This is a post I had almost ready to publish when my niece got sick. I found it today and it made me smile and think of the fun summer days that feel like so long ago already, so I thought I'd share it. Today there is so much more that I am in love with and thankful for. I don't think I have the stamina to post them just now. This week my niece has her big surgery. They will remove the tumor and her kidney and will clean out a major artery. There is a lot of prepping for cousins who will be staying here, and plenty of other, normal life things happening too, but I find myself pausing frequently throughout the days to worry, and to think, and most of all, to take stock and appreciate all that I have. 

  • The Black Eyed Susan's and Daisies popping up between our yard and the pond. 
  • The boy teaching his little sister how to pitch so he has someone to play baseball with now that the little league season has ended.
  • My youngest daughter's firm belief that some day soon she will be able to fly because she wished in a wishing well. And, her daily attempts to determine if today is the day.
  • Celery in my garden! It's stupid how happy this makes me. (It's also kind of stupid that I didn't realize that's what it was until yesterday.)
  • The way my kids pulled together and amused and impressed me with their problem solving skills to retrieving a runaway balsa glider when they were told that, "no they could not climb out the bedroom window onto the roof." (See above) I didn't snap a picture in time but, it involved a broom, a pool noodle, 3 kids strategically placed for optimal viewing of said glider shouting directions, and 1 precariously perched on the porch railing.

Digital Creativity in the (Home) Classroom

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently decided to take some classes from Adobe's Education Exchange. Our first assignment was titled Big and Small and we were asked to use Photoshop to put a small version of ourselves into a picture with a larger version.

Photoshop is my program. I love it and used it for photo editing for years. I am out of practice, however, and the last version I owned is now, over 10 years old. This was a great assignment to help me learn to navigate through the newer versions.

When my son heard me talking about my Big and Small assignment, he excitedly suggested that I make him one of his knights. He loves setting up battles with his action figures. He has even taken photos that play out a stop motion style scene when flipped through quickly. My reasons for taking these courses is to be able to teach my kids, and their friends, to use the programs, so being able to include them in these assignments appealed to me, plus it was a really cool idea, so I went with it.

Our next assignment used Flash. I had never even opened the program before and I got too hung up on creating the artwork which left little time for developing the story. It was fun though, and I was able to show my 12 year old enough to get her started with the program. She has had a lot fun making short animations and I'm so impressed with how much she is learning. This was my animation, the idea for which was decided while doodling with my 6 year old, just before Halloween.

Next up was video, using Premiere Pro. I was very nervous about this lesson. Thinking in terms of video did not come naturally to me, but my kids are fascinated with how movies are made and I knew they would love to help out with this one. Boy was I right. Honestly, I have to give credit for this video to my 12 year old daughter. I wrote some ideas, a rough storyboard, she chucked most of it and added some of her own ideas. Then, she recruited her cousins and little sister to act for her and she video taped all the scenes with my digital camera. I wrote, and she read, the voice over using some feature on my cell phone I didn't realize existed, and then together, late last Monday night, we worked together in Premiere editing, searching for the background music online, and taking photos to fill in where we needed something more. It was so much fun working with her. The assignment was to create a promotional video for your favorite book. This is a family favorite read aloud.

This week we were asked to start a blog, or if we already have one, to write a post about our experience in the class. I have to say that the community that has been created is wonderful and supportive and so much fun. I am having a great time brushing up on programs I haven't used in a while and learning some new ones along with my kids. I hope that these new tools will inspire them in their project work. I am looking forward to the next course, Digital Imaging for Beginners. I suppose I'm not technically a beginner, but the programs have changed a lot in the past 10 years, so I'm sure I'll get a lot out of the course.

Why I've Been Away

I haven't been here in a while. It's because I haven't been able to write much. Summer ended pretty rough for us and I just couldn't write and once I could, there was only one thing to write about. I wasn't sure it was mine to share. I don't know how I can continue here without filling in this empty space though, and it has become such a huge part of our everyday life here that even if it is not truly my story to share, I have a part in it, and it is a part of my story, so here goes.

Abby at Science Club just days before heading to the ER

I woke early on a Saturday morning in August, 4 a.m. early, to the boing boing ring of my phone. I think we've all had it happen. A call too late at night or early in the morning, that makes your stomach flop. Something is wrong, no one would call this early unless it was an emergency. I leaped from my bed, running through all the possible reasons. My father-in-law was going to the hospital, something happened to my mom or dad. I told myself to relax. This has happened before. I worry and it turns out it's nothing. I grabbed my phone and with eyes still sleepy saw it was my sister. I was confused, but somewhat relieved. She probably just woke up when her husband had. He must have had some side job to get to and she didn't even realize it was insanely early for making phone calls. She's just going to ask me to bring something to the birthday party she's having later today for her two girls.

To be honest, the phone conversation is a bit of blur. I remember realizing she was upset, and stepping outside onto my porch for better reception, as my husband wandered sleepily out of the bedroom wanting to know who it was. And, I remember the words, "Kerry, it's a tumor." and, "this is the nightmare." She was referring to every parents worst nightmare. The thing you always talk yourself out of stressing about when you bring your baby to the doctor for a checkup. The thing you worry about, but somehow know, everything will be fine, because it does happen, but chances are, it won't happen to you.

All following picture credits go to my sister

I don't know if I got the whole story in that phone conversation, probably not. By the time I left the hospital late that Saturday night, I knew that the flu like symptoms my niece had been experiencing for a few days were caused by a tumor the size of an orange on her kidney. I knew that because of the tumor, fluid had built up in her abdomen and had been crushing her lungs and heart, and that she had almost died 2 or 3 times since being brought to the emergency room for dehydration Friday evening. And, I knew they were starting chemo that night.

It's been a roller coaster of good days and bad since that August morning. My niece, with my sister at her side, was in the hospital for one month, released the day after her 6th birthday. There are lots of friends and family coming together to help any way we can. We know that the tumor is a Wilms tumor, a cancer that has a good recovery rate. Treatment is going well and surgery is being scheduled to remove the tumor and the kidney.

If you'd like, you can read more about Abby's journey here. It's a page my sister's roller derby friends set up to help out. My sister has had to leave her job at a pediatrician's office. They own a small waste disposal company and she spends her days caring for Abby, her 3 other kids, and running the office side of the business. Although medical expenses for Abby's care are covered. There are many other expenses, as I'm sure you can imagine, so if you are moved to, donation can be made there and are deeply appreciated.

As I mentioned earlier, this has, of course, changed our lives as well. Everything from what I'm sewing and making to the way we are homeschooling this year. We have cousins here often, watching them whenever Abby goes to the hospital for treatments or transfusions. All of this will find it's way into my posts, and so I felt it important to bring my blog up to speed with the rest of my life.

I have started freshening up my Adobe skills and I will be talking about that in the next couple days. In fact, the class I'm taking is the push I needed to get this written and posted so that I can get back to blogging about homeschool, sewing, gardening and of course those many bits of Abby's journey that overlap my own. I won't regularly post about my sister's or niece's lives. As I said, that is their story to tell, but I won't leave you hanging either. I will post occasional updates on her progress. And, I will be putting a link in the sidebar to Abrielle's Fight Fund, so if you're wondering how it's going, you can check in there too.

I'm not exactly sure how to end a post like this so I'll just ask you to keep my niece and her family in your thoughts or prayers.