Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Diagnosis: Surprise

Apparently, more than a year has passed since we posted an update here. While I would love to have better documented our family's adventures, we were simply too busy experiencing those adventures.

We've had celebrations:
8 years of marriage, Connie turning one, Abe turning three, a little cousin being born, potty training being accomplished, our backyard being made playable, Dan being hired for another year at Lodi High, 2 half-marathons being finished, and many others.

We've also dealt with struggles:
Months of back-to-back illnesses in the kids, multiple ER visits, familial tensions, periods of spiritual dryness, broken washer/AC/car/gas line, potty training regressions, family-planning and work decisions, anxiety/OCD issues, and others.

For the most part, though, Dan and I have been thoroughly entrenched in the thrills of parenting two toddlers.

Abe is currently 3 1/2 years old, smart as a whip, talking (loudly) ALL THE TIME, emotional and hilarious. His current loves are the Magical School Bus, numbers/letters and the United States. That last one has become a bit of an obsession for him. If the weather man shows a map of the US on the news or Abe sees a globe somewhere, he will shout, "MY UNITED STATES! THAT'S IT!" He'll either grow up to be a geography teacher or the President.

Connie is 18 months old going on 5 years old. She's using a new word at least every day, doing her best to keep up with her big brother and to keep us on her toes. Very little scares her, which she is constantly getting herself in trouble or moderate danger. Oh, and this child is even more stubborn and opinionated than her brother. Dan and I argue over whose DNA is to blame for this.

I (Ash) am still at home with the kids. Not to imply that being a nurse is an easy job, but sometimes, I yearn to go back to work just to get a break from the toddler tornadoes. Alas, we feel that this is where I am supposed to be for now. Eventually, perhaps in the next year or so, I would like to return to an infusion center or an oncology unit. However, I am volunteering as a nurse educator at the local pregnancy resource center, where I work with a team educating young people about STIs and sexual health. I hear some ridiculous things from students., some funny, some scary, many wrong. It may not be oncology or end-of-life care (my passions), but I hope that is helping young people to make smart(er) decisions in regards to their present and future.

Dan is working is continuing at Lodi High, teaching various levels of math and AVID (a college-preparatory program geared toward those with little home support toward reaching scholastic goals). He works long hours, like so many teachers, but continues to be an incredibly present father and husband. It is currently his favorite time of year: football season. Though I could do without the incessant discussions of players and statistics and the fantasy football planning sessions...it makes me smile to see him so excited on Sundays. And Thursdays. And other days that end in -y.

As for his health, that is the true reason I came back to this blog.

Dan gets imaging (an MRI or CT) every 6 months or so to make sure that his cancer isn't trying to cause new problems. For several years now, we have become accustomed to hearing that his scans show no evidence of new disease. As there is no oncologist in their right mind who could look at Dan's history or imaging and declare him in remission, "no evidence of new disease" is the absolute best news we can get this side of Heaven.

He has had relatively few symptoms or problems in recent months, though he needs to be careful in regards to his poor immune system and blood counts and cannot eat quite as much greasy food as he used to be able to do.

His latest check-up scan, however, showed a new mass on his liver. Though it was very small, his oncologist discussed the case with the GI Oncology team at Kaiser and decided that a biopsy was necessary. We had planned a trip to Harry Potter World during his Fall break and moved it up, so that he could have the biopsy before going back to work. The biopsy went smoothly and was done by a radiologist who actually trained under the Stanford interventional radiologist who has been treating Dan since the beginning! The doctor encouraged us that the spot was so small that it would be easy to take care of with a variety of interventions.

Dan had decided that he did not want to tell many people about the new spot before we had a better idea of what we were dealing with. We obviously notified our parents and a few close friends for support, but otherwise kept the information to ourselves.

Well, after nearly 2 weeks of waiting for an answer, the doctor told us that the sample had been sent off for secondary testing due to the "complex nature of the case". That did not give us much encouragement.

Blame my profession or my anxiety or realistic statistics, but I was preparing for the worst. Figuring out how much to tell the kids, thinking about going back to work so Dan could do treatment, lining up arguments as to why Kaiser had to let Dan go back to Stanford, etc.
I even told Dan that we'd probably get the results on Halloween because that's when my family got the bad news about my brother's diagnosis and that would just be fabulous timing. (Cue grand eye-rolling from my husband.)

I was right. We did get the results on Halloween.
I was also wrong. We got good news.

The oncologist wrote to tell us that the biopsy came back normal. As in, no cancer cells.
I have had to re-read it several times because I cannot convince my brain that it is real.
We are obviously rejoicing and happily shocked.

(Of course, I am still waiting "for the other shoe to drop", though I'm really trying to let it go.)

I had planned on breaking radio silence to let everyone know about the recurrence and the plan of attack, if you will.
Instead, I got to write about another miracle.
Praise God, our good, good Father.

Monday, September 28, 2015

This is the room.

I'm in my favorite room in our house: the nursery. It's bright and warm in the mornings thanks to the sun rising through the hall window. It's quickly dark and cool in the evenings, perfect for sleeping babes. 

This was the first (and only?) room we decorated when we moved in to the house two years ago. This is the room in which my first baby became a toddler far more quickly than I had imagined. 
This is the room in which I transformed from an anxious first-time mama counting baby breaths to a (slightly) less anxious mama of two. 
This is the room in which I have cried and laughed and fretted and swooned over baby antics. 
This is the room of first fevers and first teeth and first nightmares. This is the room of first Christmas mornings and first birthday grins.
This is the room in which I have prayed for safety and sleep and salvation for my sweet ones.
This is honestly the room I never believed that I would have.

Sometimes, I need to be reminded of the miraculous realities of my life. 

My family came to know Christ because my parents wanted to keep my brother and I out of trouble by going to church.

My brother should be dead by now since he never did receive the heart-lung transplant the doctors said he needed.

I should have never met my husband or several of my closest friends because I was headed to Stanford--not a tiny Christian university called Biola.

My husband should also not be alive because Stage 4 acinar cell carcinoma with mets is not something someone survives for very long.

I should not be able to run or carry children because mental illness depleted my body of nutrients for many years.

The baby in my arms and the toddler listening to my husband's bedtime story should not exist because chemotherapy plus radioactivity plus my PCOS do not make fertility probable. 

Put quite simply, this room--and all the moments that led to its existence--is miraculous.
This is the room for which I yearned and the room for which I can never give enough thanks.

Praise be to the LORD, the Giver of good gifts and abundant miracles.

Thank you, God, for this room.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


As I write, there is a tiny baby nursing herself into a milk coma on my chest. It's hard to believe that just about a week ago, I wrote the last post with no idea that our baby would be making her way into the world so soon!

Constance Grace Howen was born on April 24th at 9:03pm after refusing to wait for us to get to the hospital. As some of you know, she was born on our bathroom floor in a very unexpected home delivery.  Fortunately, Dan's mom, Jamie, had already arrived to watch Abe, so we had some help until the paramedics arrived.

Note: I have been asked for the full birth story by lots of people. Rather than write it here where some people don't want to know the "gory" details, I'd like to just email the story to those who would like to know. Email me at ahowen37@gmail.com.

We spent the weekend at Lodi Memorial, where we were treated like VIPs and stayed in the same room in which Dan and all of his siblings were born. 

We came home Sunday afternoon to a very excited older brother, who is still learning about being gentle! The transition has been fairly smooth. Abe is extremely hyper and fighting all kinds of sleep. My mom stayed with us for first few days, so Abe was in seventh heaven.
Both sets of grandparents and my brother and his fiancée met the baby at the hospital that night and have been wonderful about helping us with Abe.

Connie is doing great, though she is a teeny little girl compared to her brother. At 6 pounds 10 ounces and 18.5 inches, she's nearly 2 pounds smaller than Abe was (Considering how she entered the world, I'm extremely grateful she's smaller!). Seeing as she eats ALL the time, hopefully she'll get some chunk soon. We're watching her weight gain and bilirubin for some mild jaundice, but otherwise she's doing fantastically. For the first few weeks, we also need to keep an eye out for infection, as she's at higher risk. 

Mama is also doing well. A bit tired and sore, but feeling much better than I did after having Abe. I didn't lose much blood, fortunately, so my fatigue isn't terrible. My main focus is eating and drinking enough to nurse the munchkin. Hopefully, my energy will be good enough to keep up with Abe next week when Dan goes back to work.

Dan is a happy and exhausted dad. He's helping a lot with Abe and getting to know Connie. Unfortunately, he doesn't qualify for paternity leave since he is so new at his job. The district is at least letting him take an unpaid short LOA until Monday. Then, we have a month until summer break. We will all be ready for a little rest by then!

Thank you for all the prayers and support and encouragement. Please continue to pray for everyone's health and the safety of our little girl as she grows. Also, prayer for energy and endurance as Dan goes back to work and I watch the littles.

Join us in praising the LORD for His protection and constant grace in the birth of our little Connie!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2 Week Notice #2

(I wrote a post like this one while I was still pregnant with Abe, so I figured this might be a good way to answer frequently-asked-questions this time around, too. Since Abe just put himself down for an uncharacteristically early and easy nap, this may be short so I can nap, too!)

1. Still pregnant, huh? 
Why this gets asked I do not know. Look at my belly--question answered. Besides, I just hit 38 weeks yesterday, so technically, this baby could keep baking for another few weeks. Oy.

2. How are you feeling?
Not terrible, really. Tired, nervous, excited, finished with being this pregnant.
I'm thankfully not miserable like I was with Abe, as all of my ribs seem to be in their appropriate locations. I've been seeing a chiropractor throughout the pregnancy to keep my scoliosis in check and that has really helped with the normal aches and pains.
I have been sick frequently with this baby (with respiratory infections, colds, asthma-exacerbations, etc.). Baby girl has just tanked my immune system, but for now, the household is healthy!

3. Are you ready?
As ready as we can be, I think. Abe got moved into his big-boy room last weekend, so the nursery is now ready for the wee one. Newborn clothes are washed and put away. Baby blanket is finished. Nurse gifts are ready. Abe's present from the baby is almost ready. Contingency plans are set with grandparents. Go-bags have been packed for a few weeks. Dan has emergency substitute plans ready at his school. Last few OB appointments are scheduled.

4. How's the anxiety/OCD?
I'm doing just okay on this. My OB and counselor wanted me to stay on my meds throughout the pregnancy this time to try to alleviate some of my more severe anxiety. Panic attacks have been held at bay, though my food-fears are still pretty active. With so many listeria outbreaks recently, I am super nervous about most foods. I'm craving apples and salad, but too scared to eat them. It's gotten to the point in which in makes more sense to just eat what I know I can handle instead of eating something that will make me panic for the next few days. It's really a bummer and drives Dan crazy, but it's not forever.
I will have to stay on the meds a full-year after giving birth because of my increased risk of post-partum depression/psychosis. Hopefully, getting back to normal routines and exercise will help with the OCD symptoms, though.
(As a warning, new-mom OCD usually presents with extreme fears about cleanliness and keeping baby healthy. If you are sick or have a cold sore (these are very dangerous to newborns) or don't like to wash your hands, please hold off on the visits for a while. We appreciate the support and desire to meet the baby, but throwing me into a panic attack is not worth it.)

5. Any signs that today could be the day?
Nope. Braxton-hicks contractions happen here and there, but not regular. I go between having lots of energy to wanting to nap all day. Baby is head-down and low but apparently not interested in leaving her warm little apartment.

6. Is Abe ready?
Ha! We'll see. He knows where the baby is when asked and has gotten a little better about playing gently with me. He thinks his new room is pretty great, though he tries to climb in the crib when I'm not looking.
He's growing or teething or something, so he's a tad grumpier than normal. Of course, he's also almost two, so he is more dramatic than a teenage girl.
He will love having his grandparents around a little more after the baby is born, but I'm sure there will be quite an adjustment period.

7. Do you need anything?
We have been exceedingly blessed with tons of hand-me-downs and new baby necessities. We could definitely use prayer for endurance and patience and energy.
Dan says I have "pregnant-lady senioritis", which is making me pretty cranky. Prayers that Dan can put up with my moods for a few more weeks and that I can keep up with Abe's boundless energy are appreciated. Also, prayer that this little family can stay healthy for the baby's arrival.
Dan also says we won't turn down food after the baby is born. He's a fan of home-cooked meals that he doesn't have to cook!
If you like toddlers, we have a rambunctious one who loves going to play outside or at the park...hint hint.

8. Can we come visit?
We'd really like to have some family time with the new baby before having a lot of visitors. Aside from immediate family, it would be nice to not have visitors until we're out of the hospital and settled at home for a few days.
This was already mentioned briefly, but please, PLEASE do not come to visit if you are sick. Dan already has a low immune system, but the new baby will be vulnerable, too. Until the baby can get her first vaccines (2 months), please keep in mind that not being vaccinated yourself puts her at risk, too. I'm not saying this to start any debates, but whooping cough and measles are preventable and  very dangerous for newborns.
It would be nice to stay healthy while getting used to our new normal.
If you do come to hang out, be prepared to wash your hands. You know, more than just after your cough/sneeze or use the bathroom. Also, keep the kisses at bay for a while. After 9 months of growing and protecting this baby, this OCD-mama is going to be protective. Really protective. You've been warned.

9. Does she have a name?
Yep. You'll find out after she's born. (Don't feel bad--the grandparents don't even know).

Thank you for the prayers and love and support throughout the last nine months. We are honestly blessed beyond measure with our friends and family.
Hopefully, we'll be able to introduce our daughter to the world soon!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Card

Everyone loves getting Christmas cards. At least, I do. They're festive little reminders of the people in our lives that we may not get to see often. Abe likes to look at the pictures we get sent, that go right on our fridge and bulletin board.

That being said: this little Howen family is not sending out Christmas cards this year. All you get is this silly blog post. Blame laziness, pregnancy fatigue, budget, busyness--whatever you like. As a lover of Christmas mail, I'm sorry!

To make up for it, here's an update and a bunch of pictures :)

Merry Christmas!

Abe News:
Our little man is almost 19 months old, very opinionated, always moving, choosing not to talk (but very communicative) and picky! He's on the lighter/shorter end of the growth charts, but I imagine he'll pick up speed whenever he figures out that food is not actually his enemy. As of now, he eats cheese, yogurt, cereal, fruit snacks, noodles, rice, bananas, apple sauce and cereal bars. Occasionally, we can sneak in some meat or veggies. Never bread. Seriously, he hates all things bread-like. Strange kid. 
He loves to clap and "dance" and play with his Dada. Honestly, nothing trumps playing with Dada. Except, maybe water. Some kids have blankies--Abe has ice water. 
He still has no idea of the little person coming into his life in the Spring, but is fascinated by babies. Hopefully, that will translate to liking a new sibling! 

Ashley News:
I'm just still plugging along at home with the little guy and growing the littler baby in my belly. The nausea and headaches have finally subsided (knock on wood), leaving a nasty sweet-tooth in their wake. If I could eat Skittles and M&Ms (mixed together) all day, I would. This must be conquered before my glucose test!
Unlike last time, I am starting to have trouble with my skin, which is a bummer. I still have to check with my OB, but I'm guessing it's just a pregnancy-related rash. Itchy, itchy, itchy! And do doesn't want redness on their face all the time? Oh wait, no one does! 
OCD is not doing well (see update on Shaking Hands), but the OB has started me back on my meds as of last week. They can take up to 2-3 weeks to start making a difference, if no adjustments are needed. To have fewer (or no) panic attacks, be able to eat enough food for the baby and not be such a burden on Dan would be incredible. 

Dan News:
My hubby has had a bit of a rough month. First, kidney stones right before Thanksgiving, and then, a not so pleasant Christmas gift from his employer: a pink slip. After a year and a half, Dan was laid off along with 2 other employees due to budgetary reasons. The school has been having financial struggles and other problems for a little while, so I can't say that I was completely shocked to hear the news. 

Dan had been weighing the pros/cons of staying at the school for a while but did not want to "jump ship". Fortunately (?), he was tossed overboard with a floatation device. While he does have a severance package, he is in need of a new job with benefits very soon. With his cancer treatments/check-ups and a pregnant wife, not having health insurance is not a great feeling. 
He is handling it very well, as he does most setbacks. He is disappointed and feeling the burden but hopeful for a new opportunity. My prayer is that he finds a position that he enjoys and one in which he is appreciated for his integrity and flexibility and intelligence. Speaking as his totally unbiased wife, his school has lost a loyal, caring, faithful, Godly, skilled teacher. Alas, things happen. I am excited to see what doors open up. God will provide as He always has. 

Baby News:
We have hit the half-way mark in the pregnancy, and according to the app on my phone, the baby is about the size of a banana. We have our anatomy scan this week, so we might find out whether Abe is getting a brother or a sister. Hopefully, all is going swimmingly and this little munchkin is healthy. I love feeling the little kicks and squirms!

Prayer Requests:
* A new job for Dan with benefits
* A healthy and smooth pregnancy, resulting in a full-term healthy baby
* Successful treatment for my OCD
* Healing up of skin woes
* Healthy growth and development for Abe
* Wisdom and guidance for Dan's former school

Saturday, November 1, 2014

No News is...

...just because I haven't had the time to sit down and write the news! Since the last update, we've had a lot of news--good and not-so-good. I'm breaking this (long) update into pieces, so you can read about whatever interests you.

Since I left off around our anniversary, we'll start there.

Dan and I celebrated our 6th anniversary with a family excursion to Big Trees and made ourselves a fancy dinner to enjoy after the kid was asleep. Perhaps our choices of celebration were budgetarily-based...but we had so much fun being together with Abe, in nature, in our home, no stress. It was lovely. It was also "productive", but more on that later.

Dan News:

Dan is obviously full-swing into the school year. Despite the changes to his classes, he is having a relatively great first semester. Having a BA in Film seems to be useful for teaching Film and Drama, while liking movies seems to help him teach History Through Film. (Sidenote: what high school student WOULDN'T want to take a class that teaches history by watching movies every day?) Also, on the docket: Life Skills. That class is a hodge-podge of career advice, college-guidance, and other tidbits. His homework load is lighter than last year, though lots of planning is still involved. That just goes along with teaching! I never cease to be impressed by his professional nature, hardwork and his ability to impart wisdom and joy to his students. Way to be, husband!

Healthwise, Dan has had some interesting happenings. The last MRI that we knew about hadn't shown any new cancer. His labs were looking good or at least good for Dan. So, we were rudely surprised at the beginning of October when he woke up in the middle of the night in severe pain. Usually, Dan doesn't complain until something is bad, so when he recommended going to the ER, we high-tailed it. Once there, the doctors determined that it was acute pancreatitis. They weren't sure what triggered it, as Dan doesn't drink any alcohol and hadn't really changed his diet recently. There best conclusion was that all the treatment to his liver and pancreas was catching up with him and causing one pissed-off pancreas.

Dan was thrilled (not) by the treatment plan: no food for a few days and IV fluids. Having spent nearly 3 months NPO and in the hospital, he was understandably weary of this plan. By God's grace, Dan got out of the hospital after only one night and was allowed to slowly advance his diet to low-fat solids over the course of a week.

Labs and further MD appointments haven't shed much more light on the matter, beyond the reminder that Dan's anatomy certainly isn't normal. His CT scan in the ER showed a possible new lesion in the liver (ugh), but a later MRI showed that it was probably just areas where his liver is scarred from previous treatments.  His labs, on the other hand, are very unimpressive. His WBCs and platelets are falling again, just like before his spleen surgery a couple years ago. For now, the oncologist just wants to keep an eye on it, but some form of treatment is probably on the horizon. Boo.

For YOUR part in helping us out, please keep Dan healthy by being smart. As in, WASH YOUR HANDS frequently (like if you sneeze or cough into them, after you go the bathroom, etc.). And, are you sick? We love you, but stay home. Also, here's a plug for the flu shot: getting vaccinated protects not only you but also those in the community with low immune systems. Do it.

Abe News:

Our rambunctious little ball of energy is 17-months-old and never stops. He is incredibly smart, following directions (when he wants to) and learning every day. He isn't talking really, but he's pretty communicative with signs and babbling. He has unfortunately taken to telling me "yes" whenever I tell him "no", so that's fun. He also points at everything very emphatically. Dan has to wander around the house following Abe's pointing finger to figure out what he wants.
Abe is still a picky eater (my fault, I've been told), but eats a lot of what he does like. He's still on the little side of the spectrum, but he's growing fast! Unbeknownst to Abe, the nursing portion of his diet is about to go bye-bye. It's mostly comfort/emotional nursing for him at this point, but it's time to be done.
(Concerned that I nursed my kid until almost 1.5 years? Lots of studies have proven that it is incredible for his immune system and emotional stability. He won't be scarred, I promise)
He is a character to say the least!

Ash News:

While I'm still at home with Abe and keeping track of household needs, I am actively keeping up my nursing license and certifications.  I'm recertifying in chemotherapy administration, gathering recommendation letters, etc. I do love nursing and feel that I'll return to it someday, but not right now. Being a stay-at-home-mom is really hard for me because I miss adult interaction and feeling like I am actually contributing to my family and society. Changing diapers and making mac-and-cheese just doesn't seem as crucial as caring for my patients sometimes, BUT helping form a little person is important.
(Thank you to Obama for reaffirming that I am not contributing my part to society: being a stay-at-home mom is "not the choice we want Americans to make". Thanks, sir! Pretty sure we didn't make this decision to impact the American economy negatively. We'll think about that next time...)
I asked Dan when he thinks I should go back to work. His response? "When there are no more stinky butts to be changed." Oh boy! (Laugh, it was a joke!)

Outside of house and baby care, I co-taught a class at our church on coping-mechanisms for those with mental illnesses. What a blessing for a church to acknowledge that mental illness is real and worthy of care! Wowza. It has been a learning experience, but I had an excellent and patient co-teacher who happens to be a counselor. Our class ends tomorrow, but God was at work in our hearts.

In one of my many efforts to remain sane, I got serious about running again last winter. I just ran my first 10K for my birthday in September. It was hard work, but felt so good. I really love long-distance running...maybe this isn't keeping me sane! My goal is to aim for a half-marathon in the next year or so. I would push my goal earlier, but training has taken a bit of a halt for the last few months.
You see, I didn't run my 10K alone...
And, remember when I said our anniversary was "productive"?

Baby News:
That's right. A baby. Number 2. Here are some answers to FAQs...
1. Was this an accident? Nope. We wanted the kids to be about 2 years apart, but were unsure how long we would have to try since we had fertility treatments with Abe.
2. Were we surprised? Yes! A couple months was a bit faster than we expected.
3. Are you happy? Yes!
4. How are you feeling? Blurgh. Nausea and food aversions I expected. Fatigue that knocks you out for a few months? No one told me! Seriously, I haven't run since my 10K because just doing chores and errands gets me winded and ready for a nap. Lame, right? I feel so lazy.
And the migraines. Without Advil or caffeine. Noooooo. Maybe the second trimester will bring back some energy...please?
5. When are you due? Early May 2015.
6. How's the OCD? It's ok for now, though I'm noticing an uptick in my handwashing and food-poisoning fears. I'm still a nervous nelly who didn't want to announce the pregnancy until...we had a healthy baby in our arms. Alas, I cannot hide my growing belly forever. As the second trimester begins, I am hoping that I don't go crazy like last time.

This was way too long. My apologies. I say this everytime: I'll post more frequently so the posts will be shorter. Nope. I probably won't. But I can dream!

Prayer Requests:
1. Dan's health: improvements in labs and scans, no more pancreatitis attacks, etc.
2. Energy for us to keep up with Abe and raise him well
3. Wisdom in our efforts to provide loving discipline to a toddler
4. Health and safety for me and the baby, full-term pregnancy and safe delivery
5. Insurance improvements through Dan's work
6. A closer relationship with each other and with God

Friday, August 8, 2014

And the beat goes on.

I honestly cannot remember any other lyrics to that song. Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

In other news, I am apparently terrible at keeping up with this blog. Perhaps, that is because I have more important, more fun, more difficult and more time-consuming things to do! Basically, writing updates here has slid down my to-do list quite a bit. BUT. I'm here now.

Baby News: 
Our baby is no longer a baby. He is a bonafide toddler. Abe turned one in May and has proceeded to get faster and smarter since then. He's running and investigating and testing limits. He is throwing temper tantrums that we were really not ready to handle yet! I mean serious drama coming from a tiny person. Wow. Even so, we love him more and more every day. If we could just convince him to eat more and drool less...

Dan News: 
He is back to work at Jim Elliot Christian High School...not teaching math. He will be teaching Bible & Media, Drama, Film, History through Film and Robotics. These were not his choices, and he is pretty bummed about not teaching math. Yet, Dan is Dan, meaning he is being flexible and diligent in his work. The last few weeks have been frustrating for him as he is creating/learning a lot of new curriculum. Additionally, his new classes have brought along too many commitments (plays to direct, films to produce, competitions to attend) for him to continue coaching football.  My amazing husband is making a lot of sacrifices so that he can spend time with his little boy and his wife. He really is amazing.
Oh, and Dan is also pretty healthy. His last MRI showed no sign of active disease and his tumor markers are within normal limits. He remains on quite a few medications to keep his fluid levels normalized but no changes recently. His liver and spleen are still unhappy, causing things like mild jaundice and low blood counts. This will probably be fairly typical for a long time.

Ash News: 
I am still chugging along in the stay-at-home-mom department. I do want to return to nursing eventually, but we feel that my place is here at home for the time being. I may never get an opportunity to stay home with the baby again, so I am taking advantage of it while I can.
Being in Lodi is still hard as far as friends are concerned. I am involved in a Bible study at church and we go to a couples small group, which have helped. Branching out is happening, just slowly.
My OCD is still lurking in the background with little flares occurring from time to time. Excitingly, though, I was able to wean off of my medication shortly after Abe's birthday. I feel a difference, but I also have enough coping mechanisms to stave off panic attacks most of the time. Also, I have started writing about my experiences as a way to cope with intrusive thoughts or compulsions. I haven't written much, but it felt like a good way to allow other people into an area of my life that is often kept hidden. Join me at: Shaking Hands, if you dare :)

Family News:
We just returned from a Clifford Family Reunion in Boston this weekend. So much laughter, so many Cliffords! My brother got engaged while there in Boston, so we had a lot to celebrate. It was a fun trip, but we are glad to be home. Especially, Abe, our teething and cranky monster man.

Also, we had a Howen Family trip in June to celebrate Jessica's graduation with her Master's degree from UCLA. Another fun-filled, hectic trip, though it included going back to Redeemer Church and seeing so much of our church family. A blessing indeed!

Bob and Jamie are currently in Germany visiting with friends and their "German daughter", Steffi. I'm secretly hoping that she stows away in their luggage!

As the summer draws to a close, there is much going on in the world that brings me to pause in sharing an update of this nature. Christians are being systematically slaughtered by ISIS. Unrest is constant between Israel and Palestine. Ebola is attacking West Africa. People are starving and alone. Unborn babies are being killed daily. The list truly does go on and on. I am feel utterly helpless in regards to these major world issues.

God is mighty to save.
May He act soon.

Prayer Requests:
- Endurance for Dan as he starts a new school year.
- Good communication between Dan and the teachers and the administration
- Continued health and stability for Dan's cancer and concurring issues
- Healthy development for our little Abe
- Patience and wisdom as we raise a little one in a very scary world
- Guidance as to when/how to expand our family
- Endurance for me here at home to help Dan as much as possible and provide love to my boys
- Comfort and protection for those suffering around the world