Monday, December 15, 2014

A Stop-over in Washington

I know it is almost Christmas and I am just now posting about something that occurred way back in Aug/Sept. I have the normal excuse: I've been busy. But I just had to document this and I knew if I posted anything before I did I would never get back to it.
Be forewarned, there are a TON of pictures here. It was just so hard to decide which to keep and which to pass over!

We arrived at the airport with my sweet mom who flew there with us. I love the excited feeling that always comes with arriving at the Seattle airport. I love the instant feeling of coming home; not only to my childhood home, but also to my Northwest home. The airport has salmon and leaves swirling and swimming around on the floor, the drinking fountains make the sound of a gurgling brook, and almost every shop has a depiction of "the mountain." Charlie insisted on pulling the suitcase all by himself (except up the "big" hills). And once we got home, oh boy! Charlie went into fun mode right away.



 Jane loved it too. She rode happily in the front carrier on our hikes (which was a shock) and loved playing in/eating the sand and water.



She especially enjoyed all the attention from Grandpa and Grandma!
 
 A big bonus of my recent trips home is that I get to see my former roomie Whitney and her girls! I love getting together with her (and what each of the kids are doing in the picture on the right).


Charlie went on his first ferry boat ride. He was both fascinated and apprehensive on the first trip but by the time we re-boarded after a drive around the island he was nothing but excited. It was fun to see the little wheels turn in his head as he figured it all out; the bridge raising and lowering, the tunnel that the cars went in one side and came out the other, and what the various parts of the ship were for as we walked around on it. He walked off on the island end and watched with great interest as the cars drove off.
 

 
Sarah put together a group a couple years back called "hiking with kids." They go on a hike each week or so in the summer to kid friendly trails. The one we joined in on was near a big sandy beach, where the kids happily got covered in sand.
 

The icing on the cake for the whole thing, as far as Charlie was concerned, was the deck construction project going on outside. It is no secret that Charlie is fascinated with all things construction/machine related. He "discussed" the plans with Papa and Uncle Joe, helped frame and pour the concrete supports, helped fill up gas containers, etc etc etc.

Cousin and "Ama" time! Top: Charlie, Grant, and Ben. Bottom left: Jane and Grant. Bottom right: Grandma with Charlie, Grant and Jane.
 
Charlie also LOVED helping with the cutting and stacking of wood. He got quite profecient at operating the wood splitter, loading the wood onto the tractor, helping Joe drive the tractor to the wood pile and unloading the wood. Needless to say, he slept very well each and every night.

Mom and Dad were renovating various areas within the house as well as building the deck (they were having a very busy summer), one of which was the master bathroom. One of the first days we were there, before I had seen the upstairs, Charlie came running down the stairs to tell me with a very concerned expression, that there were "some problems" he wanted to show me. He took me by the hand and urgently led me up the stairs. He led me first to the bathroom where there was a hole where the toilet had once been and told me quite matter of factually that this was the first problem. Without letting go of my hand he took me to where the bathtub had once been. With an even more serious tone he told me "and this is a really BIG problem." Later when I told the story to my mom she said she should call the contractors (who were having difficulty showing up when they should) and tell them that even her 3 year old grandson recognizes that this is a problem!

When my parents built our house they put Liz and Sarah's hand prints and my foot prints in a bit of concrete on the patio. They are still there today, purposely preserved when the patio was redone about 7 years ago. Anyway, we thought that it would be fun to do the same thing with the grand kids. Although it took a bit of coordinating, (the concrete drying, naps, etc) we successfully (more or less) put the kids mark on the platform that will serve as the base of the stairs for the deck.


Hiking and eating blackberries in the woods next to our house.
 
Uncle Joe letting Charlie take the excavator for a spin and Dad mowing thistles the old fashioned way.
 
Charlie serving me up some dinner in the old playhouse that used to be my Grandma's. Her brother, Lyman, built it for his kids and then sent it up the hill from the Puyallup valley it to my grandma to use for her kids. I remember playing in it at her place (just adjacent to our place) as a kid. Later it took another trip up the hill to it's present location, where it was next to the wooden big toy that is sadly not there anymore. It got a paint job back when we painted our house.
 
 
Jane bonding with Uncle Joe after a rough beginning. He gave her an "airplane ride" (i.e. flew her around the room) soon after they met and from that point on she would cry when he got close to her. Until he gave her some watermelon, which she can't resist (something I figured out shortly before this trip). He showed her a piece as she was taking refuge in my shoulder and she quickly snatched it up and then retreated like a cautious little animal. After several of these interchanges she warmed up to him and they were like best buds from that point on.


The Fair! It had been quite some time since I had "done the Puyallup" and I was excited to introduce it to my kids (Charlie had gone once before but he was younger than Jane at the time so he wouldn't remember). We were on the way to let Charlie pick out some taffy (a fair tradition) when he fell asleep, hard.

It was really fun to see him enjoy so many of the same things at the fair that I did as a kid.

This collage isn't just fair pictures but I like all the pictures of the two Charlies.


One of my favorite rides: the Giant Slide! I really wanted to do it with Charlie but was some what worried that he would get scared at the height and decide that he really didn't want to go. Much to my surprise and glee he didn't show any apprehension except for a fleeting gasp at the first drop.

 
The cousins: Jane, Charlie, Ben, Grant.

The best picture of all (except the traditional family pumpkin picture which was tragically lost): Grandma and Grandpa with the grand kids. This one always makes me smile. I am so happy that my kids have these two wonderful people for grandparents.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saying Good-bye to North Carolina

When I first came to North Carolina I had a lot of worries: no "real" mountains or rock climbing or backpacking, about as far away from family as we could get while still being in the country, crazy hot and humid in the summer, didn't know anyone, etc. So much has changed within those three short years. Although no mountains appeared out of nowhere and I never went rock climbing, Keith and I found things that we really enjoyed doing: walking along the beach in the morning calm, walks and bike rides around Lake Johnson, the amazing farmer's market, uncountable waterfalls in the hills, and most of all some treasured friendships. In the end it was really hard to say good-bye. (Well except for the crazy humidity).
 
Last visit to the metabolic clinic.
One of the toughest good-byes (at least for me) was our last visit to Charlie's metabolic clinic. They have taken such good care of Charlie and us. Julie, Charlie's dietician, is wonderful beyond words. She was always available to answer questions, help when we had trouble getting formula, or had concerns and gave great advice about things we hadn't even thought of. Leaving to a new place away from them was hard. The one comforting things is that all of our dieticians we have ever had have been great. Personally I think that all potential dieticians have to go through some sort of "niceness" test. So I am not too worried about who our new dietician will be, but it is always, always, hard to say good-bye to people that are so much more than a doctor to you.

On a similar note (although unfortunately I do not have a picture) I almost cried saying good-bye to Dr. Radtke who has been my neurologist through out my entire seizure ordeal. I was walking out of the room where we had been visiting when I suddenly realized that this was the last time I would ever see him. I am kind of glad that I hadn't had that realization earlier because I don't know if I would have been able to make it through that appointment. He would answer emails that we would frantically send any day of the week asking what we should do now when some medication wasn't working or I was having major side effects, etc. After that final visit he gave me a hug and softly and lovingly whispered "I hope all goes well for you. You have been through a lot." The way he expressed it with genuine care almost brought me to tears.

All the people at Duke took such great care of me; Dr. Friedman my brain surgeon, Eve my midwife, Dr. Peters my neuro-oncologist, Dr. Radtke, and all of the many therapists and nurses that helped me along my difficult path. It made me feel sad and vulnerable to leave all of them behind.


Another thing we miss is the state farmer's market. It was like no other farmer's market I have ever seen; huge, open year long, the variety was amazing and fun local fare like okra, pickled everything (really, everything), etc. Not to mention the most beautiful and cheapest ceramic pots ever. You would have to see it to believe it. Unfortunately we don't live there anymore so I won't be able to show you.

"Our" Lake Johnson is another one. Oh how I miss that place! I took walks there almost everyday. It was my sanity keeper especially while I couldn't drive. Keith and I went boating there on a couple dates. Charlie played there and that is where Keith taught him to skip rocks on the water. It is the place where I felt the most "normal" after my surgery. It was relaxing and I always felt peaceful there. My thoughts were clearer, I felt more confidence in facing the day and my body felt stronger after walking/running there. But most of all I miss walking with my friends there. I miss the conversations we had and watching our kids play together. It was terribly hard to take that last walk around it, knowing that I would never do it again and that there would be nothing even comparable to it in Fargo.


Of course the friends we made were the hardest to leave. I couldn't say enough about our dear friends so I won't try, except to say that they were the jewels of our life there, as true friends always are.

Johannah, for instance, gave me the privilege of watching her son Jack who is the same age as Charlie. They quickly become great friends and it was truly a delight to watch them play together. I don't think Charlie understood what was happening when we said good-bye to them for the last time, but I did and it broke my heart to know that Charlie would never see his dear friend again.

Shortly before we left Johannah took me kayaking out on Lake Johnson. It was the freest I had ever felt since the seizures started. Seriously. I don't think she knows that gave me so much more than a ride in her kayak. It was the first time that I felt like my old self again; the self that at times I thought would never come back to me. After my ride I came back and picked up Charlie. He doesn't look like it in the picture, but he loved it. He peppered me with questions about the big pipe under the bridge and how the house on the pier stayed on the water.


The Fergusons and Flores' are also friends that we still miss very much. They had been my walking companions and as a result we became good friends. I know that Emily was the answer to the many prayers that I offered while in St. Louis and was scared of moving to yet another place where I knew no one. We met the first week we were there and quickly became very good friends. Our boys all became friends too as they played together on play dates and when we did babysitting swaps. While I took the picture on the right, Charlie said "I will miss you Thomas." Oh how it broke my heart! I don't know which was the more difficult: saying good-bye to our dear friends or knowing that we were taking Charlie away from his friends and he couldn't understand why or what was even happening.

These are just a few of the people we miss and were dear friends that we still think about and miss. Looking back I realize that the list goes on and on. One of the blessings of the seizures that I see in hindsight, is that it brought me in contact with many more people than I would have reached out to without being in that situation.

During this time, and before we left North Carolina for good we "house sat" for Keith's adviser and her family as they spent a month in Morocco where her husband is from. They have an extensive garden and Charlie was my big helper (and at times my not so big helper) in taking care of it.

When we weren't working Charlie would cool off in the wading pool or go inside to build long train tracks that wound their way under chairs and around table legs. That third picture I just had to throw in somewhere because I love how intently lobster Charlie is examining his pizza.

Boxing up the apartment and then a celebratory lunch (and lemon) before beginning the cleaning.
And then whoosh! We packed up and were headed off on to the next chapter in our lives and new adventures!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

PhD: check!



WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The day we have been anticipating for the last 3 years (or more) has come and gone! Keith passed his dissertation defense without any strings attached. The presentation part was open to the public so I went. It was really hard for me to stay in my seat and clap politely instead of whooping and hollering. After that everyone except for his committe members left and he spent the next three hours answering any questions they thought he should know the answer to. Then he called to say he had passed without any "as long as you fix this on your dissertation" attached to it.
I am sooooooo very excited to be able to spend more time together as a family and as a couple. For the last few months the norm was Keith got home from work, greeted us briefly, went to work in the office, came out for dinner and usually would play with the kids for awhile before we got them ready for bed. After which he went back to working in the office until some where between 1 or 3am. That was not everyday, but that is how it went most days. So can you see why I am so thrilled that we are done?


Keith with his committee. I am not going to try to give the names of they three other guys in the picture, but the lovely lady in green is his wonderful adviser who has been a gem with all that has been thrown at us. His whole committee has been. [Keith's addition. From left to right: Paul Murphy, Keith (obviously), Ross Whetten, Gina Brown-Guedira, and Spencer Muse]
To celebrate we went out to dinner with my mom (who came into town a few days earlier for the soul purpose to fly back with me and the kids to prevent major seizures again). It still seems a bit surreal. I am in Washington now with my family and will go visit Keith's parents after that and then fly to Fargo ND. Keith is taking a road trip with his brother Shawn and will get to Fargo in about a week. It is crazy how after planning so long for something it happens in what seems like a blink of an eye. So here we go!

P.S. I know we have said this before, but it can't really be said enough; we would not be here with out all the friends and family who helped us. We truly would not have done this by this time without all the prayers, fasting, visits by family, friends and ward members who helped me when I needed it most and allowed Keith to go to work with the peace of mind that I would be okay. For all the meals, babysitting, calls, texts, offers to help, and support in general, we thank you. Most of all, I thank Heavenly Father for sending his angels, on earth and in heaven, when we needed them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Charlie Says/Does the Darndest Things



This kid cracks me up with some of the stuff he says. Here is a short list of some of the good ones. (Sorry if you have heard some of these already).

-Keith went into get him up one morning and Charlie said "I hear the magical sound of things out there! It's amazing!" (He was referring to this song. In case you were wondering.)

-At dinner he sang to each of his green beans the same song as above.

-During family prayer, one night, he reached over and folded Jane's hands. Then holding them in one hand he reached over to Keith and held his hand in the other.

-Hearing Jane cry in the other room he said: "she just needed to fuss about it."

-Charlie: "I kind of have some problems going on."
Me: "What kind of problems?"
Charlie: "Well that storm last night woke me up."

-"Don't forget... I'm special."

-Upon stepping out of the airport in Fargo he sadly said: "My face is cold."

-During breakfast:
Charlie: "My mouth is full."
Me: "Yep."
Charlie: "And your mouth is full."
Me: "Uh huh."
Charlie: "So me and you can't talk."
M: (Post swallowing) "That's right."
Charlie: "Mommy?"
Me: "Yes Charlie?"
Charlie: "Don't talk!!!"

-During dinner:
"Mommy! Your burrito is a steam roller! But you can eat it if you want because it is made out of food."

-In the car:
Charlie: "Mommy! I shared my booger with Baby Jane!"
Me: "What!?! Is it on her finger?"
Charlie: "No. She ate it."

-Charlie: "We should demolish our house."
Me: "Why?"
Charlie: "Because we don't need it anymore."
Me: "Where would we live?"
Charlie: "In a new house. With a backyard."

-Charlie: "I am kind of having a rough day."
Me: "Why?"
Charlie: "I have been eating a lot of food."

-Me: "I love you Charlie Boy."
Charlie: "I love you Mommy Boy."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

6 Months!

 

This little darling is 6 months old! (well really 7 now, but who's counting...) Time really does fly when you're having fun and are really busy. We love her to pieces and are so grateful that she was sent to us!

Here is a little bit about what she is up to now...

She is sitting up! Which she thinks is just about the best thing ever. She used to love being on her back but not now! She hates it when she tips over.

The exception to the rule is if she falls down on the grass. She loves that! Although she still doesn't like it if we put her on her tummy, she is okay with it if she tips over and ends up on her tummy by herself. The result is that she gets a lot more tummy time than before and is getting quite good at it.

This is how we found her when we had sat her up on the floor and then got busy getting Charlie's lunch ready after church.
One of the benefits to being the second child is that she sleeps through almost anything.


She absolutely loves her tongue. She sticks it out and plays with it all the time. Another thing she does with her mouth is chew. On everything. As I write this she is next to me chewing on the table.

She also loves to smile and laugh, and the one who makes her laugh most is her older brother. She loves to watch him from the moment he enters the room. He recognizes her attention so he hams it up for her. He's usually pretty good with her but gets a bit rough at times. We have been trying to explain that he can't rough house with her, but he doesn't seem to really get the concept or the fact that he can't carry her around by himself.

Despite all that she loves him and Charlie says that Jane is his "best friend."

At times it gets a bit crazy having two kids (I know, all of you with three or more kids are thinking "you have no idea") but we are so happy and wouldn't change it for the world.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One Year

Today (Earth Day, of all days) marks one year from that first Grand-Mal seizure and the diagnosis of the tumor. Although we still have struggles we have come a long way since then. So today we celebrate not the first seizure, but all the progress since then and the many angels (on earth and in Heaven) that have aided us this year; the hardest year of my life.

I am so grateful for Keith who always made me feel like we were in this together. He gave me a shoulder to cry on every time I needed it (which was a lot). I am thankful for my two wonderful children who gave me a reason to keep going. Especially for Charlie who, although he was scared each time I had a seizure, would hold my hand during it and was always helpful and caring after it.


I also want to thank my extended family who supported me by long visits when I needed them most and gave their support and encouragement. Also, thanks to my many wonderful doctors who gave me wonderful care all along the way and those who are still caring for me. My ward was great with arranging play-dates, bringing meals, offering rides and just encouraging me. I have dear friends that have come and stayed with me, taken me to get pedicures (quite the treat), driven me places, sent sweet cards and letters and gave me the best birthday week ever.

I also thank my Heavenly Father who sent me little blessing when I needed them, to show me He cared. For instance, when I came home from the hospital and was really discouraged and overwhelmed at the diagnosis, I saw three new birds come to my feeder in less than a week. It is really strange that in such a short time three new birds would visit my feeder after having it up for two years. I haven't seen them anywhere else since then. That may not seem like a big deal to most, but to me it was a tender mercy showing that He was aware of what I was facing and He loves me personally. I am really overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love that has been shown to me.

This past year I have gone from having an average of 16 seizures every day to now one every week or so. That is a huge relief and serious progress. This past year I have had eight Gran-Mal seizures, one sweet baby, several MRIs, tried four different anti-covulsant medications (without much success) and one brain surgery. That is a lot for one year and I desperately hope that it will never be repeated.

Here's to a better year and a brighter future.

Monday, April 14, 2014

If I Can't Control My Hair, How Can I Control My Life?

Right after a bath it is looking pretty cute and nice. (Pictured here with cousin Grant who is only a week older than her and doesn't have her same hair issues.) A post about that delightful visit is hopefully coming soon... Anyway, back to the hair.

She is pretty excited about it too.

It slowly but steadily gets crazier from there.



We try a bow now and again as a desperate attempt to improve it a bit. Does it work?

Don't answer that.

 
 

 

 
Even though her hair is a bit (or a lot) unmanageable, she is still a cutie.