Hello friends.
It’s been a long time.
I’ve been writing on evernote and transferring my posts to Facebook and Caringbridge, but I don’t like Caringbridge, I miss my WordPress blog.  It has a pretty little app for my phone :) So I’m going to switch over, and update.

Ben, my third child, has leukemia. He was diagnosed on September 12th, 2014 with high risk T cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

I have been documenting this process to keep our friends and family updated, because we are so grateful for the love and support we receive from you all and I know you are concerned and want to know what’s happening. Also it has been cathartic for me. A couple people have pointed out that this could be helpful for others who have to go through this. And it’s true, I searched for blogs that documented other children’s journeys through ALL but didn’t find many that matched my child’s specific illness.

So, we’re right in the thick of it – we went through the first two phases, Induction and Consolidation and they weren’t successful enough – so now we’re preparing for a bone marrow transplant.  Josh, our oldest son, is a perfect match.

So that’s the short version, I’ll start transferring the entries over when he’s sleeping (we’re in the hospital right now). Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve decided that it’s time to move to Ohio. We got here 8 months ago.  And now I’m finally ready to accept it and move on. 

I think the turning point was friends here in my new area that banded together to take care of me and my family during a stressful time not too long ago.  Their love and concern for us was overwhelming. 

So, I bought a hutch from a friend who was about to sell hers on Craigslist. And I made some repairs around the house. Like I’m STAYING. And I made dental appointments for the kids today. And we are talking about finishing the basement.  And I’ve started investing my time more in friendships with people here. And trusting them. 

Anyway, after I finished a couple of the repairs, Mark said, “Wow….” and I said, “I know. I’m finally moving in.”  He is happy about this decision.

So. It’s been over a year since I’ve posted. It’s been about that long since I knew there was a possibility we would move, we would very likely move, we were most definitely moving, and now we have moved. I sometimes have to repeat to myself, “We live in Ohio. We live in Ohio.”

I get lost… not too much while driving, as far as not remembering how to get places, because of my handy-dandy GPS on my phone. But I’ll be in the store or on the road and not remember what state I’m in, or what should be down the street, or even what month or season it is. Mark suggested the other day that we should go take some chairs and sit in the backyard, and I couldn’t remember what that was supposed to look like. I didn’t tell him that. My mom always jokes- well, it’s sort of a joke, sort of a worry – that she’s getting Alzheimers. I never think she’s serious, everyone forgets things. But it just occurred to me that maybe this is what she’s talking about?

The kids… this move has been good for most of the kids. One of them is really having a hard time. He misses his friends and reminds me every night that he wishes we didn’t move.

Josh made the high school marching band and they are really really good. It’s fun to watch them.

My kids are getting too old, I can’t talk about specifics anymore on my blog. And their problems are getting more complicated. And their lives are getting busier. We are very lucky to live in a town that has bus service and encourages everyone to use it, otherwise I’d be in my van all day with the 4 kids in 4 different schools and all the different schedules and activities.

So anyway. That sums it up in a nutshell. We have been in the house for 2 1/2 months and there are still some boxes to unpack… Am I in denial?

One neat thing though… I have found pinterest.com to be a fun diversion, and it’s inspiring me to actually work on the house and get things done. Here’s my Pinterest stuff… Come see me! ;)

So while I was in the ATL, I got to visit some of my favorite places. Harry’s Farmer’s Market, IKEA, Cheesecake Factory, the movies, thrift stores, REI, La Madeleine, a salon for pedicures and massages, and evenings with friends chatting and catching up on news and old times. (I got my first REAL professional massage, the one at UCMT didn’t count back in college ;) and while the other girls were finishing up their pedicures, we watched a guy propose to his girlfriend there in the salon, while she was getting her nails done. HA!)

IMAG1473, originally uploaded by stephsterr.

My sweet and beautiful friend Meg let me stay at her house on Sunday night and drove me to the airport. She makes me laugh and I am happy just to be around her. She and her husband are raising three handsome young gentlemen and I am very impressed with how they are turning out. It’s amazing, with how much time we spent through the entire time I lived in GA, that we didn’t have any serious arguments, because we are really like sisters. People often asked if we were. I love her!


My darling and sarcastic friend Shauna let me stay with her for the first bit of the trip. Actually, she just assumed I would, and I just assumed I would too. I did eventually confirm. ;) She and her husband AJ were willing to stay up all night playing monopoly with me every night, and AJ sacrificed his whole birthday for us to go have a girls’ day. What a guy. We bought him treats as restitution. Their three girls are darling. When I first met Shauna I didn’t know what to think of her. I was shocked that she was even more sarcastic than myself. Then I decided that she was someone who would be a better friend than an enemy, and then I couldn’t help loving her. She’s a riot.


My gorgeous Wendytart. I love her so much! She is always honest and so supportive. It was wonderful to spend time and see some of her latest projects, and hope some of that creativity will jump over to my brain cells by association. Her two kiddos are adorable also. I laugh so much with these girls. We had such a great time remembering the first time we all met – and when I first met her, I knew I’d found a great friend.

So many others I could write about – Jana, Libby, Tonia, Stephanie, Joan, Amy, Staci, Molly, Tonya, Kristi, Dawn, Ida, Susan, Patty, and all my other friends… and all their darling kids. Sigh. It was great to see (almost) everyone.

IMG_6611, originally uploaded by stephsterr.

I went by myself to Atlanta. How did I get such a treat? It all started when, about a month and a half ago, Mark very nicely said, “It would be nice if you were just a little bit early to church, instead of 2 minutes late every single week.” Which I was – every week. They’d be saying “Welcome to Sacrament Meeting, our opening hymn is…” and here come the kids and me, tripping each other and arguing over whether THIS was the week I’d finally concede to sitting in the very back instead of our usual row, 5th and center.

So I got a little defensive. “You have no idea how hard it is to get 4 kids ready for church, when such-and-such happens, and so-and-so sleeps in and then yells at everyone and then insists on taking a shower etc blah blah blah…” I had lots to say. He said, “you know, people sit and chat before church starts, it’s kind of fun.” Well, I had no idea. That was definitely an incentive, but I really really was tired of getting to church angry with the kids and frantic about being late again. So. We’ve been targeting to leave a 1/2 hour early and then we end up leaving 15-20 minutes after that. Which still makes us early, so, hey. And I’m not all stressed out.

Back on track. From that conversation, I was saying how I wished Mark could see how it is to take care of the kids for 3-4 days in a row with no breaks. And he said, you need to take a trip. Voila – my trip to GA. I first stayed with Shauna and AJ, AJ has a new camera which Shauna, Wendy and I had a fun time playing around with.  More ridiculous pictures after the break.  And more on the trip in the next post, I need to run kids all over creation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Or in other words, what is Josh listening to now? Teehee

This is especially accurate because my iPod took a bath in a puddle of water on Mark’s sink, courtesy of our darling daughter. So my iPod will no longer do anything of use. So any syncs and updated numbers come from Josh, unless I listen to it on my comp. So… let’s see what his tastes have been leaning towards, shall we?

1. Wake Me Up Inside – Evanaescence – 298 — 1168!!! a new winner!!
2. Clocks – Coldplay – 1058 — 1157
3. Dead and Gone – T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake – 67 — 486 – quite a jump
4. Move Along – The All-American Rejects – 195 — 454
5. Airplanes (feat. Hayley Williams) — B.o.B — 325 (new!)
6.Bella’s Lullaby – Carter Burwell – 305 — 310
7.Thnks Fr Th Mmrs – Fall Out Boy – 247 — 305
Blue – Eiffel 65 – 273 — 296
Viva La Vida – Coldplay – 254 — 292
Supermassive Black Hole – Muse – 261 — 281
Sabotage – Beastie Boys – 219 — 244 – some of these might be mine
Shut Your Eyes – Snow Patrol – 237 — 243
That’s All – Genesis – 231 — 235
Just Dance – Lady GaGa — 233 (new!)
City Of Blinding Lights – U2 – 218 — 229 – mine too
Orange Crush – R.E.M. – 223 — 223 – even steven!
The Hampster Dance – 90 — 213
Circus – Britney Spears — 194 (new!)
I Made It (Cash Money Heroes) – Kevin Rudolf — 177 (new!)
War (New Version) — Sean Kingston — 138 (new!)
Telephone (feat. Beyonce) – Lady GaGa — 118 (new!)
Boom Boom Pow (clean) — Black Eyed Peas — 113 (new!)
I Just Want To See The Boy Happy – Morrissey – 49 — 97 my section starts here
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris – Morrissey – 47 — 93
Now My Heart is Full – Morrissey – 50 — 74

I think the clear message is that when the boy likes a song, he really really likes it. And also, I still like Morrissey.

I decided I’d actually write a blog post. I took a long, long break because someone told me my writing wasn’t funny. I always thought I was pretty funny, so that comment really, really hurt. It shouldn’t have, I should have thicker skin than that. But I also figured that my life has been easily summed up in status updates and, if anyone really wanted to hear what was up, they could call.

But I feel like writing again. If I’m not that funny, my kids are, and they do funny things. I was driving with Mark and telling him how long these summers seem to be. They seem to take about a year to go by. But remember the movie “So I Married an Axe Murderer”? Steven Wright’s character is flying the cop in a plane and says the line “I have no concept of time.” I totally relate to this. Last week feels as far away as last year. Likewise, a card game with friends 14 years ago feels the same length away as the card game we played with a different set of friends this past New Years Eve. But that’s a tangent. Suffice it to say summers seem long.

Which led Mark to say how much harder the summers will become when Jill gets into school full-time (still a year away.) And I said, “Well, then they’ll be more grown up. Do you realize Ben still wants me to pour his cereal for him every morning?”

It’s true. The boy is 7 years old and still wants his mother to pour his cereal and milk. I’ll ask him why he can’t do it himself and he says, “It tastes better when you do it.” So every morning he’ll come into my room and he’ll say, “Mom, can you get me some breakfast?” And just about every morning I’ll say, “Do you know what kind of cereal you want? No? Go into the pantry and choose your cereal. … Go back to the pantry, GET OUT the cereal and put it on the counter. … Now go get a bowl and spoon out of the drawers. …. Now get out the milk. … Now pour the cereal in the bowl and pour the milk on top.” “NOOOO!!! That’s the part I want you to do!!!”

Often I just do it (it’s just easier that way). But occasionally when he is forced to perform this hard labor himself, he’ll lay across the lazyboy and watch cartoons all morning and forget to feed himself. And THEN, he will realize he’s hungry later and we have to deal with the fridge being constantly open and the pantry continually raided. But he just joins his brothers in those happy forages, so hey. The kitchen is always in upheaval, I spend a fortune in groceries, the kids are tan and their hair is blonder. There are 34 days until school starts.

A couple more things:

Josh busted his head open on a rock, his staples are coming out in a half hour.

I’m no longer Young Womens President, I’m now Primary Chorister.

Mark and I were Pa and Ma on a Pioneer Trek and got to dress up as pioneers and had 8 children, ages 14-18 in our family – 4 boys, 4 girls. We had to cook our food in dutch ovens and hike about 21 miles pulling a handcart. It was awesome.

The younger three went to a Vacation Bible School a couple weeks ago where Jill learned to yell a bible verse at the top of her lungs. Making me worried about what would happen at Primary the next Sunday. Also she would bust out with “JESUS IS LORD!!!” and she got such a great reaction the first time she did it (I collapsed in hysterical laughter) she kept doing it over and over.

Things have changed since I posted my playlist over two years ago (April 25th 2007). To be exact, Josh took over my old iPod but still uses my iTunes to update it. Which poses a problem.

The problem is… he has about 12 songs he likes, a few of which he absolutely LOVES, and he listens to them over and over. And OVER. He plugs his iPod into the wall and puts them on repeat while he sleeps. It seems EVERY morning when I go in to wake him up, I’m hearing “Clocks” by Coldplay, so I don’t know if it’s that one song that’s on repeat or the whole playlist and I’m just lucky that way. Anyway, he has seriously skewed my top 25 playlist. You’re going to love these numbers.

1. Clocks – Coldplay – 1058!!!!!
2. Bella’s Lullaby – Carter Burwell – 305
3. Wake Me Up Inside – Evanaescence – 298
4. Blue – Eiffel 65 – 273
5. Supermassive Black Hole – Muse – 261
6. Viva La Vida – Coldplay – 254
7. Thnks Fr Th Mmrs – Fall Out Boy – 247
8. Shut Your Eyes – Snow Patrol – 237
9. That’s All – Genesis – 231
10. Orange Crush – R.E.M. – 223
11. Sabotage – Beastie Boys – 219
12. City Of Blinding Lights – U2 – 218
13. Move Along – The All-American Rejects – 195
14. The Hampster Dance – 90
15. Dead and Gone – T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake – 67
16. Eyes on Fire – Blue Foundation – 51 (Now we’re into my section)
17. Dear God, Please Help Me – Morrissey – 50
18. I Just Want To See The Boy Happy – Morrissey – 49
19. I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris – Morrissey – 47
20. Brand New Day – Ryan Star – 44
21. Please Don’t Leave Me – Pink – 42
22. The First of the Gang to Die – Morrissey – 40
23. Tremble For My Beloved – Collective Soul – 38
24. Let It Rock – Kevin Rudolf feat. Lil’ Wayne – 37
25. You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son – Wolf Parade – 35

So, funny, huh? Looking at the numbers now, I realize he HAD to have had Clocks on repeat all night long. I am trying to edumacate him a bit – I put the U2, Snow Patrol, Beastie Boys, Muse and the R.E.M. into his rotation, but the Rejects, Fall Out Boy and T.I. are all him. I guess I have to take credit for Eiffel 65 – I let him hear that song back when he was about 4 – it would motivate him to clean. He still loves it. All the kids do. I’m SICK of it.

As for mine, I went through a heavy Morrissey/Smiths period… if the list continued it would show a more diverse collection.

A story from the trip. (I hurt my back yesterday and can’t get out of bed, so you might hear a lot from me.)

So. It was one of the planned activities to hike the Y on Sunday morning, meet at Aunt LeNae’s for brunch and go to church at 1:00 p.m. It would be a family event – anyone who wanted to would go! Multitudes of cousins were present at the reunion so the boys never were friendless at any of the events.

The Y
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the term “hike to the Y”, it is a BYU thing. Almost a rite of passage. I thought it was a Utah thing, although after sitting around with Mark’s cousins after church I found that half of them had lived in UT for many years and never done it. Sad! Anyway, the new BYU freshmen are almost required to traipse up the side of the mountain. There is a HUGE “Y” up there, demarking the nickname for BYU. The Y is up there pretty high. It is kind of intimidating… and Sammy did NOT want to go.

We were kind of iffy anyway about whether we’d actually do it. Nobody else was going… one uncle had been sick throughout the night, wiping out a whole family of potential comrades… it had been raining, creating possibly unfavorable trail conditions. But we had NOTHING else to do. We had already walked around BYU twice, the kids were sick of the Bus, and we couldn’t show up unannounced at unsuspecting family’s doorsteps in all good conscience. We kicked around the idea of walking around one of the various LDS temples in the area, but Josh was being such a turkey and needed an outlet for his energy (as did Ben and even Jill), and I had just the night before bought shoes suitable for hiking, so we decided to just go.

As we wound through the streets in the Provo foothills (I never remember where the trailhead starts – we always walked up when I was a student – now there’s a parking lot!) Sam was teary eyed and adamant that he was sure this was a bad idea. I looked at Mark out of the corner of my eye and said, “Well, maybe we’ll only go up part way and come down.” He shot back, “No, let’s do the whole thing! We can DO this! What else are we going to do?” So I slunk into my seat for a minute and listened to the whimpering from the middle row. And popped some excedrin. I knew I was about to need it.

We found the trailhead – wow, they have improved it. Josh, Ben and Jill were off in a flash. Sammy didn’t even want to get out of the Bus. I put on my best encouraging voice and said we’d do it together. I handed him a water bottle and he got OUT. Half the battle.

I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, I had to hold his hand and literally DRAG him up the mountain for parts. We linked arms and I dragged him. I distracted him from the arduous task at hand by regaling him with funny stories of my childhood. And every time he sat down I’d stop talking. He’d say, “What happens next?” And I’d say, “I can’t tell you until you start walking again.” I kept VERY CHEERFUL, I tell you. It was helpful that I have some great stories.
Jilly and Mark

We made it to the top, took pictures, and Jill AND Sam were both afraid of being up so high. Then Jill was being a momma’s girl and wanted me to carry her down… then she fell asleep on me almost instantly. So I carried a sleeping three year old all the way down the mountain, and my calves are still feeling it. Mark got the job of coaxing Sam down the mountain. Mark sent Josh ahead to catch up to me with the Bus key so I could put her down when I got there. Josh was in remarkable spirits through the whole hike. Amazing. And Ben was incredible. A total little trooper.
Mom and kids

He asked several times, as we were going up, “What is the point of this??” We told him, so you can say you did it. For bragging rights. Because some of your friends in KS have never even SEEN a mountain, much less climbed one, and you can now tell them YOU have CLIMBED a MOUNTAIN!!! He was unimpressed. I thought giving him a few days’ space would give him some perspective on things, and the sense of accomplishment would begin to sink in. But as we drove home, we had to pass the Y from a distance. I said, “Look guys – the Y! Doesn’t it look high? Amazing that we were sitting on that thing.” Sammy didn’t even bother to look up. I think he’s still holding a bit of a grudge.

I am easily distracted. Do you all know that? Right now I am sitting here, getting ready to tell you all about the trip we just had to Utah, and I am distracted by what looks like green watercolor sprayed across my bedsheet. How did that happen? Why do I even ask? I have four kids. Mark asks questions like this all the time. He called yesterday from his first day back to work, and I picked up the phone and instead of saying hello, allowed the screams in the background to greet him, and he at first sounded alarmed. He said, “What *IS* that? Is something wrong?” And I said, “No, this is completely normal. Everything is fine. How’s your day going?”

ANYWAY. The TRIP. We got a whole 1 1/2 hours away from home before the van started smoking and slipping out of gear. (We were on our way to Utah for Mark’s family reunions – 17 hours away!) We pulled over, got it cooled down and were able to get it to a mechanic who didn’t have what we needed, but told us we could last to the next Honda dealer in Salina, and we got there just before they closed, so they had just enough time to advise us not to drive it any further and get it in first thing in the morning. Woohoo!

Luckily there was a hotel right behind the dealership and they had a two room suite with a bunk bed and a great pool and breakfast, and the kids had a blast… while Mark and I fretted about what to do about our van. We were already set back a day of driving, so we were faced with a LONG 15 hour drive to make the reunion in time. Mark went over to the dealership and found that we’d need a new transmission – over $4000. And they wouldn’t be able to do it until the next afternoon.

Ideas that were tossed around over the phone while I sat in the stairwell of the hotel, and he was at the dealer…
1) go home, scrap the reunion thing all together
2) buy a new van – but there were no Odysseys on the lot – and I pointed out that that would take hours, and we don’t have extra time
3) rent a vehicle from the dealer – they had 2 types available… an Impala (6 passenger, 3 in front, 3 in back NONONO!!!) or a 12 passenger VAN. No minivans available!!!! A quick internet check of other car rental places in the Salina area showed no minivans available anywhere. Sigh. So – 12 Passenger van, here we come.

It took him an hour or so to do paperwork and transfer all our junk from the minivan to the “bus” as Jill called it. Josh and Sam each had their own row. The kids were in great spirits! What an adventure!!! Until we hit about 10 minutes in and realized there was nothing to do. I had only brought DVDs and a couple of books to read out loud to them for entertainment. And a coloring book. With about 5 crayons. The older boys had a couple library books, Josh had his crappy iPod that used to be MY iPod, that I got rid of for a reason (it doesn’t hold a charge for longer than 45 minutes) and his cell phone that he could text on. Oh, and a few audio CDs mixed in with the DVDs. That’s about it.

So… throughout the course of the trip, Sammy had a mental breakdown in the form of sobbing quietly into his blanket for 20 minutes, and since we were in such a big van I was able to go back and talk with him and help him feel better. Before that, Josh had HIS major freakout when I tried to play Les Miserables and he started screaming and crying – “Turn this music OFF!!! You are torturing me!!! This is TORTURE!!!! You are doing this just to try to KILL ME!!!!” etc etc etc. I refused to turn it off, however, because there was nothing else to listen to, I don’t give in to fits, and he was being ridiculous. I did however, after he calmed down a bit, figure out how to balance the audio up to the front so it wouldn’t be *quite* so painful to his ears. After I had my counseling session with Sam I was able to have a session with Josh, then with Ben and Jill. Being in a big van had its benefits.

We arrived at around 12:30 a.m. Utah time. We had lots of fun seeing Mark’s awesome family, both his Mom’s and his Dad’s side. Lots of people put in tons of work and it was fabulous, and went too quickly. There are certain people in the family I particularly love to sit and visit with and wish I could see more often. I’d elaborate but this is getting really long… and my kids are starting to drive me nutso over here.

We decided to do half the trip overnight to cut down on fighting and whining about nothing to do. So we drove to Denver to see my parents, which was wonderful – we had missed them on the way out. It was too short of a visit. My mom has been losing weight, she looks fantastic. We left around midnight and drove all night to reach the dealership in the morning and pick up our newly transmissioned minivan and say goodbye to the Bus. We had vacuumed it out the night before and threatened the kids not to eat anything in it so we wouldn’t be charged with a cleaning fee. We’ve already spent enough! Sigh. So, $500+ for the rental. $4000+ for the transmission. Who knows how much for gas. Etc etc etc for food, lodgings, reunion stuff, an inverter for the bus to watch movies on the laptop, a haircut for Josh so he wouldn’t be nagged by his grandfather anymore…. Much deniero.

These are the things with which memories are made… right?
kids in van
Mark in van
Steph in van


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