Dec 5, 2013

Jenna's Christmas list

As randomly sweet and childish The Munch's Christmas list is, Jenna's is the complete opposite. Because, if you haven't noticed that they are absolutely nothing alike in any way, shape or form, this should seal the deal for  you.

Jenna has thoughtfully starred the important things--none of that haphazard shit for her. She even included a call-out at the top left--you know, in case I didn't realize what the stars were for.

The top 3 would freak out a normal person: An acrylic [sic] paint set, green doll hair, and a nude werecat doll. No, she did not ask for lotion, and there's no well dug in the floor of her room. Jenna has a shit ton (I don't know how to convert that to metric for my non-U.S. friends, but it's a lot) of Monster High dolls. What she has done, is drawn her own line of custom dolls that she now wants to create. Thanks a lot, Etsy. You suck. Thanks to you, she has these ornate ideas of creation in her head. What's going to happen, is she's going to scalp a frickin doll, then paint shitty, scary eyes on it. It's going to end in tears. And a big mess.

One of my favorites: "Bread kittens plush." Who the hell says plush? I'll bet that's a common word in the over-80 crowd, but a 12-year old?? And Bread Kittens is the most mindless game around. It's seriously about kittens that have a piece of bread on their face. Some people work on the time/space continuum, some people make games about cats and bread. Alrighty.

I see that she really wants a cheetah. Again. And she specified, not on this list, that she wants, "...the old one with the grumpy face." I can tell you right now, that I searched through all the resident cheetahs on the website, and none of them looked old or grumpy. I ended up sponsoring a pissy-looking girl cheetah. I figured she'd relate.

An iPhone 4s or higher: Kids and their technology. The fact that she whines about this cracks me up. I used to have to use a ROTARY dial. The first time she saw one of those, she pushed the circles and asked why it wasn't dialing. Pssshhh...Kids are dumb.

Rollerskates (no BLADES). hahaha!!! Whatever, "grace." I've said it before, but this kid is like Bambi on ice. I get nervous when she puts on shoes because it's a piece of material between her and the floor. She can't even walk without running into stationary objects--no way i'm putting this kid on wheels. I don't have enough insurance for THAT.

MH book series: MH=Monster High. Guess she's ready to read these now. She tried 2 years ago, and freaked out because one of the characters wrote that she wanted to "kiss her boyfriend" or something like that. She cried...a lot. She said that it was 'inappropriate' and that she shouldn't have read it. She made me put the book in my room so she wouldn't have to look at it.

Gift cards: Why are these on every kids list now?? That's like saying, "You're probably not going to get me the crap I want, so just give me money so I can buy it myself." Um, no.

Pilot pens: Now HERE'S a gift I can deal with. Hell, i'm feeling generous, so I may give her two packages. That's right, bitches, I'm a big spender. I may say they're from Santa so Clairey will be confused. Then I can say, "Yep, there's an elf that doesn't get to make toys. He has to make pens all day. He was bad, so Santa demoted him."

The 2013 Barbie Dreamhouse: I'm just going to say 'no' right off the bat. They have an older model already. Why the hell does Barbie need to move? The house she has is FINE. I mean, yeah, it's only a 1-bedroom, but she has a freaking condo, too--and THAT has a game room. And Jen's just going to use it for her Monster High dolls, then be bitchy because it's pink and not 'appropriate' MH colors.

To wrap this up, i'm insanely happy that, although she's 12, she still asks for toys. INSANELY. I'm all about keeping her as young as possible. There's way too much time for her to be a teenager. I will say that she has it easy--because her list is WAY cheaper than The Munch's, she will be getting 7 items from this list.

7 packs of Pilot pens. Kidding.

Munch's Christmas selections

[edit: I started this post 2 weeks ago. I'm just now posting it. WHY, you might ask? Because The Munch, for once in her 10-years, has the most expansive and ridiculous Christmas list I've ever seen.]

Every year, right around Thanksgiving, I ask the girls for their Christmas lists. I'm not sure why. I start shopping in July/August, so it's actually kind of a waste of their time. If i'm finished by October, and nothing I purchased is on their list, then they're out of luck. I'm mean like that. On Christmas morning, when they say, "Santa didn't get me anything that's on my list!" I'll generally follow up with something to the likes of, "That's because you were bad/don't help me clean/chew with your mouth open." Kidding. Kind of.

So, here's The Munch's list. Notice how some is handwritten, then there's the 'ol cut and paste method. Speaking of cut and paste--notice how most of that is from Justice. I hate that store. I hope they all burn down. We also have some index cards added into the mix. Nice.

 I'll call out the handwritten notes down the line here. First of all, let's tackle what I have circled:

A. Cut and pasted from the "American Girl" catalog. This catalog is mean. It's pages and pages of items for your overpriced AG dolls. All of these things can be bought at Target for much less money--although, they won't be AG brand. Therefore, your AG cannot POSSIBLY sit in the hair salon chair. And WHY does your doll need a salon anyways?? Let's be honest here--all the dolls end up in a pile in the corner, naked, with ratty hair.

B. Cut and pasted from an educational toy catalog.
  • First, there is a sewing machine. Let me tell you, right now, she doesn't own one, but by the massive amounts of scraps all over my office floor, you would think she does. She can use mine. 
  • Under that, is a ribbon. WHY? She can just use one of the scraps on the floor and wave that around. 
  • There's also some kind of a "see your garden grow" kit. We HAVE a REAL, full-size garden in the backyard. She wasn't interested in watching that shit grow, so why would she want to watch a few carrots growing in a box? No.
  • Walkie-talkies: She and her sister have iPhones so they can text each other from the horrid distance between upstairs and downstairs. Plus, these probably need batteries, which means, they'll work for 2 hours, then they'll sit in the junk drawer for 2 years, waiting for new batteries, until I throw them away. Of course, that will be after she removes the double-As from every remote in our house. 
  • A see-through bird house. Do birds seriously use this? Let's think about it--birds build nests in trees because they're shielded and safe. Why would a bird think, "Hey, there's a random house in the wide open...great place to start a family!"
  • Some kind of "put-paint-on-a-piece-of-paper-and-spin-it-around-really-fast-so-it-makes-pictures" thing. That toy got checked off the list when I saw that it involved paint and spinning.
  • Yeah, that's an ATM machine. The only reason she wants this, is because she thinks it comes with real money. 
  • Glow pad: She had one several years ago. She liked it so much, she doesn't even remember she had it. Nope. Not going for round 2. 
  • A candy claw machine. hahahahaaa!! haaaaaa!!! Wait, let me stop laughing....NO. She's gotta be kidding. I asked her where she would keep that: "In my room," she said. I think not.
C. Another selection from an toy catalog
  • The Snoopy Snow Cone Machine--I'm torn on this. I had one; I loved it. Because made snowcones...what's not to like? Well, i'll tell ya: Do you remember how much work it took to make ONE snowcone?? And by the time you had enough 'snow', half of it was melted already, so you ended up with really cold koolaid. And your arm hurt from trying to turn the damned handle, the snow never looked like the picture, and you'd always skin your knuckles trying to clear the grinder of stuck ice cubes. We'd get this, she'd begin to use it, then ask to go get Hawaiian Shaved Ice because Snoopy Snowcones suck. It's like I can read her mind.
  • Is that a 'build a hamburger' game??? WHY?
  • A make-up kit: Deep sigh. This kid loves make up. LOVES IT. I have to worry about her. I'm guessing that this makeup is crap. It probably smells like fake roses, too. And it always comes in crappy colors. I don't need a 10-year old walking around with bright green eyeshadow and glittery lipstick. Smelling like a Walgreens perfume aisle. 
  • A mermaid tail--This is confusing--is this a way to drown your kid? Don't mobsters use shit like this? You're basically tying the kid's feet together, then throwing them in the pool. Guess she'd really have to use her would give her good upper-body strength...i'll think about it. 
  • Two bows and arrows. Tell me she wouldn't end up shooting her sister and/or the cat. I'm not ready to hear, "Moooooommmmm!!! Ca-LAIRE shot me with an arrow!!!!"
D. I need to stop getting catalogs
  • A cash register. See list B, bullet 7. 
  • A carnivorous plant kit. It's all fun and games until she finds out she has to feed it dead flies. She won't like that. Plus, i've seen the movie, "The Fly." Hell to the no. 
E. Justice
  • Overpriced clothes that were made in Indonesia. She must have EVERYTHING that says, "Gymnast."  Pants? Check. Shirt? Check. Random white-board that will end up under her bed? Check. And is that a flat iron? What the hell. The kid doesn't even have any hair. That also looks like a coconut...not sure. I'll buy her a coconut. As long as I don't have to buy it from Justice. 
Below, is the original list. This is the list i liked--before she found the dreaded catalogs.

I'm just going to pick out my favorites. THESE are the types of lists i like--the handwritten, scribbly ones. And, i'm not going to correct her spelling...

8. Home Dpot work shop: Is she going to set this by her nursery that she has in her room for her babies? "Hey kids, take a nap, then we'll build a birdhouse--that you can see through, because Santa didn't bring me one."
11. Big pillow that looks like mommy: Awwww....she's the sweetest kid. I do, however, have a feeling that one day, my dried corpse will end up in a rocking chair at Clairey's house. I'm tempted to get this--but have it made with a picture of me when I wake up. No make up, mismatched jammies, and a mohawk. She'd probably love it.
12. Big pillow that looks like bell: "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast. This kid still loves princesses. 
13. Big pillow that looks like all the disney princesses (sepret pillows): Screw you people, I want #alltheprincesses
14. American Girl stuff: See my AG rant above. 
15. American Girl Sage: UGH. WHHHHYYYYYY???? 

Notice the pasted cut-outs on this list--more American Girls stuff. And see the red list below? All AG stuff. That little red list, in and of itself, represents around $1k. It's probably in red because i'll have to sell my own blood to afford it.

One day, I will miss this. I will. I do love that she wants toys, but notice how she threw 'gift cards' in there, too. Stinker. 

What are your kids asking for?

[Note: Not reread for editing. I just don't care right now. This thing has been sitting in my draft folder for 2 weeks.]

Oct 31, 2013

This is Halloween, this is Halloween....

This year, we're not going Trick-or-Treating. Truth be told, the weather sucks, so i'm not too unhappy about this. The girls are in a fabulous production of Macbeth, so rather than racking up candy (that we'll end up trashing at Christmas), they'll be at the theatre.

However, in essence of this super-fun day, I decided to post pictures of Halloweens past. Enjoy.

Baby Munch 2003
Baby J 2003
2004 J is Pooh; Munch is Piglet (only pic I have of both of them)
2005 Pumpkin and Black Cat
2006 Tiger and Cheetah

2007 Puss 'n Boots and Dorothy

2008 Jessie and Jasmine

 2009 Hermione and Vampiress

2010 Ninja Cat and Pirate

2011 Bastet and Cleopatra

2012 Dia de los Muertos bride and Operetta

 In a few weeks, we'll be attending ComiCon--I should have some fun pics from that! :)

Sep 30, 2013

A Cheetah Girl turns 12

Oh, Jen. How in the world can you be 12 years old? How is it possible that yesterday, I was just carrying you around on my hip, and today, you and I are nearly the same height? How is it, that when you need a pair of jeans, you steal mine, or that I often catch you wearing my favorite t-shirt? I feel that you should still be in the toddler section, grabbing every single piece of cheetah or leopard-print fabric you can, begging, "Mommy! PEESE!! It's cheetah!" Time has gone by way, WAY too quickly.

This year, you have outdone yourself--and exceeded our expectations of you--again and again. You were so proud of yourself when you achieved your Bronze Award in Girl Scouts with your Junior troop. You love Girl Scouts so very much, and I'm so glad that you do! You bridged to Cadettes, and the smile on your face when you crossed that bridge was huge. You met your hero, Dr. Laurie Marker, and that moment remains a highlight in your life thus far. After talking with Dr. Marker, you decided to take action to help your beloved cheetahs in a bigger way--particularly after the Cheetah Conservation Fund named you 'Student Ambassador.' You contacted the National Girl Scout Council and talked with them about creating a patch to help the Cheetah Conservation Fund. You obtained approval from the CCF and the Girl Scout Council and designed a patch. I did my part by finding someone to create the patches, and right now, as I type this, the CCF is getting funding to print these patches so they will be available TO EVERY SCOUT IN THE WORLD. Each patch will come with a bundle of information on how to save the cheetahs. Jenna, you are amazing, and soon, scouts all over the world will have the opportunity to learn more about the Cheetah Conservation Fund and how to save your favorite animal. To you, it doesn't seem like a big deal--but it IS, Jen. For you, it's all about the cheetahs.

For the past 2 weeks, you've also been volunteering your time at a community theatre. Every Monday and Wednesday, you intern from 5-7pm, helping with classes. I have to admit--I didn't know how well you'd do, but you have done amazing! I have been told by the teachers that they love having you, and that you're doing a great job. That makes my heart so happy. I'm hoping that this exposes you to new things--things that you don't know you're capable of. Again, I'm so proud of you.

School is going well for you, but you're finding it somewhat difficult because it's CHALLENGING. You told/whined to me the other day, "But this is was never this hhhaaarrrrddddd!!!" Guess what--it's because school has never challenged you before. Your school work challenges ME, and there's a lot of work to be had in this curriculum. Your favorite, so far, is Art History. You loved your studies on the Cubi Series, the drawings in the caves of Lascaux, and cuneiform. In fact, you've been working on your cuneiform project for the last week. You've decided to take the Mesopotamian epic of the creation of the gods Apsu and Timat, tell it in your own words (take it out of cuneiform and write it in English), and create illustrations. Your drawings are so good, and the way you've told your story is even better! You definitely have a gift for narrative storytelling.

You're loving Literature, and your assigned book (which makes me happy)! Your book is titled, A Year of Impossible Goodbyes, and it details one family's struggle during the Korean War. You're very emotional towards the characters and their plight, and the essays you've written in reference to this book have been wonderful! I'm so proud of your writing skills, Jenna. They're excellent, when you WANT them to be. Academically, this year is going to be an overall struggle for you--simply because you're expected to do a lot of work, and manage your time with that work appropriately. Anyone who knows you understands that you + time management = lackadaisical. This past week, you did much better, so i'm hoping that we see continuous improvement. We know you can do it, and we know that you're more than capable!

You were booked for your first modeling job this year, too! You did a shoot for Academy, and you loved it! You are to be paid a pretty penny for it, and you have decided to give a quarter of it to the CCF. The rest, will go to Monster High dolls, i'm sure. And yes, I still can't believe you love these dolls so. BUT, i'm not complaining. As much as I tire of hearing about Monster High, I encourage you to be a child as long as possible. 12 is still so, so young, and you have a life ahead of you--play with the damn dolls, kid, and love every-freaking minute of it. You don't give a rat's ass if other girls make fun of you, and THAT makes me happy. You don't compare yourself to anyone else, you don't try to act or 'fit-in' in any specific area--and THAT makes me even HAPPIER. You are YOU. There is something to be said for young ladies that don't care if they're 'different,' that don't care about what brand of clothes they wear, that don't think they need makeup to look 'pretty,' that don't care what boys think of them--Girls like that grow up to be strong, independent, happy, secure women. And really...what mother doesn't want that for their child?

Do you realize how freaking awesome you are? I kind of hope you don't. Because one day, when you're in the back of a truck in Namibia, with your crazy hair in a pile on the top of your head, with comfortably torn jeans, a dusty shirt, and nasty gloves from throwing raw meat out to a snarling cheetah, I want you to be able to take a deep breath, look at that African sunset and have a revelation: "Holy shit. I am amazingly awesome."

I love you, Jenna. I love you more than I can ever tell you. I love you all the spots.
Happy 12th birthday, my amazing, beautiful, cheetah-hearted baby,

Sep 24, 2013

Bedtime tidbits

Sometimes, Jen and The Munch sleep in the same room. Okay, not 'sometimes,' but maybe 50% of the time. Alright, I can't lie--it's more like 95% of the time. Yes, they have their own rooms, with their own very comfy beds, but they always end up in the same one.

Last night, it was Jenna's room. Jen was in her twin-sized bed, and the trundle was pulled out for The Munch. It was about 930, and I was lying in bed with Jen, with my left leg hanging over the edge of the bed onto the trundle. Munch was hugging my leg. Every once in a while, she'd kiss my foot or my ankle and whisper, "I love you, mommy..." whilst rubbing my leg. This kid--no boundaries.

Out of the blue, Jenna asks, "Mom, what does my name mean?"
"Little bird," I answer.
"What does Clairey's name mean?"
"'Claire?' She's named after County Clare in Ireland."
"But does it MEAN anything?"
"Yeah, I can't remember...I think it means 'beautiful*' in French."

Then, from the depths of the trundle bed, in a raspy little whisper, we hear:


(*It actually means "Bright")

Sep 10, 2013

The Munch is 10!

My Sweet Munch,
I feel like I start off each of these birthday letters the same: I can't believe you're fill in the blank with your age. But really...this year...I seriously can't believe it. TEN. Jeez, girl. TEN.  I really don't know what to say, that hasn't already been said before.
You are such an amazing kid, Munch. You are an athlete, an actress, a snuggler, a singer, a mommy's-girl, and a dreamer. You are everything because you believe you are. Your smile is contagious, your laughter is infectious, and you--just YOU--can melt even the coldest heart. People don't just like you--they LOVE you. You adopt people as your own. You have your 'favorite' people that you deem siblings. You have extra brothers (Josh and Evan), and extra sisters (Morgan, Brendis, all the 'big' girls on your gym team...). You just invite people in, and attach yourself--no  one is safe! :) Munch, you have such a big heart--I hope it just keeps on growing.

You're working so hard at gym, and it shows through the drastic changes we've seen in the past 5 months. You don't even look like the same kid! When you came to this new gym, your old gym was set to have you compete as a new Level 4 this season---you've worked your way up to a Level 6. You've picked up so many new skills in just a few short months--I think all you needed was an extra push and some tough love. It was a good move for you, and I'm so proud that you saw the need to be pushed harder and asked to change gyms. I also know that it was hard for you to leave Coach Briana--I know you love her so very much. But that's what makes you so mature--you didn't want to leave her, but you knew that you needed a different style of coaching and a different gym environment to excel. And you got it in your new set of coaches. You're wise beyond your years, kid. And I honestly believe that Coach Briana would be so proud of you if she could see how far you've come.
You're also a force to be reckoned with when it comes to theatre. Because of your gym schedule, you don't get to do near as much theatre as you'd like--but you do what you can. You were cast in your first main-stage musical (Annie), and your second (Fiddler on the Roof); you were an extra in a feature film, and filmed a pilot for a t.v. show! And through all of this, you remained just as happy-go-lucky as always. You absolutely shined in "Annie" and proved to everyone that you were worth being cast when we got a call at 1030 in the morning (before a 3 o'clock show) asking if you knew Molly's lines. You were not cast as Molly's understudy, but when Molly was sick, they realized that the girl they DID cast as the understudy was just too tall to be a believable Molly. So they called you. You ran through Molly's scenes before the show opened, and that night, you didn't miss a single line or stage direction. You nailed it! In "Fiddler on the Roof," you didn't get the part you wanted, but that didn't stop you from being the best babushka-wearing Munch there ever was! You danced and sang your heart out in every show, and even though your part was small, after each show, people would come up to you and say, "We couldn't stop watching you!" Sweetpea, you have a HUGE presence in whatever you do!
I am so proud of you, Munch. You are the most loving, caring, precious, hard-working little kid I know. You really are such a good girl--we're all very lucky to have you. I love you so very much. Each little freckle. Each little hair on your head. Every bit of you. I adore you!!
I love you all the stars! Happy Birthday, my baby!
Mommy xoxoxo

Aug 8, 2013

For my loves

Coming up on August 15th, is the very last, and I mean VERY last, time I will have to go to the doctor for this stupid, time-consuming, life-altering, cancer crap. And I am so very happy. You may not see it in my every day, get-up-early-to-work, get-Munch-to-the-gym, love-you-the-best-I-can ways, but it's there. That eternally-happy, glad-this-is-finally-over feeling (apparently, I like hyphens today). As we get closer and closer to November, I'm getting more and more excited that it will have been a full year since this unexpected ride began...

It hasn't always been easy, but you three have made it so. We had our rough times--with Jenna being too scared to look at me after my surgery, to Clairey being sad that she couldn't sit on my lap (for a few months!), to my boy having to lift me out of bed several times a night so I could go to the bathroom. It's been a rough ride. But we're here, we made it. I'm not afraid to admit that there were times when I cried because I was tired of this. I'm not afraid that there were small moments when my heart broke wondering what you guys were going through. Just to have to say, "My mommy has cancer" or to think, Chris, that you were practically having to babysit me.

I'm so thankful for the doctor who looked right at me and said, "First of all, you're not going to die." At that moment, I knew that we could do this. I knew that anything that we had to deal with would just be a small challenge in our lives, and we would get through it together. And again, I thank that doctor for being honest, and telling me a double-mastectomy would be our best bet for a full life together. My chances of having breast cancer again, without the mastectomy, would've been around 40%. No thank you. But I also appreciate, more than anything else, that my husband never faltered. Never even took a breath when a double-mastectomy was mentioned. He didn't care. And I love him even more for that.

Over the past several months, I've come to appreciate many things at a different level--Clairey's tiny, calloused hands in mine; Jenna's long, giraffe-body trying to shove her way onto my lap; Chris' simple presence next to's those little things that I love so much--they make my heart full. And it heart IS full. Even on those days when i'm feeling entirely too stressed out, that our house seems like a tornado went through it, and we're quadruple booked with my job/Clairey's gym-theatre-tv stuff/Jen's modeling...those days when I feel like there's so much that there's no way I can handle it...I breathe...and I remember that I am SO LUCKY. SO blessed.

I love this life. And I'm so glad I have you.

Aug 6, 2013

Claireyisms...they never stop

The Munch spent the night with my mom aka "Gamma" on Sunday night. Yesterday, as I was tucking her into bed, she says, "Mom, I love spending the night at Gamma's house. I love Aunt Nan's room [mom's guest room, where my sister stays when she visits]--it's so cozy. But it's so cold!"

"Did you sleep under the heavy blanket?" I asked.

"Yes," Munch said, "but it was still cold, so I told Gamma to get the Afghanistan."

I just looked at her. I knew exactly what she was talking about (the afghan), but I like to not laugh because, seriously, if she calls it an 'Afghanistan' for the rest of her life, i'll die a happy woman.

I looked at The Munch in a serious fashion. "Hmmm..." (holding back my laughter), "...did she get it?"

"No. She just looked at me and said, 'What are you talking about?' So I looked at her and said, 'THE. AF-GHAN-I-STAN.' She just looked at me. How does Gamma not know what an 'Afghanistan' is?!! Jeesh."

I just looked at The Munch. She was so serious. So resolute in her...Afghanistan-ness. Then, her lips pursed, her brow crinkled, and she asked, "Wait a I saying it wrong?"


May 20, 2013

Of cheetah spots and heroes

My Baby J,
Yesterday evening, I can say without a doubt in my mind, was a life-changer for you. For as long as I can remember, you have wanted to meet Dr. Laurie Marker, and last night, you finally were able to do so. For years, we have been checking every issue of "Cheetah Strides" and the website hoping that Dr. Marker's travels would bring her close enough to where you could go see her--and finally...FINALLY...she landed right in Houston.

You looked so beautiful last night. You don't like to dress up; you're not a fancy kid. But last night, with your thick hair wrapped into a low, side-swept bun and organza flowers in your hair, you looked gorgeous. Your leopard-print feather earrings, and cheetah-spotted sandals were a nice touch. :)

On the way to the country club, you were finally spoke up and said, "I just don't know what to say to her, mommy."
"She's a normal person, Jen. Just talk to her like you would a normal person."
"But she's NOT a normal person!! She's DOCTOR LAURIE MARKER!!"
And our ride continued in silence.

When we pulled into the country club, you were visibly excited. We walked to the front, and were greeted by a cart-boy who asked, "Are you here for the VIP event?" I nodded yes, and he mentioned how cool it was and how he hoped to catch a glimpse of the cheetahs. Of course, Jen, you took that as your cue to begin talking about Dr. Marker, and how you couldn't wait to meet her! That young man so nice--he listened to you as you went on and on about saving cheetahs--with a smile on his face. You held my hand as we entered the clubhouse and I practically had to hold you down to the ground as we came upon the first welcome sign.

We walked into the reception area, and were greeted by a lovely young woman named Kaitlin. She was tall, blonde (had her hair in a ponytail), and was wearing a cheetah-print skirt. A REAL cheetah-print skirt--not a leopard-print skirt, as you pointed out. You immediately became charmed with her. Turns out that Kaitlin volunteered at the Cheetah Conservation Fund a few years ago, and is now a PhD student at Texas A&M studying cheetahs. Being kind, she began chatting with you, and then, upon realizing that you could hold your own, REALLY began talking to you. Jen, she was so very impressed with you. She gave you her business card and told you to email her whenever you wanted, and she would be happy to talk about cheetahs with you. Then, we met another young woman named Imogene. She is at West Texas A&M and is working on her PhD studying bobcats. She invited you to come up to Amarillo anytime, and she would take you in the field with her! Baby, these young woman were overly impressed with you and your knowledge about the conservation efforts for big cats. I actually just sat back and watched you. And honestly, I tried not to cry. And then...the big moment...

You were standing next to me, just beaming, and I said, "Jen...look who it is..." You turned, and saw the back of Dr. Marker as she was hugging someone. You grabbed my arm in a death grip, and started to cry. You led me out of that room so fast! We had to sit around the corner, as you whimpered, "Mommy, mommy, I can't do this!! I can't breathe, mommy! That's my hero!!" with tears running down your face. I had to sit there and fan your face with our copy of "Cheetah Strides," and just kept saying, "'s okay, it's okay...just breathe!!" After about 3 minutes, you finally regained composure and walked back around the corner. As you did, Dr. Marker saw you. A huge smile spread across her face, and she walked right up to you, and embraced you in a big bear hug. She looked at you and said, "Jenna, it is SO good to finally meet you!" Again, I tried not to cry. I apologized to Dr. Marker for your tears and told her, "She's so overwhelmed with finally getting to meet you! She's waited so long for this to happen!" And Dr. Marker said, "Oh, me, too!" and hugged you again. THEN, then...she introduced you to several of her friends as, "This is Jenna, my very special 'cheetah friend'!" and my God, I thought your face would explode. She wrapped her arm around you, and invited you, an 11-year old, into her conversations with the other adults at the reception. She spoke to you as if you were a working conservationist, and it was fabulous. As she flitted around and talked to other people, you were going right around speaking to other adults about cheetah conservation, and every time, they'd look at me with this look in their eyes, and i'd just smile and shrug my shoulders. I don't know how many times I heard, "She is amazing!" "What an awesome young lady!" and more times than I can count, "THAT is the future of cheetah conservation!" Again...I am SO PROUD, Jenna!
After everyone chatted for a while, we walked outside where the Houston Zoo had brought their two cheetahs. Unfortunately, due to the rules and regulations of the U.S., we could not touch them. You were okay with that, since you've actually touched cheetahs before. We sat in view of the cheetahs, and you listened intently as Dr. Marker began her speech. At one point, she was talking about the numbers of cheetahs left in this world, and how it's such hard work to save them, and educate people about the CCF's efforts. She said, "I am who the CCF is NOW...and this young lady [and she pointed to YOU] is the CCF's future. It's going to be children like this that educate the next generation--and it's going to be children like this that educate the world about cheetahs." Your smile lit up the evening sky. At another point, she was talking about volunteering at CCF, and she said, "All of the young students that we get at CCF become 'my kids'. Here's one of my kids right here [and she walked over to Kaitlyn] and here's another of my kids right here [and she pointed to you]." Again, more smiles. But the highlight of the speech was when Dr. Marker was discussing a future without cheetahs, and she specifically called you out and said, "Jenna, can you imagine a world without cheetahs? What would you do?" and you answered, "No, I can't imagine that! I would be so sad--cheetahs are my life, and i'm going to do everything I can to save them!" This time, a huge smile--from Dr. Marker.

By the end of this speech, many of the group were walking to the front to get pictures with the cheetahs. You asked if you could go talk to some of the people. Of course, I said, "Sure," and let you go. I sat in my chair with a glass of wine, and watched you carry on conversations with three of your new PhD-student friends. You guys literally sat there and talked about cheetahs for 15 solid minutes. 

We eventually moved inside to grab something to munch on, and after you fixed your plate, you asked, "May I go outside? I need to tell Dr. Marker something..." You walked through the doors, and I sat at the table--totally out of MY element, but watching you in yours. A few moments later, you walked back in, and struck up a conversation with a lion/tiger conservationist at our table. Whom promptly teared up and said, "I'm sorry I'm so emotional, but it is SO NICE to see a child so knowledgeable and with so much passion about this! It gives me hope for the future!" Agreed.

As the night began to wrap up, Dr. Marker came back inside and said, "Could I get one last picture with my dear friends?" a few people (those that have worked at the CCF, and two of her best friends walked up) and Dr. Marker looked around, and said, "Jenna! Get up here!" HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR LIFE.

Dr. Marker hugged you goodbye, gave me her business card, and told you that she was SO proud of you, and that the sooner you can get to Namibia, the better.

All the way home, from the moonlight shining through the sunroof, I was blessed with the biggest smile I have EVER seen on your face.

May 8, 2013

For my Munch...

You've had a tough, TOUGH week at gymnastics...and you've only been to 2 workouts this week. The issue is this: After being able to do a back walkover on high beam for 3 weeks, you all of the sudden decided that it's scary. In ONE day, you decided this. After last night's workout--where you had to go work out with a lower level--then stay for an hour afterwards to work on your back walkovers, you were completely crushed. Thanks for holding it in until we got into the car.

As I sat there and watched you on that beam, i know my face read frustration. I know YOU could see how upset i was with you. And you know what? I apologize. You are a tough cookie. You rarely, if ever, show frustration with yourself--and last night, i saw it in your eyes. I sat there, next to your coach, looking at you on the beam. We both have super-high expectations of you, and we both want you to succeed [probably I more than he--I, after all, I know your heart :).] I watched you try and fail at nearly 20 backwalkovers--your hands are steady, yet you land your hands and kick off to the side. I saw the hurt in your eyes. I know you hear your coaches telling you the corrections--I KNOW YOU HEAR THEM. But i also know that once you get ready to push back, fear takes over. And yes, I know that feeling is hard to break. I saw you do 5 beautifully landed walkovers on that high beam. I saw you tentatively move that block mat, and climb back on that beam--ready to do 4 without the mental safety that that block provides your brain.

Then I watched. I watched as you straightened up. I watched you pull in your belly, push your hips, and saw you silently mouth, "1-arms, 2-hips, 3-split, 4-land." And then I watched as you'd arch your back...and stop in mid arch. Too frightened to continue. I watched this over and over. I saw you become more and more deflated. We called it a night. Everyone was frustrated--me, your coaches, you... I should have been encouraging, but I wasn't. The coaches had a big discussion about moving you down a level. Because they said, "There are girls at this level that have better skills than're taking up space in Lvl 5 when other girls belong to be there..." You listened intently, you nodded your head. I almost cried, because I could hear your heart breaking. I know what you heard. You heard, "You're not good enough. You don't try hard enough. Everyone is better than you." And i know this, because this is what you cried about all the way home.

Now, I'm a total hard-ass mom. I don't think ANYONE has higher expectations for you than I. You're always asking me to judge your beam routine or floor routine because you KNOW i'll judge you the hardest. You get mad when i sit there and call out, " tenth, tenth, 2-tenths..." But you know that i'm super-picky with you. So, let me tell you what I see:

In the 4 weeks that you've been at your new gym, i have seen:
  • You work harder than I have EVER seen you work before.
  • That when your team is conditioning, you do not cheat. EVER (this makes me very proud).
  • That when you do a floor pass incorrectly, rather than just walk across and get back in line (or start from the middle of the floor), you go back and redo the entire pass--on your own accord, without your coach asking you.
  • You look intently at your coach when he's speaking to you on bars, and I see you get irritated when your hands do what they're in the habit of doing, instead of what he's telling you to make them do.
  • You learn how to do a backwalkover on the high beam. Something you have NEVER worked on before coming to this gym.
  • You try a flick by yourself.
  • Your floor tumbling improve. Again, you're relearning form--but I can see a difference! You are faster, stronger, and more beautiful.
But something else i've seen, just in the past two days, bothers me the most: I've seen your self-esteem crumble. I've seen you go from an attitide of 'i'm a great gymnast' to 'i'm not good enough.' I've seen you go from, 'my coaches are happy to have me on their team,' to 'I don't think they want me here.' And this, my girl, is where you need to fight.

The girls at this gym have had this kind of coaching for a long time. You're like the stepkid here--you know some of the rules, but this hasn't always been your house, so you're not sure of most of the rules. Guess what? THIS IS YOUR HOUSE NOW. But, as with any new place, it takes time to learn the rules. Your new coaches are your new gym parents. They have different rules than your last coach did--and their rules are a lot tougher. But you have to make a hardcore effort to LEARN these new rules. And I know you will. Like I said, you've only been in this new house for a month, and you've learned new-to-you skills and rules pretty darn quick.

So, what you NEED to know is:
  • You ARE a great gymnast. You are, you are, you are. Those bazillion medals on your wall prove it. Your heart proves it. Your work ethic proves it. Your attitude proves it.
  • Just because you cannot perfect a brand new skill in 4 weeks time does NOT mean you're a poor gymnast. You've had a total of about 16 max hours on beam since you've been at this gym. You've had 16 hours to get a back walkover on highbeam (and you're not working this skill the whole time). Most of these girls have been working on these for MUCH longer than you. You've had SIXTEEN HOURS, Munch. BE PROUD OF THIS. There are girls at that level that still can't do a backwalkover on low beam--but they're TRYING--and that's what's important. There are girls on your team that stand on that beam for 10 minutes before they attempt 1 backwalkover--then they miss their feet--that's the SAME THING you do!!
  • You are a fighter. You are not a baby. You are not weak. You haven't done anything wrong--you're just relearning how to do things right. DO need to believe in yourself. Believe that you can do it. You've done it before--so you can do it again.

I love you, i love you, i love you. I'm sorry i've been frustrated with you--i realize that you're giving so much right now. I know that you're frustrated with yourself, and what you need is support--not someone to make you think that you're not good enough. I'm sorry for that. You ARE good enough. You CAN do this. I KNOW you can do this. And i know you want this--I believe in you.


Apr 11, 2013

Almost finished! (FBtF)

Are you guys sick of hearing about breastcancer? I know I am. SO...i'm happy to say that my 2nd-to-last hurrah with the plastic surgeon will be on May 24th. I really didn't think building a new set of boobs would be this much work. Of course, it's not like i had ever had a mastectomy before, so it's all new.

THIS surgery will involve 'tidying things up.'  When you have a mastectomy, they remove all your breast tissue, so the remaining skin is quite thin. When you have the tissue expanders removed and the implants put in, everything is still swollen, so the new set looks Pam-Andersoney (plump and huge). As the swelling goes down, you start to really see how thin the skin is, and thereby, you start to see the implant. And...implants have wrinkles. Even though I have high-quality silicone Amazing Fruits in my chest, you can still see 'waves' at the top and in my cleavage because of the thin skin. SO...Dr. Boobenstein will be fattening those babies up. He'll be taking fat from my upper/inner thighs and the top of my hips and transferring it to my cleavage line.

If it were up to The Munch, he'd be taking fat from my butt. According to her, my entire butt is fat. That kid is lucky she woke up this morning.

It's a simple process. My biggest worry is that it's going to cut into my workout time/ability...again. Seriously, those 3 months of NOTHING killed me. But, the good news is, not working out won't kill me, and now, neither will my boobs.

Looking forward to when this is all behind me, and i'm just left with Amazing Fruits.

Mar 14, 2013

The Munch is Obsessed (FBtF)

We all knew The Munch had a boob obsession. I mean, let's face it--the kid was breastfed for 2 years, then threw a holy fit when I was forced to wean her. And, seriously, she was already down to 2x a day. She would walk up to me, put her chubby little hands on my knees and blubber, "Bbbbbbooooobbbiiiiessss!" And i'd look at her and say, "Sorry. Milkbar is closed." Just kidding. It somewhat broke my heart.

So, with the advent of Boobmageddon and all that came with it, The Munch has been involved every step of the way. From saying 'goodbye' to my old boobies, sitting on my lap and checking out my absence of boobies (the scars, the drainage tubes...), going to the doctor with me to get the tissue expanders filled, and now, to being enthralled with the new implants.

She wants to touch them. EVERY DAY. She walked into my office this morning and gave me a hug, then asked, "Can I feel your boobies?"
"They're squishier than those other things."
"Than the tissue expanders? Yep, they're MUCH squishier."
"They're squishier than your old, real boobies."
"Really?" (Like I said, these feel like Amazing Fruits candy. I guess my old boobies just felt like...boobies.)

And then she proceeded to lean over and lay her head on my right one. And she just sat there. OBSESSED.

Then she got up and made me coffee. The kid may be obsessed with my boobs, but damn, she makes a good cup of coffee.

Mar 11, 2013

Those Spring-Break Days

"Those Winter Sundays" has always been one of my favorite poems. Just one of those that has always stuck in my head--even years and years after my diploma lies buried in some heap that I once deemed 'important papers.' I figured i'd write my own version of it--from a mom's POV. Here's the original, then mine. All in good f un.
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Those Spring-Break Days
by Me

Every day too I get up early
and put a load of leotards in the Samsung washer,
then with cracked hands that are colored with 'dirt'
from labor in the theatre orphanage feed
the hairless incessantly mewing cat. No one ever thanks me.

The kids wake and hear the cold sputtering, brewing.
When they know the coffee is consumed, they announce the morning,
and slowly I rise from my desk,
fearing the early bickering of the masses,

Speaking indifferently to me,
who has ensured they have milk for cereal
and toys to keep them busy as well.
What do they know, what do they know
of a mom's austere and lonely position?

Mar 5, 2013

Amazing Fruits (FBtF)

Just returned from my visit with Dr. Boobenstein. My next visit isn't for another MONTH!! WOOO!! He said everything looks fabulous, and really, after everything i've been through, I have to agree.

I have a bit of wrinkling--or 'sharpei boob,' as i like to call it--on my left cleavage area, but he said it's okay. I may need some fat grafting done at some point, which means that they'll suck fat outta me somewhere, and insert it in the sharpei area. BUT...the good doctor said that we need to take it slow, wait for my implants to 'drop and fluff,' and then see what happens.

They are no longer rocks on my chest, but nice, pliable boobies. Somewhat like gummy bears. But not the good Haribo-brand. They feel more like..."Amazing Fruits." Do you guys remember that candy? Look for it in your grocer's checkout. Then, when you squeeze the candy, you'll think of silicone boobies. Aren't you glad I made that connection? You're welcome. I do what I can.

This has been a crazy 3.25 months, and I just want to say 'THANK YOU' from the very depths of my heart--to our family, our friends, and our supporters. There's no way Chris and I would have made it through this without you guys. Thank you for lifting me up when I needed it; thank you for cheering Chris on as he took care of me. Thank you, so many of you, for stepping in as caregivers for our girls--for loving them, for making them feel special, and for just knowing that they needed hugs and extra attention.

Thank you to our so many amazing friends who stopped THEIR lives to care for us. To bring us food, to run Clairey to gymnastics (to AND from), and to just hold and love on Jenna when she was having a hard time. Thank you to our amazing HFAC family who welcomed Clairey with open arms, let her talk about what was going on, and was there for her at a million "Annie" rehearsals when I couldn't be. THEN, on top of that, made me feel so amazingly special when I could finally be there to help!! 

Thank you for the many thoughtful gifts I've received: beautiful bracelets to remind me of my courage, cool t-shirts, bottles of has all been so appreciated.

To all of our guy friends--you know I got my boobs lopped off. I know it's awkward to talk about it or ask me about it without trying to look at the boobage. You've all done fabulous. Two thumbs up for not being creepy! They're just boobs, after all. Thank you guys for your support--Love you all!

Thank you, most of all, for the many, many prayers and good thoughts that have been sent our way. My gratitude is never-ending. You turned my fight with cancer into an absolutely tolerable, awesome, and crazy win.

P.S. Feel free to check out my new boobs in a non-stalkerish manner. They're pretty awesome. And THESE aren't going to kill me!! WOO HOOO!!!


Mar 4, 2013

Losing eyeballs

In the shower with Clairey...

She's in the spray, and i'm facing the back wall, shaving my legs. Suddenly, she screams, "AAAAHHHH!!!!"

I quickly turn around and she's under the shower with her left hand over her left eye. She looks at me, and says in a loud, punctuated tone, "MY. EYEBALL. ALMOST. FELL. OUT."

I ignore the look of terror on her face and calmly state, "I'm pretty sure your eyeball didn't almost fall out."

"No! No!! It did!!" This kid is serious. "I felt it vi-ber-ating right here..." And she points to the inner corner of her eye. "It shouldn't vi-ber-ate, right?"

I just turned around and continued shaving.  

No liquor involved...

[I found this is my 'draft' folder. Yeah, this is how we roll.]

I have a scratch on my upper lip. --sigh-- guess that's what happens when you try to put a cat's head in your mouth. For the second time. While your brother tries to take a picture.

Welcome to my house!! It's loads of fun.

Mar 1, 2013

Getting a new set (FBtF)

WOOHOO!! In just a short while, we will be on our way to the hospital for my LAST surgery!! That's right, ladies and gents--i'm gettin' me a new set!

I cannot tell you in words how happy/excited/thrilled I am to get these ever-lovin' tissue expanders out of my chest. Even last night, as I was trying to get comfortable in my nest 'o pillows and the left one was killing me, I kept saying, "One more night, one more night..." as my go-to-sleep mantra. You never know how much you'll miss pliable, squishy boobies until you don't have 'em.

I'm seriously sitting here, trying to think of one positive about these rocks on my chest....I got nothing. They're awful. Well...I guess they gave my body some shape over the past 2 months. There. That's all you're getting. They suck. The end.

The nurses told me I had to wear a button-down shirt (I may be too sore to lift my arms after this), so I opted for my 'Spanky Steve' monkey pajama shirt. I'm getting new boobies. I can do whatever the heck I want.

The surgery is at 9am--please send prayers/good thoughts/vibes that 1) The surgeon has skilled hands 2) That everything goes smoothly and as planned 3) And most importantly to me, that I wake up outta this mess feeling good enough that I can go see my Munch in "Annie" tonight!!


Feb 27, 2013

The Clairey Show

This Friday night, 3/1/13, you are performing in your very first mainstage production. You are extremely excited, and of course, I can't wait to see your little face on that very big stage. But we must discuss something...

Since you have auditioned for "Annie," you've remained quietly disappointed that you didn't get the role of Molly. Well...let me rephrase that--you've remained quiety disappointed while at theatre practice--not so much as soon as we're in the car. The closer and closer you've gotten to showtime, the more disappointed you seem. Every time you bring it up, my heart hurts for you--but listen up, sister. Mommy's got some advice to give you:

I promise you that no matter what part you have--whether you're a lead or a supporting role (or even a tree in the background), YOU are a star. You have this amazing, magical quality to draw people into your world. The moment you hit the stage, people are drawn to you. That smile...those cheeks...that aura you's captivating! You will never, NEVER just be in the background; there's no way that you can. You shine so brightly, that people notice you immediately and when you step on that stage, it becomes "The Clairey Show!"

Just by being in shows--regardless of the role you play--you are learning so much; you're honing your skills. If directors could use non-talented, boring people in shows, why would they even bother with auditions?! You're in this show because you deserve it. Because you're talented, because you're awesome, and because the people running the show saw something (and continue to see) fabulous things in you. Directors and Producers always cast parts for certain reasons. Even though YOU want a specific role, they may see you in a different role. They may NEED you in a different role. Heck, maybe Mr. Josh and Mr. Michael NEEDED you as an orphan so you could bring some comedy and cuteness to an otherwise, pretty depressing situation. And who else would be better? No one but YOU.

Do you get it, Munch? You. Are. Amazing.

You know, there's the path that YOU want to follow, the path I'D like you to follow, and then there's the path that God has already cleared for you. This is just a little step on that winding path. Take the step, dance and sing on that step, and be ready for the next step you get to take!

I am so, SO proud of you! My precious little sunshine, I love you so very much! Now, go knock it out of the park!


And remember the 3 most important things about live theatre:
1. Stay in character--there are no retakes.
2. Always be audience-facing.
3. Project, but don't scream.

Feb 19, 2013

I can't wait for... (FBtF)

Pre-op appointment is scheduled! YAY!!

Things I'm looking forward to (in no particular order):
  • Pliable boobs
  • Lying on my belly
  • Lying completely on my side
  • Lying completely flat on my back (the pressure kills ya)
  • Shaving my legs without having to manuever my body so my leg isn't hitting a tissue expander
  • Having boobs that don't look like bowling balls
  • Having boobs that are situated properly--re: Not in my armpits
  • Being able to snuggle with Chris
  • Being able to lie in bed next to Chris and not have to reach my arm over a tower of pillows just to touch his shoulder
  • Snuggling with my babies--pulling them close to me and covering them with kisses without fear of breaking a rib
  • Wearing any shirt I want
  • Being able to reach my arms across my body
I know there are many, many other things...

Feb 16, 2013

No really...that WAS the last fill (FBtF)

Okay, so the fill which I described in my last post wasn't really the last fill. But I was close. I had MY LAST FILL (for real this time) on 2/12. The good doc said this one would really hurt. And the man is true to his word. This is the most painful fill yet. I usually stop hurting around the 36-hour mark--it has now been 4 days. Still hurts. A lot. I keep looking for stretch marks, because really, these things are huge. The good news is....
I keep reminding myself of that wee tidbit. When I wake up at 2am whimpering: March 1st! When I try to readjust my sitting postion and it feels like my chest is on fire: March 1st! YEEE! The end really IS near this time!

This fill hurts differently than the others have. The doctor pulled an unfilled tissue expander from a drawer to remind me what they look like. Here ya go:
I held it in my hand. They're NOT smooth, they have a texture to them that's reminds me of a spray-in bedliner on trucks. Where that needle is in the pic--that's the 'port' that they add saline to once a week. On the backside, it's completely flat. That is the part that's just hurting my ribs right now. They're so expanded, that they're extremely hard, so when I breathe, there's nowhere for it to go, but to press into my ribcage. Fun stuff.

When I started down this bumpy road, I immediately went to the internet (why do we do that??) to try to find pictures of 'tissue expanders'. I wanted to see what my chest would look like. I found out that there are 2 types of pic on the internet (of what I could even find): 1. Those that look like regular boobs  2. Those that will scare the bejesus out of you. I knew full well not to expect #1, and I pushed option #2 to the back of my mind.

My chest is...well, it's not pretty. They're not the 'perfectly round and even' pictures I saw on the internet. Mine are misshapen. My left one looks much larger than my right one--because my skin and muscle stretched differently. I have a dent in towards my sternum on my left one. My left one also sits lower than my right. In pictures I found, there are smaller, angular scars. MY scars cover my entire 'breast'. Horizontally from one side to the other. Granted, they've healed nicely, but they'll just be reopened on March 1st. And I have no nipples--did I mention that?

My right side sits high, is pretty round, and looks like you could just knock it right off my chest. My skin is pulled so tight, that you can see the tension in it. It looks smaller than my left (they have the same amount of saline) because for some reason or another, right boob is putting up more of a fight than the left side. This side mimicks the shape of the tissue expander perfectly, while the left side is trying to be all artsy or something. Like I said...not pretty. Not HIDEOUS by any means, but not pretty.

I think i'm going to make one of those paper chains to count down the days to my exchange surgery...

Feb 6, 2013

The end is near (FBtF)

Today i had my (hopefully) last fill. When Dr. Boobenstein pulled out the needle, saline came out. I'd say they're filled to the brim. BUT...we have to wait. We have to wait a week to see how my skin stretches, how my muscle reacts, and how everything 'settles'. THEN, if they still look freakin' bigger than my head, then yes, we'll discuss PERMANENT IMPLANTS. WOO HOO!!

They look like...hmmm...shocking that i'm at a loss of descriptors. Let's beachballs attached to my chest. Enormous hamburger buns resting under my chin. Bruised canteloupes. Dented bowling balls. Eh, you get the picture. They're harder than rocks. It's getting difficult to manuveur. Hold both arms straight out in front of you, palms up. Now bring your wrists together. I can't do that. You know why? Because these boulders don't budge. They're non-pliable. (I actually just tested to see if I could set my cell phone on top of them. I can't. Damn. I thought they'd be good for something.) And one of 'em is practically in my armpit.

It's getting tricky to shave my legs. You don't really realize that when you shave, there's some cross-over motion with your arm. Let's just say i'm shaving my left leg--with my right hand. The burger buns don't move, so my right arm has difficulty reaching the leg. It's like geriatric twister. Fun to watch, but not fun to play lest i break something. They also PROJECT more than real boobies. And let's face it--i'm a klutz. I fall up the stairs, run into doors, etc. It's my specialty. Yesterday, i turned a corner too short coming out of the bathroom and bumped the rocks into the door frame. Yeowch. In other news, I ran into the corner of the bed this morning. Like I said, my specialty.

In the meantime, I feel awkward, top-heavy, lopsided and...DONE.

Jan 29, 2013

Being beautiful (FBtF)

I'm the biggest proponent of seeing beauty from all aspects. No matter what size you are, what your outward appearance is...I honestly think beauty shines from within (and a nice lipstick doesn't hurt). But honestly, me, of all damn people, has had a problem with it lately.

Trying to find the words for this post is difficult.

When Chris and I got together, I was so paranoid. Paranoid because I ALREADY had scars. A big one on my back. A pretty sizeable one on my left breast. Both from cancer. I knew he thought i was beautiful, but when I took of my clothes, I wanted the lights off or I would place my hand 'just so' so he wouldn't see the scar on my chest. He finally confronted me about it. He said that he doesn't even SEE the scars--he just sees me, and i'm beautiful.

When I came home from the hospital after the mastectomy, that first night i got into the shower, I wasn't afraid to look at my chest, but I was afraid of what he would think. I had mentally prepared myself for the ugliness, but I just wasn't sure if he had. I have mentioned before that I took off my nasty, 1920's-era holster they had me in, and just looked at myself in the mirror. I didn't feel like crying about it. I wasn't shocked at what I saw. It was ugly. Just like I expected. I didn't look at Chris.

I got into the shower and just stood there. Chris was standing right outside the shower, with the curtain opened, just making sure I wouldn't fall. I couldn't do anything. I was completely incompetent. I couldn't pick up the soap. I couldn't OPEN the soap. I couldn't pick up or open the shampoo. I just stood there and let the water wash over me. And he stood there. And he washed my hair. And he helped me wash my body with all those damned drains coming out of it. And he told me I was beautiful. But when your boobs look like Quasimodo cast offs, your mind doesn't hear it.

And, now that i'm that i can get dressed and I can put on makeup and I can fix my hair (because i couldn't for a long time), I thought that would fix it. I thought my mind would catch up, and I'd go...woo! I'm beautiful. But I don't feel that way. I don't look in the mirror very often. If I do, I'm scrutinizing these lumpy rocks on my chest. I'm checking out the skin peeling away from the 5.5" scars I have across each side, or the bright pink holes I have on my sides where the tubes were. I see the dark, purple ink that stained my skin and is being protected by the glue that still hasn't been shed. It's not pretty. At all. There's nothing pretty about it.

The hurt from it is ugly, too. The pain of just makes it uglier. I've never in my life been through anything this painful. Somedays, I seriously just want to lie in bed and cover up. But lying down hurts. I know it's temporary...but this is a long temporary, and it starts to weigh on you. I've been taking baths at night, because the hot water helps to relax my chest muscles. I keep a wash cloth over my chest because I just don't want to look at it. And I get out, and i dry off, and i get dressed. Because I don't want to look at it. I'm not trying to ignore it. I know it's there. But sometimes, if I don't look, I forget. And I feel normal. For just a minute.

My daughters stare at me. I try not to get dressed in front of them...not because I don't want them to see what cancer is, but because I don't want them to hurt any more from this. Jenna's getting better, but just seeing my can tell it makes her uneasy. Clairey did a Family Tree for Girl Scouts. Underneath each person, she had to write something about them. Chris' said, "He likes football!" Jenna's: "She loves Monster High!" Mine:
"She has cancer."
 I want them to see me like they did before.

This is awful for them, just as it is for me. Chris has had to take on so much. SO MUCH. And he hasn't complained at all. And through all this ugliness, every day, at least once, Chris tells me I'm beautiful. Not because he has to, but because he believes it. And because of him, I'm starting to believe it, too.

I know i'm beautiful on the inside. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. But for the love of all that is good and holy. I'm so ready for this shit to be over with.

Cancer. It's such a pain in the ass. And can you believe, after ALL this crap we've gone through, it STILL feels surreal???

I'm ready for this summer...when this will all be behind us, and I'll be floating in my pool with my SPF 500+, and foobies in place of these stupid tissue expanders.

Jan 28, 2013

I'm back! (FBtF)

For those of you that know me, you know that i'm a hardcore health nut. I'm a certified personal trainer and a Beachbody coach. I love, love, LOVE working out--the more difficult, the better. It gives me a huge rush to be able to do a workout, or an exercise, that I couldn't do before. So, when this whole 'cancer' crap happened, THAT part of me--the part that knew I wouldn't be able to exercise for a while--got hit the hardest. It seriously made me want to cry. THAT part of me, is a huge part of who I am--it makes me happy, keeps me sane, and as a bonus, keeps me in shape and healthy (except for cancer--go figure).

I haven't been able to really work out since November. I had a biopsy gone bad, then a few weeks later another biopsy, then, to be honest, I just gave up on myself. I was irritated with cancer and felt that I didn't want to invest any more of my time in our gym if I was just going to have to give it all up after the masectomy. In retrospect, i was being a huge wuss. I'm of the "Go all in, or don't bother" camp. I love HIIT. I love pushups and pullups and heavy weights and cardio 'til I puke. I love eating clean and baking cookies and testing myself to see if I can make it without eating any. So...when I stopped working out and then found out that I was UNABLE to, my mind did something it hasn't done in years: It said, "F#@K IT." From November until today, I seriously used that term in my head. Repeatedly. (And I hate that word!!!)

This past Saturday, I got a Facebook DM from the CEO of Beachbody, Carl Daikeler. He told me, "Keep living smart: What you eat (and DON'T eat) is as important as anything. Don't let this define you in any way. I know it's a very big deal, but I think some people let it define them. They become "survivor" - almost like they refuse to move on from the trauma... You have more going for you than that, and while this is part of your story, you are showing everyone that it is going to be a minor part... WELL DONE!!!!"  I needed to hear that. Then earlier today, I paid a housecall to one of my friends. She asked me this past weekend if I'd measure her body fat with my calipers. I said okay...but in my mind, I felt horrible. I mean, i'm pretty close to what I would consider my elite weight, but i am NOT in my 'elite' shape (I'm 'skinny fat' right now). Not by any means. I've lost so much muscle during this process, that I look at my arms and want to cry. ANYWAYS, I sucked it up, went over there this morning, and calipered. And...something happened. That spark that I love came back. My bad word mentality popped up and I heard it, then I said, "F#@K YOU"  to my brain.

I came home, and I answered some emails, and I looked at my 'challenge' page--to the women that come to me for advice on their fitness and health, and my brain didn't say a damn thing. So I went into my home gym. I looked at my yoga mat. I found my weight balls, my bands, my ankle weights. I looked at all my weights on the rack. And my brain started to speak up, and I said, "Shut the hell up." And then my 25lbs weights looked at me and said, "You can't even do lawnmowers any more." I told THEM to "Shut the hell up," too.

And I put on my shoes, and I put a red band around my ankles, and i picked up my 3lb weights and introduced myself to them. Then I popped in my earbuds and started doing side squats...with my wee, 3lb weights. And even though they're light, it felt good. Then my mind started in with, "You're a wuss. Grab the 15s." And I'm totally proud of myself (or maybe i'm just afraid of the wrath of Chris) but I said, "Screw you. The 3's and I are building a relationship." So I squatted. And I squatted Then I squatted some more. And my freaking legs were on fire. And it was awesome.

Then I decided to try abs. That's tricky...a lot of your upper abs are directly associated with the bottom of your rib cage, which, when you have hard-as-a-rock tissue expanders, makes that area of your body really, really sore. But sometimes, sore just needs to be stretched. Gently. So, I got on my yoga mat and sat in an A-frame position. And I proceeded to do mason twists and A-frames for an entire song. Then a little bit longer. And it was awesome.

When I was doing lunge presses (get in a really deep lunge--one foot out in front, one way behind you--get up on your toes, and start dipping), I started to get all choked up and teary-eyed. I was just SO HAPPY to be able to treat my body like that again. And I had a thought:

I get to start from square 1. I can build up and be even BETTER than I was before.
A new challenge.

And you guys KNOW I love me a challenge.

So get ready, world. I can do whatever the hell I want. And my mind can't stop me. I'm back. (Just with more body fat and extremely hard boobies.)

Jan 25, 2013

Rotting grapefruit and tshirts (FBtF)

Is it wrong that I don't want pink ribbons? Is it wrong that I don't want to whine and bitch and moan about this? Is it wrong that i'm more pissed off and irritated than sad and forlorn? I think a lot about this...particularly, when lying in bed at night.

I've come to the random conclusion that I don't want pink ribbons because I don't identify with that. I, personally, tie the 'pink ribbon' image to a woman who has had to battle cancer--hard. One who has gone through chemo and lost all her hair and all her strength. Not me--who has gotten her boobs cut off and was delivered the amazing news that "That's it! All the cancer's gone!" Yes, i realize that cancer is cancer. Breast cancer is breast cancer. I would've had to have gone through chemo and/or radiation if I would have waited just 'that much' longer.

I also don't want people to see me as that. I don't want people to feel sorry for me, take pity on me... But then I realize i could use that pink ribbon. Use it as a voice to let others know that you CAN get through it, you CAN do this. It's so confusing. I mean, really, it's a damn ribbon. I've had melanoma more times than breast cancer, but I don't feel the need to even THINK about a black ribbon. Breast cancer is just so highly marketed.

There's a part of me that feels like I should be more emotional about this whole thing. I mean, I lost my boobs--GASP! But, to tell you the truth, I really don't give a flying monkey about it. Like I said before: THEY'RE JUST BOOBS. My natural boobs were there for a reason--to feed the babies. Which they did. Then, their whole purpose was, apparently, to remind me that African tribal women share the same genetics as I do. Because I saw pictures of African tribal womens' boobs in a National Geographic once. To me, mine looked like that. But just really white. Go figure.

My boobs were a part of me, but after nursing, they were just there to add a womanly curve. To fill out a bra. A pillow for my kids to lean back on when watching tv. And that's why i'm getting new ones. Not because I NEED them to feel whole, but because I want them. I love having a curvy shape. It doesn't define me, but I love the way it looks. I want my kids to lean back on me and feel comforted--not get hit in the head with a sternum and ribs. And...let's get real...I need to balance out these hips! 

I'll admit--i'm excited about the foobs. I'm not a scantily-clad dresser, or a provacative dresser by any means. I don't need to flaunt 'em to feel sexy or pretty. My daily wardrobe consists of t-shirts, jeans, and Converse; in the summer--tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops. But, i'm excited to have that curve back. Right now, the tissue expanders are so uneven and lumpy, that i have to wear loose, flowing clothes to try to cover it up--lest it look like I have a rotting grapefruit under my shirt. Everything is comfy...but i want to wear my favorite tshirts: 'Riverbottom Nightmare Band', 'Do What Matters', and 'Flogging Molly'. All of which are more fitted. I want to be able to pull on my jeans, and slap on a favorite tee. Is it odd that this is what's important to me? It's just weird to NOT feel like myself. To wear clothes that I normally wouldn't, but HAVE to. I am low maintenance. This whole process makes me feel high maintenance, and it's annoying.

I do believe i've rambled on long enough!

Jan 22, 2013

New Orleans----Tissue Expander style (FBtF)

This weekend, I was able to get out of the house. And by 'get out of the house', i'm not talking a trip to the grocery store--i'm talking a TRIP. We went to New Orleans.

The Munch had a gymnastics meet on Sunday in NO, so we left on Saturday morning. Word to the wise: I do NOT recommend a 6-hour drive when you're only 3 weeks out from getting your boobies lopped off and replaced with tissue expanders. Did you write that down? Okay, i'll wait. I assume you're writing. Okay, moving on...

That ride was awful. It started out okay--mainly because i was so excited to be going somewhere. I felt like a dog in a pickup: If Chris would have rolled down the window, I most likely would have hung my head out and let me tongue loll about in pure bliss. However, about 2 hours into the ride (read: Still in Texas), I had had enough. I was uncomfortable as all get-out, even though Chris and I were listening to Air Supply and acting out the songs for the girls. They kept ignoring us. I don't know why.

Also note: That 18-mile-long bridge in Louisianna?? Yeah, they need to refurbish that thing. It is really bumpy. And, although the tissue expanders don't move, I CAN feel the saline inside swishing around--it made for an odd sensation. For 18 miles.

We finally got to the hotel, and I immediately lied down with my heating pad. After a bit, we went and got something to eat, and found out where the convention center was for Clairey's meet. (It was really close to the hotel--thank God!) That night, we just played it safe and watched tv in our room. It really kind of sucks being in such a fun city and not being able to do anything.

Sunday, we got up and went to Clairey's meet. She did a great job! We were worried about the seating, and how I was going to sit comfortably for 4 hours, but the chairs weren't bad, and as long as I leaned back into the chair, I was alright. Afterwards, I was feeling alright, so we took a walk down towards the Quarter and had dinner at the Gordon Biersch brewery. The walk back was slightly painful, but it just felt so nice to be out and moving! Again, back to the hotel, showers, and tv. :) I know...we're wild and crazy.

Monday morning came quickly, and thank goodness, the ride home went by quickly, as well.

I am now 3.5 weeks out from the surgery. I have to say that the worst part--even worse than the boob removal--is the tissue expanders. I can see how, if I wouldn't have wanted a rebuild, that i'd already be back to normal. One of my breast-cancer friends' plastic surgeons said, "The difference between a matectomy, and a mastectomy with tissue expanders is narcotics." With the tissue expanders, it's just constant pain and uncomfortableness. I'll admit that there have been days where i've thought, "Ugh. I should've just NOT gotten a rebuild and just wore fake boobs for the rest of my life." But i know, ultimately, i wouldn't have been happy with that decision. Dr. Boobenstein says 3 more fills...I go for another tomorrow, which will knock that number down to 2. The day of the fill, and the day after, is pretty uncomfortable. But can I do it? YES, I can!

From boobs to foobs...almost there...

Jan 15, 2013

Healing, healing, healing... (FBtF)

And it's boring, boring, boring. I want to drive, and I want to exercise. Two things that i've always taken for granted. BUT...i'm being a good girl and not doing either. I'm hoping I can drive by next week, and i'm pretty sure Chris is at the point where he hopes I can, too. :) I'm going to try to talk him into letting me take a spin around the neighborhood later this week. I know...crazy.

For the most part, 90% of the pain is gone. I have one odd spot on my left foob--actually more in towards my armpit--that, if I use that arm JUST RIGHT, sends a horrible, sharp, burning sensation from that area on my body to my left foob. Actually...they're not even 'foobs' yet--just tissue expanders. So I have to be really careful. I can't exactly use my arms to lift my body yet--they're weak, and  because the tissue expanders are UNDER my pecs, it's just weird. If I use my pecs, they press down on the expanders and the sensation is just...odd. It doesn't really hurt, but it sure as heck isn't comfortable. And, since i've had my drains removed (still so glorious!), my chest lumps are holding fluid. So now, it looks like I have water weinies at my 'under boob' area. Always something. But, i've been assured that it's completely normal and my body will reabsorb the fluid. I hope so, lest I 'slosh' when I walk.

I still have no strength with certain movements--again, like opening child-proof medicine bottles or changing a roll of toilet paper. I do, however, have really good mobility! I can almost hold my arms over my head, and nearly hold them all the way out to the sides. My muscles are still learning. So strange, because i've always been flexible in every way.

I go in for my second 'fill' on Thursday afternoon. It doesn't hurt, but what IS weird is when Dr. Boobenstein wipes the area on my chest with rubbing alcohol. My skin is totally numb, but my MUSCLE can feel that there's something there--so again, totally odd sensation. It's so strange that it almost hurts--does that make sense? Another weird thing(s)--At the beginning of this week, my skin hurt. Mostly under my arms and on my upper chest. I found out that it's because my nerves are refiring, and finding out that i'm burned from the inside out. When they removed all my breast tissue, they cauterized as they went--so inside, i'm burned. As the nerves refire, you start to feel it. It's like a  bad sunburn. The nurse also said that this is why, when I drink something cold, I can REALLY feel it across my chest--because i'm burned on the inside, cold drinks feel really chilly as they're going down. How weird is that?? Chris and I have also noticed some marks on my skin where the cauterization came through to the outside--they're little burn marks, although I had one blister under my arm. Super strange.

The tissue expanders, in case you were wondering, are extremely uncomfortable. They feel like rocks--very hard, with super-tight skin/muscle over the tops of them. They're lumpy and uneven, and one is bigger than the other, but when I'm wearing clothes (well, pajamas), it looks like I have boobies. Just really hard, uncomfortable boobs. I can only sleep on my back. I tried to sleep on my side, and the expanders are so non-pliable, that they push into my sternum and my ribcage, and it hurts. So, on my back it is. I'm developing a weird callic (sp?) in my hair--like the kinds that babies get from sleeping on their backs all the time. It's sexy. Chris makes me a 'pillow nest' every night, then helps me crawl into it. It's one of those U-shaped full body pillows, with an additional 3 pillows stacked on the back where my head/back goes then another pillow under each arm. It looks comfy, but when you've been sleeping like that for nearly 3 weeks, not so much. I desperately want to sleep on my belly, but that's MONTHS away...for sure, not until i get the foobs put in, and not until I heal completely from THAT surgery.

This has been, and continues to be such a strange journey. But i'm good to go. As soon as I can get out of this house a bit, I know i'll feel much better and time will fly by. From here on out, it's one doctor appt per week until the tissue expanders are the right size. Then another surgery to place my permanent foobs. Then I heal from that...