Andi’s Version of the High School Transition

Bellevue Beach ParkSo, Andi saw a version of my Transitioning to High School post… well, kind of. It was just word doc with the title. She knew it must have been for my blog so she decided to write her own version. Read it and let her know what you think!


Well my mom’s bloggies (or at least I’m assuming that’s who this is going to. I just found the title and a blank page). Honestly, I’m not that scared. I mean it’s just going to be like middle school you know ‘cuz the building is designed the same way except I am going to be the minion next year, not the headmaster. So pretty much I’m all set in stone. I’m taking journalism- which is going to be easy because I am taking it this year and then I am taking Spanish which I think will be easy ‘cuz lamp is just like el lampo and phone is just like el phono so there is two As there. And I know my mom is probably going to mention how I changed my mind a “million” times on my courses I will have you know I was between 3 classes and I went back and forth a couple of times but only because she was talking me out of taking an AP class ‘cuz she didn’t think I could do it. She was all like, “You know it is just like Social Studies and that is not your forte (okay so maybe she didn’t use that word but I am just trying to get the point across) plus you’re already taking advanced English and Spanish and those are already hard classes bla bla bla”. Therefore transitioning to High School will not be scary and my mom doesn’t need to worry about her “princess” or her “andi pandi the panda bear” or her “little girl”.



Hopefully you realized that she used poor grammar and run on sentences on purpose. I also want you to know that I never tried to talk her out of an AP class and I’m fully aware she can do anything she puts her mind to. I just gave her the facts in order for her to make an informed decision. I let her decide. So do me a favor and comment on this post! Andi will enjoy reading comments on her first ever blog post.

Transitioning to High School

My baby girl is going to high school

As my ex-husband Troy, our daughter Andi and I start to plan for Andi’s high school career; I can’t help but reflect on my own high school years. I know I’m going to make a few people mad with this post since many of you know where I went to school but I don’t think my high school prepared me for college or my career. Of course others who went there might feel differently than I do and that’s okay. But I feel my high school cheated me out of an education. I have always felt this way. I get that you get out of what you put in and I definitely didn’t put in a lot but I also wasn’t offered a lot.

For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Catholic high school. Now I am sure that some Catholic high schools are fantastic and the one I attended might even be better now since it has been 20 years. I was a good student K-8 and I really tried in the 9th grade but I quickly learned that it didn’t really matter. I struggled with math quite a bit that year and in no way should I have passed but my teacher passed me anyway. I remember going to him for help but other than taking a few minutes between classes, he wasn’t willing to give me the time. The school did not offer tutoring and I don’t know if it was something my mom ever considered or not. Why would she? We didn’t really have the money and he was passing me anyway. Struggling that year in math meant that I never had the basics to understand math in the coming years.

It wouldn’t have mattered even if I did understand. One year, my math teacher was the principal. I loved our principal but he didn’t really have time to teach a class. There were many days that he would just buy us pop and/or pizza and put a movie in while he went to a meeting. Sometimes, he would give us a worksheet but I always had a friend do mine or just wouldn’t turn it in. So I went another year without learning math.

I remember a history class that was taught by a football coach. I think he only taught because he had to in order to be the coach. Every day he would come in and say “Get out your book and copy pages 1-20.” Well of course the page numbers were different day to day. My classmates and I quickly learned that he was not going to read these so we never did it. Instead, we wrote notes to each other. And honestly, I would not have retained the information by copying the book anyway.

A few of the teachers had absolutely no control over the class. It was constant chaos and as a teenager, I was happy to be part of that.

Even though we paid thousands in tuition, the school didn’t have the money for a lot of elective type courses or technology. Computers were becoming a huge part of life at this point but we only had a few in the entire school and only the really smart kids got to use them. I learned how to type on a manual type writer. It wasn’t even electric. Actually, I probably got more out of my typing class than any other class in high school (except for maybe two English classes). I can now type about 90 words a minute. If I remember correctly I took cooking, a year of Spanish, child development, interior design and a business class as my electives. I think advanced science and an art class were the only other choices.

As I look at my daughters choices for electives, I’m in shock. She probably has a hundred choices. They include several different types of music, art, film making, communication, theater, journalism, science, AP courses, fashion design, financial literacy and so much more. I wish I would have choices like this. I remember feeling very ill prepared when I started my journalism classes in college. I felt like everyone in the class had been on a real student newspaper except for me. They all had taken journalism classes already. I was the only one in my speech class who hadn’t already taken public speaking of some kind. I was very overwhelmed.

My college-prep school did not prepare me for college. In fact, my guidance counselor told me I shouldn’t even apply for colleges. Now I have already admitted that I wasn’t the best student but I have never understood why an adult in that position would tell a kid that. I hope she has heard that I finished my first semester in college with a 3.8, graduated with good grades and went on to be a reporter and now in the public relations field. Yeah, I’m not bitter. LOL But maybe her not believing in me is what I needed to become an excellent student in college.

I do have to give kudos where it is due. I did have two English teachers who believed in me very much. They saw my talent and pushed me. They have continued to encourage me during my college and professional careers.

I am lucky to have my children in one of the best districts in the state. My daughter is having a hard time deciding on her schedule because she has so many choices and would love to take more classes than the day allows. She’s not stuck picking the best of the worst. She can get free tutoring at school or I will hire a private tutor if she struggles at all. She has been placed in Advanced English and I don’t worry that it will be too much pressure because the school and I will provide her with the tools she needs. I can’t imagine that any teacher in her school will ever tell her just to copy pages from a book everyday or leave the kids alone to eat pizza while he goes to a meeting. I know that if a teacher can’t control a class, the leader of the chaos will be removed or another teacher, who can control them, will be brought in. My daughter and I are both lucky that I have smart friends who actually learned math and history and are willing to help her with her homework.

Growing up

While many parents are nervous about their kids transitioning from middle school to high school next year, I am excited. Andi is a great student who loves learning and is anxious to take classes that interest her. Although I am sure there will be some struggles over the next four years, I am looking forward to the challenges and excitement that comes with it. I also found this article to be comforting.

What was your education like? Any tips for a mom with a child entering high school?

Sometimes You Just Have to Say No… Even to Grandma

grandma and andi

Andi and grandma making ravioli

My parents are incredible grandparents. Whether I want to go out with friends, need to work or just need some quiet time, my parents are usually willing to jump in and help. They will even call and ask for the kids for outings, just to come over and sleepovers. My 13-year-old and 11-year-old will sometimes call them and ask if they can go over and they usually say yes. I know you are all envious and wish your children had grandparents like mine do. I don’t blame you. I’d be envious too if this was not my situation.

But… sometimes you just have to say no. My kids and I have a busy schedule between school, Girl Scouts, soccer, Odyssey of the Minds, Chess Club, speech team, working full-time, the dog needing exercise, homework, etc. Between all of that and Monday night dinners at my parents’, we have some where to be every night of the week except for Tuesdays. So, on Tuesdays, I like to have dinner at the house as a family and take time to get chores done and maybe watch a movie or play a game together.

This definitely doesn’t happen every Tuesday because my mom often takes all the grandkids to the Library on Tuesday nights. I love that they get library time but it does mean another night away from home.  So this last Tuesday, the library was taking a break from storytime so I expected my kids to be home. I had been asking them for a week to clean their bedrooms and play area so I could get the carpets cleaned. I knew Andi had studying to catch up on and Joey could just use at-home time. Plus, Tuesday night is their night to make dinner. It can be as simple as a sandwich or as complicated as they want but they are in charge of dinner.

I was at the pediatrician with Joey when Andi called while walking home from school. She wanted to know if she could go to grandma’s house to hang out and if I’d pick her up later. I thought about it for a minute and then said something Andi rarely hears; “NO!” She acts as if she’s in shock asking why. I told her that I needed her to do her chores because we would be busy the rest of the week. She tried to bargain with me explaining that it’s important I let her be with family and asking how I could keep her from grandma. Now remember, we had just had dinner at grandma’s the night before. I again say no and explain that I need her to do what’s expected of her.

I receive a text within just a few minutes from my mother that says “can she?” I wanted to scream at this point (love you mom). I responded, “no, this is the only night this week she is home and she has stuff to do.” She said okay. Once I got home I explained to Andi that I did not appreciate the follow up from grandma after already being told no.

The next night, I ran into my parents at the grocery. My dad immediately tells me that I need to stop being so hard on Andi (love you dad). I feel like I’m pretty easy on my children. Andi is expected to do the dishes, keep her room clean and help keep the kids’ bathroom and the play room clean. Joey is expected to take out the trash and clean off the table, keep his room clean and help keep the kids’ bathroom and play room clean. They both have to help take care of the dog and make dinner one night a week. I, as a single mom, get them everywhere they need and do all the other mommy things like make meals, clean up, do laundry, tuck them in, etc. They both have friends over quite often and are not forced to do any sports or other activities that they do not choose.

So I want to know… do you think it’s wrong to say no to grandma? Do your kids have chores and what is too much?

Waiting for Results

Joey resting. I love this pic.

Joey resting. I love this pic.

Seeing an oncologist every three months is nerve wracking. Come on, you don’t see an oncologist for anything simple. You see one because of serious illness. My 11-year-old son sees the amazing Dr. Palumbo at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital because he has Histio. My son was diagnosed with this rare disease in April, as most of my readers already know.  So between appointments, we pretend that we are not worried constantly that another lesion is going to show up. Every time Joey has a headache or muscle pain, I reassure him that it’s not Histio (even though I have no clue). When an odd rash (something annoying that seems to come along with Histio) breaks out all over his body, I tell him he has nothing to worry about. That’s usually true other than the time it ended up being the Shingles. So we hold our breath and wait for the next appointment. Some appointments require blood work, some require full body skeletal x-rays, others require MRIS, PET or Cat scans.  Sometimes we know in advanced what will be required and other times we find out upon arrival. The oncology department is considered a day hospital so he is actually admitted for his appointments and we have to be discharged at the end. I think this because no one really knows how an oncology appointment might go and several patients are admitted.So after a week or so of being very anxious about Joey’s upcoming appointment, he saw Dr. Palumbo on Thursday. I fully expected Joey to have blood work since he had the shingles in between appointments but the doctor didn’t feel that was needed. I guess that was good because Joey has a lot of anxiety about needles (By the way he gets four vaccines tomorrow. That should be fun). They did check all of his vitals and order a full skeletal x-ray. That means x-rays head to toe. I worry so much about the amount of radiation he is exposed to but I have to weigh the risks. Getting another lesion and not knowing would be much worse.blood work

Of course no one could give me the results that day. That’s just how hospitals work. So we left nervously awaiting results. Being late on a Thursday and our nurse having Friday off meant waiting through the weekend as well. I called Michelle, our nurse who we love, this morning. She reads from the report “No new lesions identified. Unchanged from prior study.” What does that mean? I understand what no new lesions means and I am thrilled. But what does unchanged from prior study mean? I ask… “It means it’s no better but It’s no worse.” Hmm… I guess I didn’t realize we were still watching the first lesion. I guess somehow I thought that it was gone after surgery. So now, I have a whole new thing to worry about, especially since her voice was not very confident as we discussed that. “Oh it hasn’t changed?” I asked. “No, let me talk to Dr. Palumbo and get back to you,” she said.

So now I wait again. I am sure I am reading into something and it is all normal. At least that is what I keep telling myself. But the waiting… oh the waiting is terrible.

Joey has another appointment in late April/early May. He will at least have blood work, a full body skeletal and MRI at this point. He will have this full workup because it will be the one-year anniversary of his diagnosis and surgery.  I truly can’t believe it’s been 8 months already. I pray and hope everyday that his results come back clean because with each year, his chances of additional lesions or relapse reduce. Come May, I want to have clean test results and have one heck of a celebration – whether that’s a party with friends and family or a family vacation, I hope we are celebrating! We couldn’t have gotten through all this without our friends, family and even strangers so I can’t wait to share the results and hopefully celebrate with you in a few months!

Help us out and tell us how you deal with waiting.




Remembering What to be Thankful For

Cameron Von ST. James from Roseville, MN., contacted me a week or so ago.  He had been following Joey’s story through my blog. He asked me if he could share his story. I could identify with so much of what he writes that I agreed to post it. The post below was written by Cameron. Please make my guest writer feel welcome and comment on this.

I’ve always loved spending time with my family and friends during the holidays. I was excited and overjoyed as I anticipated the start of the holiday season in 2005. My wife Heather had our baby girl Lily that August, and we couldn’t wait to celebrate our first holiday season together as a family. Planning for our holidays was quickly put on hold, however, when my wife was diagnosed with cancer just three days before Thanksgiving.

My wife’s diagnosis was malignant pleural mesothelioma, and our lives changed in an instant. It seemed as if we had just begun to plan for the holidays when we were soon planning a fight with cancer. The mesothelioma diagnosis made the future look very bleak for us. Therefore, I often found myself waiting for things to get worse than they already were. I felt that I had little to be thankful for that year.

For Thanksgiving that year, Heather’s family came in to celebrate with us. We had a chance to eat our holiday meal with them, and afterwards, we discussed ways that Heather’s family could help us through this hard time. It was a conversation that I had been nervous about for days.

The reason this conversation was such a dreaded one for me was because of the very personal topics that were discussed. We discussed all of our financial problems that were brought on by the diagnosis, and even how we would manage Lily during this time. Since our income was steadily diminishing, we had to have financial help; therefore, we even discussed how we could liquidate certain assets, and what bills Heather’s parents could afford to pay. Throughout the whole discussion, all I could feel was embarrassment and shame.

Years later, I finally began to realize the importance of that day. Due to my pride and my fear, I was blind to the fact that I was surrounded by the most caring family. They dropped everything in their own lives to be by our sides at a moment’s notice, and were willing to make huge sacrifices of their own to ensure our well being. Even though I could not realize this at the time, I understand it clearly now, and I am so thankful to each and every one of them.

There are many things that I am thankful for this holiday season, but most of all, I am thankful for my family. As for Heather, she beat her mesothelioma battle, and we have had the opportunity to celebrate seven Christmas’s together with Lily. We hope that our story of success against cancer will give hope to all those currently battling this holiday season.