Entries Tagged 'Relatives' ↓

Grandparent Gratitude

Remember how you got shipped off to your grandparents when you were a kid? Maybe you were kind of excited but also not so sure about how fun it could really be. Because the toys were different, the food was different and the rules were very different. And maybe home with Mom and Dad wasn’t so bad after all. But, without any say in the matter, you went and trusted that these people had to be OK because they are kind of your parents, too. Then, as the days passed, and you bumped along in their musty sedan and stopped at their favorite donut shop and stared up at those crinkly, familiar faces, you found a new kind of love and routine and comfort. They became your home, too.

The time I spent with my grandparents was such a gift and, as much as I hated the mystery jello salad and ran into my mother’s arms, grateful to go home, after the weeks had passed — they wove themselves into my heart and my history.

My grandparents were parents at a different depth and breadth. They were my parents to the next degree. They stood one step above the pedestal my parents existed on and their opinion had a certain weight because, well, they were the boss of my parents. And THAT was cool.

Since I’ve gone back to work, my father has graciously offered to come down for a week at a time when I’ve needed help with childcare. We call that time “Camp Gramp” and I hand over the keys to my car, my pool pass, my two children and all of my trust. And off they go.

I know how lucky they are for grandparent time. Grandparents don’t always live right nearby. And sometimes they leave us far, far too early.

(I can’t help but think about all I need to catch my mother up on. I suspect she knows in some way but she is still missing so much. And it breaks my heart.)

So back to Camp Gramp. This Spring Break, they took Tampa by storm. They revisited the SS American Victory, spent an entire day at The Florida Aquarium, splashed their afternoons away at the pool, leapt waves the beach, spotted animals at the zoo, got haircuts, watched Harry Potter movies over and over and, well, snuggled a whole lot.

I keep thinking (hoping) that they are relearning the world a little differently from the way I have taught them during those short periods of time. And maybe they are learning to love my dad the way I do. I want my boys to KNOW him and get him. And build their own kind of relationship that is different to theirs and mine. I want theirs to be the kind that gets Skittles at the gas station but also knows how the sound my father’s voice can get if one of them pitches a fit at the zoo.

It makes me wish all of my family were closer. The other grandparents and all the various aunts and uncles they have scattered here and there. But that’s OK. Because when they DO see them, those relationships solidify a little more with every visit and those routines develop in a matter of days because kids LOVE routines and predictability and the constant of those people that are the boss of their parents and so so familiar.

I’ll take what I can get and cherish every second they get together and hope the memories are making themselves without me even really realizing it.

Thanks for Camp Gramp, Dad. I know how much work that was. But I love you and, even if they probably won’t ever love your New York Yankees, they sure do love you, too.

My Family Reviews the HP Prize Package


On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, seven boxes filled with my HP giveaway goodies arrived in one astounding delivery at my doorstep. Per HP’s encouragement (and my brother’s, who had since arrived for the holidays and was salivating over each and every box), we opened it all up and checked most of it out.

Now if you look carefully at the picture above, you are probably mortified. Yep, that’s Thanksgiving leftovers surrounding that PC on the table. Sweet potatoes to the right and a turkey sandwich to the left. But in the middle of the picture sits the Touchsmart – too large to put anywhere but dead center of my dining room table. So, the Touchsmart enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday with our family, who gathered around and tested it’s touchy waters – including my adorably tech-savvy five year old son pictured above in his PJs.

We had 10 adults visit my home over the Thanksgiving weekend. They all had different backgrounds although three are teachers and one, my brother, is an IT guy who happens to use HP products at his work. So we pulled out the 4 computers. Admittedly, I wouldn’t say we used any of them up to their full potential.  A lot of email was checked. Lots of oohing and ahhing happened. At one point, all the guys were on the back porch with the HDX notebook. My brother had hooked up HD TV on it, and they were watching the game, beers in hand. The Touchsmart was taken over by the teachers, mothers and children. Educational websites were brought up and we all played online learning games along side singing, giggling children. Folks would often sneak off to curl up in a corner with the mini and my very classy, super hip sister in law has decided the Pavillion Entertainment PC is, in fact, all she wants for Christmas.

Gobble Gobble, my fam went techie this Thanksgiving.

Now, wouldn’t you know it – I took notes about what my family had to say about all these PCs over the weekend. And, as I am getting ready to send these boxes off to my winner, I thought I would share everyone’s thoughts with you now. Maybe this feedback will help you if you are in the market for a new computer.

Oh and wait. Big disclaimer here. Apart from sending me the hardware for this contest, HP (and other companies involved) did not reimburse me in any way for my participation in this competition. Yeah, I did get the HP Pavillion PC to review last summer (‘scuse me while I give it a quick appreciative hug), but if anything, you should trust my feedback since I use my Pavillion all day, every day.

1) The TouchSmart IQ816PC

First of all, it was heavy. So, we needed to find a very secure spot to set it up (hence my dining room table). That said, it was fairly easy to set up and it certainly was beautiful to look at. It gathered the holiday crowds – even the guys stepped away from the game for a minute to check it out. The picture was fabulous. Truly, it was breath-taking to watch. It has a very responsive to touch, you almost don’t even have to touch it and it will respond. We loved that it had an HD tuner included. There is a CD drive on the side and cool snap in drive pocket on top. The flat screen makes it a space saver, although it is as large as a TV screen. Overall, HP outdid itself with the “cool factor” on this one.

Cons? Well we all wondered what it would be best used for. It doesn’t seem practical as simply a regular PC. Your arm gets tired when you use the touchscreen option for too long and we wound up reverting to the mouse often. So this PC might be best used for demonstrations or display. Another big issue was the reflection. In fact, all of the computers had a very strong reflection. We kept having to turn the TouchSmart around to make sure no natural light was reflecting off of it. When it was placed facing towards a window, it was almost impossible to see during the day. And with all that touching, we worried how dirty it could get too – especially with children. Oh and a note about touching – my children saw that touching this computer screen was ok, and that made this parent a little nervous. I saw grape jelly finger prints in its near future if I didn’t fend my children off of it. Also, we couldn’t see any HD antennae with it which would make sense to have.

2) HDX 18 series Notebook

Again, this is a beautiful PC. Really, it is. It has a big screen which is very impressive to look at. If you are looking to get rid of your clunky home PC and laptop – and you need one overall good computer that is mobile – this is a great option. We loved the HD tuner and antennae. Its a lovely computer, very flashy and would make a fabulous all in one PC.

That being said, it is very big and very heavy. While, yes, it is a laptop, it is not something you would grab, throw under your arm or just throw in your briefcase and go. Its not an everyday portable type of PC. It can be moved, its nice and thin, but its heavy. Again, we had the same reflection issues with the screen.

3) The Pavillion Entertainment PC

This is what I have and (sigh) I love it. Although the model they sent (Dv4 series) seemed a little facier looking than mine – that may just be because it is a newer model. We all loved this one as a great laptop that has everything you need – especially for movie making and watching movies. All the external ports, serial ATAs and USBs are terrific. I also love that you can pop a media card directly into it. My brother noted that the HDMI out to the TV is great to have too.

Again, this PC does have a significant reflection. (I have gotten used to it on mine but avoid using my PC outside on my porch for that reason). My brother was disappointed that it doesn’t have a blue ray drive on it – but I don’t own any blue ray DVDs so that certainly isn’t something that bothers me. Also, this laptop and the HDX  heat up on your lap. The fan is underneath so it feels hot fast. I always keep it on a table or lap tray if I am working on the couch.

4) The HP Mini 1000 with XP 

We’re lucky this one made it back into its box, honestly. Everyone loved this PC – which surprised me. I thought the bigger, flashier ones would get them. Nope. My family loved how easy, small and light it was. It would be great for travel and it seemed to do a lot for its size. It was very fast and responsive. Folks appreciated the media card on this one too. Impressively, it has a full operating system. It has great resolution and is a very cool little laptop for sure.

However, users would need to get used to scrolling more often with a smaller screen. And they would need to get used to a small keyboard also. There is no CD rom, but what do you expect – its a mini! The track pad seemed a little too sensitive but maybe with some tinkering in options, that could be fixed.

We didn’t get a chance to try out the other parts of the prize package. Its just as well. I didn’t want to fall in love with anything more – after all, its not ours! And I certainly didn’t want the kids all over that TouchSmart any more than they were. My son even said “Mommy!!!! That Touchsmart is SO AWESOME!!!! You know why? I’m allowed to TOUCH it!!” SO COOL MOMMY!” And with that, I hastily packed it back into its box.

Thanks HP for the techie fun this Thanksgiving. But of course, I am more grateful for the opporitunity to send all of this someplace who will truly put it to good use. Congratulations again Moms Without Moms!

For more information about the HP products I review, please visit my HP Update page.

Holding on to my Breasts.

This week, Christina Applegate shared with the public that she has undergone a prophylactic double mastectomy. A month ago, she confirmed that she did have breast cancer and also tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, which means she may have as high as an 85% chance of developing breast cancer and a 55% chance of developing ovarian cancer. Yikes. So Christina chose to have both breasts removed to assure her recovery from breast cancer; she is also beginning the long and painful process of breast reconstruction. (An excellent and informative article about Christina’s process of a double mastectomy and reconstruction can be found here. Please read!)

I have to say, reading about her choice has had me sitting and thinking.

(Sidebar: What is it about hearing “real life” stories from a celebrity that makes something like breast cancer more real? I am kind of annoyed at myself for that but, regardless, she got me thinking about my boobs again.)

You all know I have a special little closet in the back of my mind where I store all of my breast cancer stress. So, Christina and her recent news have led me back to my little closet to nervously peer inside there once again.

Hi boobs of mine! How ya doing? Ok. So. Any lumps today? (Quick self exam… no lumps… oh HI, the neighborhood crazy guy is walking by. Yes and I’m in front of the window. Hello, I am feeling myself, now go back to being crazy…) So yeah, breasts of mine, whats going to happen to you? Do you have anything you want to tell me? Any gene mutations you might want to share with me? Yes? No? Do I need to go in there and check for myself?

Now as I have mentioned before, while I have had stacks of breast cancer in my family, it has all occurred post menopausal. And, my understanding is that none of my relatives have tested positive for this gene mutation. But. There is always a but. Does that mean I shouldn’t get myself tested for it? My doctor gave me a little pamphlet about it at my last GYN exam. It’s certainly not an impossibility. Again, we have stacks of breast cancer in my family. Something is up. And even assuming the best case scenario with negative test results, that doesn’t mean I won’t get breast cancer eventually anyway.

In fact, I even happened to check out a little Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool found at the cancer.gov website. And here’s what they told me:

5 Year risk

  • This woman (age 35) 0.6%
  • Average woman (age 35): 0.3%


Based on the information provided (see below), the woman’s estimated risk for developing invasive breast cancer over the next 5 years is 0.6% compared to a risk of 0.3% for a woman of the same age and race/ethnicity from the general U.S. population. This calculation also means that the woman’s risk of NOT getting breast cancer over the next 5 years is 99.4%.

Lifetime Risk

  • This woman (to age 90): 19.7%
  • Average woman (to age 90): 12.6%


Based on the information provided (see below), the woman’s estimated risk for developing invasive breast cancer over her lifetime (to age 90) is 19.7% compared to a risk of 12.6% for a woman of the same age and race/ethnicity from the general U.S. population.

Not horrible results. Just a 7% chance more than the average woman. But they only asked for first-degree relatives, so they only noted my mother. They didn’t take into account my aunt (two lumpectomies), my grandmother (one mastectomy and one lumpectomy), or my grandfather’s sister who died from breast cancer. I’m just saying. It’s a small, very general internet tool. I should hardly be lulled into a comfy “only 7% increased chance” sense of security.

When friends hear about my breast cancer history, they sit right up and start fretting. And often they do ask me “Would you ever consider a double mastectomy? If it could possibly save your life, if it could mean you wouldn’t have to face even post menopausal breast cancer, why wouldn’t you consider it? Don’t you want to be around for your family?”

(Hmmm, I wonder if this is actually my conscious talking. I’m suspicious. It sure sounds a LOT like her.)

But, ok. Chop my boobs off? I mean, c’mon. Wow. Yikes. Owch. I just. I mean. …I don’t *WANT* to! (Insert “whine” here.)

My breasts, while hardly heaving masses of flesh attracting eyes for miles around, have been really good to me. They fit my frame, they have never been in the way (now THAT’S a “glass is half full” way to look at my size B size A cups), and they are kinda cute. Well, they were at least before I breastfed my kids. But, THAT is their greatest feat yet. My girls, petite as they are, managed to nourish my two wonderful boys for 14 months each. They gave me an awesome supply and they withstood the abuse they endured from freakishly hungry babies. I feel some solidarity for all that we have been through.

Granted, they could just turn around and stab me in the back someday with a sudden small possibly metastasizing lump. Shoot. They could just up and kill me.


So, Christina Applegate has got me thinking about them. And chopping them off. I’m certainly not ready for something so dire and don’t have any current reason to consider it yet. (Like a tree falling in the woods, if you don’t test for a gene, is it still there?)  I suppose I will hold on to them for now. Keep doing my breast checks, getting mammograms and hassling my doctor.

I may even do that gene test after all. I want to know.

And if a double mastectomy were ever something I should seriously consider, I would absolutely weigh the options. So, friends and conscious of mine, I would do it if I had to. 

As long as I could get the perfect size B cups size C cups (which would still fit my frame. Sure. Absolutely. And I bet my husband would agree wholeheartedly).

(Another Sidebar: Reconstructive surgery is not the instant fix for a mastectomy that you might think it is. It can take over a year or more of painful surgery to bring your breasts back to fighting form. In the article I referenced above and noted here, Dr. Avisar is even quoted as saying about reconstructive surgery: “The majority of patients … don’t go the whole 9 yards. …Many of them never come back to have the nipple and areola reconstructed. They are just tired and they have had enough.” Reconstructing two breasts after a mastectomy is not, by any means, your typical boob job.)

Finally, I just want to give a shout out to all of the bloggers out there supporting efforts to prevent breast cancer. I am a bit late to the party here but I would like to spread some breast cancer linky love.

First of all, if you ever want to raise money for Breast Cancer awareness, please visit the Susan G. Komen For the Cure website. In case you have been living on the moon and didn’t know, there are annual runs and walks to raise money for the cure.

Also, a fellow blogger at Toddler Planet has done amazing work spreading awareness about her own fight with inflammatory breast cancer (symptoms for this form of breast cancer are not lumps as you would expect). Please read her story here. She also has a wonderful section of her blog dedicated to how to help a friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer with excellent links and suggestions. Read this information here. She has a group of bloggers – team WhyMommy – supporting her. Bloggers such as Dirt and Noise raced for the cure in her honor.

And what, in my humble opinion, do I think is the best way to spread breast cancer awareness? Well, blogging of course! Here are some great breast cancer blogs that I found through Jayne’s Breast Cancer Blog. (I am sure there are hundreds more out there too):

My Breast Cancer Blog
Mothers with Cancer
A Different Road Altogether
Biography of Breast Cancer
Can I be Pretty in Pink?
Gotta Keep on Keepin’ On
Reconstruct This
So, is Today a Good Day?

And I am loving the “Save the Ta-Tas” gear found here too, buy something.

Do you have any other important links to share? Post them.

Keep feeling those boobies, girls. I know I am regularly feeling mine. And holding on to mine – for dear life.

(Note: The image above was taken from The Breast Cancer Fund website.)

Meeting a Medium and Giving Grandma a Shout Out.

When you think “vacation”, fun images of beaches, watermelon and relatives usually come to mind. What probably doesn’t come to mind is an hour spent in a dusty third floor office in Western Massachusetts talking to a Medium. Yeah, that’s what I said, a Medium. You know, the John Edwards, Sylvia Brown, “I see dead people” kind of person that I would bet 75% of most folks think are a scam? Yup, I met with one yesterday. Some months ago, my wonderful aunt had a reading with this woman at a gathering with friends. After being fairly amazed by her experience, she signed both of us up for a reading while I was in town. So, my HIGHLY skeptical, grumbling husband (“if you guys leave there with both of your purses, I’ll be amazed…”) dropped me off for a kid -free evening of talking to those on the Other Side. Intrigued? Come on, admit you are. I sure was.

Now before I go on, let me just lay down my own kind of disclaimer of sorts. I am not into the occult or anything remotely evil. I believe in God, goodness, karma and know there is something beyond here more wonderful than anything we know here. And while I am spiritual in nature, I also don’t claim to assume I know diddly-squat about anything in God’s ‘hood. I’ve got no idea about what he’s (um… could be SHE!) is up to or what might happen to us once we are no longer living here. So I am open to anything because I am a humble enough to know that we simple humans can’t know everything, can we? No way. So, if there is a possibility that our loved ones may want to chat with us from the other side, well so be it. Who am I to stop them? Who am I to say it couldn’t happen? So, I was game and ready. A psychic reading? Bring it!

My aunt and I arrived a little early for our reading and sat down in a sparsely decorated waiting room. There were small prints of angels here and there. A water cooler, a plant, a carpeted floor, a window and one bee lazily buzzing about the ceiling. I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe at any moment a woman named Zorba with a scarf wrapped around her head, a thick Albanian accent and long decorated nails who would swoop into the room and beckon us forward while whispering mysteriously “zeees way…”. Or maybe we’d be meeting with a “Whoopi Goldberg from Ghost” type of clairvoyant? Could be! Helllooooo Patrick Swayze, come send me a message! Or what if we were about to meet another version of the notorious  Miss Cleo, psychic reader and sham queen of all sham queens? 1-800-I’ll take your money, thank you VERY much. Oy, what were we getting ourselves into? But actually, a very nice welcoming woman came in and introduced herself. She was kind and quiet, possibly even a bit shy. Hardly a Zorba or Whoopi type, she had us follow her into her room which was small but comfortable. We found three chairs, a table stacked with various decks of tarot cards and one lone pink crystal. We sat down. She smiled. I took a deep breath. Ok, let’s do this.

She asked my aunt and I to pick some cards from a deck of our choice and she laid them out. But then, as she was looking over our cards, she almost bashfully claimed that “well, it seems that we will start with our medium reading first.” She then admited that a woman, who had already passed, had been with her on the ride over. She looked up at us and said “you two are related” (it wasn’t a question), and this woman was connected to us both – either as a mother or grandmother figure. And we were off.

Now I could go on about the entire hour’s worth of what was said, but it may not mean much to you since you would not have any reference point about their validity. But I will say that I was surprised by the strange bits of accuracy she laid out before us. My first memory of my grandmother was mentioned – a moment when she gave me a plastic butterfly which only I remember. Odd little, random details, personalities, habits, funny intricacies about people we knew who had passed all came forward. Some things we could not place or find a connection with. Other things dawned on us on the car ride home. And there were even moments that stopped us dead on our tracks. How could she know that? How could anyone?

And during those moments, when it seemed in fact my great uncle or stubborn grandmother was coming through, I felt right at home with it. It never scared me, I never felt overwhelmed by it, in fact I felt quite familiar with the whole scene. Of COURSE one grandmother would be hogging the spotlight more than the other. Of COURSE my great aunt was still gossipy. Of COURSE Uncle Bill didn’t have his pants on. Somethings never change. And I mean NEVER.

So how do I feel walking away from my experience? Do I think it was all a sham, like assuming it could only be card trickery when she popped up the “animal” tarot card right after mentioning my last dog was in the room with us? And do I think the details she gave could have been relatable to ANY family really? Or am I, in fact, sold on the science of clairvoyance and will I refuse to make my next career, financial or parenting move without the advice of my personal psychic?

No on both accounts.

Let’s put it this way, I simply feel more affirmed in my beliefs about life after death. I do think she said some things that certainly made me want to jump up and say to the empty space in front of me “What-up Grandma!” I also think there were times where she rambled on about a topic to give me comfort but wasn’t sure whose advice this was, my Great Aunt Elva’s… or hers.

However, I also think that even if the connections we made were for real (and, seriously, I think they were), I also think there is certainly a human factor influencing the reading. The Medium seemed to put her own bias or interpretation on what she was getting at times. And, of course, so did I. When she said a grandmother was mentioning “The Flintstones” being connected to a male name, the Medium kept thinking Barney or Fred or something to do with stones – and we left confused. We had had no idea what this meant. But later, as I was falling asleep last night, I remembered my father’s nickname growing up had been “Rock”. Have I made a leap here? Or was this the reference my grandmother was trying to make? The Medium interpreted that information one way and I interpreted it another. The human factor is unavoidable. So if you are able to interpret the diffused information correctly and glean its meaning, then a reading like this might work for you. If you are expecting to sit down and get a direct Skype link to your parent on the other side and chat about what you’re making for dinner, then don’t bother. That’s not how it works.

Finally, I will leave you with a few tips that she gave me. Take them for what you will, but I will only ask that you keep an open mind about this world around you. Our limited five senses do a fair job picking up the empirical information we receive. But just as we miss seeing certain levels of light or we miss hearing certain ranges of sound, we should only expect that we may not perceive all the various forms of energy around us everyday.

Tips for reaching out to your own passed on, however still pantsless, Uncle Bill:

  • A person’s spirit still keeps the same personality on the other side that they had here. The louder family members always tend to come through first.
  • If a family member was skeptical of Mediums or psychic readings on this side, they will be on the Other side – so don’t expect them to come through very quickly if at all.
  • If you are open to signs and communication from your loved ones, they will very often work very hard to reach out to you.
  • They often reach us through electricity since they are energy also.
  • If you are open to communicating with the other side, expect to receive messages from loved ones of your skeptical friends.
  • Animals pass on also and visit often.
  • There is no pain, worry, guilt or unhappiness on the other side. Our loved ones are able to resolve their troubles after death.

SO. Yeaaaah. If my more skeptical readers haven’t already groaned and Xed out of my blog never to return, I promise, I will try to get back to more meat-n-potatoes and less hocus pocus in the future, for now. (Hey, at least I DID catch up with some more relatives, however unexpected, this vaca after all.) Thanks for reading and we will now resume our normally scheduled blogging and vacation activities.  I’m off to set up the slip-n-slide.