Kids Notes

I have had so little time to write. It sucks. I need to write. I am much happier when I have been writing.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been happy – I’ve been surprisingly free of baby blues and depression! But how long can I maintain good mental health without participating in something I know keeps me sane?

Anyhoo…here we go with a mad-dash post typed with one hand.

Notes on baby Dez

Dez is a very good baby thus far. Although he absolutely hates getting his diaper changed and wails every time. I think we owe our neighbors some wine for putting up with it. So far I’m not too sleep deprived, but I bet that will change when he wakes up to the world more. And when I go back to work (sob).

David gave Dez his first bottle last week. He took it just fine and then went back to nursing with no problems. Yay for Comotomo bottles!

I got my first smile out of the little guy yesterday when I stuck my tongue out at him. It was awesome! After 5 weeks of nothing but naps and nursing and diapers…finally some interaction!

I’ve been struggling with oversupply again. My body continues to think I should be feeding triplets. This means Dez is gaining weight like crazy and going through zillions of diapers. The cool part of oversupply is that I can pump 3.5 oz. in 5 minutes – on one side. There are lots of cons, though – green poop, gas, choking during letdown, more frequent nursing, so many diapers!!! I am managing better than last time since I know what I’m doing but it’s still frustrating. At least Dez is dealing with it much better than Jack did – maybe because it’s not quite as bad as last time.

At 9 days old, Desmond rolled from his tummy to his back…several times. And he has repeated that performance pretty much daily. He can also go from his back to his side…it’s only a matter of time before he can roll both ways. I fear the toddler years, which will likely come sooner than I would like!

It took a good 3 weeks for his umbilical stump to come off and the area still hasn’t healed so it will need to be treated with silver nitrite. The same thing happened with Jack. I don’t know what’s up with my kids’ belly buttons!

I’m slowly searching for a daycare provider to send Dez to when I return to work in December. It’s a stressful task, to say the least. I’m taking it slow so that I don’t go into a panic and decide to quit my job so that I don’t have to leave my precious baby with a stranger. I thought it’d be easier the second time around but nope! I hope we find a good one right off the bat so that we don’t have to go through everything we went through with finding good care for Jack.

Notes on Jack

Jack is a great big brother. He fetches all kinds of things for me and the baby and always tries to distract the baby during those torturous diaper changes. He’s been good at keeping himself busy when I can’t put the baby down. I’m so thankful we still have our reading and snuggle time together before he goes to sleep so that we can still connect.

He’s generally been in better health and made it to school most days this year. Just a bit over 5 months of treatment left!

We met with his new teacher and found out that he is behind where he should be for a third grader. The things the teacher has noticed are in line with what we’ve seen at home and are common learning problem areas for kids who’ve undergone chemotherapy. We asked his teacher to document anything she sees and we’re going to (again) seek an IEP evaluation – and this time we won’t back down. We’ll be in a better position to argue for the testing now that Jack has been going to school regularly and his teacher is actually noticing his difficulties.

He’s been struggling with his friendships at school. He is so upset when his best friend doesn’t want to play with him and says other kids don’t understand the imagination games he likes to play. I wish I knew how to help him. I had similar issues as a kid but I don’t remember being quite so upset by it. Jack is just so sensitive.

I’ve been very surprised that lately he’s talking more about cancer, too. He found a game in the app store that is all about destroying cancer cells and he loves it! He’s also been drawing blood cells and he found a plush cancer cell on amazon. It’s a little unnerving that he is suddenly so focused on it, but I also think it’s good that he is talking about it. Maybe therapy has helped?

 

Alright, I’d better post this before it self-destructs. More soon, I hope.

Diapering in a Drought

California is in a severe drought. Like many others in the Bay Area (and just about anyone who has grown up in California and lived through many other droughts), our household has long been practicing water-conservation. That means there is not much we can do to cut back further – our lawn is already deader than dead and we dread laundry and dishes so much that every load is completely full anyway.

Having a baby does throw a bit of a wrench in our water conservation efforts, though. There is more laundry to do and being at home during maternity leave means more dishes, as well. When we found out we were expecting, we had thought we would use cloth diapers – one of the few things I saved from Jack’s infancy. But then the drought got worse – it’s now considered to be one of the most severe droughts on record for California. There is talk of fining households that don’t cut their water usage. Even worse, there are worries over drinking water shortages.

Considering this, we started thinking cloth diapering may not be the way to go after all.

There is a lot of debate about the amount of water required to wash cloth diapers versus the resources needed to manufacture disposable diapers and then dispose of them, and which type of diaper has the bigger environmental impact. Most studies seem to come to a similar conclusion – there is no clear answer as to which is better for the environment because availability of resources (water vs. landfill space) differs by geographic area. Landfill space is always an issue, sure, but the scarcity of water can reach emergency levels much more quickly – which is now what we’re looking at in California.

With these things in mind, I started wondering about alternatives to both cloth and disposable diapering. Aside from elimination communication (which I have neither the time nor the stomach to try), other options are gDiapers (with flushable inserts) and cloth diapering services. Unfortunately, gDiapers present many of the same problems as disposables, with the added concern over the possible clogging up of the plumbing in addition to the extra flushing required. Further, in our county they cannot be composted by our waste management company. Diaper services, on the other hand, use only prefold diapers (the kind that require folding and pinning/snappi-ing and a cover) – which I loathe due to the bulk and the lack of moisture-wicking. When I used prefolds with Jack, we easily went through twice as many diapers each day as we would have with other types of cloth and/or disposables. Using twice as much cuts into the benefits of using a service that washes them in bulk, no?

This diapering thing seems so much more complicated that it used to be.

I finally stumbled upon diaper composting services. Some of the same diaper services that offer drop-off/pick-up and washing of prefold cloth diapers also offer a disposable option – you can buy eco-friendly disposable diapers from the company, which will drop them off weekly and pick up the dirty ones to compost at their facility. The service eliminates the extra water usage issue AND saves us from sending more garbage to the landfill (and paying for a bigger garbage can)! Two such services here in the Bay Area are Earth Baby and Tiny Tots.

Right now we’re trying out Earth Baby (they offer a 1-month free trial). So far it’s working out fairly well, although I have to mention that Desmond is a super soaker and has leaked out of the diapers at night lately (in reading reviews, it’s an issue with some babies using the Naty brand of diapers, which are the only brand Earth Baby offers), so we’ve taken to using Huggies for nighttime diapering. The Huggies have to go into our garbage can, of course, but it’s only around 10 diapers a week so…we’ll take it; I can’t be washing sheets every day!

The diaper composting service is not a big money-saver, unfortunately. The diapers and wipes can only be purchased through the service and are more expensive (the service has to make a profit somehow). We are avoiding the cost of additional water usage and a larger garbage can, though. And, well, I am not sad that I’m avoiding the laundry involved with cloth diapers, either…cloth is soft and cute and great for sensitive baby skin, but extra laundry still sucks!

I’m no expert but so far, this seems like one of the most environmentally-friendly diaper options for Californians right now.

What do you think? Does the environmental impact influence your household’s diapering decisions? Do you have drought conditions to take into account in your area?

Desmond’s Birth Story

At 9:30pm on the evening of August 31 (two days after my due date), I started having regular contractions. They weren’t bothering me much but I started timing them just to get an idea of how far apart they were – since this was my second baby, my doctor had advised me to go in if they reached 7 minutes apart so that we could make sure I got two doses of antibiotics for Group B Strep prior to birth. The entire week prior to this, I had several nights where I woke up to contractions that got gradually closer together before petering out at about 8 minutes apart, so I had no real reason to believe these would be different. However, they were different – these contractions steadily got closer together over a couple of hours. I hung out on the exercise ball to help them along and around midnight they were moving right along at 6 minutes apart. I made sure they were consistent for a good hour before I called Labor & Delivery. I wasn’t sure I was in labor – the contractions didn’t seem bad enough to be real labor – but you never know, right?

David and I packed up our stuff and headed to Kaiser so that I could get checked out.

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I was put into an observation room and hooked up to some monitors at about 1:30am (coincidentally, it was Labor Day). After a bit over an hour, a midwife came in to check on my dilation. I was only at 1.5cm (same as I had been on the previous Friday) and she didn’t think my labor had really started, but she felt fairly sure it was close to starting. Not only that, but the baby’s heart rate had decelerated a number of times so she wanted to keep me there for more monitoring. So we sat tight and she came and checked back in around 3am. My contractions were 4-5 minutes apart at that point, so we decided I should go ahead and get admitted.

The baby’s heart rate was fine by 7am and the contractions continued at the same rate. At 12pm, we decided to start on pitocin since I still wasn’t in active labor; we figured that my body just needed a little nudge in the right direction. I had a lot of reservations about pitocin because my labor with Jack had been long and hard, but the midwife assured me that we would go slow with the pitocin and we could turn it down or off if needed.

My contractions certainly intensified on the pitocin. I spent time going between the exercise ball and walking laps with David around the maternity ward.

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By 5pm, I had still only progressed to 3.5cm, although the baby’s head had moved lower into my pelvis. I kept doing my thing and trying to move a lot with contractions. The pitocin was slowly turned up every so often and every 4 hours I also received a dose of Penicillin for the Group B Strep (sidenote: the antibiotics had me in more pain where it was going into the IV than my contractions – OUCH!!!).

Around 7pm I put on my headphones and cranked some music (Lana del Rey!) to help me through the steadily intensifying contractions. I started needing David’s help to get through them but I still felt like the labor was manageable without any medication. David made a comment about how nice all of the nurses and midwives were…

Then there was a shift change at about 9pm…

A midwife named Doris came into the room and outlined her plan for our birth. She immediately started saying that my contractions weren’t productive, that she was concerned about the decels in the baby’s heart rate (which hadn’t occurred for hours by that point), and telling us that I was going to get too tired to birth the baby if things didn’t happen more quickly. There was talk of epidurals (was I SURE I didn’t want one??) and a c-section if I got too tired to push. The more she talked, the more agitated I got, especially after she said something about how if we followed her plan she GUARANTEED the baby would be born by morning.

Doris was a full on medwife. UGH.

After making her initial rounds, she sent our nurse in and instead of increasing the pitocin just a bit as we had been doing, she CRANKED it according to Doris’ instructions. Within 30 minutes I was doubling over with every contraction and sobbing hysterically from the pain. The contractions were maybe coming a minute apart and I had no time to recover between them. I was a shaking, crying mess, and I held onto David for dear life. I felt like I wanted to die.

Doris came back in the room and checked me, said that I still wasn’t at 4cm, asked if I wanted anything for the pain (which I rated at 8-9), and then sent the nurse back in to turn the pitocin up AGAIN. It had been about an hour since it had been cranked up and I was not coping well. Thankfully David stepped in and had the nurse turn the pitocin down a bunch to see if we could slow things down and give me a break. It took a bit of time but the contractions slowed just enough for my sobs to quiet and I was able to get a few breaths in.

Doris came back in at some point and I started crying again and silently wishing harm on her person. As soon as she left, I decided two things – I would go ahead and get an epidural, and I didn’t want Doris anywhere near me for the rest of my labor. David called for the epidural and I begged the nurse to keep Doris away from me and instead send in a doctor.

The epidural was placed right around 12am, in between contractions. It was pretty quick and painless and the numbing started immediately. I still had incredible pain in my tailbone (which I am 99.9% sure I broke when giving birth to Jack), and the anesthesiologist said that the epidural wouldn’t touch that, unfortunately – I just had to get through it. :(

The doctor came in to check my progress then. Right as she was saying, “This is probably going to break your bag of waters,” there was a splash. The staff scrambled to change the padding underneath me and I said that I felt like I was going to poop. The doctor looked down, said it was the baby’s head I was actually feeling, and announced to the team that the baby was coming! The staff kicked it into high gear, but the baby wouldn’t wait – his head slid right out, then his shoulders slowed him just enough for the doctor to get in position before he SHOT OUT like a football. I didn’t even get a single push in!

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Desmond Eric

Desmond Eric was born to a room full of chuckling people at 9/2 at 12:43am. He didn’t cry – instead, he looked around and squeaked a bit every now and then. He was 7 lbs, 1 oz, and measured 19″ with a tuft of blonde hair.

We are totally in love.

He’s Here

On September 2, 2014, at 12:43am, we welcomed our new baby Desmond to the world. He measured 19″ and 7 lbs. 1oz. He was born without a single push on my part!

We are madly in love. Jack met him on his first day of life and said, “This is one of the happiest times of my life!”

Our dog Lambert is channeling Lassie and thinks he should come to Dez’s rescue at the the littlest cry. Lambert even leads David to me when Desmond needs to nurse. We keep trying to tell the dog that we have it covered but he clearly doesn’t think we’re very good at this baby thing.

I’m hoping to get the birth story up soon! Stay tuned!

CA Prop 46 – A Flawed Bill With Negative Impacts On Healthcare

Disclosure: I attended a luncheon hosted by No On 46 in order to learn more about this bill. I was not provided any compensation for this post, and all opinions expressed are my own based on my personal healthcare experiences.

Nearly a month ago, I attended BlogHer ’14 in San Jose. Typically I come home from BlogHer energized and inspired to write, write, write. And I did have some of that, but mostly my mind has been focused on the impending birth of my baby (ANY DAY NOW!).

With that said, I attended a number of healthcare-focused panels during BlogHer. After working* in a hospital in a rural area for several years and then spending an extensive amount of time in hospitals with my son while he’s been fighting Leukemia, I’ve learned a few things about the healthcare system. Still, I didn’t realize how relevant this bill was to me until I learned more about it at BlogHer.

If you’re a California voter, I hope you will take the time to read this post and learn more about this bill (the full text of which can be found here), as it will have impacts on everyone in the state who utilizes the healthcare system. And then, of course, cast your vote in November!

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The three main components of California Proposition 46 are:

  • It raises the cap on the “pain and suffering” portion of medical liability rewards from $250,000 to $1.1 million.
  • It requires both random drug and alcohol testing, as well as routine testing of physicians who are involved in any medical procedure that has an associated “adverse event.”
  • It requires practitioners and prescription drug providers to consult a database prior to prescribing controlled substances to patients.

The rationale behind this bill is that it will deter or prevent prescription medication abuse by patients who “doctor shop” in order to get controlled substances prescribed to them, and hold medical care providers accountable for any fallout events that could result from medication and drug abuse (by both physicians and patients). This is supposed to increase patient and public safety by decreasing the number of adverse events associated with healthcare procedures, and thereby decrease the number of lawsuits. The bill was created in response to an incident in which two children were killed by a driver under the influence of alcohol and prescription painkillers. (Please take the time to read that article – it will provide a lot of context for the motivation behind the bill. After reading it, I would ask that you contemplate whether this bill would actually have prevented the death of those children.)

On the surface, the bill sounds like it addresses a number of issues and would save lives. But, as most of us voters know, there are many bills that make it onto the ballot every year that aim to do something good, but fail to deliver due to flaws in practical application. Prop 46 is one of these flawed bills.

I’ll take this point by point and offer my perspective, as both an individual who has worked in the healthcare system and someone who uses that system extensively, on why this bill is significantly flawed and would actually end up doing more harm than good here in California.

1. It raises the cap on the “pain and suffering” portion of medical malpractice rewards from $250,000 to $1million.

If the cap on what can be awarded to those who file a lawsuit against medical practitioners and hospitals is raised, that additional award money has to come from somewhere. Medical malpractice suits WILL happen, and to accommodate the increased amount of funds that will be awarded, providers and hospitals will need to increase their liability insurance coverage. This will cost them more, and they will pass the cost onto patients by increasing the price tag on procedures or insurance premiums.

What I know from processing contracts and facilitating physician recruitment in a rural California hospital is this: many physicians, particularly specialists, end up closing their private practices due to the high overhead of liability insurance. They move to practicing medicine in HMOs or they leave the state. Hospital systems can negotiate better insurance rates for liability insurance due to the bulk amount they require – independent physicians do not have that bargaining power and end up paying more for liability insurance (even if they don’t end up in lawsuits). This is why seeing independent specialists and doctors in private practice costs patients more.

This hits low-cost clinics – like Planned Parenthood – particularly hard. Many clinics (primarily used by low-income individuals, teens, those without insurance, and minorities) are already struggling to keep their doors open and retain physicians to provide services with little or no pay, and offer quality care to patients.

Note: current law specifies unlimited awards for a patient’s medical costs, punitive damages against the practitioners, and lost wages/earning potential associated with a medical liability case. The current cap of $250,000 only applies to pain and suffering awards.

2. It requires both random and routine drug and alcohol testing of physicians who are involved in any medical procedure that has an associated “adverse event.”

I’m not against drug testing of medical practitioners – patient safety is absolutely paramount and I certainly don’t want someone under the influence in charge of my health! However, more drug testing equals higher costs – the bill as written requires hospitals to bill physicians for these costs. The costs are there whether the practitioners are testing positive or negative for substances, and again increases the cost to physicians of practicing medicine in California.

Aside from the cost factor, the bill would require that practitioners who are involved in a case that resulted in an adverse event (even if that event turned out to be accidental and not related to physician negligence) be suspended from practicing medicine until positive results are investigated [see Section 2350.30(b)].

So, for example: a patient claims to have suffered extra injury from a surgery but it’s not reported until after the procedure (days or weeks or even years after – a statute of limitations on the discovery of adverse events does not appear to be written into the bill). The medical professionals involved in the surgery are sent for drug testing – after the fact (because time travel hasn’t been invented yet). Perhaps they test positive for Vicodin (an opioid) in their system due to a dental procedure they had that day (the day the drug testing is required, which is who knows how long AFTER the surgery on the patient) and said Vicodin wasn’t prescribed by a third party or it was leftover from a prior procedure. (Or maybe the physician smoked marijuana to relax after a particularly intense day of surgeries and they don’t have a prescription!) Their license is suspended until the courts investigate the practitioner and obtain proof that they were not under the influence during the surgery.

How in the world is anyone to know if the physician was under the influence while practicing medicine if the drug testing occurs after the fact? No one can know that, so the (possibly unintended) result of requiring drug testing is that medical practitioners involved in adverse events are presumed to have been under the influence and punished for being under the influence (due to the temporary license suspension) even if it’s impossible to prove that drugs were not involved in the event.

[Note: Prop 46 defines "drugs" as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP).]

3. It requires practitioners and prescription drug providers to consult a government-run database prior to prescribing controlled substances to patients.

This portion of the bill is intended to thwart drug-seekers who abuse medications such as prescription painkillers by visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions. Any time a medication from a list of controlled substances is prescribed by a physician or the prescription is filled at a pharmacy, the medical professional must first check the CURES database to see if that medication or something similar has been given to that patient before and how often and by whom.

Patient privacy comes into play here because any physician or pharmacist who logs into the database can see your medical history – not just your primary care doctor. Also, law enforcement has access to the database, regardless of the fact that they do not have pharmaceutical training.

In addition, the database is a government-owned and run program. The technology is not up-to-date; it’s slow and unreliable and cannot currently withstand the additional load to servers that would occur if every physician and pharmacist in the state was required to log in every time a prescription was being written or filled. (In September of 2013, Senate Bill 809 was introduced and passed into law, which required upgrades to the CURES database; however, that process was expected to take two years. If Prop 46 passes this fall, it goes into effect immediately – about a year before the upgrades to the database are due to be completed.)

When a physician or pharmacist cannot log into CURES due to a slow server or a crashing system, patients (including those who are NOT drug seekers) will be denied prescription pain relievers. Once again, this issue would hit rural areas the hardest because technology is notoriously behind the times. Even if rural hospitals and clinics have up-to-date physical hardware, internet speeds are rarely optimal.

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One last thing that I feel is important to point out as a strong indicator that Californians should vote no on Prop 46 is the list of supporters (1 senator and 3 organizations) vs. opponents (I’m not actually going to count that gigantic list but it includes officials, doctors and medical groups, medical societies and business groups, labor unions, hospitals and health centers, insurance companies, and other groups such as the ACLU and the Civil Justice Association of California).

* My work in a rural northern California hospital included legal contract tracking and processing and physician recruitment support. I worked with the Business Development, Finance, Risk Management, and Legal departments during my tenure. The hospital’s patient population overwhelmingly consisted of low income people with Medicare coverage and due to the rising costs of healthcare combined with low reimbursement rates from insurance companies, the hospital struggled to stay in operation. Further, it was extremely difficult to recruit quality, experienced physicians to the area due to low compensation compared to the high cost of practicing medicine.

A Wish Come True in Time and Space

After waiting nearly two years, Jack’s wish finally came true.

Initially he’d told Make-a-Wish he wanted to meet Lady Gaga. He made a dance video to the tune of Monster (which was the first time I’d ever seen him dance!) to send to her and he waited patiently for his turn. But he kept slipping further down the list due to kids in more urgent health situations and then Lady Gaga got injured on the road and canceled all her shows in order to get surgery.

In the mean time, Jack’s interests evolved and he became obsessed with Dr. Who. He will debate with you about the scariest aliens in the series and has strong opinions about which doctor is the best (the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith, is #1! Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is #2 and David Tennant comes in at #3). Jack has watched Dr. Who almost every day for the past two years or so. He rarely watches anything else.

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Doesn’t he look like a mini Matt Smith??

Last year we decided to give his room a little makeover since we wanted to build him a loft bed anyway. We did our best to turn his room into our (weak) interpretation of the TARDIS. We had limited money, but Jack was happy with the results. He’s got a good imagination, after all, and was able to fill in the blanks.

Not soon after, we talked about his wish and he decided he wanted to change it. He wasn’t very interested in Lady Gaga anymore. Instead, he wanted to meet the aliens from Dr. Who. Unfortunately, Make-a-Wish has a rule that the kids can’t switch from one celebrity wish to another (due to the long wait lists), so Jack settled on a more extensive room makeover that would add a console to his room and really make it into a TARDIS.

He submitted his new wish back in November and then we waited. During the wait, Jack made a lot of comments about how he wished he really had a TARDIS so that he could bypass the waiting altogether. Since the project was so unique, it took some time to find the right designer to work on it. Eventually they found Julie Giampaoli from Showcase Your Place, an interior designer in the area who was up for the challenge despite not knowing about Dr. Who!

She knows now!

Julie and Make-a-Wish pooled together some awesome resources and on July 22nd, the team arrived to get to work. I’ll admit it – I was more than a little nervous when they started drilling into my ceiling. But this was Jack’s wish and I just had to trust the process.

We were not disappointed. This video of the room reveal shows Jack’s stunned reaction pretty well:

 

And here are more extensive pictures of the process:

Jack LOVES his bedroom. He says it’s “too awesome!”

We are all so very thankful to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, their volunteers, and supporters for helping bring Jack’s wish to fruition and put some magic back into his life. We will treasure this experience for the rest of our lives!

What A Birthday Boy Wants

Note: This is not a sponsored post; however, it does contain affiliate links just for funsies.

Summer birthdays are tough – as I’m sure many of you know. So many of Jack’s friends are out of town on vacation or at summer camp, so we decided to schedule his party for a week after his actual birthday. He was not happy about having so little planned for THE DAY but we tried my best to make it a good day. He got cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, had a playdate with one friend who was in town and another with his cousin Isha, and we made a trip to Toys R Us (where he picked out a large rubber tarantula and some test tube aliens). It seemed to be a pretty good day to me, but he felt it was lacking – I’m hoping it was just due to pulse of steroids he still had in his system from the prior week.

This Saturday afternoon his birthday party will take place and we have a lot of people coming (way more than I expected)! This year Jack expressed his desire to celebrate his birthday at Rockin’ Jump, a place filled with trampolines and a foam pit. Ordinarily I wouldn’t spend this kind of money on a birthday party, but since my due date is quickly approaching, I decided it would be best to have the party outside of our house. Less cleaning, you know! So Jack gets his wish and will be joined by 14 other kids all jumping to their heart’s content for two hours. And then we will send them all home filled with cake…

One of the ‘perks’ of living with cancer (doesn’t that sound wrong?!) is that Jack qualifies for a free specialty cake through a program called Icing Smiles. Icing Smiles is a collective of bakers who volunteer to provide free specialty birthday cakes for kids facing critical illnesses. Last year he got a dream cake that was shaped like an Ent from Lord of the Rings. It was AMAZING:

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This year he won’t get the over-the-top “dream cake” but he will still get something special. A baker located in Fremont (Anything Cakes) is constructing a custom cake that will be shark- or Dr. Who-themed. Jack will be totally happy with either so we are leaving it up to the baker’s discretion. I can’t wait to see what is created! A cake seems like a simple thing to a lot of people but birthdays have a lot more meaning for us these days and it’s awesome that the day can be made extra-special with things like this.

So…what else does an 8-year-old boy like Jack want for his birthday? His interests are definitely unique – he doesn’t like the usual stuff like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Transformers, or Minecraft (in fact, he loathes them). Instead he wants things like this:

A “carnivorous rock” plush that he designed and GypsyGarden Etsy shop brought to fruition:rockdrawing

rock plush

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A creepy cymbal-playing monkey:

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Sticky slugs:

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Toys that “eat” things/people, like Clayface:

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And, just to throw us off, the random cute/normalish thing – a plush koala:

 

He’s also happy to get books and Legos, of course. He can never have too many of those!

I’m hoping Jack’s birthday party this weekend goes well and he has nothing but fun! The steroids will be mostly out of his system so he should be in a better mood overall.

And by this time next year…he should be DONE with chemotherapy altogether and be able to have a cancer-free birthday. WOOT! I know that’s what he REALLY wants!

Jack is Eight!

I can hardly believe it, but my big boy is eight years old. And what a difference a year makes!

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Jack, age 7 (July ’13)

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Jack Age 8 (July ’14)

He is shedding his baby face a bit more every year. He is 3″ taller and 3lbs. heavier than he was a year ago, putting him at 4’1″ and 51 lbs. now. He is only 13″ shorter than me! He is so much stronger than he looks or knows – he throws his arms around me and nearly bowls me over every time.

He is reading chapter books on his own. His favorite books are the Bunnicula series of books, but he likes anything with talking animals and magic.

He is still a child, but he has moments where he shows so much wisdom. He was having a rather difficult time on his birthday because he was disappointed in one of his gifts (the one that was the largest but turned out to be something he was not interested in). He told me, “I know I’m overreacting. I know it’s just one present and shouldn’t be the only thing I focus on.”

He still loves art (drawing in particular – he doesn’t have the patience for coloring and he doesn’t like the lack of control with painting) and Dr. Who is his favorite thing in the world. He does take breaks from watching repeats of Dr. Who by checking out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (shhh, don’t tell anyone – it’s a guilty pleasure for him), although he complains when he feels something in the show is inappropriate for kids.

Jack is overflowing with empathy. When I’m sick or tired, he brings me stuffed animals to snuggle with in bed and draws pictures for me. He tries to be helpful by feeding the dog and cats (I forget to reward him with tokens for it now and he never asks). When his cousin accompanied us to the toy store this past weekend, Jack asked if she could have a toy, too, so that she didn’t feel left out.

More and more, Jack is gaining independence. He helps himself to snacks out of the pantry and can pick out his own clothes. He spends time alone in his room with the door closed,  usually reading or drawing or playing with his legos or iPad. He recently took his first shower, which BLEW HIS MIND. He giggled at the feeling of the shower on his back and he said showering “feels like cuddling.” It sounds like he even prefers it to baths now.

There are still challenges, as there are at every age. He often seems caught between his childish urges and his maturing brain. He still loves his stuffed animals and sleeps with his plush menagerie (which most recently included a hedgehog, a giant tarantula, a tiny owl, the killer bunny from Monty Python, and a squirrel dressed as Darth Vader that we’ve named Darth Nut). He still struggles with a  fear of the dark and of various bugs (spiders, moths, mosquitoes). He is moody and has gotten in trouble more often lately – trying his hand at lying or outright defiance.

I am so proud of him. He’s smart, compassionate, loving, creative and funny. He is so very strong and brave, even though he doesn’t know it yet.

He is my amazing eight-year-old boy. I am looking forward to seeing what his future holds.

My Extraordinary Kid

What makes your kid extraordinary isn’t just the epic stuff. It’s the little things. The small moments that maybe only you see — and quietly celebrate every day. Jack and I have had our ups and downs as of late. He is growing and maturing, and yet still holding onto childhood as much as possible. He is nearly 8, and caught between two stages in his young life. And at the same time, he is fighting cancer with his every breath.

Sometimes it’s all too much for him.

notamused

Last week we had his friend over for a playdate. When it was time for the playdate to end, Jack wasn’t ready. He had a full on meltdown, declaring that it was unfair, that he didn’t want to be around me, and that no one understood how he felt. For the first time ever, he threatened to run away from home. When we dropped his friend off back home, Jack dashed out of the car and into his friend’s house – I had to pick him up and carry him back to the car (keep in mind I’m VERY pregnant).

On our way home, Jack said, “You probably don’t like me anymore.”

To which I replied, “Jack, of course I like you. I love you! We all say and do things we don’t mean sometimes. I will always love you, no matter what.”

Later on that evening he calmed down and apologized to me, unprompted. He then proposed a punishment for himself – perhaps he could have 3 hours of revoked iPad time. I told him I would think about it. Jack is generally so well behaved that I have very little experience with punishments!

All evening he hugged me spontaneously and repeatedly declared that he loved me. I told him I was so very glad that he was feeling better.

Experiences like these are hard on both of us, but they teach us a lot. Life is complicated and we are both still learning how to navigate it. Cancer has really amplified the everyday emotions we have to face, so we have to be stronger than ever and team up to face it together. I am constantly amazed by how Jack handles it all – he is truly extraordinary.

When you’re faced with the challenges that we are, it helps to have organizations out there like Stanford Children’s Health – the largest Bay Area healthcare provider with an exclusive focus on children and expectant women. Whether your visit is routine or rare, Stanford Children’s Health is committed to providing extraordinary care for healthier happy lives. In fact, Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has been the top-ranked children’s hospital in Northern California for over a decade.

Thanks to Stanford Children’s Health and their dedication to extraordinary care for extraordinary kids, I was able to create a slideshow celebrating my kiddo and all of his awesomeness. Check it out.

Your kid is extraordinary. Show them how much you enjoy every moment together by creating a special video of your own!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

This Is How I Nest

I think it’s safe to say that I’m officially nesting. It looks a little different than I thought it would, though.

Rather than focusing on cleaning and organizing (although I’ve done a little off that, too), I’ve been working on getting projects completed. It started with creating a baby book using Project Life products (PL Baby Book example found here). That didn’t take long (since the baby isn’t here yet), so I moved onto hanging pictures on the walls.

We’ve lived in this house two years now as of last week and most of the walls were devoid of pictures even though I had a ton of stuff already framed. So I took care of that (pic 1 and pic 2).

Most recently I’ve been working on migrating photos from the albums that our dog destroyed when we first adopted him into new albums. I’m using Project Life for this, too – I had two photo albums full of pictures from my trip to England and France 10 years ago (10 years ago this month, even!), 8 pages worth of journaling, and a pack of souvenirs that I’d saved. I still have to transfer the more of the journaling into the book but I have all of the pictures and memorabilia set up in the album now. (David does not understand this at all – he thinks I’m spending way too much time putting together an album that I might take off the shelf and look at once a year or so. To him I say PFFFT.) I feel accomplished.

PL-europe

On the more traditional nesting front, this weekend we visited a furniture store that just opened up nearby and took care of getting one of the TOP things on my list of “I NEED this for the baby!” – a rocker recliner. Initially when I mentioned that I wanted one, David was totally opposed (due to the cost and the space it requires) but I ignored him because I’ve been through this before and I NEED a comfortable chair for rocking and nursing a newborn baby for hours on end! So he good-naturedly accompanied me to the furniture store and watched the World Cup while I negotiated with the salesman and made the purchase. Et voila:

chair

Now I’m focused on trying to find a place within a few hours of us to have a nice little getaway before the baby is born. So far this task has proved to be very challenging, as August in northern California means an influx of tourists and tons of local events (making everything much more expensive!). We don’t want to spend a ton of money but we really want to do SOMETHING before the baby is born (especially since our anniversary is 6 days after my due date). Hopefully we’ll stumble upon a deal or a quaint, little-known town to visit.

Or maybe a generous benefactor will come out of the woodwork and offer us something. WILL BLOG FOR VACATION! (Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath on that one!)