Saturday, February 28, 2009

Meet Benjamin

Six years ago, on February 28th, 2003, our nephew Benjamin was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. This form of leukemia accounts for almost 30% of all childhood cancers. My brother and his family were living in Seattle at the time, where Mike was working at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Arwen was nearing the end of her pregnancy with their third child - Lydia was born on March 8th, 2003.

My mom and dad, my sister, and I had all tentatively scheduled visits out to Seattle within the next 2 months to help out with the new baby, but we didn't realize that we would be helping out with a new baby and a 4 year old undergoing chemotherapy. My mom ended up taking a train to Seattle (within a day or two of the cancer diagnosis) to help out. If you don't know Mike and Arwen and their family, you need to meet them. They have an incredible story of faith in the midst of a very difficult trial.

I'm trying to think of a way to describe Ben... the first word that pops into my head is energetic. He's constantly on the move! You should watch him play baseball or soccer - he's great! After Ben's diagnosis, he lost the strength to walk. This was very difficult to witness. Here was a little boy who had all the energy in the world and now he needed to rely on others to carry him. If you see Ben now, you would never guess that he was a cancer survivor.

We pray for our extended family daily, but Ben gets an extra prayer - that he may remain cancer free. Mike and Arwen have used their experiences in such instrumental ways. They are involved in a group called Brighter Tomorrows, which is a group for parents of children who are cancer survivors or whose children are in various stages of treatment. Ben is a reminder to me to be joyful in the midst of trials, and Mike and Arwen are my reminder to "pay it forward." We love you Ben!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Red Hair? Blonde Hair? Brown Hair?

From the previous pictures that we've posted, I've gotten a few comments and e-mails about the color of Amaya's hair. Steve and I both had blonde hair as babies. Mine darkened around kindergarten and Steve's darkened in high school. Steve and I both have the red hair gene floating around, so who knows when it might show up. In different lighting, Amaya's hair can look red, brown, and blonde. Who knows what color it will be when she gets older? I just hope she doesn't start going gray like me!

Amaya's Purple Blankey

Amaya has become quite attached to her purple blanket that she received as a a baby shower gift - thank you again Sonja, Aunt Jewel, and Sherri! She knows that when the purple blanket comes out, she's due to sleep.

This picture is typically how we'll find her in the morning - all snuggled up - holding onto her blanky - too cute! (I also love how she moves all over the bed at night - every night she's in a different location). Seeing her sleeping so peacefully like this makes it very difficult for me to go to work.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Shelves

Steve put up these shelves a few weekends ago. We've been able to cross a few home improvement things off our list now that Steve has class only one day a week.

While Steve was putting up the shelves, Amaya and I read some books. She LOVES pulling all her books out of her bookcase and because she makes such a big mess and can't quite understand how to pick them up, it's a rare treat that we allow her to "have at it."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Happy Monday!

Sending everyone a little sunshine today. We hope this makes your Monday a little happier!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Let the Texting Begin...

Umm... hi Miles? I was wondering if you wanted to get together this weekend?

Your place or mine?

Grandma's?!? That's perfect!

I hear she has a new couch! Maybe we can climb all over it!

Oh, hey Miles, I gotta run... I'm getting another call... Bye!

Friday, February 20, 2009

George Gibbs Elementary

In our NW Rochester neighborhood, a new "environmentally-friendly" elementary school is being built. It will be named George Gibbs Elementary School, and according to the Rochester School District should be completed in time for the 2009-2010 school year. Amaya will be attending this school in a few years after completion of preschool at our church.

Here's a link to the preschool at our church:

Kingdom Kids Preschool

And here's a link to the Post-Bulletin article about the new schoool:

George Gibbs Elementary

Let's not forget the webcam of the construction of the new school:

George Gibbs Webcam

Finally, if you're wondering, who is George Gibbs?

George W. Gibbs Jr.

And You Thought You Were Having a Bad Hair Day

Thursday, February 19, 2009

30 1/2 Year Check Up

Yesterday was my annual physical - soon to be every 2 year physical! Yahoo! I'm an advocate for preventative health maintenance, so if you haven't gotten your physical, mammogram, etc. - please do it now!

We've recently switched Family Medicine doctors (not by our choice), and I absolutely LOVE HER! If anyone needs a referral, I'm more than happy to oblige. I was impressed with her at Amaya's 12 month well baby visit and I was even more impressed with her at my physical. It helped that I was her last appointment of the day, so we had more time to chat. :-)And not to be stereotypical, but it's going to be nice having a female physician for all of the womanly issues.

Here are my current stats:
Height: 5'6"
Weight: Seriously, are you kidding me?!? Let's just say I'm beating Amaya and am above the 5th percentile. :-)
Blood Pressure: 108/64
Pulse: 64

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Praying for Opportunities

Since studying James, I've been praying for opportunities to serve, praying for opportunities to witness my faith, praying for opportunities to love my neighbor, and praying for opportunities to use my gifts. I've also been trying to listen when God speaks and praying that I would be obedient and put my faith into ACTION when I hear God nudging at my heart.

We have dear neighbors who are elderly, and our family has been given the opportunity to serve them tomorrow. I heard God nudge at my heart on Sunday and I ACTED on it! Because of it, we have become "answers to their prayers." I'm so excited because I prayed for an opportunity and shortly thereafter, God provided us an chance to serve, witness our faith, love our neighbor (literally), and use my/our gifts.

Every day, I'm constantly reminding myself to look for these opportunities. While Amaya and I were getting groceries, the woman bagging our groceries smiled at Amaya and Amaya returned her smile with a great big grin and waved good-bye to her. The woman said, "She just brightened my day!" Even in the little things, we can encourage and love others. And if God can use Amaya to brighten someone's day, then He can certainly use me - but only if I listen and obey.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Back to Work

My last full day of work was on Sunday, January 25th. I took a few days of PTO at the end of the month and then missed three days of work because of my cold. But, I'M BACK! (And as much as I love being at home with Amaya - I'm very HAPPY to be back at work.) I had one "Mommy Meltdown" on Tuesday afternoon. I still wasn't feeling the greatest and I really didn't want to hug Amaya's dolls one more time, or read the Sesame Street Babies book one more time, or build towers, chase her, etc. Amaya has been a picky eater all week and it's been frustrating to no end. One meal, she'll love pasta and then next she scrunches up her nose at the very sight! She's normally very good at playing by herself, but this past week she's wanted me no further than 6 inches away from her! And all I want to do is crawl back into bed.

I was feeling a little guilty about going to Bible Study yesterday morning, because I was more excited about having time away from Amaya than I was about the actual study. One of my friends caught me before I was dropping off Amaya in the nursery and she said that she was having a horrible morning with her kids and was so thankful to have a "morning off." I'm glad I'm not the only mom out there that has these moments!

Then of course, when I left this morning for work, I peeked in on her and she's as cute as ever, snuggled up in her purple blanket sleeping peacefully and all I can think is - I wish I could be home with her today. (sigh)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy 90th Birthday Grandma Struckmann!

Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever. - Author Unknown

What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies. - Rudolph Giuliani

If your baby is "beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on demand, an angel all the time, " you're the grandma. - Teresa Bloomingdale

Today is a very special day for a very special woman - Steve's Grandma Struckmann. We are celebrating 90 years of her unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life, and of course - cookies! Tonight, we are planning on celebrating at Timberlodge and after dinner, going back to their house for angel food cake, ice cream, and opening presents.

On occasion, I've been known to tease Steve that I married him because of his family. (It's only partly true!) By marrying Steve, I was given not only the gift of becoming a wife, but I was able to be a granddaughter again. My mom's parents died when she was 13 and my dad's parents died several years ago, so I've missed having grandparents to call my very own.

I've been so blessed to know Grandma Struckmann and I am a better person for knowing her. She is an amazing woman who continues to live at home with her husband, makes supper for us every Friday night, continues to quilt and make clown dolls and frogs, puts together puzzles, plays chess on a daily basis (and often beats Grandpa!), delivers special goodies to her son every week, and more!

We're thankful each day we are able to spend with her. Amaya doesn't realize how good she has it - she has BOTH sets of grandparents within 5 miles AND great-grandparents within 10 miles!

Between the earth and sky above, nothing can match a grandmother's love. - Author Unknown

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

Since Tuesday night, early Wednesday morning, I've been battling a horrible cold, cough, and intermittent fevers. I've missed three days of work and finally as of Sunday afternoon, I was feeling a little better.

Today, I have more energy, but a lot of work. We're finally celebrating Steve's parents anniversary (their anniversary was January 21st), but Steve's mom was sick and we rescheduled, then I was sick and we rescheduled again for tonight! I made brownies, rolls, and the strawberry salad last night (while I had Steve's help to watch Amaya). Today I'm making baked corn, ultimate slow-cooker mashed potatoes, and I'm trying a new recipe for roast. Amaya and I are also getting some laundry done today and I'm doing some major disinfecting!

Amaya has been anxious to show off her new skills to her grandparents. Besides walking, she learned a few more words (Boom and Ball), learned how to blow bubbles in the bathtub, and learned how to give hugs (kisses are now a rare treat!)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pictures of Grandpa Gustafson's Birthday

I'm finally catching up! Here are some pictures of Grandpa Gustafson's birthday party on the 25th of January.

Once again, Lydia helps distribute and open Grandpa's presents. I think she's practicing for her birthday coming up in March! She'll be six years old! Amazing how quickly the time goes.

Grandma Gustafson, Amaya, Ben, Miles, Lydia, Annika, and Grandpa Gustafson. (After this picture, Grandma put Amaya down on the floor and took her first steps towards Steve.)

I kid you not, this is now my favorite cake ever (my favorite was German chocolate)! Chocolate cake with Oreos on the side, cream cheese based frosting, and chocolate shavings on top. Absolutely delicious!

Grandma and Grandpa Gustafson. Celebrating 62 years of life!

Lydia. What can I say? The girl absolutely makes me laugh! You are the quite the fashionista!

Pictures of Amaya's Birthday Party

Finally, I have a free moment to share Amaya's birthday pictures.

Amaya's cousin, Lydia, did an awesome job helping Amaya open her presents - and she had a lot!

Amaya's cousins, Ben and Miles goofing around.

Amaya's Great-Grandma Struckmann.

Grandma Horning reading to Amaya's cousin, Miles.

Amaya and Miles both trying really hard to share.

Lydia showing Amaya and Miles how the Pound-A-Ball works.

Me and the Birthday Girl!


Our Family of Three.

Our Family of Three plus Miles, Ben, and Lydia.

Amaya's Birthday Cake! Yummy! I made Banana Cake and a Chocolate Cake with ice cream and Grandma Gustafson brought her homemade mints!

After cake, we played an exciting game of Fast Uno. Surprisingly, Great-Grandma had beginner's luck and WON!!

Amaya's LOOT!

Grandpa Horning, Grandma Horning, Lydia, Me, Amaya, Great-Grandpa Struckmann, Great-Grandma Struckmann, Ben, Grandma Gustafson, and Grandpa Gustafson.

Thank you for making Amaya's first birthday so special!