Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Update

A number of years ago, the flow of blog posts tapered off. It was likely a combination of me not finding time to write them and just not having too many exciting things to talk about. The posts drastically picked up at the end of 2010 because of the C word. After Julia finished treatment the tapering started again. I guess it's not a bad thing that there aren't as many cancer-related blog posts anymore. But it also means that our lives are just kinda plugging along and maybe there's not always a lot of excitement to talk about. Although, I could probably always find some funny kid story to share... so maybe it's on me.

School's been out for a while and we're moving right along with summer activities. Finn has soccer - he's been coming home sweaty, tired, and happy. Both kids had a fun summer school class that just finished: Julia took French and Finn took a class about nature in Wisconsin.

Julia has never been much of a swimmer. It didn't help that she missed a whole summer's worth of lessons and playing in the water in 2011 due to cancer treatment. She's been taking individual lessons for a few weeks and has been enjoying herself. The one-on-one attention is really what she needed to help build her confidence and let her figure things out at her own pace. After her lessons Julia has usually been beaming with pride and talking about what she was able to do. She felt good enough that she's now signed up for one of the standard group lessons. We're excited that she found what worked for her!

About a week into summer vacation Finn announced that he wanted to play the violin. We had been thinking about having him take music lessons of some sort so we ran with it. I kind of wondered if it was a fleeting desire, but he's really taken it seriously. He has a few lessons under his belt and really concentrates while he practices at home, as evidenced below.

During the second half of the school year, Finn's reading really took off. I remember Julia's reading ability having a sudden growth spurt like that too. It's pretty cool to witness it. But that doesn't mean they don't still enjoy being read to.

We get outside and go for walks as a family fairly often. Finn was checking out the water at one of the lakes in town made by the Kinni.

Even the dog came along on a tour of the trails at UWRF.

Every once in a while, I would find a ton of pictures on the camera from Julia getting a hold of it and going nuts. Recently, Finn did the same thing. This is his first (of hopefully not many) bathroom selfies.

He had a number of these crazy-eyed close ups. It was a little disturbing.

And of course, a boy and his dog.

And to get a little bit more of Julia, here she is posing near one of our gardens with one of the many puffed dandelions. The dandelions have been gone for weeks already and we have a nice spread of clover instead.

With all the rain we've been getting, it's no surprise we found a spectacular rainbow. This one was the brightest and clearest one I had ever seen.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Roadtrip: a Wedding, a Baby, a Birthday

Our first stop on our long weekend getaway was Madison for my aunt's wedding. We got into our hotel and changed clothes. Finn always finds ways to squeeze in some Lego time.

The kids helped out at the wedding by handing out glow bracelets. That, of course, meant they had a great supply for themselves. While being handcuffed with a glowing chain, Finn made his famous sad face.

Julia's red cheeks and sweaty hair indicates she had a good time! We all had a wonderful evening and it was great to see family again.

The next morning, before we headed to Chicago for the second leg of our trip, we stopped at the capitol building since we were in the capital already. Julia was excited because the week prior, she had gone on a field trip to St. Paul to visit the Minnesota capitol building.

We all enjoyed exploring the expansive building.

Once in Chicago, everyone made sure to get their turn holding the new baby, Claire. Amanda and I were excited to see our second niece.

The kids were happy to now have twice as many cousins!

The pictures reminded me of another time, about a year and a half ago.

It was also Finn's seventh birthday while we were visiting. We had stopped at a Lego store on the way into the city and he used some of his birthday money (Ok, ALL of his birthday money) to pick out some sets. He blew out all the candles on the cake from Uncle Jason and Aunt Tracie and even shared the dessert with the rest of us.

We had warned him that he would be hard pressed to find time and a place to play with his Legos. He found a time and a place.

Johannah, the kids' 20-month-old cousin, really enjoyed playing with Julia and Finn. Finn would hide from her and then pop out and she would giggle and act really surprised. It may have been mildly adorable.

It was an overcast, dreary day, but we got outside with Johannah and the kids blew bubbles and did some sidewalk chalk.

We followed it up with a walk around the block.

Julia really wanted to take the train downtown, so the four of us did that. We had lunch and then walked to Millennium Park. The kids had been there before, but it's always fun to check out "the bean" again.

Finn insisted on posing as a statue.

Chicago has been a fun destination for us. With Jason and Tracie moving this summer, we probably won't get back there as much. We just may have to follow them to Atlanta as another place for us to visit and explore.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Short Hair, Big Moments

Many months ago, three ladies decided to embark on a journey together. The journey was more of a waiting game, and they were playing it at the same time. Julia had the idea to grow her hair long enough to donate to be made into wigs for kids with cancer. Her mom and grandma joined in too and so they all began letting their hair grow to at least ten inches.

In some ways the journey started over three years ago. In December of 2010, Julia's hair was starting to fall out. She decided to get it cut short so that her transition from hair to completely bald over the next few months wouldn't be so drastic. Julia got her hair cut into a cute little 'do.

Julia's hair did eventually all fall out, but like hair is known to do, it grew back. Sometime while the growing was occurring, Julia thought about letting it grow long enough to cut and donate. The next two older generations decided it was a good idea too and so the three - child, mother, grandmother - started down the road of waiting for their hair to be long enough.

Well, the day finally came. Grandparents made the drive to River Falls. A stylist was called. The newspaper was alerted (why not?). Julia, Amanda, and Beth were more than ready to have short hair.

It seemed very much like a coming together of past events, a convergence of storylines. The same person who donated her time and expertise to help Julia feel better about her hair loss three years earlier was again volunteering to help us with this next chapter. And the reporter from the River Falls Journal was familiar with Julia's story already; she had written about Julia before.

Amanda and Julia posed for a before shot from behind.

Julia's smile wasn't forced at all. She was very much looking forward to NOT having to take so long brushing her hair multiple times a day.

The three of them talked through short haircut options with the hair stylist, Raine.

The actual cutting of the ponytailed hair was a little strange. It almost seemed like a body part being lopped off.

While getting the rest of her hair touched up, Julia was asked questions by Gretta, the reporter from the newspaper.

I think she enjoyed the sudden feeling of nothing hanging from the back of her head anymore.

Even before the cut, Julia said she would have to wear more scarves to keep her neck warm.

Up next was Amanda and then her mom, Beth.

All three ponytails - ready to be shipped off to Locks of Love.

Of course we needed to see a back and front shot of the finished products! For another before and after, click here.

I'm curious to see if Julia will start thinking about growing her hair out again soon. My guess is that she'll wait awhile and just enjoy her new look first.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Relay for Life, 2014

Just a couple of things before we get to the title topic...

Sometimes when I get pictures off the camera I find some selfies and other oddities. I think this one falls in the "seflie" category.

Julia and I participated again in the Daddy Daughter Dance last month. We did a little photo shoot at home before heading out for the evening.

Amanda has taken up crocheting and she finished this brightly colored blanket for Julia. It's been fun watching the slow but steady progression of the growing rainbow.

I couldn't help but smile at the kids playing a quiet game of chess one weekend morning.

It was our 3rd year actively participating in Relay for Life (see here for 2013 and 2012). We had planned to get creative this year with some fundraisers, but we never found the time to expand on those good intentions. We did end up raising $752.55 which was a small part in the Pierce County total of $150,000 raised.

Seeing the survivors walk in together and the subsequent survivor's walk is always emotional. We're proud of Julia for putting herself out there.

Finn and Amanda were going to stay the whole night too. The plan was derailed slightly when Amanda wasn't feeling well. Both kids and I stayed all night and had a lot of fun. While we were all there though, we did some things together. Our little tent was made into our home for one night.

The ladies posed by our team's pennant - Relay had a sports theme this year.

While walking the track, we spotted a picture of Julia on the wall from last year.

Luminaria bags are put out by people in honor of or in remembrance of lost loved one. We found one with Julia's name on it that someone had made in honor of her.

Julia made a luminaria in remembrance of her friend Carina.

Julia was thrilled to see her teacher in attendance and I was glad to get a nice picture of the two of them together.

At one point while walking the track, I looked down and noticed Finn having quite a long conversation with three middle-school girls. I'm not sure what he would have been holding their attention with and I'm not sure if I should be worried. (He did know one of them from day care.)

Finn had a good time and was a good sport. He participated in Dude Looks Like a Cheerleader. Julia was content to help him hold his purse while we walked around and collected donations.

I had to get a picture of the biggest and littlest cheerleaders around!

There were only five brave guys who participated in the event.

Finn collected over $69 and that was good for a 3rd place finish.

Finn also participated in a number of very late night activities. It was mostly college-aged folks and Finn. He did scooter races, tug of war, and musical chairs. There were close to 30 participants in musical chairs and Finn made it to the top ten.

You can hear the people watching let out a big groan when Finn lost.

I had been able to talk the kids into laying down around 3:00 am so they did get a couple hours of sleep. The evening that started with a spaghetti dinner ended with a hot, but tired breakfast. Amanda came back in the morning to have breakfast with us and pack up things to head home.