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Sunday, September 6, 2015

2,555 days

My darling boy,

Today you are seven years old, and those years have flown by in the blink of an eye.  You are growing and changing every single day, but at your very core, you are still the sweet boy you were on the day you were born.

Your sixth year was fraught with change and uncertainty as Dad went through all of his treatments.  Throughout the process, you asked so many intelligent questions about what was happening, and you went off to think about the answers in your own way, in your own time.  You were so brave even though I know you were scared.  Like Dad, change is not your thing, but you handled everything with a grace and maturity that I didn't know you had.

You have done a lot and learned so much during this past year.  You ride your two-wheeler like a champ, and you love to ride around the driveway in the morning before school.  You lost some teeth, and your jack-o-lantern smile melts my heart every time I see it.  Kindergarten was fantastic for you because you made so many new friends and came home each day with new facts.  I loved hearing you say that you missed school during the summer because you wanted to see your pals.  I think you enjoyed summer camp for the most part, but I also know that you were happiest at home with me, reading a book or finding shapes in the clouds.  You have also learned to whistle and snap; I always know where you are in the house because I can hear you singing or whistling or snapping all over the place.

You have an innate sense of justice that I love; you can't stand to see anyone or anything mistreated.  If you find a spider in your room, you always want me to catch it and put it outside instead of squashing it.  Violence of any kind makes you sad, even when you know it's just a movie or something pretend.  You are a creator at heart, not a destroyer.  I think that's why you love playing Minecraft so much: you can build your own world just how you want it.  And when it comes to your family, you give so much more than you realize.  One of your favorite things to do is create a "store" in your room, and you invite us all to choose something to keep.  We play along and put everything back at the end of the night, but your face lights up when we make our selections.  You would give away your most prized possessions if you thought that would make someone else happy.

Of course, you're also a stereotypical little boy in some ways.  Any sort of joke about a bodily function is enough to make you fall off a chair with laughter.  You laugh with your entire body, and that makes me laugh even harder.  Stinky feet pass for great comedy around here, and I often hear Lottie exclaiming, "DAAAAAAALLAS" when she is sick of your jokes.  You two fight more than ever now, but you also stand up for each other with strength and fierce love.  I am confident that no one will ever hurt you while your sister is around, and I know you will always protect her.  One of my favorite things to do is listen you talk to each other right before bedtime because sometimes you tell her things that you haven't told me.  I'm so glad that you have her in your life, and she is beyond lucky to have you as a brother.

If I had one wish for you in your seventh year, it would be this: continue to be exactly who you are.  You're crazy-smart, kind, generous, funny, curious, and gentle.  As you grow, you might start to feel that it isn't cool to be sweet, but I hope you can ignore that feeling.  I love when you cuddle with me and tell me how much you love me.  I love that you still hold hands in a parking lot.  I love that you still try to sit in our laps even though you really don't fit.  Basically, I love how strongly you love, and I hope with all my heart that you never lose that.  Not too many adults, let alone kids, know who they are, and you are one of the lucky few to know that about yourself at such a young age.  Hold on to that, baby, and don't let anyone try to change the beautiful boy you are.

Dad and I are ridiculously proud of you and the way you complete our little family.  Thank you for bringing us so much laughter and love.

With all my love,

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Now what?

In the last three months, T has finished his cancer treatments.  He had a final surgery to reconnect his bowel system, and he was able to 86 the colostomy bag that he had been carrying around for seven months.  The ileostomy take-down surgery has a long recovery period, very long, but T has already seen improvement since the procedure in May.  (If any of you are singing Bob Seger in your head right now, bonus points to you.) 

We spent so much time waiting for the next steps during all of the treatments, and now we are finally at the point where all there will be are follow-up appointments.  It's a wonderful, amazing feeling to finally be able to relax after fourteen months of never taking a deep breath.  The last year has been so chock full of tests and appointments and surgeries; now we're looking at only four appointments a year. what?

We're planning a trip to Hawaii in the Fall to celebrate the demise of the cancer and to belatedly celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.  Yes, we're taking the kids with us because they deserve a vacation as much as we do, and we also invited my dad to join us as well.  We went through the ordeal as a family, and I want us to unwind as a family.

I'm starting a new part-time job at the beginning of the school year.  I'll be working as a University Supervisor through Purdue University; basically, I'm going to help student teachers learn how to be the best teachers they can be.  I honestly never expected to go back out into the working world in any way, shape, or form.  I have always been fulfilled by what I do at home, and I have never felt the need to prove anything, to myself or others, about my value as a homemaker and mother.  But this opportunity fell into my lap, and after initial resistance, I decided to grab it.  I can basically make my own schedule, and the majority of my work can happen while the kids are in school.  

The timing was right to start doing something new.  I thought I would be ready for business as usual once all of T's treatments were over, but I have found that I'm ready for change instead.  People have asked what I have learned throughout this whole journey, and I don't know that I have one simple answer for that.  I think, though, that I have started thinking more in terms of why not instead of why. "Change is good" has always been one of my mottos (although it makes T shudder) but it's not exactly change that appeals to me now as much as it is taking advantage of opportunities, no matter how big or how small.  

It's not as dramatic as deciding to live life to the fullest, grab the brass ring, etc.   I wish I could say that the last few years of cancer hullabaloo have made me appreciate every moment in life that I have, but I think that's a pretty high expectation for one person.  I'm only human, and things are bound to get me down now and again.  But instead of wondering if I should do something, I want to start asking myself why wouldn't I do it: small things like giving the kids ice cream before dinner and letting them stay up late, big things like a new job and a dream of starting my own business someday, or in-between things like nights out with friends.  I don't want to look back and regret the things I didn't do, the places I didn't go, or the friends I didn't make because I was afraid or thought somehow I didn't deserve to do it.   

There is, of course, another side to this.  I also have to learn how to say no when I really don't want to do something.  That is going to be difficult because I don't like saying no or letting people down.  Like anything in life, there needs to be balance between what will make others happy and what will make me happy.  Right now, I don't know how that balance will fit into my new viewpoint, but I'm eager to see how it's all going to work out in the end.  The beauty of it all is that I have the power to choose and make my own decisions.  I don't have to be perfect, and I don't have to be everything to everyone at every moment.  

Now what?  Now we breathe in and out; we laugh and we cry; we travel and we enjoy nights at home; we go to soccer games and we host play dates; we do what we have to do and we do what we want to do; mostly, we live and love.  Beyond that, we'll just have to wait and see.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Less is less

Scouts, soccer, baseball, gymnastics, swimming, track, football, cheerleading, clubs.  It seems like a lot of kids are doing a lot of those things.  Parents are running to get their kids to activity after activity, day after day.  Chez Wells, though, after having been in it for almost a year, Dallas is done with martial arts.  He learned a lot and earned a few new belts, but his heart was never truly in it.

I had begun to notice that getting Dallas to tae kwon do was no easy task.  We had to get in the car as soon as he got off the bus, have a snack en route, get to the studio, change into uniform, and start class.  That's a lot for a Kindergarten kid to do right after school.  He enjoyed his class and liked his teacher, but he wasn't really into the whole thing.  He spent most of his time making faces at himself in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors.  I knew he wouldn't be ready for the next higher level of class which involved more memorization, a longer class period, and more difficult practices.  He would end up being a distraction to the teacher and the rest of the kids in class.

T and I decided that Dallas could stop the martial arts class.  I felt guilty at first because I wondered if we were teaching him that it was okay to quit something out of boredom.  Would this decision affect how he lived his life?  Would he change his major in college twelve times because we allowed him to quit tae kwon do?   Then I realized that I was a little nuts, and I reined it in.

Part of my guilt stems from the fact that it's almost de rigueur for kids to do all the things: music lessons, sports, drama classes, academic teams.  I worried that Dallas wasn't going to have An Interest.  Don't all kids need An Interest to feel successful and confident?  What would His Interest be?  I was afraid I was ruining his life.  And as parents, we're constantly inundated with what our kids should or shouldn't be doing, mostly opinions without many facts behind them.   But how are we supposed to know which way to go or what works for our own children?

All at once, I was hit with the proverbial bolt of lightning: the kid is six years old.  He's six.  He doesn't need An Interest.  He couldn't choose An Interest right now if his life depended on it, because, SIX. And I'm not even saying that no six-year old knows what he/she likes to do, but I know that Dallas needs some time to develop his interests.  Having lots of after-school activities works for a lot of kids and their families.  Lottie, for instance, would be thrilled to do something different every day of the week: that's just who she is.  But Dal, he's more of an old soul who likes to ease into things before he fully commits.  His personality is essentially different than mine, so sometimes I find it problematic to parent him.   I'm learning, though.  I'm learning to give him some time and space to be who he is and who he needs to be.

When T and I told Dal he could be done with tae kwon do if he wanted to, he thought about it for a while before responding.  (Shocking.)  He eventually said he was glad he was going to be done with the Monday/Wednesday rigmarole; he said all he wanted to do when he came home from school on Mondays was read the new library book that he had gotten at school that day.  He may not know everything just yet, but he knows what he likes.  I'm just glad I was finally able to give up my own worry in order to lessen his.  It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing - jump off a bridge, anyone? -as long as we're happy with the result.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

All in

We have made it past a pretty important milestone chez Wells: T is done with his chemo treatments.  It's such a simple statement, but it means so much more to us.  It's the end of nausea, the end of overwhelming fatigue, the end of dreading what we know would happen every two weeks, and most importantly, the end of the damnable cancer.  He'll have a CT scan at the end of April, and he'll also see the surgeon to determine when the surgery to reverse his ostomy will happen.  By the time the kids start summer break, I hope this is all behind us.

The thing is, it'll never really be done.  Of course, he'll have follow-up appointments and scans to determine that the cancer has not returned.  But the last ten months and the next few to come will always be with us.  We'll never go to an appointment without a modicum of fear or worry.  It will forever be the year of cancer when we look back at this point in our lives.

When T was diagnosed, I remember wondering how this would change us as a couple and as a family.  I was so afraid of what we would become.  In a small sense, it was far more difficult than I ever anticipated.  Seeing T in the hospital, knowing how terribly ill the chemo made him, and wanting to just take it all away was almost more than I could handle.  In a larger sense, it went so much smoother than I ever thought possible because of all the help we received.  I was lucky enough to have the kind of help that made it fairly easy to stick to a daily routine and a "normal" life for the kids.  I can't think of many events, major or minor, that we missed out on because there were always people around to ensure that we were where we needed to be when we needed to be there.  The way my family and our friends made themselves utterly and completely available to us was truly a thing of selfless beauty and love.  Because of everyone who helped, nothing changed for the worse.  We were still a family, and better yet, my kids had and continue to have amazing examples of what it truly means to be a friend.

As far as changing us as a couple, I think the cancer has made us appreciate each other more.  I can only speak for myself, but at the end of the day, I'm happy to curl up and watch a show or read a book at home, anything just to be near T.  I'm still totally annoyed when he doesn't change the toilet paper roll or puts his dirty dishes near the dishwasher instead of in it, but I'm more willing to overlook the little stuff.

That whole "in sickness and in health" line in a wedding ceremony tends to get lost sometimes, but it's one of the most important parts there is.  T wasn't allowed to give up his fight, and I wasn't either.  His fight was obviously more important, but I fought to keep everything else in our lives together.  I think we'll both carry those war wounds around for the rest of our lives.  It is said that time heals all wounds, but I don't think that's necessarily true.  Time allows the wounds to scab over and begin to heal; however, time also creates scars, lengthens them, and raises them to the surface, making them impossible to forget.  Maybe that's not the worst thing in the world though, remembering.  Even though it's not a time I ever want to repeat, it's worth remembering that life gets tough, but we are tougher.  Maybe we have changed; however, we're together, and nothing else really matters.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


This isn't my story, but I have permission to write about it.  I'm using initials instead of full names to protect the privacy of those involved.  

When we decided to move from Lexington, one of the most difficult things for me to do was leave our beloved babysitter, N, behind.  She used to schedule her college classes around when I wanted her to be with the kids, and she came at a moment's notice or stayed late more times than I care to remember.  She was the only sitter the kids had ever had, but she was much more than a babysitter.  She took care of and loved our kids, but she also became more like my younger sister and friend.  

N lost her mother, G, unexpectedly two summers ago.  It happened not long after N's brother, E, got married.  After such a happy occasion, the loss of G was especially heartbreaking.  It doesn't matter how old someone is; living without a mother is agonizing.  

I know this must have been on everyone's mind when E and his wife, J, announced that they were expecting their first child.  G would have been an amazing grandma, so loving and protective.  We took N on vacation with us one year; before we went, G met with me to make sure we were fairly normal people and to tell me what to do if N got a headache.  (I was supposed to make her drink a Coke or something with caffeine.) I loved that G still saw N as her baby and wanted to be sure we would care for her.  

The day that J had her baby was so exciting.  I started receiving texts from N early in the morning while she was in the waiting room of the hospital.  I can only imagine that G was in everyone's thoughts that day as her new grandson came into the world.  He's a gorgeous, healthy boy with many, many people who love him.

Later in the day, N sent me a text to tell me something that gave me goosebumps and still does every time I think about it.  It was the afternoon, and J was resting in her hospital room.  The nurse in charge of caring for her was named G, the exact same name as N's mom.  I know a lot of people would think this was simply a nice coincidence, but I don't buy it.  This was G's way of letting her family know that she is still looking out for them and still in their lives. 

It doesn't matter who you are, how old you are, or where you are.  It's nice to know that someone is thinking about you, that someone cares about you.  Call me crazy, but I firmly believe that if we are open to it, the ones who have gone before us will send us signs.  I think when we really need it, they are the quiet whispers that help us make difficult decisions, and they are the sudden sense of peace when we are feeling helpless.  They're the ones who bring the sun out at the end of a rainstorm, and they're in the familiar smiles we see in the faces of our children as they grow.  

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black places his hand on Harry's heart and says, "But know this; the ones that love us never really leave us.  And you can always find them in here."  Once again, J. K. Rowling says something so simple in a truly beautiful way.  N's sweet new nephew will always know his grandmother through the stories told to him by all the people who loved her, and she will forever be in his heart.  With all of the bad news and insanity we see daily on the news or on the Internet, I'm happy to know that there are still flashes of beauty and light out there to enrich our world and our spirits. Sometimes I wonder how much we miss because our minds are closed to what is considered improbable or even impossible.  I'm going to try to keep my mind and my heart open because I never want to miss a chance to connect with those watching over me.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Back in the (Spring) swing

I know February is a short month, but, man, it was loooooooong chez Wells.  We had some very minor bouts of sickness, and longer bouts of I don't even know what.  We're restless and edgy and unfocused.  Winter blues?  Utter fatigue?  The blahs?  Something has been going around; that's all I know.


I think I need to get out of the "when" mindset.  Like we'll go on vacation when T's treatments are over or we'll try to sneak in a night alone when the kids are older.  I need to focus on now and everything that is happening in the present.  The sun was shining today, and that has made a huge difference for me.  I was in a funk with the rest of the crew here, and I just couldn't seem to snap out of it.  I'm not entirely certain that I am out of it, but at least for today, there was a tiny hint of Spring in the air.  Spring will bring more sunshine and singing birds and soft breezes and the end of chemo. (That sort of seems like a bit of a "when" but I'm going to let that one slide.  No one is perfect.)   Even when we don't feel like it, we keep on keeping' on, and sometimes that's enough.

This is not to say I haven't been finding the good in things as often as I can.  This is the Year of the Boss, no?  I'm beyond grateful for my amazing family who continues to help us out every day.  My dad takes T into Northwestern for his chemo days and takes Dal to tae kwon do.  My mom spends girl-time with Lottie after school and makes sure we are always fed.  My fantastic brother gave up a Friday night to take both kids to the Flint Lake fun fair because I was working the fair and couldn't walk around with them.  (No need to get into that night, but suffice it to say Dallas made Matt's chaperoning job a bit difficult.)  We are so lucky to have my family and our friends around to check in, lend a hand, or just remind us that they are around when we need them.  I love that my kids get to see not only what it looks like to help others but how to graciously receive the help being given.  That is a gift that they will use for the rest of their lives.

I have been going to boot camp at the Y with my brother on Monday and Wednesday mornings.   It's a great way to get going in the morning, and I secretly like the time I get to spend with Matt.  Don't tell him I said that, though.  I would hate for him to get the big head.

I spent time with the big family group a couple of weeks ago.  I loved sitting around and laughing with my cousins, and it was fun to watch our kids play together.

My wicked smart nephew has decided to head to IU next year, and my incredible niece is turning twenty-one this week.    That's bitterboss because they should both still be little, but watching them grow is a pretty special thing.

I ran into one of my former students a few weeks ago who said she hoped I would go back to teaching because I was really good at it.  Talk about the big head!!  My ego is still stuffed full after that.

Some people I know are getting married, and some people are having babies.  New seasons, new lives, new beginnings; there's not much better than that.  Maybe forcing myself to remember the boss that life doles out every day will help get me out of "when" and keep me in "wow."

Someone had fun at the fun fair!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

All things cold

Yeah, we've had a bit of snow recently.  So boss.

My mom and I took the kids to see Disney on Ice: Frozen.  It was a lot of fun!  Lottie really loved it and wanted to stay to watch the whole thing again.  Dallas was a little more iffy: I don't know if it was because he wasn't feeling well or because he just wasn't that into it.  He has mentioned the show to me in passing since then, so I prefer to think he just wasn't himself that day.  My mom enjoyed listening to the music and seeing all the amazing performers.  I wasn't at all ashamed to sing along quite loudly to all of the songs.  I may or may not listen to the soundtrack from time to time when I'm home alone.  What?

She looks so grown up in this picture.  
Mom, I hate selfies. 
I think I had to make a joke about a butt to get him to laugh.  

Both kids had great report cards.  Their grades were good, but more importantly to me, they both had strong marks in citizenship.  That makes me beyond proud.  I can always make math flashcards or work on reading, but it's not so easy to make a kind person.  Brag alert!  My kids are totally boss.

We had a fun time watching the Super Bowl with family and friends.  Well, I didn't watch it.  I did watch the halftime show because I love Lenny Kravitz.  Hubba hubba.  T cooked a bunch of delicious food, and the kids all ran around like crazies.  Best Super Bowl ever!

Hello, Mr. K. C. Wells. 
Dallas was invited to a birthday party for a girl in his class.  When I called to RSVP, I told the girl's mom that I would bring food to the party for Dal.  I know it's difficult for people to accommodate his food allergy, so I always make sure to send a suitable substitute with him.  When we arrived at the party, the mom told me that other than a couple of types of candy, everything at the party was dairy-free.  Dallas could eat the exact same things as the other kids and not feel left out.  I immediately teared up as I thanked her, and seeing Dallas's face light up when he realized he could snack with everyone else was priceless.  That generous act of kindness absolutely made my week.

And then there is this.  And this.

 We have all spent a lot of time together in the last month reading, watching old movies, laughing, and snuggling.  Both kids have been much more cuddly lately; I think it's the mixture of the weather and just wanting to be near T and me.  I still loathe the cancer, but I'm grateful for the reminder it has given us to slow down.  We'll have plenty of time to run from place to place for all kinds of activities, but now is our time to close ranks and be a family.  Maybe learning and embracing that is the most boss thing of all.