Monday, November 30, 2009

Back to the present

Good morning! Wow, it feels like I have been away from my diary forever. Well, we are back in Fort Worth. We made our trek back in the Suburban on Saturday. I am just going to come out and flat out say it. My children are the world's best travelers. It is roughly a 13 or 14 hour drive between Huntsville, AL and Fort Worth, TX. Trust me, when you are driving with 1 wife, 3 kids, and 2 dogs that estimate can grow exponentially. Potty stops alone must account for 6 hours. Then, factor in stops at Cracker Barrel and Walmart, a few meals, and dog walks and you can see that another huge chunk of time can be added on to your journey. I am pretty sure that without all of that the drive can be completed in a little over 15 minutes.

All joking aside, my kiddos were truly phenomenal. Everyone was well behaved and we all had a great time. I know that may sound strange but it was indeed true. I honestly have no clue what we have done right as parents to make trips work out so well but I must admit that I feel a sense of pride. We really did have a good time. There was nothing really memorable. It was not exceptional. However, I could not leave the car without feeling good. I have a great family.

I woke up this morning and made a trip to the bathroom. I know, that is probably far more information that you probably needed. However, as I was leaving I looked down on the top of the white counter in the bathroom to find two perfectly brown Ainsley sized foot prints on the top. They are grubby and grimy. It is hard to believe that my sweet little demure(not!) princess could have such dirty feet. On top of that it should be interesting to note that there is nothing above the counter. There are no cabinets. The light switch is on the near wall but that is completely in reach by her from the floor. In short, there is no rational reason for these two brown little footprints to be on our bathroom counter - none at all.

They are two simply little, dirty, and yet somehow incredibly adorable foot prints. I wish I could frame them.

I will ask her this morning her reasoning for being up there but knowing her I am quite sure she will deny it completely. She will most certainly blame the foot prints on the dogs, a heffalump or, worse yet, me. None the less, this will be one of those things that will carry me through the day with a little smile on my face.

So, now I am ready for my shot back to reality. The kiddos will head back to school and Lynley and I back to the grindstone. I have enjoyed the rest and relaxation experienced over the last week but it is time to get back to work.

There is a mountain of purpose to climb.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A step towards womanhood - not mine!

Good morning! This morning you find me, once again, reporting from Huntsville, AL. I am sitting outside this morning. It would not be nearly so bad if it were not somewhere in the 40s but that is the price I am willing to pay for Internet access. You see, wireless Internet access is only available on the back porch. Don't ask. Just think of it like an outhouse for the new age and remember that I am in the ol' south and things are just a bit different here.

But, enough about Internet access. I actually have a pretty momentous occasion to report. This is somewhat of a serious subject so you may want to forget everything I have said above.

You see, one of the long term side effects that Sydney has experienced from all of her treatments has been hair growth. While her hair has come back it is extremely thin and somewhat sparse. With an inability to grow long hair this has been a subject of sadness for her. She struggles with feeling, well, "girly." She constantly complains of looking like a boy. While I think nothing could be further from the truth, it is ultimately meaningless how I feel. It is her perception that counts. I can tell her that she looks pretty 1 million times but if she does not believe it, it is wasted breath.

Lynley and I have debated what to do. We have discussed many things. Ultimately, it has finally come down to something as simple as earrings. The decision was not difficult for Lynley or I. Frankly, we could care less. If it makes her feel more feminine than we are for it. Especially considering her history. For others, it has been more stumbling point. In fact, for some it has been a source of much difficulty. Apparently there is a rule about how old you must be for it to be considered "acceptable" to have earrings. Apparently, if you get them too young, it is considered tacky. I wonder, in this case. Are they more worried about how Sydney feels or how they will?

Get over it.

This is a very easy way for Sydney to feel more feminine and she certainly deserves it.

And so, without further ado, I present a beautiful little lady..........

Purpose is about what you believe, not what others may think about what you believe.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama

Good morning, well the Dungan 7 - Hold on, I said Dungan 7. Not 5. Was that a typo? Good lord, I wish. But no, after much cajoling (actually female dictatorship) Lynley convinced everyone to bring along the dogs on our trip to Alabama. Thankfully it was not all of them - just 2 - but, that really was enough, wasn't it? Ironically, the dogs were the best behaved. They were our absolute best travelers. They were followed by the kids and then, well, Lynley. I would love to tell you some great Griswold Dungan stories about our trip across the country (well, half of it) in the suburban assault vehicle but there is really very little to tell. For the first time in the history of Dungan travel there was no high pressure or stress getting here. For the most part, everyone had a pretty good time. All of the kiddos were well-behaved and even Lynley seemed to sneak by without any of her usual travel demerits. In fact, she only scored on the bottom of the Dungan travel ratings because she is under the weather and she was a little whiney about her sore throat. She claims it is not the flu but time will tell. She seems pretty perky this morning so she may already be on the mend. If not, I am sorry Alabama. The upcoming statewide H1N1 pandemic is probably my wife's fault.

On Saturday, the day before our trip, Sydney and Graham had a Tae Kwon Do tournament, the DFW International. Of all places, the tournament took place at a church. Yes, we are in the bible belt aren't we? It all began to make more sense as we drove up though. This was a Korean church - complete with a sizable gymnasium. The big bouts were between Team USA and Team Mexico but the most entertaining portion of the opening ceremony was a sword demonstration by a team traveling from Korea. I hope to post some video once I get back to Texas and the video camera.

The kiddos did the best I have ever seen them do as team Dungan. For the first time there were no bronze medals - just silver and gold. Graham received gold in forms and Sydney received silver. However, Sydney came in second to another team member from GSX. Quite frankly, he was incredible. I love my daughter but she was no where close to Jacob in her performance. He did an great job. However, Sydney was clearly better than the rest of the competition and did well earning her medal. Sydney and Graham both won silver in sparring. Although they both lost to kiddos that were at least a belt level above them they both preformed better than I have ever seen them. Their technique is improving and I was terribly proud to be their father. They get better and better every time. Their confidence is improving. The both lack a bit of aggressiveness which seems to be the difference between matches that the lose by a single point and total domination. They are getting close. Technique is good but they just aren't throwing enough offensive kicks.

Well, enough bragging. The girls are all up and it is time to entertain the Dungan chickees.

Good news, Alabama , with more time this morning for review Lynley appears to be greatly improved.

Off to a week of fun purpose.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Pre Vacation Vacation

Okay, so this is how the rest of the week will pan out for the Dungans. Today is a regular school day. That means the twerplets head off to school. Interestingly, this is also an out of uniform day for them. The reason for that is because this is the day of Southwest Christian School's Thanksgiving Feast. You may be wondering why they are having the celebration today and not tomorrow? Well, you see, tomorrow they do not have school.

Now, this may not bug you but it does me. Why don't we finish out the week? It makes sense for parents that have to work. It makes sense for the kiddos that have to learn. Why aren't they having school? I mean, isn't it enough that they will be missing all of next week? For some reason, and I am still completely baffled by it, SCS deems it necessary to have a holiday before the holiday and, generally, a holiday after the holiday. It is as if they don't want to shock the kiddos too much. Let's see, they will be out all next week. So, let's give them Friday off so they can get used to not being in school all next week. That way the huge vacation won't be such a shock to their system.

In most cases, we also see this on their return to school. The day they return from a long holiday is generally a half day - sometimes 2 in a row. In this case, they are wanting to ease them back into school. These leaves parents with a couple extra days of scrambling to care for the little out of school heathens. Of course, I say that with deep rooted love.

Wow, I guess I really have some pent up child care issues. Well, none the less, school today and none tomorrow. On Saturday we have the DFW International Tae Kwon Do Tournament in Dallas. (I will be more careful when eating a hamburger after this tournament) On Sunday, we will be happily placing our tushies in the car for a 12 hour drive to Huntsville, AL for a week long visit with Mama Marge - a treat like no other.

Hmmm. Now I am beginning to understand why the kiddos may need a vacation before and after their vacation.

It will, none the less, be purposeful fun.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Difference in Medical Care

Sometimes my kiddo's reactions surprise me. Hold on, let me back up. Let me start before that. A few days ago I mentioned that we didn't have to worry about the scar on my thumb because I was not burdened with having to be the good looking one in Lynley and I's little couplet. I get that. But does that mean I am a second class citizen?

Lynley had no less that two incredibly gifted surgeons work on her forehead. These were no schleps. We are talking top of their class Harvard Medical School graduates here. She got to go to two of the fanciest doctor's offices I have ever seen. There were 42" LCD televisions everywhere and the waiting room furniture was plush. She was even offered an Evian while she waited. The procedure was much the same and the follow up was even better. They carefully removed her stitches in only the most sterile of conditions and then carefully counseled her on the proper use of Maderma to reduce scarring. She experienced the pinnacle of medical care and I would say that my blushing bride deserved no less.

My experience, however, was a little different. First, I was told to sit in the back seat of my dirty suburban with my thumb in a bloodied used Chili's napkin while we drove an hour to the hospital that was most convenient to home. The surgeon operating on my thumb was not chosen by skill but rather by which ER would be less busy. I am quite sure this correlates with being the ER with the highest standard of care, right? After some cleaning and discussion with a nurse practitioner and a few student doctors they stitched me up while my wife and the gaggle of medical types made fun of my inability to cut a hamburger in half.

That was just the beginning.

I was ushered out of my fast food hospital experience with a warning to have my stitches removed in 8 to 10 days and a warning to call if my thumb turned black or started oozing green stuff. The problem for me became, who removes my stitches. I could go back to the ER but that seemed almost nonsensical. I could go to my PCP but he dumped me because I was too healthy and not profitable enough (yes, really!). Nope, neither of those worked. That left me with my family and this gets me back to where I began today's story.

Sometimes my kiddos surprise me. Without a good alternative to remove my stitches I figured I was left with my last option. Begging one of my kids to do it with the small clippers from the nail kit. Yes, a far cry from the luxury my parental counterpart experienced but, hey, I am willing to take one for the team. I first asked Sydney. She seemed the most trustworthy with scissors and the most sanitary but she declined me based on "grossness" as she put it. Who would have thought, after everything she has been through, this would be the tipping point for her. I won't go into everything gross I did for her but when she is old and grey and she reads this she will finally see the irony.

Regardless, I was left with Grubby and Grimey. Graham jumped at the chance. Due to his enthusiasm, I had to flash back quickly in my mind to see if I had punished him lately and whether I was due any malpractice. Of course, this was Graham so I felt pretty safe. Ainsley was in for it, too. Of course, I kept her a safe distance.

Graham was an excellent nurse. Together we removed the three stitches on the counter next to the kitchen sink. There were a few dirty dishes but not many. They were both very proud as was I.

My scar isn't very pretty but I guess that is the difference between Harvard trained medical professionals and Dungan trained 4 and 5 year olds.

I see where I rank.

But this is why my purpii are so important. Without them, what do I have?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pictures - finally!

Good morning! I hope everybody had a great day. Mine was full of meetings - some of which were in Dallas. I mean no offense to Dallas-ites but life is too short to drive to Dallas. The good news, for me is that today I will be able to finally get back behind the keyboard to get some work done. Enough about me.

I know, I know. You want to hear about the Hot Harry Potter. You know, this really started as a joke. Lynley went in to her surgery calling the doctor Dr. Voldemort. (Yes, we are nerds.) I thought it was actually pretty clever and it was my stimulus for calling her the Hot Harry Potter.

Well, I'll be darned if it didn't come true.

I saw her for the first time late yesterday afternoon at Tae Kwon Do. There she appeared, back lit from the windows behind the door - the Hot Harry Potter. It turns out that her scar is a bit bigger than we both expected. It is obviously still very fresh. It is not zig zaggety like the original Harry Potter's scar but it is good enough for me. Over the next few months we should see the redness disappear and the scar fade into oblivion.

None the less, she will always be my Hot Harry Potter.

Great news! I finally have some of the pictures from our last Tae Kwon Do tournament. What do you think?

Graham winning his medal.

Sydney sparring in her first match.

Watch out! Graham is serious.

Winning gold! (Yes, they are older than she.)

Yep, it is there. 4 pictures of purpose.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Answers

Good morning! First off, thanks for the email responding to Friday's neuroblastoma post on MIBG false positives. I had several people write and ask - "Well, what was found on Sydney's MIBG scan?" I probably should have reminded everyone that her positive result was for brown fat. She has an area around the nape of her neck which has always shown. It is not prominent. In fact, I would say that most would miss it, but, it is indeed there. So, to make a long story short. Sydney is fine. The finding for her is considered a false positive. I guess this is one of the reasons that I wrote about it. I knew it was an issue but was completely blown away that there was such a large percentage of children that also had this finding. Rarely am I surprised by something in neuroblastoma and the prevalence was a new one for me.

So, where are we?

Well, the Hot Harry Potter is recovering nicely. She goes back to the cosmetic surgeon today for a check up. She should get her first look at the scar this morning. If she was a good girl and followed the doctors instructions we can hope to see a healthy scar that will hopefully disappear in a few months.

My thumb? Ah, it is groovy. I will probably take the stitches out today. It isn't going to turn out nearly as pretty as Lynley's forehead but, not to worry, I am not the one that carries the burden of beauty anyway.

The kiddos? Hmph! I am in such a quandary with the kiddos. One minute they are perfectly stellar examples of human behaviour, the next, they need to be traded in on newer models. I am totally blown away by their propensity to change behavior on a dime. They are truly miniature versions of Dr. Heckyl and Ms. Behave. In this case, I would be misrepresenting Graham if I said he was truly apart of this dual personality syndrome. In this case, he is the good one. Of course, he is generally the brunt of the girl's behaviour so his split personality comes in the form of being happy one moment and crying the next because the girls have done yet another mean thing to him.

To be honest, I have had it with the abuse. Yesterday after Sydney sprayed Graham down with a hose for no good reason I told him to go throw her in the pool. I quickly realized this was not a very good idea and corrected it before he had the chance. Of course, he is too nice and probably would not have done it either way. The point is the pattern is recurring and if Sydney is not trying to make Graham cry it is Ainsley. He is grossly outnumbered and no amount of Lynley and I scolding and punishing the girls is doing the trick. He is going to have to solve this one on his own. He has got to fight back or they will never give him the respect that he deserves. Of course, he is too nice to fight back and too conscious of the rules to do anything bad to his sisters.

I want to help him but I haven't quite figured out the answer.

I need to think more about my purpose.

Friday, November 13, 2009

False Positive MIBG

During Sydney's last set of scans we had several little surprises. Thankfully most were unrelated to neuroblastoma. One of the scans however, MIBG, did show some uptake. Uptake on MIBG scans is always the scariest for kids with neuroblastoma because it has such a high specificity. In other words, it has a pretty good track record of only lighting up what it is supposed to. It is very specific to neuroblastoma. It should also be noted that MIGB is also used to detect other conditions such as pheochromocytoma. The bottom-line, however, is that MIGB is a pretty good tool at finding neuroblastoma and when in lights up on a scan it is a pretty good indication in a child with neuroblastoma that it is indeed neuroblastoma. I have always considered it one of our best weapons of detecting neuroblastoma. I have always considered it an accurate tool. Is it foolproof though?

MIBG dose show false positives. As of this date, a search of pubmed on "MIBG false positive" will bring up 111 articles. It is important to note that the bulk of the literature discussing false positive MIBG scans deals with soft tissue. In fact, until recently, I had never seen a published article which addressed false positives in bone. In soft tissue, there are a myriad of things that will uptake MIBG. Most of these are of sympathetic origin but there are several examples which are not.

One of the most common examples of soft tissue with MIBG uptake is brown fat or brown adipose tissue (BAT). BAT is one of two types of fat found in mammals. It is especially abundant in newborns and its primary function is to generate body heat. It is commonly found in the nape of the neck and is often a source of false positivity in MIBG scans. In fact, there are published reports showing as many as 12% of children with neuroblastoma showing accumulation in the nape of the neck - in none of these cases was the accumulation identified as a tumor by other imaging modalities or follow-up studies. Interestingly, it is also most commonly seen in winter.

There are several other soft tissue examples of false positivity as well. It is well known that MIBG can be taken up by tumors such as pheochromocytomas but it can also be seen in some carcinomas, adenomas, and angiomyolipomas. There are reports of uptake in an excessory spleen, benign liver tumors, and pyelonephritis. Uptake can also be seen when there is an obstruction in the urinary tract or kidneys. It has been seen in arteries and veins with stenosis and capillaries with angiomas. While that probably seems like a rare occurrence, you should note with all of the surgical intervention and chemotherapy seen in children with neuroblastoma it is more common than you may think. We have even seen uptake in the adrenal glands unrelated to neuroblastoma when the children have been treated with chronic adrenocorticotropic hormone. Finally, as you can tell if you have ever seen an MIBG scan, there are many examples of uptake throughout the chest an abdomen as the MIBG radiotracer makes its way through the blood stream and out of the body.

Seeing all of the potential for false positive may make one more wary about the specificity of MIBG. The good news is that most radiologists are trained to be able to tell what is real and what is not. However, it does illustrate the strong potential for false positivity in soft tissue.

Bones are a different story and there are far fewer examples of false positivity for neuroblastoma. Frankly, until recently, I had never even seen one in print. However, in this months Journal of Clinical Oncology (Vol27, 2009) there is a correspondence which seems to indicate some examples of false bony uptake - one on the ribs and another along the vertebra. The authors quote a small cohort but site several examples in the lungs, liver and original tumor bed in which MIBG showed uptake that later became non avid without further therapy indicating that perhaps these historical telltale signs of neuroblastoma relapse may in fact not be real.

So, as a parent of a child with neuroblastoma, what should all of these mean to you? Well, MIBG is still a pretty specific test to find neuroblastoma. However it is not bullet proof. It does fail. It is important to confirm findings with other scans and tests. At times, when you are suspecting a relapse due to a finding in MIBG this post may bring you some hope. More importantly, if you are one of the lucky few to have false positivity it may also prevent unnecessary treatment. Proceed with caution. Look at the entire picture.

That is what purpose is all about.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The next level

Good morning! Well, after yet another deadline, I find myself with some time to catch up. First and foremost, everyone is well. My thumb has finally stopped throbbing and I think I am on my way to recovery. I can finally type without wincing in pain. Now, in fact, it is more like a tickle and I can't help but type a sentence without a little smile. Lynley too is on her road to recovery. She however, is not nearly as far along. In day 3 she is in a battle with swelling. Oddly the swelling is not really in her forehead. It has seemed to accumulate at the crown of her nose for some reason. She, of course, sees this as a massive disfiguration. I , on the other hand, still see her as the hot Harry Potter. What can I say? Other than that though, us two old twerps seem to be making a relatively swift recovery.

Now, onto the kiddos.

With all of the excitement over the last few days I really have not had an opportunity to cover the kids Tae Kwon Do tournament. It was meaningful for a few reasons. First, as I mentioned on Monday, they did well. However, this was also a proving ground for them. Did they have the right stuff? Were the ready to truly begin competing? Were they ready to take this to the next level?

Oh yes, this was much deeper than just a bunch of kids kicking the crap out of each other.

On Monday night, after Tae Kwon Do, we were called into Master Adrian's office. The discussion was about Graham and Sydney joining the team. This is a big step for a couple of reasons. This is a whole new level of Tae Kwon Do and it takes a commitment. No longer are we biding our time from one belt to another. The team is about the team and it is serious business. The team works a bit differently. First, we no longer go to our traditional Tae Kwon Do classes. We are now responsible for going to the team practices. There are 3 practices per week and one of them is essentially a double class. On top of that it is still preferred that we go to the sparring practice on Friday to further hone their skills. Fortunately, this is not too different that what we were doing anyway.

The classes, however, are very different.

They are full gear, pedal to the metal practices which focus on Tae Kwon Do in actual use. Team practice goes beyond simply teaching technique. Focus is not only on how to do something but how to do it effectively. The goal is true mastery. It is about the team and less focus is placed on personal belt development. It is no longer about learning the next set of skills as much as mastering the use of the ones you already know. It is for this reason that belt progress will also move much slower. Before, we could expect a new belt about every three months but it will now take considerably longer.

It is a sacrifice for the kiddos. It means more practice and it also means that their friends will likely progress in belt levels before them. It takes dedication and, for this reason, it is their decision. They are required to sign a commitment to the team.

Ultimately, we left the decision up to them.

Of course, with the sacrifice also comes rewards, as members of the team they will travel with the team. This means that they will also be vying for positions at the Junior Olympics and Nationals. Ultimately, they will be groomed with the intent for them to compete at very high levels. In this sense, it is quite an honor. However, once again, it sounds pretty nice but it ultimately comes down to them.

They agreed. They are on the team.

What do I think? Well, of course, I would be lying if I did not say I was proud. And frankly, the idea of have a teen age daughter who is also a competing black belt in Tae Kwon Do is somewhat appealing on the boy front. However, ultimately, for me. I think it is a character builder. I think the kids will learn a lot about themselves - about sacrifice and reward. They will learn that if they try hard enough they can accomplish great things. It will be a great personal journey for both of them. For me this is an incredible opportunity to teach them about life.

The trick will be in keeping it as fun for them as possible.

It is one small step for twerpkind but one huge leap for purpose.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Hot Harry Potter

You can say that, can't you? I mean you are allowed to call your wife the "hot" version of Harry Potter and get away with it can't you. I sure hope so. Well, the point is that Lynley came through her ordeal just fine. We arrived at the dermatologist's office a few minutes late - go figure, Lynley late. Who would have thought? Regardless, it still was not very long before we were back in the operating suite. After about 20 minutes of prep she was ready to go. The entire procedure took about 5 minutes. Then, of course, we waited for pathology to test the tissue. The good news was that they were able to get all of the cancer out in one fell swoop. This had us leaving the building at roughly 11 to head to the surgery center to be closed by a plastic surgeon. At this point her "look" was questionable. She had a big protective dome on the crown of her forehead. The skin colored covering made her look like some sort of horned creature. However, that was far better than what lurked underneath - a grotesque open wound that looked like the scene from The Believers.

Thankfully, they were able to fit her in a bit earlier at the surgery center. This was good news as she was able to finish in time so that we could pick up the kiddos from school. The only snafu seemed to come in the form of a nurse that did not listen to her in recovery. She had already worked out what drugs she wanted in recovery - none - with the anesthesiologist. Unfortunately, the nurse did not get the message. Lynley asked what the nurse was about to give her. He said Versed. She said that she did not want it. He told her she was not in a place to make her decisions and pushed the drug in anyway. This, of course, sent Lynley off. Her perfect day of skin cancer removal was ruined. I am quite sure that she will now dedicate her life to ensuring that this male "know-it-all" nurse never has the opportunity to do that again. (Wow, do you think she might have some hidden pent up anger towards that type of person?) After our experience dealing with Sydney, we really have lost all filters. We simply don't take that type of thing lying down. Treat the patient - not your ego. It took her the better part of the evening to get over that little incident and, frankly, I am still staying out of swinging distance.

Well that completes most of my coverage of Lynley's big day. She now has a small bandage on her forehead and is recovery nicely. Today we should get our first good look at the incision on her forehead. We are both hoping for a lightning bolt.

Today our purpose should return to normal.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Let the MOHS begin

Good morning! Well it would just figure that today I would have a ton to talk about and a complete inability to do so. You see, after a wildly successful Tae Kwon Do tournament with the kiddos, I decided to cut halfway through my thumb at Chilis. You might think I was trying to do something sophisticated. Nope. I was trying to cut my hamburger in half.

I missed.

I don't really know how you miss cutting your hamburger in half and instead cut your thumb but I sure did it. It did, however, make for an exciting trip to the ER for a few stitches to put Humpty Duffus back together again. To be honest, I was never too concerned about the whole ordeal but the kiddos were all sure I could see the light.

At the end of my stitchery they came in to bandage my wound. I had a choice. I big band aid or a little one. I was hoping for a large complicated wound dressing and thumb board. How was this going to look? This was not going to go over well with the kiddos.

Sure enough, I got home and the kiddos laughed at my little boo boo. Even Ainsley said "That's it - a band aid?" At that point I had to take off the band aid to show them the stitches so that they would believe me. At least my Frankenstein stitched finger returned a little bit of my Daddy cred. Once I proved my toughness to the kiddos by displaying my massive injury I went to the cupboard to get out yet another band aid. Unfortunately, we only had Strawberry Shortcake or SpongeBob band aids. So much for by cred.

Well outside of some throbbing the weekend went smoothly. The kiddos did wonderfully at their Tae Kwon Do tournament. Sydney beat a boy at sparring that was an entire belt above her. I must admit, that made me pretty proud. In all, Graham came home with silver and bronze medals and Sydney came home with gold and silver medals. Their will be some great pictures coming in the next few days (thanks to Mike for being our official photographer).

Well, enough about all that fun stuff. This is the big day. Today Lynley has surgery to remove the skin cancer from her forehead. The fun begins at 9 this morning with the MOHS procedure and will finish up later this afternoon with the plastic surgeon at 2:00 PM. For those of you interesting in following her progress I will be tweeting the highlights from my iPhone. Lynley has been trying to get me to start using twitter so I am finally going to break down and do it. I signed up for a personal twitter account and you can follow me on twitter here. We will keep you updated and for those of you interested in following our day-to-day escapades, well, you can see those as well. We will see how this goes.

Well, I had best be off. There is a mountain to do to get everything ready for this morning. Their are kids to feed and get to school and a wife to get to the hospital.

It will be a long day of purpose.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mama Marj has arrived!

Ah, the in laws are here. Nothing in life really gets better than that. Well, I suppose a child surviving neuroblastoma is pretty important. Watching the birth of your 3 children, getting married, hearing your child say Daddy for the first time are all good. But, come on, Mama Marj.

Does it get any better?

Yes, the in laws arrived safely. They made it just in time to make the bake sale at SCS and pick up the kiddos. They even got to meet a few of the teachers. That was followed by a trip to Arby's for milkshakes, a tour of my wife's office, and then a quick change for Tae Kwon Do practice.

And who said I was not a good tour guide.

No expense spared for Mama Marj.

Tae Kwon Do was excellent. The class was extremely small and therefore the kiddos had more opportunity for one on one training. Both of them returned to their former TKD grandeur. I am definitely glad we fit in the extra class. It not only helped my confidence level but it was good for them as well. Frankly, I don't care if they win tomorrow. I am just ecstatic that they are prepared. Let the chips fall where they may. If they try hard. I am proud.

Of course, I could just be giddy since everything is right in my life.

Did I mention Mama Marj was in town?

Have a great weekend. I am quite sure mine will be full of purpose... and Mama Marj ;)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Just an ordinary Dungan day.

Writing in my blog was not in the cards yesterday morning. A project for work had me working into the wee hours. That was followed by an early rise to get the project out the door. Unfortunately, it left me no time for morning ramblings. In my absense, things did not slow down. In fact, if anything, things are speeding up. Today, Mimi and Papa are coming in town for a visit. You can top that off with the fact that the plans are already lined out for the next week.

Tonight is our final GSX team practice before our tournament on Saturday in Addison. Graham and Sydney have already had 4 practices this week. Unfortunately, after watching them last night it is pretty apparent that they need some more. Ouch! Hey, I am an honest. I don't know what has happened over the last week but their sparring skills have definitely taken a backslide. For some reason they are both forgetting some of their basics. Tonight we will grind those in and tomorrow we will be sure to do some walk throughs to keep it fresh.

That is all just the beginning. Tomorrow morning is grandparent' day at SCS which means it is time for their big show. All of the kiddos have been rehearsing for weeks (if not more) and they are incredibly excited. I continue to be amazed at the skills these kiddos are learning at SCS. They are able to do so much more than I at their age. Friday will be chock full of grandparent's day activities and it will not stop there. Saturday will be spent in Addison at the Tae Kwon Do tournament. Sunday will hopefully be a day of rest because on Monday Lynley will be going under the knife to have the cancer carved out of her forehead.

Are we busy enough?

Oh yeah, and then there is work. I wonder where we will fit all of that in. I guess that will mean more late nights and early mornings. That is why the string is on both ends of the candle, right?

I am beginning to loose my ability to see purpose for all of the purpose going on.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dear Lord, another blue sticker?

Yesterday, Ainsley came home with yet another blue sticker. Of course, this is after I jokingly called her a red sticker waiting to happen in front of her teacher. Perhaps, she was defending Ainsley. Or, perhaps Ainsley truly did earn a blue sticker. Regardless, Ainsley could not have been prouder when I showed up to pick her up from school. The moment she saw me she came running to jump in my arms. She hugged me as hard as she could and then brought us all to a stand still as she had to open up her backpack and dig around for her folder so that she could show me the actual real-life blue sticker. As she open her folder I half expected the heavens to part, a bolt of light to shoot up to into the sky, and the sounds of a choir to fill our ears. There is no doubt in my mind that is what Ainsley saw and heard and, frankly, I think I just might have as well.

On the way home, of course, we had to call Mom on the speakerphone to share the good news. Throughout the 30 minute car ride home she would show us the sticker several more times and , of course, we had to talk about it. All the way home she just could not get over it. "Can you believe it, Daddy? I am so good. Did you see my blue sticker?"

I should also note that Graham got a blue sticker today as well. But, I must admit, it was completely overshadowed by the sheer joy surrounding Ainsley. (Get used to it buddy, we are surrounded by dominant girls.)

I remain intrigued by Ainsley's behavior at school. I have always known her to be sweet and absolutely adorable. I can also tell you that, of all of my children, she is currently the best hugger and the most affectionate. I wonder if that is the way she is at school. The funny thing is that she is somewhat like a cat. You can love her and give her cuddles one moment and the next second the claws are out and she has slapped you across the back of the head. The second she feels wronged or has grown tired of your affection - DUCK!

I am guessing she probably does not do that at school which tells me that she can control it. And, if she can control the reaction there, why doesn't she do it at home? She doesn't get away with it and punishments are swift and consistent. What's the deal?

Regardless, as always, I am incredibly proud. Everyday the kiddos continue to show me what great little human beings they are becoming.

I am still not ready to show Ainsley any of my weaknesses but I must admit that I am as proud of her as she is. In fact, I am downright giddy.

Still, we may all wait until we are on school grounds before we get too excited - just to be safe.

Ainsley - you are an awesome purpose.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mixed Reviews

Good morning! Well, as if last week was not busy enough with scans, Friday concluded our predominantly non-working week with a day full of parent/teacher conferences. Thankfully, though, these were planned. The surprise ones are the ones that you have to watch out for. We spent time with each of the kiddos teachers. We went over all of their work and got an idea of where they fit in within their classes.

Going into the meetings, my biggest concerns were for Graham. Don't get me wrong, Graham is a smart little boy. As I had mentioned a few weeks ago though, he had some areas that needed to be improved and these fell into the category of parent failures, not Graham failures. Here is were the rub comes in. As we began working with Graham we found that he was having a lot of difficulty memorizing his sight words. No matter how much we worked with him it seemed as though the moment we took a break everything we had gone over would mysteriously leak out of his brain. It had no staying power.

If I am being honest I am much the same way. It is impossible for me to memorize things. I have to understand and comprehend. However, once I reach that threshold it is remembered forever and better yet I can apply it and add on to the knowledge quickly and easily. The problem is getting over that first hump. I suspect this is the issue with Graham. Regardless, we were still concerned. After meeting with the teacher we found that Graham truly was like his dad. There were many areas were he excelled in recalling material from memory. Clearly, we were teaching him this particular task (and others) the wrong way. Straight memorization was not going to work for him. Now the trick was in finding out how his brain remembers things so that we can teach him to apply it. If we can help him over this hurdle he truly is home free. The boy is doing well in school but he will be doing much better if we can get him through this. Looking at his evaluation was interesting. He either did great - well above the curve - or he failed miserably (by our standards). The consistencies were in tasks requiring straight memorization. So, it seems, for Graham we have a solution on the horizon. We just have to figure out what it is.

In the end, I came out most pleased. The things I have neglected to mention were all of the things that are right with Graham. It is evident that we are growing a truly wonderful and compassionate human being. I am proud. He is a good seed.

Sydney's evaluation was great. We identified some areas where we could help her improve but for the most part it was a stellar review. How much can you say. She received straight A's and her behaviour was considered better than satisfactory. She is truly succeeding in this environment. We just have to continue to support her success by challenging her.

Ainsley's evaluation was a bit different and, if I am being honest, I give it absolutely no credibility at all. Frankly she received zeros in several areas where we know she knew the material. It was clear that she did not understand the instructions of the test she was being given. Even the teacher admitted this must have been the problem but could not really recall any specifics. Ainsley simply refused to take parts of the test by saying that she could not do them. Things that we know she knows. There was no apparent attempt to correct this or to find out what has going on. I assume that was a characteristic of the testing procedures but I still would have liked to known what the issue was. They simply gave her a zero and moved on. It was frustrating. We had little, if anything, to go off of and we never had the opportunity to evaluate her based on what she truly does or does not know. So, what I do have is history, I don't like comparing my kiddos but I can tell you with experience that Ainsley is a superbly bright little girl. In fact, I would say she is much farther ahead than either Graham or Sydney were at this point. I am sure there are areas where she needs improvement but I have no idea of what they are. It that sense it was a disappointing meeting at best.

Well, I hate to end on a sour note, but there is a mountain of work awaiting me. As you might expect I have about a week's worth piled on my desk. I also have an article on brown fat and MIBG that I am getting reviewed and hope to post later this week. It will be a busy one.

As always, it will be filled with purpose first.