Sticky summers are the best
We’ve signed on for another year. In the apartment Brett found. That I didn’t see. Before moving here. It’s a corner unit with lots of nice light. On a steerage-like floor that ‘let’s us use the stairs’. We negotiated a lower rent increase and felt good. Until we recalled again how expensive rent really is here.Things are going well for everyone. The kids are making friends and generally really happy. And it just sort of happened that we extended our original contract.
It’s odd to pause and lift your head and look around at what life looks like right now.
We jumped at this opportunity 2 years ago for very obvious reasons.
We were itching for some kind of a change. We didn’t know what that meant, but we could feel that we wanted to change direction. But in which way, for how long, with the intentions of it leading to what? We really didn’t think that far ahead.
An amazingly exciting and different and challenging opportunity had been handed to us, in a salad bar line up, quite literally, and by the point of handing over my $8.00 for my bland and soggy salad, we knew that this was the change that we’d wanted.
Not New York, specifically. Hell, we’d only been here a handful of times, and all well within the expected framework of bewildered and overwhelmed and anxious tourist or business visitor. Most certainly not through the lens of actually setting up camp, establishing routines and living ‘normal’ life here.
And we’ve made it nearly 2 years. Later this month I’ll think back to the blurry last few days in Calgary, and even blurrier, and yet remarkably sharply-imprinted-in-my -memory, first few days in NYC.
Packing up and saying goodbye, and then unpacking and saying hello to our old and new homes.
We entered into this with no expectations of what was ‘next’. But we safely held a foot on our old home, leaving a home for rent and an enormous storage locker full of ‘stuff’… As thoughtfully as we could getting rid of things that ‘the kids would outgrow by the time we returned in 2 years.’
And 2 years have come and gone, and we’re here. For another year for now.
Such a gift, really, to have these options in our lives. And it comes with such responsibility, again, to make the most of it, to take advantage of it for us all, to not f*%# it all up, and to not f*#+ our little babies up in the process of it all.
We are wrapping up this week at work before 2 glorious weeks of holiday time.
It’s tempting to enter into holidays as a chance to really ‘focus’ and ‘figure stuff out’ and ‘make a plan’… Perhaps it’s my own age, or the age of my kids, or just pace of life right now, but I am so happily excited to try to relax and enjoy as much of the holiday moments as I can. I have fewer expectations than I might have previously. I have done the minimum amount of planning. And I’m happily looking forward to this time of resting, reading, playing, lounging, sipping, and snacking. So a few expectations then I suppose…but really, nothing of consequence other than to be.
I was eager to return home today to hear about Crazy Hat Day at camp- . we decided that the day and our amazing representation (f*%#ing remembering at 9pm the night before that we needed to craft something and actually pulling it off with substantial support) called for Mexican out.
Our dinner conversations revealed that Nora had worn a Velcro suit at the Camp Fair today. While wearing her awesome Mother-in-the-clouds-dragon hat. And was tossed to a wall. And we learned that Eli was put into a rolly-polly friendly plastic Zorb ball thing at the park after camp by the babysitter. And they both loved the shit out of it.
And then, as I sipped my margarita, Nora told me how she asked their babysitter whether she would be voting for Hillary or Trump.
Brett has one expectation of our holiday thanks to my second margarita.
What kind of a goalie can’t juggle?
And on and on and on…
Happy birthday month
It’s nearly summer in New York. Among many things, it now means for us, as parents of school-aged kids, the month of 900 birthdays, as all of us with summer month babies get the brilliant idea to jam a party into the 28 available June days, before 3/4 of New York retreat to the water, away from the swelter and stink of the city….!
So this weekend we have 5 birthday parties. Next weekend 2. The weekend after 1. And the weekend after that, Nora’s own party and another 2.
The social experiment of birthday parties is fascinating, and terrifying, to me.
And navigating it in New York is something I had no idea about.
I’ve experienced a range of parties, from ‘Housewives of New York’ caliber parties that far out numbered the budget of my own wedding, to gatherings at the playground where the balloons from the Duane Reade alone marked the celebration.
I vowed last year to not repeat my mistake from my first New York birthday party, where I thought that ‘doing it myself’ was acceptable. Without the accessibility of dollar stores and cars and a backyard, hosting 17 kids on a pier playing goofy golf in the 90 degree heat with no staff from the golf course was dumb. I didn’t lose a kid, but at least 3 filled the water guns from the goodie bag (BIG taboo) with water from the Hudson and shot it in each other’s mouths, and at least 4 parents turned their noses at the visors I gave them ( it was a GOLF party and that’s effing smart and cute) as they were in a communal box and forsure one of the kids had lice…
So this year. Have I learned?
We’re having a puppy party. With live puppies. In our apartment. With 10 girls.
I will order absolutely all food. I will have wine for parents who linger because of the effing inevitable awkwardness that comes with drop off at parties ( do I stay? Is that weird? Am I a shitty parent if having 2 hours to do stuff alone is cool? Should I try to make new parent friends? Is my kid ok? Where is the wine? Can I have 2 glasses or is that weird too?)
I will splurge this year and get fancy TriBeCa cupcakes. And a lot of balloons.
And I will have crafts and practical goodie bags.
I hope Nora likes it.
I have learned a bit…
Such a sad irony to hope that you can be as at peace and comfortable and happy with the choices you make in life as you can… Before you get too old and it’s not available to you…
So we’ll see.
In the meantime, I am getting my nails done while Nora is at a party at a children’s art gallery. Maybe I’m a jerky parent.
I think she’s happy though- she blew me kisses and yelled ‘I love you, mommy’ across the gallery. And I had 1 glass of rose with the parents so that’s gotta count….!
1 down. 4 to go…
Pearson took his first treatment cycle like a boss. He’s doing well and continues to be his awesomely annoying self (howling, stealing food and counter surfing). I think we should change his breed to “f_ucker spaniel!” 😉
All of his lymph nodes have returned to a normal size except for one that is only slightly enlarged and we have this week off for treatment… he goes back in next Thursday for the second cycle.
We also just found out about a clinical trial for a vaccine that might either double his remission time(to 2+ years) or potentially cure it entirely(slim chance but it’s there). It’s based out of Philly and would be a bit of a drive for 4 shots over 2 months. But I’m seriously thinking about it.
This week marks the end of his original 4-6 week life expectancy prognosis, without treatment.
*UPDATE – June 3rd, 2016: His lymph nodes didn’t shrink at all after the doxrubicin and week off. :/ This means he didn’t reach remission in the first cycle, and this is generally a bad thing for survival projections. But, the nodes shrunk again after vincristine last week, so we proceeded with cytoxan yesterday and will continue the front line CHOP protocol until he stops responding. This complicates things for the vaccine, but we’ll find out soon if he meets the requirements.
Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Meaning of Life
Our Special Little Cocker Spaniel
Our high-maintenance, yet very loving little cocker spaniel was diagnosed with Lymphoma quite by chance last Friday, April 1, 2016. He was having a skin tag removed and our vet detected some enlarged lymph nodes. A quick biopsy and a few hours later, he was diagnosed with cancer. I’m devastated. Sara less so. The kids don’t really get it.
We staged it over the weekend and I met with an Oncologist yesterday to get the low-down. He’s Stage IIIa with no apparent organ, blood or urine signs of disease. All lymph for now. But, lymphoma is 100% fatal and moves very quickly.
If we do nothing, he dies in 4-6 weeks, despite showing no sign of disease as of today, outside of the lymph nodes.
We’ve taken another aspirate from the nodes to look into the flow cytometry of the cancer. T-cell has a worse prognosis. If it’s B-Cell, it’s highly treatable with low-does Chemo on the CHOP protocol. The Oncologist has given him an 80-90% chance of achieving temporary remission, given the variables. The average remission time is ~12 months, but some dogs make it less and some more.
BUT, the CHOP protocol requires weekly injections of some nasty chemicals for at least 8 weeks, and every other week after that for about 6 months. I’m waiting on the specifics from the Onco now. I’ve been assured by the vet that the dosage is very low as they aren’t trying to cure it like humans and that dogs rarely have side effects and live very well for that “year”.
However, he will still meet the same end. And he’s 11… no spring chicken. He’s also had a good life and hates visiting clinics.
The cost for chemo will run quite high through some specialists here in New York called Blue Pearl. ~$10k for treatment and luckily I splurged for pet insurance when we signed up for our own insurance in the US, in 2014. So out of pocket, we’re looking somewhere between $1500 and $3000 for treatment. No small feat, but very doable if we put our minds to it.
Sadly, we’ve dealt with more than our fair share of cancer in our family, so we’re all very jaded on the chemo prospect and the prognosis in general. Cancer is so very cruel and I’m heartbroken for my little guy.
Is chemo too harsh for our elder Pearson and too much stress/effort for our little family to endure, so far from home? Will I look back years down the road and regret not taking advantage of the tools at my feet for Pearson to live and enjoy life a little longer?
I don’t know what to do and my stomach is in knots. We’ve got a bunch of travel for work and vacation coming up and I feel like I’m stuck in a whirlwind of decisions I have to and cannot make.
The vet recommended we start the CHOP yesterday just in case we decide to proceed with chemo… to get the jump on the cancer before it invades his organs. So he’s had one injection so far – a little slow this morning, but he seems to be no worse for the wear.
A few lifetimes ago, we rescued a dog while living on a grape farm in Australia and ended up having to leave him behind. I made a vow that I’d do everything in my power to never abandon another dog.
*UPDATE: We have yet to hear back from the Oncologist on the phenotype Pearson is dealing with. Again, if its T-cell, it’s a lost cause and we will not pursue treatment. But we have tentatively decided to pursue chemo based on the list I’ll post below. Sara and I think long and hard about our decisions and really compliment each other well, with our differing opinions. As always, I think we’ve made the best decision at the time, given our resources and knowledge of what we’re facing. That’s all you can really ever hope for. I also wanted to reiterate, that my above post was not so much about the sadness of losing Pearson (which will be very sad, don’t get me wrong), but more about the feeling in your stomach when you have to make an important decision for a loved one (be it a person, dog or other pet) and the path is unclear. Will your decision cause more pain or less, is it the right call and how will it affect you and your family? Also, it’s tough weighing a decision against the general hopelessness that we all feel when dealing with cancer. Dogs aren’t humans and they don’t last very long, but we feel we at least owe Pearson a shot at dying an old man, on his own terms and after one hell of a summer. Life has taught us that you have play the hand you’re dealt, as best you can. We’ll make it memorable for all of us.
**Update: Confirmed B Phenotype. We proceed with chemo on Thursday the 14th at 9am.
Story of Easter and open minds
Sunday night we ordered pizza and talked with the kids about crucifixion and resurrection.
We didn’t really plan on the conversation going there, but in getting tripped up over flawed, flawed cover stories about why the Easter bunny’s treats in the baskets had price tags on them ( I really don’t get the myth behind the creepy bunny anyway, so it’s a hard one to get behind), we shifted gears to telling them where the story of Easter really came from.
Enter stage left- crown of thorns and nailing to a cross. Exit stage right- rising from the dead and a weeping mother.
We don’t talk a lot about faith in our family. The kids claim to know who God is, and what Jesus represents to many.
But we don’t actively share stories from scripture, and we don’t go to church.
But we do talk about the importance of having an open mind; a mind that takes in ideas, that digests and processes in a thoughtful way, that accepts that beliefs, and reactions and motivations are infinite in our world.
We talk about that a lot. And we are again so fortunate to be living in a place right now where the multitude of human ‘ways’ are present every single day. So while exposure is one thing, ensuring you are responsibly parenting to guide the processing of these ‘ways’ is the hard part. The ‘kids! Let’s go see, hear, feel, taste all things NOW!’ is the easy part. Taking the time to listen to how this is affecting their worlds is the challenge. Finding the right questions to ask, and answering, in turn, their questions in a relevant, respectful and helpful way is the challenge. And ensuring that throughout this exploration they’re starting to form the kind of opinions that you can be proud of… That’s the challenge.
So while this whole ‘story of easter’ sounded like a really profound and impactful exercise, there was a LOT of time spent talking about how bloody His head was from the crown of thrones. And asking how many times they had to bang the hammer to get the nails through his hands.
So not really sure if it had the impact we’d hoped for. But we’ll talk about it again.
Maybe I’ll take them to St. Pat’s or Trinity Church this Saturday and see what we see there. And then have a hotdog in the park afterwards to talk about it all.
I think that sounds about right.
Take this, Cruz
Not really. But in response to Cruz’ disparaging comments about the New York attitude, coupled with the unfortunate video of his daughter flicking him away, I logically got to thinking about why I am actually enjoying raising my kids in NYC.
(I need to also preface this with the fact that I was getting tired of all of my post ideas having a predictably blue January tone. So this one is a bit haphazard, but nonetheless happy, as it’s about a topic that makes me smile most lately.)
What am I liking about raising my kids in NYC right now?
1. Exposing them to experiences that they may not have otherwise had access to. Good and bad.
I love watching my kids take it all in. Imagining what their brains are processing, seeing little light bulbs switching on…. Watching the most authentic of smiles appear…
But I also see them immune to certain circumstances, because it’s blended in with the myriad of experiences, or because they aren’t aware of something being unusual anymore…
So it’s the good with the bad.
2. Learning patience.
Sometimes things take longer here. Sometimes you arrive when you are meant to. And sometimes the E train leaves you stranded underground for 90 minutes. Or sometimes your favourite coffee shop is now 90 other people’s favourite spot because there are 8 million people here. And all you can do is wait. And breathe.
3. Learning tolerance.
8 million people. 8 million unique smells, and shapes, and ideas, and voices.
4. Learning to appreciate one another’s space.
8 million people. Crowding the same streets, and jamming on to the same subway car. Filling the same cavernous grocery stores and waiting at the same restaurants. We share this space and are reminded of that, whether within our tiny apartment, or out in the city.
5. Chance to develop a voice.
It’s a loud place. Not just with the endless sirens, and dump trucks, and horns. But again, with the many voices. There are a lot of confident people, with varied and legitimate experiences that the stories they share are routed in. It’s been important for me to learn that having a voice and offering ideas and sharing my own stories and asking my own questions is the best way to be an active, engaged member of this city. And I love being able to demonstrate that for my kids each day.
6. Endless opportunities to be creative.
Organized, ticketed experiences (of varying degrees of formality), as well as more spontaneous experiences, where the energy and colour that this city offers to inspire a creative expression. Nobody’s watching, or 8 million people are watching- but who cares? At least half of those 8 million people have come from watching a performance, and the other half are on their way to being in a performance. Creative talent abounds, and the city is waiting with open arms for little ones to experience this talent.
7. Learning to enjoy their home and their stuff; they have less of both, and that just makes them more selective, and appreciative.
8. Chances to push themselves.
NYC is a city full of talent. Big brains, big hearts, big voices, big bodies.
Be inspired by this. And maybe a bit intimidated. But move past the intimidation factor, and push yourself to be bigger. Be inspired by this talent.
9.We can all be uncomfortable. And scared. Wherever we are.
Being able to live this every day with my kids, and to see them overcome their discomfort, alongside me, is a pretty special thing.
10. There are some opportunities for equalizing. Sort of.
All of the kids in my kids’ classes live in either 2 or 3 bedroom apartments. They all share the same backyard, which is the park that said apartments are all 1-2 blocks away from. They don’t have garages or basements full of toys or clothes or bikes or other ‘stuff’ that can indicate more of the ‘haves’ than the ‘have nots.’ But some have summer houses. And cars. And some summer in France. And we all live in a really privileged part of the city. So it’s more of a sort of benefit of living here.
11. Get help. And say thank you.
Not unique to NYC, as working families across North American encounter the same logistical and energy challenges that we are facing. But there is a frenetic pace at times here. And it can, oddly enough, be a lonely place. It’s intense and a bit daunting managing work, and kids and commuting and all of the other things that just come up. But the sense of community that we have here is amazing. There’s an awareness and a support, and there’s an unspoken acknowledgement that living here can be hard, and help is needed on some days. Take the help, and make sure you set the example and say thank you for the help.
12. Explore. Near and far.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be shlepping yourself and your kids to the furthest, most obscure ‘hidden gem’ each weekend. It doesn’t mean that you need to be perpetually pushing yourselves out of your comfort zones in order to really have an ‘experience.’
It could. But it could also mean that you explore a question, an idea, a dream together on your couch one focused Saturday morning. Intentionally or not, living in NYC exposes your kids to a breadth of smells, sounds, creations, ideas and colours than many other places. It’s my job, and my favourite job of all, to help them to process these experiences, to explore in a way that inspires them, that excites them, that grows them. Big and small explorations. Every single day. However tired we might all be.
The idea of creating traditions for my kids is taking a new shape each year that they become more and more aware of themselves, of us, and of the big world around them.
There’s a new element to consider for me while we evaluate what traditions look like in a place where we’re still building new relationships, where we’re still figuring out which traditions we bring forward from our old home, and which traditions we start in our new home.
There’s also a (sad?) reality that some traditions will be outgrown by our family at some point. Just as the kids didn’t ‘get’ the magic of Santa until really recently, they will too soon stop believing. (E already announced that he firmly doesn’t believe in Santa’s sleigh, so our time is limited, I know.)
Last year I went hard. It was a combination of excitement at being in f*#ing New York City, at being in f*#ing New York City for Christmas, and the fact that the kids were finally starting to react to the whole magic of the holidays.
We saw windows and trains and nutcrackers and enormous trees. We skated outdoors, and had $10 hot cocoas. We watched movies and listened to a lot of Mariah Carey and Michael Buble.
And we ate the weird recipes that are part of my Christmas repertoire that Brett tolerates and the kids actually walk away from. Becuase that is a tradition that I still hang on to.
This year the weird recipes are queued up. And we’ve done a few of the same things that we did last year in the city, scratched a few off the list (mostly because I have learned that schlepping is a thing and it kind of sucks when you’re tired and have stuff much more accessible to enjoy), and added some new things to the list.
This tradition below- it’s one of my favourites, and I hope it lasts for a while, and I hope my own turkeys happily pick it up with their monkeys one day.
Slight variation- we were schooled and told that we needed to hang a special ‘Santa key’ on the door handle. How in the hell else does the Big Guy get into your apartment? I went to the hardware store, found some obscure key and extra dangly stuff, and we have a key that the kids will hang on the knob, with a plate of Whole Foods cookies for him to enjoy in the hall. Hope it doesn’t attract rats.