Monday, September 29, 2014

Flu shots!

It's flu season! One of the worst things that can happen to us these next couple of months, is for Callum to come down with the flu. It's extremely dangerous and would require immediate hospitalization. SCARY. :(

So, while most vaccines have been put on hold right now, the flu shot is an exception! Our doctors have asked that all of us (including Callum) get the flu shot, along with anyone else who sees him regularly (like my parents). We can't get the nasal spray since that contains the live virus (Callum can't be around anyone who's gotten it, which makes me very nervous since there's only so much I can control - or ask parents to do or inform me of - when he's at school), so shots all around it is!

I decided to schedule our appointment as soon as I could, to help give us a jump start on the season. So we three went in today for ours (our pediatrician gives the shot to parents too, if we'd like).

This pic was taken moments before our shots - they were rambunctious and happy and excited - a handful as we waited for Dr. Safir to arrive to the room.

I went first so the boys could watch. I thought that would help. But I really don't know if it did or not. We had agreed Logan would go next, but the minute I was done and we turned to him to tell him it was his turn, he FLIPPED OUT. He had a death grip on his chair so that I had to PEEL him off and out of it - he then started kicking and screaming and thrashing - it took BOTH Safir and I to literally hold him down tight, to get the shot in. It was a disaster.

On top of that, Callum witnessed it all, so then HE freaked out, bawling like crazy and saying he didn't want a shot. He didn't fight nearly as hard but he was scared to death (can't say I blame him given how crazy Logan reacted). :(

Of course, neither felt a thing since they were so upset during the actual shots - which I pointed out afterward and they both sorta laughed and said Huh, oh yeah. *sigh*

But still, it was the craziest, most terrible, experience we've had to date!!

(Which is especially nuts given all we've been through and how much BOTH boys have braved these last 6 months!!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

It's a special Friday!

The boys have been VERY excited to see this new movie (The BoxTrolls), so Jon worked from home today so that we could go see it. :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A rough year

I haven't talked too much about it, but man this has been a really rough year for my family.  My grandfather passed away at the beginning of the year.  Just a couple of months later, we received some of the most devastating news that two parents could receive, with Callum's diagnosis.  My grandmother's 2 week visit this summer turned into several months due to several complications from surgery.

Then a couple of weeks ago, my Uncle was admitted to the ICU.  He fought a long and rough battle against bacterial meningitis, but unfortunately lost, leaving us yesterday afternoon.

What a crappy fucking year.

I posted a Goodbye note to Uncle Jim's Facebook page last night.  I've copied it here, with a couple additional pics I recently took of him (during our last trip to New Mexico earlier this year).  I'm going to miss him dearly.

I adored you as a little girl.  So similar, and yet so different, from my Dad. :)  I love you with all of my heart Uncle Jim - and will miss the rambunctious joy you brought to our entire family.  Rest in peace.

Uncle Jim meeting Callum for the first time (2010).

Uncle Jim meeting Callum for the first time (2010).

Uncle Jim and Jon - they really got along well, I'm sad that Jon didn't get as much time with him as he should have.

Uncle Jim and my Dad.  They don't look at all alike.  ;-)

Hanging out in his favorite chair. :)

New boots

It did rain today, I swear.

Picture Day!

Logan actually dressed in a collared shirt without any complaints. It's a miracle! ;-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Our first ant farm!

Thanks to Will and Stacey for giving us this awesome "Beer" Ant Farm! :) Our ants (finally) arrived today so we had to make them comfortable in their new home!

Dimple Attack!

Bike day!! Whoop whoop!

Callum kept insisting he didn't want to bring, nor ride, his bike today. I kept telling him I was going to bring it anyway, "just in case".

So I pulled it out of the truck during drop off this morning and guess who wanted to ride it from the car to his classroom?

Uh huh.

Mama knows. Mama always knows.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My new phone

I got one of the new iPhones because my other one was on its last legs. So, last night I was playing with the camera and took a series of the boys, lounging on the floor, deeply absorbed in conversation about their Pokemon cards. ;-)

What amazes me is that this was taken at night, without a flash, just the light on in our room, which has always been pretty dim. Yet, it came out quite nicely! :) This is a big deal for me since more and more, I only take pics with my phone anymore!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Treehouse

We met friends at a cute little cafe in Los Altos this morning. Inside, they've built a really neat treehouse/climbing structure around the perimeter for kids to climb and play on (while the adults get to enjoy some scrumptious French Toast!). Callum took a few tries to warm up, before he could play on his own (it's pretty high and he was a little scared) but they both totally loved it. The only downside was they were so interested and distracted by the treehouse that they didn't want to eat any breakfast! :)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Another study

This time, with Logan!

A friend of mine (thanks Angela!!) mentioned this study that Stanford is doing, on obesity - and whether there are any early signs in children, of eating habits that will influence your brain (or, the brain molding your eating habits). They're just starting the study so we are one of 30 kids participating to get the team's approval to launch into a bigger study - but essentially they will study Logan's brain scans via an MRI, watching activity while he sips water vs a chocolate shake. :)

Yesterday we went for our trial run - so that he could answer a few questions with the psychologist and see what an MRI machine is like. It was just a simulator but I was glad they did it since Logan needs to be talked to and prepped about things like this, vs just surprising him and winging it. ;-)

He did really well! He did get impatient and kept asking when they'd be done (after an 8 minute "mock" scan) so I was worried he wouldn't be interested in coming back for the actual test. But when I asked him on the drive home if he wanted to still do it, he said yes. But only after he practices (lying still) at home first. ;-)

(They're giving him $100 to do this study, plus all of the images of his brain, so don't think my kid is only interested in participating out of the goodness of his heart!) ;-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Another great day

Callum had another great day at school! I'm supposed to pick him up at lunchtime but so far he begs me to stay so he can eat lunch with his buddies. He's really transitioned back into "normal kid life" so quickly. It's so heartwarming to see. :)

These are a couple of pics I took while he was trying to ride away from me, as I was rounding him up to leave. ;-)

Monday, September 15, 2014

First Day back to school!!

Today is Callum's first day back to school (Pre-K)!! He was super excited to go, until this morning, and then he wasn't feeling up for it. He even fell asleep on the ride to school! :/

He was shy for the first few minutes but his old pals just picked up with him where we left off and I think that made a world of a difference. He hardly looked up at me as I said goodbye. ;-)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ladies Weekend Hike

Recently Jenn got a bunch of us crazy moms together to do a morning hike over the weekend. Everyone enjoyed it so much that it's starting to become a regular thing. :)

This morning we didn't have as many gals join but we still had loads of fun. And what a workout! The trail that we hike has some pretty steep inclines that get us to the top of a really gorgeous view of the mountains, nearby reservoir, and valley. I have really enjoyed spending some quality time with just my friends (aka no ankle biters hanging off my legs) and getting outside to exercise a bit.

Thanks so much Jenn for motivating us each weekend to get together! :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Daddy's Birthday!

The boys REALLY wanted to get Jon a (super huge, serves 20) Pokemon cake. After much debate, we decided on this instead. ;-)

Happy birthday Daddy!! We love you the most!

It's time!

Have started to slowly work on the boys' costumes for this year - first up, make the shredding look as worn and as natural as possible! ;-)

Trying out a new salon

I decided to take Logan to a new place today to get his haircut, since I haven't liked a few of the previous places we've been and his hair is getting pretty shaggy again. This is actually a nice salon (vs a quick cheap cut at past places), and it's a little humorous seeing how loud and boisterous my boys are, in stark comparison to this super quiet relaxing very girly place. ;-)

Another chemo day

Today was another chemo day. But the nice thing is that we won't need to come back for chemo again, for another few months!

Here's Callum's tray of chemo that they have to go through a whole ordeal to order and check before they administer it. The second pic is of Callum helping REMOVE HIS DRESSING! So crazy how far he's come in such a short amount of time - he also took his poke today with hardly a wince (and no crying, just a "hey!" when she poked him) :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The coffee shop

We dropped Logan off at school this morning, so I promised Callum we could go to the coffee shop (aka Starbucks) after. He quickly devoured a chocolate milk, morning bun (huge cinnamon roll) and a butter croissant.

And then asked me to get another chocolate milk, which I did. The barista was shocked when I came back up to the counter.

He wants another one?

Yep. Growing kid. (I figure it's no use going into why he really eats this much)

I also keep thinking this must be a great primer for the teen years. ;-)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Buying his own toys

Logan REALLY wants to pay for things with his own money these days. I needed to grab a few things at the dollar store anyway so I figured what could hurt, in terms of him spending a bit of his own cash. ;-)

So here he is, counting out his money to pay for the bag of goodies he bought today. It was pretty cute.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Date night!

So excited to be out without the kids, we can't hold the camera still. ;-)

Callum's med cocktail

My parents are watching the boys tonight so that Jon and I could get out for a much needed date night. Here's Callum's meds packed up for tonight and tomorrow! :/

Friday, September 5, 2014

NM Chile!

I don't even know what I'm going to do with all of this chile yet, but I'm excited to try a number of things! :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Camp Okizu shows up in homework

In my urgent desperation to finish my long ass blog post about Camp Okizu last night, I forgot to share a pic of Logan's homework from yesterday! He actually remembered and drew quite a few details of the camp! So proud. :)

Callumism of the year?

(As we pulled into the CVS parking lot)

C: Where are we going?

Me: We're going to pick up some medicine.

C: For who?

Me: For you.

C: I want to get some medicine for Logan. Because I already have enough medicine.

Truer words were never spoken. :)

1st Day of Maintenance

Just finished a spinal tap and two rounds of chemo. What a trooper! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Okizu Family Camp

I guess I didn't mention or provide too many details about our Family Camp trip this last weekend!  I have a ton of fun pictures to share, so I thought I'd mention it a bit more.

*** Get ready, this is a long one! ***

A few months ago when we were struggling some with Logan's behavior and adjustment to Callum's diagnosis, our social worker suggested we go to the Okizu Family Camp this summer so that we could all bond and spend some time together, and so that Logan could feel like he was getting "something out of this".  I looked into it and decided it would be a great activity for all of us - we were late in signing up but they give priority to newly diagnosed families, so after giving them a call and explaining our situation (and that we basically couldn't make any of the weekends open, except for Labor Day weekend, which was of course, already booked), the lady said not to worry and she'd work it out and get us a spot.

A few weeks later, I received a welcoming acceptance letter from Camp Okizu.  :)  Camp Okizu is a summer oncology camp for kids with cancer.  They also have sibling camps and, as you might have guessed, family camps.  It's a massive 500 acre property about an hour or so north of Sacramento - there are tall redwoods everywhere, a few lakes and open fields as well.

I wasn't sure what to expect but once we arrived, I knew it was going to be terrific (and I was pleasantly surprised).  I guess I didn't pay attention to how BIG it was when I read up on it - and assumed there'd be maybe 10 other families there with us or something.  I was terribly wrong.  ;-)  There were probably about ~200 people there that weekend and the grounds were massive (500 acres is nothing to sneeze at!).

Pathway to our cabin
Our cabin, with the shared deck outside (the neighbor's cabin is behind and to the left)
Empty bunks on the other half of our cabin
Where we camped out, on our side of the cabin :)

We've never taken the boys camping before, but it had actually been our plan, before Callum was diagnosed, to go camping in the fall.  Of course, those plans changed and we put all potential trips on hold when he was diagnosed.  

So, I was really glad we were still able to allow the boys to experience a little camping life this past weekend - even if it was a much NICER version of camping!!  (we got our own huge cabin with bunk beds, super clean and very nice bathrooms and showers, an enormous lodge with food morning, noon and night, and a nurse's infirmary just across from the lodge)

Logan absolutely LOVED playing this game
Still, to us city folks, it felt like we were roughing it!  ;-)  I was running around like crazy Friday morning, doing laundry, taking Callum to swim class, then running to Target to buy sleeping bags (for all of us), lanterns/batteries and insect repellant!  :)  Callum fell asleep when we got home so I spent that time packing up the truck and getting us ready to go.  Because he was sleeping, we waited until he woke up - which unfortunately meant we left later than I had planned, smack in the middle of rush hour (and on a 3 day weekend, no less!).  The drive was SUPER LONG and we were all getting a bit grumpy and tired by the end, but we made it and settled into our cabin pretty quickly to pass out.  :)

Saturday we woke up bright and early and headed to the lodge for breakfast.  The boys were beyond excited basically the entire time we were there, running non stop, laughing and skipping and generally in a really good mood.  

Logan LOVED the lodge because of all the various games and activities available everywhere.  Callum wasn't as interested in the games but did loving around outdoors.  

We sat with another really nice family over breakfast which was interesting - it was our first glimpse into another family's story about how their daughter was diagnosed and what they were going through for her treatment, etc.  We had a lot of similarities across our stories, which I would find later, was pretty common with most of the families.

After breakfast, we dropped the kids off at the kid areas (separated by age groups, as I mentioned before, Logan really wanted to stay in the younger group with Callum, so we said ok and dropped them off together).  While the kids are hanging out with the camp counselors and playing and having fun, the parents group together in smaller discussion groups.

The first group was really interesting to me - and extremely emotional and heavy, as I mentioned before, because we sat in a circle of about 20 couples or so and poured through how each of us came to be there.  Most of the families had kids who were battling childhood leukemia, like us, but some families had kids fighting other types of cancers (tumors, lymphoma, etc.)  We were all in various stages of our treatment as well - we were probably one of the newly diagnosed families there, especially since we technically weren't in maintenance yet and I think most people wait to go after they hit maintenance.  There were a few that were diagnosed around the same time as us though, and I think I may reach out to them later to connect.  There were also a few families who had completed treatment (some 5-10 years ago) but return every year as a way to connect with the community that we all are now a part of.  I enjoyed asking questions about what those families have learned, that might help me prepare, later on down the road....

After our group session was done, it was time to pick up the kids and have lunch.  We sat with a family from San Jose which was neat - they live pretty close to us in fact.  The parents didn't speak English very well, so Jon and I tried some of our broken Spanish to communicate and share our stories which I found to be good practice (and HELLO, I need to work on my Spanish some more!  I had to ask the father like 10x how to say "poke" I think)  :)

Once lunch is over, there are sign ups for a few activities in the afternoon - we actually lagged and didn't sign up for anything, but charmed our way into the lake swimming session that afternoon.  We got a ride on one of the golf carts there (which ended up being a BIG highlight for Callum, so much that he didn't want to walk anywhere but wanted a ride from the golf carts that would be waiting at each activity "station").  :) 

Logan LOVED the swimming session - he has really taken to swimming lately and is so much more comfortable in the water.  For whatever reason, however, Callum was not into it, and didn't enter in past his calves... so, he hung out on the deck with Jon while I stayed in the water with Logan for a bit. 

Then, Jon and Callum decided to leave and explore a bit (I think they got bored and it was SUPER hot out).  I finally talked Logan into getting out of the lake too, so that we could walk around ourselves.

We made it to another activity site not too far away, at a smaller lake, where people were learning to fish.  

As it turns out, Jon and Callum were there and had been catching several little fish of their own (and then throwing them back into the lake).  

Logan wasn't interested in the fishing at first - he was distracted by the Nature Cabin and an Arts and Crafts table.  Callum eventually joined us, and then Logan took off and went fishing with his dad.  He ended up catching a pretty large fish all by himself (well Jon cast the line but the rest was done by Logan) which he just loved.  :)

Once last call on fishing was called, we caught a ride on the golf cart back to camp, showered and changed and headed back to the lodge for dinner.  This time we sat with a really nice family who lives near San Francisco.  Callum fell asleep in my arms while he and I were waiting in line for dinner - and their younger son (also fighting leukemia) fell asleep shortly after, at the dinner table.  I guess camp wiped the kiddos out.  ;-)

Once dinner was done, we hung out at the lodge for a bit to play some games, before heading back to the cabin to layer on some warmer clothes, and then head to the amphitheater area where there was a campfire roaring.  The counselors went through a series of fun camp songs - which the boys enjoyed at first but as the time ticked on, they got more and more impatient because they had been waiting for the grand finale (s'mores), which seemed like it wasn't coming.  We finally DID grab our s'mores, which they both loved, and then trekked back to the cabin to pass out once more.

We slept in a bit later on Sunday morning, but did make it to breakfast in time.  We didn't get a chance to pair up with another family though since we were running late.  After breakfast, the kids split off again to play so that the parents could join another discussion group.  As I mentioned before, Logan was really hesitant about going to the older camp, since he was just fine and comfortable in the younger camp, but we finally talked him into it and he ended up having a really nice time.

As it turns out, his group took a very long hike to the ropes course, where they watched the older kids climb on the ropes.  They were also taught a bit about ecology within the forest, and spent the morning chopping and hacking away at large tree trunks, to break down the bark into mulch, to scatter along the ground.  Logan ended up LOVING this activity and would NOT stop talking about it when we picked him up at the end of the morning session.  :)

The topic of our parent discussion group on Sunday was centered around siblings and IEPs (Individualized Education Program), both topics I was keenly interested in and enjoyed participating in the discussions.  As it turns out, we're doing a lot of the "right things" that the old veterans suggest and are working on themselves, so I feel a little better about how we're approaching both the sibling dynamic and school dynamic right now.  

One thing that most of the parents (of recently diagnosed kids) weren't aware of, was the paperwork and intricacies of the IEP - since we have had some issues with Logan's school regarding his absence, I guess I've thrown myself into this world a bit earlier than most.  For example, Callum is already scheduled for a neuro psychological exam with a neuro psychologist at the hospital, later this week.  He doesn't technically *need* the exam, especially since he's not entering school until next year.  However, that will be a year and a half into his treatment, and who knows what impact the medications he's been on, will have had on his system.  So, I talked to someone at the hospital about it and decided to get an exam done early, this year, so that I'll have a baseline to measure against, as years go by.  At the very least, I figure it will give us another data point to look at, if there are any concerns down the road.  Since he's on a lower dose of treatment compared to other kids, he hopefully won't have any major side effects, but we want to be ready in case there is anything that pops up.

The same schedule was in effect on Sunday, as it was on Saturday.  So, after our sessions we had lunch, this time sitting with a couple of counselors who really seemed to like Logan and Callum.  :)  One of the counselors was very interested in volunteering her time at a camp like this to help out kids in need.  The other counselor was a previous oncology camper (a cancer survivor) and over the years, has returned and now works there.  I loved getting to know them and hearing their stories, and sharing our own (which they were fascinated by).  

We ended up leaving early, Sunday night, to beat some of the traffic home and get a chance to sleep in our own beds again.  I had wanted to say goodbye to both girls before we left, but never saw them.  I was pleasantly surprised today when I found a FB message from the cancer survivor counselor, waiting for me!  I'm not sure how she found me, but she did, and we're now connected as FB friends.  I love that sort of stuff.  :)

Anyway - after lunch, we decided to sign up this time, for the ropes course.  We spent most of our afternoon there - the boys did NOT want to try out any of the climbing, jumping or zip-lining, which was too bad.  But Jon and I did!!  

Well, Jon basically did everything - climbing some of the highest trees and jumping off a ledge to catch a white flag (that was the challenge).  I think he finally snagged it on his third try.  :)   I didn't think that would work well with my back, and I'm afraid of heights anyway, so I just hung out with the boys while Jon enjoyed puffing like an old man.  ;-)

Logan was THRILLED because he was able to show me what his class had done earlier that morning, which chopping and tearing apart a few of the logs nearby.  So, he got Callum and a couple other counselors to help him out and they just went at it all afternoon. 

I have always wanted to go zip-lining however, so I "suited up" for that activity (tried talking both boys into going, several times, but they stubbornly said no, several times) and took a run down the mountain.

It was a short course but loads of fun and I had a blast (Jon went down as well and also loved it).  I can't wait for another trip where we can do more of that sort of thing!  Perhaps when the boys are older they'll try it out....

Since we spent most of our afternoon at the ropes course, we didn't have much time left, but did manage to catch a golf cart back to the other side of the camp to try our hand at archery.  Even though everyone was hot and tired and whiny, I figured the boys would get a kick out of it and get another burst of energy.  Sure enough, they did and enjoyed learning!  

Callum lost some steam toward the end and Logan got very frustrated at first - telling me, Mom, this is HARD!  I helped him (thus, little pics of them shooting) quite a bit and he finally started hitting the target toward the end of the session, which he then LOVED.  And then declared he'd like to go to archery camp next summer.  LOL  :)

Once the afternoon activities were closed, we headed back to camp again to pack up and clean up the cabin.  We loaded the truck and were ready to go - but because Logan had rediscovered his friend (who turned out to be our neighbor), he asked if we could stay for dinner so he could play longer.

Of course we can stay.

So we hung out with that family for dinner, which was really nice, and the boys chatted away like old pals throughout dinner.  Gulping down their food as fast as they could so they could then take off and play before it was time to go.  Several games of air hockey later, we pulled the two of them away, said our good-byes, and loaded up in the truck for the long ride home.

All in all, we had a FABULOUS time.  It is a bit of a drive, but once you're there, the camp is really amazing.  I was so impressed with the size of the place, the quality of the buildings and services provided, the activities that kept us busy all weekend long, the wonderful counselors who loved our kids to death, the other families who we immediately connected with, the owner of the entire Camp, who was a joy to talk to and listen to old stories from....

I'm not sure whether Callum will want to go by himself, to the oncology camp, next summer.  But I'm certain Logan will be up for attending the siblings camp, since he's still talking about it (and, in fact, wrote about it in his homework tonight).  At the very least, I'll be signing us up for the Family Camp again, because I think it's a great experience and good for us four to spend quality time together.  I can't say enough wonderful things about it!  Thank you again Camp Okizu!!  :)