Writings of a teachermom, choosing to stay home with her kids, while loathing all domestic responsibilities! In late Aug. 2008, I was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer. After surgery, chemo and radiation, I was given theall clear. However, in the late summer of 2008, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which metasticized to other areas.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

My growing sports fanatic

The other day, while he was taking a shower, Cameron said to me, “Mom, I have a problem.”

Just his tone made me want to laugh. But in all seriousness I responded,“Yes? What's wrong, honey?”

“There are two things I want to be when I grow up and I can’t figure out which one.” He obviously was having a very pensive shower.

“Oh really? What are they?” I asked. I couldn’t wait to hear this. He used to say he’d either be a teacher or a doctor. But somehow I could tell he wasn’t quite thinking along these lines anymore.
“Well, one is to be a doctor.” Good. Glad that hadn’t changed.

"And the other one?" Please say teacher, please say teacher, I thought to myself.

“The other one is to be a football player.”

Hmm. Cameron has never played on a football team. We don’t watch football in our house. We don’t even talk about football. But he has a few friends who are football fanatics. Oh, and one of those friends has a Playstation football game that Cameron plays every time he’s at his house.

“A football player? Cameron you don’t even play football. You play soccer. You’ve been playing soccer for three years now!” I said, trying to remind him of what he really likes. Trying to make sure that he doesn’t try to switch fall sports on me. I played soccer and I like watching my son play soccer. Very little equipment to be responsible for. Very few injuries. Football?….um, no thank you.

“Well, I want to play football now. And now I don’t know if when I grow up I should be a football player or a doctor.” he stated, as if this really was a dilemma that needed to be solved now...while washing his hair.

“I’d say a doctor,” I responded, without hesitation of course.

“Why?” Cameron asked, sounding a bit disappointed in my suggestion.

I wanted to say, Because that’s the smart thing to be, the sensible thing to be, and according to your father the ONLY thing to be. But instead I responded with a more convincing, “Because doctors help people.”

“But football players can help people, too. Like the quarterback helps his teammates get a touch down, and then he gets to do a dance like this…" I’ll spare you the details of his little jig, as it was not pretty.

“Well, I still think you should be a doctor,” I said, as if my opinion really mattered to him at this point.

"Nah, I think I’ll be a football player."

Next thing you know, he's going to start telling me he wants to be like every other Minnesotan and be a hockey player. If he tells me that....well, we might just have to move.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January in Minnesota

It was -17 degrees this morning. -35 with the windchill.

Global warming? Bring it on. Please!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Permanent Marks

I got a tattoo today.

Actually, I got three of them.

Three dots....that's all.

And I will never, ever, ever, ever get another tattoo for as long as I live. "OUCH!"

The dots, which are literally the size of a pen mark, are so that the technicians place the radiation machine in the exact same spot each time they zap me. Wouldn't want them radiating my heart or anything---and they will be close to my heart (a concern).

So anyway, we met with Dr. Vic today, the radiation oncologist. He was very detailed and thorough in his explanation, but whether or not radiation would be beneficial to me comes down to "We don't know." I should have my husband write this blog for an accurate medical explanation, but basically, there's not enough large studies to say for sure if someone in my situation (age, type of cancer, placement of tumor, etc) would benefit or not. But the one thing that he could tell me is that given all my stats, there's a 20% chance of the cancer reoccurring (in the next ten years maybe), another study said a 10% chance. Having the radiation knocks it down to 5%.

Apparently there was some abnormality in one of the intermammary node on one of my scans that was a concern. They can't biopsy it (unless they break my breast bone) to determine if it was cancer, and it could just be nothing...but it could be something malignant. For that main reason (I think), Dr. Vic thinks radiation would be a good option for me (despite the fact that most women who have mastectomies don't need radiation).

I was told it was up to me. Ugh. A choice. I don't like choices, usually. I want someone to tell me what to do and I'll do it. I always fear that I'll make the wrong choice. And if I make the wrong choice...well, it could be fatal actually.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had three goals to guide me through this. 1. Get rid of all the cancer. 2. Do whatever I had to do to stop it from reoccurring. 3. Get myself looking normal again..or better of course!

So I opted to go ahead and have the radiation. I don't want to...I don't want to at all! I just want to have all of this done and move on. But I feel like I have to. Because I will always worry if I didn't, that the cancer will come back. And if it did, oh would I be furious at myself.

Now I just have to pray that the radiation does its job and the side effects are minimal. (More about side effects in a later post).

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Mile 26 has not been easy.

I don’t know what was going on with me physically today. I guess it’s like what my doctor said…my body is just really done with the chemo.

I woke up and made a list of errands that I needed to do when Sara got here. But I just ached all over. It was as if my normal routine of chasing my kids, holding Ella, going up and down the stairs, etc. was just too much for me this weekend. Today my body just shut down and didn’t want to move. By 10:00, I was more than ready to go back to bed. I honestly felt like I had actually run a real marathon.

Not even 3 cups of coffee this morning, or a Starbucks latte this afternoon, did anything to fight off the fatigue.

Must just be a lingering chemo side effect…that I’m sure will go away in a day or two…I’m sure of it.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wake Up Call

When I put Cameron to bed last night, I pleaded with him, "Please sleep in tomorrow, okay? Please just sleep in for once." (Meaning, don't wake me up at his usual hour of 6:00 AM).

And to my complete and utter surprise, the boy slept in. As did his brother. They didn't wake up until close to 8:30.

It was their sister, however, who decided that 5:30 was a good time to start her (our) day.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Start your engines...

For the past month, Cameron and Melvin have been working on Cam's Pinewood Derby car for Scouts. About once a week they'd head across the street to our neighbor's house. Being life-long scouts, they had all the "special tools" needed to create the little speed demons. Starting out with just a block of wood, it was actually quite a process to be able to produce t a final product. Except for some of the more dangerous sawing, Melvin let Cameron do all the work.

Saturday was the big race, where all the dens from the pack get together and run their cars down the ramp. There's electronic timing and everything.
They ran the cars down in a few different combinations. The first time Cameron's car was released, it placed second (out of three), and the last two times, it placed third (or last). I'm not sure how his car did overall, but he didn't bring any trophies home. Nonetheless, Cameron had fun just watching all the cars with his brother and sister hanging out with him.

And call me crazy...but I think some of those parents worked really hard on their kids' cars.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

A little dinner conversation

Some things are just too difficult to explain to little kids.

Today at dinner (yes, this is conversation you would have while eating with an OB-GYN), my husband was telling me about a lady with incontinence, who had been to another surgeon, whose sling was coming out her vagina.

“What, someone had a broken arm?” asked Cameron, only hearing the word sling.

Then Melvin tried to explain about this lady who would urinate when she would stand up. He went on to vaguely tell about a little of his surgery, to a 6 year old, using words like urethra, urine, vagina, bladder, etc.

Cameron kept getting all the words confused. At one point he thought the lady had pee coming out her ears! And somehow this conversation led to, “but then where does the baby come out, your butt?” This then led to Cameron making the observation that if you have a baby, your “bagina” can just break all apart. To which my husband and I just completely agreed, and Melvin told him that his job is to fix that.

This very odd, somewhat chaotic conversation was occurring with Max picking away at his food.

Finally, he chimed in and said, “If you pee in China, you might pee on a Panda bear.”

Vagina, Bagina, China….it’s all the same thing, right?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In agreement

When I went for my final chemo treatment, I was really counting on not having to have the Neulasta shot the next day. This is the shot that helps your white blood cell counts stay up so that you don't get an infection (or something like that).

But it's also the shot that hurts when they administer it, and makes me feel all achy in the neck and jaw, and basically I feel like total crap for a couple days.

During my previous appointments, my white counts were up, so my oncologist said that I might be able to forgo the shot this last time. Unfortunately, my counts weren't so high this time, not abnormally low, but, not high enough to avoid the shot without risks.

When expressing my surprise at my lowered counts, the doctor replied with, "It's really just your body's way of telling you that it's just done with all this chemo."

Finally! My body has finally caught up with my mind. It's about time.

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Just bored

Quite pathetic when the highlight of your day is tuning in to a reality TV show at 9PM.

And then you spend too much time afterwards surfing the show's website.

Just pathetic.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Trying for something more

This weekend I tried to introduce my kids to some history and culture.

I wanted my kids to know that there’s more to life than sports, indoor play places, TV and video games.

So I thought it would be nice to go to a special presentation to celebrate Dr. King. Every year the University of Minnesota puts on this program. It’s at a very nice concert hall, and it’s free! We took Cameron when he was very young, and we enjoyed the singing, dancing, poetry, etc. It was a very lovely evening.

Since that time, every year we’ve been saying that we should go again, but every year we end up not going. This year I was determined to get out of this house and do something different.

Except Melvin felt that it would be disastrous with Ella, and one of us would just be running around the lobby with her and not seeing any of the program. He was probably right, so he opted to stay home with her while I took the boys.

However, when Max saw that Ella was staying home, and found out that she was going to get to ride in Daddy’s car while he stopped at the hospital for something, his initial interest in the show was usurped by the opportunity to ride in Daddy’s car, where he could watch a movie!

After picking up Cameron’s friend British Ben, I drove the 30 minutes into town, paid the seven dollars to park and walked in sub-zero wind chill temps to the auditorium….where I spent the entire time telling Cameron to sit up, to stop flipping his chair up and down, to stop picking his nose, to stop talking, to clap when each song was over, etc. The show ended up being different this year, as it was more of a concert with one local gospel group (The Steeles), so I can understand Cameron continually asking me when the dancing was going to occur. But when I told him that he needed to stop talking because people were singing, his response was, “Why do I need to stop? It’s not like they can’t hear them.” Ugh! The final straw was when we walked out for the intermission. A friend of mine (whose 2 children were enjoying the show quite enthusiastically) told me that she overheard Cameron and Ben say how boring the show was; I decided that I had had enough. It was no longer fun. And my attempt to introduce something exciting and cultural was failing miserably.

So we opted out of the 2nd half, which I’m sure was wonderful, and we headed home.

I think we'll be passing up on those symphony tickets this year.

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Chemo Observation Poem

She lies there hooked up to an IV bag.

He sits next to her.

Not a word spoken between them

And yet, when her eyes are closed,

I catch him just gazing at her,

With nothing but love in his eyes.

Thinking about the decades they’ve been together.

Wishing that he was in her place

Wanting to take her pain away

Wondering how she’s going to make it this time.

And what to do

If she doesn’t.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mile 26!

Tomorrow is my last chemo treatement! It seems like it has been a long 4 months. And yet at the same time I am so grateful that it has been ONLY four months. As I wrote to someone recently, chemo has been easier and harder than I thought. The week of my chemo I felt horrible (especially during those 1st AC treatments), with different physical and emotional issues each day. The second week I felt completely fine, like I didn't even have cancer. This horrible bald head was my only indication that I even was going through chemo.

I must say I am SO HAPPY it is ending. If I knew for sure I wasn't going to knock over someone in their walker, I'd do cartwheels out of that place! Plus, I can't really celebrate until the last of the shooting pains are gone. So sometime next week, I'll be jumping for joy!

But this is just one "marathon" I have completed on my way to getting my body rid of all this cancer and preventing anymore from occuring. Next, will be my radiation treatments. That will not be as lengthy, but it will occur more often. More info on that after I meet with my oncologist tomorrow.

Another huge THANK YOU to everyone who has been part of my support system during these past few months.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Interesting...very interesting.

The Chambers Hotel, where we stayed for our 10th annivesary, is also an art gallery. Now I could sit here and write some very serious artistic interpretations of what I viewed in the hallways and in our room. However, lately I prefer to take a more light-hearted approach to art and see the humor in it....more fun that way, don't ya think?
Below are just some of the works of art displayed, and under each one my highly-educated commentary!

Teletubbie Poe on a diet.

Who knew you could take a piece of solid wrapping paper, frame it poorly and call it art!

A great distraction when you're climbing five flights of stairs.

This 3D sculpture looked so real it was creepy! (I'm talking about the face on the right, of course.)

When we first passed this pile of trash, I thought to myself, "Hmm. Wonder why such a nice hotel would leave these bags sitting in the hallway." Then we passed it again later on and I jokingly said to my husband, "What if they keep this trash here and we're supposed to think that it's art." My husband then nudged it a little with his foot and discovered that the bags were not bags at all, but solid masses of painted plaster. The "trash" really was part of the art display!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Celebrating a decade

Yesterday, January 17th, was our 10th wedding anniversary. Last year when we were at the Bahamas and thinking about how we were going to celebrate the milestone event, we discussed going back to where we had our honeymoon in Jamaica.

Obviously, being in the middle of chemo, I decided that it wouldn't be best if we ventured out of the country to warmer climates.

So we got to hang out in sub-zero temperatures in downtown Minneapolis.

With Sara watching our kids, we were free to do whatever we wanted for 2 days and nights. I booked us a room at an artsy boutique-type hotel, we ate dinner at some nice places, had drinks at some fun spots, listened to some jazz, watched a movie, had a couples massage, navigated the skyways of downtown, and just relaxed in our hotel room.

It wasn't Jamaica, but it was still fun. Cold...but fun.

Our room had 2 bathrooms! Check out those funky sinks and blue glass tile. The floors were heated, and the larger bathroom had a flatscreen right in front of the toilet, plus a large rainshower.

With dark wood floors, minimalist decorating and orginal art, we at first had a hard time feeling "cozy" in our room. But the we soon "warmed up" to the cool interior and didn't want to say goodbye to our museum-like place.

The hotel had a really awesome courtyard with a funky ice bar housed in what looked like a square freeezer. Ironically, they had to shut the icebar down because it was just too cold!

We thought we'd warm up at the hottest place one can think of.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How did that get in there?

When dropping Max off at preschool yesterday, Ella left one of her Burger King kid’s meal toys. Max didn’t want anyone else to take it, so he quickly put it away. Did he put it in his cubby? In his backpack? With his jacket?

Nope, he stuck it down his underwear.

“Well it wouldn’t fit in my pocket,” he proclaimed.

He had it in there the entire 3 hours, and didn’t remember it was in his pants until I buckled him in his carseat.

When protecting your sister's toys, you gotta do what you gotta do…I guess.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's okay to chuckle....although I really just want to scream.

Ya gotta see the humor in it.

Despite the peach fuzz that is beginning to grow back on my head, I’m losing hair elsewhere. My eyelashes are starting to fall out. They’re not just thinned out, but from my inner corner to the middle of my lid, they’re just gone. So I can’t even use mascara to try to enhance them. I bought some fake eyelashes to try to use when my husband and I go out this week. But I’m farsighted..which means I can’t see things close without my glasses. But I have to have my glasses off to apply the lashes. This should be interesting.

I drove down to Hastings to pick up a mastectomy bra that I had ordered. A sexy black lace bra…to fit my fake boobs in. What a turn on that will be for my husband.

Two more side effects from the Taxol that I’m experiencing are acne…which is popping up all over my chin, and hotflashes...which occur about 15 times a day. What an oxymoron--acne and hotflashes…puberty and menopause. So I’m like a teenager going through menopause. Can you imagine how pleasant I must be to live with!

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Little Body, Big Mouth

My Ella is a TV junkie.

The other day she wanted to watch TV after eating dinner. But we were going out somewhere. She was so mad that I wasn't turning on a movie for her, that she emitted this incredibly loud high-pitched scream...

...setting off the glass break alarm system in our house.

She's got some lungs I tell you. And when she's mad, she doesn't hesitate to use them.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008


Ever have those dreams when you forget to put on some clothes and you find yourself in public half-naked? (My husband laughed at me and completely denied ever having dreams like this...but I know I'm not the only one!).

Anyhow, I don't have those dreams anymore.

Now I'm always having dreams that I'm caught out in public without my scarf adorning my lumpy noggin.

A nightmare I tell you...an absolute nightmare.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

It will touch your heart.

Want to read a story of true hope and inspiration?

Then start here:http://cfhusband.blogspot.com/

It's the story of a young woman with Cistic Fibrosis, awaiting a double-lung transplant, when she discovered she was pregnant. The blog is her husband's, who is detailing their story that is occuring right now at the medical center at Duke. His wife is in an induced coma, after having a c-section of their little girl, at only 25 weeks. The husband's outlook, love, support and faith is nothing but inspiring.

I hope you get a chance to read a little of their story and to pray for their health, strength, and recovery.


Another side effect

Besides the shooting leg pains that I experience on the chemo Taxol, there's another side effect that's just quite odd....numbness in my fingertips and toes.

The sensation (or lack there of) can be comparable to when you go outside in the winter for too long (for me too long would be more than 2 minutes!). You know, when you're so cold that your extremities are just numb. You end up coming inside and rubbing your fingers and toes until the blood circulates properly and you can feel them normally again.

Well, that's what Taxol does to me...except I'm not outside. The odd thing is that I'm continually rubbing my fingers and toes trying to "warm them up" even though they're not even cold.

It's a Pavlovian reaction, I guess. And just a temporary, annoying side effect.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

A post you wouldn't expect from a reading teacher.

Is anyone else completely annoyed with this writers' strike? Actually, that's a little too mild. This strike sucks.

All of the shows that I just enjoy relaxing in front of at night have exhausted their supply of episodes. There is only one show I watch that is not affected by the strike--Project Runway.

But then Sunday night a new series started called Cashmere Mofia. Four high-powered women living the "corporate life" in NYC deal with issues of work, family, dating, etc. Kinda cheesy, but interesting enough for me to veg out and sip some wine to. So I was excited to at least have one other show to look forward to.

Except of all the time slots in the week, its regular air time is Wednesday at 9:00 PM...the same time of Project Runway.

I reiterate...this strike sucks.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

This year I will.....

I volunteer in Cameron’s classroom every other week. It’s fun because I get to help out, see what’s going on in the classroom (since Cameron tells me nothing), and I am able to see all the displayed work in the classroom and in the hallway. Today I had to compose myself before entering the classroom after reading one of the Cameron’s written pieces hanging outside of the classroom.

Cameron’s teacher had the kids write about their New Year’s Resolutions. As I glanced at them, searching for Cameron’s, I discovered the kids had written some really nice goals. Most involved something like not fighting with their siblings, keeping their room clean, helping out around the house. Reading those I was especially eager to see Cameron’s kind ambitions for the year.

This is what I found on his:
#1. I want to get better at playing Playstation.
#2. I want to tag less harder at playing tag. (Apparently they get a little rough at recess).
#3. I want to learn how to help Patrick in playing Madden better. (Madden is a football game on Playstation).

If he thinks we’re going to change the rule of “Playstation only on the weekends” so that he can work on his resolutions, he better think again.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

It really is all in my head

One of the side effects of chemotherapy is memory loss..."chemo brain" it's often called.

According to breastcancer.org "women have long reported to their doctors that they have experienced a sense of memory loss—a feeling of being 'fuzzy,' 'cloudy,' 'in a fog,' or unable to concentrate like they used to—during and immediately after undergoing chemotherapy."

During this past month I have misplaced my glasses at least 25 times, had to replace a cell phone that I couldn't locate anywhere, used my spare key several times while my orginals sat dormant. I've also found myself going into the pantry for milk, returning cereal to the refrigerator and purchasing a cartful of items at Target, forgetting the one thing I went in there for.

I lose my thought in the middle of sentences, completely forget to return phonecalls and e-mails and leave almost everything unfinished.

Just last week I almost took 5 Ativan instead of my prescribed 5 steroids.

But anyone who has spent even the slightest amount of time with me knows that this has NOTHING to do with chemobrain......

and everything to do with "Caribrain."

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Monday, January 07, 2008

What happens when I'm in the shower.

I want my children to be independent, really I do.

But independently climbing up on the chair, to climb on the desk, to climb on the counter, to open the cabinet to help herself to the small stash of hidden candy....

isn't really the kind of independence I want my 2 year old to strive for, yet.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Getting through the day

My husband only had a couple hours of sleep last night and then was at the hospital all day and evening, doing a handful of c-sections. It's 7:30 now, and he's still not home.

Cameron had basketball practice in the morning, and spent most of the rest of the day here with an old preschool friend, playing Lego StarWars...the Complete Saga.

With my chemo on Thursday this week, I was too weak and tired to do much of anything.

But my two youngest decided that if I wasn't taking them anywhere today, they were going to see how many times they could raid the fridge, pantry and cabinets, keeping themselves entertained with food.

Here they are enjoying their second yogurt of the day.

When is this weekend over?

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

More poison.

I finished round 7 (of 8) of my chemo today.

Not sure where that falls on my marathon analogy scale. If I did my algebra correctly, I think it's just past mile 22.

And just like in a real marathon, my legs are killing me. But not from the chemo (yet), but from the fact that I decided to run/walk 4 miles on the treadmill yesterday. I haven't run in over a month...so I am feeling it today. It's a good pain though. If this round follows the pattern of my last rounds, in a few days, the bad pain will start. But I'll worry about that when/if it hits.

No pain, no gain!

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

All two

My little Ella sure is a feisty one. She has hit her terrible twos full force.

When she is mad, she screams, and screams, and screams at the top of her lungs. And the cause of her anger usually has something to do with not putting on a movie for her, not giving her a snack when she wants it, not meeting whatever need/want she has at the exact second that she demands it. Needless to say, adding in my other two monsters, my house is not very peaceful…at all.

Ella is also very physical. If Cameron is in her face, she’ll do whatever she can to get him away from her, including pushing, hitting, scratching and pinching. Now I can see where she learned to push and hit…from her brothers. But the scratching and pinching…that’s all new.

This is one little mama you don’t want to mess with.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

It's a start

Here it is a new year and I got to use my hairdryer today!

No, not for my hair…don’t think I need a dryer for ½ millimeter of sparse hair growth.

I used the dryer to help expedite the melting of the ice that formed in the back of the freezer when our water valve broke and apparently leaked H20, which of course turned into ice, coating the back of the freezer with about 6+ inches of the frozen stuff!

So for most of the day I had the privilege of emptying the refrigerator and freezer, cleaning out every drawer, shelf and wire basket, and now trying to make this damn ice melt.

I want to get it to melt tonight so that all my refrigerator food does not freeze, as it sits in the cooler outside in….well…below-freezing temps.

In addition to my fridge duty, I began the year:

* Ignoring, but still putting up with, this sinus infection.

* Getting in an argument with my husband about the initiative I don’t take around the house.

* Dealing with a very crabby, feverish 2 year old.

* Consoling an injured 3 year old who pinched his hand, removing a tiny patch of skin on his palm, while playing with some Cub Scout flashlight contraption

* Allowing my 6 year old to play Playstation for way too many hours.

I hope this first day is not an indication of how the rest of my year is going to be. I’m going to try to look at it as getting the bad stuff out of the way first to make way for all the wonderful days ahead!

Hey, at least I'll start the year with a clean fridge...a VERY clean fridge at that!

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