Saturday

I slept and slept and slept, finally waking with energy enough to do school with my children:

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Then while I rested some more, my boys mowed my yard! I cried, actually, because I love working in the yard. I have not been able this year to do my gardens, and it is so sad to me. And last time I tried to mow, I couldn’t walk for two days. Dealing with pain is hard enough, but there is a whole layer of grief under it related to the loss of function and not being able to do what I could do before. But I was grateful for the help of my boys, especially because I know they do not love mowing the way I do, so that was a whole lot of love going on out there:

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The house is as clean as we can get it with two kids running around, and I feel more prepared for surgery as we complete the things we need to do before I am down for the count. The temple trip was a miracle to me, and filled me spiritually with the understanding of what is coming and the preparation to deal with it and the reminder of the sealing power that holds our family together.

We all took naps today, all of us exhausted. Time is becoming a blur between naps, and sometimes I am so tired but cannot sleep because of the pain. It is a balance of pain management, as I don’t want pain medicine that makes me only sleep. The times I am awake and alert are precious, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything… even if the cost is pain.

Except without any pain management, then they say my body works too hard when it is already working hard. It is a dance to which I don’t know the steps yet. I don’t remember anymore what it was to move without hurting, I only know I can move today more than I probably can tomorrow, so I do all I can while I still can.

The urgency is mounting, and it’s unsettling.

Until tonight.

Tonight we went to the Johnson’s. They have been my “parents” for years now. I cannot believe it had been so long. He was my stake president that taught me to forgive myself and let go of the past, who helped me reconnect with my family, who blessed my head when my heart and head needed healing, who came when our babies died, and who now is the patriarch to bless so many more. I know him as the one who changed our light bulbs and spoke at my mother’s funeral. She is my sweet mother-friend that listens, and understands things like pain and adoption. I love them. They are the parents that gave their blessing for Nathan to marry me, and they now stand in as grandparents to my kids now that both my parents are gone.

And tonight, he taught Nathan and Five how to change the breaks on our car!

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Five was very proud of himself! Nathan was less impressed with getting so dirty, and warned five that if he ever has to help change a tire then he might get engaged. Five did not believe that’s how we got engaged (two years ago now!), even though he has seen pictures. It was funny.

Five and the toddler also got to look at cows and the donkey and the pig. We all swam, which felt amazing on a hot day. Being in the water is so good for me, as usually it is the only place my bones don’t hurt. Today I still hurt anyway, and had to get out. The kids had a blast, and we were grateful, and everyone loved the fish dinner.

The best part of all, though, was the part I could feel coming, the part that made me teary all day, the part that bookended my temple trip weekend into the courage and strength I need to face surgery this week: blessings.

We all got blessings. The toddler went first, then Five, then me, then Nathan. I felt my parents, and received exactly what I needed, and wept at the pouring over me that I felt.

My parents are close, and know, and care, and will be there. Nathan was foreordained to this task of caring for me, and Five will call down angels, and he and the toddler will bring me joy that makes it all worth it. It will be hard, we know, and surgery won’t be the end of it, we know. But we are a family, and there are more of us than we can see. I know that is true.

They slept on the way home, while I called my brother to tell him some special things. Nathan and I talked about hard cancer-ey things. Then we arrived home, and I sat in the car unable to get myself out much less help with these precious babies I love so much.

I watched Nathan as he maneuvered in the dark, scooping the toddler out of her car seat and taking her in to put her down in bed, and then coming back for Five. They walked under the giant moon into the house, hands clasped, his little head leaning on Nathan. Then he came back for me, telling me I had a fever again, and helping me into the house.

Then I felt the words from my own stake President Roberts come back to me, about how this will be hard but Nathan is strong enough, about not worrying about him, about not worrying about the kids, about knowing they will be okay. I know it is true, but the glimpse of it touched a tender place in me of both gratitude and grief.

I did marry the very right exact man for me, I know, and I love him.

And I am so happy, on such a beautiful day, even if it is really hard in lots of ways.

Temple Trip

Hi, this is Nathan standing in for Emily today.

We are home tonight enjoying some rest after a trip to the temple in Oklahoma City. We went with my parents as well as Five and Toddler.

Our plan was to alternate childcare so that we and my parents could each attend a session. But instead what happened is a sweet friend of the family, whom I have known since I was young, showed up and said she had felt like she needed to come perform some kind of service at the temple today. She saw us and offered to look after the kids, so that we could attend together with my parents. We’re so grateful she was listening to the promptings of the Spirit.

There is nothing better than being together with the woman I love as we enjoy the sweet spirit and peace of the house of God.

Emily had packed a lunch for us, so we ate and then hit the road again.

On our way back through Tulsa, we stopped to visit a dear friend in the hospital, who is recovering well from a heart procedure. Beyond just being motivated by our love for her, it was also a good opportunity for Five to experience visiting a hospital, so that he has an idea of what to expect.

But now we’re home, enjoying some quiet time and the dinner my parents provided. Emily’s favorite salad is the strawberry chicken salad from Panera–except we don’t have one here in town. But what my parents brought from Braum’s was the closest copy she’s ever tasted and she was very exited about it.

This was the most Emily has spent awake and active for the past couple weeks, and even she is admitting it was perhaps too much. She’s a bit feverish, but in bed and taking it easy.

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Brother-Glasses

There is something exciting about setting up the girls’ room.

Something normal.

Not just not-cancer normal, but more like a not-fostering normal.

I mean, fostering has been our normal, and cancer will soon be our normal (temporarily), but this gives me something positive and good to work on (pacing myself, naturally) and focus on other than surgery week or which new kid is coming here next.

There is something about working on the girls room that is both settling – this girl really is going to be our daughter, legit – and something hopeful – I will be alive to share a future with her.  It is becoming a symbol for me, somehow, in the way that all mothers put too much pressure on their daughters because of their own personal issues.

It really is about her, not just me.  This baby has been in a crib in a makeshift giant walk-in closet, in a room with three other girls in bunk beds, and in an office.  It’s time.  She is here to stay, the girls room is not full right now, and she is using her big girl bed.  It’s beyond time.  The child needs, deserves, and has a right to her own space, not just for sleeping, but for living and dressing and playing and being.

Especially when five is her brother.

That boy is a mess, and they have suddenly found themselves to be siblings now that the other kids are gone, so the only want what the other one has, because that is how it has always been since the beginning of time.

So yesterday and today I worked really hard, in tiny little bits, at getting the girls room reclaimed.  It is cleaned, disinfected, and ready to decorate.  Then I tackled the kids’ bathroom in stages, and got it clean.  I pulled out a whole giant size bag of trash!  How could it be so nasty?  And I really did check on it while all the other kids lived here!  I do not understand how it happened.  I only know it was a disaster.  All better now, whew.

Now I feel like it will be more ready for surgery week, too, in case anyone needs to spend the night here at any point during recovery, the girls room bed is clean and the room nice and the bathroom clean.  That helps.

But oh yeah, it’s all about the toddler.

Or me?  I discovered that while I do not have a great deal of strength or energy, which is intensely frustrating, I can do lots of little things.  Line upon line style, I can contribute in small ways.  Today I started at one end of the living room and worked my way to the other side, just scooting along and sorting toys as I went.  Five helped, making a pile for cars and a pile of ponies and a pile of blocks and a pile of legos, etc.  Nathan followed behind me with the trash can, and delivered my sorted stacks to the places I directed.  The toddler helped by mixing up the piles.  But we did eventually get it done, including going through all the toy boxes.  Now five’s toys are all in his room, and the toddler’s toys are all in the girl’s room, and the living room only has the large foam letters, the Legos, and the Hebrew and Korean blocks.  It feels so much better!

IMG_8472I am under no illusion that the toys will all stay sorted, but I promise I got rid of layers of nastiness and trash and toys-that-are-really-trash and broken pieces and missing pieces, so everything is at least a little cleaner and a little more organized.  With so many kids coming and going so quickly, we barely had time to get them caught up just on clothes, much less anything so thorough as sorting out toys again.  It feels so much better!

Nathan helped with the vacuuming, and now our house is reclaimed!  It was like we needed a cleansing, somehow, as if this was a necessary step in everything, from transitioning away from fostering (for a season) and preparing for surgery week.  It feels better, we all relaxed in a tangible way, and will help things at least start out better (even if it won’t stay that way for long).

The other thing, too, is that foster kids never have anything that just belongs to them.  That’s why we work so hard to get them new clothes and toys that they can take with them to keep.  Nothing else in their lives is that stable or consistent.  They need it where they can get it.  Five and the toddler have been with us for a year now, almost, and for the first time have rooms to themselves.  It’s time to decorate them and let them be theirs, and theirs only, for this small time while they have the chance, while I have the chance.

A friend gave me a gift card that we used to buy wall decals for their rooms, and another friend gave us some as well that she had leftover.  We are doing five’s room in Dr. Seuss, with a map on the wall and some alphabet letters and numbers and the same quotes he had on his wall in the Owasso house.  The toddler’s room will be in butterflies and flowers, but more colors than just pink or purple.  It is a metaphor she needs, I think, but I also know she is bolder than just pink.  I hope it turns out okay, and it will give me something to work on as I recover once I can be up and around.

I am preparing for those days as best I can.  All my patients now know I will be off for medical leave, though I didn’t necessarily explain why.  My supervisors have all my updates, just in case.  My notes and documentation is all done, just in case. Today was easier because some rescheduled, which helped me have time to do the extra paperwork but is hard for scheduling and billing.

I have done my best, though, and there is just no way to make cancer be any easier on our finances.  It will be a crisis, and we are praying, and we will see what happens.  But we are grateful for my good insurance, which helps considerably, and for my cochlear implant upgrades I got earlier this year which means our deductible is already met.  So that also helps!  We will only have to come up with what insurance does not pay for, plus our usual house bills.  It could be so much worse without insurance, and the good insurance has also given us treatment options for which I am grateful.

This is where I am at emotionally so far, the worrying about everyone else.  How we will pay the mortgage if I am not working?  How will Nathan be able to do his writing if he is taking care of the kids by himself?  How can we best maneuver through this recovery with as little disruption to kid routines as possible? Who will make sure Nathan is doing okay?

I am not so noble as to be unselfish.  I have my own worries about me.  If I lose my hair, everyone will be able to see my big nasty scars from my cochlear implant surgeries that were so hard.  And I wonder if I will be better in time to take five to his first day of kindergarten next month?  What about the adoptions this fall, allegedly?  Will the doctors be able to do other scans so that we don’t have to have extra surgeries to remove and re-replace my cochlear implants just to get an MRI? How much longer do I get to stay with Nathan, before being called through the veil to finish working things out with my parents?

I am not afraid, exactly.  I have been through hard things before.  I have dealt with pain before.

And, I am commanded not to be afraid.

My patriarchal blessing says, “The Lord has His eye on you… Do not be afraid.  Step forward with this gift of faith, and He will be by your side… You are protected as you walk in righteousness and in truth.”

That’s why I have to keep behaving myself, you see?

Because He’s got His eye on me.

That’s what I tell five: “I’ve got my eye on you!”

And he laughs, and laughs, and laughs.

The toddler has started doing it now, pointing, and looking out of the top of her eyes over at you, the way I bend my head to look at them over my glasses.  It’s really funny.  Sometimes she will say, in her little tiny voice, “Busted!”  When she does, I laugh until I cry.

They are so funny, and bring me such joy, and have taught me to be a better person, much farther down deep inside me than I even knew existed.  I am grateful for them, and really do want to do right by them.

Sometimes, that’s just sitting on the floor sorting blocks.

Or laying down on the bed folding tiny little clothes.

Or stretching out in my big reading chair, with a wiggly five year old boy on my lap, trying to keep him positioned away from my tumors or from digging into my bones with his elbows.  That’s when we were talking about cancer, and what it is, and why I will be going to the hospital, and how he will get to visit me there.

I ask him, then, if he needs anything else from me before I get really sick.

He looks at me, with bright green eyes, and his wide, goofy grin, and he says, “I really like my sunglasses, but I really want some brother-glasses, too.”

And I laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Taco Soup

This is my mother-in-law’s taco soup, which is one of my favorites. It is delicious and fills me with nutrients. It’s warm and hearty and just feels good. I love it.

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It is food for my heart, from in-laws that I love.

I got fed spiritually, too, meeting with my stake president tonight. I was scared because it was my first time to meet him really, since we moved here and before my President Johnson was like a father to me. But I felt prompted to ask for an appointment, and got one, knowing I just needed to know I as connected where I need to be, that I am on the right track, and that I am ready to do this. It was good for me, and exactly what I needed, and gives me more to ponder as I prepare. I will write more of those pieces as they come.

Tonight, though, I only need sleep. I cannot stay awake any longer today, and am not going to force myself to stay awake just to write, when it will be bad writing because I am so tired. My body needs rest, and I cannot fight it, and so to sleep I go.

“To all who are weary, let the comforting words of the Savior console you: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”Let us rely on that promise. The power of God can infuse our spirits and bodies with energy and vigor. I urge you to seek this blessing from the Lord.”
~ Joseph B Wirthlin

Good Copies

With no baby last night, we slept and slept and slept!  I know we could have slept more, if it were not for the work day starting without us.  It was painful to get up, but we felt so much better with good sleep!

I moved slowly today, but made it through everything, and with more energy than over the weekend.  I met with some families, and told them I would be off work for some surgery for a couple weeks.  I met with a few church families, and told them a little more why, since they would here the talk of it anyway.  I met with DHS workers and parents and other collateral contact kinds of people that would need to know I was taking a break from seeing there clients, and told them my plan for when I hope to be back and what will happen if it takes me longer than expected and how they can contact me or the office in the meantime. I am slowly getting my affairs in order, best I can.

I had one cancellation that gave me time to eat a healthy lunch and take a quick nap, and that helped a lot.

After work, we enjoyed our first ever evening with just only five and the toddler.  It was so different!  Their behaviors were normal five year old boy behaviors, and normal toddler tantrums, no trauma-drama and not complicated by five-to-seven other kids.  It was so much easier, and things were so much smoother, and we were all more relaxed.  It was… fun again!  I was so happy of it!

And, besides telling people I work with, it was time to seriously tell five.

We had mentioned that I was going to have surgery and be in the hospital.  His little brain requires some prep work and warning to have his routine changed or life disrupted, so we need to start preparing him now as best we can for what all will happen.  We have mentioned pieces, and he has good memories of visiting Nathan’s mom in the hospital, so that’s where we started.

But tonight we dove more specifically into cancer and what it is and how it works.  We talked about cells, which we have talked about a little bit from science class anyway, and how their job is to copy themselves to make more cells.  Cancer happens, I told him, when someone makes a bad copy, but everyone keeps using that bad copy, so all the copies are of the bad one that isn’t right.  We talked about how the goal is not just to get the bad cells out, but to also start copying good cells.

He responded by telling me that it was okay with him if I wanted to take him to Lambert’s for some roll-throwing tonight.

That boy!

Later, he showed off his random smarts by initiating this conversation again, but this time applying it to his choices.  He told me, “if I make good choices, I get really good at making good choices.  If I make a bad choice, that bad choice just gets copied again and again until I am full of bad choices.  I need to make good choices to get the bad choices out of me.”  It was profound, really, and gave me lots to think about today.

After the little ones were in bed tonight, I started working in the girls’ room.  It was disgusting.  We had often heard them crinkling wrappers, or seen evidence of food, but not able to catch them. We kept telling them they could have snacks whenever they needed, but please not to eat in the bedrooms.  I found fifty-two bags of chips!  And so many candy wrappers!  I cannot even tell you!  The closet shelves were full of clothes of a variety of sizes, from the last five girls (all different ages and sizes) that lived there before the two who just left and didn’t talk everything with them.  So my work on the girl’s room tonight was mostly getting all the clothes out, taking out the too-small toddler clothes, and getting out all the trash.  This grossed me out enough that I went ahead and disinfected everything, from walls to baseboards to dresser tops to bunkbed ladders.  Everything.  I still need to vacuum, and I want to decorate it better and specifically for the toddler, but it is at least clean and empty, ready for me to get started.

That is all I can do for today, though, and way more than I have been able to do in recent days.  So I am excited (and grateful) for a bit more energy and strength, and perhaps also the wisdom of pain management by increase the alleve dose.  I should have done it sooner instead of being so stubborn!

I did get news on my pre-op appointments, which start next week instead of three weeks from now.

Oh, and I had to watch videos about my surgery, and it was horrifying.

So there’s that, but otherwise today was more normal that my life has been in a week – even if a new normal, with just the two kiddos.

And so much more time with Nathan, just to be.

I like that part best.

Cancer Party and Farewell Pie

I got up at 430 this morning.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

What happened is that Nathan woke me up at 430 this morning, and I promptly replied with a “No, thank you.”

It would be funny if waking up so early weren’t so painful!

I had to trek with the teenager to Oklahoma City, which was actually amazing one on one time, and get her back to her new place in time for me to see patients in Owasso before getting back to Bartlesville to see patients and tell them that I will be on medical leave.

Speaking of medical leave, I officially got the answer back about how much PTO that I have right now, and found out today that my office will give me 9 days of PTO, and everything else will be unpaid.

My doctor says I will need six weeks off to start chemo if it’s the pill kind, and more if I have to do a port and heavy-duty chemo.

It is all my fault, for I am the one that has chosen to use up my PTO in the last year, but only the Israel trip two Februarys-ago was vacation, and the one the year before that.  We did not go this year, and have not taken other vacation time.  The rest has been court dates for kids, but with 26 kids in less than a year, that’s a lot of court dates.  My illnesses and surgeries before that have kept me low for starting out from scratch every year, so that’s the best I can do.

Oh, yeah, and we got married. But I only took five days for that!

They said that after those nine days, any time off will be unpaid.

I don’t know what to do about that.  I got some book reviews from Deseret and did those the other night when I couldn’t sleep, but that won’t make up my salary.  I also don’t know how that affects my insurance benefits, if I am not working enough to pay my percentage of my insurance.  I don’t guess there is anything I can do about it.

I see patients for the church just one time a week, and I am having to stop that all together for now, which means we are losing that tiny additional income as well.

That’s part of my job: if you aren’t seeing patients, you don’t get paid.  It just is.

After work, I got news that they were picking up 11 and the baby tonight, to send them on to their next stop.  This was in the works anyway, but cancer sped up the process and made it happen now.  The kids were excited, and I took them out to eat to celebrate, and made sure it was about the family being reunited and not about my cancer.

After dinner, I took the kids over to Nathan’s parents for them to get to say goodbye, and abandoned the whole lot of them over there while I brought just the baby home for some alone time to say goodbye.  It was hard.  I cried.  But what a miracle, to have known her for a tiny bit of time, and maybe helped in some tiny way we will never know.  I can pretend, right?  And what a miracle that after all those miscarriages, we would get the experience of bringing a newborn home from the hospital, middle of the night feedings, the umbilical cord experience, tiny little clothes, bottles and burping and diapers galore, and even sleep-deprived hallucinations!  I am so grateful to her, for that little taste of normal, and for her sweet smile, and for her tenacity to survive so much in such a short bit of time.  I cried and I kissed her, and I fed her one more time and rocked her one more time, and then I sent her away.

I know the crying was about more than that baby.  I know it was about miscarriages, and hysterectomies, and cancer.  I know it is about wondering how to provide for my family, how to start from such an exhausted state and conquer such an ugly disease, and how to ever find a new normal again.  I know it was about getting to keep five and the toddler, but not yet knowing for sure, and being unable to bear the thought of one day having to pack up their things and send them away.

Fostering is really, really hard, especially the saying goodbye part.

Know what else is really hard?  Parenting!  Me and Nathan (Nathan and I) are terrible parents!  We don’t mean to be, and we try hard, but oh my!  Now we understand in new ways, after the experiences of the last year, why families are a required part of the plan.  Parenting shines light on shadows in your soul that you never even knew were there until some child drags it out of you, and what shame and frustration that feels like!  Nothing has been so refining, so challenging, or so shocking as our parenting experiences and behaviors in the last year.

Maybe that’s part of what this is about, realizing we have been running faster than we have strength, and just settling at two for awhile.

Maybe these two kiddos need that as much as we do, at least for a while.

It was strange, then, after the caseworker loaded up the kids and their bags of things, and pulled out of the driveway, to come in to an empty and quiet house.  My nieces are gone, the teenager is gone, the tweenager is gone, and the baby is gone.  All that was left was five, who had gotten ready for bed on his own, and the toddler, who was already changed and in her bed, too.

I just stood there, listening.

Nothing moved.

I heard the ticking of a clock for the first time in months and ages.

And then I started tearing down the streamers and balloons still up in the dining room, left from the toddler’s birthday and then kept up for the teenager’s birthday.  Suddenly they didn’t belong anymore, not just because it was not a birthday, or because I was sad, but because I was starving for normal.

Also, it’s one thing to be ready to fight cancer, and another thing all together to invite it to a party.

There will be no cancer party.

So I took the balloons down, and threw the whole mess away.

And that’s when I got on a roll.

I came back to our room, and swept it clean of baby stuff.  I packed up all the baby clothes, and moved out the swing and the bouncy seat and the bassinet.  I loaded up shoes and gloves and hats and blankets and burp rags.  I took the empty bottles to the kitchen, and looked for pacifiers the way kids look for Easter eggs.  I took out the trash, and then cleaned this corner, and then that corner, and then over here, and then over there, and then dusted, and then made Nathan move this and move that and then vacuum.

And then I sat down in my chair to type, because there was no baby to rock to sleep, and because this is my grown-up room.  There are no babies in here.  I could not bear for it to be full of baby things but no baby.  It was better for it all to just be done.

And so our room is the first to be reclaimed, for the first time since moving, since our room always mattered the least.

Next – and not today – will be the girls room, which is a disaster of rejected clothes, scattered colored pencils, and snack trash.  How can girls be so messy?  That room is disgusting!  I will tackle it another day, and then their bathroom, which I cannot today even bear to look and see how bad it is.  How can girls be so gross?!

The living room will be next, since we got the teenager’s couch moved to her apartment, and then taking the extra baby bed down in the office and putting the treadmill back in there.

And then, after all that, the usual cleaning.

So that when I go into surgery, we will at least be starting out with a clean house.

Later, someday, if the toddler is really going to be here long term, I will decorate her room.  I don’t think, though, that my heart dares to deign to even try just yet, though.  I don’t think I will believe they are here to stay until the gavel goes down, and my heart doesn’t have any more tickets for roller coasters.

In the meantime, what was accomplished today was all my work that I needed to do, saying goodbye to the other foster kids, and reclaiming our bedroom as our space following the baby invasion.  That’s way more than I did in the last three days put together, I think, so I feel good about that, and productive.  I hope it was not too much to knock out tomorrow, especially without any extra PTO, and because I really need the entire day each day this week to work and make sure all my patients are taken care of and know what is happening so that I can focus on surgery, or, really, recovery.

Because recovery is what all of this is about, I am sure of it.

Kudos to Nathan tonight, for helping me clean like a crazy person without shaming me or stopping me, and for understanding that “working hard is your coping skill, Emily, and so you need to work as much as you really feel able to do so”.  The truth is that I really couldn’t do so much as I do without him, and he was very sweet and patient tonight while I had my grieving spell and avoiding-cancer spell.

He was properly rewarded, though, because Sister Bristol brought him gluten free pie!

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I was asked at church on Sunday about how to cook gluten free, so the sisters could make us food.  It’s really easy: just leave out the bread (or wheat).  You don’t have to look up fancy recipes that use fancy replacement flours.  If you want to make lasagna or spaghetti or other pasta, use gluten free noodles (cheapest at Braum’s).  But lots of things that I love don’t have to have wheat in them anyway: taco soup, meatloaf, chicken, fish, salads.  It doesn’t have to be hard, so don’t let someone tell you it’s complicated.

I just get hives, and think regular chocolate chip cookies are worth the hives, and everyone else being bad allergic just means I don’t have to share.  I’m okay with that.

Today, though, was not a good food day.  I ate a decent breakfast with the teenager on the drive, getting down some egg and avocado, but couldn’t get down any lunch and poked at my supper.  I have been intensely thirsty, though, and guzzling down all the water I can handle.  I am excited to sleep all night tonight, and see how that feels better tomorrow – even without cancer in the equation!

I am also kind of excited, for a little while, to see what life is like with just the four of us.  It’s like a practice run at being a little family, and I am interested to see how things go with just five and the toddler.  Our best respite for now is that both of them are little, which means they are asleep by seven, which gives us down time together in the evenings that we haven’t had with teenagers and screaming babies.  Or screaming teenagers and babies.  It will be a fascinating experience, this next part of our journey!

Even if we aren’t throwing a cancer party.

Because it wasn’t invited, that’s why.

Crybaby Hebrew

I am posting this just to share, and to breathe.

I just got the call that 11 and the baby will move to the home where brother is, most likely early this week, to prepare for their reunification.

This is good news for them, I know.

It is heartbreaking for me.

Saying goodbye is always the hardest part of fostering, and usually I deal with it better, but this was our first newborn and really is all about cancer, so I am struggling tonight.

But breathing.

Nathan gave me a marvelous gift: he took all the kids with him to take my nieces home, so I have several hours to rest in the quiet and still house, which never happens.

That’s my coping skill tonight, my very most favorite and first thing to do on my list soon-as-I-got-the-chance: Hebrew. It’s delicious and delightful, and once again soothing my grief. I am grateful, even if the fatigue makes me slow and the saying goodbye to more kids is a distraction. I am trying, and that’s all that matters.

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Chicken and Squash

Here is a recipe easy enough the girls made it for us tonight:

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I had them beat three eggs, adding rosemary and thyme to the egg mixture.

Then I had them crush some corn cereal because we were almost out of gluten free bread crumbs. To that, we added chopped onions from food storage, parsley, garlic powder, chili powder, and paprika.

They dipped chicken tenderloins in the egg mixture, then the cereal mixture, then double dipped again into the egg and again the cereal.

Then they cut up squash and zucchini, doing the same to it, and layering it over the chicken. This keeps the chicken really nice and moist!

On top, I had them sprinkle a layer of Parmesan cheese, and then spread some shredded cheese for good measure.

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We covered it in foil, and baked it at 375 for about an hour. Easy-peasy, healthy, and delicious.

And hearty enough to fill up the grownups after fast Sunday!

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Butterfly Cells

Today is Sunday, and it will be amazing.

I slept until 9, which is very unusual for me, but it did me some good, I think.

I am showered and dressed for church, and with Nathan’s help all the kids are ready, too.

We are functioning so well today!

I doubled my alleve to be sure I can go to church, and will stay long as I can. Already I am looking for my Owasso friends, remembering I am in Bartlesville, and then checking myself to get my brave pants on and make new friends here instead of hiding.

I am really good at hiding.

Introverts appreciate good friendships, we just aren’t necessarily skilled at the niceties to get them started.

Or, maybe I am just not skilled at the nice part. Heh.

Tonight I will rest at home while Nathan drives our nieces Billie and Jessica home, so that I can function as well as possible on Monday.

I am sad to see them go so early, but know it is necessary, and am so grateful we had this week together to play while life was still “normal” (mostly).

They made me a “happy picture” to keep by my sick bed, they said. They are “butterfly cells sticking their tongue out at cancer cells because cancer is a bully”. I love them, and I love the picture, and I will definitely keep it close by.

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Popsicle Trash

I watch the kids play in the sun, as I stand behind the window curtain.  The grass is bright green from the rain, their skin hot from the sun, and their little hands cold from Popsicles they wave in the air as they shout and play.  Five chases the puppies with the water hose, while the toddler and my niece Jessica watch.  They laugh, but stay far enough away that his water spray won’t catch them.

I turn to pick up my snorting baby, awake for another diaper change and feeding.  She’s breathing better, but I still have to suck her nose every time she wakes up to clear it out again.  Disorganized still, she wrestles with me as I fight to get a clean diaper on, and pushes the bottle out of her mouth when she means to hold it in.  She’s a mess, I think, but smells like Springtime and I can’t help but kiss her soft hair.

There is laundry to fold, which I have promised to get done.  Nathan has been a trouper, getting all of it through the washer and dryer and back to the bedroom for me.  I can fold it, I tell him.  How hard is it to sit in bed and fold clothes?

Excepting it makes my bones hurt until I cry, and that scares me because what do my bones have to do with my ovaries?  Nothing.  Then I fall asleep in the middle of it, taking an accidental nap, waking an hour later, opening my eyes to see my husband praying at my feet.

Those who know me well know that I am a busy-busy lady, and can barely slow down enough to sleep at night, and for sure never-ever nap.

But I slept three times today.

I am so, so tired.

And my bones hurt.

I move slowly, pacing projects over the course of a day that I would have done in minutes before.  My multitasking is interrupted by the effort to unlock my legs and make them move.  Our new house feels a million miles long, so that I can barely make it from my resting chair to the bed, and the kitchen feels impossibly far away.  When I go there to help with dishes, putting the clean ones away requires reaching miles high to cabinets that were eye level three months ago, and gasping in pain as I bend over my tumors to get to the dishwasher.

I am a whimp, and it is intensely frustrating.  Infuriating, sometimes.

I do too many things, live life too fully, juggle too many balls in the air to be moving this slowly.

My only solace, really, is that cancer has so completely disrupted my life already that I have at least consistently dropped all the balls at once.  That’s fair, anyway.  Equal rights, I suppose.  No favors.

I know I am not going to die today.  I do.  But when your function is suddenly stolen from you, the lens shifts a little, to remembering why you do what you do.  Dishes are no longer a chore, when it means it might be the last meal you get to cook these particular kids.  Laundry is no longer an unending hassle, when it means it might be the last time you get to fold those little oneseies.  Shifting to a smaller caseload is no longer an imposition upon your independent-woman-life when there are little ones to hold in your arms before they are taken away.

These are my losses. Grief at saying goodbye to more children that have come to stay, and then didn’t, and now move on in their lives.  Grief at losing the parts of me that can make babies, even if none of mine lived long enough to hold.  Grief at once again being patient with myself while my capacity is diminished by circumstances I did not vote for and cannot control.  Grief at my shifting shape and changing size, when all I want to be is healthy and strong.  Grief at moving so slowly when all I want to do is run.

These are my losses: taking time off work from a job I love and that gives me some illusion of confidence and functionality, having to get substitutes to cover my nursery duties at church, calling the foster care conference people to tell them my husband and I are not able to attend after all due to unexpected medical issues.

These are my losses: hours in the swimming pool with Five, swinging the toddler in the air, and the new garden at the new house that is not yet to be.

These are my losses: my pride now comes from having accomplished taking a shower and putting on clean clothes, making it all the way into the kitchen, and maybe (not today) brushing my hair.

Some hours are better than others.  Some days are better than others.

It’s not all loss, though.  There are constants, too.

My faith is a constant.  I do not believe (in my head) that God is trying to punish me, or testing me to see what I can handle, or that He wants me to have cancer.  I do believe that He knows what experiences are exactly right for me to get the most out of my mortal life, and I appreciate Him sending me those lessons as quickly as I am prepared to receive them.  I once received a blessing from my father-friend Don Murnan, who told me that we can only progress by experience, and because of my conversion and my faith, Heavenly Father knows I am trying to progress (even though I am a mess), so He has sent me lots of experiences so that I can catch up and make some progress.  This is one of those times, I think.  So while I am not entirely thrilled, and sometimes really sad or angry or scared, I am ready and agreeable and willing.  Because this experience isn’t about cancer.  It’s about conquering.

Nathan is a constant.  I am most humbled by the gift that Nathan is to me, and I know he is the greatest gift I have been given this lifetime besides the atonement itself.  I am too stubborn and obstinate for us to get all enmeshed, which really is a protective factor, but I couldn’t imagine a better fairytale than we have.  And that’s worth doing right, so we work hard at it and enjoy every moment of it.  He is a miracle to me, and I thank God for him every single day (many times a day).  When I was a little girl, my father used to sing that Bill Gaither song to me, about how “all I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful out of my life”.  Nathan is my something beautiful.

There are other constants.  Nathan’s parents are there for us, and I am so grateful to their devoted service to us.  My friends are there, enduring text essays and snarky blogs.  My job is there, which may seem silly on such a sappy list, but there are a lot of jobs that don’t provide for their people the way mine does.

There are also random bonuses prizes, which we Mormons call tender mercies.  We moved here in January, and are all settled and unpacked.  That means we are close to the treatment center, close to Nathan’s parents, and got this new doctor that finally figured out what is going on.  We got my cochlear implant processors earlier this year, which means our deductible is already met.  The foster kids we have were already moving forward in their own lives, so my crisis doesn’t have to be their crisis.  I have exactly enough PTO for surgery week. Things like that.

Since mom was killed, we have good insurance so if I die the house will be paid off and Nathan will be okay.

Except that is not today.

But it’s going to be a fight, I know.

So I have to get ready.

But not until Monday.

Today is Saturday.  That’s a resting day.  So instead of getting ready to fight, I just spent the day appreciating the little things.  Like washing baby bottles.  And folding burp rags.  And changing dirty diapers.  And picking up Popsicle trash.  And sitting toddlers on the potty.  And writing book reviews for Deseret to make up some of the lost income that’s about to happen.  And putting puppies to bed.  And making teenagers brownies.  And holding my husband’s hand during family movie night, while giggling when Five tries to kiss my knee.

Because that’s normal.

Because that’s my life.

And my life IS.

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