Monday, September 27, 2010

Our New (and Secret) Family Member...

I think it's absolutely necessary to have some sort of "out" once one has reached the pinnacle of massive overload. Whatever that out becomes, it evolves into the go-to method when things are ready to blow up. Maybe it's just me, but things seem to be on the brink of blowing up often in my house. By blowing up I mean my house becoming a trashed toy heap of destruction. We have a lot of fun in here, but it gets to the ridiculous level within an hour, I think. Yesterday I found silly putty stuck to the dining room wall, and it was shaped into a smiley-face. At least the disaster is happy. Still, enough is enough.

For those who know me well, you realize that I get distracted easily. Especially if what I'm doing is not fun and what catches my eye is insanely enjoyable. For example, I was folding laundry (BLAH), and Gideon found my box of glitter in the crafts trunk. We talked about the poop fairies from awhile ago (I blogged about it, if you want to look back...) and the how the magic dust looked SO similar to that glitter (Crazy! Maybe glitter is just bottled fairy dust, right?). So Gideon explained how great it would be if we could make glitter airplanes. He even went so far as to explain it this way, "When the sun shines on the plane, it SHINES like magic dust!" Buh-bye, laundry. Hello, glitter. Glitter is messy. I'm stating the obvious. We made a mess and no laundry was folded. Let's add to the chore list, shall we? We did. We always do. I say "we" just because it makes the singular "me" feel better. I take the blame, though.

All of this is just to explain myself so that I don't seem like a heartless, heartless human when I finally get to the main gist of this story...introducing our newest family member. You now know of my affinity to PLAYING, and how we play with gusto around here. Playing with gusto always results in a gargantuan mess. The pendulum of tasks then swings back to the CHORE factor of pick-up. My boys help, but I always find myself doing more than they do. They start, and then, SURPRISE! they get distracted. Maybe hereditary traits is really what the world coins as "karma." I'm becoming more and more convinced.

Enter our newest family member. He is not related to us, but he has a major influence in my house. I feel I have to introduce him. He was born out of a lightning strike of desperation. I was picking up a toy mess, asked my boys to help, and they half-heartedly pushed a toy here and a toy there. Finally, I announced: "THAT'S IT! I'M CALLING MR. THIMBLES IF YOU DON'T PICK UP THE PACE!"

"Who is Mr. Thimbles?" Brody asked.

I don't remember exactly what I said at the time, but as time has progressed, more Mr. Thimbles character traits have embellished naturally. Here is the basic overview: Mr. Thimbles lives under our deck. He is a magical elf who has another house of his own under there. He has a bedroom, but his BIGGEST room is his TOY ROOM. His toy room takes up most of the deck and he has rows and rows and rows of shelves to store any kind of toy. He spends his days playing with those toys and laughing. He doesn't need food, just toys. He is as tall as Gideon, but he has a long, white beard (stereotypical elf here). His shirts have hundreds upon hundreds of pockets to collect toys. He only takes toys that are left out, so he appears magically in our house and starts his search for misplaced toys. Maybe this invented character is cruel of me, but he WORKS. I set the timer and say, "MR. THIMBLES WILL BE HERE IN FIVE MINUTES! QUICK! GO!" And you should see the scramble. This magical man may not exist, but there is magic that is made in the desperation to save toys. I have caught Gideon more than once stomping outside to the deck and pounding on the boards shouting things like, "I KNOW you have my car! Give it BACK, Mr. THIMBLES!" and I laugh hysterically. It is just too cute.

(Funny interruption: Gideon was just calling me from his bed. When I got there he said, "I left my red monster truck on the table. Could you please put it in my Monster Truck bag? Mr. Thimbles will get it if you don't." works. Please say this will last and last.)

As far as Gideon's condition is going, he is doing pretty well. No viruses yet (THANK YOU, God) and he is usually pretty happy. He has not gotten sick all weekend up to today, so we are doing well there, too. His legs are getting much weaker, though. He definitely needs me to carry him up and down stairs since his legs "stop working." Also, the Serranos bought Gideon a brand new Lightning McQueen bike. He LOVES it. The only problem is that his legs "stop working" while pedaling, too. So I need to push him around while he's on his bike. He still adores it and feels like such a big kid with such an amazing set of wheels. Our next chemo is Thursday. We are still in the phase when the dosages keep getting more and more potent. Keep him in your prayers for the least amount of sickness as possible. I think Mr. Thimbles will be on vacation from Thursday on until Gideon feels better. I'm not THAT heartless, I promise.

Mr. Thimbles, I am sitting on my couch and looking around at my toyless living room. Thank you, kind sir.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Our WMU Hockey Heroes

Once again, the WMU Hockey players have added so much joy to our lives. We'll let the pictures tell you how absolutely incredible these men-on-ice truly are! Brody is all signed up for Learn-to-Skate and Beginning Hockey this year, and is beyond revved up about it all because of this group of inspiring athletes. The Schripsema Family LOVES you! And yes, you are more than welcome to come over for a home cooked meal :).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sesame Street:'s Song "What I Am"

INTRODUCING... Gideon's newest favorite song. I am tooooo tired to write anything. I am living on this song and coffee. More than that, I am living on watching Gideon sing this song. Awwww... Melt.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Altered Life Perspective

I've said it before, but I must repeat myself: Gideon's attitude and perspective blows me away. I fed him toast for breakfast yesterday morning and a few minutes later he made it to the puke bowl on his own and in time. I automatically feel my heart sink into the pit of my stomach when I hear him getting sick. It gets dunked straight into the gastric acids and begins to disintegrate away, layer by layer. Gideon halted this process of heart corrosion when he abruptly stopped puking, looked up at me, and with a huge vomit-smile he sang, "I guess THAT piece of toast doesn't wanna live in my belly, huh?" He is allowed to be my life stand-in, honestly.

Gideon also fell asleep last night holding a new puke bowl. He looked at me and said, "Not as cozy as Little Gog (his favorite stuffed animal), but that's okay." Then he rolled over and went to sleep. He makes me speechless the way he doesn't complain and is forever looking for the positive. It is only at night that I know he is feeling the effects of the chemo based on his groaning and occasional cry out for me. Otherwise, the boy never whines or pouts about any of this.

I'll let the clinic pictures tell the rest of the story. Just click on the pictures at the top right corner of the blog. Gideon will take you step-by-step through his day at the clinic. This time he had a spinal tap, spinal chemo, Vincristine in his port, and an increased dosage of Methotrexate in his port as well. I'm in a state of astonishment just by typing that. So much is swirling around in that tiny body. I'm praying it gets the sharks for good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


One of the dorkiest things about me is the fact that I am constantly looking for symbolism. Constantly. I was giving Gideon his bath tonight and he had to pour Super Hero Fizzy Pellets into the water (boy version of bath beads...only these sizzle and make colored smoke -- OOooOOooo). I just stared at the fizzing and dissolving and the spectacle of something so tiny disintegrating. Then I thought about those teeny tiny blood cells and that insane Leukemia jumping into the water and causing its own spectacle, just not as pretty and entertaining. I found myself getting angry at those Super Hero Fizzy Pellets. I felt relieved once the smoke cleared. Poor Gideon about jumped out of his skin when he asked for more pellets and I barked, "NO! No more pellets! Let's play with boats!"

All day I have been on edge. I know what it is. Tomorrow morning we will have spinal chemotherapy and the dosages will be still higher than last time. I have cried a lot through this cancer stuff, but I've never cried over the chemo itself. I've cried over side-effects and lost sleep, but never the chemo. Today I have been a teary blur watching Gideon having a zestful day. I should have soaked in the sweetness that is his pretend play and musings. Instead I thought about that hideous poison that would be injected into him and making him less and less himself. I know. I know this poison is also saving his life, so why in the world would I be mad at the treatment? Call it misplaced anger. I don't know. It's the cancer I'm mad at, but the chemo sure does chip away and embitter the sweet boy I know as Gideon.

So I tried to read silly bedtime books with him just to hear him belly laugh. I gave him the dinosaur flashlight that roars when you turn it on, just so he could make shadow puppets and belly laugh some more whenever I feigned a scream from the T-Rex RRRrrrrrrOAR. He kept giving me extra kisses and petting my face while looking at me with a face I call "human lightbulb of innocence": it lights up my soul. It's like he can tell when he needs to be extra gentle with louder reminders of his love as I leave his room. He did both tonight, and I will hold on to that.

Tomorrow will be hard, but the humans in my life are constantly picking up my crumbled spirit and smoothing out the crinkles. In my sulky mood tonight, I opened my email and found that my Early Elementary Staff had a "Fishy Friday" for Gideon. The pictures above depict this festive day. Immediate smiles were the result, and an instantaneous answer to prayers when I asked for a BETTER ATTITUDE (or a new attitude...). Also, South Lyon East High School cheerleaders all purchased shirts and had a Leukemia awareness-type game day. Their coach, Tracie Hovarter said, "Their principal was inspired by these girls and has made Gideon and other kids with leukemia a part of their daily announcements for the last week to inspire the students to get out and do something that means something to them!" So, this horrendous bath we're in has many perfect bubbles overflowing unto the floor. THAT is what I need to remember: the gorgeous ways God is reminding me that we are all enveloped in love. No matter how crazy and out of control it feels like the world is spinning, we keep each other from falling and aid in helping the ride feel like the best it could possibly be. Thank you, everyone. The merry-go-round life is much more pleasant with you in the park with us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


It was a gorgeous evening last night -- even the sunset on the water was a pastel dream. The entire family went fishing at Austin Lake. We all kept reelin' them in, but Brody caught the biggest guy, for sure. Gideon gets a little distracted, but Brody can sit there with his line in the water for hours. Gideon ended up gathering acorns and stacking up piles of them next to trees to make life easier for the squirrels. Yes, I want to squeeze him constantly. Also, Brody wanted to be the gentleman and kept putting new worms on my hook for me. Yes, I want to squeeze him constantly as well.

We were driving home when once again, we were reminded of the fragility of life. On Center, the light at Shaver/Westnedge was red. We stopped far behind the light to let someone pulling out of Lodos in front of us. We were stopped for a good fifteen-twenty seconds when we were rocked by a massive jolt. Tom and I bruised our heads a little but our boys were completely fine. They were very quiet and calm when I turned around. I am a little worried about Gideon's port as the seatbelt repositioned itself right on top of it and I'm sure it really pushed hard on him. Once I did turn around, Brody kept chanting, "We're okay! We're okay!" I could tell the back-end of our car was caved in, but I couldn't see much else.

Once Tom and I got out, I noticed an Oldsmobile wedged between our car and the mini-van that hit him. Both ends of his car were smashed in, and I didn't think the person inside could possibly still be alive. My first thought was "How am I going to get the boys out without them seeing?" While I was heartbroken for whoever was behind the wheel, this was my first instinct thought. I am hoping that makes me more of a protector of my babies than a heartless person. Had there been more than just the driver inside, I don't know what the outcome would have been. He was pushing down his airbag and talking to Tom, and I was instantly relieved.

The poor young mommy in the mini-van came running toward us with her littlest one clinging to her. They were both screaming and in hysterics. She kept choking out, "I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry! I didn't even tap the breaks! I was talking to my kids!" My heart broke for her, and I found myself hugging her and reassuring her more than my own two (who were more mesmerized by all of the sirens and lights, to be honest. They were counting them. "TWO police cars, TWO firetrucks, and an AMBULANCE! WOW!")

I listened as she told the police officer, "I was going 40 and I looked in my rearview mirror to talk to one of my kids, I only saw the green light ahead, and..." I'm thinking (although I was never the best Physics student) that she did end up hitting the breaks at least a little, or else things would have been even messier. The man in the Oldsmobile was taken out and he had a bloody elbow and a very swollen arm, but he could stand and walk! He really did cushion the blow to our car. Another what-if scenario that I don't want to really think all.

The little boy and his mommy did not stop crying.

And then it turned into a mixture of an All-State commercial and a Hallmark card:

Brody, Gideon and I were in a parking lot waiting. I had toys out for them (we go nowhere without toys and blankets). That's when Brody suggested to Gideon that they give the little boy a toy from the bag. On their own, they picked out two sports car Hotwheels and asked if they could give them to the crying boy. Melt. I'm sorry, but I have the best kids on the planet. Empathy at three and five? They make me dizzy with love.

In the end, we were able to drive away. Our car started up and as we drove forward, the sound of the other car's metal peeling off of ours was a strange sensation. What was even more strange is that we were driving at all! Our airbag light is on (not sure what that means... I hope it doesn't just randomly explode in my face), the electrical inner-workings of our vehicle are not working, and the back of my Highlander is inverted, but we were able to go. I think it's time I name my car... she has earned it. The other two cars will never be on the road again. We are being looked out for, and that I can say with complete certainty.

Besides the fact that I won't be able to headbang-rock out to any 80's metal anytime soon, we are all completely fine. Now I am even more thankful than ever before... Here is a new perspective I've gained from all of this: Leukemia has been a difficult road, but at least we are on the road to health. Gideon will heal and get better. It'll be bumpy at times, but we are still on the road, just like we were still on the road after all of this happened. There are so many people lost in car accidents without any warning, without any shred of premonition. We are lucky and blessed. I would much rather be on this road than the what-if road scenarios from last night I have not been able to shake from the inside of my brain. I blame the brain-folds, things get stuck in there.

Hug and love on your family...right now. (I'm being bossy.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thank you, Monday. I was nervous at first.

Ooooooooo. I was so worried about today. On Friday, everything seemed to go wrong and I wanted to ostrich my head into the sandbox. Gideon was very sick. Chemo sick. Usually when he is feeling badly, he asks me to rock him or to dance with him. By dance I mean slow dance or a sway until he falls asleep. This time, he asked for the dance and I started my normal sloooooooow mama lunge. He looked at me during the rocking/swaying of Ray LaMontagne's "I Could Hold You" (which has been "Gideon's song" since he was born), so I looked back thinking he wanted a nose kiss or a reassuring smile. What I saw were two chipmunk cheeks of puke. We made it to the trash. I also got some on my face. What mother hasn't though, right? Poor thing kept saying, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" There was a time when someone else's puke dripping into my mouth would have made me lose it, too. Not anymore. Tough-as-nails, that's what is happening over here. I feel like I should train for something. Do they still have that show that asks its players to eat disgusting things for money? Sign me up if they do, please.

Shortly after the puke incident, Brody was waiting at the bus stop and decided he wasn't getting on. By the time the bus got there, it was a full-on temper tantrum. During the temper tantrum, Gideon was laying in his wagon yelling, "Don't cry! It makes me feel like I'm gonna get sick again!" It was stereo of screams and panic-stricken pleas. The other mom at the bus stop looked at me with that mom pity. The feeling like she felt angst for me, but was also extremely glad her daughter was sitting sweetly in seat three. I was bedraggled and Little Miss Firm. Oh. That boy WAS going to school! I boarded the bus with him screaming into my shoulders (asking the other mom to watch Gideon) and placed him in a seat behind the other Kindergardeners. He run off after me. I asked the bus driver what to do, and she said she couldn't have him running around. That was relieving to hear since I couldn't leave him on the bus in hysterics. The only other time I had this experience with Brody was the first night at the hospital when he wouldn't leave his brother. I think Brody doesn't like to leave when Gideon isn't himself. It's like he has a flashback to that hospital scene, or something. It's Gideon seeming ill that gets Brody all in a tither. I really think that's what it is. Anyway, Tom came home for lunch and ended up taking Brody to school. That crisis was behind us.

Gideon slept on me most of the day after that. Once it was time to go get Brody, Gideon asked to play with my keys. I was strapping him in when I remembered I left the "BRODY" sign for my car's dash in the kitchen (for the person walking Brody to me in the parking lot), so I unstrapped Gideon and took him inside with me. Apparently Gideon had enough time to hit the "lock" button as the door was closing. My keys were still on his seat. Tom rode his bike to work so he couldn't go pick him up. UGH. Double hyperventilation. This is when the sandbox looked like the perfect solution and just the right depth for my entire noggin. Thank goodness Tom works with someone willing to loan her car! So the day was brimming over with panic and puke. But we got through it.

We are now on the sticker-chart system with calm bus stop behavior as our focus. It WORKED today. I'm praying it works all week. Gideon is acting sweet and not puking, but his energy is low. Also, chemo needs to be worked through the system and it is painful once some of it needs to be expelled, if you know what I mean. I guess I am graphic with puke and very sensitive when it comes to defecating. We all have limits. Anyway, Gideon is in pain when it comes to this, so I have been giving him many baths to soothe him. I can't imagine the pain he must be experiencing. I also started buying Desitin once again. There are so many parallels between having an infant again and having a little one with cancer. Sleeplessness and Desitin is basically it. So maybe there aren't as many parallels.

Gideon is getting older with his thoughts, I've noticed. He has grown a lot as you all have witnessed, but there is something more at work. I'm not sure I like it. He is realizing how different he is compared to everyone else. He was sitting on my lap today and said, "Mommy, your ear is better?"

"Yes! It is, Gideon. ALLLLL better."

"And, Brody had a hurt ear, too. Is that all better?" he asked again.

"Yup. Brody's ear is healed, too. Isn't that great?" I answered.

That's when his little eyes looked past me and became unfocused. His brow was furrowed in thought (and he looked SO much like his big brother when he did this). In the quietest of voices he said, "But I'm not all better."

Since this was not a head-in-the-sand day, I am thankful I was able to respond with, "But you WILL be! You will get better! Someday the sharks will be gone." If he had said this on Friday, I would have cried and let him cry with me.

Then, with the same sad tone and a face that said you-can't-fool-me, Gideon said, "When I'm six." And then he sighed.

This was the first time Gideon didn't seem optimistic about this entire ordeal. I have to keep trying to remind him of all the things he still can do, that he can still play, and still pretend. This is probably why I got the Halloween costumes early and I have let the boys play nonstop in them. The more cheerful celebrations, the better.

Even though Gideon had a little moment of clarity over the roughness of reality, I'm glad this day was exponentially better than Friday. We are still taking things day-by-day. No. Instant-by instant.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Long time...

Could someone please hold the hands on the clock still for a bit? That would be great. Just grab a hold of the world and give it a squeeze so that the rotation just pauses. Not only do I need time to halt its habitual ticking and tocking, but I just need to take a second and reflect on all the things going on in this abnormal life that has been both heartbreaking and beautiful all at once. And because of this duality that I have never experienced, I have felt like my words could never convey what the last two-three weeks have been like. So, I have been BLOG-SILENT. I'm breaking the seal and letting it come out as it will... I may babble. It's way up there on the likelihood factor.

I went back to work last week, as many of you know. It was Professional Development week, and so we teachers were able to get motivated and trained so that our minds and hearts became focused on those students starting the very next week (this week). My first day back I was greeted by many NO SHARK shirts staring at me, and as my principal walked into the district-wide meeting, Gideon's face on his back caught my immediate attention. I know we often feel so small and alone in this world, like the insignificant ripples we create are too tiny and unimportant to create any stir, but this ripple that is my life is surrounded by an ocean of support, love, and friends. Many ripples create waves. You have taught me that.

After much prayer, research, and soul-searching, we decided that the best scenario for the time being would be for me to take a leave from my job that is not a job, it IS a complete passion. To my fellow peeps molding lives out there, I will be joining you again soon. For now, though, I am using my sick days up and praying. I can't express how much it means to me that I am able to rock Gideon when his belly hurts, distract him from pain with crazy dances or messy paints, and to be the one holding the puke bucket. Oh. I went from sweet and soft to kind of disgusting, but it's TRUE! I know others could care for him. I realize there are nursing students out there willing to take a nanny job, but it's not me. There is no control in cancer. I can't pick and choose how Gideon's body will respond to treatment, but I can be more vigilant when it comes to germs and what I'm bringing home. This offers even more comfort. And, as I just got home from another day at the Clinic today for a higher dosage of Vincristine and Methotrexate, I'm realizing I would have had to have taken a day off on the SECOND full day of school. That doesn't bode well with little first graders. The next few days promise to be more difficult for Gideon, as well. This is the highest dosage yet, and last week's chemo made him belly-sick for three days. There are so many things that are making me realize that we made the right decision. After my sick-days are up, I'm not positive what will happen. The situation I am in at this moment is comfort enough, and I'm handing the worry over. Those unsure next steps sometimes make the best dance moves if there is surrender instead of fretfulness making them awkward. I'm getting used to this play-by-play life.

I had the chance to "talk" (more like sobbed) to my staff about this decision, and as arrangements were made to get a Guest Teacher in my room, more love and understanding cascaded upon me. More ripples, ripples, ripples making up those waves of relief. I adore you, Mattawan. You've got yourself a lifer in that district! Well, until I'm 65. I hope to live beyond retirement.

As if I could feel any more support, the Oslunds sent a check for $2,223.00 in T-shirt sales! This insane amount of money for T-SHIRTS made my heart boomerang out of the window. I'm still awaiting its return. The money will be donated to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Gideon's name, while another part of it will somehow go back to The Children's Hospital at Bronson Hospital (what they did for us while we were there -- wow). I'm not sure what it will look like for the hospital portion, but it will have something to do with adding something that would make the stay in the hospital even less scary and easier for the entire family. Together with Ann's 1/2 marathon fundraising more than four thousand dollars have been donated to aid in finding a cure. No words. Well, two: THANK YOU.

I thought for sure the cards and calls would kind of let up by now. Not because people become uncaring or calloused, just that life gets busy. I was wrong. SO wrong. Homemade cards came from an acting camp care of Mrs. Averill and so many more thoughts of love and prayer still fill our mailbox. Again: Thank you.

Sometimes I just don't know what to do with all of this help and love. Really. Remember that game show that had its contestants stand inside of a glassed-in box with money swirling around? The player had to grab and pocket as much of the flying money as possible within a certain amount of time. I feel like I am in a glass box like that only help is floating around me and I don't have to grab it. It just sneaks its way into my pocket while I stare out of the window. Human spirit -- I'm still feeling you. Let's add another: Thank you.

Then there is KCMS Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic. Today I had kind of a step back moment. Gideon walks into that place like it's a second home. He greets Von at the front desk and makes sure she says something about how she can see more of his head (from his growing) since last week. He is always given fishy food to feed the aquarium. He giggles and talks to his favorite ones and pleads with them to "SAVE SOME FOR YOUR FRIENDS!" With complete ease, he trots to the back with the clinic's therapy dog "Girly" walking next to him. He tells me Girly is wagging her tail because she is so happy to see him. He's right. Sweet and loving Diane (the music therapist) smiles and says "Hello" as Gideon automatically takes off his shoes, jumps onto the scale, jumps down, stands under the growth chart (he scoots his heels against the wall on his own, too), and finally hops onto the chair and says, "I'm ready for my arm hug!" I just had to watch without prompting. His confidence and smiles are just over and above what I ever anticipated. If anyone can "do" cancer well, it's Gideon.

He kissed his nurse Michelle's hand today and told me he was going to marry her. Then, Gideon's Dr. Lobel (that's what he calls him: "MY Dr. Lobel") came to check him before the chemo. Gideon lights up even more when his doctor is visible.

While they were chatting, Dr. Lobel said, "Gideon, last time you told me you have a favorite car."

"Yup! A corvette!" Gideon chimed.

And out of Dr. Lobel's pocket appeared a red corvette. These instantaneous grateful tears are now permanent fixtures in my eyes. It's all of this love. Dr. Lobel has so many patients, but thinks about my own little man enough to remember a special prize for him.

As if that was not enough, while we were waiting for Gideon's blood counts to come back, Gideon crawled up on Diane (the music therapist)'s lap and asked if they could sing "WHEELS ON THE BUS" while they looked at the book with the words to accompany the music. Again, I stood back while Gideon snuggled in. It's all of these reasons and more that Gideon asks to go to the hospital every morning. The people make it like an adventure. Clinic: Thank you.

Brody started Young Fives and absolutely loves it. His school is making sure that he is sterilized and walked out to my car after school each day. His teacher told me he was "chatty" today, and I realize there may be more of me in him than I originally thought! The help we are getting from Mrs. Scheeler (his teacher) is outstanding. Thank you!

So, cancer is horrific. I hate it. But somehow, we gained more family members because of it. The load has never become too heavy. I thank God for all of you.