Just To Know You’re Alive

Last week, on November 2, 2022, I celebrated my first Cancerversary. One full year of life since finishing the trifecta of mastectomy, chemo, and radiation.

If you’re new here and unfamiliar with the story of how my cancery booby-doos tried to kill me, please explore the other posts on my blog. There you will learn how a baseline mammogram (and a fellow warrior’s insistence) saved my life. You can be asymptomatic, without a family history, under 40 years old, and STILL find your breast cancer through a preventive screening that many doctors say is unnecessary until 40 (an age I wouldn’t have seen). You will also learn about the changes I’ve made after better understanding how young-ish folks like myself can end up with environmental cancers.

Best cake ever. And yes, the likeness IS uncanny.
But as I reflect on everything that’s happened in the last two years, not just cancer but also losing my precious mom, the things I most want to share are the ways in which these trials have taught me to view things differently.
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Rainbow Boobies and Airline Angels

“Mommy, when they cut your boobies off, will they give you new rainbow ones?”

I recalled my three year old’s words as I stared out the hospital window with labored breath. The pings and beeps of the machines monitoring my body sang their hideous chorus, and I wondered how long a person could stay sane in a place like this without any loved ones to distract them. Not very, I decided.

I glanced down at my broken body. No freakin’ rainbows to be seen.

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Welcome to Crunchy Town

Hello dearest students. Thank you for returning to Part II of the lesson I never dreamed I’d be teaching. I have entitled this portion of our learning:

“Having Environmental Breast Cancer at Age 36 is Absolute Poopidy-Poo-Poo-Garbage, and I Recommend You Avoid It At All Costs.”

Okay, maybe not my most cleverly titled lesson plan, but you get the gist.

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Cancery Booby-Doos

For as long as I live and breathe, the following memory will be recalled with the dream-like-fluidity and precision detail that only a trauma can create in one’s mind.

“Do you have any questions? Mrs. Woodward?”

I stared at the radiologist’s face. Did he have a wife? Kids? What was his first name? I mean, I really feel like we should be on first name basis to even have this conversation.

His face half hidden, my eyes frantically searched his for more. I needed MORE.

I heard my own quaking voice respond, “Well…I guess… my only question is…how sure ARE you that it’s cancer?”

He breathed in slowly, intentionally. I knew his answer before he spoke.

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Just One More Page, Mama

“We read with our children because it gives both them and us an education of the heart and mind. Of intellect and empathy. We read together and learn because stories teach us how to love.” – Sarah Mackenzie, The Read Aloud Family

I am of the strong opinion that one can never own too many leggings, eat too many fruit snacks, or read too many books. Now, I suppose the majority of experts probably wouldn’t agree with my first two proclamations, but I’m willing to bet not a single one would disagree with the latter.

If I had to come up with the most important lesson I have learned from all my years of studying education, teaching children, AND parenting combined, it would be this:

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All of the Nutella: A Guide to Actually Enjoying Days at Home with Little Ones

I had a friend recently say to me, “You know how much I love my kids, right? So why do I so desperately want to wave the white flag, lock myself in the bathroom, and eat an entire jar of Nutella? I’ve only been stuck here with them for two days! And I actually did eat all the Nutella. Help me not want to eat the Nutella, Summer.”

I hear you, sister friend. And I think I can help. I’ve been that mom. I am still sometimes that mom. I don’t think God or any person on Earth expects you to be fully engaged and joyful about every second of raising your children. It’s messy, laborious, and often thankless work. And not to mention that those tiny people are so stinkin’ LOUD.

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"Omelets are for Sundays, son." Homeschooling Tips to get you started.

First thing’s first. BREATHE. Do it again with some extra deep breathing yoga flair. And hear me loud and clear when I tell you that your children are resilient. If you did nothing else but read to them for the next few weeks, they would be just fine. You are not going to mess them up. You are not going to let them down. Your house may be a little (or a lot) messy, and you may need to adjust your expectations for “home-cooked meals”, but everyone is going to be just fine. Okie dokie, artichokie?

The five tips I am sharing with you today aren’t going to bring the magic (that’ll come later). These suggestions are adjustments or implementations that may aid you in finding your footing with this whole thing. So here we go. But first…one more deep breath.

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It Puts the Lotion on its Skin

My little models showing off some beloved products and sporting VERY natural smiles.

I typically title my blog posts after I’ve begun writing, but I knew what I would name this one before I ever typed a word. And I can’t stop laughing at the actual perfection. I mean we ARE talking about scary skincare (among other things) here today, but don’t worry… nobody is “getting the hose.”

If you’re Gen Z or whomever it is that comes after us elder millennials, you may not be familiar with Silence of the Lambs. And in that case, you’ll just have to excuse me because the mere idea of peppering this post with Lecter-isms is bringing me a substantial amount of joy. These days, my friends, I jump on that joy train at every opportunity.

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Yes, Even Tiger King

I believe you can learn something from ANYTHING.

Well, except maybe from Tiger King. All of our brains need a good wash down after bingeing that hot mess.

But actually, I take that back. In an alternate universe where that train-wreck of a show is child-friendly, even Tiger King could be an excellent jumping off point for a unit study.

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1,000 Book Challenge: March

For those of you unfamiliar with our 1,000 Book Challenge, you can find more details in my previous post — https://fiercelittlelearners.com/2020/03/31/just-one-more-page-momma/.

The gist of it is that as a New Year’s Resolution, my kiddos decided we would strive to read 1,000 picture books during 2020. And there were stipulations… chapter books and re-reads couldn’t count toward our total, AND it had to be a book that none of us had previously read. And that last part was the kicker because as a former elementary school teacher and self-professed nerd of epic proportions, I have read A LOT of children’s lit.

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This Isn’t Homeschooling

It just isn’t. Calling what’s happening in homes across America right now “homeschooling” is like calling a piece of bread, birthday cake.

One of the things I love most about our lifestyle is the fact that we are not constrained by the four walls of our home. Math can take place in a garden. Science class can be held at a planetarium. Our P.E. can be early-morning swim lessons. We have homeschooling friends that we’re able to have spontaneous play dates with just because the weather’s nice that day and by golly, we’re feeling a little picnic-y.

There’s an enormous amount of flexibility and freedom in homeschooling. So yeah, this isn’t exactly the chocolate cake with sprinkles that we’re used to, but we’re still thankful for our daily bread.

Now, I know it’s not my responsibility to hold the heavy weight of homeschooling’s reputation on my shoulders… but when you’re on the other side of something unconventional, it’s hard not to be defensive. Before I continue, I want to make something clear…

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But What Do You Do With… HER?

Without a doubt, the question I am most frequently asked regarding homeschooling is:

“But what do you do with… HER?”

The questioner skeptically raises one eyebrow and motions toward the whiny toddler who is wrapped around my left leg with the force of thirty boa constrictors.

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