Friday, November 28, 2008


John reminded us at our Thanksgiving dinner today about why this holiday was first started. We all know about the Pilgrims & Indians and their first Thanksgiving, but...about 150 years ago, a few days after the Civil War ended, Abraham Lincoln made a proclamation that the forth Thursday of each November should be a day of national celebration.

I love what Elder David Bednar said in October's conference: "...we should remember that “in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21). Let me recommend that periodically you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts."

A couple of months ago I was over come with self pity. It was a real pity party. I was feeling bad about Peter's situation, and mine. I was feeling sorry for myself. I started to let the challenges consume me. A fussy and crying 2yr old. Being in doors all day. Not being able to go to the store. Shopping. No visits from friends or family. No play dates for the other children...and many many more. As I tried to figure out how to feel better about things, I came across something: "The Lord wants you to have a spirit of gratitude in all you do and say. Live with a spirit of thanksgiving and you will have greater happiness and satisfaction in life. Even in your most difficult times, you can find much to be grateful for. Doing so will strengthen and bless you."

This was an answer to my difficult situation. I made up a little game for myself. At the end of each day I would go over in my mind the happenings of the day and think of the one thing I was thankful for that day. The first day it was Fruity Pebbles. Peter's appetite at that time was very diminished. He needed to eat but wouldn't because of the nausea or effects of chemo. He was very fussy and unpleasant. But he liked Fruity Pebbles. He ate it for every meal. I was truely grateful for Fruity Pebbles that day. After a few days of this new little game my pity party ended. I was strengthen and blessed.

It's so good to have a day that we all can reflect on our blessed lives and think of the things that we're grateful for. But try doing it every day...It's fun.

A few pictures of our Thanksgiving...

Meagan & Addie helping with the chocolate pumpkin pie. Very serious work...They really were having fun. Those are the looks of focus and concentration when you're cooking.

Sydney & Andrew having a contest on who can eat the most rolls.

Uncle Gary taking his turn at telling what he was thankful for this year.

Kendall enjoying mashed potatoes.

Forget the pumpkin pie.

The party needs to be over, but it's just getting started. Grandma, this is where you would've wanted to take out your hearing aids. Addie & Maddie were putting on a play or dance. Andrew was pushing Sydney all around the house in the dump truck {watch out!} Peter was happy.

Not in photo: Meagan at the piano playing the Can-Can. Dad and Gary at the T.V. volume up to 50. Thys deliriously happy. Cheryl & Kendall nursing. Me, Mom, yes I can can.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Where the Wild Things are...

HaPPy ThanKsGivIng...

from The HaLLens

We enjoyed Thanksgiving Day at the Wild Animal Zoo with Gary & Cheryl's family. Here's a little known secret: Best day to go to either the San Diego Zoo or the Wild Animal Park is on Thanksgiving Day. No lines. Close parking to front gates. Cool weather. Few people. Active animals. Great day!

Peter was in heaven. He saw all his favorite animals. I've never heard "wow" so many times in one day. We loved being with our cousins again. It's been a long four months...

Andrew spying on the lions

Lions spying on us.

Trying to feed the lorikeets, some of them fed on us...

Oh, so many more pictures...but so little time for posting them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Results are In

Peter had his long anticipated ct scan yesterday. Remember the last one? That's when we found out what a fighter Peter was. He refused to be sedated for the ct was a long day. This time was a totally different story. The planets must have been all aligned because it all went like clock work. Amazing when that happens. A big thank you to our nurse, Connie. And of course to our Heavenly Father, who, I'm sure is tired of hearing from me by now.

The tumor has shrunk down to only 4cm. It was around 9 to 11cm when it was detected. Now we can proceed with the surgery. It's scheduled for Dec 5th at the Sunset Kaiser {L.A.} He'll be there for up to two weeks. And then home in time for Christmas. I think we have Christmas decorating to do this weekend.

The surgeon met with us yesterday and is very confident about being able to get all the cancer out. It's going to be a little tricky because the tumor is so high up in the liver, close to the heart and one of the main veins that run thru the liver. But I trust him. I have a good feeling about him. I was a little frightened to hear some of the details of the surgery. He will have to take two parts of the liver (there are four parts) so that sounds like a lot. The good thing about the liver is that it regenerates. It will be back to normal size in a week. Isn't that something!

Now the great news: This all means that there is no more chemo. Picture me jumping like I just won the showcase on the Price is Right. What a relief. In fact the doctor gave the clear to take him out again. So guess what we are going to do??? On Thanksgiving Day we are going to celebrate by going to the Wild Animal Park in San Diego. He loves animals. What a great day that is going to be. He's only been on drives, walks around the block, the Papa's home, hospital, and clinic. Good days to come.

Our prayers have been answered. We couldn't ask for more. I know there's still a long road ahead for Peter but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There have been some dark days these past 4 months but the whole time I felt comforted and at peace that all would work out. We have so much love, gratitude, and appreication for our family, friends, prayers, strangers, medical staff, and Heavenly Father. I've learned some mighty lessons that I hope to write about so that I'll always remember. Life is so different now. And that's a good thing.

Monday, November 24, 2008


What a relief...On Saturday afternoon John & Andrew went to a friend's home to watch the much anticipated yearly GAME. What game you ask??? Only the biggest rivalry in Mormon culture. The U{university of Utah} vs. BYU. I think that John and his brother, Gary are the only Ute fans in the ward. I was a little leery when he left to be in a crowd of proud cougar fans. Now that's scary. I heard that they sing the fight song every time they make a touch down. They are devout.

The "U" remains undefeated. They won the big game this year 48-24. John was very pleased to be able to wear his Utah tie to church to rub it in to all.
When I saw this picture on c jane enjoy it I had to copy and post it. Fun rivalry. But the "U" remains supreme. It is the school of the Prophets. {I hope I don't get a lot of hate mail} Yikes. What was I thinking???

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Baking Goodness

little pilgrams by Andrew's preschool class...way cute

Ahhh....School Thanksgiving Feast. We had a good one at Andrew's preschool yesterday. Addie said they had a good one too. I'll have to ask Mrs. Cherry for the cornbread muffins and pilgram stew recipes. But by popular demand... here's what I made for preschool...)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins {wish I could make them for you}
Recipe from Amy Strong

1 2/3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
1 c plain pumpkin
1/2 c melted butter
1 c chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350. Spray muffin cups w/Pam or use liners. Thoroughly mix flour, sugar, spice, soda, baking powder & salt in a large bowl with a whisk. Break eggs into another bowl, add pumpkin & butter & whisk until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour over dry ingredients & fold in with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups & sprinkle sugar {i use the chunky raw sugar crystals}on top muffins. Bake about 20 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool. Makes 10 large muffins.

*These are great done in the mini muffin size with mini chocolate chips. Bake for only 12 to 14 minutes instead.**

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who Says Bribery Isn't a Good Thing?

It's good when you have something to motivate your teenager with... Meagan has become obsessed with the Twilight saga. She started reading the series a year ago. I can only blame myself. When she finished reading a previous book series by Shannon Hale, which she loved, she was in search for something just as good. I recommended Twilight to her {i read it earlier in the year when i was radioactive and quarantined} and she frowned at me. How could she like something that her old mama liked? Then she became desperate for something good and fun to read. Finally she read it and the rest is history.

I feel like I'm reliving my teenage life. That's a good thing. I took Meagan and a bunch of her friends to the midnight release of Breaking Dawn in August. Fun.

During the summer she worked on a personal progress project {click on that to see it} and her obsession is stitched into the project. Clever girl.

A few weeks ago when the Twilight sound track was about to be released Meagan heard that the store Hot Topic was going to have a sneak listening premier and play it over their store speakers one time only. She had to go. She's been such a trooper during this whole cancer thing with Peter. How could I deny her this huge opportunity? So we went. Okay, Hot Topic is not a nice, clean, wholesome place to hang out in.

My mom used to bribe me & my brothers with Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen {love those things}when we were young to get us to clean our rooms and the house. So I know the skillful art of bribery first hand...thanks Marie. Every parent should perfect this skill. Here's the deal that was made to both Meagan & Addie {she read Twilight too}. Way back when we heard that there was a movie being made of the book I told the girls that if they would learn to play two songs from the hymn book or children's song book on the piano with, yes, both hands, and play them for us for Family Home Evening {click on that if you don't know what F.H.E. is}

Can you tell I just learned how to add links in my posting??? I'm so excited. Thanks Rachelle for that lesson. anyway... we could sing along with the piano that I would take them to the midnight showing of Twilight.

They did it. I had to remind them a few times when I over heard them telling their friends that they were going to the midnight showing of Twilight. Have you learned your two songs yet? Man that was fun. Meagan learned I am a Child of God and Come Thou Fount. Addie learned Book of Mormon Stories and We are Different. I am loving this parenting thing. So fun. See you at the movies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Abundance of Blessings

I love Autumn time
. Despite the heat wave {90 degrees} and all the fires raging 3o miles or so away from us, I feel very blessed.
We took Peter to another doctor's visit yesterday. He was scheduled to get an outpatient chemo dose today. But after the exam, the doctor said that there's no more chemo for Peter. Just to be safe, he cancelled the last two doses because of some of the side effects. The next step is the ct scan which should be done in the next week or so. I'm hoping for it to be completed before Thanksgiving. But I'll be patient. One of the things I'm learning about with this trial. Patience. I have so far to go...
The ct scan will give the doctors a look at the tumor. Most likely Peter will have surgery at the beginning of December. Unless the tumor is still too close to the main vein in the liver then he'll need more chemo. Then there's a slight chance that if the tumor is all gone then there's no need for surgery. Wouldn't that be great. Am I being too greedy to ask for such a miracle???
We have already been so blessed. What a wonderful time we are going to have at Thanksgiving Dinner when we go around the table and declare what we are thankful for this year. I know what I am going to say... Grateful for trials and challenges that increase our love for each other and our God. Grateful for Peter to be with us. Thankful for family and friends. For countless prayers said on behalf of Peter. And so much more...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...Thanks Veterans!

This Veteran's Day started off as just another break from school and work.

First breakfast. I was going to do buttermilk waffles but we got a craving for Fish LaKe French toast. Very yummy! {I'll share the recipe if I get a lot of request}.
The Papa's took all the grandchildren to see Madagascar II with Gary. We know some children are going to have a fun day...) While John & I took Peter to another doctor's appointment. After the appointment we took Peter to see the cows in Ontario, a few more miles away, but worth the drive.
Peter loves cows.

He gets so excited to see them up close and to hear them mooing.

He copies them and moos too.

His white count is really low again, so we kept him in the car and rolled down his window. He admires them from afar. He loves every minute. Going out to the dairy gives John a chance to scooped up some free fertilizer for the garden. The ride home is a smelly one.
Later that afternoon when we were all back together and waving our flags in the back yard, some one asked what Veteran's Day was for..??? Then the feeling of shame hit me. I have so much to teach them...
"Veteran’s Day is a day mixed with feelings of honor, grief and pride for those who have served our country. People of all faiths, races and backgrounds have given their lives and services to defend what we believe in, and we thank them for that."
I reminded them about some of our relatives that were in the service. Like Grandpa Merril. He enlisted in the army at 17 years old, lying about his age so he could fight and defend out country in WWII. He became a MP and landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. Amazing that he survived. He didn't talk about his war experiences with us much. But I've read and watched movies and documentaries {thanks to John}about WWII and other wars. I can only imagine what he and others endured and did in defending our liberties and freedoms. I am so grateful to be an American. So grateful for men and women who have the courage and honor to fight for us.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Favorite Meal of the Day

This is a Hallen Family Fav...}
Buttermilk Waffle/Pancake Recipe. We'll be having these tasty darlings in the morning.
Mix: 2 1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
add in 2 1/4 c. flour
4 T sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
mix well
next: add in 2 T melted butter
let batter rest for 5 minutes
makes lots of pancakes or about 8 Belgian waffles
Andrew likes them topped with whipping cream, no butter. Meagan, Addie, & Peter like them with butter and syrup. John enjoys them with a slathering of cold butter on each quarter of the waffle topped with syrup. And I like them fresh off the iron with only butter {unless we have strawberries}. They melt in your mouth.
We first started making these after our 2005 Church History Nauvoo Trip. Every hotel we stayed in offered a continental breakfast. They had waffle irons and batter for us to make our own waffles. We loved it. So when I saw the waffle iron at Costco a few weeks later I had to buy it.
For three years now, almost every Saturday, and sometimes for dinner, we make these waffles. Lately we've made pancakes. Either way, it's one of our favorite meals.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Peter's home. It's always a joyous drive home from the hospital with Peter. He gets so excited in the car. He notices everything out his window and says, "wow" the whole way home. The next four hours are like Christmas morning. He rediscovers his old toys, brother, sisters, and the pantry. I'm learning not to take home for granted.

Peter's AFP [I talked about this test in a previous posting] was down again. It's only 22 now. Still on the down slope which is good news. Now we are looking forward to the ct scan in a few weeks. Our prayers and hope is that the findings will show that the tumor is very small {or gone}.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Here We Go Again

We're off to the hospital to start the last round of chemo. Hooray! We're hoping it's the last time. He has been a happy boy these past two weeks. Almost back to the happy and fun little boy he was before, except for the central line coming out of chest. He calls the central line his babies. He hasn't had his out patient chemo these past two weeks because of some of the side effects. Droopy eyes, numbing sensations in his fingers and feet. It should all get back to normal when this is over. Peter is a brave warrior.
I've packed all his favorite toys, books, movies...and left the house in a mess. Sorry kids. You have extra jobs to do this weekend.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


It's 9 o'clock pm but it feels like 10. We're still trying to get use to the time change. Why does that mess me up so much?'s 9 and I find Peter drinking from John's glass. Coke. [Poor John has to be a closet coke drinker in our home because all the kids want it...and I don't approve.] Mean mommy. Peter calls it, "Daddy Juice." And after he drank about a half a cup of it he turned into a robot and repeated...."daddy juice, daddy juice, daddy juice...." for about a minute. Then he was very happy and entertained us until the sugar rush ended and he crashed on John's lap. Okay, I left out the crying details after the sugar high.

Next morning.

It's raining today. Picture a big smile on my face.
Here's my to do list for this special raining day:

  1. Stay in p.j.'s all morning.
  2. Make scrambled eggs for breakfast.
  3. Watch You've Got Mail. {Barney will have to do}
  4. Pop popcorn and make hot chocolate.
  5. Read a pile of books with the boys.
  6. Play games with Andrew.
  7. Build a blanket fort. {I should have kept Addie home today}
  8. Bake.
  9. Take a nap with my feather down comforter.
  10. Try not to think about the clean up.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Family Sign

Tuesday is the big day. The Presidential election. But here in California Prop 8 is the true race to be won. Protect Marriage. Andrew notices every yes for prop 8 sign as we're driving. They are all over the place. He calls them "the family" signs. He gets excited when he sees them.
We've been busy since August campaigning for this. We've walked the neighborhoods knocking on doors and leaving fliers{okay, that was John} made lots of calls, making more calls on Tuesday, posted yard signs in the front yard, placed bumper stickers on our cars, and attending a road rally on Tuesday morning.
Here's what fired me up: California voters passed Proposition 22 in 2000 by more than 61%, saying that a marriage in California is between a man and a woman. Earlier this year, four activist judges based in San Francisco wrongly overturned the people's vote, legalizing same-sex marriage.

The Consequences:The Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage did not just overturn the will of California voters; it also redefined marriage for the rest of society, without ever asking the people themselves to accept this decision. This decision has far-reaching consequences. For example, because public schools are already required to teach the role of marriage in society as part of the curriculum, schools will now be required to teach students that gay marriage is the same as traditional marriage, starting with kindergartners. By saying that a marriage is between “any two persons” rather than between a man and a woman, the Court decision has opened the door to any kind of “marriage.” This undermines the value of marriage altogether at a time when we should be restoring marriage, not undermining it.
The Solution: Vote YES on Proposition 8 to overturn the outrageous Supreme Court decision and restore the definition of marriage that was approved by over 61% of voters. Proposition 8 is NOT an attack on gay couples and does not take away the rights that same-sex couples already have under California’s domestic partner law. California law already grants domestic partners all the rights that a state can grant to a married couple. Gays have a right to their private lives, but not to change the definition of marriage for everyone else.Passing Proposition 8 protects our children and places into the Constitution the simple definition that a marriage is between a man and a woman.
Be American! Vote! And send a message to those judges. Vote yes on prop 8.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

No Tricks but lots of Treats

Trick or treating was kind of different when I was little. Lots of homemade costumes, pillowcases for treat bags, and tricks. Yes, I had a neighbor that made us do a trick for the treats. John tells the story of his favorite childhood costume. Darth Vader. His mom made the mask out of a Clorox bottle. He smelt Clorox all night. He teases her that the fumes burnt his nostrils.

Peter {Charlie Brown}
got to trick or treat a few neighbors and the Papa's home.

Andrew enjoying his sugar straw.
Oh, the glory of Halloween Night.

Addie the nerd with her nerdy friend, Danika.
John and I provided Addie's nerd costume from our personal closet.

Meagan is an obsessed Twilight fan. It's a stretch for her.
I'm a witch. That's a stretch for me too.
Andrew's a transformer, optimise prime
Notice the vampire jack o lantern.{home grown}

Meagan and friends at the church party.
That's Maryn Miner as Cousin It.