Sunday, August 31, 2008

Thankful For Summer Fun

It has been a fabulous summer, not worrying about what to eat, enjoying a "normal" life. We managed to totally ignore Aspen's illness for three full months! (And it was even doctor's orders) It was restful and we are thankful. So here's our summer in photos...if you've been wondering where we've been and what we've been doing...

It all started with a flurry of activities...Great Grandma R. had surgery (I won't post her picture, she'll probably appreciate that), Ken graduated, Paul had a fun birthday at Bullwinkles...then we went off to Girl Scout camp! Nora, Aspen, Steffi & Cierra outside our yurt at camp.

We went camping as a family at Cascadia. It's a beautiful spot that means a lot to us because the girls were baptized in the river there.

We had lots of visitors this summer...Great Grandma S. came up from California with Aunt Carole, and cousins Suzanne and Bruce visited from SO California. The dad's took the girls on a backpacking trip into the Opal Creek Wilderness and they checkout out some old mines. L to R: Cierra, Hannah, Gretta, Aspen & Sarah

Aspen has taken up photography quite seriously this summer and gets some poignant & well composed photos.

Cierra competed in a Feis in she is all ready to dance. She took a second place medal there and then we stayed with Uncle Danny & Aunt Hillary for a few days. We saw Uncle Dave and his tribe while we were there, as well as Great Aunt & Uncle, Lou and Murray.

All summer the girls have been working on their Girl Scout Bronze Award ...the highest award Junior Girl Scouts can earn. They are collecting donations of items to go in Hope Kits
...toothbrushes, soap, combs, brushes, toothpaste, washcloths, chewing gum and gallon size zip lock help families with basic needs throughout the world in conjunction with Medical Teams International. They have put together almost 50 so far. Photo by Aspen of a home in a garbage dump in Mexico simulated at MTI.

We spent a week at Dorena Lake with Aunt Sherrie, Uncle Mike, Aunt Stephanie, Uncle Blake, Grandma T., and Pop-pop where there was much skiing, tubing, boarding, fishing, reading, crossword puzzling, swimming and rescuing things from the Jake, the Fake Snake in the Lake. Aspen fished, but didn't want to touch her catch that Uncle Mike put back in the lake.

The girls attended Extreme Vacation...Vacation Bible School for Junior High kids. And I helped out at VBS. Then we went up to OHSU and Aspen got the perfect pic of the tram going in the opposite direction. It is a beautiful view from up there. And we met my father, Nathan and his wife, Diane for dinner.

The Girl Scouts also went together on a week long trip to Bend where they made it to the end of the lava tubes among other things.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Normal" Vegans Sometimes Cry In Their Noodles

Today was a big step towards change...went on the vegan shopping trip, tried to get things Aspen loves: split peas, pita pockets for sandwiches, lots of peaches, tiny rice noodles, chocolate soy milk. She had a melt down yesterday afternoon because she thought she was going to have to have a vegan cake for her birthday party. All her friends love it, but she wants something "normal". It was the first time I heard her speak without hope, she said, "I want to have a normal cake because it might be my last birthday." I waited until Ken was up and around to have a meltdown myself. I think I just needed a good cry. We also got word that my great uncle has cancer and is dying. I could use a few dull moments in life right now.

I called the doctor yesterday afternoon to ask more questions. For some reason I didn't just have them all on the tip of my tongue while standing on the side of the highway with a flat tire, four children, roaring traffic and the shock of the news he was delivering. Hope I don't get the chance to work on that skill again! I would like to know to what degree her pancreas has atrophied, if it is consistent with anything he has seen before, if he is sharing her chart with colleagues at other hospitals/universities looking for answers and I will probably have more questions after I read the research from our family friend Mary who got right on the new development...thank you!! The nurse called today to say I won't hear from the doctor until Tuesday due to his schedule and the long weekend. That gives me time to get all my questions questions if you've got them, you may have thought of something I haven't!

The girls are over at a friend's house playing and Ken is at work so after I finished grocery shopping I thought I would treat myself to a noodle bowl at a Vietnamese restaurant by the grocery store. God put a good friend in my path...literally! She walked out of a shop right onto the sidewalk in front of me and she just happened to be headed for Vietnamese by herself too! So I had a wonderful evening catching up, and didn't have to eat alone because I was a little worried about crying in my noodles in public.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Flat Tire & A Flat Pancreas

So we were on our way up into the wild blue yonder...actually we were just a ways outside of Sisters when our tire blew out...not just a little hole...but this huge gaping hole! Well the girls had just gone through a car care badge so we got out the spare, leaned it on the back of the truck as a sign to passing motorists that perhaps the two women and four girls on the side of the road could use a little help. We tried to get the tools out, but the latch on the door was broken...too much wood hauled in the back of the Suburban, never opened before and it rusted after all these years, I don't really know why (the manual didn't show a blow up of the latch). So we tried to flag down another Suburban...aparently having a spare tire and lots of children on the side of the road and waving both arms in the air means, "Please honk and wave". We got lots of honks and waves and smiles to bolster our mood while we tried, but alas, help did not arrive and we had to call Les Schwab to come change the tire. So while we were waiting the phone rang...

It was Aspen's doctor; not the nurse, bad sign. The tumor is exactly the same size, no bigger, no smaller, but her pancreas has started to atrophy. I don't know how withered it is, or how much smaller it is, but her records are being reviewed by a new gastroenterologist who will do a biopsy. She will be put to sleep and they will go down her throat and run a needle through the side of her stomach into the tumor and aspirate some cells. It's kind of low risk (you never really want a hole in your stomach though). It will probably be mid to late September.

I had so much hope that the tumor was gone. I was sure it was our last visit because every time we go we ride the tram and every time Aspen tries to take a picture of the tram car moving in the opposite direction as it passes our tram car. Every time it has been blurry or just part of the car...but this time she got a great picture...mission accomplished!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Off Into the Wild Blue Yonder

We leave in the morning for a wonderful week in Eastern Oregon under (hopefully) beautiful blue skies. It is a Girl Scout camping trip with our little troop, I know the girls will have tons of fun...swimming, hiking, basketball, mini golf, volleyball, canoing, kayaking, shopping, museums, ice cream, roasting s'mores and hot dogs, and even more showers!

So now we just play rearrange the Suburban another time or two to squeeze everything in...girls are not light packers! You've just gotta do your nails in the woods, would it be a camping trip without nail polish?

Ken's idea of a camping trip is to bring as little stuff as possible and see if you can make's tactical, it's MacGyver-ish. My idea of seeing if you can make it is to get in the car and drive to the closest discount store and see if you can afford all the stuff you forgot. Ken is staying home...Girls Only this time so we have to take everything but the kitchen sink!

We didn't hear from Aspen's doctor today, so maybe tomorrow...I don't know if there is phone service there or not but I am sure a message will be waiting when I come home otherwise. Once again God has provided an excellent distraction while we wait!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is Freud Overrated?

I was so distracted by all the thoughts racing through my head...will Ken have a job tomorrow, will Aspen be all right, will I get along with Nathan...that when we went to leave today I almost drove off without Aspen! Her foot was in the car but the door wasn't closed and I started to pull down the driveway and she was yelling "MOM" Ken drove to Portland. Did I subconsciously want to leave her behind to protect her? No, I think I was just way too anxious about the day.

I fidgeted and stretched and did all the little nervous things...tapped my fingers, bounced my legs, ran my fingers through my hair a thousand times, tried to sing the songs on the radio...all the while driving the people around me crazy. We got to the hospital and I suddenly had purpose in my life again for about 10 minutes, but quickly found out they were running WAY behind on the MRIs so we waited over two hours...trying to read, trying to sleep, trying to start a conversation that my mind wasn't on, get up, go to the bathroom and start all over...trying to read, trying to visit, etc, etc.

When we finally got called in they got the IV started almost painlessly and the MRI technician was the best we have ever had so that went really smoothly. All the waiting meant we were also an hour and 15 minutes late for our doctors appointment, but they had called ahead to let them know. We got up to the doctors and the receptionist was just waiting on us to arrive so she could go home, followed by the nurse who checks people in, and the doctor had no other patients other than us so we got right in! Have I mentioned how ridiculously nice they are?

So the verdict is that it's amazing that she has been symptom free all summer despite eating junk for 3 months straight. He believes that if it was anything horrible that she wouldn't be feeling this well. We got the results from the auto-immune disorder blood tests and they are all negative. We are waiting for the MRI results...please be nothing there, please be nothing there...and he opted for no blood work unless he sees the tumor. So, another opportunity for a miracle is knocking on our door, how many opportunities does a person get? That's an interesting thing to consider, it sure seems like we have had a lot!

Dinner with my biological father was really nice. It was uncanny, we walked in the door of the restaurant and the maitre d' knew exactly who was waiting for us without us even saying a word. It seems I have married my father...never mind that I never knew him, he and Ken are twins with the exception of the nose and the age difference. And to think I think Freud is overrated! We got along great and had lots to talk about, it didn't seem awkward at all.

And to top off the evening...Ken still has a job!

What a day, what a day...we are blessed, but I'm in no hurry to have another day like this any time soon.

The Brink of Change...not a bad name for a soap opera

I was just reading my last's been a wild summer since then, I will have to post a recap of all the things that have happened this summer sometime soon. Tomorrow is lining up to be a day of excitement and nervousness.

We are excited to hopefully put this tumor thing behind us and move on with life. We have a doctors appointment, blood work and an MRI tomorrow. They didn't see any tumor in her blood work last after a summer of eating funnel cakes, cotton candy, corn dogs, fettuccine alfredo, hot dogs, elephant ears and every other junk food imaginable, all culminating in a turkey dinner tonight...we are hoping the results are still good and that the MRI shows no tumor. It's back to the vegan life either way though, and I think elephant ears are vegan despite the name.

Following all our fun at the children's hospital we are going to have actual fun... dinner with my real/biological dad, Nathan. I saw him once when I was 14 and before that when I was 3, he has been living in Germany most of my life. The girls have never met him so we are excited, and a little nervous. We will meet his wife Diane for the first time ever too.

Ken was supposed to get the whole day (he works 6pm to 6am so call it what you want) off work, but tomorrow is the day he may be finding out if he has a job or not. So after our day at the hospital and meeting new people Ken has to go in to work to find out his status. We are a little excited and a little will be great either way.

So, we are on the brink of change and there is a whole lot riding on tomorrow...why can't it ride on will be hard to sleep tonight! I know God has a plan for all this craziness, not that I have the slightest clue what it might if you are still checking this and still praying that is wonderful, thank you!!!