Saturday, September 19, 2015

Falling For Fall. Or Autumn. Take Your Pick.

I do adore Fall. 
Whatever you call it. 
It gives you a nice respite from the heat of summer. 
Now don't get me wrong, I do love the heat of summer, too. 
As long as I'm near my pool. 
Or on a beach with the ocean or a cool lake within sight. 
But I must be able to see said water with my eyeglasses off. 
So, that liquid must be right there!
But, I digress. 
Back to Autumn. 
The cool mornings. 
The cool nights. 
The cool nights without mosquitoes buzzing your head and biting your neck. 
The girls and I played basketball last night in our driveway at dusk. 
It was perfect. 
My dad has been growing pumpkins the last few years. 
And he grew these ginormous gourds which resemble geese. 
Or snakes. 
Choose your creature, it's there. 

The girls have made some sort of gourd family. 
I have to shuffle my coffee cup around them each morning. 
They sleep in their beds made out of cardboard mattress, kleenex comforters, and cotton ball pillows right on our dining room table. 

I was told that these are "the twins."

I wonder if I have a can of pumpkin in the pantry?
I could make some pumpkin cookies this weekend. 
For some reason, they always taste best when made at the beginning of Fall. 
The smell of pumpkin reminds us of a certain time. 
A certain season. 
Memories are released and I, for one, walk around with a smile on my face when it's pumpkin season. 
It would be ruined if Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts had pumpkin this or that all year long. 

The corn came down across the street from our farm yesterday. 
Howard Buffett (Warren's son) owns the farmland. 
His giant green John Deere combines took it down within a few hours.
One minute it's up. 
And literally, in the next minute it's down. 

Halloween stores pop up around town beginning in September. 
The kids love to go in and get ideas for costumes. 
To get scared by the displays. 
Displays that get creepier each year. 
Our society isn't afraid of anything anymore. 
Which is both sad and frightening in itself. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Map Time

The license plate game. 
Didn't we all play this as a child when we went on long road trips with our family?
When everyone piled into the car. 
The car that may or may not have had working A/C. 
DVDs and streaming movies did not exist in my childhood. 
We didn't even have computers that could print off coloring pages or lists of things. 
Coloring books, pads of blank papers, and my mom's handwritten lists got us there in a remotely sane fashion. 
When we drove to Florida from Illinois my brother and I had our imaginations to get us there without driving our parents bonkers. 
Which may not have worked when, as soon as we got to the ocean, my dad locked the keys in the car. 
He had driven right onto the sand and we all hopped out in true Griswold family stye and he forgot about his keys in the ignition. 
At least he had it in Park. 

But, my mom did try to keep us occupied on long road excursions. 
She would make lists of things for us to look for and mark off of the paper she had handed us at mile marker 57. 
So, I would fashion a blanket around my side of the backseat and over my head. 
I would briefly roll the window down to tuck the end in. 
Briefly, because if the window was down too long my mom would yell "roll that window up!  My hair is flying all over my face!"
I would have my backseat tent area all set up. 
And my brother better not get into my space because I wasn't afraid to scream. 
I would have my list in my lap looking for...
red barn
truck pulling boat
blue motorcycle 
cloud shaped like a tv...
And when that game was over, my mom would whip out her list of states. 
We were to look for their license plates as my dad rolled along the interstate. 

In this 21st century world my kids get to grow up in, they don't understand hours of boredom. 
They have car DVD players. 
An iPad and portable DS game players to keep them thoroughly occupied when traveling across the great U.S. of A. 
But, I do want them to look out the car windows. 
To see America's landscapes. 
To see the giant roadside stand called Boomland. 
Where you can buy fireworks, snacks, AND home decor. 
To see bridges and cotton growing in the field. 
To see the mighty and marvelous Mississippi River and the churning Gulf Coast. 

I was pumped when I caught a Today Show segment pre-summer for a website called Mr Printables.
They had a map of our country with the names of the states and so I decided on a revamped version of the license plate game for our summer adventures. 
We traveled to all over Illinois, Southern Michigan, Northern Indiana, Western Tennessee, and Eastern Missouri. 
Each time we saw a license plate from another state we colored it in with a purple crayon. 
Traveling in Indiana afforded us the opportunity to see many plates from Canada. 
The highway that travels through Northern Indiana and on to Detroit leads right to Canada. 
So we got to color in the top of our map which, for us, represented another country. 
We found 40 states during our summer travels. 
We even saw a Washington DC plate, which I've never seen on the road that I can recall. 
We had friends visit our farm from Vermont, but they had a rental car with Ohio plates. 
Go figure. 

We never saw Massachusetts
New Hampshire 
South Dakota 
do western staters ever leave home?
Or Alaska and Hawaii. 
I don't think I've ever seen a Hawaii license plate on the mainland, but I was certain we would see Alaska. 
Darn it. 
Maybe next summer. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Zoe The Survivor

Monday is a big deal for us.  
It's the five year anniversary of Zoe's cancer diagnosis. 
September 7th. 
The day that, I doubt, will ever be erased from my mind. 
There are many monumental events during a person's lifetime that seem to be flash frozen into memory. 
A wedding day celebration of love. 
The birth of our children. 
And, for me, the day I was told my five year old had cancer. 

I remember the phone conversation with our pediatrician's office manager. 
The doctor wanted me to go get Zoe from school and bring her right in to see him. 
Just because I said she was tired and had large bruises that weren't going away. 
I remember what Zoe was wearing. 
A hot-pink tiered skirt that stopped at the top of her knees. 
I remember that I called my cousin from my car and said "maybe it's leukemia."
I remember the anger that took over me when, through his own tears, our pediatrician said the lab results came back (that had only been drawn an hour before) showing leukemia. 
I remember my husband crying as Zoe sat on his lap. 
I remember Zoe looking from her father to her doctor, two strong protective men in tears, and having no idea what they were crying about. 

I took lots of notes. 
Without those notes I wouldn't have remembered anything at all. 
Every word that came out of Zoe's new doctor's mouth was written down. 
A old friend from high school recommended the note taking. 
Her son had gone through treatment for a brain tumor. 
She was already a momcologist. 
I was just starting my introduction to the field. 

We were handed tons of forms to read and sign. 
Forms for surgery. 
Form authorizing chemotherapy. 
Form with pages pertaining only to side effects. 
I told Chad not to read some of those. 
He still hasn't. 
One of us knowing potential horrific outcomes was enough. 
We both did read over and then sign NO to a very specific form. 
It was for an experimental drug study that Zoe could have as part of her treatment. 
But the side effect of "temporary blindness" dissuaded us. 

I have learned much in the five years that I've watched my first child overcome sickness. 
I've learned to laugh more. 
Because crying won't help anyone. 
I've learned to sing loudly with my daughter. 
Because joy is more powerful than fear. 
And I've learned to be her voice when she had none.  
I've learned how to be courageous and adventurous. 
I've had to teach her those two things as well. 
I've had to teach my child that even though she felt horrible and looked different than her peers, that everything was for her benefit. 
That mom and dad weren't hurting her. 
We were trying to save her. 
No parent should have to tell their child "you MUST take these pills or you will die."
I've said those words to my five year old when she screamed at me that she wasn't going to do this anymore. 

Five years on Monday. 
It seems like a lifetime ago that my young, vibrant, precocious child was told to lay in bed for her own good. 
We won't celebrate with any ceremony on Monday. 
We will carry on as if it were any other Monday. 
Zoe doesn't like to hear about these dates on the calendar. 
The day of her diagnosis. 
The day of her last chemo treatment. 
She doesn't have a lot of memories from her sick days. 
Which we are thankful for. 
But, she has enough in her head to make her cry if we discuss it. 
No matter what I feel about the situation, it didn't happen to me. 
It all happened to her. 
And if she doesn't want to go there, we don't. 
She wants to be normal. 
She wishes she didn't have this past. 
She's one tough kid. 
As are all kids who face a cancer diagnosis. 
We know being a survivor is worthy of a gold medal as well as having a sign flashing over your head stating "bad ass coming through!"

Once I was handed a form that stated: with your signature you authorize your minor child to be pumped full of poison so that we may begin to save her life. 
And life was never the same. 
None of us were the same. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Swimming Into My Last Post

It's the last day of August. 
My kids go to school in 8 days. 
We are going to have a very hot last week of summer. 
We haven't been in our pool lately because the weather has been cooler. 
It's as if Mother Nature has decided that the Pramuk girls need one last hurrah before they start their jobs. 
We have told our kids that school is their job while young. 
And we expect their 100% effort and participation. 
So, as it's the last week of summer here, before the big Labor Day holiday this weekend, we swam today. 
And, as always, mama had her camera out. 

Thanks for reading my month of posts. 
I did miss a few days, but got most of my thoughts covered. 
I have found that when I do a challenge like this, I do write more. 
It's never as hard as it seems. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

At The Big Kid Store

Zoe got some clothes from the teenager store yesterday. 
I know!!!
It's craziness!
She's going to be 11 soon. 
And she got some Gap jeans in a size 14 recently. 
She has pretty long legs. 
As we were walking around the outlet mall yesterday with grandma, she asked "can we go to that store next?"
That store being Aeropostale. 
For teenagers. 
And hip young adults. 
I didn't think we would find much for her. 
Yet it turned out to be the best shopping deal we had all day. 
As soon as we walked in I saw a tank top with dream catchers on it. 
Dream catchers are her current obsession. 
And it was only $5. 

Hmmm, could this be her new favorite store?
She could fit into XS tops and S leggings. 
She's learned, from her budget conscious mother, to head to the back of a store first to the sale racks. 
We found the most awesome fish shirt for $2. 
For a shirt with fish on it!!

She was excited to find things she liked that fit her. 
She even declared at one point "I'm in the big kid store!"
And that reminded me that even though we were in the teen store, she's still my little girl. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"New" Hair Goes To The Salon

My daughter got a haircut today. 
Which is just a normal thing for most people. 
But for us, it's a momentous occasion. 
It's her second haircut and she's 10 years old. 
And it's the first haircut with her "new" hair.

After getting her first haircut at the age of four we never thought that it would be the only haircut that her original hair would have. 
Her golden brown hair. 
It would be gone a year later. 
She would wake up with it all over her pillow after a night of sleeping. 
Brushing it was out of the question. 
It would make her cry. 
It would make me cry for her. 
I collected some of it as it fell out. 
It's tucked away into an old cigar box on a bookcase in the kitchen. 
I call it her "first" hair. 
Chemo caused her hair to fall out three different times. 

Her oncologist said having hair loss twice during 2 years of chemo wasn't rare. 
But three times. 
Doesn't happen too much. 

But, our girl was special so I guess her head needed that "3rd times the charm"

She hasn't wanted a haircut since it's grown back. 
Her doctor wasn't sure if it would grow past her shoulders. 
Sometimes it just stops there if you've had low dose cranial radiation. 
But, her "new" hair defied those odds and has grown to what her "first" hair's length was. 
Her "new" hair is also darker than her "first" hair. 
When your hair falls out from chemotherapy it has the chance of growing in a different color. 
It may be curly when it had been straight before. 
All Zoe hoped for was NOT to have blonde hair like her sister. 
She ended up having "new" hair that was darker in color with natural golden highlights. 

Today we had an appointment at my hair salon. 
Another mom from school cuts my hair at a chic little salon downtown. 
I got my hair cut and Zoe was scheduled for a trim. 
She didn't want layers. 
Nothing too drastic. 
Just an inch off of the ends. 
And blue. 
She wanted it dyed blue. 

So, at 10 am she got her "new" hair cut and colored for the first time. 
And she was beaming. 
And inside I was doing cartwheels for her. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Day At The Zoo

I took the girls to St. Louis today.
We went to the zoo. 
We try to drive to this zoo a few times a year. 
It's closer for us than Chicago zoos. 
They have a new polar bear and a new exhibit space for him. 
He's from Alaska and is little over two years of age.  
They have named him Kali. 
Here's his bio from the zoo's website...

The first occupant of this exhibit is Kali (pronounced "Cully”), a 2 ½ year-old, 850-pound male polar bear that was orphaned in Alaska. In March 2013, the orphaned bear was turned over to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) by an Alaska Native hunter who killed Kali’s mother in a subsistence hunt without realizing the mother had a cub. USFWS determined that St. Louis would be the bear’s permanent home, working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Polar Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP)

He seemed to love chomping on his ice. 
While I love zoos, I also feel a bit sad that some of these animals never see the wild. 
But, most have been born into captivity and know nothing else. 
As climate change is hurting the polar bear population, this new home should be a safe and secure place for this young polar bear. 
I hope he is the start of a great legacy. 

We also saw some happy chimps. 
They kissed. 
Just a peck. 

The girls conversed with a bird. 
I think it's a cormorant. 

And I saw a scene straight out of a Serengeti stock film.