Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Glimpse at Childhood Cancer

Starting tomorrow, the color pink will begin popping up everywhere in honor of breast cancer awareness month.   Breast cancer is a disease that is disfiguring and all too common, but I would be remiss if I didn't, on this last day of September, take a moment and tell you about a month that gets a whole lot less attention.   

September is childhood cancer awareness month.   

And my guess is that you haven't heard much about it.   I am fully aware that no one likes to think about children getting cancer and that it's far easier to turn our heads when we see pictures of those bald heads than to recognize that funding for childhood cancer research is paltry….a mere 5% of federal funding.   Most of the big cancer foundations only earmark a very small percentage for children and as a result, these young children get cancer treatments geared for adults.  The treatments are toxic enough that over 2/3 of childhood cancer survivors are left with long-term health issues. 

  While many adult cancers are caused by a lifetime of accumulated toxins, these kids' suffering is caused by nothing more than bad luck.    

Their families, their  interests, and their very lives are overnight  sucked into a vortex of blood tests, surgeries, hospital stays, and fighting for their lives every single hour of every single day.    
They are stir-crazy, sick, exhausted, and scared. 

And don't forget the families.  

Their lives get put on hold too, while they help their child engage in the battle for their lives.  Routines get turned upside down, other children's needs get pushed aside, and they too are exhausted and fearful of what the future will hold.

So what can you do?   

First and foremost, you can make an immediate difference in the life of someone you know who has a child who is suffering.   The number of hours of service in meals cooked, in visits, and in help with daily tasks  that we were given over the course of Spencer's treatment is mind-boggling.  We simply couldn't have done it without our friends' and loved ones' support!     Don't just say you're there to help….find a way and do it! 

You can also donate to a reputable childhood cancer foundation.  

You can sign up to be a bone marrow donor
 It's an important, life-saving treatment for many types of cancer, including the type of leukemia that Spencer had (AML).   Unfortunately many people do not have a bone marrow match within their family. It sounds intense, but it's not actually not as bad as you'd think.   It's NOT a surgical procedure and most people are only out for a day or two after the extraction is made.    

This last option is clearly not for everyone, but you could also become a doctor, nurse, or researcher that makes a difference in the lives of these young cancer patients or helps find a cure.    
I cannot thank those medical professionals and researchers enough for the difference they made in our son's life.   Fifty years ago, he would have had zero chance for survival.    Today even, far too many people die from it, in fact we've had two friends relapse with AML just within the last month.   It's too many!

September is almost over, but it's not too late!  

Together, we can make a difference in the fight against childhood cancer! 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Top 5 Signs You're Not Getting Enough Sleep

5.  The kids know that mommy read aloud time is actually mommy-fall-asleep-on-the-couch-time and kid-play-time. 

4.  United tries to charge you extra baggage fees for the bags under your eyes 

3.  Staying up for a kid that has a late babysitting job  is certifiable torture.

2.  In order to stay alert for drives of over 15 minutes in length, you have to break out the caffeinated beverages and munchies.  

1.   Sometimes it just takes too much energy to make that  extra step of opening the door to get inside the house.  

All of these, er, most of these anyway, are completely normal events in our house when early morning seminary, with its wake-up time of 5:00am, is back in session.    And lest you worry too much about Cami being so tired she sacked  out on the front step…this was a one-time occurrence that happened because she forgot her keys.   Her being tired enough that she could fall asleep on the front step, however, is not an anomaly!  


Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Day in Olde Yorktowne

I don't consider myself much of  a history buff, but I do find delving into history with the kids somewhat more interesting than I ever did when I was in school.   That interest increases significantly  when we can visit some of the places that we're  learning about.  We are doing American History this year in our homeschool,  which means that we can take a bajillion  relevant field trips without driving too far from home. It's one of the joys of living in this neck of the woods…we are surrounded by places of historical significance! 

Our first big field trip of the year was last week to the Williamsburg area to take advantage of their reduced admission rates for homeschoolers in September.   We left last Tuesday morning and headed straight for a tour at the Yorktown Victory Center.  Situated right on the banks of the York River, Yorktown is best known for being the place where the British surrendered to colonists in the final battle of the Revolutionary War.  

We got to see up close and personal what a Revolutionary War encampment was like.  It was humbling to learn how meager their supplies were, how the soldiers' pay often didn't come through,  and how up to six soldiers slept in one of these tents.   

 It is crazy to think of the odds the Americans were up against trying to fight and gain their independence from the most powerful military power in the world.  There's no other way in my mind to reconcile the US's victory over Great Britain, other than it was God's will to establish a land of freedom, equality, and justice.

George Washington, like the other Founding Fathers, is an inspiration of bravery and sacrifice for the greater good.     

We watched several reenactments (one of which Ellie assisted with) and were surprised at the noise just one musket or one tin foil cannon ball made.   I can't imagine how deafening the battlefield must have been!

This encampment oven was pretty cool to see.   They didn't often have enough to eat, but my guess is that cooking it in here at least made it taste a little better.

Our tour guide  showed us some of the medical supplies that were used in that era.  Yikes!   I am grateful to live an era of modern medicine!

We also got a glimpse of the average Revolutionary War era farm and the way they preserved their foods using salt or the sun.   

If you visit Yorktown in a couple of months, try to eat a carrot there.   
My guess is that it will be an extra crunchy and flavorful carrot, in which case you can thank my kids who helped plant them with great skill.   If, on the off chance,  the carrot ends up floppy and tasteless, just keep in mind that there were other kids there helping too. ;) 

It was a great way to kick off our year of American History.  

I am grateful to live in a place close enough that we can visit many of the  sites that I only read about in my history books!    It's fascinating to see the the past come to life and to see a small glimpse of the legacy of hard work and passion for liberty that our forefathers (and mothers) have bestowed upon us.   

Stay tuned for more about our American History field trip coming soon!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Best Sunday of All

Today was my favorite Sunday of the year!

No, I didn't transport myself back to vacation.   Or skip church to eat bonbons!

It's the Sunday when all the boring adults got to take a back seat and let the kids do the entertaining gospel teaching during church!   It was our ward's annual primary program and literally the kids did almost everything in sacrament meeting.   They gave the talks, shared how they were living  the gospel, and best of all did all the singing too.  I've always had a soft spot in my heart for children singing and I would love nothing more than to  make the entire primary  bonafide members of the ward choir.   My favorite was their rendition of "The Family is of God".   I also liked "Follow the Prophet" where  Ellie sang this verse as a solo and Adam held up a picture of Adam and Eve during the first verse.

It was a great program that was filled the usual giggle inducing moments, like the kid who kept holding his off-key notes louder and longer than everyone else.  And the other kid who bragged about his dad keeping him away from dangerous things--like bears.   And the little girl who  kept kissing and snuggling up to the boy in front of her.

This year's primary program was extra special for Glen, because up until a few weeks ago he was the primary chorister.  He was absolutely glowing while watching the children sing.   Thanks to his excellent instruction, the kids knew all the words and totally rocked the songs.

After that extra-cute start to church, lucky me, I got to experience more cuteness in Young Women!   My Laurels (and all of the YW) are beautiful and stalwart and a joy to work with each week.   I also love our new Laurel adviser,  Sister W., who is a fun, energetic, and  fantastic teacher.   I feel inspired leaving her lessons and I love watching the girls respond to her humor and sometimes unconventional teaching methods (like having the girls relax on the floor while discussing about the Sabbath).  
I also couldn't help but giggle when Sis. W's husband  interrupted the lesson and brought her a Slurpee, which they had bought the night before and frozen.   It was the perfect comedic relief while talking about keeping the Sabbath day holy.   

Now I am enjoying a quiet afternoon while Ellie, Adam, and Emma play "Ticket To Ride " with Glen and Cami is playing the cello in the basement.  

I love Sundays and the time I get to renew my body and spirit!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Feeling Groovy!

 I just found this draft of a blogpost in my archives and decided that it was a gem that needed to be published.  If nothing else, it has a couple of pretty cute pictures of our family  that I don't want to lose in the depths of our computer files.

From Summer 2013:

As per a long-standing summer tradition at our house, we recently got our groove on and tie-dyed our own shirts!

It's a fun tradition where everyone enjoys the process as much as the finished product.  

These pictures remind me of this quote from Pres. Uchtdorf:  
"In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time."

It is becoming a rare occasion when our family is all together and I treasure these moments, simple though they may be,  when they do  happen.  

I sure love our family!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dirty Look Contest

You probably didn't know this about our family, but we just so happen to all be very gifted in the 'giving dirty looks' department.   

It's a talent that we often keep hidden when we are around other people, but today we are officially unburying this talent and sharing it with all of you.   I'd like to say that the reason for revealing this great talent to you today is for selfless purposes of trying to scare bad guys and grizzlies away, but in reality it's because I am prideful and need some reassurance that I still have the title of Dirty Look Queen.  I need to know that my kids still get the "Hey!  Yes, I'm talking to you buster!" vibe when they see my serious face.  

So here are the contestants.  You be the judge.  

Contestant #1 with the "I'm annoyed at the whole world, especially my mom" look

Contestant #2 with the "Who dares to interrupt my fishing to take a stinking picture?" look

Contestant #3 with the "How can everyone in the entire universe have caught a fish today except me?" look

Contestant #4 with the "I'm not really annoyed, so I'll just put on my cute pose and look fake annoyed" look

Contestant #5 with the "Huh?" look

Contestant #6 with the "You did say 'dirty', right?"

So maybe I lied.  
I didn't even show you my real dirty look, because I didn't want to frighten you with its fierceness, but suffice it to say that no grizzlies will be visiting our house anytime soon and Ellie's "dirty" look definitely trumps all of the rest of ours! 


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Elements of a Great Weekend

What are the elements of a great weekend?     

1.  Some good old-fashioned hard work
Saturday morning we participated in a "Day to Serve" service project with our ward where we helped build fences at Claude Moore Colonial Farm (a local historic site)

2.  Some great food
Saturday evening I canned two batches of homemade blackberry jam from blackberries we'd picked fresh on Labor Day.  

 Then, so we could have something worthy of slathering homemade jam onto,  I made five loaves of homemade bread with freshly ground whole wheat flour.

Then on Sunday we made our own version of Cava's Greek salad with lemon tahini dressing and freshly made pita bread.    It was absolutely delicious and I  delighted listening to my children chat about the merits of tzatziki sauce and what kinds of hummus that they preferred.   I had never even heard of hummus until about 10-years ago! 

3.  VISITORS!!!!
My brother Tim visited us last weekend….a fact which made the nieces, nephews, and siblings all very happy!  We miss him and hope he'll come back soon! 

4.  A field trip somewhere cool
In this case it was Daddy's office!  The office was deserted because it was Saturday, but the  kids loved  being there in Daddy's lair and decorating his whiteboards for him!  

In other words, we've had a couple of great weekends around here! 
And based on the fact that our wake-up time all week is now more than two whole hours earlier than it's been all summer,  some great weekends are exactly what we need to warm up to this new school year!


Sunday, September 7, 2014


What do you get when you cross a hungry college boy with empty cupboards
and a homeschooling mama with Fridays set aside as field trip day?

You get a spontaneous family trek to Harrisonburg to surprise Spence.   

He didn't know we were coming, but I daresay that, despite us interrupting his afternoon plans,  he was pleased when I told him that our mission was solely to take him  grocery shopping and out to dinner.   

We loved being able to spend the afternoon with him and his girlfriend Erin
and I loved knowing that,  although I can't cook homemade food for him while he's away, that at least his cupboards are now properly full!  

We stopped at our favorite H-burg pet store on the way out of town
and eventually arrived back home satisfied that our mission to prevent a case of no-money-college- onset-malnutrition in Spence was properly satisfied!

We love you Spence!


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