Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Strawberry Season at the Kauth House!

Torey has made comments in previous posts about our strawberry patch in the backyard...the one that started 3 years ago with just 3 little strawberry plants. Let's just say that we have been busy picking fruit the last few days!

Last night, Torey ran out before the storm hit and picked these berries:

This morning, the kids and I picked the rest of the ripe berries from the patch:

There will be more berries ready tomorrow and in the near future. How exciting! The most exciting part for me though, is that I took the time today to make my most favorite pie in the entire world!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Face Painting and Food

Last weekend we attended an event at the Como Zoo in St. Paul. It was sponsored by the Oncology/Hematology clinic at Children's Hospital. They had some different games, a meal, music, and of course, the zoo.

The kids posed for me so that everyone could get a decent look at Finn's bat face and Julia's rainbow face.

Here's a picture from later that same day. The kids think it's fun to climb up on the little ledge in the family room. And for whatever reason, they're not wearing pants.

We're now a few years into our strawberry patch. We have two gardens in the backyard and the berries have taken over one of them. The first year we only got a handful of berries. After that we got a few small handfuls a week. This year we had hundreds of blossoms, so we're expecting a big crop. We picked our first one a few days ago and got another handful today.

My dad provided the rhubarb (begrudgingly) and my Grandma Laverne provided the pie (graciously). My mom and and her sister provided the means to get it here (thankfully) so that I could have it. Amanda and Finn aren't fans and I can handle sharing it with one person.

This morning Finn said he wanted a big bowl for his cereal. I knew he meant one of the grownup bowls rather than a kid bowl, but I thought I would surprise him with a giant serving bowl instead. His eyes got momentarily big when he saw it. It was big enough that both kids ate from it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Foster Cemetery

There is a wooded hill on the edge of River Falls that provides a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape to the southwest. From that vantage point, everything is covered with trees. From below, the gurgling sound of the Kinnickinnic River finds it's way to the listener's ears; the thick vegetation on the hillside, however, hides the river from view. Though unseen, a person can easily imagine the path the river takes between the other hills as it makes its meandering march west to meet up with the St. Croix.

150 years ago, this same hilltop was chosen to be used as the site of the Foster's family cemetery. It hasn't been used for nearly one hundred years, but the couple dozen graves are not lacking for decoration because of the wildflowers that spring up all over the site.

I was first introduced to this frontier final resting place when my college Botany class went there to view it as an example of a prairie restoration site. After that introduction, I went back several times during college, taking friends with me each trip. For quite some time I had wanted to take my kids there, but I hadn't been there myself for several years and I thought I should check it out again before bringing the kids. A few weeks ago I hiked up there and came to the conclusion that Julia would be able to handle the walk, but probably not Finn.

It's less than a mile and a half walk from our house to the cemetery - half being on the road and half being along a weedy path and through the woods. Julia and I made the trek a few weekends ago. It was very peaceful and we had some nice chats about all sorts of things.

There are few little hills to walk up on the way to the top.

Some of the gravestones have survived really well and are easy to read the names and dates. Others haven't fared so well and the inscriptions on them can barely be made out, if at all. Julia and I made some guesses as to the history behind some of them based on the names and dates. On a particular set of stones, she immediately understood the significance of one of them: born 1888, died 1889. And judging from the dates and names on both, the one next to it was probably the baby's mother. We agreed it was sad.

After wandering through the graveyard awhile and then checking out the view, we headed back down. While back on the weedy path, Julia saw a large flat rock in the ground and stopped to look at it. She spotted a minuscule snail that was spending its afternoon crossing over the rock. It was about the size of half of a six-year-old's fingernail.

I snapped a few pictures of a few other insects and was fortunate enough to get a few good ones.

We both enjoyed the father/daughter adventure of that day!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The End of an Era

And good riddance!

This morning was Julia's last chemo. It went off without a hitch, as expected. She's been feeling tired and not terribly well today, but from past experience, we were totally expecting that. We're betting on Tuesday being a yucky day and things heading up after that.

Julia will have an ultrasound and x-ray during the first week in July and then if we get the all clear, she can have her surgery soon after. It's planned as a short-stay procedure, so she could possibly to home the same day. At that time, they'll remove her chemo port from her chest. The original plan was to remove her g-tube as well, but we've decided to go a slightly different route. There is an upgrade of the g-tube so that instead of the tube hanging off of her, there is a little button-like disc which sits flush to her skin. This will allow us to continue to administer the drugs that she has to continue for the next few months. So during the surgery, they'll remove the current contraption in her stomach that is holding her stomach wall to her abdomen wall that allows the hole to stay open. They'll replace it with a small inflated balloon. We initially were turned off to this route because we thought it would require an additional surgery in a few months. Then it was explained that removing this stomach "button" is as simple as deflating the balloon and pulling it out - a simple non-surgical procedure that a nurse could do in the clinic. The hole would then seal up within a few hours.

We would love to make a few summer plans, but we're still hesitating because if dates get pushed back for any reason, plans could be ruined. One thing we're planning is to have a party at some point this summer after her final scans are clear.

On a blog-related note - I've added a "Follow by Email" feature on the left side. You can put in your email address and then you'll get an email sent to you every time the blog gets updated. When you first sign up you'll need to click a confirmation link that gets sent to you to confirm it's really you.

Last night we decided to set up the tent in the backyard. Julia was excited to repeat her experiences of backyard camping and Finn was excited to try it for the first time. I slept out there with the two kids while Mandy and the dog held down the house. For all the sleeping bags and blankets we had piled up, it still wasn't terribly comfortable (for me). The kids are back out there again tonight, but with Mandy this time. Mandy asked Julia if she felt good enough to sleep out and the child said, "Well I feel nauseous, but some fresh air will be good for me."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

To All that's Pure, that's in Your Heart

Finn has always been stubborn. I'm sure I've said that before. When he gets something in his head, it's difficult to convince him of anything else (I'm still proud of myself for once evading a screaming fit when, just as he got to the point of no return, I started crawling around and sniffing at him like a puppy. After a few seconds, his fowl mood was forgotten and replaced with a fun game.). This can be especially tough at bedtime, when besides his stubbornness, we're also dealing with tiredness. He also has a habit of asking for one more drink, book, snuggle, or anything else he can think of. I'm sure we're the first parents who have dealt with that scenario.

A week or two ago, Finn got it into his head that he likes lullabies at bedtime. He usually wants Mommy to put him to bed, so after Amanda has done that, she comes out and tells me that Finn wants me to tell him goodnight too. I go in, tell him goodnight and kiss his face and then he asks for a lullaby. So I make up a little song about him playing, having a good day, being tired, and closing his eyes and resting. It's really amazing because the boy who will find any excuse to hold off bedtime, closes his eyes as soon as I start to sing. While I'm singing, he looks really peaceful and sometimes even yawns. His whole body seems to relax a little bit. He keeps his eyes closed the entire time and doesn't respond or open them while I tell him farewell and goodnight one last time before leaving the room.

I hope he doesn't grow out of this ritual anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pajama Gardening

We got the backyard gardens all pruned and planted. The strawberry patch is thoroughly thinned out and promising a ton of berries, currently in the form of blossoms. I think we're going to be even more pleased than we were last year with our strawberry harvest. Garden number two was completed by Amanda and Finn. We can't wait to see Finn's excitement as the carrots, corn, and peas begin to sprout!

We took advantage of the holiday and went out early Monday morning to finish things off. The kids were in their PJs, Amanda in her work clothes, and me with the camera.

Julia had her weekly blood count taken in RF and things are good from that angle. Another week and a half off until her final chemo. It hasn't really hit me yet that the end of that stage is fast approaching. It'll be nice, but I'm also dreading the frequent scans to make sure the cancer stays in remission. For months we've been living this life as cancer patient (well, Julia directly, us vicariously) and we're about to switch partially back to our pre-cancer life. Those scans are the events that will always threaten to send us again into treatment mode, which would be scarier the second time around.

All throughout this ordeal, I've done a decent job of blocking out the worst possible outcomes. They creep in periodically and scare a person, but I know you can't live in that state. So in between the scans, I'll pretend they aren't always right around the corner and enjoy the times with Julia, Finn, and Amanda (fine, and Skippy, too) and just allow myself the day or two of internally freaking out before each one. I can't help it, I'm a worrier.

Besides just being done with the treatment, one other thing we have to look forward to is planning a party sometime after treatment is all finished. We're thinking sometime in July, probably at Glen Park. It'll be an open invitation to anyone who wants to come.