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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy Birthday to me.

***UPDATED to include Credit Card and Paypal donations!!!***

(PS thank you so much to those of you who have helped both Blakey and Cooper!)

Today is my birthday.  I am 35 years old.

That may not be "old" to some of you, and I don't "feel" older.  I don't even feel wiser.  But I do feel blessed.

Blessed to be this "old."  Blessed to be healthy.  Blessed to have a family who is healthy.

So, I know all of you think I'm Awesome.  (hah) and you ALL want to run over to the store and buy me a cup of coffee, and a Hallmark Card right!?

Well, how about if you take that money and donate it to my friend instead.

Because what I want for my birthday is for you to help my friend out.  OK?  OK.

Here's her story:

My pal Kristen had a baby boy in September of 2010 and named him Blake.  Blake Kingston, rad name huh!?

He was the community baby.  Because Kristen was involved in so many things around the community, we passed him around to each other event after event.  While momma talked on the microphone and organized the Walk for Life, and the Mosquito Marathon, and the Walk for Respect, and the Spring Festival, Blake hung out with all of us, smiling on the sidelines.

Mom and baby

About a month ago, Blakes mommy noticed that he was walking a little funny and took him to the local hospital.  A tertiary care clinic, with the closest urgent care hospital with specialists and MRI machines 600 air miles away.

After hearing the doctors tell her to wait and see, she followed her gut and bought her own plane ticket down to Anchorage to get seen by a specialist.

I ran into Blake, his mommy and his aana Pearl at Toys R Us in Anchorage that Thursday.  Because I needed help with the Arctic Circle Spring Festival, she said she would come back Monday and help again!  I was elated.

Blake in daddys hat

But unfortunately that was not the case.  Little Blake had an MRI and it was found that he had a tumor near his brain.

From Kristens April 7th Facebook Wall:

We just found out yesterday at Providence that my baby has an ependymoma tumor. we were medivac'd last night to Oregon and are here at the ICU. It is severe and will have surgery on monday morning to determine all of the specifics and what our plan of attack will be. Thank you guys for all the well wishes and of course we hope for nothing but the best.

We were devastated.  Our entire town prayed for this little boy.   Prayer chains were sent out asking for prayer every hour on the hour during his Monday Surgery that was to last 10-14 hours.


From April 9th:

My baby is too Amazing! By the grace of God and the doctors and nurses who paid special attention (also to mention how amazed they were with the smoothness and ease of the removal) my baby did not have to have nerves taken from his brain. He can move all parts of his body! And he's so strong the nurses are still having to keep an eye on him from trying to get up out of his drug induced coma. We are in an MRI to make sure nothing is missed. Oh happy day...

Tears of joy were wept in our town.  A tumor the size of a plum was carefully taken from near the brain stem of this little 20 month old fighter.

If you can imagine living in a small town, where everyone knows your business, then you can imagine the heartfelt prayers and well wishes we feel and give at times like this.  We truly come together as one to help our own.

Bake Sales and fundraisers were set up to help Kristen, Shaun and Blake, not to mention his two older brothers who were brought to Fairbanks immediately so Shaun and Kristen could stay in Portland with him.

 Blake going for a ride

Tomorrow Blake has his third surgery since being medevaced to Portland from his small town above the Arctic Circle.  He looks great in his photos, but if you can imagine, the cost of having both parents in Portland, his brothers in Fairbanks, and neither parent working adds up.

The surgery is going to remove a little spot behind his eye that a later MRI picked up.

From April 20

We just got the next surgery date, Thursday (tomorrow). Neurosurgeon has said that little spot is part of the tumor growth and is behind his left eye, is the size of your pinky. This is the last surgery. As long as we get this one with hopefully no lasting side effects, were home free! Besides the radiation portion. Blake's doing great with his physical therapist and had the swallow study done today. His muscles are working but very weak, making him need to get a stomach feeding tube for a little while. I'm very happy he's been so resilient.

And well, to top it all off, the other day Kristen and Shaun went to do their laundry (all their laundry) and all their clothes were stolen.  ALL of them.  So, a quick trip to Walmart gave them just the dire basics.  $10 sweats, undies and shirts.  All Kristen said was that she hopes that the people who stole their clothing really needed them.  Geez.  I hope so too.

This is my birthday wish:  For you, my reader, friend, relative, whatever-you-are to send my friend Kristen the $5 you would have spent on a birthday card for me, or a coffee this morning.  Imagine 200 people sending just $5.  This will tremendously help my friends, and it will allow both Blake's parents to stay with him during this very trying time.

 Shooting guns

If you're near a Wells Fargo Bank and can give up coffee for just one day (or more if you can!) then I would appreciate you dropping in to deposit a few dollars into Kristen's Account.

Kristen Walker - Acct. # 8912216481

OR click HERE to donate to both Blake and Cooper, at the little sluggers dot com.  (You'll notice another Wells Fargo account number for Shaun Conwell on the bottom of the webpage.  Shaun is Blakes daddy.  Shaun and Laleya are brother and sister, both their children in Portland in the Children's Hospital.  Either account is fine.  Paypal works too!)

Our bank is only open from 10 am - 5 pm and I dropped by today to deposit some money.  I know I can give up coffee for the week so Kristen and Shaun can spend more time with their baby boy.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers, for your loyalty in reading this blog, and for your support for our people who need it.

I appreciate you.


Blake and Cooper

PS, if you live in the Fairbanks area Blake's first cousin Cooper who is the son of one of my classmates, also happens to be in Portland battling leukemia.  Cooper and Blake get to hang out now, but imagine if both your precious baby grandsons were in a hospital 3,000 air miles away.  The friends and co-workers of the boys' grandma are holding a Spaghetti Feed.  Pass it along.  Donate, contact the people on the poster to help Laleya and Cooper too.  Thanks again.

coopers dinner

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 2

Holy moley, it's been nonstop business around here.

Anyway, here are photos from Day 2. If you wanna know what happened on Day 2, go back to day one and look at the event list! haha.

The Original Finnskimo Girls. Elsa, Saima, Maija

Luke and John Baker at start
Tatta Luke and John Baker before the start of the Kobuk 440

Mass Start
Mass Start of the Kobuk 440 Sled Dog Race

Paige running for money
2 year old Paige running for money at the Clothesline Run Races

kids getting dollars
Older kids turn

Air Force Brass Band Concert.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Day 1

The Arctic Circle Spring Festival is underway.

2012 festival

I'm strapped for time (as usual) so here are some photos from day 1.







(AND my daughter celebrated her 9th birthday on Wednesday, but she was with her dad in Anchorage, so I'll save the post for this weekend! But happy birthday anyway!)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Many of you know that I am Inupiaq. Many of you know that I am Finnish.

grandma and kaisa
Kaisa and her Great-Grandma Hazel. April Birthdays.

I post plenty of photos of being Inupiaq. I don't post very many being Finn. That's OK. I don't know what constitutes "being Finn" aside from making simple homemade food and sewing a lot. Possibly having a very eclectic style, super nordic with bold bright colors. Whatever the case may be, I thought I'd share a photo I took at my Grandma Hazel's 90th Birthday party this Saturday.

L-R, Youngest to Oldest:
My aunt Lulu. Who I followed around as much as possible, because when I was growing up, she was the epitome of Cool. She skied, ran, skied some more. And she is the best artist I know. She dragged me to ski practice when she coached for East. I always wanted to be like her. She's married to my uncle Mike who is so cool that he does Arctic Man, and he is the skier! (*Recent update: Mike doesn't do Arctic Man anymore...but he used to!)

My aunt Ellie. Who taught me how to be VERY girly. Or as girly as I could be. Oh, also, I had my first "car accident" with her...and tried artichokes with her for the first time. And she had real toe shoes with musk ox hair in them. I was super jealous. My uncle Brian skis so much that whenever I think of skiing anywhere, I think I'll never ski as much as Brian. He even skis with the World Cup people just to, you know, hang out!

My uncle Martin. Who always was sort of scary to me. He's like my dad though, who was scary to me too, and was very into hockey and baseball, when all I really wanted to do was craft and be pretty. These days though, he takes my little girls (Clara too) on walks to the playground and surprises us all! He was married to the best girl scout/soccer mom I've known.

My aunt Sara. She taught me that it was completely A-OK to sing really loudly at church. She also always inspires me to re-use old stuff and make them new again. I think she invented "up-cycling" from trash. I love Luther Vandross and Aaron Neville because of my aunt Sara. Oh, and on a side note, she gave me "the monkey's uncle." Who used to be my favorite uncle, until he made me eat steamed cabbage.

My dad. He has a ponytail and a chipped front tooth. He lives in the woods after living in the tundra for 35 years. He's content. We see him when he decides to grace us with his presence! He makes all things wooden and by hand. He is married to my mom.

My aunt Maggie. She gardens and has the BEST color collection in all time. She has a Red Wall, a Blue Collection, etc. I love her house. And her husband had a silver screen long before flat-screens were popular! He's pretty cool too. She says that I get her most organized cookbooks someday. I hope it's before she dies cause she's gonna live till she's 105!


And my grandma. This photo was taken at her birthday party. She taught me how to sew, how to use a pattern but she NEVER EVER taught me how to knit! I remember going on walks with her, going to campfire girls, going to ballet lessons, swim lessons and learning to use the bus. I learned to play Fur Elise on her piano but I never learned to read music. I played Fur Elise so many times that she got tired of the song. I'll never get tired of the song. She also required that I was a proper girl who had manners. I don't know where those went, but she is pretty awesome. She turned 90 years young on April 8th.