Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Meeting Dora

For anyone that knows my little Chunk, you have to know how obsessively in love she is with Dora the Explorer.  Chunks-a-lot was never fond of cartoons and refused to even watch television until she turned two years old.  That was quite a difference from our chatty Talks-a-lot who was in love with the television before he even turned a year old.
  Dora was the very first cartoon Chunks had ever seen and, for some reason, she just fell in love with her.  It's pretty much a part of our daily lives now and somehow all conversations root back to Dora the Explorer, Boots or Swiper.  For instance, if Chunks is in a dark room by herself, she announces pitifully that Swiper is going to get her.  Anytime we run an errand, her Dora purse or Boots stuffed toy must come along....after all, they looove to explore.  I am constantly surprised by the foreign words I hear repeated from the backseat, thanks to our Spanish-speaking friend.  And even the other day, my little Chunk started to fuss about something and I reminded her that she was a "big girl" and didn't need to whine about not getting her way.  Chunks' response came with a smile and beaming eyes, "I need to be a big girl like Dora?".  Yes, it is cute, precious and can get a little obsessive at times.  But nothing was cuter than today when we finally met Dora the Explorer.
  We have a science center/museum in our city called the McWane center.  The kids love all the hands-on activities and it seems as though we could spend the entire day there and they would still beg to go back the very next day.  Well, today was extra special because Dora the Explorer was coming the McWane Center and, gasp, taking pictures with the children!  When I first found out about it, I told Chunks-a-lot and her entire face lit up in a way I have never seen before.  I honestly regret telling her two weeks in advance because I have been interrogated daily about when we are going to meet Dora.  "Is today the day?", "We going to McWane Center today to meet Dora?", "I see Dora today?", "We're going bye-bye to meet Dora at McWane Center?".  Yes, every day I have been pestered with these endless questions by my very desperate daughter.  So when we woke up this morning and she asked her daily question, it was my pleasure to reply, "Yes, today we are going to meet Dora!!!".  
  Of course, in honor of this event, we had to watch a Dora movie this morning, wear a Dora shirt to the McWane Center, carry our little Dora purse and bring the Dora backpack.  It was like Dora overload.  And as excited as I secretly was to watch all of this unfold, nothing could have prepared me for how absolutely precious the whole thing was.  I have never, in my life, seen Chunks-a-lot so excited about something.  When the double-life-sized Dora walked out into the room, she went crazy.  Chunks started waving her little hand and blowing kisses, jumping up and down and was just beside herself with joy.  We had to wait in a 30 minute line to have our picture taken with Dora and when it was finally our turn, Chunks was just beaming.
She was insistent that Talks-a-lot come with her even though, in his own words, he is not really a "fan".  Fortunately, he realized her excitement and agreed to go along with it.  What a sweet brother he is!
  Chunks hugged Dora, blew her kisses, giggled a little and smiled from ear to ear as Dora the Explorer rubbed her back.  After I snapped a picture, Chunks got down from the bench and just stood there in awe, staring at her precious Dora.  She talked about it the rest of the day and even said with great pride, "Dora smiled at me!!!!".  I mean, of course she smiled at her, she had a permanent smile sewn onto her cloth face.  I got such a kick out of her reaction to this entire situation and it's a memory I will cherish forever.
  The only bad part of the day: the parking deck was full so we had to park on the side of the street in downtown Birmingham, there were probably a thousand people at the McWane Center and it was complete insanity trying to keep up with both of my kids, and we had to walk back in the rain to our car and were approached by a homeless man who needed money.....just a little unnerving.  But nothing could compare to this picture I have in my mind of the smile on my Chunks' face as she lived out a little girl's dream come true...


Thursday, March 11, 2010

I don't blog as much as I used to.  I actually have to force myself to do it sometimes.  It's not as though I don't enjoy it, it's just because this is the place where I used to release all of my fears, all my pain, the daily heartache we were enduring at St. Jude's.  Now that we're not in the midst of pure tragedy anymore, I feel as though I don't have much to say.  Or maybe I do and I'm just scared to say it.  Releasing your emotions can be exhausting sometimes.
  Our lives have been so normal lately.  Chunks and Talks-a-lot have become just like any other normal brother and sister.  They fight, they laugh, they play together, they pick on each other and sometimes they'll shower each other with love and affection and it just makes my heart melt.  Our routine has changed a bit, as well.  Talks is in Awana's at our church and has recently started playing baseball with a local league here in town.  Chunks-a-lot is still going through quite a bit of separation anxiety, so she prefers to be with me unless I decide to pry her off my hip....which I do from time to time.  We are a lot busier than we used to be but I enjoy it nonetheless.  
  It's interesting to me how quickly our lives have changed in the past year.  We went from a peach fuzzed, skinny, constantly fatigued, always medicated not so chunky Chunk to a "plump", energetic, giggly, beautiful-haired little girl who is currently off all medications.  That's a big leap!  And through this transformation, somehow I forgot.  I forgot just how tiny she was after being so sick during treatments, I forgot how much pain she endured on a daily basis, I forgot how bald her little head really was.  It hurts so much to look back at pictures that I often try not to.
  But the other day as I was updating her caringbridge page, I decided to read back on some of the journal entries....back to where this journey began.  And what I found absolutely brought me to tears.  For there we were, somewhere in the middle of our story, surrounded by chemo treatments and constant sickness and I was dying just watching my little girl suffer.  I wrote about how much I missed home, how much I missed playdates with friends, church on a Sunday morning, a lazy Saturday at home.  I was desperate for my little girl to experience her childhood for what it should've been, for her to be able to walk without falling, to play without getting tired, to sleep without waking up sick and in pain.  And as I read those words, I was humbled.  For here we are.  We are living in our answered prayers and we often don't even realize it.
  I take life for granted so much more than I used to.  My little Chunk's every step, every meal and every milestone used to be something I praised God for on a daily basis.  Now I'm lucky if I can keep my eyes open long enough at night to finish "talking" with God.  I don't want to forget any of it, I think that what we went through changed us and should continue to change us forever.  I mean, it's a miracle that our Chunk is alive, much less thriving and developing beautifully.  
  I guess I've just had this subject on my mind for awhile and, as though to add fuel to the fire, I read a caringbridge update the other morning.  It was from the mom of another brave St. Jude's buddy of ours named James.  Although he was diagnosed with an aggressive kidney cancer, he did well through treatments and his mom held steadfast to her faith that he would be healed.  Unfortunately, he passed away six weeks ago.  Here is one of her more recent journal entries:

Hello Everyone,
 Today marks one month since James left us. I miss him more than words can say. Many things have gotten easier for me, but there is always that one point in the day that you realize they are never coming home, and that is a horrible feeling. Last night I couldn't sleep. I just kept thinking about our last night with James. We were up all night with him. He just couldn't get comfortable. James would ask us to rock him, and ten minutes later he wanted to get back in the bed with us. He was hurting, and I couldn't do anything to fix it. As a mom, you always want to fix whatever is wrong with your baby, and I could bring him no comfort that night. I hate that he had to go through that, and I hate that there was nothing I could do. James was such a loving and caring little boy, and he didn't deserve to hurt or go through any of the things he endured. Everyone told me that anger is part of grief, and I am beginning to find that true. I get very frustrated that James was taken from me. I have been going to church, but it doesn't bring me the comfort it did before. I get frustrated because I always trusted in God's plan for our family. I knew that if I trusted God and prayed everything would be okay. God took James from me, and I know he has a reason, but it is very hard not to get mad sometimes. The bad thing about this is that I don't want to get mad at God. He is my only hope that we will one day find peace with the plan he has for us. It's all hard to explain, and I don't think you can really understand it unless you have been through it.  I did attend mass this morning, and after, I went to James' grave. I talked to him and watered the tulips I planted for him. Nothing makes me feel better though. It's as if a piece of me is literally missing. I feel the void, and I can't find a way to be whole. I just want him back. I want to hold him, kiss him, and listen to his little voice saying mommy I love you. It is even hard to go to the grocery store. I feel lost because 90% of the things I would normally have on my list  we don't need anymore.  Michael and I hung up some of our family pictures this week, and that was hard too. I looked at James' picture, and it hurt to think we will never update his pictures again. This is it. He is really gone. I don't know what else to say. It is very hard to not have James with me, and I just miss him more and more each day.
I was in tears after reading that.  It brought back so many of my own fears about losing my little girl.  It almost made it too real for me to handle.  I've read this post several days in a row since I first read it and, honestly, it's helped me tremendously.  This battle needs to be real to me, it needs to stay fresh on my mind and I never want to lose the perspective in life that it has given me.  The fact is, neither one of my children are guaranteed tomorrow and both of their lives are so precious to me.  Sometimes I get tunnel vision and I forget how important today is.....just today.  I hug both of them just a little bit tighter at night and try my best to not let the daily stresses of life override the precious moments that I'll never get back.  That monster of a tumor might still be in her head but for just today, that little girl is healed.  I don't have to wait for the tumor to disappear to claim a miracle in her life, no, I'll claim that now.  She can run and jump and is finally enjoying her childhood for what it should be.


Now if that's not healing....I don't know what is.