Tuesday, November 17, 2009

She Did it Again.

Wow!  What a day!  Where to start?

Our trip up to DC was leisurely.  Thanks to an early morning meeting, we missed the rush hour traffic and the journey into downtown DC was a dream.  Charlotte read book after book in the car.  We thought for a bit that she might settle down and take a nap but no dice...

I love driving into DC.  For the longest time, you drive North on I-95 and you could be anywhere.  It's just typical suburbs.  Then you hit the Pentagon and the Washington Monument and the huge expanse of the Potomac River and you feel the spirit of our Nation's Capital.  I felt the spirit of my parents kicking in as I tried to get Charlotte to pay attention to all of it: "Look, Charlotte, that's the Washington Monument! Look at the Jefferson Memorial".  And Charlotte says: "Can you PLEASE read me another book????"  Ha!

Thanks to our fabulous connections, we got to park at the Natural History Museum and met our host, Randall, inside the Rotunda.  I never stop my continual amazement at the Smithsonian Museums.  What treasures! Randall greeted us with a care package full of Smithsonian "Swag" including a Mammal picture book for Charlotte.  We decided to grab some lunch before seeing the rest of the museum, but before we could do that...

She did it again.

Charlotte just has this way of capturing people and pulling them in.  Some of you have commented on it as well and Roger has mentioned it a few times.  I don't know what it is.  It's not just the cancer diagnosis either.  I fondly remember those first days after she was born.  All of the nurses in labor and delivery just couldn't stop talking about how beautiful she was.  She truly was.  Most newborns are, quite frankly, pretty ugly.  They're little wrinkled beings that look more like aliens or little old men than adorable babies.  Not Charlotte.  She had this gorgeously round head (amazing for a natural birth), clean complexion, and beautiful face that just drew you in from the very beginning.  Yes, I'm her mom but that is a FACT! As she grew and we took her places, the same thing would happen.  She just seemed to pull people in.  She had this natural ability to attract positive attention.  Must be the eyes...

Anyway, as we stood there talking to Randall in the crowded Rotunda, a woman came over and saw Charlotte sitting in the jogging stroller.  She had a hat on so you couldn't really see the scars or the bald head, but I'm sure she could tell something was not quite normal.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her just staring at Charlotte.  Then she came up to Roger and asked how old she was.  Roger told her.  Then she bent down and started talking to Charlotte, asking her a few questions.  Finally, she turned to Roger and inquired a little more about her.  What was going on? Was there something wrong with her?  She didn't ask in a mean or condescending way.  She was just genuinely curious.  Roger shared that she had a brain tumor.  The woman asked if she was getting treatment and Roger very calmly and matter of factly said, "Not anymore."  The woman asked, "What do you mean by not anymore?"  and he shared that we were out of treatment options and that she had terminal cancer.  Well, the woman just broke down crying and was visibly upset.  She had this purple and blue beaded bracelet in her hand that seemed recently purchased (it still had a price tag on it) and she asked us if she could give it to her because "it matched her outfit".  We said yes and thanked her. 

That is the effect Charlotte has on people.  Yeah, the cancer diagnosis pretty much intensifies it exponentially.  I don't know any kid in Charlotte's situation who couldn't probably invoke a gallon or two of tears.  But it's still interesting to watch people's reactions.  I think Roger and I have reached this certain level of immunity to the whole situation.  It's not that we are apathetic (we most certainly are not) or robotic about the whole thing but we are fortunate in that we are with her EVERY DAY.  Almost 24/7.  We have had plenty of time to get used to what this cancer is doing to her and we get the benefit of sharing this time with her.  I know that it is sometimes more difficult for those who are more distant or who only see Charlotte on an occasional basis.  Our grief comes and goes in waves but I think it hits others like a tsunami when they are face to face with her.  We often find ourselves in the position of comforting others rather than needing the comfort ourselves.  Strange. But I think we also draw some power from that opportunity. 

So anyway, I digress.  Where was I?

After our event in the Rotunda, we headed to lunch where Charlotte downed pickles, mac n cheese, and a hot dog.  She then graced us with a huge POOP (yay).  That was our cue to finish lunch and begin our exploration of the museum.  We parted ways with Randall so he could go to a few meetings.  Then we headed to the carousel out on the mall.  Charlotte really enjoyed riding on the horse there.  We tried to get pictures but that was one of the fastest carousels I've ever seen!  We also walked around the mall for a bit and ventured into one of the sculpture gardens. 

On the way back into the museum, we spotted a street musician playing a rather interesting instrument. It looked like an inverted steel drum that fit into the player's lap.  The music was melodic, rhythmic, extremely minimalistic, and absolutely mesmerizing to Charlotte.  She was really grooving.  We asked the musician about it and he said it was a Hang (pronounced HONG) and it was from Switzerland.  If you want to see more, you can go HERE for the Wikipedia reference.  Anyway, we initially just wanted to drop a few bucks in his music case but then noticed that he had a CD so we bought one.  It's very relaxing music so maybe that will help with the sleep a bit!

When we went back inside the museum, we checked out the main sections including the dinosaurs, ocean life, and mammal areas.  Just as we were reaching the rocks and gemstones, Charlotte fell asleep.  Of course, this was just minutes before we were scheduled to meet Randall again for our appointment at the Butterfly exhibit.  Sigh.  We woke her up as we tried to go in with the hopes that she would perk up for the butterflies.  She did wake up a little but she REALLY perked up after leaving the humid/hot butterfly area and re-entering the cooler part of the museum.  From there, we were able to get a backstage look at some of the bugs.  We got to touch and get up close to a tomato worm, a millipede, and a HUGE Malaysian walking stick.  That was a neat experience and our "bug expert" (Nick) was very knowledgable.

From there, we left the museum.  We headed out of DC and were very grateful that we could use the HOV lanes.  We checked into our hotel down in Woodbridge (near Roger's rehearsal site) and then went to dinner at Macaroni Grill.  Yum!  Thanks to a wonderful gift card, we didn't pay a thing for dinner but we sure ate a bunch!

Now CJ and I are resting at the hotel while Roger rehearses for Uptown's next gig on Saturday. CJ's watching Dora and I'm...well...catching up on everything. 

Tomorrow is Panda day at the zoo and it should be nothing short of amazing.   

That's the update.  That's the news.

Thanks for all the messages left on CB and via email today.  We are so excited about all the positive buzz regarding the read-a-thon.  I guarantee it will happen and we will even find a way for those far away to participate.  Remember, we DO have Skype and a webcam.  Audio recordings and YouTube videos will be welcome as well.

Love to all,
Rachel (Charlotte's Mom)


  1. I have this picture on my desk and look at it every day. CJ is so unbelievably beautiful and perfect in every way - and I don't say that just because I'm her aunt.

    Love you all.
    Aunt B

  2. Safe travels to Disney and hope you have a great time. I would love to have a copy of this photo. Like Aunt B says, Charlotte is so unbelievably beautiful. Love to you three,


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