Dear Tessa: Birthday Shenanigans

Dear Tessa,

A week ago today, you turned five!  I am not even close to sure how that is possible, but it is.  When parents have told me in the past, that it feels like yesterday when their babies were born–you’re getting to that age where I understand that so much more.  It literally really feels like I held you for the first time yesterday. No tears, though.  I did not go there this time.  You will be happy to know that I only shed maybe two tiny tears the night before your birthday this year. That’s right…no prolonged sobbing this year. I know you are proud.

This year’s birthday was under-celebrated…I won’t lie.  Your dad and I closed on our new house Monday morning and you spent most of the day at daycare with your friends.  Some friends stopped by to check out the new place, and we didn’t end up lighting your candle and singing Happy Birthday until 9 p.m. Whew.  Now that’s not to say your special day went by uneventfully.  No, you provided us with light entertainment that afternoon…


I will set the scene:  chickens, you, your sister, your brother, me and a hose all hanging out in the yard.  Interesting combination.

Your big brother and I let the chickens out to roam the yard and snack on some veggies.  You read that right.  We have chickens; five of them.  I have no idea what we are doing or how long this phase will last, but for now this is real life.  While “the girls” (what we call the chickens) were out, you and your sister tossed them tomatoes and cucumbers while your brother sprayed the poo out of their pen and refilled their water.  I was busy making sure they did not try to venture off over the hillside again.  It started out innocently enough and the whole picture was quite adorable, really. Everyone was helping out, giggling and enjoying the nice night.  It was time for the girls to return to their pen, and we had them all grouped together to shuffle them back inside.

Unbeknownst to me, the pump that runs the hose water was still opened up. That is when you quietly grabbed the hose and sprayed the girls…all of them. It was madness.  You sprayed the rest of us too.  As the chickens were losing their minds over the unexpected hose-down, the rest of us were hollering at you to drop the hose.  Kendal was crying.  The chickens were scattered.  But you were extremely delighted in the hysteria you created.  Your diabolical laughter was proof of that.

Mischievous. You have definitely discovered that side of yourself this summer. I will be sure to wish your new teachers good luck next week.

We completed your birthday week with a party at our new place with our family and close friends.  Even though it was extremely humid, it was still a lot of fun.  At one point, while you were opening your gifts, you turned to me and said, “…best birthday party ever.”  You express a lot of things that bring you joy as “the best ever,” and I adore it because I can tell that you really mean it.



Health wise, here is a quick recap of where you are currently.  Your echocardiogram came back great.  No cleft mitral valve as previously suspected.  No current damage to the heart muscles from chemo. One slight eccentric aortic valve; but not of any concern at this time.  Your follow-up ENT visit went great.  You recovered perfectly from surgery in May just as we thought you did.  You passed your first hearing test ever with flying colors!

We visited your oncologist last week and while we were unable to get blood work that day, everything else looked as it should. Your oncologist also told me that you are also being moved to the Caring For Life clinic from now on. The Caring For Life clinic is a childhood cancer survivor clinic.  The program is designed to help the survivors of childhood cancer as well as their care providers by detecting health-related problems associated with chemotherapy, providing health maintenance education about potential risks, providing emotional support for survivors and family members, and empowering survivors to advocate for themselves.  This is something we thought would happen in a few years; therefore I was pleased to hear that we will starting this in six months. This is a big step in the right direction in life after cancer.


Each of your birthdays feels better than one before.  Another great year has gone by.  All that you have seen, done and overcome in five short years in remarkable.  I always look forward to the year ahead and seeing what you will do next.  Happy five years to you, little darling.  And cheers to many, many more.


Love always, Mom.


Change: Part 2

Over the last nine and a half years, the first place my husband and I shared together transformed from a house to a home.  It has been through several changes as well; probably against its wishes but we made the changes anyway.  Within these walls are memories rooted deep into the frame and structure, branching out through what can visibly be seen on the interior and exterior.  The nail holes (and there are a plenty) cannot hide our inability to decorate.  The chipped paint on the walls acknowledges the places where baby gates once corralled little ones.  The stained flooring that can clearly withstand the test of all cleaning solutions.  The giant hand print cemented into the concrete on the back patio from a little boy who wanted to make his presence known.  How can I forget about the potted plants on the front steps that have battled a long summer’s worth of heat and neglect? Of course there are many more flaws that come with this lived-in home.

These imperfections are indicative of the family that made the transformation to home happen; like the story of its past.  The story that we get to take with us now as we settle into our new home.

Our first home sheltered more than just those within it.  It harbored the very essence of our family, and because of it I have learned that home is so much more than the place where we lay our heads at night. Home is where our values were created and exercised.  Home is a gathering place or all sorts. Home is where dirty dishes and laundry piles send the message that we are busy making memories too.  Home is wherever we all are together.

It has been a place of great celebration coupled with moments of heartache. These walls have seen it all and over time, our home only grew and changed with us. This wonderful place is where we welcomed our babies to and what they would come to know and claim as their own; the place they would call for and miss when they were away; just as I did.

I cursed that house many times over the years.  We had done so many renovation projects on it because we never knew what our plans were or what our future might look like, so we did small and big projects over time.  Some were well thought out; others were on a whim.  There were things I would have liked to have changed, but we never got to it. However, the last few days we spent there I found myself insanely missing it and we hadn’t even left yet.  I didn’t care that the cupboards didn’t match in the kitchen or that some of the tile was cracked in the bathroom.  The un-repaired nail holes in the drywall, the wide variety of paint colors or our general lack of style inside suddenly didn’t bother me anymore either.

And honestly the little changes I wanted to make were never necessary.  Those changes would not have contributed to what made it a great home…only family can do that.  I am lucky enough to have both–a home and a family.


One last picture before the move…

While my anxiety and fears about adjusting did surface throughout most of our move, I watched the kids happily accept our new place; which, to me, has been the best part of the move.  With the help of friends and family, we are primarily settled.  We have the rest of our lives to unpack and sort those boxes in the basement.  For now, we are just enjoying the change in scenery and unwinding after a very chaotic last few months.

I joke about this being my first big move.  When I moved into my husband’s house all those years ago, I had a dresser full of clothes, a box of picture frames and a small TV from college and that was basically it.  This was nothing in comparison to moving our entire family and our combined numerous years worth of stuff.  We have a lot of stuff…too much stuff. Apparently it took moving to show me that we are in the early stages of hoarding.  We jointly decided that we are never moving again…like ever.

In the end we are happy and thankful for the chance to spread out roots even farther; something we do not take for granted.  On the way back to the car after appointments and school registration yesterday afternoon Tessa said to me, “Mommy, I want to go home to our new house.”  Home.  She said it.  I smiled back at her and told her that we were on our way.