Update pending

Soooo, uploading pictures apparently uses a lot of data, and I’m almost out of data.  Yikes.

But, we’re still trucking along.  We made it though Minnesota, picked Gabe and Chet up in Minneapolis, transferred the kids off to Chet’s parents, Chet and picked up the Boy Scouts from the airport, drove them up to northern Minnesota to the Northern Tier Canoe Base.  I dropped Chet & the Scouts off and then headed down to Wisconsin to meet up with Gabe, Beka and Chet’s parents at our cabin

I’ll fill in all the lovely details later, but right now I’m sitting in a McDonalds with painfully slow free wifi (alas, can’t reasonably get all the pictures uploaded that I would like) headed back up to the Canoe Base to meet up with the Scouts and Chet.  We’ll shuttle them back to Minneapolis, where the Scouts are flying home.  Chet and I will then head back to the cabin and spend a few more days.

Thus far, it’s been lovely.  I’ve enjoyed just relaxing, watching the kids enjoy the lake and fish.  Oh, and I got a bit of fishing in yesterday and was pretty pleased at all the fish I caught fly fishing in the lake.

But, I can’t have a picture – free post, so here’s a couple teasers.  Here’s Gabe and Beka out on the paddleboat fishing away on Torrey Lake.


And, a lovely evening view from the porch of the cabin.  Not too shabby, ‘eh.  Yah, needless to say it’s been a lovely relaxing trip thus far.



After our Yellowstone traffic jam, we slept in and got a later start to our morning than I really had hoped.  But, it was all okay.  We set off for the day without any specific plan, other than to head east, stop off at Yellowstone Falls, and see where the day took us.

Let me tell you the hype for Yellowstone Falls did not disappoint.  The volume of water this year made the falls simply spectacular.


And standing over the lower falls, it was truly awesome, and a little bit intimidating.  I made sure to grip my camera extra tight, even though I had the strap around my neck.


Rebeka and I headed back up the trail, and low and behold, she cooperated with my request for a picture.


We headed to the overlook and just was amazed at the power of the lower falls.


And, the canyon was completely beautiful.


And look at this utterly adorable young lady, and her Yellowstone Junior Ranger Patch!


When we entered the park, the ranger gave Rebeka a sheet of paper, where you checked off animals that you saw in the park.  Each animal sighting was worth 10 pts. and apparently, a score over 70 was considered “very good.”  One of the animals on the list was an osprey.  As we were looking out at the canyon, Rebeka told me she saw an osprey flying.  I was skeptical, until we found (with help) an osprey nest perched atop an outcropping.  It was beautiful, and another gentleman had his spotting scope with him, and let Rebeka and I take a peek, and in the nest was an osprey sitting on the eggs.  Pretty darn cool. Oh, and by the way, she scored 120 points by the time we exited the park.


After the canyon, we headed off eastward.  The views, again, utterly spectacular looking out east after coming over Dunraven pass.


And, again, a totally a sucker for the pretty flowers.


As we entered the Lamar Valley, it was just amazing as well.  All those little dots – those are bison.


Just incredible and amazing creatures.





Again, the scenery is so varied, and so amazing in Yellowstone.


And, because we were too excited heading into Yellowstone, I made sure to snap this on our way out . . .  and there is my little sassy pants.


Finally, even though we spent a couple days in and out of Wyoming, I finally got my opportunity for Rebeka to get her picture with the Wyoming state sign.


We headed up the Beartooth Highway, and the views were awesome and we made it to almost 11,000 feet elevation.


So, over the pass we went.


And we kept on driving and driving.  We made it all the way through Montana and ended up stopping in North Dakota to our next destination.  Here’s a hint . . . it’s another national park.

Day 2 in Yellowstone was quintessential Yellowstone in virtually every way. Rebeka and I slept in – we’ve just been trying to stay on Pacific time, so after a leisurely morning, we headed out to drive the loop up to Mammoth Hot Springs, around to Tower-Roosevelt, and then complete the loop through Canyon back to our camp at Madison.

Our first stop was to check out Gibson Falls.  Absolutely stunning.


And, look, someone wasn’t being all cheeseball on me for a photo op. But she had her souvenir baby bison named “Tatanka” who accompanied us on our tour.


After that we stopped at the Norris Geyser Basin, which was absolutely incredible in a different way than what we saw in the Old Faithful area the day before.  A lot more trees and stark contrasts of the landscapes.









And, if you heard the story where a person fell into a Yellowstone Hot Spring and his body was dissolved in 24 hours, well, this picture below is the location of that fateful incident, also known as Pork Chop Geyser.


That, kids, is why you stay on the lovely boardwalks.  And, it helps to take your baby bison piggyback for the walk.


The Norris Basin was incredibly fascinating in the variations, and overall a lovely, albeit warm, hike that day.




After our tour of the Norris basin, we hit the road and headed up to Mammoth Hot Springs.  My motivation on taking this loop on this day was concern for my finger.  While I was happy with my wilderness first aid skills, I knew my cut was pretty bad, and there is a Medical Clinic at the Mammoth Hot Springs area.  My plan was to change my dressing, assess the status of my injury, and if needed go to the medical clinic.  But, first, we had to check out the area.


It was amazing, again, in how different and unique this area was compared to the other hot springs we had previously visited.  And, another no cheese picture.




After touring all the sites, getting some ice cream, watching Elk in the middle of the activity in the Mammoth Hot Springs visitors center area, I investigated the finger.  I was finally able to get steri-strips on it, and decided that was sufficient instead of stitches (and I felt embarrassed to go into and be, hey, I was a bonehead).  Then we got Rebeka’s Junior Ranger patch, which I failed to get pictures of, and then headed back out on the road.  We took the Blacktail Plateau Drive, which offered stunning views and a magnificent bull elk in the distance.



And, I am a sucker for pictures of the bison.  I just am so impressed at their mass and the striking contrast of this bull against the green was beautiful to me.



Of course, the wildflowers were beautiful too.


After we stopped and saw the petrified tree, which I shared in an earlier post.  Then we headed off back to the campground with grand plans of enjoying another campfire, roasting marshmallows, and relaxing after a fair amount of driving.

Overcast skies quickly turned into a thunderstorm, which Rebeka was enjoying.  As we headed up Dunraven Pass, the intermittent sprinkles turned into heavy rain, and as we were heading down the pass, the rain turned to hail and Rebeka started to panic about sliding off the road.  The poor girl, as much as we  have driven in snow, the heavy rain coupled with hail was something she is not accustomed, an the ruggedness of the pass coupled with the weather was too much for her sensibilities.  However, we both survived, and made it to the Canyon area and were happily on our way back to camp.

Now, take a moment to look at the map below, including the distances between Canyon, Norris and Madison. Remember, our campground was at Madison.

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We approached the intersection at Norris to turn to head out to Madison, and the traffic was backed up a good 1/2 mile.  Okay, it’s the summer peak season, it’s the evening, everyone is heading back to their lodging for the evening, like us.  So, we make it through the intersection, turning toward Madison, get up to the speed limit for about a mile, and then bumper to bumper traffic at a complete stop.

There we sat, not moving forward, and intermittent oncoming traffic.  I contemplated turning around and going around through West Thumb and Old Faithful, the loop we did the day before, but I knew that would take us a couple hours.  So, there we sat, occasionally moving a few hundred yards or so forward.

We continued to sit.  And sit.  And sit.  Finally, an hour or so into our wait (I’m thinking there must have been an accident, so eventually it will clear and traffic will begin moving again), we hear from a passing oncoming vehicle that there were bison in the road causing the traffic delay.  Okay, well, so that’s causing the backup, how bad can it be, right?

Remember, I said to pay attention to the mileage – that is because we got caught in a “Yellowstone Traffic Jam.”  Yes, something similar to this:


Photo credit http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2012/05/14/greetings-from-yellowstone/ng_untamed-2661/.

Yes, that is not my picture, because we were HUNDREDS of cars behind the bison traffic, but I envision it looked something like that, as the bison moved between Norris and almost all the way to Madison.  The 14 mile section of road took us – wait for it – 4.5 hours to drive.

At least along the way, I was able to snap some pictures of the sunset.





When we made it back to our campsite, it was late.  It was cold cut sandwiches for dinner and straight to bed.  As I said to Rebeka, we went bison speed that evening.  She didn’t find it funny until the next morning.  But, those Yellowstone traffic jams are no joke.  I heard stories of them before, but I didn’t imagine that we’d get stuck for over 4 hours in one.  Sure did make some pretty awesome memories though.

A Day of Firsts

So, neither Rebeka nor I have ever visited Yellowstone National Park.  We pushed it to Idaho and about an hour from the West Yellowstone entrance.  We got up bright and early to make the push to Yellowstone.


We made good time, and seeing the entrance station was exhilarating.  Our first day in the park definitely got off to an amazing start.  We entered around 8:15 a.m., and we were almost immediately greeted with our first wildlife experience.


Rebeka as beside her self looking at the elk and the babies hunkered down in the shadows of the trees.  You can imagine the squeal of Rebeka saying “BABIES, they are sooooo cute!”


At this point, it was too early to check into our campground at Madison.  Instead, I decided to head down toward Old Faithful and just see what we got to see during that day.  To say the least, it did not disappoint.  We did the whole loop from Madison, down to West Thumb, back up to Canyon, and back to Madison.  It was a full day, but we squeezed in a lot for our first day in the park (though, of course there are dozens of stops along that loop I still want to go back and do).

However, as we are heading down the road we encounter our first Bison, or the goofy person in me who kept saying “Tatanka.”  As we watched the Bison, I observed this mother down by the river with her calf and she then leaned in and gently began to groom it.


The mass of these animals is awesome.


And, Rebeka decided it would be her mission to be silly or goofy in every picture.  But, I nevertheless try.


Not long after our bison encounter, off in the distance we see our fist real glimpse of the hot springs and geyser features.


It was incredible as we approached and then joined the giant crowds to go take a walk a about at Upper Geyser basin, which did not disappoint.


Rebeka was not a fan of the sulfur smell or getting sprayed with geyser water.



After walking the loop, we headed off down the road.  I was going to stop at Midway Geyser basin, but wholly crowds batman.  So, we kept on our way to Old Faithful and vowed to get back to Midway in the future.  We have to leave things for our next visit, right?

After getting to Old Faithful, we stopped, put some air in the tire (its looking like we have a very slow leak on a tire) lucked out on an amazing parking spot right near the Visitor’s Center, and then made sure to get Rebeka’s Junior Ranger book and started straight away on touring the sites there and working on her Junior Ranger requirements.



And Rebeka’s mission to be a goofball continued.


Oh yah, and her stuffed Elephant, Sugar (?) came on the tour with us.


And probably the oddest moment of the day is we’re walking the path, and I am standing next to a couple older ladies whom I overhear pointing at some stuff on the ground next to a hot spring, and one lady asks “what is that?”  Her companion friend replies “Oh, I think that’s a fungus.”

This was the “stuff”:


Was it wrong of me to laugh (inside of course), or should I have been a kind person and corrected them and told them, no ladies, that’s POOP!

Besides poop, there were other beautiful features out in the basin loop, like these lovely wildflowers.


And the hot springs and geysers just continued to be amazing and awesome.


Then, according to my plan, while we were out it was time for Old Faithful to go.  Much to Rebeka’s surprise, we had a great view, away from the masses of people.



After enjoying Old Faithful we continued on our way, and past one of my favorite features of this stop:


After Old Faith and its many friends, we continued on to West Thumb for another tour of hot springs and geysers.  Somebody was rather excited to get out of the car and walk again.


One of the really interesting features of the West Thumb area is the presence of geysers within Yellowstone lake.


And, I couldn’t pass by a picture of Emerald Pool.


After a tour of the West Thumb geyser basin, we headed off on the road again, as it was starting to get late and I knew we had some time and miles to compete the loop and get back to Madison and check into our campground.  But, of course we had to stop and observe another herd of Bison.DSC_0272

I love how their coats shed.


We finally get back to the campground and start to get settled.  Rebeka wanted desperately to have a fire and roast marshmallows.  Which we accomplished.


However, not without incident.


As I was splitting kindling into smaller pieces, I got distracted by a little one, and not looking combined with a very sharp instrument spelled near disaster for me.  I got myself really good.  So good that I contemplated trying to figure out how the heck I was going to get myself to get stitches.  But, I’m stubborn and it really would have been a massive inconvenience to try to get the camper popped down, gear loaded back up, and off to medical help.  My mad backcountry first-aid skills came to hand, and after what felt like forever (because it really was), I got bleeding under control and wrapped the bad boy up and then called it a day.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, it’s a doozie, but I was able to get steri-strips onto it the next day, and while it’s going to leave an ugly scar, but, again, made first-aid skills came to my rescue, I don’t think I hit a tendon (which I was initially concerned about but who needs to bend the tip of their finger, right), so onward we go.  And, kids, this is why you always have a good first-aid kit in your gear.


It has been an amazing couple of days.  We are finally back into cell range, at least for the moment.  It is late, it was a long day driving, and it is softly raining outside.  Honestly, I don’t know if there is a better sound than rain softly tapping on the roof of a camper.

It is midnight and I’m finishing a glass of wine as Rebeka is fast asleep in the bed.  My camera is in the cab of the truck, so the following snippets will have to do until later, when I’m energized and have more time.

Guess where we have been:



IMG_8321 2

And here:


And here too:


Drove along witnessing this:


And managed to get here before dark.


Stay tuned for a full update in a day or so.

I’m Back . . .

Kind of.  The past several years have been an interesting ride.  Maintenance was supposed to be some point in life where everything was smooth, you found a groove, and just road out the end of treatment to the end.  Our experience was anything but smooth.  Then, being out of treatment has been its own challenging experience.  Honestly, I don’t know how to describe how f’d up Chet and I have felt the past few years.  In treatment we held it together because we had no choice.  Out of treatment has been a crazy weird, unsettled, dark time.  I have often heard people say that parents of cancer kids suffer their own post-traumatic stress disorder.  I don’t know what PTSD is like, and I don’t know if what Chet and I have felt and battled is that, but I know we have both struggled greatly once Gabe got out of treatment.  It’s been hard.  But, we’re three years out of treatment, Gabe is doing amazing, and I think we are finally, and I mean finally, finding ourselves again.  We are finally getting back into things we used to do and love.  We are figuring out our new normal.

But, here I am again.  Rebeka and I are taking a road trip.  We hit the road today and our first destination is going to be Yellowstone National Park.  We pulled a long haul today.  Traveling across Nevada, I don’t recall in my life seeing the state look as green as it is in mid-June or as much water.  Carson Sink is just full of water, the rivers are flowing well, and there is standing water and just lushness.  It is amazing, and I am so grateful to be doing this trip.

Rebeka and I have made it well into Idaho (and pretty darn close to Jellystone, I mean Yellowstone).


So, tomorrow we will hit Yellowstone for a spell before heading off for the next adventure.  Stay tuned as we travel around the country, camping and road trip’n again – like we used to, and like we love to do.


First, let me start this out with “Gabriel’s doing awesome.”  We have truly been so blessed with his health and progress.

We are two weeks away from him getting his central line/Broviac out.  This my friends is worthy of five exclamation points!!!!!  For those of you who have not experienced a Broviac line, this is a huge step forward in his treatment.  For us it means a lot.  First, no more weekly blood draws.  Second, no more weekly dressing changes.  Third, no more daily flushes.  Fourth, no more almost guaranteed hospitalizations if he gets a fever, even if for some reason his counts are low, because the fear of a blood infection isn’t there due to the absence of the central line.

Yes, there are some downsides.  We won’t be doing weekly blood draws, we’ll do monthly, which means we’re going to be in the dark about where his counts are at – and we’ve gotten pretty accustomed to knowing that information.  And, Gabe’s going to be getting pokes, real pokes, for every Chemo treatment and every blood draw.

However, the upsides are just too much, besides all the stuff just related to the maintenance of the line, Gabriel will be able to go swimming, take baths, get in our hot tub, and do all sorts of things like that, things he hasn’t been able to do for the past year and half.  It’s amazing how little things can mean so much.

Outside of that, there hasn’t been a whole lot of news to report.  We’ve been hunkered down for the past few weeks.  Gabe’s been having fun doing his Cub Scouts activities.  Chet’s a running fool.  And, slowly, ever so slowly life is beginning to feel a bit more normal and there are moments where you almost forget that you’re still living with cancer.

If you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s awesome.  It makes me just cry, tears of understanding, compassion, pain, joy, empathy, sorrow, all in a single moment.  But, again, it is just awesome.

You know, cancer makes you stronger.  Whether you’re the one actually dealing with the physical disease, or whether you’re the loved one sharing the journey.

Today, Chet and I found out a dear friend has just been diagnosed with cancer.  It’s a cousin to leukemia, and man it just hurts deep in the gut.  The pain is just too deep to describe and there’s no way to express the emotions associated with knowing another person you know and love has to deal with such a crazy disease.

We shared with Gabriel our friend’s diagnosis.  Man, the kid is absolutely astonishing, empathetic, and incredible.  He started crying.  Today he got a stress relief squeezer thing.  Gabe was so frustrated that through gritted teeth he asks me for the squeezer.  I dig it out of his bag and hand it to him.  He starts squeezing it as hard and he can, and then throws it across the room in anger.

He is such an amazing person.  I hope he never looses that empathy, compassion and just real nature.  It makes him into an absolutely awesome soul to be around.

We’re all stronger from this experience.  Our most fervent prayers go out to our friend and we ask that you pray for his health and prognosis too.

So many blessings.

Tonight, as I was singing with Rebeka, “I have a joy, joy, joy, joy, joy in my heart…” I realized how incredibly blessed and fortunate I am and how blessed my family is.

Too often, Chet and I reflect on our past year. I’ll see pictures of Gabriel without hair or with a puffy Prednisone face or Rebeka a year younger, and I have to be honest – I’ll break down in tears. It’s so hard to explain how it makes you feel to walk along this path. Chet and I will talk about how much of this last year we missed just enjoying Rebeka as a sweet little two year old girl. Gabriel’s lost so much of his year, friendships, relationships and those types of experiences. I don’t want to say that as a family we’ve been robbed, but in a way, we have.  And, it’s difficult because Gabe doesn’t look sick anymore, but he’s still fighting cancer, and we’ve got a long journey ahead of us.  It’s so disheartening at times.

But, those are fleeting moments that pass almost as quickly as they come. And, I thank God for that.

And, then it is nights such as tonight, that remind me how incredibly blessed we are. How blessed I am. I have two beautiful children. Gabriel, is alive and doing amazingly well. I have a job I enjoy. I have an amazing husband. And I have a wonderful and supportive family. Truly, life does not get much better; and while we may have rough patches in this life, we’ve been given so many gifts that I can’t dwell in the sorrow, pain, or memories. They are the past and water under the bridge.

So, a couple of weekends back we had a family adventure. Kind of like this past year, what was anticipated to be sunny, beautiful and full of fun – instead,  our weekend was filled with unexpected turns of events, surprises with silver linings, ups, downs, and a beautiful conclusion to the weekend.

Now that I’m a dedicated state employee, I get the pleasure of furlough days. Honestly, I do mean it’s a pleasure. For me, it’s been a blessing, as I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get a day off this early in my employment except for the furlough day. So, I actually kind of like it. We planned my furlough day for a Friday so that we could take advantage of a long weekend. We knew we’d head out camping.

Originally, we thought about going to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but after thinking long and hard, we decided that was just too far to drive for a 3 day weekend. Then we thought about heading to Yosemite National Park, but when we looked at the weather forecast, they were forecasted to get a couple of feet of snow – and that was not inviting to us, considering we were hoping to get some hiking in. NEXT!

Then we started looking at other options: Berlin-Ichthyologist State Park? Lava Beds National Monument? Montana De Oro State Park? North-central California coast? Bishop, eastern Sierra? Chet started checking out the forecast and after much evaluation, trepidation, discussion, and analysis, we decided to head to the Bishop, California area. The forecast was snow Thursday night, cool and sunny Friday, and warmer and sunny Saturday and Sunday. Keep that fantastic forecast in mind.

Friday morning we have the camper loaded, get the kids loaded and head off on our weekend adventure. No real set plans. We had no idea where we’d camp. But the few things we knew we’d do were: (1) stop at Mammoth Brewing and grab a couple growlers of beer; (2) stop at Schatt’s Bakery in Bishop and get some cheese bread; (3) get out for a nice hike.

About an hour from home, Rebeka asks for her nite-nites (blankets). At that point, Chet and I realize that we forgot to grab them. Oy! Rebeka moves into a full-blown fit. I tried negotiating with her (’cause there was NO way we were going to turn around over blankets) and offered that when we got to Bishop, we’d stop and buy her a new SPECIAL nite-nite just for camping. That worked for a little while, but as soon as the distraction passed, it was back to a whining session for her blankets. And, yes, that continued off and on for the whole remaining 2 hours (give or take) to Bishop.

Fortunately, once we got to Bishop, the K-Mart served us well and Rebeka was attached to a new blanket. Whew.

Next, after making the required stops (groceries, Schatt’s, fuel & propane) it was time to decide where to camp. After looking at the maps and a stop to the local National Forest Office, we decided to head up to Grandview campground in the White Mountains. It’s on the road to the Bristlecone Forest, and Chet was told by the Forest Ranger that while the road was closed still for the winter to the Bristlecone groves, it was only a 2 mile hike in from the gate. So, because the hike sounded like a terrific Saturday morning hike with the kids and the campground was just a couple of miles down the road – off we went!

We found this beautifully isolated, and desolate, campground. It was a bit cooler than we expected. But, as soon as we picked our campsite, popped up the camper, Chet and Gabe got the fire going and we got things set up, it started to snow.

Now, it’s time to remember that forecast I mentioned before.

And, I mean that it started to SNOW! And snow and snow.

After a delightful dinner of pizza and Mammoth beer, we hunkered down.  If I haven’t mentioned, I love our camp oven.  It’s AWESOME!!!

Then, in the middle of the night, I wake up to Chet peering out the window. Okay, it was windy, really windy, and all night long in between the gusts you would hear the snow hitting the camper. So, I ask Chet “what’s up.” Chet responds “call me crazy, but I think we should bug out of here right now.” To which I respond “you’re [bleeping] crazy!” and then I rolled back over and tried to go back to sleep.

The next morning we woke up to about 6-8 inches of snow on the ground. Yah, brilliant.

A pot of coffee and a quick pack up, we headed out to drive down the mountain to Big Pine to be lower for making breakfast. As we were driving out, we thought we’d try to head up to the trailhead – just to see if we could make it (and we’re a glutton for punishment). And, we got about a ¼ mile from the gate (by our best estimate), but the snow drifts were just too deep and while we like an adventure, getting stuck isn’t an adventure for us.

No hike to the see the oldest trees for us this weekend.

We headed down back to Big Pine and took a break at the local park. The kids had a blast playing while Chet shoveled the snow off the roof of the camper and I got breakfast cooked.

It was all fun and games until Rebeka went flying off the zipline. Shhh, that’s our little secret – Chet doesn’t need to know that I shared that.

After breakfast, more coffee and some play time, we all headed back up to Bishop and do some browsing at the backpacking stores. At that point, it’s time to decide where to head to next.

Considering there was still a ton of snow in the mountains. Remember the forecast… And it was drizzling in Bishop, we decided to continue north and maybe camp near Bodie State Park. But, then we decided to take Highway 120 from Benton to Lee Vining, because there’s a fantastic 5 mile stretch of road that rolls and is quite fun to drive – especially with kids.

After making out way back to 395, we decided to continue north and Chet suggested camping between Bridgeport, CA and Smith Valley, NV – there’s some fantastic mountains east of the Sweetwater range. And in those mountains we found a perfect campsite with a great fire ring, plenty of wood to collect, and isolated. It was awesome.

We park, we get the camper set up, I get dinner going, Chet and Gabe get the fire going and guess what – IT STARTED TO SNOW!

All I could say was “are you kidding me!” Yes, I really said that – multiple times. Fortunately though, this time it didn’t snow that much or for very long, and we were able to enjoy a nice dinner and Chet and the kids had an amazing fire.

I mean A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

But I will be honest, when it started snowing again (remember the forecast) Chet and I were so frustrated, we almost decided to head back home. I’m glad we didn’t.

The next morning, we decided to head back to Bodie State Park. Rather, instead of taking the direct route (back to 395) we decided to take the back road from Hawthorn.

The mountains were absolutely beautiful in the morning.

Off we went and it was beautiful, the road heads up a canyon and is just awesome. It’s definitely 4×4 required, but it wasn’t too bad (especially considering some of the Nevada mud slick road we ended up driving on for a while). And, it was great, until we hit the sign regarding the road not being maintained (if you’re coming down from Bodie, not from the direction we came). There we encountered a spring, and there was a bit of a stream crossing across a meadow. No big deal, right? Stream crossing to the left, mud bog to the right. Easy choice – keep left and cross the stream. At least, that’s what we decided (and there might have been some taunting not so P.C. words said by me to Chet about being a weenie – but I didn’t use the word weenie). And that was a great idea until the water was …. well …. DEEP. I mean, like to the top of the wheel wells, mid-way up the doors deep. Oh, and our truck doesn’t have a snorkel.

We had an “oh no” moment.

A quick shift into reverse and we were fortunate to get out before we flooded the engine. Whew! So, through the mud bog we went, and that was a challenge in of itself. We almost ended up high centered, as it was deep in its own right.

We made it to Bodie, in one piece, not stuck, and in good spirits. That was a win. Then we got to tour Bodie, which was a very cool experience.

Yes, experiences like this just continue to build on how fortunate and blessed we are as a family. Cancer, what cancer. We kick cancer’s butt and we’re not about to let it beat us!

Life this past year has definitely had it’s highs and lows for each of us as a family. Reflecting back, we’ve spent so many months in isolation. And, we do it because it is the “right” thing to do, but that doesn’t take away the emotions and the feelings of loss and missing out.

 No one has felt this more than Gabriel. And, frankly, quite often I think Chet and I have no concept how hard it has been on him. Gabriel has been such a trooper and just tolerated everything so well, we just don’t fully comprehend the hardship on him. He’s one tough kid, emotionally and physically.

 But, there are just things that happen that give you an little insight into his mind and heart. And, well, this is just one of them.


 Wow. All I can say is that it made me cry. And well, made Chet mushy too (don’t let him know I said that).

 Our crawfish boil is an annual event with friends and family from all around. And, well, this year we just couldn’t do it. Gabe’s counts were too low, we were too financially strapped, and emotionally, we were just too drained. Little did we realize how much that annual event, which normally also has a bit of a birthday celebration for Gabriel built in, meant to Gabriel.

 Honestly, quite often I’ve felt guilty that we have so often combined Gabe’s birthday with the Crawfish Boil. The timing each year just works out that way. But, it seems like it has been a good thing.

 Gabe’s counts finally came back up. He went back to school yesterday. The bummer is that Friday we head back down to Oakland for a five day hospital admission. So, he’ll be out of school again for a few days.

 That’s tough. He’s missing his class musical. He was going to get a part in it, but he’s missed so much school due to cancer that they had to give the part to another little boy. He’s been okay with it, but I know deep down it has to be disappointing. How can I take that away? I can’t. But, hopefully, the time out of school will get less and less. We’re all ready for that.

 But, this past weekend, Gabriel, Rebeka and I got out for a nice 3 hour tour. No, we didn’t end up shipwrecked anywhere, even though we were close to water. But, we did get about 2.5 miles of hiking in and had a good time.

 We hike on the Deadman Gulch trail in the Washoe Lake State Park. It was a whole lot of fun and I’m so grateful that we’re able to get out and do fun things together and not be stuck isolated at home.

Here’s Gabe looking out a big hole in a fallen tree at the trailhead.

Rebeka was anxious to get going and was impatient to get hiking.

Rebeka was beside herself to get into the water.  See how white her shoes were.  “Were” being the operative word – I failed to get an after photo.

Gabe enjoyed a water stop while waiting for his sister to catch up to us climbing the hill.

Not a bad view or a bad climb.

After taking a long and round about walk up to the lookout, this was the best picture I could get of the two of them.  What is it about getting two siblings to look at you and smile at the same time?

Rebeka was super excited about her backpack.  And she got many compliments on it from others while we were out on the hike.  I think it’s just adorable.

And here was one of the final photo opportunities before the battery was spent.  A great cut-out / exploratory mine out on the trail.

Stay tuned.  Next hike T.B.D.

Where do I start? It’s been way too long, and I’ve meant to come and update so many times, but my heart hasn’t been able to put my focus to actually sitting down and writing an update.

I think I really last gave an update as we entered maintenance. And with that, I had high hopes of a smooth road of bliss and a normal life. Well, that’s been partly happening. But, there has been so much more occurring in our lives, not just cancer, and a lot of it resulted in a lot of stress and not so positive happy feelings in me. And, because of that, I just didn’t have the heart to write it out.

One thing I’ve learned over this past year is that it is one thing to write about the stress associated with watching your child go through a diagnosis of cancer and the resulting treatment. For me, writing and sharing about that was comforting and healing. I was able to face the emotions, fears, anxiety and other feelings and basically talk myself through them while sharing our journey.

Unfortunately, I’m not as comfortable sharing about the other stress inducing experiences in our life, and 2011 was packed full of them. As in the words of the old Morton Salt advertisements, “When it Rains it Pours.” And, that has been the last year for all of us.

Right about the time Gabe started maintenance, other factors outside of cancer resulted in a very dramatic increase in my stress level. I was just plain frazzled. And, unfortunately, these stresses continued for several months. And new things were thrown into the mix, including getting laid off from my job at the end of the year.

Whew, what a year – right? Started with a bang and ended with one.

Fortunately, the people I worked for were amazingly gracious to me and truly the economy just finally hit and like millions of other people in this country, I became one of the statistics.

Really, how do you talk about that? For me, I couldn’t, not particularly when I was in the depths of the emotions and everything else. And because of all the stress associated with that, along with other things happening in our lives, I just didn’t have it in me to keep my chin up and look at the bright side.

I was fighting depression and felt for many months that I didn’t have a whole lot else in me to keep on the good fight. I was beyond exhausted, beyond frustrated, beyond exasperated. As I said to a close friend, I was at the end of my rope desperately clinging to the knot at the end praying that I didn’t loose what little grip I had left.

But, in life, all things pass. I started to feel better and get over the despondent emotions and began to pull up my big girl panties and move on. And, just as deep in my heart I knew, as soon as I was ready to emotionally move on, things would develop. When one door closes, God, in his own time, opens another – and at the end of February I started a new job as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of Nevada.

So, when you’re down, feeling awful there really isn’t a lot inspiring to even frank to talk about.  That’s just not the kind of person I am.  I try not to whine too much about life.

I’m sorry I haven’t been updating, but there’s a little bit why.

Okay, that’s more than enough about me. Let’s talk about the stuff that this blog is really all about – our family!

Gabriel is doing great! We had the hospital admission over Halloween, which sucked. Really sucked. Poor kid came off of a 5 day admission for Nelarabine in Oakland only to come down with a fever. Much to our surprise, his ANC was crazy low and stayed crazy low for the entire time we were in the hospital – 11 days. And, all that was due to a sinus infection. Yes, a simple run of the mill sinus infection.

But, those days in the hospital, I sewed his Halloween costume and while he missed trick or treating this year and all the fun festivities, he did get an awesome costume.

And even after 11 days in the hospital, we got sent home with quite a nifty set up for continuing to give Gabriel some heavy duty antibiotics.

But, slowly his body recovered and he was able to go back to school.

Yes, finally, we are starting to be more NORMAL! Yes, there is a normal life during cancer treatment! It just takes a very long time and also requires a bit of redefining of “normal” for our family.

Gabe’s been participating in Cub Scouts and has almost completed all the requirements for his Wolf badge. He’s going to school, having fun with friends and even got to go on a field trip a while back. WOW!

But, in treatment, there’s still adventures; ups, downs, and the like. We had another hospital stay right before Christmas. That was pretty emotional, as it was my biggest fear that we’d spend another Christmas in the hospital. Again, Gabe missed out on the school Christmas festivities, which really bummed him out. But, due to the incredible compassion and advocacy of our treating doctors (who are all A-M-A-Z-I-N-G), Gabriel was discharged on Christmas Eve and we got to spend Christmas at home, albeit it was with incredibly low counts but he was home and that was all that mattered to us.

We also got to have our first legitimate family vacation over MLK weekend. It had been more than a year and half since we had been able to go out of town – all four of us – and just have a great family holiday. It was fantastic! We loaded up the camper and headed north to the Modoc National Forest and went obsidian mining! Seriously, it was awesome. We came home with more obsidian than I can shake a stick at (several hundred pounds worth) and we’ve got grand plans for our next adventure up to the Modoc for more mining and exploring.

On the drive up to the Modoc.

The weekend was truly and adventure, filled with tree chopping, digging, cuts, blood, and exploration.

A perfect Fairbank Family vacation.

And who can miss Rebeka’s 3rd birthday.  It was a blast.

We were able to get out of town for an impromptu camping trip again a few weeks back.  We visiting Indian Grinding Rock State Park and just had a great time as a family.  It feels so good to be kind of normal, even if it only comes in waves.

Gabriel was also a guest speaker during the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation’s Elevate Life Campaign.  Gabriel and I were interviewed by Dan Mason on KKOH here in town.  What a cool experience to be able to share with people in our community a little about our journey and to support the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation’s fundraising efforts.

And a few weeks back Gabriel’s Cub Scout Pack did a community service project to reseed part of the area burned in the Washoe Drive Fire in January.  The Pack went out to Little Washoe Lake and spread seed over about two acres.  And, the pack got a bit of press, and Gabriel’s picture made the front page of the newspaper!

Probably the most difficult part about this phase of treatment is that Gabriel no longer looks and acts like a sick kid (not that he’s often really looked that bad). But, it’s easy for people to forget that he’s still undergoing treatment. We’ve still got a very long road ahead of us.

For example, last week, despite all efforts to work out his oral chemo, we’re still on a roller coaster ride.  Gabe’s counts dropped below 750, and they stopped his oral chemotherapy to hopefully avoid ending back up in the hospital with an infection and zero immune system.  But, we’re about 6 months into maintenance and we’re still trying to work out those ups and downs.  Dialing in the oral chemo is a huge challenge for everyone, the doctors, us and Gabriel.

And, even though Gabe doesn’t look or act sick, he’s still in a cancer kid.  The Cub Scout Pack had their pinewood derby, and even though Gabe’s counts were low, we let him go anyway.  He had to wear his mask, but he got to go.  And, his Den won Fastest Den!  How cool is that. 

Granted, the journey is getting easier by the day, but there’s still more than two years of treatment left, and that’s just still a long time. And, Gabe’s still going through a ton, emotionally and physically. But, he’s adapting to being back in school. He’s re-learning important social skills, and he’s got an incredible relationship with his sister, which I can only pray will continue throughout their lives.

So, there’s a quick update of the past several months. I’m not going to be such a stranger any longer. I’m out of my funk and there’s awesome things to share with everyone about my incredible and amazing family.

And, here’s a parting shot of Little Miss Fiesty.  She’s definitely gotten the short end of the attention stick this past year, but she’s a great kid and we sure love her to death too.