Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

Last week we made a quick trip to Durham, NC to see a surgeon at Duke. We knew going into the trip that our appointment was a consultation only, but we were really hoping that they would be able to do the surgery while we were there. No such luck.

The surgeon was very nice. He examined Tim, and explained what needed to happen next, a larger removal of tissue around the melanoma, and a sentinel lymph node biopsy. We knew this going in, but he did explain it in a little more detail. They couldn't schedule surgery until April first though. So, back we go next week.

We were supposed to go to The Midwest Homeschool convention to see Tim Hawkins April first, but that isn't going to happen now. Since we are missing that, this time we are going to go a few days early, and take the kids with us to North Carolina. They still want to see Tim Hawkins, but are happy to be able to go with us this time. Nolan, who has been asking to stay in a hotel for about a year now, is particularly happy.

The odds are greatly in our favor that no more melanoma will be found, and the only treatment that will be needed after the surgery is regular and close follow up with our local dermatologist. Of course, that is what we are hoping and praying for. If that is the case, perhaps we could have done all this local, but we are making the trips to Duke in case there is more to it than that. Duke has the experts in melanoma. It is worth the extra effort for that peace of mind.

Thank you again for all your well wished, prayers, and support. It means so much us.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Bare Facts

As many of you  know our family is facing yet another major bump in this road we call life. In my head, while driving, washing dishes, or folding laundry, I've half written a dozen different ways of writing about this challenge here on the blog. The reality is I don't have the time (things are happening so fast,) or the mental capacity at this point to put a well thought out post together. Also bits of information have been shared here and there, but we haven't been able to contact everyone we should or would like to. So here is what is going on in the bare facts.

Tim had what looked like a mole start to change and to look strange. He called and made a Dr. appointment, and ended up at the dermatologist. She removed the spot on Monday March 14th. We didn't think anything of it. Tim has had several moles removed before.

Thursday the 17th, Tim was at work, and I was out running errands when he called and said that the Dr. called and wanted to see both of us in her office that day. You know that can't be good news, and this was no exception to the rule. It wasn't a mole. It was skin cancer; melanoma.

She said that the next step was a PET scan, and then a surgical procedure to check the skin round the area and remove the next set lymph nodes to check them. The results of those two procedures will "stage" the cancer, and determine what comes next as far as treatment. She scheduled the PET scan here, but recommended that we go to Duke for the rest.

An appointment was set for next Wednesday, the 30th, at Duke, and plans were being made. Today Duke called me to say they could get Tim in this Wednesday, and we decided we should take it. Today Tim had his PET scan, and we both spent the day rearranging everything for us to be gone a week earlier than planned. Tonight the Dr. called to let us know that the PET scan came back clear. It is fantastic news, but it does not mean he is in the clear. The surgical procedure and pathology report will determine if the cancer was just in the skin that was removed or if it had spread.

We are off to NC early Wednesday morning. Tim's parents have been able to get vacation time to come here to stay with the kids. Between them and my mom, who happened to be on vacation this week while my brother's kids are visiting, the kids will still be able to go to testing and the other things we already had scheduled this week.

Our appointment Wednesday is only a consultation. It is not the surgical procedure. Our dermatologist, Dr. Touma, who by the way has been fantastic through this, says the procedure needs to happen even with the clear PET scan. Basic explanation, the PET scan would catch big things. The pathology report will catch things the PET can't.  Best case scenario for our trip to Duke is to meet with the Dr. on Wednesday, and for them to schedule the procedure for this week while we are already there. And of course then for all the results to come back negative.

We greatly appreciate all the wonderful friends and family who are praying for us, and bending over backwards to make this trip doable for us on such a short notice. We are greatly blessed!

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Can Only Blame Myself

 I like to cook, and I like to bake. I enjoy the process almost as much as I enjoy the finished product. I've been cooking for a long time, and I learned to cook mostly from scratch. There was a period in our marriage where money was very tight. During this time, I learned to cook just about everything from scratch. It was a habit that stuck with me.

Just about all of our meat, and many of the vegetables we eat are raised here. Almost everything is made from scratch. I don't make my own bread, pasta, or cheese. I'm sure if you went through my cupboards you might find a few things that technically I could make myself, but in general meals are created from scratch here, not from a box. Our meals are more economical, healthy, and tasty I think. Apparently, the family agrees on the tasty part.

Even so, we all enjoy convenience every now and then. When I can match up the right sale with the right coupons, I do not hesitate to buy a few meals in a box to use in a pinch. I mean kids love that stuff right? Not these kids.

The last week or so I've needed some convenience at meal time. One day for lunch I pulled out some frozen pizzas. I told the kids we were having pizza for lunch, and they were very excited, until they walked into the kitchen. When they saw the pizzas, their faces dropped, and they said, "Oh, that kind of pizza."  They ate them, but about half way through the meal Lydia looks at me and says, "Mom, I really wish you would have made homemade pizza."

A few days later I made pancakes for lunch from a high end organic mix a friend had given me when her family went gluten free. The first question I got as the kids came in the kitchen was, "You made them from a mix?!" Again, they ate them, but made it very clear they prefer pancakes from scratch.

And on this very same day, about the same time, Tim tells the world that microwave meals I bought were "utter crap." Then he asks me to make larger meals so he has leftovers to take to work.

Perhaps I should take it as a compliment that the family prefers my cooking to convenience food, and I do. But I think I've created my own monsters.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This Little Piggy Went to School

We love to share the farm with others. We've given tours to families. We've hosted workshops on processing chickens, and we've invited our homeschool group to come and visit the farm. It is as much fun for us, as it for those who are visiting.

Long range, we'd love to open up the farm to the public more. I wish we could host field trips, but there are a few things that need work and a few thing that need cleaned up before we'd feel comfortable allowing a bus load of children (whose families are not there and whom we don't know) to come roam the farm. Maybe someday, but we're not quite ready now. But we can bring a little of the farm to the kids.

I received a phone call from the basketball coach at a local private school. She was planning a promotion for the basketball program. Part of what she wanted to do was encourage students to attend the basketball games. If they could fill up the gym, then the headmaster would kiss a pig. She wanted to know if we had a pig available for a smooch. It just so happened that we had a litter of pigs just about the right size. They were big enough to take from momma pig for awhile, but small enough they could still be held and handled. Later a fund raising aspect was added that got two teachers kissing pigs, and finally the kindergarten teacher asked if we could come a little early to show the pig to her class. That was the best part!

Our pigs are not tame. Catching one to take was a challenge in itself, but we did it. Since it was a particularly muddy week, I brought the pig in and gave it a shower. After sufficiently drying the pig off, we let it roam around the house a little while I wondered what I had actually gotten myself into.

The kids in the class were so excited for the pig. The pig did not feel the same. She was happiest wandering around the room, and that is what she did. She mostly kept to hiding under the tables sniffing at the crumbs left from snack time. The students behaved excellently, and sat patiently in a circle on the floor while I told them a few things about pigs, and the pig explored the room. Eventually the pig felt more comfortable and came into the group of kids for a few minutes at a time. They loved it, and we all laughed when the pig started rooting at Vivian's shoes. Apparently, the shoes smelled like home to the pig.

The big event was loud. It was fun, and a little crazy, but the pig did well with it. The teachers and headmaster  graciously accepted their pig kissing status, and the kids absolutely loved it. Check out the pictures from the local newspaper article, Covenant School headmaster, teachers kiss pig for fundraiser, to see what I mean.

We may not be ready to bring schools to the farm, but taking a little of the farm to a school was a fun and rewarding experience. I'm so glad that we did!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Princess Vivi

Vivian is the self proclaimed princess of this house and the 100 Acre Wood. This self proclamation does not sit well with her siblings who are constantly reminding her that she is not really a princess. Personally, I think the description fits, and enjoy seeing the look on Vivian's face, not to mention the looks on the other kids' faces, when I call her My Princess Vivi.

The other day Viv and Nolan were playing together in the living room. I was in the laundry room and was unable to hear all of the conversation over the noise of the washer and dryer, but it was obvious the topic of conversation was Vivian's royal status.

Soon I hear the pitter patter of little feet behind me. As I turn and look there is Vivian spurting out, "Mom, are princesses real?" And of course they are, so I answered her in the affirmative. I barely got the word "yes" out of my mouth and she was sprinting back to the living room.

A few minutes later, I hear the sound of two determined foot steps stomping toward me. As I turn to look at Nolan and Vivian, I am again asked by Vivian, "Mom are princesses real?" My answer hasn't changed, "Yes, Vivian princesses are real." How I wish I would have had a camera to capture her smug look toward her brother coupled simultaneously with his look of utter disbelief.

Always a quick thinker, Nolan asks, "Does West Virginia have a princess?" My response, "No." was quickly followed by a complete reversal of their looks to one another. Making sure he covers all the bases he continues, "Does America have a princess?" And of course I must answer, "No," but I couldn't let him get off that easy. I added, "But other countries do have real princesses." Not to be outdone he says, "Well only really small unimportant countries." I responded, "No, not really, England has princesses."

At this Vivian finally gets a word in to say, "See princesses are real, and I am one of them!" With this statement she turned on her heal and walked regally out of the room. The discussion was over.