Talking to the Sun and the Moon.

“So… how are the kids”?

Hadley takes charge of her fuzzy mom.

I hear this question a lot these days and I’m happy to report that they are both managing quite well. It’s been a bumpy trip so far, not without drama and with more motherly/daughterly angst than usual, but all told we are holding strong.

When we first got the diagnosis, Dan and I decided to call a family meeting. I was all wrapped up in fear of the unknown myself, but somehow managed to compress those squishy feelings into a taut little package to be dealt with later, thank you very much.

We convened in the front room and Dan and I stared each other down to see which of us would start. In turn, the girls eyeballed us warily. You see, the first ever Pack Family Meeting was when we told them we were moving to China about 3 years ago. They knew something was up. And it was big.

Finally we just jointly stumbled out with the news.

Predictably they both behaved very differently. One thing you realize when you have more than one child is that, nurture be damned, these beings have distinct personalities wired into them. Despite my best efforts not to “label,” my two girls are as different as the sun and the moon. They both shine brightly, but have had an entirely different orbit in life from Day One.

Hadley, who is the oldest (10, going on 32 — she has movie director, set designer and stylist as her greatest aspirations), broke into inconsolable sobs. Drama has always been in her blood and that coupled with the arrival of Mr. Puberty (Ms?), means a few tears on the best of days around here. We spent a lot of time talking and assuring her. Mainly she was just worried that “it’s all going to change. Mom, you won’t ever be the same.”

After a lot of conversation and telling her everything we could about what was coming, she disappeared for a while. Then she returned to hand me this drawing:

Not only did she give me a literal thumbs up, she also gave me her special Project Runway treatment complete with a pink ribbon bodice. She went from daughter to caretaker in a flash and managed to loosen the ties on that package of emotions inside me just a little. I was smiling through my tears.

My girl Moxie (aka Emma).

Emma had a very different response. For most of our Pack Family Meeting she was glued to my iPhone playing one of the free apps she had downloaded. There was an embarrassed little smile but that was all. When we asked her how she felt, she just said: “Fine. I’m Fine.” And laughed a little too loud.  This soccer-loving eight year old has an iron will that I think comes from being born six weeks premature. She hung on through that tough pregnancy and earned the nickname “Moxie” from her granddad. Moxie was not going to let this get the best of her.

But Emma is also very mushy on the inside – she’s the girl who still climbs into bed in the morning for cuddles (again, my theory is that she always felt cheated out of that last six weeks of baking in the mom-oven). It took time but eventually she figured out her own system.  She left me notes on my bed asking me to check the box for the best time to talk, girl to girl.  The first invitation was accompanied by her favorite Pokeman card. We became pen pals and traded questions and answers in little notes and also held several private conversations in the closet and the bathroom, where she could come out with the hard questions. Her biggest fear was that she’d be embarrassed of me with her friends and wouldn’t be able to play with them as much.

One day Emma handed me a sheet of paper and told me I had “homework.” Independently she had gone on the computer and created a word search that was titled “strongest mom” and printed it for me. My job was to find all the words. As I started in on the puzzle I realized she had processed so much more in her dignified way than I realized. Words like “heart”, “loosing (sic), “sad,” “mommy” and “hospital…” This was pure love and care wrapped into the form of a “brestcancer (sic)” word search… the easiest way for her to show me her feelings. A few more of those strings inside of me came undone.

Today, we’re doing pretty darn well. After initially being even more freaked out than me about my hair loss, Hads has become my biggest proponent of going bald (the wig has been shelved, for the record). She loves the look and pats my fuzzy head all the time. She also is chief scarf picker out-er in the morning, helping me to coordinate with the right outfit and shoes.  Emma and I no longer have to schedule our talks via correspondence and she keeps careful track of which mountain I’m about to climb and how fast we’re defeating the bad guys.*

Next Tuesday is not only the un-official start to summer (day after Memorial Day weekend), but fittingly is also International Children’s Day.  With that in mind, I take my scarf off to two planetary forces that are keeping me strong, Emma and Hadley. I love you both.  Same but different.

Hads and Em raising money in the Making Strides Walk.


* headed up Mountain # Four this Thursday.  We’re half way there!  (and now all you Bon Jovi fans, please sing along with me…)

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  1. Kristi Jo
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Great job Hadley! I love elephant and sand in your pants days. I think I will start them at our house. xoxo

  2. Posted June 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Also Crying.

  3. Erin Manke
    Posted June 6, 2010 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Oh Kerri! I loved this post a lot- although it made me cry! You are such a WONDERFUL mother- both of those girls are so very smart, beautiful and love obviously love their mom very much. :) You are handling this situation very gracefully- I hope you are well and think of you often.

  4. Holly Brix
    Posted May 31, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Now I’m crying too… damn you sexy Pack! As I’m sitting here reading your blog, I can hear E and H outside playing right now. Laughing and running around with the boys. Such beautiful souls… like mother, like daughters.

  5. Margaret Brede
    Posted May 30, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    What wonderful daughters, what a wonderful mom. Continue the good fight. You look beautiful without the scarf.

  6. Alice Borg
    Posted May 30, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    First, when I saw you with Hadley, my thought was Nancy!? and of course then realized it was you, not a younger picture of your mom. So the little girls are that old now. I understand Emma’s reaction. When my grandmother died and mom told me (I remember the moment clearly; I was 7) I didn’t know what to say. I was embarrassed because I didn’t know how to respond to such weighty news, and news I’d never heard before. I probably managed some one-word response and remember going right on with the arithmetic problem I was working on. Island of Faith in Wrangell is praying for you and so am I. I appreciated reading your articulate and interesting site. Alice

  7. Brenda Wu
    Posted May 28, 2010 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    Sun and Moon, can’t think of any better words to describe your two lovely girls! Really enjoy reading it and I can feel all the love among Pack’s family from the lines and letters there…Miss you!!

  8. kerri
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Thanks friends and fam for the good words and feedback. It’s so comforting to share with you and get your great stories and support back. My lifeline.

    Love you!

  9. Erika
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    I’ve been finding myself singing Bon Jovi in my head all morning. “Oooh, Oooh, You’re Half Way The-ere!” I’m thinking of you lots today as you face #4. Stay strong!

    Your pics for this post are great and green is definitely your color :)

    Hugs and kisses to the Sun and Moon from Auntie.

  10. Ian hoyt
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Kerri, you have two amazing girls. Hadley wrote a poem about my mom and gave it to me at her wake, I still have it and it still makes me cry and she was only seven! I have a twin story for you, the girls, grandma Dianne, Bumpa, and myself were at the zoo when Charlotte spotted another pair of twins” look Abby twins!” “yeah and they are wearing the same dress” Abby says. As high falootin a three year old can get “what’s that all about” Charlotte replies.
    Hug those girls for me

  11. YOM
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I mentioned before about how your experiences have made me a library blubberer. Worse today. I’m sitting across the computer table from a woman with a port in her chest and wearing a very skimpy female version of what we used to call a “wife beater t- shirt”. Odd.

  12. Kristi Jo
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    wow! I love the sun and the moon. What wonderful souls.
    Hit the next mountain strong, we are hiking up the hill with you. Will be thinking of you next weekend as Mikayla and I are walking the Susan G. Komen race for you and my sister. xoxoxo

  13. Anna
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I am so happy to have spent time with these amazing girls just before reading this post – I was really impressed by their maturity, engagement and participation in our time together and their song choices. Love to the Pack pack.

  14. Dalla Johannsdottir
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    Hadley and Emma are wonderful! We miss you all, and think of you often,
    Dalla, Hugi, Stirnir and Eyja

  15. nick
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    Way to make me cry! How am I gonna work the rest of the day. N x

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