great memories for us. I want to do the same with my kids.

We've made some so far, our drives to Newfoundland, our trips to Niagara Falls and Sherkston Shores. I would love nothing more than to take the kids to Disney World but it always seems to be put on hold.

Well, not anymore. I'm putting a stop to that. No more waiting for God-knows-what to happen before we go on vacation.

I've decided that our family will be going somewhere, anywhere, together once a year, regardless of the cost. Taking a vacation is much like having kids; if you wait until you can afford it you'll never go. And so I'm, not waiting anymore.

In keeping with that vow, I'm taking advantage of Sean's holidays at the end of the month coinciding with my last week home before I go back to work and we're taking the kids somewhere they've been dying to go but we've always said was too expensive. Great Wolf Lodge! I'm so freakin' excited. we haven't told them, and don't intend to. We're just going to pack them up into the car on the money morning, they'll be thinking they're going to school and lo and behold...they won't be!

I picked them up some new bathing suits yesterday (under the guise that we'll be going swimming every Saturday when I go back to work so that Sean can sleep without the noise.) I have to go sometime this week to the mastectomy boutique and get myself a new bathing suit. It will be my first time going in public (excluding radiation) with no hair (well, I have hair now but it's very short and fuzzy) but I don't care. I'm going to pack the kids passports so we can walk across the border to the US side (we've got the tacky touristy side, they've got the pretty park and trails side)

In July we're packing the kids up and going to Sherkston Shore, the vacation we didn't get to take last summer because of that ugly C word. A week of being unplugged (no internet there) and spending time together.

At the end of August my mom and I are taking Emily shopping at the outlet malls in Niagara Falls NY. It's her 13th birthday and this is her gift...the gift of shopping. She's definitely my kid.

Lots to look forward to.

And the decision has been made, next year we are taking the kids to Disney World. And we're going to drive there so that we can make all the stops along the way. If you've never done a driving vacation, you don't know what you're missing!!

No more sitting around watching life pass me by while I wait to afford jumping on the ride. It's time to make memories!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March Break Madness is upon us. The kids are out of school and looking for fun stuff to do.

I was worried about this week, being that I'm broke and all and the only free things my kids are interested in doing involves the Wii or iPods. Not exactly family friendly fun.

But the planets have all aligned and the stars are smiling upon me because my income tax came in on Friday and while I plan to put most of it on the ever increasing debt, it's given me some room to plan a thing or two for the kids that cost money.

What I really want to do is go swimming but since my side is still peeling and nasty I don't think the other folks at the pool would be happy about that.

So I'm leaning toward bowling, or glow in the dark mini putt. I'd like to do something bigger like Medieval Times but holy crap, have you seen how obscenely expensive that shit is? Even with our kids eat free coupon it would cost almost $200. I'm sure in the grand scheme of things that's a great price for a family of 5 but I'm a little cheap and think I can get Swiss Chalet and rent a movie on Rogers On Demand for a third of that. Plus popcorn! 

Yesterday we took a walk on a trail we like to visit. It goes through a marsh, then woods and it leads to a beach. The girls both brought their cameras so they could have a photography contest. I brought mine too so I could play with my new lens. Here's some of the pics I got.

Yeah, I know, that last one is a picture of rocks.

We collected a huge batch of rocks because today, amidst the laundry and house cleaning we're going to have a rock painting contest. Yes, we have a lot of contests in our house. The kids like being judged. Go figure. The girls are wise to me though. For the longest time I could get away with not declaring a clear winner by having categories and therefore they would each win for a different category ("Emily's picture has the most detail but Mary's makes the best use of colour")  Now when I'm asked to judge I'm told right from the get-go  "Pick ONE winner." 

I don't want to tell any of my kids that one is better than another so I just word it differently. "If I had to pick a winner based on the most realistic sketch it would be Emily but if I had to pick a winner based on the most imaginative picture it would be Mary."  It's working for now.

Of course, the bonus is that Connor is old enough  to participate in these games now and young enough that losing is not an option. So when he's playing, he wins and the girls are okay with that. Because they know it won't be long before he's old enough to lose and then we'll be back to Mom's creative judging techniques.

Though, for the record, don't mistake me one of those Mom's who never let's her kids lose and then they grow up not knowing how to accept defeat. They only all win when I'm not playing because the simple fact of the matter is, if it's a board game, it's on and Momma don't have no loyalties. I'm not above crushing my 4 year old in a game of Diego Chutes and Ladders.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Put Down the Device

I have a beef. A pet peeve. A bone to pick with all those people who text, surf, browse or otherwise engage their electronics while talking to other people.

Nothing is ruder than someone who talks on their phone at a restaurant. In fact, the only people who have any business even answering their phone are people who are on call for work (or parents if their sitter or children are calling them)  If your phone rings while you are at dinner - send it to voicemail. You can check the message later. If there is something incredibly pressing chances are the person will try calling you back and I'll concede that if the same person calls you 3 times in ten minutes chances are it's important and you should then answer....but get up and leave the table...please.

And by God, if you are on the phone STOP EATING!! Have you ever been on the other end of the line with someone who is eating. You can hear them chewing and it's just plain nasty. Almost as bad as someone chewing with their mouth open or talking with food in their mouth (and for those sharing the table with the offending on-the-phone-whilst-eating person it IS that bad)

The other day I was watching Anderson and he had on Danny Devito. (He's doing the voice of The Lorax.) Right at the beginning Danny talked about a thing he does in which he takes a picture of his foot in places or with people and tweets it. So he took a picture of his foot with Anderson and the audience and decided to tweet it. For the rest of his time on the show he spent it with his head down, looking at his phone, while Anderson talked to him and while the audience asked him questions. He'd look up every now and then but for the most part he stared at his phone.


I'll be the first to admit, I love my computer and am on it a lot but there's a time and a place folks.

Anyhow, enough ranting now.

My mom and I went to the captains rally for the kick off for the 2012 Relay for Life. We talked about the events they have on Relay night, ways to make it better, etc. We also talked about fundraising strategies and ideas.

Fundraising is hard. Especially when you're doing it year after year.  It's difficult to get people to donate year after year. And yet, unfortunately it's needed year after year. One of the things we talked about is that for many of the people participating in the relay for life, it's a very personal thing. They know someone who's battled cancer, lost a loved one to cancer or fought it themselves. Obviously, for me it's personal because I lost my Dad to cancer and because I am cancer survivor. But for those who are not in the thick of it, it's easy to get complacent, to see it as something that happens to other people and to not feel it as personally as others do. The trick to fundraising is to make it personal to other people.

One woman said she carried a picture of her husband around with her and would show it to people when she was asking for pledges.  She said in the beginning she was polite, nice and unassuming when asking for pledges and finally one day she said "screw this shit" (her exact words) and started telling people her husbands story, even the parts that make people uncomfortable. Because the fact of the matter is, cancer is uncomfortable, and if it takes you making a person feel awkward for 5 minutes for them to donate then do it.

Another woman had a picture of herself getting her head shaved at the relay and the story of how she lost her best friend to cancer.  All the heart wrenching details.

I've never understood the mentality of being afraid to ask people for donations. I'm shameless when it comes to that (as you've all seen). I'm not asking for handouts for me. I'm not keeping the money and going on a shopping spree. I'm not begging like some bag lady on the corner, I'm asking for money to support cancer research.

Did you know that Herceptin, the maintenance drug I'm on now, was first used in 1998 and approved for metastatic breast cancer patients in Ontario in 2005. So the drug that could potentially prevent a recurrence for me has only been used in Ontario for 7 years.  These are the kinds of things that are discovered and developed in part with the money we raise for the Relay for Life.

So yeah, it's personal to me.

And because I'm not afraid to ask....if you would like to make a donation you can do so here

I'm working on another quilt. I'm submitting it to the silent auction on Relay night for our team. I'll post a pic when it's done. I hope it turns out nice.

Back to work!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Conversations with Connor

Connor is getting to a great age in which conversations take on a bigger depth. Most times they are  normal 4 year old conversations that involve the words poop and fart peppered in for interest but every now and then he'll come out with something that really makes you think.

Today on the way home from school he told me he wished he had a gun.

Now, for those who don't know me, I have a problem with guns. We don't own a gun and never will. I also don't allow the kids to 'play' guns because the simple fact of the matter is guns are not toys. So his exposure to guns is pretty limited.

So I asked him why he wanted a gun.

He said "So that if someone is going to hurt me I can shoot them."

What??!!! Where the hell did he get that??

So I said, "Well you know, you can't just shoot people. If you shoot someone the police will come and put you in jail."

He said "Well, Daddy does on tv."

Ahhh, now it all makes sense. At some point he's seen Sean playing Call of Duty. So he's decided that if someone bad is going to hurt him he should shoot them. Great.

We had a long conversation about how Daddy is just playing a game on tv and it's not real and if we really shoot people they would die and go to Heaven, like Snickers (our dear departed cat), and we would go to jail.  And more importantly Mommy and Daddy won't let anyone hurt you.

I think I'd rather have had a conversation about boogers.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pictures, pictures and more pictures.

I'm still learning the ropes with my not so new camera. I love taking pictures and I see the shots in my head that I want to get but lack the knowledge and money to get them.

Last year Sean bought me an excellent lens for my camera, a 50mm f/1.8.   It takes amazing pictures but the problem I was having was that it's a manual focus lens and I lack the eye to focus well. I need a automatic focus lens.

So, Sean was going to buy me a new lens for our upcoming anniversary and since a local camera store opened in a new, larger location we thought we'd go window shopping. When we got there we found out they were having a grand opening event today and were giving away 100 gift certificates valued anywhere from $10 - $500. We also learned they'd take my old lens on a trade in toward the new lens. So with that in mind, my mom and I went to line up an hour before the store opened (we were 32-33 in line)

When we got in we opened out gift certificates. I got a $10 but my mom got a $100 one. What luck!! I went right to the Nikon shelf to look at my choices and discovered that the lens I wanted was out of stock. Not only was it out of stock but there was a manufacturer shortage so the chances of my ordering one and getting it anytime soon were slim. I had a decision to make. Do I get the 35mm f/1.8 (which was what I was looking at when we went in a few days ago) or did I want to go bigger and get a 55-300mm f/4.5 - 5.6  since I had $100 off anyway.

What I know about photography you could fit on the head of a pin. I just know that I like taking pictures of my kids and of nature. So I asked the guy who worked there to advise me on my best choice. He said I should get the 35mm if I liked taking pictures of my kids since the kit lens would suffice for landscape shots for now (until my birthday and then I'll get Sean to buy me the telephoto lens hee hee)

So, happy early anniversary to me. It's not the lens I wanted when I went in but I'm still happy with my purchase and even happier that it was $100 cheaper!

And because I love to take lots of pics, here's some now. (the first one and the last two were taken with my new lens)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Owie Owie Owie

I don't like to whine but holy shit I'm in pain.

Would you believe me if I told you that the pain I'm feeling from the radiation is worse than the pain I had from the mastectomy?

It could very well be that when recovering from the mastectomy I was very heavily drugged (read: stoned) most of the time so I don't recall a whole lot of pain. I'd have to go back and read the blog to see if I was in pain.

I'm itchy all over my neck, upper chest and breast area. But under my arm and the side of where my breast would be, that's where the pain is. It's so burned that my skin has gone beyond purple to brown. And it's blistered and peeling. I've been walking around with my right arm out so that I'm not chaffing. I can't sleep on my right side at all because any pressure on the area hurts. And even when I'm doing nothing at all I'm getting shooting pains.

I know it will get better. For now though, I'm using my saline compresses and my cream to prevent infection and my tylenol 3's to manage the pain and hoping that this passes quickly.

It's hard to feel excited about being done treatment when the lingering effects are still there.