Friday, December 30, 2005

3rd Cycle of Chemo

We spent the last couple of days in Omaha so Kerstin could get her 3rd (and hopefully last) cycle of chemo. This time she was able to do it as an "outpatient" at the oncology clinic. We met a lot of new people who are going through the same things we are. We count our blessings though because Kerstin has only had to deal with this a fraction of what some of these kids have. Some of these children have been doing this for up to three years.

After she was done with her first dose on Thursday, Kerstin visited the 6th floor to deliver some chocolate covered pretzel rods to the nurses up there. It was good to see them. I'm always impressed by how well they remember their patients. Kerstin had a stomach ache after her first dose on Thursday. She seemed to feel better after we met some friends for supper and then went to their house to play for a while. (Fun time is always a good distraction for aches and pains.) Friday morning during her chemo, Kerstin did get sick. On the bright side, she hadn't had an appetite so there wasn't much to come up. We made it home on Friday for lunch and spent the rest of the day unpacking and playing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Build A Bear

Kerstin and her sister went to Build A Bear in the Oakview Mall (Omaha) today. They both had gift certificates to spend. Kerstin goes in to the oncology clinic for outpatient chemo tomorrow and Friday (hopefully her last cycle). We came down a day early to take her to the mall while she is feeling well (and so we didn't have to get up so early tomorrow morning to get here). Click on the title "Build A Bear" for more pictures.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

News Update

I was going to entitle this "Good News and Bad News," but I didn't want to freak anyone out! Let's start with the good news. Kerstin's counts are high enough that she can go in for her last round of chemo on Thursday and Friday. Since she doesn't need a bone marrow biopsy this time, she can get her treatment as an outpatient at the oncology clinic in Omaha! Kerstin remembers the clinic from her first visit there in October as the place with all the toys and the Dora's talking house. She is excited for her sister to be able to see it as well. McKinsey and Kerstin got new doll beds last night, handmade by Uncle Jay, Aunt Debbie, Jeremy, Trevor, and Marcus. They are adorable, and the girls' dolls are all fighting to get to sleep in the new comfy beds. The girls and their dolls had a sleepover last night in their new sleeping bags in the new basement!

Now for the bad news. Some vandals came through our neighborhood early this morning and destroyed at least 15 of the candy canes on our street. As you can see, ours was broken in half. The girls and I were just sick this morning when we saw it. They have quite an elaborate plan in place to catch the "bad people." I have assured them that LPD is on the case so we should let them do their jobs. We have decided to leave the candy canes up as they are for now. We hope that the culprits will be caught soon. Both Channel 8 and 10-11 News crews were in the neighborhood today. I know we'll be watching the news tonight.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Infusion Center

The whole family got to go to the infusion center at St. E's today for Kerstin's blood draw. Kerstin and McKinsey parked themselves in front of the tv while Jeff and Annie kept themselves busy with other things. Kerstin's ANC came back at just over 2700, so we are expecting to take a trip to Omaha tomorrow. We'll have to wait to hear from the clinic in the morning before we make any plans.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all from the Lincoln Leafs. We had a nice, quiet Christmas at home. Grandma and Grandpa Gnuse were able to stay with us. We always enjoy their visits. Santa was able to come down the chimney and leave a few things in the new basement this year! Kerstin wasn't able to go to church with us because her counts are down, but she put on her pretty dress anyway.

McKinsey is riding her new scooter from Santa. McKinsey also got a McDonalds cash register playset from her sister. Would you like fries with that?

Kerstin got a Dora doll from Santa and twin babies from her sister. We were able to spend lots of time today playing with the new toys. (Of course it takes at least 45 minutes to get each toy out of its box!!)

We will be in Lincoln for a few more days at least until Kerstin's counts get high enough to go back to Omaha for her next round of chemo. We will get some lab work done at the Infusion Center at St. E's tomorrow. Thanks for all of your prayers. Take some time to remember baby Jesus today and every day. God's blessings to you!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Recess with friends

Kerstin also got to participate in one of her favorite subjects at school on Friday, RECESS!! She had lots of fun with her friends climbing on the equipment. She whipped across the monkey bars just like the little monkey she has always been (even in a pretty dress). Her classmates were very caring and kind. Thank you Mrs. Swiatek and kindergarten friends for a fun afternoon! (To see all of the pictures, click on the title "Recess with friends")

Kerstin visits her Kindergarten Friends

Kerstin could hardly wait for 1:00 to arrive all day today. We got to go visit her class at school. The kids had a snack together and some nice visiting time. Kerstin was excited to tell them about her holiday visitor last night. While we were there, the Character Council presented Kerstin and her Mom with the proceeds from their amazing candy cane sale. They sold 2850 candy canes! Wow! We are so blessed to be a part of such a generous school community. Thank you to everyone who bought candy canes, delivered candy canes, counted candy canes, and of course, ate candy canes! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Santa Stopped By Early

The girls had a visit from Santa Claus tonight. He said he was out and about making some pre-Christmas stops to some "special" boys and girls. The girls were very surprised. They were were also glad that we recently had the chimney and fireplace cleaned out so Santa wouldn't get dirty when he stopped by. (Click on the title "Santa Stopped By Early" to see more pictures.) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Playing in the new basement

Kerstin and McKinsey had a great time tonight playing in the new basement while Mom worked on a bit more painting. A blanket and pillow became a car with Kerstin as the driver. Who needs toys? Kerstin and Annie got to have a nice visit with Scott and Annette (daycare provider) and one of Kerstin's best buds, Jacob. We met them for lunch today, and we all had a great time catching up with each other. Kerstin has really missed them (especially her friend, Jacob). Our little Kerstin continues to feel great, and we pray for the best with her dressing change/lab work tomorrow. Thanks for checking on us. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Kerstin's Magic Moment

After Kerstin was diagnosed with leukemia, a couple of our friends submitted Kerstin's name to the Union Bank Magic Moments program. Just over two weeks ago, we were surprised and humbled to find out that we were one of 11 families chosen to receive a "magic moment" this year. Our gift is the installation of new carpet and tile in our basement.

Some Basement Background: About three years ago when we bought this house, we knew it was a fixer-upper. We were able to completely re-model the upstairs, but ran out of time and money for the downstairs. While the basement is usable, it has not always been a desirable place to spend time. The foundation walls were bare and the carpet was old and beyond repair (despite Annie's many attempts to clean and shampoo it). Knowing that the basement houses the girls' play room and that Kerstin now has a weakened immune system, our friends submitted her name and the idea of replacing the dilapidated carpet to Union Bank. (Click on the title "Kerstin's Magic Moment" for all of the pictures.)

The carpet was only one piece of the puzzle though. We decided that new carpet in a dark, grungy, cold basement just wouldn't seem right. So with the help of friends, co-workers, family, and neighbors, the basement was stripped, framed, insulated, and finished off in time for the new carpet and tile to be installed. As we have said many times, we are truly blessed and thank God for the people in our lives that continue to share God's love with us.

As for Kerstin (and her sister McKinsey), they are thrilled to have a new clean and bright area to play in. We are thrilled to have a warm and inviting family room to gather in, and a guest bedroom that is now a place where our friends and family can stay comfortably while they help us take care of the girls. In addition to the carpet and tile, Union Bank also brought gifts which included a couple of games, DVD's, "anti-gravity boots", a portable DVD player, and fuel cards. (Our cup runneth over.)

We would again like to thank all those involved in helping make this Magic Moment come true. We also want to ask that everyone continue to send their prayers and thoughts to us and all of God's people who are struggling with difficult times during this holiday season. May you all have a safe and joyous Christmas , and a happy and blessed new year.


The Lincoln Leafs

Monday, December 19, 2005

New Basement

Tomorrow is a big day for us. We are unveiling our remodeled basement. For those of you that can get Channel 8 news in Lincoln, you can watch the 6 and 10 pm shows to see Union Bank's Magic Moments and us. For those of you that can't get Channel 8 (or miss it), check back here for the whole story and pictures.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Back to church!

Kerstin continues to feel great! Your prayers are working. God is so good. We were able to attend church as a family today, and it felt so wonderful. We are learning to celebrate the little things and try not to take anything for granted. We sat in back away from the crowd and didn't hang around afterwards. Even though Kerstin's counts are coming up, we still have to be cautious about her catching any "bugs." Thanks for checking in with us. We love hearing from you! Have a great week! (We got to light 4 candles on the Advent wreath today - Christmas is just around the corner.)

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Kerstin and McKinsey helped out with painting the basement on Friday. (I use the word help with tongue in cheek.) We will reveal the basement project on Tuesday. Keep checking back.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Visit From Pastor Greg

Pastor Greg came by for lunch today (he brought Doozy's) and stayed for a nice visit. He even got in on Kerstin's dressing change with the home health nurse. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Trip To The Mall

With the permission of Kerstin's oncology nurse, Kerstin got to get out of the house and go to the mall. Her counts are high enough that she can have some limited exposure to the public. Of course we took precautions and wiped down the rides with Clorox wipes and used plenty of hand sanitizer after she got off of them. And a trip to the mall just isn't complete without a stop at the cookie store. (For more pictures click on the title "A Trip To The Mall")

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nail Salon

While Annie and I went up to Kerstin's school for the Ring Pop party, a good friend of ours came over to stay with Kerstin. They had a great time turning the kitchen in to a nail salon. Colleen left her supplies here so they can finish the job this Thursday.

Ring Pops

Both Kindergarten classes at Rousseau sold Ring Pops a couple of weeks ago to raise money for Kerstin. Today Annie and I went to school so the kids could present us with the money. They sold A LOT of Ring Pops. We want to thank all of her classmates and teachers for their generosity.

During the presentation, the kids held up a sign that stretched across the entire multipurpose room. You can see the entire sign by clicking on this post's title ("Ring Pops").

Monday, December 12, 2005

Labs Today

Kerstin went in to the "Infusion Center" at St. E's today for her blood work: ANC is 841 (up from 623 on Thursday) and everything else looks good. Other than that, just another day of school time with Mr. Knobel and goofing off at home.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Silly Saturday

Kerstin and McKinsey have been having fun spending the whole day together playing! Laundry baskets are one of their favorite toys! Ha! Barbies, Polly Pockets, Model Magic and having tea are all things they like to do together. It is such a blessing that they get along so well (most of the time:). Kerstin is feeling great. Her blood infusion went well yesterday, and she is starting to get some color back. Thanks so much for all of your prayers and good thoughts! Enjoy the warmer weather today! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Playing with Big Sister

The girls had a nice time after school today and all evening playing with their "new" kitchen. Thanks to Ron and Bonnie for cleaning the girls' kitchen and dishes which had been used in the outside play house and were in desperate need of a good cleaning. The Polly Pockets enjoyed being played with as well. Kerstin had another good day today. She is starting to eat and drink more and has kept everything down! No headaches today. She did get her dressing changed (not fun) and labs drawn here at home. Her ANC has dropped from over 3,000 on Monday to 600. The chemo is definitely taking effect. Her hemoglobin is low, so we will get to go to St. E's for a blood transfusion in the morning. Keep us in your prayers and also consider donating blood or platelets in Kerstin's honor. What a wonderful gift to give!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Feeling better today

As you may be able to tell by the previous post, Kerstin is feeling much better today. She didn't eat a huge amount of food, but was able to keep everything down. She did get a headache late this morning and actually allowed Mom to give her some Tylenol. (I think she figured out that Mom and Dad are right - it makes you feel better - don't tell her we said so!) The visit from Abby really did a lot to cheer her. She also had a great time with her sister and Mom at our first Candlelighter's meeting. We all enjoyed a nice meal. The kids got to play and make an ornament while the parents had a meeting. Kerstin made it through the day without a nap, but was really wiped out at bed time. Thanks for checking on us!

A visit from Abby!

We had 2 special visitors at our house today, Abby and Kristi! Kerstin met Abby at Children's Hospital when we were there in October/November. They became fast friends and had a lot of fun together at the hospital. One of the best things Abby taught Kerstin was how to shoot water at the nurses with syringes. It was so nice to see Abby and her Mom today when they were in town for a doctor visit. They even brought us lunch and stayed to play and chat a bit. We are blessed to have such wonderful friends, old and new! Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 05, 2005

What goes down just keeps coming up!

Kerstin hasn't felt very well today. It started at 4:30 this morning with a headache, neck ache and some vomiting. She hasn't really kept anything down today at all. Kerstin is having a stubborn streak and doesn't want to take any extra medicine for nausea or a headache. She has chosen to take a number of naps as she has just been pretty wiped out.
We got to visit the Infusion Center at St. Elizabeth's for a scheduled blood draw today. Her ANC is over 3000 which is great! She didn't need blood or platelets either. We expect that the chemo she got last week will start to bring her counts down in the next few days.
Thanks for all of your continued thoughts and prayers sent our way. It means so much to us! Stay warm!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Candy Cane Lane

That's not the real name of our street. It's known as Candy Cane Lane though because every Christmas everyone that lives on the street puts up lighted candy canes in their yards. In addition to the candy canes, some of the home owners go "Clark Gridwald" as well. (Click on the title for more pictures.)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Snow Angel and New Teacher!

When you play in the snow, you just have to make a snow angel! Kerstin and Mom got to meet her new Home Bound teacher, Mr. Knobel. We think he is pretty great already. He is planning to meet with Kerstin every day. He will work closely with Mrs. Swiatek to help keep Kerstin caught up with all of her kindergarten friends. What a wonderful blessing! Posted by Picasa

Playing in the snow

Kerstin has been begging to play outside in the snow, so we finally got out there for a bit today. Mom got to pull her around on the sled. Big fun! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Christmas Tree

We put the Christmas tree up tonight. Little-by-little we are getting the rest of our inside and outside decorations up.

We Made It Home...Finally

Kerstin got discharged on Wednesday about supper time, but it wasn't soon enough to beat the snow storm that hit the Lincoln/Omaha area. We heard lots of reports of wrecks along the interstate and bad driving conditions, so we found a hotel and settled in for the night.

By the time we slept in, packed back up, chiseled the car out of the block of ice it was incased in, it was 10am when we got on the interstate. By then traffic was light and the roads had been cleared. Made it home in an hour and started the unpacking routine.

As far as Kerstin, her bone marrow biopsy came back clean. She is in complete remission. (Yea!!!) We are not scheduled to go back to the hospital until Dec. 27th for another 2-3 day stay. It will be good to spend Christmas at home.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Helicopter Landing

Kerstin has a good view of the helicopter pad across the street. There are not too many landings, but she got to see one today.

Learning to Swallow

It's not a very action packed picture, but it only took Kerstin one try to learn how to swallow. This new skill will help quite a bit in taking her medications now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Playing Golf

... the card game. Kerstin has really been getting in to playing cards lately. She is getting pretty good at Golf and solitaire. Kerstin and Jeff got in a few holes of golf before bed time. (Kerstin got a few mulligans.)

Round 2

Kerstin is back in the hospital for her second cycle of chemo. She started the day off with a bone marrow biopsy and then up to the 6th floor for more pampering by the staff. The plan as of now is to be discharged tomorrow night. Two days and one night sounds much better than three weeks.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!!! (a day late) The Leaf family did something on Thanksgiving that they haven't done for a long time: stay home and goof off. It was a very nice day for us. We slept in. Some friends from church brought us Thanksgiving dinner (Thank you Kruegers). Watched football and cartoons. Then Grandma and Grandpa Leaf stopped by to say hi and have a piece of pie. After the grandparents left, Kerstin's Uncle, Uncle's girlfriend, and Cousin came over. The girls showed us their own rendition of "One More Angel in Heaven" from "Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". Then all the ladies had to show off their new holiday scarves.

We hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We especially send our thoughts and prayers to those who were confined to hospitals, and to all the families that could not spend this day together.

God Bless You All.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Kerstin's Got A Date...

...with The Anchor. We got the call today that she is scheduled for her next marrow biopsy and round of chemo on Nov 29th. They are telling us that she will be able to go home the evening of the 30th as long as there is no reason to keep her. No U-Haul truck this time, we think just an overnight bag will do it :)

Home School'n

Just because Annie and Kerstin aren't at school, doesn't mean they aren't teaching and learning. In the hospital Kerstin got 45 minutes of school time M-Th. We are planning on doing at least that much when she is home. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pink Ribbon

Kerstin stopped on the way home from seeing the puppies to pose by one of the pink ribbons. (Thanks again Ron and Bonnie.)