Friday, July 30, 2010

Selling Out

Did you know that summer is almost over? Yes, next week begins the back to school parties. In fact, in just 2 short weeks the kiddos will be back for another year at SCS. For those of you keeping score, Sydney is entering 3rd grade, Graham 1st, and (God help them) Ainsley is headed into Kindergarten. Lynley and I began going over the list last night. That means new backpacks and school uniforms. That means after care for Ainsley and a bevy of checks for spirit shirts, PTA, Booster club and just about anything else they can think of to sell to us. That means school supplies and loading up the school charge cards. Yikes!

This will be an expensive month - a very expensive month.

So I guess I am going to just go ahead and sell advertising on their back packs, clothes, school utensils and anything else I can think of. Wouldn't it be great to have a big "Coors Light" patch on the back of Ainsley's school sweater or a Tide Ad on the back of Graham's backpack. I might even be able to get into some of the lucrative pharmaceutical advertising as well. How about "Topotecan - it isn't bird chemo. It is the reason I am here." for Sydney. No? To over the top? Well, darn. It was nice to dream wasn't it?

I guess I had better get back to billing.

You see, this is the reason I can't sit around all day with the kid's, swim in the pool, or play golf.

I have purpose to attend to.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

SpongeDaddy MeanyPants

So, I received several great comments and an inbox full of email on this subject. It was an almost unanimous verdict. Everyone seems to feel as though we should simply let Sydney do whatever she wants to do. Let her be a kid. Let her make her own decisions.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Okay, maybe that is a little strong (it was more for effect). In all honesty, I have no problem letting Sydney make her own decisions. In fact, that is a major part of this whole child rearing thing. Isn't that one of our biggest goals as parents - to teach our children how to make good decisions? Sure it is. And, if you are going to learn to make good decisions you have to practice, don't you? I get that. Let her decide.

My only caveat is that, in helping a child learn to make decisions, you have to ensure that they are evaluating all of the issues. You want to make sure they understand the impact of their decision that they consider all of the available information.

But, in reality, making a decision was not really the issue with Sydney. That had nothing to do with my disappointment. My disappointment was with her rationale. It was her rationale that was in direct contrast with everything we as Dungans (atleast Lynley and Mark Dungans) believe in. It was her rationale that failed to take anything into consideration outside of her immediate want and need.

She did not want to do it because she did not want to work hard at it. She just wanted to have fun and play with Ainsley. That was the only thing that she was considering. She was in a bad mood because her mother took her out of gymnastics 5 minutes early to get geared up for Tae Kwon Do. This was just like the practice before when she got mad because we made her get up off of the couch after watching an hour of mind melting cartoons to get ready for practice. She was angry because she would rather just laze around than do something productive. How dare we mess up her entire summer by asking her to go to practice for an hour?

(Before I get a flurry of nasty grams, yes, I also understand that this is summer and it should be fun and relaxing for them. However, 2 or 3 hours of practice per week isn't really going to disrupt that. It is good for them physically and mentally. So, in this case, I want to keep that fact in perspective. From the over-scheduled, over-pressured standpoint we really aren't being that tough on her. 2 or 3 practices a week is not going to destroy her summer.)

I would love to just lay around to. I would love to just stay at home and play with the kids all day. Why? Because it is fun. I would rather play golf, go to the movies, and spend the rest of the afternoon in the pool. I don't do that though because there is a cost of making those decision. If I don't work I don't get to feed my family or pay our utilities. Soon enough we would be without a house or food. That is a consequence of the decision.

You see, Sydney, was not considering anything but what she wanted at that moment. She did not consider (not even for a millisecond) all of the things that she loved about being on the team and participating in Tae Kwon Do. (Yes, I said the things that she loves about Tae Kwon Do - not me.) In fact, some of the happiest moments I have ever seen Sydney experience have been in Tae Kwon Do. Have you ever seen true pride in your child's eyes? I am sure you have and I know you have not forgotten because it is one of the most incredible gifts in life to a parent. Sydney has received that gift through Tae Kwon Do. Sydney has also had the opportunity to travel the country through sport. That was her doing and those are life experiences that she earned through her hard work. Oh, and fun, she has had her fair share of that as well. In fact, some of her best times have occurred with her friends on team. Those are all warm and fuzzy reasons but there have been tougher things she has accomplished as well. She has learned to deal with her fears and learned how to overcome them. She has learned how to trust herself and to believe in herself. In short, Tae Kwon Do has brought her a lot that she was not considering in her decision. And, let's not forget the fact that


Sydney was given a few days to think about her decision. On Tuesday I spent about 15 minutes with her talking about it and letting her know that she was capable of making her own decision. I told her why I was disappointed. I also told her that whether she chose Tae Kwon Do or something else that I would expect her to work hard at it. Because, as I explained, it is from the hard work that all of the rewards come. Furthermore, I reassured her that she could do whatever she wanted to do and we would not be mad at her. I also reiterated that my only caveat was that not wanting to work hard has not an acceptable reason for her to quit. She needed to consider everything - good, bad and ugly.

We tried to make this as low pressure for her as possible. I did not want her to choose Tae Kwon Do because she thought it would make her mother or I happy. I wanted her to feel free to make the decision that she thought was best for her - the one that made her the happiest in both the short and long term. I made that absolutely clear to her.

Last night at practice she made her decision.

What was it?

If I tell you that she wants to work really hard at something she loves and she wants to give it her all, does it really matter what she chose?

Not in my book. As far as I am concerned she made the right decision.

It is all about purpose.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SpongeSydney QuitterPants

So, last night was interesting - to say the least. You see, yesterday evening was team resigning. This was the day that the kiddos got to recommit to the team for another 6 months. It is a great exercise. It helps the kids keep the perspective of what all of this Tae Kwon Do stuff is about. Master Adrian sat down with each one of the kids and talked about commitment - commitment to the team, commitment to being good humans - commitment to trying their very best. In the end, they each signed a document stating that they would continue to strive hard for another 6 months and seek excellence in whatever they do.

Graham was the first up. He could not have been more excited. He politely listened to Master Adrian and responded with "Yes Mams" wherever appropriate. He understood the gravity of what he was signing and their was no doubt that he was going to do everything he could over the next six months to be as good as he could - both in Tae Kwon Do and out. It was heartfelt and their is no doubt in my mind that Graham will live up to his word and strive everyday to be his best.

Sydney, on the other hand, was a completely and utterly different story. Frankly, she said she wanted to quit. When asked why, she stated that she did not want to work hard. She would rather spend her afternoons playing.

Disappointing, to say the least. This was not one of those proud Mommy and Daddy moments.

Don't get me wrong, I am not frustrated or angry because she does not want to be on team. I am thoroughly disappointed in her though. This is exactly how it goes with Sydney. If she is not the best at something, she simply quits. It isn't that this is Tae Kwon Do. It is with everything and it has always been that way. She is a quitter and we have had a horrible time finding anything that she would not quit.

It is this mentality that is the whole reason we started Tae Kwwon Do in the first place. We thought that there would be enough successes that it would keep her motivated and interested. I am guessing that after not experiencing success at the national level she doesn't view herself as a winner and, because of that, she is not motivated to continue. Although she did extremely well locally and regionally, she just doesn't remember how good she really is and now she sees herself as a loser.

As a parent, I am a little on the fence. While part of me wants her to be happy, I also know that letting her quit will not accomplish anything. She will just continue to quit. She will do something else for awhile and then the same thing will happen. She will learn nothing from the experience and not get out of it the valuable life lessons that were the whole reason we put her in the sport in the first place.

She needs to experience success. She needs to learn that hard work pays off. One of the greatest lessons that I learned through sports was that if I put in hard work and I tried my very hardest I could accomplish anything I wanted.

I want her to have that feeling. I want her to feel as though she can conquer the world.

I want her to believe in herself.

Right now, she doesn't and I guess that is what I am most disappointed in. I need a plan. I need to figure out how we are going to teach her that lesson. Unfortunately, right now, I just know that quitting will not accomplish anything.

It is time for a heart to heart.

It is time for some serious purpose.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back in the day.

Just so you know, Lynley finds baths to be icky. For this reason, all of the kiddos take showers.

You needed to know that...

This weekend Ainsley was taking a shower. After spending as much time as she could she came out with a big smile on her face.

"Mommy, I love bathas," Ainsley chirped.

"It's baths and, actually, we take showers - that way you don't have to sit in the dirty old bath water. You're lucky. Back in the day, people didn't have showers and had to take baths."

"Is that back when the world was gray (referring to her belief that the world was black and white, not camera technology.)"

Out of the mouths of babes.

It put a smile on my face. I though it may put one on yours.

Happy Monday.

Sometimes purpose isn't serious.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Ninny Conqueror

Good morning! Well, as of yesterday Graham had returned to normal. Well, at least his bowels had returned to normal. He still seemed pretty whiny yesterday. I don't know whether it was because he was particularly tired, particularly sensitive, or whether the girls were particularly mean, Whatever the reason, he was definitely wearing his "wittle heart on his sweeve." I know, I know. That seems mean and uncaring, but, as long as I am still on the subject of being mean to my kiddos for the sake of their own benefit, let me continue.

Graham has this habit of running out of the playroom crying, screaming and shrieking whenever something does not go his way. The usual bellow is "No one loves me. The girls hate me" while he continues running and screaming through the house. While I know the girls can be mean to him on occasion, his behavior does nothing but egg them on more. Furthermore, running and screaming out of a room because the girls knocked your legos over really isn't an appropriate response. He has got to learn how to deal with these instances. We have spent quite a bit of time working with him and talking to him about it. We have gone as far as suggesting alternate behaviors and solutions.

All to know avail. Still, the moment something goes wrong my son changes from confident manly Daddy spawn into screaming ninny.

Recently (very recently, as in last night), I have resorted to punishing him every time he does it. Regardless of the reason, if he handles it in the ninny fashion he is punished and there is no investigation into the reason the whole incident started. In other words, if he comes screaming out of the room, the girls get away with whatever they did to him. Don't get me wrong, I am sure the deserve punishment. However, in this case, we need enough incentive to keep Graham from ninny-dom and not being fair to him is likely to be what works best. He can't stand it when things aren't fair. (That is a whole other life lesson and I will wait until he is a little older to learn that one. That reality might send him to the funny farm given his current state.)

Honestly, he is an awesome kiddo. I am proud to call him one of my twerps. In fact, if we did away with this little habit he would be downright perfect.

Hopefully, from now on you will be able to call me Mark the ninny conqueror.

I've got purpose, yes I do. I've got purpose, how about you?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The hidden benefit of being mean

Good morning! Well it appears that at least one of our young stewards experienced the return of a bug. Graham missed practice last night due to some intestinal problems (that is a nice way of saying severe diarrhea) He was disappointed, as this prevented him from attending team Tae Kwon Do practice. Sydney simply found it completely unfair as she had no desire to practice last night and was "forced" to go all by her lonesome.

Poor Sydney.

Oh, and if you know her, she plays it up to. Before practice there is all kinds of moaning.
  • "I hate Tae Kwon Do."
  • "I don't like sparring."
  • "I don't wanna go."
  • "I'm not going to do it."
I mean, honestly, if you listened to her dramatic act you would have to assume that I must be the meanest father in the world for dragging my sweet little, cancer ridden daughter to such an activity. How could I do that? What a bastard I am!

Worse yet, it happens this way more days than not and on many days there are even real genuine tears.

Here is the catch. Almost the moment she arrives her attitude changes. By the end of most practices, she is downright giddy. Every night I will ask her - "How was practice? (even though I know because we watch every moment.) and she will usually tell me how fun it was. On some occasions, she will tell us how horrible it was but that seems to be in direct opposite correlation with how well Graham did in comparison. If Graham beat her, it was her worst day ever. If she gave it her all and dominated her little brother, it was her best day ever. For the most part, though, she comes away from practice with a big smile on her face - especially if she receives praise.

Like so many things in our life, it is just like the movie Groundhog Day. We go to bed, we wake up, and then the whole process starts over as if the day before never happened. The moment we get ready to leave, Sydney screams and moans about how horrible Tae Kwon Do is. Then, she practices hard. And then, she loves it.

Day in and day out.

On days when she is in particularly bad spirits I often think about letting her quit. Why go through all of the drama? What I quickly realize is, if it wasn't this it would be something else. It is the routine and the requirement of going to practice that makes her so incorrigible.

And, isn't the reward received from hard work and dedication the lesson we are trying to teach here?

Without all of the drama the lesson may not be nearly so well learned. In that sense, I guess it really is worth it.

So, the next time you see me dragging my kicking and screaming daughter to Tae Kwon Do practice please take it with a grain of salt. We are actually trying to teach her something here.

With purpose it is the journey that it is the real reward.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back to the routine

Last night was the kiddo's first night back to Tae Kwon Do since the Junior Olympics. For the most part, both kiddos were very excited to be back to see their friends. If I am being honest, I must also say that it was pretty good for both Lynley and I as well. Spending that much time at practices, we have become close to them as well. The practice was pretty relaxed in comparison to those that we had participated in getting ready for the Olympics. In fact, for them it was all about getting back to basics. They spent the majority of the time drilling to improve their kicking stamina, power, and accuracy. That exercise is good for the whole team but it was especially good for my kiddos who would benefit from an entire year of those exercises. I would love to see them do nothing but those exercises for the next 6 months. It would be boring but I can guarantee that they would come out of it with 10 times the skill they have now.

I would be remiss if I did not say that this was also the first time back to gymnastics for Ainsley. Yes, she received the mandatory 2 weeks off after the Olympics as well. However, the reason she took mandatory time off was that her parents were too forgetful to remember to take her to gymnastics when we weren't already there for Tae Kwon Do. She was glad to be back. While I have been generally dissatisfied with the quality of gymnastics offered at GSX she seems to be getting better with time even if the classes don't appear to offer much in the way of improvement. The important part is that she likes it.

Well, I had best be off - another day and another project.

Things are in a rut. I feel sort of empty. I need to refocus on my purpii.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Missed Diagnosis

Good morning! Well, you probably noticed from the lack of a posting on Friday that I was in a mad dash to meet a deadline. The good news is that I hit it. The bad news is that was not the only reason that I had not written. You see Thursday and Friday were not only busy because of work but also because two of our gaggle decided to be under the weather.

On Thursday afternoon Sydney began the puke parade. It started in the early afternoon. She began with horrible headaches. Knowing how much I despise headaches in Sydney you can guess how well this went over. Of course, I was fearing the worst. I always do with headaches. None the less, I darkened the room and tried to make everything as comfortable as possible for her. At the time, I was hoping for the normal culprit (at least I hope) which was dehydration. I gave her some fluids and Tylenol. Luckily, that all seemed to stay down for about an hour.

However, it did not stay down forever. As if her body was on a timer, at one hour, she was praying to the porcelain god. This was followed my a barrage of hiccups, a clearing of the headache, and then, a little later, a repeat cycle.

Now, Lynley thinks I am nuts, so take this with a grain of salt. But, I have a theory behind all of these episodes. I think that Sydney has these symptoms due to her kidneys. With one grossly undersized and another not operating at 100% (due to treatment) I believe that she is more prone to symptoms such as these. Similar to a chronic kidney issue I think it is the source of her sporadic but relatively routine headaches with hiccups.

Yes, I understand that could all be normal, too. But, do some research. I did, and you will find out that my theory is probably not too far out there.

If I am right can anything be done about it? Possibly, this could be treated by medication. However, as Lynley points out, how much more scanning do we really need to put her through. I agree but I also think a renal panel might also be interesting. I will have to order one up.

So, I give you all of this conspiracy theory only to rip it to shreds on this particular occasion. As it turns out, within about 12 hours, Graham started presenting with the same symptoms. He spent Friday puking away. Since I know Sydney's treatment was not contagious and Graham's kidneys are probably just fine, there must be another culprit.

This, unfortunately, leads me down another path that I did not want to go. You see, I really like Mama's Pizza. The problem is this: after the last 3 visits to Mama's Pizza, within about 24 hours, at least 2 or more Dungans have presented with nausea and/or significant intestinal issues. Yes, without fail, our dinners have been followed with sickness. I truly hope that this is not a continued trend because Mama's really is a family favorite. However, the evidence certainly is not pointing in their favor at this point.

Well, that is my story and I am sticking to it. The good news is that both kiddos were good as gold within 24 hours of the onset of their symptoms. I met my deadline and Lynley got all 300 of the student laptops ready to roll. We should be back to normal.

At least as normal as our purpose can be.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just trying to get through the week.

Argh! I am way behind on a project, hence, the reason I did not write yesterday. The good news is that we will still deliver. The bad news is that it will take some long hours. All of this work is not helping to improve my twerp wrangling skills. They kiddos are still as mischievous as ever - probably more so now that they are not receiving adequate supervision and attention from their father. Lynley has been more attentive than I. However, she too is slammed at work and it looks like that her days will only get worse as the week ends. That will leave the snots with at least a day or so with room to run amuck.

But then, then I will dominate.

Over the last few days I have received a ton of advice on dealing with my little Ainsley problem and, fear me little ones, I will be back with a vengeance.

Ha, ha, ha ,ha (big evil laugh)

In the meantime, I have to get back to work.

On another note, we Dungans had a great time out with the Heads last night. It was a trip to Mama's for pizza. 6 kids (2 with neuroblastoma), 4 adults and a pitcher of beer. It was the perfect highlight to a manic week. It had been awhile since we had seen Hayden and it was great to catch up. At last we left him he had HAMA'd after his second round of 3F8 antibody. This led to another round of chemo to suppress the immune response. Unfortunately, as of this moment, he is still HAMA positive. This highlights the problem with 3F8 and the need for the high dose chemotherapy preparatory regimens. It seems that I see this more often than not with those that pursue 3F8 without the preparatory chemo. It is just something to keep in the back of your mind if you run into that difficult decision of whether or not to put your child through another round or two of high dose chemo. It is a tough situation, especially with someone that does not need the chemotherapy to treat the disease (just to suppress the immune system) and this can frequently be the cost. Now, what do you do? Regardless, it was especially nice to see hair starting to grace the top of Hayden's head again. As usual, Ainsley stuck to his side - literally. She made every effort to hold his hand at every turn. Graham brought his bag of quarters that he has been saving and they all went nuts with the coin operated candy machines and games. This was all followed by a trip to get some gelato . All in all, it was a wonderfully fun and relaxing evening. It is always good to see them.

Well, it is time to get back to it.

I have to get all of this work out my way so that I can refocus on my purpose.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Looking for a kid whisperer

I appreciate all of the comments and messages I received yesterday. Many of them were very helpful. And, since they are, I am back to ask for a little help. I have a problem.


Again, don't get me wrong. I absolutely love the little twerp. However, since day 1 there has been something different about her. Even if you don't know her, I am guessing that you could probably figure it out by the fact that, since birth, I have oft lamented the fact that she was going to be trouble. And, she is trouble - BIG trouble. But, I don't mean that in a bad way. She is a lovable little snot and, if I might add, cute as a button. The problem, though, is keeping her from growing up and being BAD trouble.

Since day 1 she was given the gift of the word "no" and she has used that as her mantra. She is relatively fearless when it comes to voicing her opinion and will stand toe to toe with anyone. The problem is she is stubborn and if you don't agree with her she will turn around and do what she wants anyway. As in:

"Ainsley, do not jump on the couch."

"But, I want to."

"Ainsley, do not jump on the couch. You can hurt yourself or damage the couch."

"No, I want to."

"Ainsley, do not jump on the couch!"


At this point it usually requires physical movement. If you do not physically remove her from the couch she will continue to jump. Threats of punishment will sometimes suffice. However, this is only one battle. If you leave the room and come back you will find her jumping on the couch again.

Then, she must be punished. Isolation works well. Typically 5 to 10 minutes in "time-out" induces enough heartache in her that one would assume it a sufficient deterrent of future activity. But, we have not stopped there. We have also punished by taking away her favorite toys and by denying her, her true love, candy. We have punished her by denying privileges. You name it and I am pretty sure that we have tried it.

Regardless, 10 minutes later...

She is jumping on the dang couch.

Now, I want to be clear. We are consistent with punishment and I always follow through. There are no empty threats. Additionally, I have tried the gamut. Yes, for those against physical punishment - hate me now - I have even resorted to spanking on occasion. I can also tell you this, spanking does work in the immediate term, but the effect is not long lasting. The behavior always returns and, who knows what other side effects the spanking will cause.

Regardless, I have no solution. I am not even close with her. What do I do to "handle" Ainsley?

She is 5 years old, absolutely adorable, and, perhaps, the funniest of the twerp gaggle. She can also be the sweetest and most loving.

However, she is also the most obstinate and mischievous.

What do I do with Ainsley? How do I train her?

How do I grow a good human being?

I have purpose but no answers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pulling wings off of butterflies

Did we just have a weekend? I hardly noticed and I know that I did not enjoy it nearly enough. Next time I will need to pay far more attention. I also feel like I did not spend enough time with the kids. In the end though, I did spend a few hours with them in the pool yesterday afternoon. It was an underwhelming experience and I still do not feel like I got my fill. Don't get me wrong, it was good boy bonding time. I helped protect Graham from the onslaught of girl abuse. I just don't think I did him any favors.

At this point I truly don't believe the girls have any realization or recognition of how mean they are to the Grahamster. The minute I level the playing field (or tip it in his direction) they go ballistic. They moan about how unfair it is and how mean we are. I find it completely ironic that we do the very same thing that they were doing to Graham just seconds before. Yet, in their minds, we are being mean when we do it. Yet, they seem to think that they were just having fun when they did it. I try and point out the interesting little comparison but the message seem to float unimpeded through their noggins.

Let me give you the scenario. We have 5 yellow foam swimming noodles - a daddy bear one, a mommy bear one and 3 twerpy bear ones. When the kids are in the pool it always becomes a battle of the sexes between who gets the noodles. There is a constant struggle as the girls try to steal whatever noodle(s) Graham has. So, to protect his honor, I slipped on my bathing suit, hopped in the pool, and I equalized. I stole the noodles from the girls. Oh, don't get me wrong. I left them with one. However, whenever they ganged up and tried again to steal one of Graham's noodles, I would steal one of theirs.

It never registered. No matter what comparisons I made and no matter how I explained it to them they just did not get it. They learned nothing from the exercise. In fact, the only thing that was solidified in their minds is the fact that I am one big meany.

They are like cats playing with some live animal they just caught. They torture it, give it the hope of escape and then torture it some more. In fact, they will continue torturing it, not until they believe they believe it is too cruel to continue, but rather until they have grown bored with it.

Hmmm. It might be hereditary.

Ooooooh, don't tell Lynley I said that.

I meant to say that I don't know where they got that from.

Enough already, I am off to my purpii before my mouth gets me in any more trouble.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Preventing the onslaught of chaos

Good morning! Well, we Dungan's find ourselves on the brink of another very busy day. This is Lynley's busiest time of the year as her department rolls out about 350 new laptops to the newest group of medical students. This is also complicated by a heavy load of the normal and abnormal day to day issues that she faces as a director. I, too, am buried in work and scurrying to climb myself out of a whole and meet a delivery date of next Friday. My vision of my first week back from vacation having a significant about of available time to work on this public health planning project couldn't have been farther from reality as my time has been quickly eaten up by a surprise grant proposal for a neuroblastoma education initiative that is due on Monday. I don't think Lynley or I will be out of the weeds for another week or two.

The good news is that the kiddos don't seem to be too busy. With a mandatory two weeks off from Tae Kwon Do they don't know what to do with themselves. Surprisingly (and I mean that) that have been exceptionally good this week. There has been a little infighting but surprisingly little given the fact that we are in mid summer and they have spent all of their time together. Graham continues to be a victim of the girls' abuse but I honestly don't know how much can be done about that. To be honest, he brings a bunch of it on himself. While the girls can gang up on him and be mean on occasion, his over the top reaction to their abuse just seems to egg them on more. The only solution seems to be to separate them until (a) Graham can compose himself and (b) the girls find something else to focus their torture upon. After this little break, everyone seems to be back on the same page.

Other than a trip to Chuck E. Cheese this week on Lynley's Birthday and a trip to Target for groceries they have been pretty much homebodies this week. They have filled their days with art projects, Wii games, movies, and swimming outside. All in all, a pretty good summer. However, I also know that we are going to need to get them out and about as all of this coup-up-ed-ness is bound to lead to boredom and sibling abuse. We will see what we can do this weekend to break up the monotony.

It takes purpose and action to prevent the onslaught of chaos.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Legacy of an incomplete resection

Good morning! First off, I am happy to report that Lynley had an excellent birthday. Kudos to everyone for going out of the way for making her day special. She was blown away by all of the well wishes. I think we proved ,once and for all, that birthdays did not have to be a big disappointment.

On another note, now that we have made it back home it is, once again, time to get our brains wrapped around Sydney's "retro crural fullness." In the last few days, I have received some email from both Dr. Eames and Dr. Granger. They both feel rather confident that this is not new growth and probably just scarred down old tumor or post operative changes.

They believe the pars defect in L5 is very likely difference in ‘slice’ on CT through the lumbar vertebrae and depends on where the slice goes through the disc. This has also been present for greater than 3 years. Furthermore, in February of 2008 it was stated on the report to be “of no clinical significance”. It could also be a ‘congenital’ development of that vertebrae that is just how Sydney is built. That alternative is also of no clinical significance and not felt to be related at all to her Neuroblastoma.

Bottom-line, after careful review (3 times within last few weeks) with radiology, both Dr. Eames and Dr. Granger feel she does not have any evidence of recurrent tumor and needs no further investigation with other studies at this point in time. However, they do believe we should follow her abdominal CT and chest CT every 6 months for 3-4 more times before stopping all scan follow-up.

That is what they say. So, how do we feel about it?

Well, if you are going to find a chunk of tumor in your daughter 7 years after her original diagnosis, I guess I am pretty thankful that this is what we found. This is pretty much the best case scenario of finding neuroblastoma in your child. However, I still don't like it and I certainly would feel better today if we had found nothing.

As for the belief that this is not recurrent tumor, well, I think that is right on point. However, I don't believe from this set of scans that you can truly say that it is stable in size and not growing. It could be growing very slowly. I still would be feel much better if we reviewed scans from an earlier period. I think more data would give us a better indication of whether this was truly growing or not. However, with that being said, I think they are probably correct. Given the fact that we are reviewing this over a period of 3.5 years it certainly does not appear to be growing.

There are questions that sit in the back of my mind though. How does this chunk of old dead tumor impact her chance of relapse? Is it more likely? How much more? For all of those questions, I am answerless. Frankly, I don't believe anyone knows those answers with any level of assurance. But, is this the reason that kiddos have late relapses? Are we simply smoldering here? Could this be the spark to relight the fire?

I know, nightmarish thoughts, but, if we don't ask the question, who will?

The other problem with all of this is that, even if I could make a case that this would significantly increase her chance of relapse, I could never prove it. Without proof I would have a 0% chance of convincing someone to go in and remove it.

Ironically, this comes down to an issue that I have been very vocal about for years - the nasty legacy of incomplete resections in neuroblastoma.

In that scenario, no amount of purpose will bring clarity.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Blushing Birthday Bride

It turns out that today is Lynley's birthday. I am quite sure that mentioning her age would probably violate some rule so, in the interest of keeping myself out of the dog house, I won't mention that she is turning 38. Of course, in typical Lynley fashion we have already celebrated her birthday on several occasions. She has had dinners, parties and, of course, most of her gifts. If you know her then you also know that there is no way that she could have possibly waited until her birthday to receive her new iPhone 4 and you know that she could not have possibly waited until after our trip to Orlando for her new camera. Therefore, according to Lynley law, she received many of her best gifts early. Given a week or two she will forget that either of those gifts had anything to do with her birthday and I am quite sure, outside of some home made cards for the kids this will go down as the worst birthday ever.

You see, Lynley doesn't like her birthday. As long as I have known her, it has always been this way. Her scorn is less because she is turning a year older and more because she doesn't want to be disappointed because her birthday's doesn't feel special. It makes me wonder, does in not feel special because she gets all of her gifts early? Or, perhaps, is it the fact that she has her party and birthday dinners before, after and all of the days in between that do not fall on her actual birthday?

Honestly, I think she doesn't like her birthday because she doesn't want to be disappointed. She doesn't want to get her hopes up like a kid outside a candy store only to find the doors locked. In this way, she demands that she doesn't want to do anything for her birthday and makes every effort to do birthday things on days when it is not her birthday. By the time her birthday roles around, it no longer feels special. A "sucky" birthday becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Oh, and if that was not enough, I have just been informed that we will be going to Chuck E. Cheese with the kiddos today to celebrate her birthday. If that isn't a blatant attempt to have a nightmarish birthday, I don't know what is.

She clearly can no longer have any authority in planning her own birthday. I have let this go on too long.

In the end, it is her birthday and little miss sour face birthday pants is going to do everything she can to ruin it. I say we don't let her. Let's give her a special birthday she will never forget. Tell her happy birthday just despite her. Tell her how excited about her birthday you are just to make her cringe. Sing her a "Happy Birthday" song in the middle of the hallway and make her wear a birthday hat and blow out candles at lunch.

Notwithstanding her feeble attempts to sabotage the day we will give her a happy birthday to remember.

So help my purpose!

Monday, July 5, 2010

A different kind of victory

Well, we are back at home and back to reality. Last week ended with Sydney sparring at the Junior Olympics. Sydney did well but failed to get past the quarter finals, losing in a sudden death overtime match. She fought as hard as I have ever seen her but just could not get beyond the barrage of kicks that she received from her opponent. The match was close with both opponents leading by a point at one time or another. All through the match it looked as though Sydney was going to be able to pull off the win. Unfortunately, with just 13 seconds to go in the overtime period her opponent snuck a kick in which scored.

Where Graham had been devastated by his loss, Sydney was just plain mad. She wanted back in the ring and she was prepared to kick her way all the way to the top of the podium. Unfortunately, her chance was gone.

So, while we all hate to see our kids lose, I genuinely think this was one of the best things for them. It seems like with every sport there is a consolation prize or some type of participation medal. There is a way to reward everyone just for competing - a way to make everyone feel like a winner. At this level, the Junior Olympics has no such reward. The only winners were those that stood upon the podium. In this way, my children had to learn to lose and deal with the consequences. They learned that if they are to win they will have to work harder. They both know that they can win. They just didn't and, if they want to avoid feeling that way again, they will need to step up their game.

That is an important lesson to learn.

In another sense, they accomplished a ton. In just there second year of Tae Kwon Do they made it all the way to the top. They fought the best in the country in the biggest venue there is. That, in and of itself, is a big accomplishment.

I am proud of them.

Since the moment Sydney arrived back at home she is already preparing for the next tournament. Although the entire team is required to take a two week break from practicing, Sydney is already stubbornly working on her next form. She is also asking us to work with her kicking. She wants to learn to kick harder and to increase her stamina.

Next time she wants to win.

It seems our trip was more successful that we had planned.

Purpose comes from inspiration.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Another tough day

It was a tough day for both team GSX and the Dungans. Yesterday's matches were in forms, weapons and breaking. These are not areas where our team particularly focuses. As I have said before the team is all about sparring. So, in this sense, it is not surprising that we tend dominate in sparring. However, in the past we have usually done pretty well in forms as well.

Yesterday, however, was another story. I watched everyone's forms and can tell you that our kids performed very well. In fact, most were performing the same forms that many of them have dominated with all year long. Strangely though nearly everyone was knocked out of the competition fairly early. There was something about the style with which our kids were doing forms that the judges here did not like. To us, they looked crisp and clean while the competition looked, in our opinions, loose and somewhat sloppy.

We can't say too much though. After all, they won. We also had some issues with the forms that we competed with. We had selected to do the more difficult of the two form choices we had. Unfortunately, almost unanimously, the winners had performed the simpler of the two forms.

It was strange and the judging was almost a complete opposite of the judging that we had seen in previous competitions. I don't know what they were looking for but, whatever it was, we did not have it.

The good news is that our kids did pretty well. Sydney was spectacular. She lost back to back to the silver medalist and the bronze medalist but she had did better than I have ever seen her do. Competition was stiff in her age group. I honestly can't say that she was the best but I can say that there was a very fine line separating the winners. She did an incredible job and I was very proud.

Graham was a bit of a different story. Poor boy. Out of the shoot, Graham added a kick to the opening sequence. Why he did it, I have no idea. Other than that his form was perfect. Unfortunately, a glaring mistake such as that cost him his first match. His second match was as perfect as I have ever seen him do. I don't know how he lost. In fact, there was an audible gasp from the crowd when he did lose. He was one of those that fell victim to losing to someone performing the simpler form. I am not a professional but I can tell you that his form was very clean. I simply don't know why he lost. I wish I had an answer for him. He, too, lost to the silver medalist.

Today is the Dungan clans last official day of competition. Sydney will be sparring today along with another 6 members of the team. Sydney has a tough bracket and will need to fight her way through several matches to medal.

It won't be easy.

But, again, I find myself just hoping she gives it her all. As long as she does I will be proud.

I want to see her overcome her demons and fight with purpose.