One Big Adventure
An opportunity to log in some of the thoughts and activities of our homeschooling family of eight. We love books and good food and aspire to a Christ-centered, multi-generational, agrarian life.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ignorance is bliss

Yesterday we went to Macon for local counts. Today I talked with our regular oncology nurse. She told me James' counts for this week--Hgb, 10.7; Platelets, over 700K; ANC, ~900... Then she said there were no blasts (baby leukemia cells). I thought that was really weird. Of course there were no blasts, there haven't been any since...well, since the fourth week of treatment, March 2007.

I don't remember what I said in response now, but Lauren went on to ask if I knew that James' counts from last week showed three blasts. That is why they wanted me to get him checked again so soon. I was too tired to ask why last week, so I just 'went along'. I got the call from a new-to-me nurse, since our regular nurse was out of town last week. I think that must have been Providence. In some ways, I wish I would have known. It might be revealing to see how I would actually respond to that kind of news...and then again, maybe the Lord just knew I didn't need to add that to my plate last week and that He would take care of it.

Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Puttin'up apples

Right down the road from my mom's is an apple orchard. They have all kinds of apples. At harvest time, they can be bought for $16 a bushel...which is between .33 and .38 per pound. So my mom picked some up for us and she and my dad came for a visit. And to deliver apples!

We learned from an experienced apple saucer in Minnesota that if one wishes to eliminate the risks of burning applesauce, cooking it down in the oven is the way to go!

We canned 31 quarts of applesauce, froze 16 qts of cut up apples for pies and crisps and dried 6-1/2 gallons of apple slices from four bushels. We have 2-1/2 more bushels to put up yet.

It's great to have home preserved foods in the pantry.
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A life courageously lived

David North passed from this life peacefully last week. We had the privilege of being at his Celebration of Life on Sunday and I am very much looking forward to meeting David in Heaven one day. In the meantime, please pray for his sweet family (mom, dad, 6 sibs and 2 sibs-in-law, plus grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles) as they heal not just from losing David, but from the inevitable scars that come from fighting a chronic illness with a loved family member for five years.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Can you say "Mack truck"?

Yesterday, I woke up feeling pretty crummy. Not as bad as when we had the flu back in January, but close. I'm already feeling some better, but definitely not back up to full speed. I slept and rested a lot yesterday, which allowed me plenty of opportunity to pray for friends.

David North is experiencing great difficulty breathing and doctors have told his family to expect his homegoing soon. He has decided he no longer wishes to be intubated and placed on ventilator, but just kept comfortable. I know his mom would covet your prayers for David and their family.

Hannah Cate and her family would appreciate prayers for a number of situations in their family including the 'night watch' which has been difficult lately, Hannah Cate's continuing treatment for leukemia, and some other family needs that God knows.

Hope you are well and enjoying the arrival of fall...and sometimes winter?... would love to hear from you!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A funny thing

Today we took two pounds of jalapeno peppers we harvested from our garden and made nearly 100 Jalapeno Poppers. We had read several stories about the importance of wearing gloves while seeding jalapeno peppers and so we heeded that advice.

After seeding the peppers, we saved them in a small bowl to rinse them off in the sink before proceeding with the next recipe step. When I rinsed the peppers, I was looking intently to be sure I rinsed away ALL the seeds. Then I felt a vapor come over my face and inside my nose and the back of my throat began to burn.

The really weird thing is that I then got laryngitis. Now my voice is pretty much gone.

Never heard of that one before!

The popper recipe turned out pretty well... We found that one recipe of filling actually stuffs two pounds of jalapenos. It's worth the extra effort for triple dipping, but we thought the peppers were a little too crunchy. To test: 1)will freezing and warming the poppers in the oven sufficiently soften the peppers?; or 2) should we blanch the peppers before filling?

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hannah is 15

On the 18th, Hannah, our second born, turned 15. I am not feeling any older than I already was, thank you.

One of our family traditions is food for birthdays. Hannah started out asking for something simple. I think she was trying to make it easy on us, which was very thoughtful of her. But, we wanted to bless after some encouragement and a little arm-twisting, she came up with this menu.

Hor's deurves: stuffed potato skins (home-made from skins in the freezer saved from roast garlic mashed potatoes), fried eggplant, mozzarella cheese sticks (saved the the freezer from last Christmas Eve), marinara sauce, our favorite (and easy) hot artichoke dip with sour dough bread (from the discount bread rack at Wal-mart) and stuffed mushrooms.

To drink: grape juice in wine glasses.

and a tablecloth to wipe the chin.
Another favorite: Nona salad--my mom's recipe. (Leaf and romaine lettuce, tomato, avocado (only California Haas will do), sunflower seeds (roasted and salted are best), olive oil, salad or tarragon vinegar, garlic salt and pepper).

The main course: Shrimp Scampi and Asparagus

The birthday dessert: Chocolate torte

James loves candles and Hannah very sweetly suggested we re-light them so he could have a whole turn himself.

The birthday girl serves up.

Friday, September 26, 2008

56 weeks to go

Yesterday, James, Hannah and I drove to Atlanta to see James' oncologist and GI doctor. While we always prefer to be home, it was a good drive and a good day.

First, we saw Dr. Keller and the clinic folks. Since this was just a visit and James had no procedure, he was a busy little guy and all his fans and followers were thrilled to see his shining personality sauntering around the hallways. They're always excited about hair, since so many of the children there are without--or it's quite short.

Dr. Keller said he had just counted this morning and James has 56 weeks of treatment left. That means he's finished 74 of 130 weeks. We all hope we are on the downhill side!

We talked about James pull-through surgery--that's what they call it when they put the intestines all back together again. Dr. Keller wants us to wait until chemo is all done to make sure chemo doesn't hinder James healing. That is fine. It is nice to think about the timing.

Dr. Keller couldn't get over how great James looks--he's come a long way since we first met.

After James' scheduled appointment, we went over to the hospital side to see a couple of our favorite nurses.

Then we saw James' GI doctor--who also thought James looked great!--and talked a little more about James' pull-through surgery. Those 56 weeks could go by before we know it--they certainly have before!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

James' ears

On Monday, James had a minor surgical procedure to insert tubes into he ears.

He has never had an ear infection, but his new ENT doctor said he had fluid behind his ears and that is never a good thing for someone with hearing loss.

As James' pediatrician said at his pre-op exam last week, "There really isn't any minor surgery." Of course that has to do with anesthesia. James is always considered a special case because of his Down syndrome. He has never had any unusual trouble with anesthesia, for which we are grateful.

Even with so-called minor procedures, we lose at least three days. One for all the pre-op appointments, a day for the surgery--because getting up early and going under anesthesia will wipe out a boy, his sister and his mom..and make a boy really needy--and another day for the post-op/follow-up stuff.

I'm not complaining. I'm just saying.

Today, James is pretty much back to normal. I think he is already hearing just a tad better. Next week we go for followup appointments and hopefully for new hearing aid molds and a hearing test.

Monday, September 22, 2008

War movies

In an earlier post, I mentioned that we like to watch Hopalong Cassidy.
The children are also fond of some of the olderwar movies too. Like Sergeant York and some of the Errol Flynn movies.
Can you tell?

I love that little boy...and his brother and sisters too!
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fried eggplant

Our eggplant in the garden have been incredibly productive this year. It's a good thing we like eggplant!

In preparation for Hannah's birthday celebration, we made fried eggplant.

Eggplant in the garden basket. This is a Japanese eggplant. I had wanted to get seeds for the bigger Italian eggplant, but they weren't available when I needed them. In the end, we were glad for the smaller just takes more.

Slice 1/2" thick.

Dip in milk, then in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper.

Dip in egg, then seasoned breadcrumbs. We made ours.

Fry in oil. Drain on paper towel. Salt, if desired. Serve on a platter with Marinara Sauce and pretend you are at the Olive Garden--only it's better and cheaper! :*)

We will freeze some to have on hand for 'special meals' as an appetizer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Homeschool blessings

Carrie and I have a running game we play with her school work.

It is simple stuff. Practical and innocent. It is a kindergarten curriculum created by Rod and Staff, the Mennonite publisher. There are no modern cartoon characters, but plenty of things Carrie sees everyday.

Like chickens.

I am glad there is such a sweet curriculum I can use when my children are small. But my favorite part is the love notes we write on each page.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Katie's first bread braid

Last week, Katie was looking for something special to make for Sunday morning breakfast. It tasted just as good as it looks! She decided though that the next time, she would do some sort of wash to make it shiny and more golden.

Friday, September 5, 2008

YOYO* lunch

When we plan on a YOYO meal, it means You're On Your Own. Usually YOYOs are for Sunday night. I make popcorn and if anyone is hungrier than that, they either band together and make something or they look for leftovers or something easy.

Last week at lunch time, cooked rice, steamed veggies and shredded cheese were all set up, real purty. James must have decided we weren't serving fast enough, so he did his own version of YOYO!

What a boy!
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Lookout Hoppy!, 2

We figured out that no one, including us, could see the Hoppy pictures... so here they are again.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Noah's Ark

We are really enjoying our new history curriculum. Each four week unit ends with individual or small group projects to explore the knowledge gained from the unit or to deepen knowledge in a particular area.

Katie and Owen are working together to build a model of Noah's ark.

Below is 'Noah' perched on Katie's finger:

They are building all of this to scale. One-quarter inch per cubit. Noah is six feet tall. You can see Noah standing on the table in front of the ark below. Kind of puts some things in perspective. Nothing like the nursery wall 'arks' :*)...

I think they are planning to add a few more details to demonstrate perspective.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

A long time ago, when I was still single, I went to a little concert at a church. I think the folks who sang were Steve and Annie Chapman and their two children. But I am not sure.

The most memorable part of the evening for me was when Annie told the story of growing up on a dairy farm. I don't remember all the story actually. What I do remember is her telling about how her dad kept them all very busy. She said that on Labor Day every year her dad would celebrate by cleaning out and scrubbing and whitewashing EVERYTHING on the farm. He thought that to celebrate Labor Day they should LABOR!

Today to celebrate Labor Day, we worked around the homestead here. Catching up on things we haven't had time for since we started back to the academic part of school and Vern started back to work. Vern and Owen did some extra outside things--grading, cleaning up the line so we can, hopefully, think more about fencing, burning piles of brush. The girls and I did some extra inside things.

We didn't get everything scrubbed and whitewashed.

What did you do for Labor Day?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Country living

Tomorrow Vern and Owen are planning to do some burning and work on re-clearing the line, Lord willing. A bulldozer comes in handy for that kind of work. Especially when you can borrow it from a neighbor. In order to save time, Owen and I walked over to the neighbor's to pick up the bulldozer this afternoon. The walk over was reasonable. The walk and ride back took more than twice as long.

When we picked up the 'dozer, we also picked up Owen's tricycle--Carrie has been asking for it. The tricycle rode back in the bulldozer bucket.

On the way home, our neighbor, Quincy, stopped us and said, "That's a mighty expensive piece of equipment to use to carry a tricycle."

Lookout Hoppy!

The children are big fans of Hopalong Cassidy. James loves to imitate him and the rest of the children (especially Owen, Becca and Carrie) love to play along. Mrs. Julie brought these toy guns--she works at Salvation Army and when toy guns are donated, they can't sell them. (No, I don't know if that is just their store or if it is a nationwide policy).
At any rate, the photos below are of Hoppy-inspired activities around here recently.

Life around here-a visual

Back in July, our neighbor loaned us her spare camera. The children went crazy taking pictures of life and things around our little homestead.

Yesterday, I was finally able to upload some test photos to Picasa--our online photo sharing server. So I uploaded the photos the children took into an album for your viewing pleasure.

You can see them here if you like.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Home, glorious home

Okay, so that's not how it's supposed to go. But we have been home ALL week this week and it has been wonderful! No doctor's appointments, no trips to town, no grocery stores, no Wal-mart runs. No extra gas. No unnecessary shopping.

And I'm starting to catch back up with myself. Did I mentioned how excited I am to be home all week?


Here are some for fun photos from the past month or two, since I haven't put any up. Hope to do more.

In our room, we have a mirror that is about my hip level. In Minnesota, we hung it in the mud room, but I don't have a place there. I remembered seeing at Mommylife that Barbara Curtis (mom to 12, including 4 with Down syndrome) hung pictures and mirrors down low for her littles. So we thought we would try this for James. He loves it!

Grandparents now hang just above the mirror and I am keeping my eyes out for other things that would be suitable to 'hang low'.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where we worship

Tonight I was looking at a few friends blogs and I found this post by Daniel with photos of our church home. If you're interested in knowing where we worship, take a peek!

Friday, August 22, 2008

We made it! Praise the Lord!

Well, James made it! We are rejoicing here by enjoying our regular Friday Night Pizza and movie.

James got his last dose of steroids yesterday morning, but he is still steroid-hungry. That is certainly a silver lining to the steroid thing!

Today he has eaten:

1-1/2 home-canned peaches
1/2 c. scrambled eggs
8 oz. orange juice (EIGHT OUNCES--this is a Hallelujah Record!)

TWO bananas
1 piece of celery (a first!)

1/2 homemade pieroshky with gravy
1-3/4 c. homemade yogurt (plain, with honey)
4 oz. orange juice

one of those yucky frozen-pops-in-a-bag-thing-ies :*)
a piece of bacon

5 more oz. orange juice
1/2 peach (picked off a piece of peach pizza)
a whole piece of homemade double crust pizza, stuffed with onions, tomatoes, a little bacon with cheese on top minus the crust

about 3/4 cup of Breyer's chocolate chip ice cream

I think this is a whole record day for James eating...

Truly the most amazing part of this steroid/g-tube time is that his site was a little tender this last Thursday when we got vincristine and started steroids. Yesterday, his site looked better than it has looked in about a month and James was no longer wincing every time we touched it!

To God be the glory! Thanks for praying!

Monday, August 18, 2008

James on steroids

James' little face is starting to puff and his appetite is increasing. He ate like a little piggie today and we are so thrilled. The more he eats and drinks, the less we need to use his g-tube for feeding and fluids, the less we use his g-tube, the less of an issue the pressure on the g-tube site to cause erosion! So far, his g-tube looks pretty good from the outside.

Today James ate:
a little bit of apple juice
1/8 cup ice cream to help the morning meds go down

1 quesadilla
4 peach halves
3/4 cup chocolate ice cream

2 T. pulled pork with barbecue sauce
3/8 cup corn with butter, salt
2 oz. herb iced tea
1-1/4 cup yogurt/jello parfait
generous 1/2 cup chocolate ice cream

He would have eaten more ice cream but we need to save some for the rest of the week!

Thanks for praying with us. Please don't stop. And let's give the glory to the Lord.

Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.

Psalm 50:15

Friday, August 15, 2008

A couple of prayer requests

Yesterday, James got his 'hard chemo'. It isn't hard to get (although he does have to get stuck for it), but it is hard on his little body. So are the steroids he takes for the week following.

If there will be any difficulties with this round of chemo, we wont' see them until next week sometime (Mon-Wed, more than likely). Please pray that God's will would be done... and if it is at all possible within that, that we could stay home again and James would have no difficulties. Wisdom to help in that would be good too!

We also have a cancer friend (actually I know his mom from the hospital), David North. He has suffered much since his second Bone Marrow Transplant in April 2007 and learned this week that his leukemia is back again. With a vengeance. Seventy-five percent of his bone marrow cells are leukemia and they have no more drugs to fight with. His doctor believes he has only a few weeks left.

I saw his mom yesterday in Atlanta and she said the only way she is making it is to keep her eyes on Jesus. She is a dear, gentle woman and and she loves David with all her heart. Please pray for David, Pam and the North family.

God provides

Except for our first baby, we have always used port-a-cribs. They are the perfect size--cozy for the baby and not taking up too much floor space.

Well, James is getting a little too long for his crib now. And I'm not ready to put him in a bed without rails. Last summer we were blessed with a $20, very-lightly-used crib. We have a mattress that we had used for a toddler bed. But there wasn't enough room in the bedroom.

In order to make room, we have been praying for bunk beds and one mattress (we already have one extra mattress on hand). We had hoped to purchase a second set of bunks when we moved in, but that hasn't come to pass.

This week, we got a call from a sweet friend from church. She wondered if we could use some bunk beds, with one mattress.

Now they are all set up in the girls' room and the queen sized mattress set that the little girls have been using are leaning against the wall, waiting to go to their new home tomorrow.

Then we will pull down the crib and mattress and James will have a bed he fits in.

God is so good!

Friday, August 8, 2008


Last week, James dropped my cell phone into a cup of water. It didn't make it. He bought me a new one, but I have lost all my phone numbers.

One of my new projects is to work on recreating a paper copy of my phone list. I have been surprised how lost I have felt without my phone and programmed phone numbers.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Groanings too deep for words

In the evening, we generally have a time of family fellowship and worship. We sing--usually hymns--we share stories, read a chapter of the Bible and answer questions (right now we are working through _Balancing the Sword_), share more thoughts and stories and then we pray together. Most of the time, Vern prays. Some of the time we 'pray around' and everyone has a turn.

Tonight, we prayed around and James decided he wanted a turn. He was sitting on the couch beside me and he folded himself over, as only James can, into a sort of seated prostrate position. And he prayed. "Mmmmm." "Mm mmm." "Mmm mmm." We all smiled at each other and yet we were respectful of James praying, so it was a quick smile and we kept our heads bowed. When James sat up and looked at Katie, we thought he was done. So, Katie started to pray. Then James signed to stop and he folded himself over again, and prayed.

"Mmmmm." "Mm mmm mmmm." " Mmmmm mm mmmm mmmmm." "Mmmm." [Giggle, giggle] "Mmmm mmm mmmm." [Chortle, snort, giggle] "Mm mmm mmmm mm." [Giggle, chuckle, chortle, snort] "Mmm mmmm mmmm." "Mmm mm mmmm." [Chortle, snort, chortle, giggle, giggle... stern looks from Daddy... deep breaths] "Mmm mmm mmm."

Then James sat up again. He looked at Katie, who was waiting patiently. We each took turns coaching James to sign to Katie that it was her turn. When Katie signed and said, "Your turn", James apparently misunderstood it was what he was supposed to say to her and he folded himself over again and "Mmmm....."

[Bbbwwwaaaah ha ha ha haaaaa.]

The trouble with the church

This evening while we were getting ready for supper and welcoming Vern home, we looked outside to see a couple of the hens poised, like they were either ready for a fight or finishing one up. One of the hens was a White Rock, the other was a golden-colored Buff Orpington. It was a tense moment and they were maintaining the pecking order.

Then one of the children said, "Momma, the chickens are fighting...or they were... they're done now... they were different denominations."


It seems already that July is a distant memory. Vern is back to work teaching high school math and Georgia summer heat is in full force.

When we headed to Minnesota back in 2000, the last thing we did before leaving Georgia was to celebrate the Fourth of July with the community here (where we are currently living). It was a good old-time celebration. Whenever we would read aloud the account of a Fourth of July celebration (say in the Little House books, for example), we would remember our Georgia Fourth of July.

In a very very small way, we tried to recreate the memory.... we didn't really come close... we couldn't... but it was our inspiration and at the end of the day after our little private fireworks display we would say, "Next year in Toomsboro!"

So we were sure to be in Toomsboro for the Fourth of July, and we were not disappointed! It was a beautiful day. There was lots of visiting, some softball and whiffle ball--James got to hit a ball and 'run' to first base. The food was excellent--low country boil, and ice cream for dessert. The grand finale was the fireworks. Every year, the hosts get permission from the sheriff to have a private fireworks display and this one was the best yet. The young men work together with one of the Dad's to run the show and Owen is very much looking forward to being 13 next summer so he can help!

The early parts of July were dedicated to getting ready for our trip--sewing, planning and finishing up little projects around our homestead.

Last November, Vern's mom celebrated her 90th birthday. We had hoped to be there with her, but James ended up with a line infection and we had to cancel our plans at the last minute. We rescheduled, finally, for summer and hoped that gas prices wouldn't get too high. We left July 11th an drove for three days to Minneapolis. On the way, we passed the Gateway Arch in St Louis. The children were impressed and I described to them my spotty memories of riding up into the arch years ago when my family was travelling across country (returning home to California from a visit to see my grandmother in Ithaca, NY). As we drove north, we marvelled at the marks on buildings and trees indicating how high the flood waters had come earlier in the spring. It took us a full three days to get to Grandma's and we enjoyed nearly four days of just be with her and visiting.

We had to make a detour to Fairview to say 'hi' to the folks that had taken good care of us last year in March and April. Without them, we would not have made our way safely to Georgia as soon as we did. We had not, however, planned a visit. So one was 'planned' for us! At the time, it was more disconcerting than humorous, but in the end all was well and we shook our heads at the comedy of errors.

The week of our visit, a local grocery store had a special on grapes and each day, Vern's sister stopped to pick up free grapes and brought them over to Grandma's. The children enjoyed them and on Wednesday I cut some up for James. He enjoyed them before lunch. For dessert at lunchtime James enjoyed red jello (I bet you can see where this is going). After lunch, unbeknownst to me, Vern, Becca and Carrie (at least) also gave James grapes. These grapes were not least not most of them. About suppertime, James was acting like he had really bad tummy cramps. This is not normal, he usually has a very high pain tolerance and most of his fussing occurs when he isn't getting his way. But this was different, we could tell he was in pain. He passed some grape skins and then it seemed the pain got worse and then he passed what looked like bloody mucous into his ostomy bag. We tried tylenol, but that didn't give him any relief, so we called his oncologist. The on-call doctor suggested giving him hydrocodone. If that worked through the night, we would call and re-evaluate in the morning. If he had breakthrough pain, we would go to the ER. So, we went to the ER.

Everyone there was pretty concerned too. The ER doc decided she wanted to admit James and then did a stool culture. We were grateful and relieved that whatever it was, it wasn't blood. Then we started to feel a little funny when we decided with the RN that it looked remarkably like melted jello. Of course, this still didn't explain James' discomfort or his vomiting, so we were getting ready for a room. James got an IV and fluid in the ER and more fluid when we got up to the floor. We were grateful to have familiar nurses and I was impressed that they still had James' primary care nurse list for continuity. After our early morning nap, James passed a large clump of skins and undigested grapes. We could see the relief on his face and his appetite went through the roof. He ate and drank and ate and drank all day long.

The really neat thing about all this was that the doctors and nurses, who had only seen James at his worst, got to see the incredible improvement and they were so excited. He wasn't eating at all when we were there last year nor was he walking and they got to see him now... with hair and not on steroids!

Since were so close to norther Minnesota we headed up to spend some time with friends and see what we left behind nearly a year and a half ago. We did visit the Farmers' Market, which moved from the old Wal-mart parking lot to downtown. We were able to see James' pediatrician, who was thrilled with how well he is doing. It was good to see her too, with her two children. We spent a good deal of time with Grandpa John and Grandma Nan and had some time with them on the lake. I got up on water skis for the first time in some 23 years or so and it was much harder work than I remember it being back then! We could not have made the trip up to Grand Rapids with the generosity of Grandpa John and Grandma Nan who opened their cabin on the lake to us for free lodging! Thanks John and Nan!

While we were glad to see a couple of families and some other friends, our time seemed so short as there were many folks we had hoped to see and didn't. All the more reason to look forward to heaven, in case we don't get to make another trip back.

We left MN in the wee hours of a Monday morning and headed for the Cincinnati, Ohio area. We have followed the construction and preparation of the new Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY from the beginning and we have been itching to get inside and see it since it opened last Memorial Day weekend. We were able to spend part of two days there enjoying the museum, the gardens outside and the wonderful bookstore. No matter where you stand on the issue, we recommend a visit. It can be mind-stretching :*).

From the museum, we drove to my mom's (who was visiting friends in California) and we stayed at her place (thanks Mom!! and Aunt Frannie!!) so we could easily make the drive in to Atlanta for James' visit with Dr. Keller, who was also very pleased with how well James is doing. He said something about James being 'memorable' ;*)... we are glad to be less memorable these days, as long as we don't eat too many grapes.

Love, Stephanie

P.S. I have no photos of our trip, but we have lots of great memories.

Friday, June 27, 2008


We have had a very busy and blessed month this June. We have so many BIG things to be grateful for in addition to all the little, everyday things.

...continues to do well. His counts continue to be good, but not too good, and the side effects from his chemo seem to be relatively minimal. Developmentally, he is moving along in a number of ways. He LOVES to help and he seems to really like order (not that he is always orderly, but he seems to prefer things to be more orderly rather that more chaotic!). His two favorite things to help with are laundry and emptying the dishwasher. He is really good at putting away the serving forks and spoons and the forks and knives. He does get confused with the spoons. We think this is because there are two places for spoons--they are separated by teaspoons and soup spoons--and he doesn't yet have a concept of the difference between 'big' spoons and 'little' spoons. He also likes to help put laundry into the washer (it's a front loader--yes, we really like it) and to take it out and put it in a basket to go out to the clothesline.

A few days ago, I was working in the livingroom and needed something from the diningroom. I was on my knees on the floor, so I looked around to see who was close by that could bring me what I needed with less effort than would be required to get up and get it myself (in other words, I was being lazy). James was the only child nearby and I was so glad to see a positive teaching opportunity! (then I didn't feel so bad about being lazy). I told James what I needed and asked him if he could get it for me. He said, "Mm," with a quick nod and swaggered off with purpose. He went straight for the item in need, picked up and swaggered back, delivering it with a definite pride and sense of purpose! I was tickled. He never ceases to amaze and he is such a delight to watch. I love to see him discover things that I wondered if he would ever do or notice.

The Homestead

During the past month, my dad offered to contribute enough to allow us to purchase the siding for the outside of our house (it has been wrapped in various brands of 'Tyvek-type' paper). It wasn't long before the siding was delivered and a local friend/builder sent his crew over to get the first side of the house finished (our friend and my dad have both been concerned about this 'weather' side of the house not being finished). Vern and Owen worked along with David's crew and learned a great deal. They have been able to finish the front porch (it looks GREAT!) They plan to keep working their way around the house doing all they can to get all the siding up. Having siding makes a very pleasant difference in the way the house looks. We are very grateful!

Not long after the siding got started, it was time to slaughter chickens. It's not the prettiest homesteading event of the year, but it is worth it! We really like knowing where and how our food was grown and processed.

Friends came to help and to learn and we were so very grateful they did. We got an early start to the morning and about 2-1/2 hours into the day, Vern sliced his finger sharpening his already-quite-sharp filet knife. It was a pretty deep cut. I had the worst time looking at it. With all we have been through with James, I thought perhaps I could handle it, but, alas, I have not arrived. Once I finally scraped myself up off the bed (thankfully, I didn't hit the floor, though it was close), we decided that we could leave Phillip in charge, with all the children helping and I would take Vern to the Urgent Care clinic. We tried to get into a doctor's office, but no one had space and we considered the ER as well.

The rest of the helpers and learners arrived while we were gone and everyone dove in to help. Vern was out of commission for the rest of the day (with four stitches, and instructions not to get his finger--left index) wet. We had planned to do a record 150 chickens and there was no way we could have made it without all the help! It was a longer day than we had hoped, but ended up being an immersion experience. We are very grateful to have friends who stick by us in a crisis!

My aunt lives just down the road from my mom, about 3 hours north of here. She and her husband have lived the rural life for some 40 years or so and there place is an inspiration. My aunt and my mom are both great with landscaping and if that talent is passed along genetically, you would never know it by looking at the yards we have had over the years. My aunt realized that she very much needed to divide some of her many plants this year and she was planning to toss the divisions into the woods, until she thought of me! (Hallelujah!) She mentioned her intentions of dividing plants to my mom and wondered if I could use them. My mom offered to provide all the 'filler' to complete the project and she provided lattice to provide the 'backdrop' under the front porch, some of the more 'evergreen' shrubs, soaker hose to make watering MUCH easier, some supplemental dirt and pine straw for mulch.

Then they dug up everything, loaded up my aunt's SUV (to the point that my uncle teased that it looked like the lead car in a funeral procession) and drove down to our place. They arrived Wed afternoon, emptied the car and arranged the plants. Early Thursday morning we set to work in the shade and for nearly three and a half hours we dug, planted, watered and mulched. We were all pretty excited to see the transformation and are glad to have some green life in front of the house. Now I have to take really good care of it all (green thumb that I am not). If I pass this test, they said they would bring more cuttings, divisions and volunteers in the Fall!) I am hopeful that they have made it easy enough for me to be successful!

Lord willing, I have the beginnings of a heritage here that I can pass along to my children when they begin their homes. I am grateful for the heritage of beauty I have and for a very thoughtful and generous mom and aunt.

Love, Stephanie

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Another one bites the dust

I have never been great with cameras. I do like pictures, but it seems to me that whenever I really want pictures, the camera (whichever one we happen to have at the time) doesn't want to play. I remember three birthdays in row for Katie that the camera broke just before or during her day.

Two Christmases ago, we received a wonderful digital camera from dear friends. I loved that camera. It worked so well. Until the fateful day I bumped it with my elbow and it ended up in Hannah's cup of gatorade. Sigh.

After a time, we replaced that camera with a cheaper model. The camera had an incredible delay which meant if anything was going on, we usually missed the shot we were trying for. But we did get some good photos and it was fine for more panoramic, minimal action shots.

The children loved to use it.


Well, one of the children (who shall remain unnamed), took the camera to get pictures of something cute the kittens were doing outside. And dropped the camera. Now it takes Amish-style photos. You can see there is a face in the picture, sort of, but there are no features.

I find I am savoring moments of watching the children more again, since I can't jump up (or send one of the children) to get the camera so I can take a picture.

I think that is a good thing.

Love, Stephanie

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pray for our little cancer friends

We have a couple of little cancer friends who are in particular need of prayer right now:

Hannah Cate has Down syndrome and is being treated for bi-lineage leukemia (AML/ALL). She is undergoing a particularly difficult part of treatment for the next 3 to 4 weeks and is in the hospital with very low counts and terrible mouth sores that are preventing her from eating and drinking. She REALLY wants to go home (she is also one of six homeschooled children), but can't until her counts get better and she can eat and drink on her own.

Ricky James III is a little boy whose family we fished with at Camp Sunshine back in March. He was initially diagnosed with Rhabdosarcoma last April 1st. When we met him, he had recently completed treatment and this past week they learned that the cancer has come back. He started his new treatment yesterday. His third birthday is tomorrow.

Thanks praying friends. You bless our socks off! Have a wonderful, restful Lord's day... and Happy June!

Love, Stephanie and the crew

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Counts and chemo at home

Yesterday was Vern's last day of teacher post-planning at work and this morning he was up and at our lengthy summer to-do list. He had Owen in tow most of the time and the little girls some of the time. Katie ran the house and Hannah and I bugged out with James. His g-tube looked so good this morning (still healing, definitely better even than yesterday morning, PTL, and certainly not as bad as it was earlier in the week, again PTL!) that we decided to take him to Macon for counts. This is a FIRST! The first chemo the week following steroids that we are HOME.

Okay, maybe that's a little over the top... but only a very little ;*)...

James' counts are WBC- 6.34; Hgb- 9.7; platelets 299K; ANC- 4,000+. So chemo goes as scheduled.

On the way to Macon this morning, Hannah and I were talking about the impressive turn around in James' g-tube site and we both think that several things factor in... 1st all the prayer and with that the mercy and wisdom for the rest of the factors ;*); James has been eating more and drinking some and we have been able to keep him hydrated using his g-tube at a higher feeding rate because the vincristine isn't slowing down his intestines like it has in the past. This means that we are able to give James long breaks without using the g-tube (less pressure on the site) and helps with healing. Finally, we do think that the prednisone MAY have helped, but if the other things hadn't happened the way they did, we would have likely been in the same situation as in the past with eroding (based on what we saw earlier in the week).

We have enjoyed a slew of old movies from our old-movie collecting neighbors so that James could spend a lot of time resting on the couch.

We continue to be so grateful for your prayers and concern for us and for James. The Lord bless y'all real good!

Love, Stephanie

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Oh, me, of little faith

Well, we are still home, PTL!

Monday night, it was clear that James' g-tube site was eroding. Hannah, Vern and I figured it was 'just a matter of time' again. And it still may be... but Vern said on Tuesday morning that he wanted us to get James seen soon. Tuesday preferably, Wednesday at the latest. I tried to get things worked out for yesterday and by the end of the day, his g-tube site didn't look any worse to me than it had in the morning.

This morning, PTL, it actually looked better in most regards. So we will see how it looks by the end of the day (we do check it during the day, so far no change from this morning.)

In addition to the good news that we are still home, James has had two very good eating days in a row. Unusual for him, but perhaps attributable to being on steroids. No matter how he gets to eating more of what he needs, at least he is practicing, and that is a very helpful thing. Yesterday, he drank about 8 ounces all by himself, today he isn't drinking so much. He is liking cheese melted on Wasa type crackers, egg yolks (poached to pudding like consistency and well-salted, thank-you-very-much!)

Of course, you can see my lack of faith in the packed and ready to go suitcases sitting in the kitchen. God is so good to us. All the time.



Friday, May 23, 2008

James, walking with hair

These were taken earlier this week before chemo... Doesn't he look great with hair? :*)...

He is such a BOY!

Love, Stephanie
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Grateful for your prayers

It seems like forever since I have journaled here, though I have thought about it a lot. Not long ago I was telling my mom that I was just at a point where I could do it or I could write about it. And the obvious choice was doing. So we have been doing a good deal and the Lord has been mercifully blessing.

Thursday Hannah and I took James to Atlanta for his spinal tap with IV methotrexate and vincristine. We are so grateful to all who prayed for us... I know you are still praying and we are very grateful for that too! Several folks let us know they were praying much even though they couldn't sign up for a time slot. The time is not so important as the praying and the goal is just to pray extra and especially fervently to show the Lord we are serious about our desire to see James well. A sacrifice of praise and other things, as it were.

Our drive to Atlanta was pretty uneventful (although we were a little late--they factor that into their schedule and it didn't hold anyone up). There was plenty of parking (a miracle from our view ;*)). And James didn't seem to have any trouble being hungry although he had been NPO (nothing by mouth--no food or drink) since 4 in the morning.

He had some oral versed (a sedative) and his spinal tap was uneventful. We had some trouble getting a good vein for the vincristine--such are the perils of being NPO before a procedure--but finally one of the nurses got a good vein and by then, James was done being horizontal following the spinal tap. This was the first time he didn't fall asleep! James'counts had actually improved since last week--ANC nearly 2200; Hgb 11.9 (maybe due to mild dehydration).

He did vomit some at the clinic and more on the way home. Thankfully it wasn't a lot and it was only twice, but it surprised all of us--probably James mostly. It was a little disconcerting, but nothing a little I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M couldn't settle. He did finally get a good nap on the way home and once we arrived home, he was still a little loopy and seemed to lack some muscle control.

This morning, however, he was raring to go and hasn't missed much all day today. To me, he still seems just a little off in the muscle control department. But I think it is a mom-thing and not something readily apparent to folks who don't study his motor control!

Stacy, our nurse practitioner, reminded me to take special note of James' mobility during the next while. This is the first vincristine James has had being so active and walking. Vincristine affects the nerve cells and it can often look like it is affecting muscles. She just said to keep an eye on him for his safety and to let them know how it seems to affect him.

James has had three doses of his new steroids (prednisone) and so far is doing just fine. We are keeping a close eye on his g-tube and hoping we won't be making a trip to Atlanta before our next scheduled office visit on June 12th.

In other little news around here: The Mothers' Day storm knocked out our power and we enjoyed a very quiet day at home. Some of the tornadoes hit near here (within 20 miles) and so we had no church. One of the ladies from church had significant damage to her home and barn, but she, her daughter and all their critters are safe. The insurance adjuster comes tomorrow--pray he would deal justly.

While cleaning up from the storm, Vern picked up a whopper poison ivy rash. It is getting better, but something else is coming up behind it... some sort of dermatitis, so we need to get him looked at.

We have kittens--2 mamas, 8 babies. They're really cute and it looks like some will be great, active mousers. Anyone know someone who'd like one (or more). The first batch of 3 will be 8 weeks old June 2. Their momma has already litter box trained them and they can be indoor, outdoor or both.

Vern's last day of school with students was today. Two more days of post-planning next week, then summer break (except for a three-day class). He also finished his first online college course-- a good experience overall.

Our garden is doing well, although with warmer temps come more bugs and some disease, so we are spraying some. We are curious to see how our potatoes fare. We dug up under one plant to get new potatoes and there wasn't much. Maybe we will have all leaves. Some here have had great success with potatoes and others not. The Lord really blessed our cabbage, peas and lettuce. We have agreed we need to plant LOTS more peas and broccoli in fall. We have picked some summer squash and are watching the corn (which is about ankle high), beans, tomatoes, little watermelons, cukes, peppers and eggplants.

The chickens are over on friends' land--150+ meat birds. They have about four weeks til they cool off in the freezer and they are doing MUCH better than last year. The children and I enjoy going over to chore and seeing how quickly we can move, feed and water them. We've also enjoyed picking some wild blackberries when we can. We are looking into alternative feed options to baat rising feed and gas costs.

The weather promises to be warming up here--we've had some wonderfully late cool weather up til now. With the warming weather, we will, more than likely, be spending more quiet time inside staying cool and trying not to make the house too warm! Time to catch up on some academics and some blogging, Lord willing!

Thank you again for praying with us for James. God is good all the time!

Love, Stephanie

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Five prayer requests

In February, when James last got vincristine and steroids. Momma posted five prayer requests for James. We decided to copy and post them here as they still apply. If you want to read that post, click here.

The focus for the prayer time includes (but is not limited to! :*) ) praying:

1. that the vincristine and steroids would attack their intended target (any remaining, but unseen leukemia cells).

2. that the Lord would protect James from any side effects from the vincristine. Especially any slowdown in the movement of the intestine.

3. that, in spite of the steroids in his system, his body would continue to heal and protect itself from breakdown and erosion.

4. that James' counts would remain stable, there would be not infection and no need for a hospital stay.

5. most importantly, that God's perfect will would be done and He would get the glory for it!

Thank you for praying for James.

Blessings, Hannah

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Week 55 and a prayer push

James' course of chemotherapy is 110 weeks. This past Thursday, May 15th, marked week number 55 of treatment. He is now half-way through.

Last Thursday, James' nurse called to say that James is cleared for chemo. She also gave me his counts. WBC (white blood cells) were 3.24. Hemoglobin was 11.1. Platelets 735k. ANC (Absolute Neutraphil Count--his ability to fight infection) is 1.97.

We are very proud of James. James doesn't like it when the nurses at clinic hold his finger to poke it for blood, but he will hold out a finger for them and after the poke, he will intently watch the nurse 'milk' his finger. After the nurse gets the blood, she will put a band-aid on. It's isn't usually long before he takes the bandaid off, or he won't do anything with that hand.

This past couple weeks we have been working on James taking his 6-MP tablets (chemo that he gets every day) by mouth. He has done very well. Momma and I decided to try James on taking his methotrexate by mouth. I woke James up at 4a.m. to take 5 1/2 tablets, he wasn't thrilled till I asked him if he wanted ice cream. After the not-so-smart move on my part, James thought it was time to play. He did go back to sleep around 4:30a.m. and Daddy said later that if James is asleep, 'use the g-tube.' James took the two other doses of methotrexate and one of his two doses of his leucovorin by mouth. He has been doing a little better working on eating too.

After three trys on Saturday, I managed to set up a prayer sign up for James. Its at again, under jamesskelly.

If the link doesn't work, type in If that doesn't work, please leave a comment on the blog or let us know somehow. If anyone knows how to put up a picture on the sign up, please let me know. I've been trying to get a picture up of James, but the picture won't show up.

James' g-tube is a little red and tender. Please pray that the g-tube site would heal up and not erode with the vincristine and steroids this time and that the chemo would do it's job without any side damage. Other things to pray for: that he would continue to eat more and more food to meet his calorie and nutrition needs and that he would like good food.

Thank you for praying for our family and James! It means so much to us!

Blessings, Hannah

(with a little editing from Momma.)

Friday, May 2, 2008


Yesterday was counts and chemo day. Momma, James and I left here around 8 a.m. to shop in Milledgeville and in Atlanta as well. We got to the clinic early and so we visited the third floor of the hospital to say 'Hi' to some of our favorite nurses who were working. They were pretty excited to see a taller James with a head full of hair toddling on the floor!

James' counts were good. WBC (white blood cells) 3.56. Hemoglobin was 12 and his platelets were 706k. James' ANC (Absolute Neutraphil Count--his ability to fight infection) was 2.28.

Momma talked to Dr.Keller about a protocol for the next time James gets vincristine and steroids. This time, we're going to try prednisone (James has gotten dexamethasone in the past.) to see what happens. Hopefully, the side effects from the prednisone won't be as bad as the dexamethasone. James will get vincristine and steroids on May 22nd. If I can get it to work, we will attempt to set up a sign-up to pray for James.

Dr. Mohammed, from GI, came over to see James and said his g-tube site looks "Excellent". He said to let them know if we have any trouble with this round of steroids.

We finished our shopping (at SAM's) and headed home, arriving around 10p.m--a long day, but a good one.

May 15th, we go to Macon for counts and James will get chemo at home.

Thank you all for praying, it does make a difference.

Blessings, Hannah

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Since I last wrote...

.... a lot of things have happened around here! Here is a sample from the last almost-month!

We celebrated Owen's 12th birthday with a work day and all the food (a BIG part of our birthday celebrations) was cooked outside over the fire. For breakfast, we have French Toast, fried eggs, sausage and orange juice to drink. For dinner, we came inside (because of a wind storm), and enjoyed Low Country Boil and Berry Cobbler with Butter Pecan Ice Cream (which was NOT cooked over the fire!).

We burned our HUGE pile of brush, cut and stacked firewood, moved dirt (lost some to a downpour), and done general land improvement.

Our garden has been growing and flourishing and we have eaten lettuce, spinach and a few peas. The broccoli is getting bigger, the cabbage is looking like a small head and the potatoes are growing like weeds! We are looking forward to eating more of 'the fruit of our hands'!

We celebrated the incredible resurrection of the Lord who has walked with us, and at times, carried us through this past year. We are grateful for the abundant life He rose to give us!

We always enjoy making Resurrection Cookies the eve of Resurrection Day. They go into the oven overnight... kind of like Jesus went into the tomb after He was crucified... and they come out as sweet, hollow treats (a reminder of the empty tomb!) in the morning! Making them is a great object lesson devotional and has become a cherished tradition for our family.

After a sweet Resurrection morning service with our church family, we spent the day at home, enjoying a traditional "Easter Sunday" dinner, candy, egg coloring and a Resurrection egg hunt (we have trinkets, representing various events of the Passion Week, that we place in plastic eggs and hide in the yard (weather permitting...and it was a beautiful afternoon for this activity!) I did realize that it is time to find more plastic eggs! They don't last forever!

The flower arrangement on the table is all from things on our little homestead that are BLOOMING!

We went to Camp Sunshine Family Camp, a special camp held for children with cancer and their families, at Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, GA. We were thoroughly impressed with the camp facilities. Several organizations that assist families with children with special medical needs, and other limitations, came together to start this camp to meet needs that other facilities could not. The whole camp was first class and totally accessible. We had a cabin with plenty of room for our family (it had twelve beds, 2 toilet stalls, 2 showers (one of which was wheelchair accessible) and two sinks. it also had PLENTY of windows to look out, heat (which we didn't use) and air conditioning (which we did use) and places for all James' medical supplies.)

Courtesy of Camp Sunshine, it's staff and volunteers, we did not have to cook a thing. We only bussed our tables, swept the dining area and our cabins and had a wonderful, refreshing time together. We also met some other families facing similar things with their children. The biggest blessing was that we only paid for gas to get there and a small registration fee ($25)! Thanks to the great folks at Camp Sunshine!

We enjoyed early morning fishing (and catching!)

A family hike.

Pedal-boating--we FILLED two boats!

All the children got to shoot a compound bow. Archery has been a family dream and now we know it is do-able.

We played putt-putt--some at a very relaxed pace!

The children enjoyed a rest time pillow fight, since James was all wound up and wouldn't sleep.

Until we went to the dining hall to play BINGO--because it rained.

Since Carrie's birthday was Sunday, she was given some cupcakes, some of which we enjoyed on the ride home!

Carrie Rose, our princess, turned FIVE! She enjoyed her day along with brunch, a dress up tea party (with no reading)and a picnic dinner and movie with a wonderful stacked berry trifle cake!

We celebrated a new addition to the family. For those who didn't know...

our friends, Jarod and Anna (whose wedding we came down for in January 2007) welcomed their first child, a son, named Ezekiel, in December.

Anna came to help us when Becca, Carrie and James were born. She has a special place in our hearts (so do Jarod and Zeke, now) and it was a real pleasure and privilege to have them down for dinner and a visit and to take some of our 'traditional' baby pictures. And one of Jarod's traditional family funny pictures (bottom right, below).

Hannah was a little disappointed we couldn't get the photos before April 1st so we could have done a photo with the children, Zeke and Vern and me for an April Fool's joke. Ah, well.

In addition, we had plenty of unphotographed activities. James had counts and chemo twice--his counts remain good, but not TOO good. Which is good. Vern was home for spring break this past week (which has been wonderful!) and we have gotten a lot of things moving around the homestead. We actually finished a few things!
The girls and I did some sewing for our Camp Sunshine trip. We made three jumpers (one for me, one for Katie and one for Carrie), pantalettes for play and sleeping, pajama pants for Owen and a skirt for Hannah. We are looking forward to doing more.
We also made the trip to Atlanta for James' counts and then toured Your Dekalb Farmers' Market. We hadn't been there since 1998, we think. It was quite the education and we picked up some fun-to-eat treats--including sugar cane and a coconut!
Thanks for thinking of us, for stopping by to check on us and for loving us. We treasure your notes and comments still... your prayers even more.
Have a sweet and blessed week!
Love, Stephanie