Monday, April 29, 2013

Best and Worst Parts About Having a Broken Ankle by Ellie


1.  I got to experience my life-long dream of walking with crutches

2.  I finally have a good excuse to wear all my unmatching socks 

3.  Everyone helps me do things 

4.  People get to sign my cast

5.  My cast is pretty and matches some of my clothes


1.  Not being able to take a shower or play in the bath

2.  Sometimes my leg gets itchy

3.  My ankle still hurts

Sunday, April 28, 2013

6th Grade All-County Chorus Festival

When I married Glen, I made no secret of the fact that I hoped that they would inherit his naturally straight teeth, his ability to digest milk without producing noxious gas,  and his ability to sing in tune.  Crain genetics were not kind in any of those departments and I held out hope that our kids would fare a little better.   So far we're 0 for 5 on the naturally straight teeth, 3 for 5 in the ability to digest milk (with the other 2 that are too young to know yet),  and only one of my kids sings as out-of-tune as I do.

Although all of the kids are far more musically inclined than I was, it's Emma who really seems to have inherited the strong musical genes that hale from both sides of Glen's family.  She was born singing (in tune) and hasn't stopped since.  We have videos of her as a toddler, where she would sing and sing and sing, pushing siblings out of the way to make sure that the camera stayed on her.  I tried really hard to get one of those videos off of the DVD and onto the computer to show you how cute it was, but alas it defies my tech skills and you will just have to imagine a spunky little red-headed two-year-old belting out primary songs while constantly pushing past any showboat siblings that may have tried to get between her and the front of the camera.  She sang in bed, sang sitting on the potty, and sang during mealtimes.

Fast forward a decade and she is still putting those lungs to good use and gracing our home with beautiful music.  She doesn't fight for camera time anymore, since most of her siblings are only all too happy to relinquish it, but out of all of our kids she is the least shy about sharing her musical talents with others.  Not only has she already sung solos and duets in church, but she also recently started taking voice lessons and recently was very honored to be chosen to participate in the 6th Grade All-County Chorus Festival.

The festival is an annual event that has been going on for about 40 years now. Not only do they have to audition, but they also only choose a handful of students from each school.  They are required to practice at home and attend several practices (all over the county ) in smaller groups for months in advance.   Finally on April 20th all 900+ participants gathered from the over 120 elementary schools in our county and combined to form one fabulous sounding elementary school choir!

We were far  away and couldn't see her all that well, but the music was fantastic...

This song was the final song of the performance and Emma's very favorite...
(Note:  I did not actually take this video)

Forgive the shaky camera in this video I did take.   This was another of Emma's favorite songs and shows a little better of how far away we were....

We are so proud of our Emma and how hard she has worked to improve upon the musical talents she was blessed with.  Not only does she sing like an angel, but she is also proving herself to be a talented and hard working piano and clarinet player as well.


"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. "
-Victor Hugo 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 25th---the perfect date!

It's Thursday...

And I've spent the last two days taking this little chickie all over town to the pediatrician, x-ray lab, and orthopedist.  Turns out she has a broken ankle and she doesn't even know how it happened.  She randomly just started limping and falling all the time.  She has a little chip on the inside bottom of her left ankle bone (right on the growth plate).

Then today I woke up to a laundry pile up to the sky... (two days out of the house and a washing machine on the fritz will do that to me)
A kid home sick from school...
Glen off to an early work meeting...
A bowl of cream of wheat made by one of the kids for my breakfast (oops, no picture)...

And a to-do list a mile long...
Despite all the "normal" things going on though...
There's no two ways about it...April 25th is still the perfect date!

Happy April 25th to all of you and may your forecast look as perfect as mine today!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Crazy Bird

Any of you who have been following along on our blog for very long, know that our family really enjoys birdwatching.  It all started with Adam when his 2nd grade teacher wove learning about birds into every subject at school.  His knowledge and excitement about birds sparked our interest and now  birdwatching is one of our  family's favorite things to do.

We have feeders on our deck that we love to keep an eye on and consider a relaxing birdwatching walk through the woods to be one of the best ways to spend a lazy afternoon.

So Cami came home from an away lacrosse game the other day, telling us a funny bird story.  She told how her team had gone to a backfield and immediately upon setting their lacrosse sticks down to do some warm-ups, came across a very pissed off bird.  She told us about how loud and aggressive the bird seemed and she couldn't figure out why it just wouldn't fly away from them like most birds, so she assumed that it was injured.  Later when they went to pick up their sticks, they realized that they had unknowingly laid them right next to the bird's nest which was on the ground, which was why the bird was freaking out so much.   In the meantime, some of her teammates were getting kind of spooked by the loud dramatics and eager to get away from the "crazy bird".

In the midst of retelling the story, she kept mentioning what a pretty bird it had been and she wondered what kind it was.  A short search online and she learned that it was a killdeer.   Killdeer are known for their loud histronics and  "fake broken wing act" to protect their nests.    After reading that, we were all fascinated and plotted for a way to go see the birds in action ourselves.

Serendipitously a couple of days later when I was taking Emma to her All-County Chorus Concert (look for a blogpost about it soon), I realized that the place that Cami had seen the Killdeer was right on the way to her concert.   So we stopped to take a look for ourselves.....

Just as Cami had described, immediately upon approaching their lair, this bird started going bonkers.  It flailed around on the ground, with its wings bent in funny directions, all the while making unearthly loud noises.

 Too bad for him, we ignored his tricks and went straight for the nest, so I could get pictures of the calm bird who was guarding it...

We kept a far enough distance to not actually disturb anything, but I was thrilled to get a quick peek at the nest and see that one of the eggs was hatching.

Because their act looked a bit exhausting, we were careful not to stay too long, but I couldn't resist snapping as many photos as I could in the meantime.

We were interested to learn that Killdeer are a type of plover and are considered shorebirds.  However they don't usually live near water and are known to build their nests in the ground of golf courses, athletic fields, and flat roofs.  

Now my kids are begging me to go back as soon as possible, so that they can see the babies.   Normally I would scoff at a request to drive that far (12+ miles) for such a small thing, but who can resist a baby?  Even if it is the baby of a slightly crazy bird.

I think we'll go tomorrow morning.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guide For a Parent of a Child with Cancer (or other serious illness)

We have friends of a friend whose little boy was just diagnosed with leukemia  and is getting treated at the same hospital as Spencer.  Our mutual friends have been trying to arrange for us to go meet with them and give them a little perspective as they embark on this new journey in their lives.  This blog post is dedicated to them and to any other parents of sick children who have found their way to this  blog.  I am sorry for those of you have need to read this blogpost, but I hope in it you will find a  little encouragement and helpful advice for the beginning of your journey.

 Click here to read about the first few days after our 16-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia (AML).  

1.  Do not panic.  Yes, having a child with cancer (or other serious illness) means that you're embarking on one of the most challenging roads that life can bring, but take a deep breath.  You can do this.  You will have crappy days along the way (probably many of them), but panicking is not productive and witnessing you in that state can actually hinder your child's ability to cope.   They're already frightened and sick and they need as much calm and reassurance as you can muster.

2.  How do you not panic?  My simple piece of advice is to take this journey ONE DAY AT A TIME!!!!  There's no quicker way to incite panic than to focus your thoughts on the big unknown future.  All you can do is take what each day brings and deal with it hour by hour.  Minute by minute.

3.  Seek information.   Your doctors and nurses are the best source of information, since they know your child's case, but inevitably you will probably feel drawn to look online for information as well.     Keep in mind while you research that each and every child responds differently to treatment and that some websites are more accurate than others.    Try to focus your search on reputable sites.

4.     Let people help you.    It's hard for  independent people to suddenly rely on others to help them in every day tasks, but I can say with surety that the people around you NEED to help you as much as you need their help.   Friends and loved ones of a sick child often feel distressed and helpless (sometimes more than you realize) and you allowing them to help in some way can bless their lives as much as they bless yours.  

5.   Find a way to keep people updated.  How you do this can vary depending on your personality, but having a place for people to go for updates is hugely important!  People want to know what's going on and often just simply want to know what specifically they can pray for.   The burden on you to field all of the concerned friends' and family's inquiries will be much greater if you do not have a go-to source for people to look for updates. Most people use either Facebook, a go-to person, CaringBridge, or a blog.  For me, this blog became an outlet to maintain my sanity as much as it was a way to communicate information to others.

6.    Don't be afraid to ask the doctors and nurses lots of questions and certainly speak up if something doesn't seem right.   We caught one big error in Spencer's stay when he was in the sedation suite for a procedure and  they had his weight listed at several kilograms higher than it actually was--something that could have meant that they administered too much anesthesia for his actual weight.  Because I had written his weight down in our notebook that very morning, I knew that it was inaccurate and I was able to correct them.   Keeping yourself informed with the details  of your child's care (without driving yourself crazy) will help you to be the best advocate you can be.

7.  Trust and respect the doctors and nurses.  Doctors and nurses are not perfect or infallible, but they are trained experts in your child's disease and when you treat them politely and respectfully, you are making it easier for them to give your child the best care they can.  This does not negate my #6 and certainly does not mean that you should never question them or ask them to clarify things, but if you are constantly second guessing them and treating them poorly, you are increasing your own stress level, making it a more negative experience for your child, and risk being an obstacle to your child receiving the best care possible.  If there is a true personality conflict with a specific doctor or nurse, then you may want to consider requesting a different doctor/nurse to provide the care, but if you find yourself having issues with most of the doctors or nurse, you may want to consider that the problem is in your attitude and not in them.  

8.  Don't listen to the naysayers.  People often feel lost when they talk with someone in a difficult situation and can inadvertently say hurtful or frightening things without realizing it.    Don't take it personally and don't pay attention to them!   Most likely it was just a thoughtless remark, but if  it becomes a regular occurrence you may need to avoid spending time with the Debbie Downer.  You need positivity and support, not someone to tell you horror stories.

9.  Get a binder and a three hole-punch to organize your medical bills and insurance statements.  This is probably common sense for most people, but being a bit naturally disorganized this is something that someone had to tell me.   File insurance statements and bills separately and then staple them together when they match up.

10.  Look for the blessings.  There is nothing in the world like a sick child to bring out the best in people.  Look for the positive and you will see it.  Look for the healing and the miracles...they are there.  Friends, old and new, will come together to support you in ways that are beyond your comprehension.    Embrace the blessings and no matter the outcome of your journey, you and your child will be the richer for having lived through it.


 If you are a friend or loved one of someone who has a sick child, then I recommend also reading 10 Commandments of Helping a Friend through a Hard Time.   

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Eleven Months!

While our dog's obnoxious urge to roll in a pile of poo this morning did not get this day off to a very good start for me, thankfully the stench of aggravation melted away quickly a couple of hours later at Spence's  clinic appointment!  Today we celebrate Spencer's eleventh month in remission and we are eagerly looking forward to his year anniversary next month!

This time last year, birthday cards were starting to pour in from all over the world for Spencer.   We are all thrilled that his upcoming 18th birthday will be celebrated with much less heartache and worry than  his 17th.

  In amidst our joy for Spencer's continued health, our hearts and prayers are with those in Boston who were affected by that horrible tragedy there.

Clinic Stats:  Weight=72.4kg,  WBC=4.03, RBC=4.73, Hgb= 15.6, Platelets=140, ANC=2120


Monday, April 15, 2013

Top 5 Perks of Being Married to An Accountant

In honor of tax day, I thought I'd let the whole world know how awesome it is being married to an accountant:

5.   I can unguiltily direct any and all math homework questions to Glen because he's literally the expert.

4.  Who needs sleeping pills when over the years I've had  articles like this to help proofread before bed?

3.  It may take being up all night on April 14, but we've never paid for a computer program or a person to do our taxes.

2.  I've never once had to create my own spreadsheet.

1.  I, who relies solely on late-night giddiness to express my silly sense of humor, am a rock star comedian in our family.

♥ Love you, Glen! 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Waiting for the Cherry Blossoms

One thing that we've learned after 15+ years in the DC area, is that while the world famous cherry blossoms may be stunningly gorgeous, they are also a bit finicky.  Last year we went a day or two too late and instead of delicate pink blossoms as a backdrop for all of our photos, all we got was pink coated shoes.

Winters are always hard on my psyche, but this year even more so, seemed especially bleak.  I felt a little dark cloud hanging over my head for months on end and it was all I could do to pull myself out of bed each day, yet alone accomplish anything of substance.  Usually March in the DC area brings beautifully mild temps, more sunshine, and a relief from my winter blues.   This year, however, winter didn't seem to want to let go.  Cold temps and even snow continued well into March, keeping me in my funk.  It wasn't until this past week that I got the dose of literal and figurative sunshine that I'd been craving and I felt the clouds start to part a bit.   General Conference was just the kind of spiritual boost I needed (this talk in particular really touched my soul) and proved to be the catalyst for shaking the dust off my soul.  Then the sunshine came too.

I was a little disheartened at first that we seemed to go straight from 40-degrees to 90+ degree days, but  after spending some time outside, I realized that ninety degrees and sunny seemed positively like just what the doctor ordered.   And it helped the cherry blossoms to bloom quickly!

So when we heard the reports that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom this week, I determined that there was no way we were going to miss seeing them this year.   Too bad my schedule didn't agree with my determination.  I had a couple of pretty big deadlines hanging over my head this week and I wasn't sure how to make it happen.  Then one of my kids developed an annoying "condition" that required them to stay home for a couple of days.  Think itchy heads and special combs to get a feel for the kind of condition I mean.  All of the work to take care of their condition added an element of stress to the week and made me all the more determined that I wasn't missing out on my beloved cherry blossoms.

So I did what any good mother would do.

I dragged the kids out of bed before the crack of dawn, let the other kids skip school too, and arrived to this glorious sight before 8:00 in the morning!

We had beat the tour buses there and got to enjoy a much needed walk around the Tidal Basin without all of the crowds.

We stopped at all the Memorials along the way and just had a nice lazy morning without standing in any lines...

or at least not that many lines.

It was just the dose of sunshine and beauty that I needed to instill that fresh burst of hope into my soul....

...and made me all the more grateful to live so near this fabulous city.  

We arrived back home just after lunchtime, tired but rejuvenated enough to be able to face my laundry pile again.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Easy Blog Books

Six years ago I started blogging as a fun way to keep in touch with my family.  I could post pictures and tell stories without inundating their inboxes with emails they'd only ever read once.    It was not long after those first few tentative posts that I realized that blogging was a good fit for me.  It allowed me the opportunity to record our lives like I'd been doing off and on in scrapbooks and journals for years and it provided an easy way to share it with others.  I found that I liked the challenge of writing in an interesting and comprehensible way and I loved having a place outside of a shoebox for my photos.

After a year or so of blogging regularly, Glen started commenting about how we needed to print up our blog and keep copies of it for our posterity.  I spent a few years researching and discovering labor intensive blog books (like Blurb) that would NOT work for us.  I like to spend my time blogging and not hours and hours designing a book.    That is how we discovered Blog2Print.

With Blog2Print, the average blog book takes me about 20-30 minutes to upload, design, and order.  There were a few minor gripes I had with the design (mainly the small size of photos), but it's right up my alley and attention span and I've been ordering them every year.  I kept thinking that one of these times I'd try to design a book with larger photos again, but somehow I've never gotten past the first few pages.

Then a few weeks ago, I saw an announcement that Blog2Print has upgraded their design options and you can now choose the size of photos you want.  It was just the motivation I needed to order my most recent book and become their #1 biggest fan.

Here's a glimpse at our latest blog book:
It's worth the splurge to get the highest quality binding.  It is heavy duty, the pages are thick and glossy, and  is completely worthy of family heirloom status.

I put my pictures in the x-large size on my blog and wanted them x-large in my book as well.  It ends up being more pages, but is so much more fun to read and enjoy! 

If you're like me and use photos to tell your story, then you'll want to make sure you pick the option to have the photos stay in place inside each post.  You can choose a space saving option to cram the photos all together, but in our books it would have lost some of the effect.  
I liked how when I put the pictures side-by-side in the post, that they printed side-by-side in the book as well.  

My only gripe at all is that vertical photos tend to leave a lot of unused space on a page.  I'm so enamored with the rest of the options though, that it doesn't bother me a bit.  

One more glimpse of the awesomeness!!!!

I wonder how many years it will take to fill the bookshelf...


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Gratitude Moments

I have to say that with Ellie's baptism and a trip to Utah, that it's mostly been a pretty happy couple of weeks around here.  However there's been a little blight in all this happiness when I found out this week that one of the fellow AML patients  we connected with this past year has relapsed for a third time and has been placed on hospice care.  My heart has seriously been breaking for young Brielle's family and I've found myself more upset about it than I would have expected.  I am using the blog tonight for a dose of free therapy and trying to help my heart focus on some of the gratitude moments I've had over the last couple of weeks.

  • This sketch.  One of the missionaries serving in our ward is an artist and presented this sketch to Ellie as a gift for her 8th birthday and baptism.  She is ecstatic about having her own original work of art and will not allow anyone to touch it until it is framed.   I have found myself admiring it many times over the last several days and finding solace in its beauty and message.  
  • One of my kids who was telling me all about how much a hangnail hurt, except he kept referring to it as a "cliffhanger" instead of a hangnail.  It cracked me up, although for the sake of his pride I had to pretend it was normal to have a painful cliffhanger on your baby toe. 

  • Glen came home from his business trip!  I was off kilter all week without him, but by Friday I was a such a mess that I totally slept through my alarm that I'd accidentally turned to the lowest volume and missed waking the kids up for seminary.   It was the first time we've done that in nearly four years of early morning seminary.  
  • Two men gave us flowers this week and neither of them was Glen!   The day before Easter one of our favorite teachers from the elementary school came by and presented us with these Easter lilies.  Four of our five kids have had him for a teacher and although we are sad that Ellie will never be in his class, we feel blessed for the kids that have had the privilege of being in his classroom over the years.   The second bouquet of flowers came from the cashier at Trader Joes.  He was a tad grumpy when he kept calling for bagging help and no one ever came.  I think he felt guilty and gave the flowers as a conciliatory gesture for showing his frustration in front of a customer. In any case, I love having not one, but two bouquets of flowers to officially welcome the commencement of real spring-like weather this week! 

  • Cute nieces and nephews who make me smile and feel younger than I really am..
  • I impressed Spence and Cam when I used a teenage slang word correctly.    I simply told Spence to "sice" me some gas at the station and instantly I became .0000001% cooler in the eyes of my teenagers.  And to think I was just trying to stay in the warm car and out of the whipping wind. 
  • General Conference!!!   Twice a year we Mormons have the privilege of spending two days watching modern-day apostles and a prophet teach and inspire us.  What a blessing it is to know that God still speaks to us today. 

A sampling of the kind of inspiring message we hear at General Conference:

"Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely.  Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly.  Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely....  He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken."

                                                                                                       Dieter F. Uchtdorf (October 2009)

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Once upon a time a nice family went on a nice walk.   

It was a nice day. 

They saw nice views, 

nice geese,

and nice birds. 

Then they saw something strange and wondered what happened to the nice tree...

and to the nice place to sit. 

Then they realized. 

Oh yeah. 

It's just those dam beavers again. 

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