Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday morning update

Steve reports they've started weaning Judith off the balloon (?)machine that supports her heart function and that's going very well, in fact her heart is functioning stronger now that she is only getting support every third beat than when the machine was assisting with each beat. Today they're going to try and wean her from the ventilator as well. She's semi-conscious through this, and last night was having quite a bit of trouble with the breathing tube and feeling like she couldn't breath. It was hard for Steve to see her struggling and signaling for help when he could do nothing but hold her hand and try to reassure her that her blood-oxygen levels were fine. The medical staff says she will remember none of this trauma. This morning, at least, she is peacefully sleeping through the heart machine weaning.

Steve says he's having an interesting experience in being homeless, and has learned to scope out the darkest corner in the lounge and spread his stuff on the couch there to reserve it, he's scouted out the restrooms and vending machines and of course the cafeteria.

He needs to come home though, because the magazine is on deadline now and his work has piled up. He's feeling badly about leaving when she's not out of the hospital yet, but with any luck she'll be conscious and alert by tomorrow.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday morning update....

Steve says Judith is holding her own, but not making a lot of progress, and he's not sure what to make of it. She's still on a ventilator and heart support equipment, but they did manage to wean her down a bit on some meds last night. She looks pretty good and has a sense of vitality, he says. The hospital seems very competent but a bit lacking on feedback to families of patients. Maybe they don't know much either....

He's out this morning at the Des Moines Farmers Market, having been kicked out of Judith's room by a nurse changing dressings and such, and he's recharging a bit exploring the blocks-long event. He's feeling the strain, I'm afraid....

The kids and I are headed to our favorite family raspberry patch this morning, then our own farmers market downtown, and possibly to Loveland for this Stone Age Fair. We all agree it sounds fun, but we're not sure how much running around we want to do in one day....

On a side note, the kids and I were cruising the Net last night and visited our former babysitter's myspace page last night, to listen to some of her music (the kids recognized her right away, though i wasn't sure they would, as we haven't seen Sam in about a year). I was stunned and delighted to read that she's been nominated for a Grammy in the new artist folk/Americana category! Her music has matured and gotten complex in ways even my lay-ear can identify, and I'm not in the least bit surprised that she's being noticed. (The first song on her page is Sam backing up a friend on vocals and guitar. I especially like her studio version of New Day)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Maddie's first salon visit

On Wednesday, Maddie and I got our hair cut at a salon in town. It was my first professional cut in a ridiculously long time, and Maddie's first cut ever. She loved the experience, much to my surprise! Harry managed to find his own fun in it as well...

Friday morning update

Just talked to Steve, who's having breakfast in the hospital cafeteria with his step--Dad and step-sister. Judith made some gains in the night in lung function, and didn't lose ground anywhere else. They might have hoped for more healing progress, but they're happy to get what they got. She's mostly unconscious but stirs some. She's "warm, pink and dry," as the night nurse put it, and that's good. Now it's just waiting for the healing to happen. Steve did get the impression from the night nurse, and even from the surgeon's pre-op demeanor, that the medical staff wasn't sure Judith would make it, so this is a huge achievement for her to be here this morning, a testament to her strong will, I'm sure....

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Judith has made it through surgery

It was a grueling, 7 or 8 hour affair, made longer by bleeding problems caused by the blood thinner they'd given her for her heart attack, but they've done everything they wanted to do -- a valve replacement and triple bypass -- and got the bleeding under control. She's in her ICU room now and will be kept under sedation for the next day or two, to keep her from fighting the intubation and other equipment to which she's hooked up. A big hurdle overcome....


First an update on Judith -- Steve is in Iowa. He drove there yesterday. She's had a couple of complications, first congestive heart failure caused by the extra fluid they gave her to boost her blood pressure, which is now under control, and now the realization that a heart valve was damaged by the original MI. So she needs supplemental oxygen and a machine to help pump blood through her system. She's scheduled for open heart surgery at noon today, to repair or replace the valve and clean out a few other partially blocked arteries. Prognosis is good for this surgery, and we're hoping for the best.

Maddie, in the meantime, has decided to start her own blog. You can read it here
We'll get photos up soon. She's been carving overgrown zucchini into replicas of famous statues, but I don't know how well they'll photograph. We'll do our best to light them properly, before they start getting moldy!

eta: I haven't been able to get links to work in the last few posts. Here's the address of Maddie's blog:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Campfire stories...

We had a fabulous time over the weekend at Buckhorn, a church camp in the mountains overlooking Fort Collins. We left chickens tucked into their coop and new, bigger run (which they don't like any better than the previous run), rats with plenty of food, and a dismayed Sunny at the boarding kennel Friday afternoon, and drove 45 minutes up a gorgeous mountain canyon to Foothills UU Church's annual family camp. After our rainy camping trip a few weeks ago, we decided to stay in a cabin. They were very rustic, but had indoor plumbing and a fireplace that looked better than it performed (Steve lit a fire in it Saturday night, and we ended up opening the cabin windows to safeguard against carbon monoxide poisoning, or at least throat irritation.)

The setting was gorgeous, on the shoulder of a mountain with a view far across the plains. We could see the lights of Fort Collins at night and watched several gorgeous storms drift over that flat, green sea at various times during the weekend.

Among the highlights of the weekend -- a massive game of capture the flag in the pine forest (I worried through the whole thing about twisted ankles and impaled runners, but there was only one mild middle-aged injury -- not mine -- and I was very pleasantly surprised to wake up the next morning not particularly sore). There were also s'mores around the campfire, a drumming circle, group sings, a brief plein-air service Sunday morning, and an exciting, unscheduled exploration of a cave near the fishing pond with some of the tween-aged kids.

Camp food was cafeteria fare, but at least it gave the kids a taste, so to speak, of some of what they're missing, or not, as homeschoolers. It's funny how much we all watched the clock for meal times, even knowing they were going to be less-than-spectacular.

There was a fun group sing Saturday night, followed by a Buckhorn tradition -- To Tell The Truth. Campers submit one true and unusual story about themselves, then two "liars" are recruited, and the panels are put before the audience for questions and a vote on who is the true tale-teller. Steve and I were both asked to be liars; I demurred because I thought it would be too stressful but Steve happily agreed, though he didn't tell me what his story was going to be.

So he sat there on stage Saturday night and, along with a middle-aged Dad with a bit of a beer gut and a slightly stocky young woman with a very serious face, repeated "I worked my way through college as a stripper." Lord, and there I was in the front row of the audience, trying to keep a straight face myself and not give it away. Guess who the audience believed was the real stripper? Yep. I hope he feels flattered by it. (It was the other Dad, believe it or not...)

Each night the members of the board game group got together and convened board and card games for the other campers, but I slept so poorly on the bunkbeds that I didn't dare stay up too late gaming (also, our cabin, like all of them, was a duplex with 3 young kids staying on the other side -- and considering that we could see the other family's lights through the chinks in the common log wall, we were awakened as soon as the little ones tumbled out of bed at dawn and started exclaiming.)

By Sunday afternoon, we were tired and very happy, and we drove down the mountain for home, ready to liberate chickens and dog and relax a bit. In that strange way in which life sometimes imitates art (how many times does the main character have a peak experience only to have tragedy strike immediately afterward?), we came home to bad news on the message machine. Judith, Steve's mom, was having chest pains and being evaluated in the local hospital. As the evening progressed, she was transported to Des Moines, where she had another angina attack, which was determined to be a heart attack. This morning, she had angioplasty and a stent inserted and she's now resting and recovering. They're terming it a mild-to-moderate heart attack, and it's a blessing she had such strong symptoms and heeded them quickly. Steve will be heading to Iowa later in the week, once she's been discharged, to help her get settled at home. My folks will be arriving over the weekend for a long-anticipated visit. I'm still reeling a bit from the emotional rollercoaster of it all and hoping for a quick and strong recovery for Judith.

I'll post photos from the trip shortly...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Raspberries-- A post from Maddie

We went to the u-pick raspberry farm early, in fact a little after it had started. We expected there wouldn't be many people there because the hours had been changed and we got there so early, but to our surprise and dismay there was a parking lot full of people. But when we got there we found out it was the boy who lives at the u-pick farm's high school class, visiting on a field trip to the u-pick raspberry farm.
It turned out that there was a lot of fruit there, in fact we got 3 pounds of raspberries for $10!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Catching up

It certainly feels like fall here, with yesterday's rain and drizzle and high in the 50s. Today should return to, well, not really a summer feel, but an Indian summer, even though it's still technically summer. Steve has put together a garden montage that shows our agricultural efforts in all its glory, before the Killer Hailstorm of August 08. Sigh.

One day in the first week of August, I watched the particularly black clouds roll in, excited for a break from the heat and the thrill of lightning and thunder. I called Steve as it started to pour, and the hail got louder and louder on our porch roof until I couldn't hear a word he said. I began to realize this wasn't like the other hail storms we'd received as I noticed that a good 50 percent of what was falling from the sky were pieces of leaves, from the trees above us. I watched as our squash leaves shredded into tatters and our onion tops split and curled like wrapping ribbon. Our neighbors assured us that was the worst hailstorm they'd seen in many years, if ever, which made me feel a bit better, as I had decided there was no point in gardening if that happened every year!

I lost the will to blog after that, I'm afraid to say.... Didn't want to sort through the sad pictures that reminded me of wasted energy (I had a girlfriend visit the house an hour after the storm and blithly ask, "So what have you been doing all summer?" I wanted to weep.) Luckily, Steve found a will somewhere and was able to reconstruct the gardens in their glory days. You can click on the photo to get a bigger version of it -- included is a shot of a new raised bed we've planted and a shot of the kids and a neighborhood friend feeding our chickens.

As it turned out, some things came through unscathed and some bounced back. We have a few zucchini baseball bats as a testament to my faithlessness regarding the durablility of squash (I didn't check the patch for survivors for weeks). Steve's tomatoes got dinged but not downed. We planted a bed in mid August that is doing fabulously -- full of cool-season greens and sugar snap vines that we hope to coddle through the first early frosts.

The rest of August was a mixed bag -- I had a lovely stomach virus that lasted a week and a half and cured me of my romantic visions of chickens sitting in my lap as we watch the sun set (not, mind you, that I think I got it from chicken poop -- it was going around in a big way here -- but cleaning chicken poop up when you're nauseous gets old reeeally fast...) So Steve's working on a run for them in the yard as I type.

The crazy heat-wave of summer (driest first half of the year on record at DIA, longest stretch of days over 90 too) was shattered with that hailstorm and the couple days of rain that followed it. We've had what I think of as early fall days ever since. So the pool's been put away for the year.

We found a u-pick rasberry patch in town, a half-acre that a family tends, without chemicals, and we've been getting up early one day every week or two to pick. It's been a poor year for fruit, because of the cold spring, so the raspberries haven't hit their stride yet and we've only managed to get a pound or less each visit so far (it doesn't help that we can't get up and out there early enough to beat the first pickers to the best fruit). So far, the kids have eaten all the berries on the drive home, but I'm hoping to pick huge amounts sometime in the coming weeks that I can freeze for winter consumption.

We had a not-back-to-school potluck at the end of August that was great fun -- it's always inspiring to see what other parents are finding for their children to explore, and at the BBQ I met a homeschooling/Unitarian Dad who is a manager at my local nursery and who offered to set me up with some filberts and other edible landscape plants at a discount -- score! Now our front yard has an army of raspberries, currants, gooseberry, serviceberry and an Asian pear tree, all in pots, waiting to be planted! Eeek, what have I done?!

We went on our first camping trip in the Colorado mountains last week, up to Rocky Mountain National Park with some unschooling friends, one family from town and a couple families from the Boulder area. Huge fun! The kids are ready to camp every week, with their friends of course (the cool thing about unschooling families is, they might actually be willing to camp every week!)

It was a lovely evening around the campfire, and shortly after we retired to our tents, it started to rain. Steve and I lay there listening to the rain patter on the tent fly, thinking how lovely it was, and the rain went on, and on, and on, and I started to wonder if we had pitched our tent in a swale and if so, how much water might pool up, then I began to feel a gentle impact on my sleeping bag, oh, round about my hip, and I reached out into the very chilly night air to feel the drops falling, one by one, from our leaking tent fly... Sigh.

After a couple hours, the rain stopped and I got out to assess the damage, only to find the most stunning night sky I've seen in years. I gasped that I could see the Milky Way, which woke Maddie, so we stood under that gorgeous expanse of stars and meteors and clouds of galactic light for 20 minutes, picking out the constellations we recognized, counting the meteors that flashed. Maddie even saw a meteor that curved sharply, and after we decided that meteors probably can't do that, we began to wonder exactly what she had seen, since planes don't go fast enough to leave a tail of light... got a little spooky after that, and since it was clouding over again, we headed in to our damp tent. I let the kids have my spot on the airbed with Steve, and I slept the rest of the night in the van, if you can call it sleep.

Morning came none too soon, with frost on the benches, snow on the near peaks and a fire that Steve, bless his soul, was able to resurrect after all that rain. A glorious outing, despite the damp.

We're going to a church camp in the mountains in another week and a half, which I think will satisfy the kids camping bug, even though we're staying in a cabin this time. We've re-engaged in the UU community, after a summer of contentment at home. I'm teaching a fourth grade RE class that's exploring world religions through their holidays and holy days, which I think will be a very fun way to explore other cultures. The kids are excited about attending that with me.

All in all, fall (or it's imminent calendar arrival) is energizing us and we're having great fun -- now if only I can get all those plants into the ground in the next month!