Monday, March 24, 2014

Open Letter to My Daughter's Teacher Who Doesn't Understand Why I'm Nervous About Her Flying Across the Country with Her Class

Dear Mr. H,

Before we get started, think of yourself and the control freak that you are. Soak that in. Own it. Don't try and deny it.

OK, you got that? Now imagine that, control freak that you are, you have a child.

Imagine wanting something so much and then for some reason you can't explain, God gives that thing to you. A baby. For some reason the universe has trusted you to carry a baby. (I know this is a stretch; work with me here.) And for the next nine months your only role, the only thing that matters, is to keep that thing alive. And you do.  And you're in the hospital and you're like "Yes!! I totally did that! I made that kid out of thin air and here she is in the world!"

And then they let you take her home. And you're like, "No, seriously, people, I don't know what the f*&% I'm doing here. Don't make me leave!! WHY ARE THEY LETTING US TAKE HER HOME??? DON'T THEY KNOW WE ARE MORONS???" But they do. They make you take that baby home.

And then you get that baby home and you look at her and think, "I can't even keep a plant alive. I'm not to be trusted with a goldfish. I give this kid a month at best." And yet somehow, you make it through that first month. And then another. And another. Purely on the power of milk from your own breast. (Again, work with me here. Use your imagination.) And then you're like, "Dude! I kept this thing alive ALL BY MYSELF!!" And you do a little bit of fist pumping, because this is by far the biggest thing you've ever done.

But you're not done yet. That kid keeps growing. And growing. And she starts doing things. Chewing on things (other than your breast); rolling over; babbling; crawling; walking; talking; analyzing shirt sleeves. (OK, maybe your kid wouldn't do that , but my toddler was super obsessed with spaghetti straps and cap sleeves. But she's kinda freaky like that.)

And she's so much like you. She looks like you. She laughs like you. She's sensitive like you. And you think, "Wow! She's just like me. A mini me!"

And then you realize she isn't just like you. You realize your spouse is in there, too, and maybe some distant relative or maybe something that is uniquely her. And then comes the hardest part for us control freaks... YOU HAVE TO LET HER BE HER! She's not you. She's her own unique person with her own unique qualities and hopes and talents and fears. And, as a parent, it's your job to let that all come through. To let her be the person she's meant to be.

And so you learn to let go a bit. You take her to preschool. You drop her off for playdates. You let her take trips with her grandparents. You let her walk by herself to school.

And you still teach her everything you know.

And then one day you'll realize she can do things you CAN'T do. She knows about cells and the American Revolution and things you probably knew at one time but don't anymore. And she can run a mile in seven minutes (which you're pretty sure you never could do). And she can do a pirouette. And a double pirouette. And a triple. (And you know you have to use spell check to even write the word pirouette, much less know how to do it yourself.)

And this is the joy of being a parent: knowing that you could have control-freaked that kid into being someone just like you, but letting go enough to let her become who she is meant to be. You'll still be in there: in her looks, in her snarky sense of humor; in the way she writes. But she will also be completely her own person. And this is not only ok; it's beautiful.

But, my fellow control freak, it's not easy. It takes a lot of faith in the world. Faith in her teachers. Faith in the people in your neighborhood who drive too fast. Faith that kidnappers stay the f*&% away. Faith in her. Faith in God. Faith in the universe.

And this week, it takes every ounce of faith I have to let that child get on a plane without me, and let her travel all the way across the country in a metal tube. Let her sleep in a dorm room with only one other fifth grader. Let her travel by bus over snowy roads. And travel back home to me in another metal tube. And faith that my heart won't break from missing her so much.

But I DO have faith in her. Faith in the universe, faith in God, faith in the tube, faith in the bus driver and faith in you. I know you will look after my baby and keep her safe. I know you will. But this isn't easy for me. And I think if you looked at this trip through my eyes and saw all the things which are out of my control and even out of your control, you'd understand why I'm, you know, a teensy bit anxious. Why I've sent too many emails. Asked too many questions.

That's my baby up there in that tube with you right now. My flesh and blood, who grew in my belly and nursed at my breast. Who has a great laugh and a kick-ass grand jete. Keep her safe and bring her back to me Friday a little wiser, a little funnier and full of awesome stories to tell. I can't wait to see her again.

And thank you. You'll never know how grateful I am.

With Love,
Christa

Friday, October 18, 2013

Holiday Chalkboards

Last year my friend Amber hosted the holiday luncheon for our school's teachers and staff at her beautiful home.  We had a really fun, creative committee and my friend Jenny of Bloom Designs (http://bloomdesignsonline.com) chose a fitting chalkboard theme for the party.  (Check out Jenny's website.  She's amazingly creative and inspired!)  Jenny brought me these cute vintage chalkboards for me to make our signs for the party.  To make the signs, I first typed up the words on the computer and messed around with the fonts until I found ones I liked.  This helps me with the layout, the different fonts and centering things.  It makes it a lot easier than just free-forming it.  I love doing things like this.  My grandfather was a sign maker by profession and, later in life, a calligrapher.  I felt like a piece of him was with me while I was making these signs.  And, even though they aren't perfect (his would have been!), I felt like he would have been proud.  

So in case you're already looking ahead to Christmas, here you are...


This one went above our coffee bar.





This one greeted our guests.


It wasn't.  It was in the 80's.  Not cold at all.


It was a joyous day, despite all sorts of debacles.  It turned out beautifully.


This one is my favorite.  It was displayed over the dessert table.

We've yet to decide the theme for this year's holiday party.  Maybe looking at these again will get me inspired!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thanksgiving Placecards

Last year or maybe even (actually probably) the year before that we made these for Thanksgiving.  This is how super on time I am with putting stuff on the blog.  Super on time, like I am with everything.  Tomorrow is the Great Shake Out, where all schools in California practice a major earthquake, with after shocks, injuries, staff fatalities, etc.  Our school needs parent volunteers to come to school tomorrow after the "earthquake" and act hysterical, demand kids whose emergency forms they aren't on, leave their cars running in the middle of the street, etc.  Act like a hysterical parent?  Sign me up!  How fun!  What assignment do I get?  The parent who comes late.  Seriously.  That's not fun, that's real life.  I was typecast.  So unfair.

Anyway, I digress.  It's fall, so I thought I'd show these little cuties we made for Thanksgiving some year.  Who knows which one?



I got this idea from somewhere.  Certainly I'm not running on enough brain cells right now to think of something like this on my own.  Maybe we credit Martha Stewart just in case.

These were really simple.  We have tons of liquid amber trees in our town, which drop these little spiky balls.  We went on a walk and the kids collected tons of these.


Apparently we needed a ton because these babies do not like to sit up straight.  Lazy little bastards.  The rest of this is pretty easy.  I made little flags out of card stock.  I just free-formed them because I wanted them to each be a little different.  Then I punched a hole in each flag and wrote the names on each one.  I used a thin, orange grosgrain ribbon for the ties.  I cut them short enough to just tie them once.


The last step was to just tie each one around the little buggers that were the most agreeable.  The tying was a bit tricky.  I tied them mostly all the way and then slid them down the stem and tightened the knot.  This way I was able to get the names to stay right where I wanted it on the stem.  We laid/sat/rested them right on the plates on our Thanksgiving table.  And done!  Happy Thanksgiving!



Dodger Love

My beloved Dodgers are in the playoffs this year.  It's not looking good for them.  They are down three games to one and the Cardinals look good.  Real good.  My mom always told us we aren't allowed to pray for sports because "sports aren't that important."  And she's right; in the grand scheme of things, sports aren't important.  So why is it that all over Los Angeles right now people are lighting candles, saying prayers, wearing rally caps and lucky shoes and growing beards, all in the hope that the Dodgers will stay alive?  Why is it that a Dodger win feels so important?  Why are we so desperate to keep the season going?

Sports bring us together.  A large, diverse city like Los Angeles is united right now.  Everywhere I go I see Dodger shirts and blue everywhere.  Random strangers will ask each other the score when they hear a radio on or pass someone walking with earphones in.  People in bars hug people they've never met and cheer and talk and hug with people as if they have known each other their whole lives.  In sports stadiums, people of all races and ethnicities, religions and beliefs and socioeconomic status sit side by side.  (I'm not lying here... in Dodger stadium you can still get tickets as cheap as $5 a seat.  That's because we're awesome.)  I've heard that the only other place people are brought together like this is in church.  (And of course there probably most people aren't of different religions; just kind of by virtue of the fact that it's church.  Except for those really supportive spouses like my own.)

In our own family, sports, and particularly the Dodgers, are definitely bringing us together.  My mom and dad share season tickets with a few other couples.  They have four seats, so they bring other couples with them or they bring Jason or me or the kids.  The kids go a lot!  It's been a great way for the kids to bond with their grandparents.  All season long we talked about the games.  And it's not just with my immediate family.  If the Dodgers are playing the Phillies, I text my cousin in New Jersey and brag about how awesome the Dodgers are.  It keeps us connected.  Watching the Red Sox on TV reminds me of my grandpa (a lifelong Red Sox fan) and it reminds me to contact my cousins in Boston.    Right now we are dreaming of a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series.

Through the past couple weeks, our family has sent emails, phone calls and even texts.  My mom has only sent about four text messages in her life.  (Her first was sent from Target, where she brought Juliette to spend her $10 gift certificate.  The text?  "I'm in Barbie hell."  That has to be the best first text ever.  Ever.)  But last night, as she was sitting at the game with my dad, my mom was texting.  The last one read, "Getting desperate."  My brothers live in San Francisco and Italy.  And to be connected to them every day is rare.  To be connected to my brothers every day, sometimes several times a day, is amazing.  I feel bad for my sister-in-law in Italy who has to put up with my brother up at weird hours, his constant cussing and yelling and superstitions.  But for me, it's great to feel like we are all sharing something together.  I feel like we are on the same team, in the same room, like we were when we were kids.

So I am hoping, if not praying, for the Dodgers' season to keep going.  It may seem silly and unimportant, but sports keep us connected.  And that's important.  And maybe even worth a few prayers.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Halloween Mantle


It’s fall!  Well, at least my calendar tells me it is.  It’s sunny and beautiful outside, but it is over 90 degrees as I write this.  So not really feeling super fall-like here in Southern California.  All the same, Halloween is a few short weeks away and it was time to bust out the decorations.  I finally retired the rainbow wreath from the front door.  It’ll make a resurrection in the spring.  I’m hoping to make a new fall wreath for the front door, but for now there’s a thrift store “Happy Halloween” wreath.  

Here’s what our family room fireplace looks like right now:



(a little more close up)

I made the sign last year when I hosted a Stella & Dot trunk show in the weeks before Halloween.  Since Halloween is such an over-the-top holiday, I like to keep it pretty simple… the only additions are a ribbon on the vase stand, orange flowers (Trader Joe’s), fake pumpkins (thrift store), real pumpkins (Trader Joe's and the kids' Harvest Festival at their school and the sign.

The copper pot which holds the pumpkins resides permanently on this weird  totally unfunctional bench-thing next to our fireplace.  It's not a lid there that you can lift to store stuff and you can't sit on it without hitting your head.  It mostly serves as a hard place in which to bump your shin if you round the corner too tightly.  So when my friend gave me this antique copper washing basin and laundry stir-er I knew the perfect spot for it!  It is not entirely filled with pumpkins.  I cheated and loaded pillows in the bottom and filled the top with pumpkins.  I think it looks beautiful filled with pumpkins!




Sorry I don’t have pictures of me making the sign, but it was so simple.  First, I decided how big I wanted each piece of burlap to be.  To do this, I first had to measure my mantle and decide approximately how much of a dip I wanted the twine to make.  Our mantle is quite long, so our twine is cut to about 6 ½ feet long.  (Full disclosure, I’m a math tutor, but I don’t trust myself, so I actually cut the twine longer just in case.)  Then I had to divide the length of twine the amount of letters.  (78 inches divided by 14 equals 5.6.)  I decided on about 5 inches across to leave room for spaces and at either end for hanging.




Then, to cut burlap in a straight line, (wish I had a picture for this), find the line where you want to cut, then pull the string at that line.  Pull, pull, pull until you have pulled that string out all the way across your length of burlap.  Then cut along that line.  This will give you a nice, even length for your letters.  These are a little more than 5 ½ inches long.  Then I measured them and cut the widths.  These are approximately five inches wide, though they vary.  (See below.)




Next, I typed on the computer what I wanted the sign to say.  Then I chose the font.  For this, I chose “American Typewriter”.  To write each letter, I enlarged the letters so that each letter was quite large.  Then I just used a black Sharpie to copy the letters.

Some of the letters weren’t quite centered in the square, so I trimmed the width on some of the letters.  Then I took my hole punch and punched two holes in each piece of burlap.  These are approximately an inch and a half in from each side and about an inch down from the top.




To thread the twine through, I folded the twine and pulled it through, starting with the middle letters on either side and ending with each end.  (In other words, I started with B and worked backward to Y and then O and worked forward until the L.)  Then I hung it with the very sophisticated Scotch tape on my mantle and covered the ends with my fake pumpkins.  Then I straightened out the letters and voila!  Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back to School

Last week my sister in law sent me a message, asking, "How's your free time?"  Hahahahahahaha!  In theory I should have free time now.  Juliette has been back in school since August 28th.  She goes three mornings a week and so I have all those mornings to get stuff done, have free time, do fun stuff!  In practice, today is the first day I've had which didn't have anything on the calendar!  Woo hoo!  I spent the first hour and a half cleaning and doing some prep for Annalise's birthday, which is this weekend.  Let's be honest, that could go on for days if I let it.  So I'm choosing to spend my "free time" writing in my blog, which I haven't for a long, long time!  I'd really like to be posting about Zachary's birthday party, but I'm still recovering from it.  (Nineteen seven and eight year old boys.  You get it.  It'll take me a while and a lot of alcohol to fully forget it.)  Someday I'll pretend it was the best day ever and I'll post pictures.  Instead I'll just give you a little bit of what's happening in our lives.

Let's start with my beautiful boy.  Zachary turned eight this summer.  He started second grade this August and is happy!!!  Really my biggest concern with Zachary is just that he be happy.  He loves his new teacher and is happy with the friends in his class.  He's making new friends on the playground and reports that he is the fastest runner in the second grade.  He's playing soccer and loving it for the first time ever.  (When we went to sign Annalise up for soccer in the spring we were SHOCKED that Zachary even wanted to play again.)  Thank goodness he did because he's having a great year and is actually acting a little bit (a little bit -- but it's more than usual) aggressive.  Zachary has a really hard time acting aggressive, so team sports have been really tough for him.  We are thrilled that he's making progress.  He's also reading better.  I think he's somewhat adjusting to getting up early, so he's getting into a better head space, too.  So far, so good with that dude!  Phew!

Annalise is having a great back to school, too.  She did not get the teacher she expected, but she's actually happy with her teacher.  He's strict, but she doesn't mind that.  And so far, and here's the best news of all, NO GIRL DRAMA!!!  Yes!  I was not expecting that, but I'm thrilled that so far things are going well in that department.  She auditioned for, and made, (Did I blog about this?  I can't remember.) the dance company at her new studio.  The audition process was crazy and she's thrilled to be on it.  She's dancing eight hours a week, which is A LOT!  So far, she's been able to handle it, even though it means that Mondays she's at the studio from 3:30 to 8:30 and Thursdays she has two hours of dance and an hour and a half of soccer.  She's working her butt off at dance and is making good progress.  We will see how her grades are.  If they aren't great, there may have to be some changes.  So far I'm not too concerned.  Overall, she's happy, too.  Yea!

And now on to my littlest love, Miss Juliette.  Aaaaahhh, Juliette, my easiest child.  She goes with the flow, she skips in happily to new situations.  For goodness sake, she even wakes up with an enormous smile on her face.  She's an easy going happy child.  Yeah, until last week.  Last week she had her first dance class of the year.  I was a little nervous going in because the studio owner wanted her to move up to the 5/6 advanced class (even though she's only 4 1/2) instead of the 3/4 class.  I really wasn't sure if it was a good idea, but she insisted the Juliette was ready.  So last week she went and actually did great UNTIL I showed up nine minutes early (instead of ten) for the "show" at the end of the class.  She was in tears and worried that I wasn't going to come at all.  But she settled down immediately and re-joined the class for the show.   The next day was her first gymnastics class.  Oh boy.  I don't even know where to start.  She was super excited.  She was ready an hour before we got there.  We got there early and watched the instructors set up the gym.  And then it was time to start and the tears started to flow.  Maybe it was the 1980's East German gymnast demeanor of the instructor.  Maybe it was the fact that there was no balance beam.  Or bars.  Or vault.  (Seriously.  They knew this is supposed to be gymnastics, right???)  Maybe it was the fact that the instructor didn't seem to care that Juliette was too shy to say her name (and said, "That's fine.  I'll find out later."  Yeah, knowing a kid's name isn't all that important.)  Maybe it was the fact that a three year old was yelled at for incorrectly doing a bear crawl (without any prior instruction, I might add.  It was called a CRAWL, so you have to forgive a kid who uses his knees.)  Anyway, my kid cried and refused to let go of me.  And after all I saw, I didn't blame her.  We watched a few more minutes, I talked to a few parents to see if it was going to get any better (it wasn't) and then hit the road and asked for my money backed.  I don't think I've ever done that before.  But I had to trust my (and Juliette's) gut on that.  Three days later, back at school, Juliette cried and cried and cried at drop off.  Never happened before.  I literally had to peel her fingers off of my leg.  It was so pitiful that I got in the car and started to cry myself!

Which leads me to Monday.  (Monday school was great, mind you.)  Mondays are crazy because Annalise walks in the door at about 3:10 and we have to leave by 3:15 to get Juliette to dance by 3:30.  Juliette was of course ready to go long before 3:00.  We walked into the studio, she smiled at her teacher and then freaked out!  Crying, crying, crying, refusing to stay.  Ugh.  It went on and on and no matter what I could not convince her to go back in and dance.  She even sat -- actually she and I stood most of the time because there weren't enough chairs -- at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf while Annalise and Zachary had a snack (and I let them get crazy snacks that day -- a chocolate croissant for Zachary!) and I helped them with their homework.  I tried to make it as booooooooring as possible for her but she still didn't want to go in to dance.  We dropped Annalise at the other studio for her classes -- it's down the street, which is why we were one minute late the week before -- and then walked in to Juliette's class in time for the show.  She stood in the back and danced along.  When we got home, she drew a picture of the two of us.  We both had frowny faces.  I said, "Yes, we were both sad you didn't go to dance class."  She said, "No mommy, I was sad but you were angry!"  She was right.  I was!  I asked her to draw a picture of next week at dance class.  She drew herself, me and her dance teacher, all with smiley faces.  Hopefully that'll come true.

So it's been a rocky start for Juliette.  I'm hoping it's temporary and not a long phase.  I'm trying to spend better quality time with her in the meantime and reassuring her that I miss her too when she's not with me and I'll be brave and not cry either.  And we're trying to give her more sleep since she's given up her nap.  We're trying a different gymnastics class next week.  And she's home from school now and had another great day.  I'm hoping she'll be back to her happy, giggly self soon!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gratitude for Healthy Kids

It's been an emotional week here at Mellow Lane.  I'll start by saying the everything is just fine, in fact, better than fine.  Better because I am more grateful for my life than usual.

Almost a month ago, while we were on vacation, Juliette and Zachary were sharing a bed.  Juliette and Zachary both like to be scratched when they are sleepy and somehow Juliette convinced Zachary to scratch her back and her legs.  (This is not surprising as Juliette can convince just about anyone to do just about anything.  Even her preschool teacher, when asked by a friend how she can stay strong with all those strong-willed preschoolers, said, "Oh I never have trouble saying no to them at all.  Except Juliette.  If Juliette asks for the doll house, I'll get it down.  If she wants the dress up clothes, they're hers.  For some reason I just can't no to her!"  This is not good.)  Anyway, she convinced Zachary to scratch her legs and in doing so, he found a lump on the back of her right knee.  Being a sensitive middle child (totally unlike his mother.  cough.  cough.), Zachary freaked out.  He came running out of the bedroom, Juliette trailing absently and smiley behind him.  We looked and felt the back of her leg, and indeed there was a lump behind her leg.  We assured Zachary that it was probably nothing, but that we would check with our friend, who is a pediatric radiologist when we got home.  This appeased him and both kids went to bed.  (Notice I said "appeased him" -- Juliette was totally unfazed.)

A few days later, we saw Dr. Friend, who looked at and felt the back of Juliette's knee.  She thought it was probably nothing, probably just a blah de blah or a blah de blah.  (It all went over my head.  On purpose.  I knew if I knew something specific I'd be on WebMD, which is the devil.)  She told us not to worry, but to keep an eye on it just in case.  This made us (and Zachary) feel better.

Then last week, Juliette was walking in front of me and, all of a sudden, her lump looked much bigger.  (It's about the size of half a ping pong ball for reference.)  I called Dr. Friend right away and we went to her house later that afternoon.  She looked and poked and felt and still thought it was probably still just a blah de blah but since she is someone who looks at films and not at feeling actual kids, she couldn't be sure.  She did agree that the lump was bigger.  She suggested that we go to see her friend at Children's Hospital who could tell us definitively what the lump is.  "Don't freak out when you hear what kind of doctor he is.  He's the lump guy.  He's the very best and he'll know what it is."  The lump guy is a pediatric orthopedic oncologist.

You don't really want to hear or read or use the word "oncologist" when you're talking about your four year old.  You just don't.  It also doesn't make you feel too much better when the lump guy's office is able to squeeze you into a completely full schedule "for something like that."  (Though I felt so grateful that I would have to wait less than a week to see him in the clinic, which is close to our home - and not at the hospital - on his next day there.)  And so we went on with our lives, tried not to think about it and waited patiently until it was the day for our appointment.  My mom was able to clear her afternoon to watch Annalise and Zachary, pick them up and drop them off at their various activities, so just Juliette and I made the trek to the doctor.  It was afternoon and so Juliette, who no longer naps, was pretty sleepy in the car, and therefore quiet.  (She's never quiet.)  Unfortunately this gave me time to think.  (I rarely have time to think.  Except when I'm falling asleep.  I don't sleep too well.)  And as much as I tried not to let it happen, my mind "went there."  I thought about what it would mean to have a kid with cancer.  I thought about how our lives would change, and everything we would do to fight.  I thought about how tough my little girl already is and how tough she would have to be.  I even thought about losing her.  And then I decided I had to stop thinking.  I cranked up the VBS tunes (and if you know how much I dislike over-produced children singing, then you can only imagine how much I can't stand listening to the VBS CD).  Fortunately it perked Juliette up and we sang along, badly and loudly, while she attempted to remember the "moves" in her carseat.  Much better than thinking.

We arrived at the clinic, and were greeted so warmly and cheerfully in a bright, open waiting room, well stocked with blocks and nice books.  (Like really nice books, like the kind you would actually buy or check out at the library or want to read.  Not like the usual torn, ragged, chewed crap books that you'd never even look at in normal life, but you will read over and over out of desperation, kicking yourself for neglecting to bring books from home, that you usually see in waiting rooms.)  We read about Piggie and Elephant and holes which are to dig and waited our turn.  I looked around at the other parents and children, some playing happily, some sitting quietly with their parents, one infant, and one preschooler with a prosthetic leg screaming "I hate this leg!"and wondered if I would be back in this waiting room another time; if I would become a regular, if I would meet other parents waiting anxiously like I was, if this would become another home for us.

It was our turn and a lovely nurse led us to our room, asked questions, looked and took notes.  She was followed soon after by the lump guy's PA (also lovely), who asked more questions.  She lovingly helped Juliette roll over onto her stomach on the table and gave her a pen for her to draw on the paper covering the table.  She felt her leg, asked more questions and attempted to shine a light at Juliette's lump.  Apparently there isn't much use for the light in the orthopedic rooms and the light was out.  She led us to another room where we met the lump guy.  Equally lovely, he let Juliette get comfortable before he poked at her lump also.  She was a little nervous, so she laid on my chest while he shown the light all the way through the lump, its red light going all the way through, revealing that the lump was indeed the blah de blah which Dr. Friend had suspected all along... a Baker's cyst.  The light will shine all the way through only liquid or air and since there is no air in this part of the body, the lump is indeed liquid.  A Baker's cyst in children is totally benign and usually not painful at all.  There is absolutely nothing that needs to be done.  Juliette is totally fine and the cyst will eventually just go away on its own.  He said that some day we will look down and just realize that it is gone.  We spent much of the appointment remarking on how fabulous Juliette's big brother was to have found the cyst in the first place.  What a great little kid.

So my baby is going to be fine.  She is totally, totally fine.  She is the same happy and healthy girl that she was last week and last month and last year.

I am grateful, so grateful I don't even know what to do or say to express just how grateful I feel.  Honestly the whole episode has been an exercise in gratitude: gratitude for a not-even-yet eight year old big brother who found the lump to begin with; gratitude for a dear friend who is willing to look at my daughter (and the daughters and sons of all our friends because she is the kind of friend who doesn't mind looking at the rash, hurt wrist, etc.); gratitude that she has a friend who is a leader in the field; gratitude for a staff fitting us in when they could have told us to wait a month and gratitude for a mom who can watch my other kids so I can focus on the one who needed the attention at that time.  Mostly I am grateful for my beautiful family, with all our ups and downs, nooks and crannies, temper tantrums and doldrums and giggles and tickle tortures and hugs and kisses.  And scratches.  I'm grateful for scratches.