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.
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.
“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.
“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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…