Monday, December 28, 2009

All We Got For Christmas Was A Welding Mask And A Jack LaLanne Power Juicer. It Was Awesome.

I hope everyone had a nice Holiday.

We hosted our family's annual Christmas Eve party again this year and aside from the nasty weather and minor church snafu, it went well. My in-laws spent the whole day with our kids playing in the indoor waterpark at the hotel where my BIL and his girlfriend were staying. Which in turn gave me the whole day to prepare food and clean the house all by MYSELF. It was wonderful!

Uncle B found out how not fun Christmas Eve mass is with 2 tired children and1 tired Grandma. Poor Binny and Grandma were falling asleep on each other so they all left 20 minutes into the service. Once everyone ate, they all started to liven up again just in time for presents.

Due to freezing rain, Santa didn't have time to stop and personally hand deliver the gifts to the children this year, so he just dropped the big red bag on the front porch and flew off back into the night. Or perhaps the Gardener thinks the girls are getting too old for the whole Santa thing.

Besides bringing lots of presents, Uncle B introduced all of us to his girlfriend, B. We all like her, especially the girls. Even Binny who was a bit suspicious at first warmed up to her after a few days together.

In keeping with our Cut The Crap Christmas, instead of going overboard on store bought gifts this year, Grandma N gave the girls her dollhouse from when she was a child. This 50s dollhouse is incredible. The house itself is made from sheet metal and the furnishings are all hard plastic, complete with a stand up ashtray!
The Gardener's parents always get us each a gift, and this year it was a welding mask for the Gardener...
And a Jack LaLanne Power Juicer for me! The girls and I were so pumped to try it, we juiced every fruit and veggie in the house. *Note to self, broccoli does not make great juice.
Hope you were all on Santa's nice list!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

The food is made and the driveway plowed, just waiting for our guests... and Santa.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wardrobe Wednesday

Not sure yet what the girls are going to wear for Christmas, hell I don't know what they're going to wear today, but I thought this photo of Mae decorating the tree in her jammies was appropriate for this week.More Wardrobe Wednesday at Heathen Family Revival!

*I'm feeling better today... but I lost my voice and now I sound like the annoyingly squeaky Rachel Ray.

Have a great Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Random Tuesday Thoughts time again, head on over to the Un-Mom for the rest of the links.

I somehow managed to make it through Thanksgiving and a trip to Arizona with a great sum of my time spent in a Hospital or hospital-like places without getting sick, but NOW all of a sudden my body is choosing to revolt on me just 3 days before Christmas. Sweet! I spent all day yesterday trying to fight off this damn cold with major doses of vitamin C and Zicam swabs until one of my FB (FaceBook) friends informed me that the Zicam swabs were pulled from the market due to people losing their sense of smell. Lovely. I switched over to the rapid melt tabs instead but they taste awful and the directions clearly say not to chew or swallow and also not to eat or drink anything for 15 minutes. Does licking my own butt to get the taste out of my mouth count? Yuck! In spite of my best efforts to zap my cold right away, I think I am now beyond the let's wait and see if this passes stage. I woke this morning at 2:30 with my usual illness-induced insomnia (combined with a sore throat and a stuffy nose) but at least it gave me some quiet time to blog in peace. I'm hoping that this is one of those quick bugs that will be gone in a few days. Christmas is no fun sick!

Grandpa Conrad went home yesterday! After a week in the hospital and 3 weeks in rehab, he is finally back home with Grandma Dee and doing well. How's that for a Christmas gift?

The other night as we were setting up Monopoly, Binny said, "I want to be the garbage can!" Huh? Oh, you mean the thimble.

Thursday night is our big Holiday party here and of course I'm no where near ready. I still have cleaning to do, groceries to buy, presents to wrap, cookie gift boxes to assemble and decorations to hang.

My Holiday cards finally arrived! This year I decided to make my own card using Photoshop and decided to go bigger than usual and chose 5X7 cards. I figured I could save myself some money by not ordering the pre-made photo cards and just pay for prints and use my own envelopes. Then I realized that 5x7 prints cost quite a bit more than 4x6 prints, like a dollar- fifty more! After that expensive realization, I did a quick Google search and found a site that prints 5x7s for 12 cents a piece, plus they give new customers 50 free! My cards ended up costing me just $12 even with the $10 charge for shipping and handling. The quality was exactly as I had hoped and way better than Walgreens.

If you missed out on my cookie and peaches giveaway last week, you have another chance to win some home made cookies. Not from me Silly, didn't you see the list of things I have to do yet before Thursday? Another giveaway or infecting my blog readers is not on the list (Secret Mom Thoughts, your cookies are safe as I packed and shipped them before I started my sneeze fest.) but my bloggy friend Wild Child is hosting a cookie giveaway on her blog, Naked Opinions. She is offering up a tinful of the most beautiful Springerle cookies I have ever seen. In all honesty I have never actually seen a Springerle cookie other than in the Martha Stewart cookie issue a few years back but I just assumed they were way too much work to make so I never even considered making them myself. Perhaps next year a day of cookie baking with friends sharing our favorite recipes would be in order. What do you think Wild Child? With you and your Springerle molds and me and my double boiler we could really crank out the Holiday treats. Anyhow, hop on over to Wild Child's blog and sign up for her giveaway!

That's it for me today. I'm off to blow my nose and clean bathrooms...

Don't forget to drop by the Un-Mom for more Randomness.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

So Long Leroy!

Your eyes are working correctly, that is in fact a photo of my Binny in praying position. That can only mean one thing....... Why yes, the Public School Holiday program was last Friday.

My long time readers will remember that last year I threw a bit of a stink* over the program because of some of the content. I was disappointed that the music teacher chose only Christian songs to celebrate the Holiday season and conveniently left out songs that represented any other religions that happen to celebrate this time of year. In addition to the Christian slant, the play portion of the program included a character named Leroy, wearing denim overalls and a John Deere hat, dancing around the theater while the 8 year old singers on the risers sang Leroy The Redneck Reindeer.Even with the inclusion of Binny's class singing Go Tell It On The Mountain (...where Jesus Christ is born), I have to admit that this year's program was a HUGE improvement over last year. There was no acting thrown in between songs and most certainly no mention of Rednecks, just each grade singing 3 mostly non-religious Holiday songs. Mae's class didn't even sing a religious song at all. After last year's Jesus and Redneck extravaganza, I tried to set up a conference with the music teacher this year to discuss my concerns, but the day before our scheduled conference, she had to cancel. She wrote me a note requesting to reschedule but never returned my calls. Whether or not my complaint to the principal had any influence on the the changes, I was pleased that the music teacher decided to make the changes, period. No, it wasn't void of Christian references but the teacher made an effort and I appreciate that and agree to compromise as well.

On our way out of the building I spotted the principal in the office and decided to turn back and give her my opinion on this year's program. At first as I explained to her who I was (Last year we only spoke on the phone, not face to face.), a concerned look came to her face but as soon as I told her how much I enjoyed the program and more importantly the changes, a smile returned to her face and I'm sure she also felt a sense of accomplishment that she's doing her job.

* Links to the posts I wrote after last year's program:
My initial post.
Follow-up after another blogger challenged my first post.
Follow-up after I spoke with the school's principal.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Giveaway Winner

First off thank you all for entering my little giveaway and again THANK YOU Freckle.

The random number was 5 but I couldn't figure out how to do the screenshot thing and put it in this post before I lost the page with the random number on it, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Damn computer. Anyhow, the random number was 5 and the winner is... drumroll please... Secret Mom Thoughts.

Now for the prize:

You knew that was coming, didn't you?

And what would this time of year be without cookies? Well it would cookieless that's what. And cookieless is no way to live. So along with a pint of peaches, I'm throwing in a tinfull of fresh baked cookies and some of these too. I hope you're not on a diet hungry Secret Mom Thoughts.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wardrobe Wednesday And A Giveaway

Several months ago (I think it was way back toward the beginning of the year), my bloggy friend Freckle offered a giveaway on her blog. She promised to make something then pass it along to another blogger. I entered and guess what showed up at my house last weekend?
Freckle and her friend Shady Lady are always blogging and FB (Facebook) posting about knitting so I kind of hoped had a hunch that she would send one of her beautiful creations to me. Just seeing the envelope in the mailbox with the words Merry Christmas on the front sent me running into the house to open it. I ripped that baby open and immediately loved it. Her timing was perfect considering that the hat arrived on the coldest day (so far) of the year. I haven't had an opportunity to wear it yet because the girls have decided that they also like it and snatch it out of the hat and mitten basket before I can get to it.
side note: Mae lost another tooth yesterday! This time it was one that was ready to come out.

Thanks Freckle! Now, if I remember correctly, I am supposed to pass on the giving by sending something I make out to another blogger and continue the handmade gift giving. I can't promise that my gift will be as lovely as Freckle's but it will be handmade by me. So, from now until midnight tomorrow night (Thursday night) leave a comment if you would like to receive a handmade gift from me and I'll randomly choose one comment and announce the winner on Friday.

Originally I think the rules were to keep the giving going by only passing this along to other bloggers so it can keep going on through Blogland, but I know not all of my readers have their own blogs (In my opinion many of them should... but I'll save that rant for another day.) and it's the Holiday season, a time to give without strings attached, so it's open to everyone with no obligation to make and send more gifts. Yeah, I'm a rule breaker like that. I'm not saying what I plan to give so you'll just have to trust me.

Good Luck!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Honest Scrap

Since I started this blogging thing over a year ago (I know! Can you even believe it?), I have been given several blog awards. Some I have passed on with great enthusiasm and some I have unintentionally ignored (sorry 'bout that Bloggers) for reasons like... I just didn't have time to blog about it, link and pass it on, or more so, anything thoughtful to say. But still each and every time another blogger takes the time to link to my silly blog, it brings a smile to my face, which I'm sure was the intention all along. Isn't that why we all make our blogs public, so that other people can enjoy them?

That said, Blogger Juli from Wellington Road passed on the Honest Scrap award to me(!) and even though I already posted and passed along the Honest Scrap award earlier this year, her sweet words have convinced me to do it again... with a Holiday twist.

I love reading Juli's blog! Besides her use of Os and Us in words like colour and favourite (Same for you Joey!) her sense of humour keeps my clicking back for more. Plus I love to read about the beautiful springtime weather she's having in New Zealand while we shovel snow and curse the cold weather here. Go check out her blog if you haven't already. Seriously, do it now, I'll wait.

*tap, tap, tap* You back? Wasn't that fun? Now on with the Honest Scrap. First the rules.

1) Must thank the person who gave the award and list their blog and link it. Thanks Juli!
2) Share "10 Honest Things" about yourself.
3) Present this award to 7 (or so) other people whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
4) Tell those 7 (or so) other people they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving the award.

Holiday Honest Scrap.
  1. Christmas is a magical time. Even if you don't believe in the virgin birth (like me), it is a time of year filled with joy, giving and love. Plus what better way to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday than by buying flat screen TVs at bargain prices and wrapping them up in Santa Claus paper? (After that outrageous outburst of un-Christian-like behavior, I wonder if I'll still have 51 (make that 52!) smiling faces in my followers box. I hope so!)
  2. This year I'm implementing a little something I like to call "Cut the crap Christmas" Which basically is my way of saying if you are over 18 don't expect a store-bought gift from us.
  3. Since I was in Arizona for a week and now way behind on my Holiday prep, I decided that I wasn't going to put out all of the decorations that I usually do, mostly because I would have to clean and dust first, THEN put out the decor. Yesterday the Gardener came down from upstairs carrying our big red and green storage boxes and said "Here, put this crap out."
  4. Fruit cake sucks.
  5. Real vs Fake is never a question in our house. As long as we still put up a tree and my in-laws still have thousands of them growing in their fields, we will continue to cut one down every year and decorate it.
  6. I should be dipping more of these instead of blogging.
  7. I haven't listened to any Christmas music yet (besides what was playing when the Gardener and I went Christmas shopping) but have watched the best Christmas movie ever made National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at least 3 times since Thanksgiving.
  8. I'm excited to meet my brother-in-law's new girlfriend. He's bringing her home to meet the family over Christmas. I just hope we don't scare her away.
  9. Mae has heard rumors that Santa isn't real from the kids on the bus. I have gently reassured her that whether she believes in Santa or not, she won't go without presents. Christmas (to us anyhow) really is for the kids, see #2.
  10. I'm always unsure which Holiday greeting to use this time of year. Since I'm not Christian or Jewish, saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" seems weird, but "Happy holidays"or "Seasons Greetings" seem too generic. I can never decide but usually go generic with Happy Holidays.
Since I already passed this one along, I won't be tagging anyone today.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cherry Coconut Bonbons

It's no secret that I love to make all kinds of treats during the Holidays. But since the economy is still firmly planted in the crapper (around here anyhow), I have decided to scale back my cookie and candy making this year in an effort to save some money. Instead of all 9 varieties I made last year, I will only be making the most requested treats. Now of course that means that the most favorite treats also happen to be the most difficult and tedious to make... but what would the Holidays be without stress?

Aaaand since I have not posted a recipe in a long time, I decided to post my recipe for Chocolate Covered Cherry Coconut Bonbons, a treat so sweet it makes your teeth hurt, but the family loves them!

The ingredients:
And of course the assistance of a cute helper... blue whiskers optional. BTW, Binny had her stitches removed yesterday and is healing nicely.

Mix together the butter, powdered sugar, coconut, almond flavoring and sweetened condensed milk in a heavy duty mixer. Seriously I have burned up several hand mixers with this recipe but the Kitchenaid seems to handle it all quite well.
Next cover the mixture and chill it in the refrigerator or if you live somewhere cold like me, you can just set it outside for a few minutes until the dough is stiff enough to work with. Then scoop out a tablespoon of the dough and flatten in your hand. Then place half a cherry in the center and pull up the sides of the dough and shape into a ball.

Again chill in the fridge or outside then dip in tempered* chocolate.What my helper was busy with while I dipped the bonbons...
And voila!

*Tempering chocolate is a way of melting chocolate so that it stays hard at room temperature. After several years of practice I seem to have the tempering process down, but the first few years were not so pretty. Here's a link to directions on chocolate tempering.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Bonbons

1 bag- 2# Powdered sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 bag- 14 oz. flaked coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 jar of Maraschino cherries, drained and halved

Combine powdered sugar, butter, almond flavoring and condensed milk. Chill. Take 1 tablespoonful and flatten in your hand. Place cherry inside and roll up, completely sealing the cherry inside. Chill.

Melt and temper chocolate in a double boiler and dip bonbons in the chocolate. Cool on waxed paper.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Photos

The Gardener's version of the Pope-mobile, or as our neighbor called it, the snowglobe.

Current outside temperature: -3F

The road out in front of our house is so frozen that when cars drive on it, it sounds like they have ice skates on instead of tires. Brrr!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

*tap, tap, tap* Is this thing on? Oh, there you are. I didn't seeing you past the big pile of laundry, the still not up yet Holiday decorations, snow pants, boots and dripping wet hats and gloves. It's looking like a good day for randomness, so let's get started...


First off, I'm home... and cold! I arrived back home Saturday evening (without my wool coat) and noticed that in the week I was hanging out with seniors in Arizona, the weather here took a serious turn to the frozen side. I heard rumors that it snowed last week, but by Saturday most of that light dusting of snow had disappeared. I always look forward to the first snowfall for the pure beauty of it all... and the opportunity to take about a thousand unusable photos of the girls for our Holiday card. It snowed again yesterday and a few inches at that! I did take my camera outside to try and get a photo for our card but I wasn't completely satisfied with the results. Plus all bundled up like that may not be the best way to show off my kids once a year for the few remaining family and friends that don't read this little blog of mine. And after the chaos that Mae's Thanks for the well wishes, I'm all better now card caused, this Holiday card (Christmas card, X-mas card, seasonal greeting, whatever you want to call it.) of mine is stressing me the hell out. I'm sure I have many photos on my computer that would be just fine but still I keep trying to get that one elusive shot of happiness and sisterly love.Not it?

Perhaps today and tomorrow's snow dumping (of 10-12 inches!) will get the creative juices flowing, or at least make a pile of snow big enough for my children to ride down in a sled.

I did however manage to take a photo for my Grandparents Christmas card although my Grandpa was more focused on standing and remaining standing without the help of a mobility device, so he didn't smile. Oh well, didn't stop me and Grandma Dee from ordering a pile of photo cards the night before I left. Don't they look all Christmassy in red?
Grandpa's still doing great at the rehab. He's getting stronger every day and continuing to play his keyboard for all of his visitors and nurses.

Binny's chin is getting better too. The blue whiskers will come out on Friday! Looks like she won't have much of a scar either but even if she does, oh well. It seems that almost everyone* has a story of an injury requiring stitches from childhood, including the guy I sat next to on my flight home Saturday. I don't usually get into airplane small talk but this conversation took place on the curb outside the baggage claim area as we were both waiting for our rides, so technically not airplane small talk, but next closest thing. Anyhow, he asked about my family and I told him that while I was gone last week, Binny split her chin open on the side of the bathtub. He says "Oh I did that too when I was a kid." Of course to continue the small talk, I asked him about it. Reluctantly he told me that it happened when he was 5. Right after he finished peeing into the toilet, his mom helped him pull up his pants and apparently didn't know her own strength because she pulled his legs right out from under him and in turn he smashed his chin on the porcelain toilet bowl, requiring stitches. After that painful picture I'm starting to think that this whole thing is just a rite of passage and if this ends up being the worst of it, we're pretty lucky.

*Leave me a comment about the time you damn near cut your middle finger off with a steak knife while trying to open one of those SAFE-T suckers minutes before your parents were ready to leave for an evening out... babysitter already at the house! What, that didn't happen to you? Perhaps that was just me. Either way I'd love to hear your stitches story.

And don't forget to stop by the Un-Mom for all of the other randomness that's wandering around in Blogland today.

Friday, December 4, 2009

10 Observations After A Week Of Living In The Land Of Seniors

1. Bingo somewhere every night of the week. If you are under 55, be prepared to explain which retiree is your grandparent or run the risk of having your tires slashed. Also be sure not to wear an outfit that clashes with your Bingo bag.

2. Dinner at 4 o'clock and an inordinate amount of snacks in between meals. I swear I must have put on 5 pounds this week.

3. The handicap parking spaces are the first to fill up. Be careful, there's a reason the doctors hand those out... That said, I am in love with the little man in the chair license plates on the back of my grandmother's car. No more parking way in the back of the lot.

4. If your hair is a color other than white or old lady blue, you look out of place.

5. It's never a bad time for a coffee break. And while you're making a pot you might as well get the cookies out too.

6. Old people loves those annoying little yappy dogs, they especially like to give them cute names like Tinkerbell and Precious. Not so precious at 2 AM.

7. Repeating yourself at least once is almost a given each time you meet a new person. Don't worry, they won't remember your name anyhow. "What's your name Dear, Sally?" No, Ali. "Ellie? You know I have a granddaughter named Ellie." Not worth explaining it any further.

8. Upon learning that a friend is ill, the rumors start flying and by the end of the week the friend is rumored to have had multiple surgeries, died, and even moved away. Seriously, we've heard it all. Again even if you try to set them straight, someone is bound to screw up the translation.

9. Answering the phone and ending up in a conversation like this. For the millionth time, I AM Dee and Conrad's granddaughter, not the cleaning lady, and yes I do need to know your name!

10. I still find it pee your pants funny when old ladies swear. My Grandma was telling us about how the church was extra hot one Sunday morning and it made her ill, and I quote... "That damn church!"

Heading back to Wisconsin tomorrow to survey the damage on the home front. The Gardener called today to ask for the emergency number at the clinic. Binny fell while taking a shower and split her chin. Never a dull moment...

Updated: Binny had 5 stitches placed in her chin. She called to tell me all about her new blue whiskers. Can't wait to squeeze those girls... and the Gardener.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Real Quick

Internet is still spotty but since I have a few minutes on line, I wanted to check in. Grandpa is doing great. The oxygen came off last night and he hasn't needed it since. He was discharged from the hospital at about noon today and transferred to our first choice rehab center. We are all very happy and relieved to finally have some ideas of how the next few weeks will go. He didn't have time to eat all of his lunch at the hospital so once he arrived at the rehab, they offered him lunch. Today's lunch was a choice of Lobster tail or pork enchiladas and turned his nose up at both. The kitchen made him a plain cheese sandwich on wheat bread and he was very happy. Said it was the best damn cheese sandwich he's eaten in a long time.

Besides passing the food test, his rehab is quiet and clean and beautiful. He was disappointed that there was no piano but I'll try to smuggle in his keyboard tomorrow. I think once he can start playing music again, he'll start to improve even more.

My mom goes home tomorrow but now that we have Grandpa settled in, it will be good to have a few days with my grandparents all to myself. Plus both Grandma and I love to watch the Golden Girls reruns at night. And Bingo again Thursday night! I also want to get outside with my camera too, but until now we'd been spending way too much time in the crappy fluorescent hospital lighting.

So in all, things are good and getting better. Oh and the weather is gorgeous!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Step Forward

Before my alarm even went off this morning Grandma Dee was up pacing around and all worked up about bringing Grandpa home. She was concerned that she wouldn't be able to care for him on her own. We all tried to calm her down and assured her that we wouldn't agree to do anything that she isn't comfortable with. After we talked with the doctor and verified that YES Grandpa will be discharged tomorrow, we asked to speak with the hospital social worker about his options. We all decided (G&G included) it would be best for both Grandma and Grandpa if Grandpa went to a rehab facility for a few weeks to regain his strength before going home. The social worker gave us a whole list of local rehabs to check out today. Grandpa's only request was that he would prefer a private room but other than that he gave us complete discretion to choose a place for him. The first place we walked into was gorgeous. The rooms were big and bright, the therapy rooms were filled with top of the line equipment and the staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. The next place was a total opposite of the first complete with a strong pee smell and shady looking employees smoking out front. My aunt and I took one look at each other and knew that this was NOT the place for Grandpa. Granted, it was a rehab and long term care facility combined but I just couldn't see him improving in such an environment, and really even if we were looking for a long term care facility this still would not be the place for him. It was so sad to walk past the wheelchair lined hallways and know that these people will never leave and reclaim the lives they left behind. I also noticed a complete lack of family presence, like many of these people had been left to die. I know that sounds harsh but during my short run as a nursing assistant in a nursing home before the girls were born, I know the reality that people are left at these sorts of places all the time. The third place was newly remodeled and clean although I was not impressed that the rehab patients eat all of their meals in their rooms instead of congregating in a dining hall, but he would have a private room. The fourth and final place was out of the running when the admissions director said they only have shared rooms. So we put in our request for the first and third facilities with high hopes that the first one will have an opening come tomorrow afternoon. Either way I'm glad that we all had a chance to go through these places and make a decision together as a family. Not a fun task but a necessary one.

Once we arrived back at the hospital we told Grandpa about our findings without mentioning the places we didn't like and trying to steer clear of the words "nursing home". He was a little irritated that he would have to do actual therapy or aerobics as he insisted calling it for 2 hours every day but we reminded him that if he wants to go home and start playing his banjo again, he needs to do the work and regain his strength. Grandpa isn't much into physical activity if it doesn't include dancing or playing his banjo. Just getting him to walk around the grocery store is a small victory for us. The oxygen was removed today and the IV is out but he's still using a walker to keep himself stable while walking around. After hanging out at the hospital and making sure that the nurses take him for a walk (we've really had to keep on them about that), we said our goodbyes for the evening and we all took Grandma out to play Bingo at one of the local parks. We didn't win a damn thing, but we had fun and it took Grandma's weary mind off of Grandpa for a short time, a success in my book. Tomorrow will be a busy day but another step forward.


Internet access has been quite elusive here in AZ so I have been writing in word and waiting until I have a minute of stolen wifi to post. I wrote this Sunday night but wasn't able to publish it until now.

I arrived here in sunny and warm cloudy and cool Phoenix right on schedule this afternoon and was promptly picked up by my Uncle Mike and we drove straight to the hospital to see my grandfather. Besides being happy to have his family here supporting him, and thrilled that I remembered to bring not only one but two jars of peaches, Grandpa Conrad looked GOOD. His condition is stabilizing thanks to some new medications, and we're told that he may even be able to go home as soon as Tuesday. He's now on just 2 liters of oxygen compared to the 5 that he was on yesterday and his blood pressure has returned to a normal level. His appetite is also improving and he is starting to get up and move about with the help of a walker. His heart function is still poor due to the severe blockage and is not expected to improve but these other improvements have bought him some time for now.

I had been preparing myself to say goodbye to my dear Grandpa Conrad all week but it seems that he has other plans. His spirits are great and his positive attitude has inspired us all. He's hopeful that he'll be able to come home this week and be well enough to start playing his banjo and singing with the band again. I hope so too but the rest of us need to remain realistic and focused on day to day goals. Both my mom and my aunt were here all day today and will be again tomorrow. We plan to talk with the doctors and the hospital social worker tomorrow to make some plans for the rest of the week and beyond. When he comes home he will likely be on oxygen and using a walker. Not sure how that's going to work out with the four steps going into their home (Once he's inside it's all one level), but I'm sure we'll work something out. Grandma Dee is very happy to have her girls (as she calls us) here to support her, but this hospitalization has been especially hard on her. Her stress level is through the roof and she has become quite flustered and forgetful. This morning she thought she misplaced her medications and frantically called my mom and aunt who were on another floor of the hospital. The pills were found safe and sound but stuff like this keeps happening. She becomes confused when discussing expectations for my grandfather and goes between thinking that he'll make a full recovery to questioning if the doctors are saying that he may be released so that he can die at home. Realistically it will be something in between, we just don't know yet.

My aunt will go home tomorrow night and will be back in time for me to leave next weekend and my Mom is flying back home Wednesday afternoon. I will be here until Saturday and have big plans to get the house organized for Grandpa's homecoming and for life without us around 24/7. Tomorrow I hope to plan a menu for the week ahead and buy all the groceries to make several ready to heat meals to put in the freezer so Grandma won't have to worry about food along with caring for Grandpa once we all go back home. Plus if he does come home on Tuesday, our outings will most likely be limited to just me running out to get the essentials, and Grandma's well deserved hair appointment Friday morning.

Tomorrow night the three of us girls have decided to take Grandma to play Bingo to help get her mind off of what's wrong and have a little fun. Speaking of fun, tonight after we got back from the hospital, we played cards and had a good old giggle fest laughing about the funny things Grandma says and joking around the way only a family as close as ours can. If this is really the last family get-together, I want to make the most of it with both my grandmother and grandfather.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Family Calls

Grandma Dee called Friday morning and said she wanted me to come out to Arizona and be with her and Grandpa along with my mom and my aunt. My Mom flew in late last night and the gardener will drive me to the airport at the ass crack of dawn early tomorrow morning and off to Phoenix I will go. From what I can tell, my grandfather is doing okay but certainly not well enough to go home quite yet. He remains very alert but his breathing is still labored even with the constant flow of oxygen and he isn't able to get around on his own yet although I did hear that he took a short walk today. The doctors still say his prognosis is poor but so far he is comfortable and still complaining about the hospital food. Can't be too bad if he's still complaining right? I promised to pack a few jars of peaches just for him and that made him happy. Tonight when I talked to him, he double checked to make sure that I remembered to pack them. And yes Mom, I wrapped the jars in towels and put them in plastic bags to make sure that no spillage occurs.

After several days of thinking about going down there, I decided to just do it especially after Grandma Dee requested my presence. I would regret it terribly if I didn't. Not sure how helpful I can be but even if my time there will help ease my Grandparents' minds, then I will consider this week's trip a success. This last minute trip of mine will cause a major shift in our regular schedule and leave the Gardener managing all of the day to day kid-wrangling, house keeping, bill paying, meal cooking, story reading, dog feeding and everything else that keeps this house from spontaneously combusting.

The Gardener and I spent all day today trying to get ready for the week ahead by grocery shopping, cleaning, preparing meals, washing clothes, setting out an entire week's worth of clothes for the girls so getting ready in the morning (supervised by my in-laws as the Gardener will try to work most of the week) will be (hopefully) less dramatic than when the girls need to pick out clothes themselves and and get ready. I even caved and bought several boxes of sugar cereal so that (hopefully) breakfast will go smoothly as well, or at least with less complaints of "I don't like that." I will be gone until next Saturday so they will be on their own all week. The gardener and I went through and inventoried the the freezer and cabinets so he is aware of what's in the house food wise. Sometime in the middle of the week Grandma N will be dropping off some ready made meals for them so that the Gardener won't have to cook more than a few times this week. I'm sure the waffle iron and the microwave will get lots of use as well.

Other than that I don't have much else going on. My brother once again lent me his laptop (Thanks K!) so I will be checking in periodically so long as I can get an Internet connection. The rest of the family has been great too. My dad very generously paid for my flight and the Gardener's family has agreed to help out at home making sure the girls get to school and will be here when they hop off the bus in the afternoon. Uncle B is staying here tonight so that we won't have to wake the girls and drag them down to the airport with us early tomorrow morning. I couldn't have asked for better cooperation from any of them and I just hope that all goes well this week while I'm gone. Crossing my fingers for no illnesses or other chaos! I will miss them all, but I feel good about my decision to be with my grandparents.

I'll check in here once I get settled and have my fill of hugs from the fam.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Confessions

I started writing this post a few days ago before my grandfather's health started to decline, so while I do feel odd posting something so silly today, I have decided that sitting and crying about it won't do me any good, plus I'm still making a big honking Thanksgiving meal tomorrow so what the heck, here goes...

Before I even start blathering on about my own Thanksgiving traditions and tricks, you must read (if you haven't already) Helen's Thanksgiving Letter To The Family. After you wipe away the tears that will come from laughing so hard (and possibly a change of underpants for the mom crowd), read her letters from years past. You will not be disappointed. I especially love that she prefers to cook the meal entirely herself and if her guests bring something, let's say sub-par, she lets them know. In my husband's family, that sub-par item would have to be either the snotty looking green bean casserole or as I like to call it, how many cans of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup did you add to an otherwise tasty and healthy vegetable? Or the Snicker bar and apple salad (I use the term 'salad' very loosely for a dish whose main ingredients are 3 candy bars and 2 tubs of cool whip). That said I like to have the meal at my house and avoid another Holiday of this.

Once again I will be making a big meal on Thanksgiving day for my husband's parents and brother-in-law and possibly a few single men from my family, but I'm sure they won't actually respond to my offer until the night before or even call 20 minutes before we eat and nonchalantly ask what we're having for dinner. Which brings me to the topic of this very post. Although I'm sure my meal will be the best in Wisconsin great, I have a few confessions to make about this year's Thanksgiving.
  1. I have decided not to make a turkey this year. *gasp* No I didn't pick up one of those weird Tofurkey things from Trader Joe's, I'm actually making an 11 pound happy chicken. Seriously, if you're going to not eat meat then don't eat meat. Why dress up tofu to make it look and taste like turkey? Plus chicken is way better than turkey, just sayin'.
  2. Since I don't think that my in-laws will notice, much less give a shit, I plan to serve the less expensive wine (2-Buck Chuck to be exact) this year.
  3. The pie crust will contain lard. Get over it now. (Not sounding so appetizing after all the talk of blocked arteries today though.)
  4. I plan to spend all day cooking in the kitchen, what I won't divulge (to my guests) is the fact that I will open a good bottle of wine for sipping during food preparation. Gotta keep the cook happy right?
  5. I may be very excited about cooking and serving a big meal but I really don't care for the post dinner clean-up, especially after several glasses of wine eating a huge meal. No one should be surprised if I ignore the mess in the kitchen or even fake a headache to get out of clean-up.
  6. I will be adding lots of butter and sour cream to the mashed potatoes. Get over it now.
  7. My green beans will resemble actual green beans.
  8. Canned cranberry sauce (cranberry wiggle) is banned from this house. I will serve traditional cranberry sauce made from actual cranberries.
  9. Just because it's deer hunting season doesn't mean that my guests may wear their blaze orange outerwear complete with doe vaginal secretion scent at the dinner table. You think I'm joking? Then you obviously have never eaten Thanksgiving with serious deer hunters.
  10. No football. No one in this family are real football (or any kind of sport for that matter) fans anyway so I'm not really breaking any hearts with this one. We will instead be watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and the dog show (Perhaps a big, drooly Saint Bernard will win this year???).
Update on my Grandpa Conrad:
I called my grandmother this morning for an update and she broke down as she told me we were losing him. The situation didn't sound very promising at all. I then called my aunt, an RN and the voice of reason in our family and we talked about what she knew which was that the Cardiologist was planning to place a stint in one of the blocked/collapsed arteries this morning and get a better idea of treatment options. My Grandmother's friend B called me this afternoon to let me know what she knew after being at the hospital with my grandparents all day. She said the blockage and overall shape of the bad artery was too severe to even attempt the stint procedure. Grandpa does however have an extra artery that has been acting like a natural bypass for the blocked artery, taking over the load.

For now the doc wants to just adjust Grandpa's meds and do another Echocardiogram in a month to see if surgically placing a defibrillator would be an option. For a while this afternoon we were all worried that he only had a few days left but now his odds look better for an even longer and productive life as the doc said he could even go back to playing in jams and with the Arizona Banjo Band in the next few weeks, something our family can look forward to and certainly be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

I thought about going out to Arizona this weekend to be with them and help them in any way I can (cooking, driving them to doctor appointments, etc.) but for now I think that it would be premature to do so and plus my aunt will heading there on Friday after she returns to AZ from visiting her family. Once she gets there and fills me in, I'll make plans to fly out there and see them.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and kind words! And don't forget to take time out tomorrow between Turkey, mashed potatoes and pie to give thanks for the ones you love, I know I will.

Wardrobe Wednesday

Being the last day of school for the week, the girls decided they wanted to look their best. Binny's vest (to match sister's) and Mae's boots came from one of their favorite clothing stores with a name that rhymes with mold and gravy.

Speaking of gravy... I'm working on a Thanksgiving post for later today, but first I need to bake some pies, make a run to the post office, cook the cranberry sauce and call my grandparents...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Mixed Day

This cloudy, rainy Tuesday started with a dermatology appointment for me to have some more funky looking moles removed, 2 of which were on my face and neck. The looks on the way out of the doctor's office were ones I wasn't ready for. Granted this is no disability and is completely temporary, but I couldn't help but feel the stares from others as I walked out of the clinic with bandages covering my wounds and streaky, blotchy skin from the anesthetic.

Once I arrived back home I went out to the barn to feed the cat and found him lying on the floor not moving. Gator's gone. He was just a kitten when we found him hiding in one of our sheds crying for his mother 3 years ago. We decided to tame him and keep him around to help control the mice population in the barn. Binny named him, and most appropriately considering Gator was quite the wild kitty at first. He would hiss and hide when we came in the barn to feed him but warmed up to us fairly quickly. Lately he would run over when he heard the door of the barn open and rub up against our legs as we scooped food into his pan. Not sure what killed him but from our experience farm cats don't seem to live long very long lives.

As Mae bounded off the school bus she smiled so wide that I could see that she lost another tooth today. This time it was one that was ready to come out, not one that she thought should come out. The tooth Fairy has been notified and has a stop planned for later tonight.

Binny beat me at a game of checkers!

And lastly, Grandma Dee just called to let us know that Grandpa Conrad is in the hospital. He started feeling not so well Monday night and as my grandmother tried to help him to bed he said he would feel best if he went to the hospital instead. So off they went and he was admitted last evening. The culprit seems to be Congestive Heart Failure which is treatable (my grandmother has been hospitalized several times for this as well) but not fun in any case. He's on oxygen and has had several tests including an echocardiogram to check his heart. I spoke with him for a few a minutes before the nurse came in and he had to pass the phone back to Grandma Dee. Grandma says he's doing better but I'm almost positive she'd say that even if he wasn't. I guess I can't blame her for not wanting us to worry, and really we can't do much from two thousand miles away anyhow. He will likely remain in the hospital for another day but hopefully he'll be able to go home on Thanksgiving, which would be something to be thankful for.

So overall, my body hurts, our barn cat is gone, Mae lost a tooth, Binny was victorious at Checkers and Grandpa Conrad is on the mend. One hell of a day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Hair Raising Experience

First off, let's get one thing understood. This was not my idea. My kids know how I feel about Bump-its so when Grandma Dee asked Mae what she wanted for her Birthday, Mae conned Grandma Dee into buying a set because she knew I had no interest in buying her the unusual hair accessory.

Since acquiring Bump-its we have enacted a no bump-its at school rule (Our rule, not the school's.) so that leaves weekends and Holidays for my kids to heighten their hair. Saturday was our first round of family Thanksgiving so the girls of course wanted me to install these crazy things for them. Aaaaand since I already had the hair spray and teasing comb out, I decided to try one as well, you know just for fun. Mae used the regular Bump-it and Binny used the mini Bump-it, so I was left with the Hollywood Bump-it. Making me feel more ridiculous than Hollywood, I decided to take it out before dinner, but before I could do so, the girls insisted we all take a photo together with our big happy hair. All in the name of fun!