22 May – Rory’s birthday

1. My wonderful husband
2. A beautiful day in the low 70s (perfect!)
3. A large well seasoned cast iron skillet
4. A kind word (❤️)

I wish I could say that I planned something amazing for Rory’s 60th birthday but I’m afraid the best I could come up with was a sweet little card, a new Panama hat ordered too late for the Big Day, and a nice tasty dinner. Ugh. His birthday always sneaks up on me and I’m left scrambling at the last minute trying to pull something together. Last week was a total write-off due to Lauren’s History project and the idea of a party was pretty much out of the question. Rory isn’t much of a party guy and the last time I tried something more elaborate for his birthday, it wasn’t the greatest. One of his friends and I teamed up and made reservations for a party of 12 at a Middle Eastern restaurant in the San Fernando Valley. The meal was good but the restaurant management thought that Rory would appreciate being hauled out onto the dance floor by the resident pack of belly dancers. It did NOT go well. Poor Ror looked like a deer in headlights! I haven’t had the courage to organize a group celebration since then.😱

I have not one, not two, but THREE medical appointments scheduled for this week. Tomorrow (Monday), I have blood work at the Texas Oncology office here in town. On Thursday at 1:30 I have a consultation with a bone marrow transplant specialist in San Antonio, and on Friday I have to be back in SA to see Dr. Santiago. BLURGH. I’m more than a little apprehensive over the appointment with the specialist. Like I’ve said multiple times, I’m not keen on the whole transplant thing, but at least I’ll be able to learn a bit more about the procedure from a man who works at one of the top BMT units in the country (which also just happens to be in our own backyard). Knowledge is power!😊

My feets hurt. Too much time spent in the kitchen. The dinner (sheet pan mushroom Parmesan with an arugula and wild rice salad – YUM) was certainly worth the effort but now I’m a puddle of useless sludge. Once again! I’m good at being sludge.😄

21 May

1. The promise of significant rain (fingers crossed)
2. The prospect of cooking a good meal for my family
3. A completely quiet house (with two teens, this doesn’t happen much)
4. The stones I bought yesterday (ooooooooh, SHINY)

Saturday morning = quiet, slow, lazy morning routines. At some point today I’m going to have to drag both kids out to Target or some such place to get birthday cards for Rory. It’s his birthday tomorrow and I’m once again woefully unprepared. I’ve been trying to get some idea of what he’d like for a birthday meal but it’s like pulling teeth. I have one possible solution that nearly all members of the family might find palatable but with one hardcore vegetarian in the mix and another kid who still eats like a toddler, cooking for the family can be quite a challenge. Personally, I’d like to just slap some steak or chicken legs on the grill and call it good. *Sigh*

Target run accomplished. Yay. Traffic in town was ridiculous so it took easily a half hour to get to the Creekside shopping center, which is about as far on the other side of New Braunfels as you can get before hitting San Marcos. Urgh. Nothing like dragging two moody teens out of their natural habitat against their will for a bit of shopping that has nothing to do with them. Lordy. I’m sure I was this morose and self-centered when I was their age but DAMN, there are days when I want to just sell them on the black market.😑

So, it turned out that our vegetarian kid had to go up to the school for the Theatre group’s end-of-year potluck thing, so I dashed up to HEB and grabbed a nice big sirloin steak, one of the last two USDA Prime cuts they had. (I rarely buy red meat so when I do, I make sure it’s Prime. I don’t go nuts and buy stuff like tenderloin or ribeye – just one sirloin will easily feed three people in our house.) The cut was a fat one so I pan-seared both sides and then popped it into the oven for about 10 minutes to finish it. Oooh, yum… So satisfying with a bit of rice and some French green beans.😍

20 May

1. A good, sound, uninterrupted night’s sleep
2. Lunch with friends
3. A sweet, grateful daughter
4. 1BTN, a radio station based in Brighton, UK. They play a really eclectic mix, most of which is quite good.

WE’RE DONE. I emailed the final completed drawing last night and promptly thought about setting fire to my copious pile of sketches, doodles, rejects and finals. Fatigue won out and I packed it in a bit early, fell into bed and was blissfully unconscious for most of the night. Lauren came in to the office while I was scanning and cleaning up the last image and actually gave me snuzzles! She was sooooo burned out and listless yesterday that I was a bit worried about her but now she’s recovering. Next week is their last week of school before summer break and aside from a couple more final exams, both Lauren and Basil are pretty much in the clear. This last month has been grueling for them both.

Big news of the day: Basil will be going to Europe for 11 days next summer after graduation! I just signed them up for the trip this afternoon and now, of course, we’ll have to find a way of paying for it. The trip is being organized by two of the AP English teachers at the high school and it’s through an organization called EF Educational Tours. Their itinerary will take them to Ireland first, then England, then finally to Paris for two days before returning home. So, okay, it isn’t a full European tour, more like a taste, but even so, my kid is already a hopeless Anglophile and spending the majority of the tour in the UK should be an amazing experience. Also, once they get into Paris (they’ll be taking a train through the Channel Tunnel to get there), they’ll spend an entire day at the Louvre. THE LOUVRE!!!!!! AAAHHHHH!!!!!!!! They’ll get to sightsee as well and they’ll probably have the opportunity to see the ongoing meticulous restoration of Notre Dame, which alone would be well worth the trip. Parents are allowed to accompany their kids but as much as I’d like to go, I think Basil is more than ready to do this on their own; or, well, with a group of their classmates and teacher-chaperones. They’d better take lots of pictures!😄

19 May

Nope, no blog post today. Too busy. Can’t type and draw at the same time!😄 The Project-From-Hell is nearly complete though, thankfully, and Lauren and I will be able to sleep a LOT more soundly without this nightmare hanging over our heads.

18 May

One paragraph. That’s all I’m doing tonight because I can’t see straight and the middle finger on my left hand is sore where a pencil was biting into it for most of the day today. Three more drawings. THREE MORE, and then we’re done. After which, I may have to hunt down this twit who volunteered to partner with Lauren and then abdicated all responsibility other than coloring the artwork we’ve been churning out. Oh yes, and she’s been whining to Lauren every chance she gets in class. Is the artwork done yet? When are you going to finish the drawings? How many do you have left? Why is it taking so long? I may need help hiding a body in the next few days. Oh, wait… the kid’s still a minor. I just found out. Okay, never mind. (*Sigh*)

Okay, I lied. I have an appointment with a new doctor in San Antonio a week from tomorrow. He’s a bone marrow transplant specialist and I’ll be evaluated for transplant suitability. I’m not sure I like the idea of a transplant. Things can go spectacularly wrong, and if a person’s body begins to reject the transplanted tissue, that’s it. You’re toast. Ugh. It’s by no means a sure thing that I’ll be receiving a transplant, but Dr. Santiago wants to explore all the available treatment options now that the bulk of my chemo is finished.

17 May

Oooh dear… I’m still rolling on the floor.🤣🤣🤣

Just a little bit ago, Rory was walking into the hall to the office when Lauren began to walk out of her room and was spooked by the image of a person suddenly appearing in the hallway. She said, sort of breathlessly, that he had scared her. Just a few moments later I saw Rory walk back down the hall towards Lauren’s room, then heard a quick loud “RRAAAWWRR” followed by a shriek and then much swearing from Lauren. I can’t count the many times I’ve experienced this same scenario during our 36+ years of marriage and even though it isn’t always much fun being on the receiving end of my husband’s mischief, it sure as hell is hilarious experiencing it secondhand! The poor kid literally had to pull herself off the floor. In her defense, she did manage to catapult her backpack in Rory’s direction before toppling over. This is going to keep me laughing for the rest of the day…🤣

Oy. I’ve been working all day helping Lauren to finish her history project. I haven’t done this much intensive drawing in years and it certainly shows. Together, we’ve finished nine drawings, which means we have to do six more before Thursday afternoon. At this point, we’re beginning to cut corners wherever possible. My Photoshop skills are definitely coming in handy!😊

Ugh… Rory decided it would be great fun to try to scare me the way he had earlier in the day to Lauren. I’m sitting at the office computer, doing my level best to speed through some drawing clean-up, when Rory makes a sudden soft noise, just enough to make me jump a little bit. I must have let out a quiet squeak because Rory asks me if something’s wrong. I start to blurt out “You scared me a bit” but then realize that I’m just walking into a trap. Sure enough, a minute or so later Rory lets out a loud bark, which REALLY makes me jump. I swear, I nearly clobbered him in the back of the head with my iPad.

16 May

1. Early mornings on our patio
2. Melatonin (mother’s little helper – 😆)
3. My ever-so-chatty kid, who struggled with speech when she was little. (Now we can’t get her to shut up!😄❤️)

Sooo… yesterday sort of flew by before I could get a chance to document anything on the blog, so apologies to those out there who are accustomed to daily posts! Lauren and I began work on her final project for her History class, which entails making 15 drawings showing American women during WWII. Really cool stuff but the deadline is this coming Thursday and there’s no way that Lauren can finish all those drawings on her own with all the other work she’s saddled with. Honestly, even with my (admittedly rusty) human figure drawing skills, I’m beginning to wonder how we’re going to make that deadline. The drawings are fairly simple, they have to be considering the time limitation, but they’re still time consuming. I have to keep telling myself, just get it done, Robin, don’t noodle it to death, you don’t have time, but that’s my nature. Detail, detail, DETAIL!!! Anyway, we’ve gotten five of the 15 done already, two of which are already partly colored, and we’re handing them off to Lauren’s project partner who will color the remainder in an app called Sketchbook. I’m enjoying the project because I get to do a bit of research on period costume and factory floors (I’ve always loved period costumes), but I’m starting to feel the old familiar pinch of a looming deadline. By Thursday morning Lauren and I will be able to breathe a deep sigh of relief.

Dr. Santiago gave me this today when I went in for more blood work. Zoom in on the “Interpretation” and “Comment” paragraphs. Heeheeheeheehee…😍🎉🥳🙏🏻🙏🏻❤️

This means that the nasty little mutants invading my bloodstream have once again been beaten back! YAY!!!

14 May

Another hurried blog post. We had a big day today, starting the morning off with a stop at 2Tarts, then lunch at Mod Pizza and an actual MOVIE, in an honest-to-gosh THEATER. We saw the new Dr. Strange flick, which was given a thumbs-up by everyone in the Hinnen clan. I slammed an entire bucket of popcorn on my own – tried to share it with Lauren but when I was halfway through, she said she didn’t want any so I helped myself to the rest. It was only then that she decided she wanted some. (Geez, Robin, what a pig.) Thank goodness Rory had about half a bucket left so Lauren wasn’t completely deprived. On the way back from the theater we stopped at our favorite shaved ice shack for some cups of frozen summertime (honestly, that’s what a cherry shaved ice tastes like to me😊). Yummy.

That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell. It’s 9pm and I had completely forgotten to start a blog post so this is… umm, brief. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll remember to start writing earlier. I also have to help Lauren with one of her final projects so we’ll be cranking out something like 14 or 15 drawings showing American women during WWII. That should be a bit stressful but fun!

13 May – end of limbo in sight!

1. See above heading 🥳🎉
2. Good bone marrow biopsy results
3. A doctor who’s willing to go above and beyond for his patients
4. A healthy appetite (yes, I’m hungry again. No surprise there.)

So, big news for the day: Dr. Santiago called not long ago and my biopsy results showed less than 1 in 1000 cancer cells – i.e., no detectable disease. He’s now ordering a more in-depth screening which can be done using the same samples, so I won’t have to be perforated again, and I’m now on track to go back into the hospital in 10-14 days to start my blincyto treatment. That’s the one where I’ll be infused 24/7 for four weeks while wearing a portable pump. I’ll be hospitalized for 7-10 days while I’m monitored for side affects. I’m not going to allow myself to worry about those because honestly, why worry over something that hasn’t happened yet and may not?

I definitely paid a price for being on my feet for most of the day yesterday. Last night before going to bed, my legs began to cramp up from the knee down and I had to hobble around for a while until they subsided. After being in bed for about an hour they seized up again and this time, I attempted to scream soundlessly so I wouldn’t awaken Rory. No dice. He must’ve heard a whimper and shot out of bed while I tried to gasp out an explanation between muscle spasms. It took a bit longer for the pain to subside the second time and the cramping returned once more, albeit less severely, before I finally caved and took a muscle relaxant. Today is going to be spent almost totally off my feet and I’ll probably use a hand massage unit and a heating pad to make sure the damn cramps don’t come back tonight. Writhing in pain really isn’t my idea of a good time, especially when I’m trying to sleep!

I’ve made good on my vow to stay off my feet and now I feel like a total blob. I slept like a rock during my nap, so those cramping spells last night must have disrupted my sleep more than I thought. The only real useful thing I’ve accomplished is folding some laundry and throwing together a simple Mediterranean salad. Hmmm… Salad. Time to raid the fridge again!😄

12 May – limbo, day 8

1. Home made mashed potatoes
2. Sunflowers. There’s a reason why they’re the state flower of Kansas and a symbol of Ukraine. They’re amazing.
3. My exceptionally warped sense of humor. I can keep myself happily entertained for hours simply by living in my head!😆

My new favorite breakfast is scrambled eggs on a bed of arugula with a side of sliced avocado. It’s even better when it’s followed up by a big bowl of mashed potatoes! Hey, it’s yummy, don’t judge.😄

Today’s the Day. It’s soup dumpling time! I think I’ll photo-document the process and share it so you can see exactly how obsessive I am in the kitchen. It’ll probably be a day-long project because I’ll have to take it slowly so my energy level doesn’t plummet. First up is prepping the ingredients for Basil’s spring rolls. That should be easy due to my fairly wicked knife skills but still, it’s time consuming. Then I’ll do the final prep for the dumpling filling, make the dough for the dumpling wrappers and THEN (*drum roll*), I’ll make the wrappers themselves, followed by filling the little buggers and pleating them. Then it’s off to the bamboo steamer before devouring them relentlessly. Umm… I’m exhausted just looking at all the steps. What the hell did I get myself into?😱

From bowl of shaggy, crumbly mess…
…To silky, silky soft and smooth!
Look! Meat jello cubes! There’s also meat jello shrapnel all over the counter but we’re not talking about that.
…Aaaand the filling is done.
The finished product, about to be set over the heat.

I didn’t show the wrapper-making or filling steps mainly because I was too busy restraining myself from chucking the whole mess into the trash. Wow, what a learning curve. I gained some valuable knowledge though – next time I’ll make the wrappers a good deal larger, and I’ll serve them immediately rather than holding them for a few minutes. The wrappers ended up on the tough side and because there was so little filling in each dumpling, the buns didn’t have that incredible juiciness that good xiaolongbao have. Bummer. Still, it was a worthy experiment and I have loads of filling left over that I’ll freeze and save for another attempt. I also have leftover aspic that I’ll save and use for either another recipe or more dumplings.

I’m absolutely flattened. I spent most of the day in the kitchen and I’m happy to say that I managed really well with no weakness, but now I just want to crawl into bed.😴