Friday, February 16, 2018

Boundless Love

I don't want to write this post.

It is far more enjoyable to write about blessings. I know that many of you care about us and have prayed often for us and by writing this I may give you a bad day.

But I also want to be honest about our journey and beg again for your prayers.

Ed had an MRI this week and found that his tumor is growing.

The news is a kick in the stomach. In some ways this is harder than hearing the original diagnosis in May. When Ed was so sick, it was almost a relief to learn that he had a tumor that could be operated on. It was devastating to learn that the tumor was glioblastoma multiform (GBM), but some patients respond well to treatment and have several good years before the tumor begins to regrow.  Of course we hoped that Ed would be in that small group. We also knew that God is greater than statistics and He could choose to destroy Ed's tumor.

We've had several bio-marker tests done on Ed's tumor since his surgery, none encouraging. Ed's tumor has the ability to repair its DNA which makes it hard to manage with chemo. It also contains extra growth protein that help it grow even faster. This is not imaginary monster under the bed. Neither is it sleeping. This monster is alive. With fangs. And venom.

So the MRI report this week is not totally a surprise. Just very disappointing. All hopes of a semi-normal life this year has been crushed. We now need to decide what kind of treatment to pursue. None of the options sound appealing. Ed could choose to have another surgery or take part in some of the new experimental trials for immunotherapy.

Right now Ed is feeling very well. He has no symptoms from his tumor. It is hard to think of starting a treatment plan that may make him feel sick in hopes of halting his tumor. But if we do nothing, Ed will likely start feeling the effects of the tumor's pressure on his brain.

We hope to meet soon with the neuro-surgeon and oncologist teams from two of the bigger hospitals in our area. Please pray for us that God will give us clear direction on the next step to take.

God is with us even now. If God is near to the brokenhearted, maybe He is nearer now than last week. We do not feel forsaken, just sad.

Last winter, Ed preached at weekend revival meetings at a youth Bible school. He chose "Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me" as his theme song for that weekend. Since then I've had a copy of that hymn near my Bible and it has become my theme song for this past year.

So grateful that I'll never find an end to God's love.

Jesus, Thy Boundless Love To Me
by Paul Gerhardt
translated by John Wesley

Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
Unite my thankful heart to Thee,
And reign without a rival there.
Thine wholly, Thine alone I am;
My soul with constant love aflame.

They love, how cheering is its ray!
All pain before its presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow, melt away,
Where'er its healing beams arise;
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek but Thee.

O draw me, Saviour, after Thee!
So shall I run and never tire.
With gracious words still comfort me;
Be Thou my hope, my sole desire.
Free me from every weight, nor fear
Nor sin can come if Thou art here.

Still let Thy love point out my way;
How wondrous things Thy love hath wrought!
Still lead me, lest I go astray;
Direct my work, inspire my thought;
And if I fall, soon may I hear
Thy voice, and know that love is near.

In suffering be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my pow'r;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
Jesus, in that important hour,
In death as life be Thou my guide,
And save me, who for me hast died!

There are various tunes used with these words but here is a video with the tune that we sing. (If viewing by email you may need to click over to the blog to see the video.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Question: Hospitality and Peace?

Is it possible to have both?

During a recent conversation with friends I found that I wasn't the only one who snapped at my children, then turned to smile sweetly when guests walked in the door.

I love to have guests to our home. I love to prepare a pretty table and a clean house for the comfort of my guests. I like to have the meal prepared so I can enjoy time with friends without rushing.

But a clean house and yummy food doesn't just happen. They take preparation. And too often I turn into a drill sergeant barking out orders. "They will be here in only half an hour, pick up your dirty socks and help me." It is surprising my children continue to ask to have friends over when mom turns into a grump.

I think I'm learning. When I recognize that flushed face and raised voice, I try to start eliminating tasks. That dirty bathroom? It probably won't kill anyone. Haven't dusted for a month? Maybe it will make the other mom feel good to see dust in someone else's house. No time to arrange a bouquet of flowers? Send one of the girls to pick some zinnias.

I think (here is where I get real quiet and hope not too many people are listening) that the root of my problem is pride. I want to look like a capable efficient homemaker. I crave the approval of my friends.

And my children, well, sadly I must not care as much what they think of me. Besides, they already know the worse.

I'd love to hear from you.

How do you host guests without stressing your family? Do you have shortcuts you fall back on? How do you make sure that you are seeking to bless others and not just give yourself some gold stars for hospitality?

Friday, February 9, 2018

11 More Favorite Winter Picture Books

You may say I'm confused.

On one hand I'm loving being cooped up in my warm house, especially this week when the ice storm turn all the trees to glass. It looked as if we lived in a crystal forest. I still have lots of sewing and other indoor projects that I can do while not be distracted with outdoor work

But this week I pulled out my garden seeds and did my seed inventory and started dreaming of planting. With the days getting longer the spring bug has bitten and I'm dreaming of fresh strawberries and crisp asparagus. 

If you don't mind reading about winter you might enjoy this list of favorites that didn't make my first winter book list.


Terrible Storm by Carol Otis Hurst, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Two grandpas reminisce about the worst storm in their memory. The fun illustrations tell the rest of the story. Loved this one.


Big Snow, written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean
A young boys waits for snow, a really big snow. Warm illustrations tell the story of waiting that many children can relate to.


The Snow Globe Family by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
This one tickled our funny bone. Everyone waits for snow, even the snow globe family on the mantel. A fun parallel story sure to bring chuckles.


Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
A father and daughter journey out in the snow. Unknown to them, there is a whole world of small creatures living under the snow. Includes information in the back of the book about how animals survive the winter.


Blizzard, written and illustrated by John Rocco
It has been four days since the blizzard, and still the snowplow has not come. Can one young boy make it to the store with tennis-racket snowshoes? Another book with great illustrations.


The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino, illustrated by Nora Aoyagi
The answer to all your questions about snowflakes. Superb nonfiction book.


Winter Poems, selected by Barbara Rogasky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Celebrate winter with short poems - some old and some new - combined with lively winter paintings.


Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian
Folk art-style wood cuts tell the story of Wilson Bentley and his determination to show the world the beauty in a snowflake. Includes examples of his amazing snowflake photography.


Waiting for Winter, written and illustrated by Sebastian Meschenmoser
Squirrel always sleep in the winter and has never seen snow, but this time he decides to stay awake and watch winter come. The antics of squirrel and his friends, told through few words but amazing pencil drawings, will make any child giggle.


Snow by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Lauren Stringer
A joyful celebration of a child's view of snow. Bold paintings share the exuberance.


Lemonade in Winter: A Book about Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Will anyone buy lemonade in the winter? Count coins with Pauline and John-John as they sell lemonade.

This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

5 Tips for Preparing Special Diet Food



 It has been seven months since Ed started a therapeutic ketogenic diet for his brain cancer. By now it seems normal for Ed to be on a special diet. Even the two-year-old asks, when she sees me pull out a batch of muffins, "Are those for Dad?" knowing she won't get even a nibble.

I never imagined I'd be preparing meals for a special diet, especially a diet that allows for no cheating ever. Ed's diet requires consideration for every meal and every snack. No longer can we leave for the day without making a plan for what Ed will eat.

And yes, some days I hate it. But I've been doing it long enough that it has become much easier. While it takes time to prepare special food for Ed, it isn't difficult. It has become a natural part of life. Ed is quick to show gratefulness and I'm glad to do it for him.

I know there are many people who are on a special diet for medical reasons. Here are some tips that have worked for me.

1. Make a list of favorite meals: snacks, breakfasts, side dishes, lunches, dinners, desserts, travel food, etc. When you find something that works well, or when you adapt a recipe, write it down immediately. I often think I'll remember it later, but I never do. Flipping through these notes in future weeks is a tremendous help. I love that Ed is willing to try new things, yet he doesn't mind repeating the same foods again and again if they are favorites.

2. Use your freezer. This should be number one. If I have food in the freezer I'm never helpless; I will always have something to feed Ed.



Most of the recipes I make for Ed are individual servings to make sure the ratios are exactly correct, but I can still make multiples. For example, if I'm making chicken soup, I line up a few dishes and make three, one for now and two for the freezer. If I do that several times a week, I always have a variety of main dishes in the freezer for him to pack in his lunch or for an evening that I didn't have time to make a meal for Ed. Also about one afternoon a week I try to stock up on baked things such as crackers, muffins, or cookies. These recipes usually make numerous servings and are easy to freeze.

3. Keep your pantry stocked with food that is compatible with the diet. Nothing derails a diet like being hungry for a snack and not have anything that you can eat. Ed has showed extreme discipline for his diet, but I do what I can to make it easy for him by having nuts and keto chocolate on hand.

4. Find a cookbook or website that supplies recipes that exactly fit your diet. I think there is a cookbook (or a hundred cookbooks) for every diet known to man. You can adapt favorite recipes for your diet, but you'll save time and frustration if you find a cookbook that exactly fits your needs. Many cookbook authors have websites so you can try out their recipes and find a good fit before you invest in a cookbook that you may not use. Or maybe the website will be all you need.


For Ed's keto diet, I found that there are countless websites with keto recipes, but most are for weight loss or body building and rarely are they suitable for Ed's version of the diet. I found The Keto Cookbook was perfect. It was written for children with epilepsy who are controlling seizures with the ketogenic diet so it is super strict the right ratios for Ed. I use this cookbook daily.



5. Invest in some helpful tools and products that make you diet more doable. Of course this will vary with your diet needs.

For Ed's diet I found that small glass containers with plastic lids made by Pyrex or Anchor were so useful I've purchased several packs. I can use them in the oven, microwave, or freezer. I use the two-cup size for meals and the one-cup for desserts. I also like mini silicone spatulas for scraping out oil and silicone cupcake molds for making single servings of cookies, brownies, and, of course, muffins. But more than any other tool I use the My Weight kitchen scale. I have had this scale for years, but in the last months I use it several times a day to measure grams easily without losing food in a measuring cup.



Sometimes it is the little things. Ed was thrilled to find spiced mayonnaise. Since he eats so much mayo it is nice to have some Chipotle mayo for a change. I have found chia seeds make an easy keto pudding. Xanthum gum was a recent find that makes it possible for me to make gravies and chowders without flour or cornstarch. Your list of products will vary depending on your goals, but when you find something that works, celebrate. And stock up.

Do you have any hints for cooking a special diet? Some of you have been doing this for many years.

This post contains affiliate links. Your Amazon purchase through my links, though it adds no extra cost to you, has allowed me to buy many of Ed's special diet products at no cost. Thank you.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Bookmarks: Asia picture books

The continent of Asia is a place of contrasts. Crowded cities, rugged mountains, steamy rain forests, and arid deserts make up this area of the world. Any list of books will be inadequate, but here is a few books to help introduce your child to the people, food, and places in Asia.

Rice Is Life by Rita Golden Gelman, illustrated by Yangsook Choi
On the island of Bali in Indonesia, farmers are planting rice in their fields. Following the seasons, lilting prose describes the animals and people who live near the rice fields. Note: Brief mention of false gods.

Bee-Bim Bop! By Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Loe
You will smile as you read this fun book about a favorite Korean food made by a young girl and her mother.

The Bicycle Man by Allan Say
At a small mountain school in Japan the children prepare for Sports Day. The author shares this surprise of this special day from his memories soon after World War 2.

Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib
Bright paintings show every day life in northern India where a young girl watches for the clouds that will signal the beginning of the rainy season. Excellent introduction to life in India. Note: Brief mention of idol worship.

The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Non-fiction picture book on the history and challenges of climbing the tallest mountain in the world.

Monsoon Afternoon by Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Yoshido Jaeggi
One rainy afternoon, a bored young boy is joined by his grandfather in sailing paper boats in the washtub. Lovely water-colors depict life in a warm household in India.

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story by Rebecca Langston-George, illustrated by Janna Bock
Cartoon-like illustrations share the serious story of Malala's desire to help the girls of Pakistan get an education. Help children understand the plight of children who live in a very different culture than theirs and give them an appreciation for education.

My Little Round House written and illustrated by Bolormaa Baasansuren
Baby Jilu lives in the traditional nomadic home in Mongolia. Follow him through the first year of his life, watching the changing seasons and moving to new camps. Traditional-style illustrations give a charming introduction to a fascinating way of life.

The Chiru of High Tibet by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Linda Wingerter
The chiru are hunted because they have the warmest, finest wool in the world, but one scientist and his four friends are determined to help save the chiru from poachers. This is the true story of their journey into the rugged mountains of Tibet to find the chiru's birthing ground.

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Ordinary Winter Days

A glimpse of life for our family these last weeks - or months - some of these are before Christmas.


First snow excitement.


Daddy's dish washing helper on a Saturday morning.


Winter evenings call for stories.


Our children surprised us with a Christmas presentation complete with a nativity play and music.


Cousins and toe socks.


Christmas Eve game playing.


All I wanted for Christmas is to sit with my husband by the fire. So grateful that Ed is feeling so well these past months.


Strict diets are no fun - especially at holidays, but I tried to supply some special desserts for Ed.


Birthday girls. Is there anything more fun than four-year-olds?


And how did our baby get to two years already?


Finally enough snow for sledding - but my daughter tells me we haven't had a snowman yet.


We took a weekend trip to visit Ed's sister in North Carolina. 


On the way down we stopped to stretch our legs on some of the trails in Richmond along the James River.


Still snowy but a lovely day for January.


In North Carolina we found cousins, a pond, a boat, a raft = hours of boy fun.


Warm enough for a January picnic along the Roanoke River.


Where there were more rocks and water for the boys.

I love looking at these pictures. So much fun, ordinary life; we don't take it for granted. (Though we have bickering and tears and frustration that don't get photographed. Lots of growth still needed at our house.) 

Thanks so much for your prayers for our family. I almost can hardly believe that our family has had such a happy, healthy winter. Ed just finished his seventh round of chemo. Whether it is God's grace, learning to deal with the side effects, or some other reason, it seems that every round gets a little easier. Other than a little fatigue, Ed worked right through the week. So thankful.

And special thanks for your prayers for my infant nephew. Parker will be three weeks old tomorrow. He is making slow improvements with breathing, though he is likely to be in the hospital yet for a while. I don't think we realized how close we were to losing him, and we are so thankful for God's healing in his small body. 

But a long hospital stay is hard on the whole family so please continue to pray for them. My sister-in-law said that she never imagined that you could experience such peace in the midst of a trauma like this. 

Truly God's grace does carry us when we are too weak to walk on our own.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

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