Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scanxiety update

Just a quick update for folks who may only know me on here-- Last week Harrison had his most recent set of scans to see if his cancer had spread. All results showed he is all clear right now. We will have repeat scans in a few months. No more chemo for now. Yay! Yay! Yay!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Today I had my official phone interview with the Medicaid lady--6 months after filing the initial paperwork.  In my state, a child with a diagnosis of cancer is automatically approved for the health insurance portion of Medicaid.  If automatic means over half a year later, that is.

Part of the process involved going over every doctor and hospital visit Harrison has had since his diagnosis last December.  So, I pulled out my trusty calendar that I keep in my purse, and began to go down the list.  A very long and detailed list.  Not a single one of those appointment days or times was chosen by me, but we showed up whenever and where ever they told us to.  'They' being that medical machine in place to help keep my child alive and walking.

I have been exhausted for the rest of the day just thinking about it.

January - 2 surgeries, 1 round of chemo, 15 appointments, and one derby race.

Looking over the past six months in black and white was just a tangible reminder of how crazy and strung out our whole family has been.  Not to mention that in the midst of chemo and scans and surgeries, the other two boys have continued to have their own activities.  The normal ones like co-ops and scouts and church--the ones we have tried so hard to keep on the books.

 March--2 rounds of chemo and one ER visit

The past couple of months since surgery and no chemo have brought about some sense of normalcy.  A new normal, but one I will take nonetheless.  Harrison can get around on his own and doesn't have to carry a pink vomit bucket with him everywhere he goes.  He drives.  Today he got home from summer camp and now he is watching The Dark Knight.  He was not very happy that he couldn't wear his full costume to the theater thanks to that crazy guy in Colorado.  Just normal, teenagery stuff.

This afternoon I took full advantage of giving his bedroom a good cleaning out before he got off of that charter bus.  He has spent the bulk of house time this year in that room, in the bed we had to borrow when he became non-weightbearing, because he could no longer climb the ladder to his loft bed.  I found all kinds of things from BEFORE.  Stuff like:

--rubber band packages for his braces--the ones we had to get removed earlier than scheduled because he wouldn't be able to tolerate them once chemo started.

--Christmas cards, and a Santa Homer Simpson figure

--the new prayer journal for 2012.  There are no entries.

--a spiritual gifts inventory that he took at church sometime last year.  It turns out that he is definitely not a giver, but loves to teach and get people together in groups.  And if costumes are involved, then all the better. (OK, the costume part wasn't officially on the inventory, but I do know my boy).

--the last book he was reading for school - The Scarlet Letter

Normal stuff.  Next week he goes back in for his next round of scans.  If anything shows up, then we start all over with the crazy schedule again.  I don't even want to think about having to do that, but we will face whatever happens and do whatever we need to get him better.

But, for what it's worth, I sure hope we don't have to do this again.  Never.  Ever.

I hate cancer.

Only 3 appointment so far for August.  I can live with that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

Quick--think back to high school--the academic part of it.

What is the most important thing you learned there?  The dates of the Revolutionary War?  Probably not.  What about Algebra or Calculus?  Definitely not (sorry, higher level math teachers, but I still don't think I needed it).

For me, the skill that I have no doubt used over and over was one that originated in Mrs. Wright's 6th period class in the 10th grade.  Typing.  And I pretty much hated every minute of learning it.  Mrs. Wright was a stickler for all things typing related--centering, margins, only 3 corrected mistakes using those new correction strips that would 'type' a white letter over the wrong thing I had just typed.  I felt lucky that we had this, because she refused to accept any paper that had even a drop of White-Out on it.

My best friend and I got on her bad side the very first week of class, when we were supposed to be typing our first lines of letters that we had just learned, as quickly as possible.  She said go, and all the girls around us sounded like professional secretaries, with clicks happening at lightning speed.  My friend and I looked at each other, kind of smiled, and just began randomly typing, so that Mrs. Wright would not give us 'the look' for going so slowly.  As it turned out, not only were the other girls actually typing what was on the books beside them, it was also our first surprise timed test.

We failed it.

After that, we remained slower than the rest of the class, but we eventually caught up and got halfway decent at the whole thing.  I was thrilled when I got to college and my roommate had one of those new fangled contraptions--the portable word processor.  No Wite-Out required, and you could automatically set those margins before the first word was even typed.  It was also at this point that I reached my peak of 
technological expertise.

Regardless of how much I did not like that typing class, I have no doubt that it prepared my for every job I have had since then, and every post I have written.  I can even pretend I am watching something on the video game my kid is playing and continue typing quickly without looking at the keyboard.  You know, important life skills.  It is also a skill I realized early on that my boys need to learn, and the younger, the better.

So, true to form, I bought computer CDs with Goofy and Mario and skateboards that promised to teach keyboarding (it was no longer simply 'typing') skills to my kids.  They didn't work.  I know, I know, lazy parenting/teaching, but I was willing to give it a shot.  My teenager learned to type adequately enough, in that one fingered, fast hunt and peck method that works so well for kids these days.  My other two tried the CDs, but nothing stuck in terms of actual typing.

Elementary Version

And then came Keyboarding for the Christian School, in a regular and elementary version.  I have been using the pdf version with each of the boys, with varying but positive results.  The 8 and 12 year olds have been following the lessons in the elementary edition.  It is designed for grades K - 5th, but has been working fine for the 7th grader.  The format seems to be much like I learned in high school.  They are learning the basics from the beginning--a,s,d,f--j,k,l,;--while looking at a sheet of paper beside the computer, as opposed to looking at the screen.  I found the use of their colored keyboard example to be VERY helpful in helping both of them understand where their fingers needed to go.  Whereas I learned the top level of keys by moving up from the center row, these lessons simply had them 'rest' their fingers on the top row and use them as the keyboard base when it came time to learn these letters (I hope that makes sense).  That seemed to make it stick more for them both.

The lessons focus on just learning 2 letters at a time, repeating them and gaining confidence with each added letter.  By lesson 6, simple words were added. There are 32 lessons in this edition, with various timed tests throughout.  We have not gotten this far yet, but the latter lessons include Bible verses.  I did notice that some of them require the use of letters that they have not officially learned yet though.  There is also simple lessons in centering and making a list.

Keyboarding for the Christian School

The regular version is the one my 16 year old has been using.  It has been helpful in getting him to be more functional and proficient, with less hunting and pecking.  He is progressing well.  The first 32 lessons are almost identical in format as the elementary edition, but with a smaller font and longer words once the letters are learned.  The Bible passages are also longer.

It is the latter lessons (43 total) that were most impressive to me.  There are very simple and informative lessons in computer formatting for typing multi-colored graphs, research papers, and personal/business letters, among other things.  An added plus is that computer screen shots are included with the written instructions, which is perfect for people like me who get bogged down when specific technical jargon comes into play.  It turns out that my son is already way past needing to learn some of this information (how in the world he learned it is beyond me), but other parts will definitely come in handy as a resource guide.

Both editions are excellent resources that are working for us.  You can get more information about the products and ordering information here.  The elementary version sells for $12.95  and the regular edition is $15.95.  Until August 29, 2012, you can also get 20% off any order using the code SUMMER2012.  You can also view some sample lessons to get more of an idea of how the lessons are structured.

You can read other reviews of both editions by the TOS Crew here.


Disclaimer:  I received a pdf copy of both books for review purposes as a member of the TOS Crew.  No other compensation was received.

Teach Your Children Well

A couple of weeks ago I took this picture in my kitchen and posted it on Facebook.  I got lots of comments from understanding mommas.  It looks like they have also have family members that would much rather spend time doing intricate balancing acts than just going ahead and changing out the garbage bags.

Yesterday, I found myself doing the same thing, just with clean dishes instead of garbage.  I guess the apples don't fall too far from the tree.

Hey!  There's Perry!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Mii Just Got Chubbier--a New Way to Visualize Pain and Suffering?

I have 3 boys, and they love their video games.  They have accumulated various gaming systems, but my favorite is the Wii--the games tend to be much more appropriate and non-cringe worthy.  Unless you count their Spongebob game, but I have learned to tune it out just like I do the TV version.

We got the Wii Fit system soon after it was released several years ago.  It really was a neat concept, and was the first gaming system to incorporate fitness elements and accessories.  The nice folks in the game kept track of all manner of information, such as weight and BMI and balance statistics.  We were all good and healthy and balanced, and had a good time seeing how we stacked up with other family members.  Well, everyone but my youngest son liked it.  He has never liked not being the best at something, and it was evident even then in his 4 year old self.

Like all good exercise equipment, it eventually fell out of use, started gathering dust in the corner, and was eventually moved to a closet.  A couple of months ago, Harrison's Home Health therapist casually mentioned that it would be helpful for him to incorporate as part of his therapy regime.  So, we found the box, changed out the batteries, and brought it back into the light of the living room.

Wii Fit has been a great way for him to gauge his status and progress.  It shows his exact percentage of left/right weight distribution, which is important to know when you are trying to relearn how to walk after having your femur removed.  So, out of curiosity, yesterday I decided to get back on it and do a fitness test. In the immortal words of  Vivian on Pretty Woman, "Big mistake.  Huge".

Before I even did any of the basic measurements, the sweet drill sergeant  fitness guide reminded me that it had been 965 days since my last use of Wii Fit.  Which sounds about right, since my knee-breaking car wreck was 963 days ago. ( I had walked 6 miles that morning, because I was training to walk a half marathon a couple of months later).  I was then informed that I am now considered overweight because I have gained 26.3 pounds since then, and that I may want to consider altering my fitness goals to include weight loss into my regimen.  And by the way, had I noticed that my balance and endurance levels had decreased significantly?

Gee, ya think?  Maybe that would explain why elastic waistbands are my go-to fashion accessory of choice nowadays.

OK, so the official Wii Fit numbers weren't any big shock.  They were just an accurate representation of my new reality.  I rarely ever eat, so it isn't a calorie thing, but my movements are more of the 80 - 90 year old variety.  The numbers didn't set off any pity parties, but were a reminder that I can not live in 'what used to be' land.  It is what it is, and I have to make decisions and choices based on my new reality.  My life didn't end 963 days ago (as it easily could have), but it was altered.  Learning to be OK with that is just part of the journey.

It is a journey that doesn't include a 13.1 sticker on the back of my car...


One day?