Saturday, July 31, 2010

Disturbing coloring sheet number two

So, Frisky Frog and his two best friends, Rubber Chicken* and Big Bird with Fangs, indulged in some recreational drugs and then went boating. Disaster struck just feet from shore. The frog was the only one who managed to make it back to land, despite the fact that he was still stoned out of his mind. He grabbed the handset of a phone that just happened to be lying in the sand, not noticing that it was not connected to an actual phone.

"Duuuuuude," he whispered into the phone. "Heeey, duuuuuude ...."

Fortunately for Rubber Chicken and Big Bird with Fangs, Rescue Octopus had already slapped on her lucky sunglasses and a fresh coat of lipstick, and was on her way to save the day.

*Many thanks to Tim's Wife for the Rubber Chicken idea.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stingray to the rescue!

WCK started swimming lessons last week. I was pretty nervous about signing her up for swimming lessons, because, well, I was terrible at swimming lessons. Just terrible. I have one happy memory of swimming lessons: My first summer, I won a bubble-blowing contest underwater, and I was rewarded with a little paper bag filled with Jolly Ranchers. It was the first -- and last -- time I ever won an athletic contest. It was the most thrilling day of my life.

Swimming lessons were all downhill from there.

I can't remember how many years I had to take swimming lessons. It was probably three or four, but in my memory, it seems like I took decades of swimming lessons. I never made it past the "beginner" level. I grew to be embarrassingly old to still be in the "beginner" class. The class after "beginner" was called "advanced beginner", which means I couldn't even pass the most basic of the beginner classes. Actually, I think I finally -- just barely -- passed the beginner class. I seem to remember having a deal with my dad that if I finally got out of the beginner class, I could quit swim lessons altogether, because even my own family seemed to sense how hopeless the swimming-lessons situation had become.

The story my parents absolutely love to tell is how -- when I was around WCK's age -- my whole class was in line for the diving board. I was the last kid in line. They looked away for a few minutes, and when they looked back, I was still the last kid in line. No matter how much time went by, I was always the last in line. They finally figured out that I was letting everyone go ahead of me, over and over, because I did not want to go off the diving board. Hey, diving boards are scary! Finally, the teachers figured this out, and one of them walked me up the diving board and down to the edge, and then grabbed my arms and lowered me down to the teacher waiting in the water.

Oh, how far the bubble-blowing champion had fallen.

But I am happy to report that WCK is doing really well at swimming lessons. She's always happy to go to her lesson and follows the teacher's instructions with a big smile on her face. She's in a class with three other four- and five-year-olds, and they're all just the cutest things ever. I can already tell she's learned new things since last week.

The different class levels are named after sea animals. WCK is in the "turtle" class, which is the very beginning class. Level two is "duck", level three is "penguin" and so on. There are a total of 10 levels, all the way up to "whale." The other day on our way out, we discovered a table of free coloring sheets featuring the different swimming animals. Now, WCK has picked up lots of free coloring sheets in her day, but I have to say that this coloring sheet is the most awesome kids' coloring sheet I've ever seen in my life:

Yes. What is the backstory here? Apparently, the poor turtle experienced a near-drowning, no doubt because his dad allowed him to quit swim lessons before he reached the "advanced beginner" class. A lady stingray, all dolled up in false eyelashes and lipstick, passed by on her way to a formal affair, saw the struggling turtle, and rushed to his aid. As she was about to give him mouth-to-mouth, she discovered, to her horror, that she was completely helpless. (WCK pointed this out: "How can the stingray help the turtle, Mama? She doesn't have any arms!") Just as the poor turtle was seeing a flock of turtle angels beckoning him to crawl slowly into the light, an ambulance screeched to a halt, and -- PRAISE THE BABY JESUS! -- out popped a life-saving duck. Or possibly a flamingo.

See? Greatest coloring sheet ever.

Friday, July 23, 2010

This calls for some leather pants and a vest

With the whole brouhaha over my needing to start treatment again, I'd convinced myself that this month's test results would be sky-high and horrible. Dr. GPO gave me the usual pep-talk about how slow-moving my disease is, saying, "This is not 'Get-Out-of-Dodge' disease." As much as that cracked me up, I didn't believe him, and fully believed I'd be getting the heck out of Dodge pretty soon. Whatever that means.

Since this is a mostly family-friendly blog, I wondered if I'd be able to use the photo of Jon Bon Jovi wearing nothing except what appears to be a tiny sailor hat, since my M-spike would surely be high enough to warrant such a photo. This photo exists; just Google it.

P.S. The hat (or whatever it is) is not on his head.

Anyway. I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find out that my M-spike is 3.5, which is completely stable from last month. In fact, it is down .1, which really doesn't mean a whole lot, since the tests were at different labs, blah blah, but it makes me feel better. So, in celebration of the .1 decline, I found a nice Bon Jovi photo that appears to be from the late '80s or early '90s and features a lovely vest-sunglasses-leather-pants combo:

I'm wondering if he's trying to look cowboy-esque, and I'm thinking that real cowboys would make him get out of Dodge.

My first round of Revlimid arrives on Monday, and if it does its job, JBJ will be wearing a tasteful turtleneck sweater any day now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You'll have to speak up. There's a ladybug in my ear.

WCK went to a science camp for preschoolers/kindergartners at a nearby elementary school last week. In the past, WCK has been less than enthusiastic when I've suggested any type of lesson or camp, but when I told her there was a science camp available, she perked right up. WCK is very serious about being a scientist when she grows up. She also wants to be a check-out person at the grocery store.

From what I could tell, WCK enjoyed the science camp very much. Five-year-olds aren't big on giving detailed information when you ask for it, but I was able to gather that they learned about seeds and dirt, growing vegetables, the weather, and bugs. Bug Day was her favorite day.

There were about a dozen or so four- to six-year-olds at the camp. The teacher was a young, enthusiastic guy named "Jetpack Jason." I'm not sure of his qualifications, but he wore a white lab coat, so you know he was official. By the end of Bug Day, though, Jetpack Jason looked a little weary.

"GUESS WHAT?" said WCK. "Jetpack Jason brought in REAL LADYBUGS, and (Name of child) thought that he got one of the ladybugs in his ear, and Jetpack Jason had to look for it in his ear, but he couldn't find it."

I'm not sure what Jetpack Jason was getting paid, but I'm sure it wasn't enough.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bad medicine is what I need

For the past month, I've needed to make a decision about my next line of myeloma treatment. Would I return to the Revlimid, or would I enroll in a clinical trial at the Mayo Clinic? In my last post about my choices, I asked myself, "What would Bon Jovi do?"

I know, I know. Nearly every person, at some point in his/her life, reaches a crisis and asks the question, "What would Bon Jovi do?" We've all been there. Bon Jovi rarely answers in ways that one can understand. One day, however, I was listening to my iPod, and I realized, BON JOVI WAS TELLING ME WHAT TO DO. Have you ever listened closely to the song, "Bad Medicine"?

I ain't got a fever got a permanent disease (Exactly. Myeloma is a permanent, incurable disease that I'm going to have to manage over the long haul, so I don't want to move on to the next drug until I've exhausted the first one.)

It'll take more than a doctor to prescribe a remedy (I need to weigh all of the options and make this decision myself)

I got lots of money but it isn't what I need (The fact that the trial drug would be free doesn't really factor in here, since I only have a $20 co-pay for my Rev, and monthly travel expenses to Rochester would be much more.)

Gonna take more than a shot to get this poison out of me (Amen, Mr. Bon Jovi. Amen.)

I got all the symptoms count 'em 1,2,3 (Actually, I don't have any symptoms, other than mild anemia, but I still think we can still consider the previous lyrics messages from the Universe.)

And the rest of the lyrics don't really apply to my situation, but why don't we take a nice dancing break?

First you need
That's what you get for falling in love
Then you bleed
You get a little but it's never enough
On your knees
That's what you get for falling in love
And now this boy's addicted cause your kiss is the drug

Your love is like bad medicine
Bad medicine is what I need
Shake it up, just like bad medicine
There ain't no doctor that can
Cure my disease

Bad, bad medicine
Bad, bad medicine

Anyway. Fully trusting this message embedded in '80s hair band rock, I went to my appointment with Dr. GPO today and told him I wanted to try 25 mg of Rev alone, without the dex. I didn't tell him Bon Jovi told me to do it, but he agreed that was an OK plan, and he thinks I'll get some kind of response from Rev alone. I'll have my blood tested after the first four-week round, and if the Rev isn't doing anything, I'll add in a low dose of dex. Fair enough.

When I got into my car after the appointment, what was on the radio right then? Jon Bon Jovi singing "Blaze of Glory." I cranked it up, but after really listening to the lyrics, I realized it's about how, if you're about to die anyway, you should make sure to die in a really cool way. Hopefully, that one's not a message from the Universe. Bon Jovi moves in mysterious ways.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tooth recycling

This post goes out to all of my fellow pack-rats out there. You know who you are. The next time you're attempting to clean out a drawer, and you turn to your spouse/significant other and say, "But we can't get rid of this! What if we need it again for something really important?" and your spouse/significant other points out that you're holding an envelope containing a human tooth, you can tell your spouse/significant other this story:

WCK lost her third baby tooth today. The tooth had been wiggling for quite some time, so she was ecstatic when it finally came out. We had a little celebration, and then I got back to unloading a mountain of groceries. A few minutes later, I noticed WCK walking to the downstairs bathroom with a toothbrush in one hand and the tooth in the other. When I questioned this, she said she was just going to brush her tooth so it would be clean for the Tooth Fairy.

Am I to blame for what happened next? Should I have intervened, forbidden her from brushing said tooth, or, at the very least, walked to the bathroom to make sure she closed the drain first? Instead, I just said, "Well, make sure the tooth doesn't go down the drain."

"Oh, it won't!" said WCK. Of course, mother. Don't you trust me not to drop a tiny, wet, slippery object down the drain?

Exactly two seconds later, cries of anguish rose up from the bathroom.


Of course. Of course.

Now, I could have used this as an opportunity to teach an Important Lesson about listening to your mother, not washing tiny objects over an open drain, etc., etc. Let me tell you, though: You've never seen true human misery until you've seen a five-year-old who has just lost a tooth and then lost that tooth. We sat on the bathroom floor and rocked while she cried for the lost tooth and I repeatedly reassured her that the Tooth Fairy didn't care, that this sort of thing happened to kids all the time, and that the Tooth Fairy still left them money. WCK didn't buy it. The worst part was when she wailed, "AND I WAS SO HAPPY!"

After about 20 minutes of sobbing, I had a brilliant idea. I managed to calm her down, and suggested that she sit in the dining room and draw a picture to leave for the Tooth Fairy. Then I slipped upstairs.

Oh, yeah. I still had her first two baby teeth in the top drawer of our dresser. The pack-rat triumphs!

I slipped back downstairs to the bathroom, and pulled the old tooth out of my pocket. "WCK! Come quick! I found your tooth!"

WCK came running. "That's my tooth?" she said.

Oh, please, I thought. Please don't let this be like the episode of Diff'rent Strokes where Arnold's goldfish dies and Mr. Drummond replaces it with a new one, and Arnold can totally tell.

"Yeah," I said. "I was able to dig it out of the drain."

"How did you get it out?"

"Oh," I said, realizing that I hadn't really thought through how I'd explain this. "I was just able to."

(Long pause while WCK evaluated my in-depth explanation.)

"OH, I'M SO HAPPY!!!!"


"The next time I lose a tooth," she said soberly, "I will be really careful when I brush it over the drain."

She'd better. There's only one spare tooth left.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The fabulously festive Fourth Food Fest festivities

We spent the Fourth of July at my parents' house in Iowa, along with my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew. We had lots of fireworks, and lots and lots and lots of food. Jay and my bro-in-law love to grill, so when they get together, they go wild. Jay brought his own grill along, so we had two Weber grills fired up all weekend.

Saturday night, they treated us to this main course, which we'd all admired on the show Man vs. Food:

Yes. That's right. It's a bacon cheeseburger with a grilled Krispy Kreme doughnut for a bun. It was delectable. My dad said that maybe the myeloma cells would be so scared of what I was actually putting into my body that they'd jump right out. I'm thinking that my arteries are so clogged now that the myeloma cells simply can't circulate anymore. Don't worry; I also made a salad that we could place in the center of the table and admire, which made this a healthy meal, right?

The next day, we had lots more family and friends come over for a party with a luau theme. We had obnoxious Hawaiian shirts, paper leis, tons of grilled appetizers ... and this guy:

Yes, they grilled an entire pig. It was pretty yummy, as long as you ate the parts that weren't smiling at you. I can't wait to see what they grill next year.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Happy little bluebirds fly

Since the moment WCK was born, I've dreamed of the first time she'd watch The Wizard of Oz with me. I had high hopes that she'd be ready for it pretty early, considering she was being raised among stacks of Wizard of Oz memorabilia, and I started singing her the songs the day she was born. Unfortunately, WCK was not going to turn out to be a Mini-Me when it came to Wizard of Oz. She went through a horrifying phase around age two, where she wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. It brought tears to my eyes. I was a wreck.

Eventually, WCK warmed to the idea of Oz. She'd play with Oz toys and look at Oz books and listen to the songs. She'd even "play Wizard of Oz" and act it out with me, but she still did not want to watch the movie. She kept telling me over and over, "Mama, I will watch it when I'm five."

Ha HA! She turned five in May! Ha ha ha ha ha!! In your face, WCK!! I knew she couldn't back out of it! I'm sure the word of a four-year-old is legally binding and would hold up in a court of law should she try to sue me. I was going to get that child to watch The Wizard of Oz, so help me God. Now I had to make a plan. As the Wicked Witch of the West once said, "It's how to do it. These things must be done deeeeeelicately."

Well, I found out that a movie theater in Kansas City, Kansas was showing The Wizard of Oz on the big screen for free this morning. I explained this to WCK, and then I bribed her with a trip to the T-Rex Cafe afterwards if she sat through the entire movie with me. WCK would walk on hot coals to get to the T-Rex Cafe, so she agreed.

This is the difference between five-year-old WCK and five-year-old me. If you'd told me, at five years old, that we were going to go watch The Wizard of Oz at a movie theater, I would have sat down by the door -- or maybe even out in the car -- forgoing all nourishment, sleep, and bathroom breaks until the time came to leave for the theater, even if the movie happened to be weeks or months away, because what if the person driving us to the theater accidentally left early, without me?

Heck, I'd do this now.

But the movie went very well. We got there really, really early (again, see the description of five-year-old me). It was so good, I cried, like always. Then we ate our bribery lunch. After we got home, I still wasn't sure if the movie really affected WCK. Later, I found her Pooh Bear wearing Tinkerbell wings and a mask. "It's a flying monkey, Mama!"

Oh, yeah:

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Grand

This latest visit to Mackinac Island was my third time there. The first time I went, I was a little kid, and my parents and sister and I went for a day trip during a vacation to Michigan. When Jay and I went together ten years ago, we stayed at the Murray Hotel, and this time we stayed at the Lilac Tree Hotel. Both of them were great hotels (I mean, the Murray Hotel sells fudge right in the lobby, so there's really no need to even go outside, and the Lilac Tree staff delivered free Oreos to your room at night), but they are regular hotels for the commoners. My lifelong dream is to someday stay here:

This is the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Of course, if you're someone who can actually afford to stay here, you don't have to go through the long, tedious process of calling it "The Grand Hotel." You can simply call it"The Grand", as in, "When I've become worn out screaming at servants, climbing all of the stairs on my yacht, and setting piles of hundred-dollar bills on fire, I relax and unwind at The Grand." The Grand Hotel has a dress code after 6 p.m. If you can't read the small print on this sign, it says, "Ladies may not be attired in slacks."

I don't know if I even own anything that could be considered "slacks". I think "slacks" would be dressing up for me.

Anyway. The second a commoner sets one pinky toe on Grand Hotel property, a person in a red blazer whooshes out the front door and suddenly materializes in front of you, much like Edward Cullen in the Twilight movies, and asks if you are guests of the hotel. I suppose since we were all wearing things a few rungs below slacks on the fashion ladder, it was pretty easy to tell. Non-guests can still come inside and walk around, but you have to pay $10 per person ($5 for kids). The good news is that you can put the entrance fee toward the $45-per-person brunch, served here:

Jay refused to stay for the $45 brunch, even though I told him that the Internet claimed it was the best brunch you would ever have in your life. I think they serve grilled unicorn.

Still, we spent a couple of hours just wandering around the inside of the hotel and the gardens. We even went up to the cupola at the very top. When you pay your entrance fee, they give you a little green map of the hotel, so it is easy to identify the other commoners, also clutching their little green maps and sniffing the hint of unicorn in the air.

When we got home, Jay saw in a magazine that they actually sell Grand Hotel paint colors at Lowe's. Hmm. I see some redecorating in the future, and it will probably cost less than the brunch, too. Then I can start referring to my own house as "The Grand", as in, "We have a bad ant problem in the kitchen of The Grand." It'll be great.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

We're back!

OK, I'm finally back. After our trip to Mayo, we continued on a two-week family vacation to Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. First, Jay ran a marathon in Duluth, Minn. We were very proud of him. There he goes:

Then we spent four days at one of my favorite places on the face of the earth, Mackinac Island, Michigan:

I took about 10,000 photos that all look like this, but can you really blame me?

And not only does Mackinac Island look beautiful, you can find a fudge shop every few feet on its main street. It's everything I could possibly ask for in a travel destination.

Anyway, that's just a brief recap of where we were. I hope to get back into the swing of blogging soon, as soon as I finish going through fudge detox.