Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Grandpa Updates and First Days

First of all, thank you for the comments on my last post about my Grandpa. My mom read several of them to my grandma and while she's still wrapping her head around the concept of a blog, she can completely understand that there are people spread out all over thinking of them and holding them up in thoughts and prayers. It meant so much to me as well.

And today I'm happy to report some good news! To be sure, he is still very sick and remains in critical condition, but he had a really good day yesterday with all the little benchmarks they look for pointing in the right direction instead of up, down, and down again like the day before. His chief doctor, the one who has kept us properly grounded in our expectations with each update, told my family that grandpa is an "amazing patient" and they are now expecting a full recovery of everything except his kidneys (and, though not ideal, he can be on dialysis for that). His pancreas decided to step up and do its part (a huge relief), his brain function continues to be miraculously good, his white cell count is going down in response to the antibiotics, and the dialysis is helping with the swelling and to filter his blood. He's still pretty heavily sedated to help control the pain of the broken ribs and recovery, but I believe they are going to reduce that some to ensure his body functions keep working up to the level they'll need to be when he's conscious again. My mom wrote this morning that his nurse said he rested comfortably all night, his lung sounds are clear, and his temp remained steady, so that's all good news. His most recent update from the doctor included the news that they're concerned about his high blood pressure and are working to find the right medication to control it and of course, still concerned about the kidneys, but from what we can tell we're very slowly making our way towards the place where we can start his recovery path and it is such a relief to be talking about that again.

I fly up to Minneapolis tonight. I just need to touch him and hug my grandma and see my mom. My dad and other aunts and uncles fly home today while my mom stays (she starts teaching next week so they're taking a break before flying back up after she goes home for her first day of school), so it's a nice window for me to pop up there. With our crazy weekend completed and the first day of school started, the kids can coast until I get back on Thursday (just in time to start my new barre job at TCU!). It's a short visit, but it's perfect for right now. Once we can talk about his long-term plan I'm sure we'll be dividing up weeks and weekends to keep my grandma company over the next couple months. So northward I go!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So along with tentatively positive and hopeful hospital text messages yesterday, we had the first day of school! My favorite day!

they all look so old in this picture; it pulled my heartstrings

It's not that I'm dying for the kids to get back in school- I'm at work all day, so other than creating and executing my summer camp spreadsheet (and sitting by the pool drinking margaritas when I should be doing other things), I'm not super affected by summer. But my kids - oh my sweet darling children - they THRIVE in school. Absolutely flourish and blossom and are emotionally steady and rational and happy and then sleep 11.5 hours at night to go do it again.

traditional first day handshake!

They need school. Landon went all summer without a big fit. Summer has always been his trigger, school is like some sort of essential emotional vitamin for him. Usually the fits start in July and we're all back in therapy in August. This year he threw one and it was on the last Friday before school started and I was like yeah, sure, that's fine, we can handle that, you'll be in school in 72 hours.

And now he's in 4th grade! So big, so tweenish, so excited to be back with his friends. He may be styling his hair and rocking new shoes, but he still let me hug him in the hall before the bell.

Claire is in 2nd. She ADORES school with her whole heart and was thrilled to be back. Her teacher is young and full of educational zeal and I feel like Claire is going to just love her.

(James hugs are the smotheriest hugs.)

We tried to get a picture with Winston for the first day, but Cora refused to walk on the grass and Winston refused to follow directions.

We're still working diligently on Winston's training. He's willing, just not exactly eager. Last night I put a treat in his mouth for sitting and the treat fell out and he just walked away, like this is too much. I cannot also be expected to chew. I'm taking a nap.

(Winston would not like school.)

Cora was SUPER excited to be back as well. She'd only had two days off as her school was closed last Thursday and Friday to prep for the new year, but like her siblings, she needs her work and she kept Eeyore-level sighing on Sunday and telling me "Mommy I just never go to my school anymore."

But now she does! I didn't mean to post so many pics, but these are all just *very* Cora right now.

She's sort of a sparkling unicorn- unbelievably delightful and sweet and funny, until she's not and decides to ram you with her horn.

Much to our surprise, she did select a kitty lunch box this year, a shocking upset over the front-runner unicorn which had been the favorite until moments before stepping in the store.

Claire was a little nervous about her first day. She's in the portable buildings this year, so she wanted to be sure she understood the proper procedure for getting there in the morning.

Cora was totally ready for 2nd grade

Cora, on the other hand, basically demanded entry into her building, marched down the hallway, and exclaimed over all the new work in her new big kid class.

It's our last year moving up to a new classroom in Montessori. She'll either be there until Kindergarten in 2019 or, if she gets into pre-K in our school, until fall 2018 (pleasepleaseplease; all 3 kids in one school for one glorious year!).

I know they're all going to have such great years. We've been blessed with such great teachers who foster their love of learning in new ways every year and I can't wait to see what this one brings.

Filled with elementary school sentimentality, I went to work and between hospital text updates read a few filings, filed some emails, updated some coworkers, and did a little eclipsing after lunch.

It was an unexpected little bonus to my day. DFW is in the path of totality for the next eclipse on April 8, 2024! I'm super excited and totally saving those eclipse glasses a stranger handed me when he was done outside my building. Eclipse part at my house in 6.75 years!

I need to go pack, but here is the weekly menu I planned before I realized I'd be leaving mid-week.

Monday: Sunshine Lentil Bowl; still my new favorite summer meal (my post on it here), the dressing just makes it.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday! Seasoned ground beef, whole wheat tortillas (no one in my house will eat crunchy tacos and I don't understand it, but I also won't be here to complain), tons of toppings, refried black beans.
Wednesday: Leftover Spaghetti, salad, garlic bread.
Thursday: Chicken Rollatini with Prosciutto and Cheese, Parmesan Orzo Pasta (loosely based on this recipe), peas.
Friday: Pizza? Somewhere out? Unknown; it'll have been a long week.

Happy first week of school!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

My Grandpa Glenn and Other Goings On

So I have some recapping to do, and we're going to do it fast and picturey because it's already 10:30 and it's the first day of school tomorrow and no one loves the first day of school more than I do, so I want to be ready and rested, but first I need to take you back to Friday morning.

I woke up to a text message from my mom that said "Gpa is on his way to hospital via ambulance... they think he is having a heart attack." A few minutes later and we were on the phone and I learned he was being life-flighted to Minneapolis. The situation was very bad and I was very worried, but he's my grandpa. He's a stubborn, fiercely loving, stocky Swedish fighter pilot who still walks miles every morning- no way was this taking him down, we were just having a little scare and he'd be fine. I had to sub a barre class, so I drove over in a state of unreality and taught barre to my upbeat pop playlist. On the drive home mom called in tears, "it's really bad. They're not sure he's going to make it. I have to tell grandma." And I pulled over as the tears came.

Since then it's been text updates and phone calls. Reasons for hope followed by reasons to remember he is still very very sick and extremely critical. We've pieced together the story now that more people are together at the hospital. My grandparents are still at their beloved lake cabin in tiny Siren, Wisconsin. He'd gone on his mandatory morning walk - sans phone despite my mom's exhortations to bring it with him in the past - and just made it back to their lake lot when he yelled for my grandma to call 911. The ambulance came and the emergency workers saved his life by realizing they couldn't bring him back to their county hospital and instead took him straight to a local airport to be flown to Minneapolis. They performed CPR the entire way, breaking a bunch of his ribs and giving him his only shot at living and our only reason for hope. He had surgery as soon as he got to the hospital and then his body was cooled down to preserve his organs while they determined if he'd suffered any brain damage from lack of oxygen.

We found out a few hours later that thanks to the hard work of the EMT crew, his brain is miraculously undamaged. Yesterday, they began to slowly warm his body back up and decrease his sedation to see if his other organs survived as well. My grandma sang "You Are My Sunshine" to him, just as they sing to each other every single morning, and he squeezed her hand. Our hearts soared. We found out his kidneys and pancreas aren't working and they fell. He's on dialysis for the kidneys, but there's nothing they can do if his pancreas doesn't step up. Today we found out his white cell count is high and they suspect an infection, but they also think his pancreas might be coming back online. His blood pressure is too high and his pain from the broken ribs was increasing so they increased his sedation. Better for him; no more hand squeezes for us.

It's so, so hard. My heart aches for my grandma; to watch her love suffer and to know we are in no way out of the woods, that every day is a gift but it doesn't make the next day any more likely. They buried their daughter in January and here we are in August and it's just so much. My mom flew up there immediately and my dad (who was flying home from London as this was all going down and landed hours later to one thousand text messages and a wife now on a plane to Minneapolis) followed the next day. I've almost booked multiple flights but sat back as we think it is going to be a marathon and a lot of family is there now. As the doctors continue to keep us grounded in the reality that his chances are still hovering around 50%, I think I may fly up this week. I just can't stand being so far away. And yet, as I wait here, life is so busy and full and crazy that there's a sense of unreality every few seconds as I think back to that hospital room up north. It is so hard.

I can't write much more- part of me wants to talk about him and how incredibly much he means to me. The kids call him "grandpa" - I think they'd be surprised to learn it would normally be James's parents who would have that title. He is one of my favorite people in the world- always so inquisitive and wanting to learn more about you and everything else in the world. Whenever we talk he asks a million questions about my day and then tells me he loves me, that my call means so much to him- no matter that it might have only been 2 days since the last one- and that I'm a wonderful woman, lawyer, mom and wife. Every single time I talk to him, "You're wonderful honey, we're so proud of you, we love you." If I'm feeling sad I just call them. I know it'll be short - they love an efficient phone call - and I'll feel like a million bucks when I hang up. But I'm not going to do that. It feels to much like a eulogy and we're not there yet and I don't know how I'll bear it if we are. So I'll post my favorite picture of him, the one taken at the exact moment he meant his third great-grandchild. I'd handed James my camera as we walked in their apartment and by some miracle, he decided to turn it on and take a shot. No picture has captured a moment- or two personalities - so well.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Part of me feels like I should end the post with the news about my grandpa- news I've been meaning to write since Friday morning but just couldn't, because it feels almost inappropriate to move on with pictures of Landon buying giant shoes and Winston riding around our streets like royalty, but that's what's been going on too. This crazy juxtaposition between extreme grief and hope and Target trips and grocery lists. Tantrumming tweens, back-to-school volunteering, and frantic hospital text updates. That has been the last 3 days and no one would appreciate that more than my practical-minded grandparents.

So, on Monday, after we returned from our trip and I felt like this about coming back to reality and work and Texas summer temperatures:

We had our swim team awards banquet that night. It started at 7:00 p.m., which is way too late because our kids go to bed at 8, but did give me time to make a healthy dinner (bbq quinoa salad!) and shove it down the kids after I got home from teaching barre (and being at real-work all day) before we had to leave. The kids of course loved it - coin tosses, relays, diving board time, and you know, the awards, and Cora was thrilled to be able to return to her preferred swimming attire.

Tiana dress over Belle suit

Cora won an award for being the youngest swimmer; Claire and Landon both won awards for swimming the most laps in the swim-a-thon for their age groups; Claire won her first-ever medals from Regionals; Landon and James continued their heavily medaled streak; and I won my first medals in many years! We left early because it was dark and past their bedtimes and I was still crabby about not living in Colorado, but it was a fun evening and a good end to a great swim season.

Mid-week was spent working and trying to get myself to go back to Orangetheory. I did the former, skipped the latter, and played a lot of YamSlam with the kids. Our friends had brought the game to Colorado and now we're in love. Winston likes it too.

On Friday, the day that started with the awful news from my mom, I taught barre, cried on the side of the road, went to the TCU human resources office to turn in employment paperwork (oh yes! I have another new job! Teaching barre at the college rec center!), and went home to research flights to Minneapolis. Everything was in limbo and I had a 12:30 appointment back at TCU to get a tour of the rec center before I start teaching there next week, so, feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience but also unable to think of a single other time I could get myself to my new place of employment more than 5 minutes before I started teaching my first class, I drove myself over and took the tour, asked the questions, and learned how to hook my music up to the sound system, all the while checking my phone constantly for news. I got back, looked up more flights, and texted more family while registering for a TCU ID card. Cora's school was closed and the big kids didn't have a camp, so they were all milling about all day too and I had to feed them and keep them from killing each other over back-to-school excitement and furious emotional exhaustion.

That evening was also Meet the Teacher night, so I got all the kids to school in time for my volunteer spot to sell spirit merchandise and hopefully also meet the teachers. James finished his lessons and joined us and I plugged on, cheerfully selling shirts to excited new parents and extolling the virtues of our sweet school that I love and makes me happy just to walk inside while thinking, this huge thing is happening and no one knows and wait, how did I give that person their PTA registration form back? I got home and had a comfort dinner of popcorn, cheez-its, and cheetos and got another update from my mom.

Saturday was errands. A million errands. Plus Claire's first soccer practice with a new team and Winston's first appointment with the dog behaviorist.

We got Landon new shoes - Men's size 9.5 (!!) - which are SO much more expensive than kids' shoes that it made me want to cry. But, I spend basically $0 on his shoes and clothes because he wears the same thing every day and has no desire for more options, and he is THRILLED with his new shoes, especially the pair of sliders we got half off at the sale and he has extolled their virtues for the last 36 hours. Cora's princess shoes aren't loved half as much as he loves those sliders. He literally brings them with him to around the house.

Not like, on his feet, but carried in his arms, just so they can be next to him where he sits.

Winston's dog behavior training went REALLY well. The behaviorist came to our house and taught us a lot about him and put us to work with a set of simple commands to establish our authority over him and his respect for us (and also to actually get him to come and sit and other helpful things). He was basically a prodigy... until we tried his commands a few hours later and he cocked his head and looked at us like... I want to help... I don't know why you're making that hand motion... what does it mean? do you... do you want me to lick it? And then he hesitantly stepped forward, gave James's fist (the sign for SIT that he knew perfectly well 5 hours ago) a little lick and then laid down with a sigh.

She'd warned us he would need lots and lots of practice. "He's a bulldog." she said knowingly, as if that would explain everything.

Apparently, it does.

Today we woke up and I decided to bake everything. My friend's amazing pancakes that she made in Colorado; three loaves of my mom's delicious poppy seed bread I make for all our new teachers every year on the first day of school; and the superhero muffins from Run Fast Eat Slow that I've always wanted to try but never wanted to bake.

My kitchen was a disaster. Everything tasted amazing. My kids have requested superhero muffins everyday in perpetuity.

Recipe here. So healthy and hearty and SO good.

We took a walk. It was already 11 a.m. and 100 degrees, so we tried out the new umbrella we bought for Winston on our errands the day before.

He's like a furry sultan being carried about the neighborhood.

Cars always slow down and smile when they see what the wagon is all about. It's the best.

Then I made my mom's spaghetti sauce for dinner and got it in the crock pot before racing off to teach barre again. I got home to all the friends we'd invited over to swim and then took Claire for a last minute 6:00 p.m. haircut before coming home to eat the sauce that had been simmering all day.

And all the while, emails and phone calls and texts. Every time I see James he asks if I have an update. Every time I hear my phone ding it's a Pavlov's response of hope and fear. And yet, we're also eating dinner and excitedly talking about the first day of school and which tutu Cora is going to wear.

We took one more walk after dinner.

A couple rushed out of their house as we rolled by, asking if they could get a picture of our dog because their daughter has a bulldog and they bought her a wagon for him for Christmas. They were delightful. Their kids had gone to our kids' school 20 years ago and they were thrilled to hear we loved it so much. It was a lovely little moment of neighborly bonding.

We got home, made sure the backpacks were packed and first day of school outfits were ready, and tucked the kids in bed. Tomorrow is the big day. Already exhausted from his walks, Winston was completely worn out just thinking about it.

It's now 11:33 and I need to be more like Winston.

For anyone heading back to school tomorrow, I wish you an easy morning and adorable pictures. For everyone else just heading back to life on a Monday, I pretty much wish you the same. And if you can send some thoughts of healing and strength up north to Minneapolis, I'd appreciate it. It's been a very difficult, stressful, and strange last few days, with moments of overwhelming fear and sadness interspersed with bits of laughter and everyday joys. It's an odd place to be, but right now we're just hoping for a lot more days of it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our Best Highest Selves

So I started writing a post Friday morning on our last day in Breckenridge, but the chilly mountain air wooed me and forced me to sit all cozy with a hot cup of tea and google Denver legal jobs and good school systems instead of writing and I couldn't finish.

Then we got home Saturday night at 9 p.m. after driving for 13 hours in pouring rain while semi-trucks rushed all around and I jumped in my seat every single time one got near us because I no longer trust them to stay in their own lane and James was like can you please just close your eyes for a little while and stop doing that and I said no but I can read about a romance novel about a demon-possessed lord (actually, lady) of the underworld so I did. We got home safe and sound ("barely," I mutter, while side-eyeing semi-trucks) and had the kids in bed and the car and all suitcases and million bags unpacked by 9:45 (I am a terror at unpacking; my soul is only settled when my house is back in order) and decided we would gift ourselves with the Game of Thrones episode we missed the Sunday before and went to bed terribly late.

Also on Saturday, and also making it different to do a my usual cheerful vacation recap, a woman my age was killed while peaceably protesting Nazis who were marching and shouting about Jews, in America in 2017, and our temperamental, morally bankrupt, will-do-ANYTHING-for-those-who-praise-him president who blanket-rages at Mexicans, Muslims, and every member of the legitimate media, basically shrugged his shoulders and was like "eh, who can say the Nazis are the bad ones?". So I just couldn't quite vacation-blog through my renewed horror that I know people who voted for this horrible man. I mean maybe you didn't vote for him because he's a racist, but his birtherism and inflammatory and racist campaign rhetoric (not to mention sexual assault and related bragging) were also not a deal breakers for you and I really still struggle with that. And as for his unhinged remarks today defending our neo-Nazis and white supremacists ("some very fine people"), there is simply no equivalence between those who march for white supremacy and ethnic cleansing and those who stand against it. None. And an American president pretending otherwise is an outrageous moral failing for the country in a way that goes beyond his usual (also terrible) outrages. I was talking with the kids tonight about Charlottesville and racism and Landon was like, I know who the Nazis are! They're bad! I read about them in my I Survived book about WWII! And I thought yes, wouldn't be nice if our president felt the same.

So now it's Tuesday night and I have to finish blogging about our vacation because life has continued and I'm behind and I am SO TIRED and keep canceling my workouts and drinking extra wine to drown my disappointment that I don't live in the mountains, so I need to wrap it up and go to bed early, but it's weird to just skip back to the mundane. I need to and I will- I like reading my life recaps years later when I can't sleep at night, and I accidentally "met" three law mamas through comments on my favorite facebook group today who read this blog and now I feel guilty that I haven't updated it, but while I know no one comes here for political commentary- and I don't come here for that myself when I re-read my archives later, it feels deeply dishonest to not stumble through some of it in writing my story. Because my occasionally overwhelmed reactions to the news and press conferences of the day are a part of that story and since nuclear threats and racist violence inserted themselves into my vacation, it would be fake to not reflect that spillover here as well.

But back to last Friday ---

~ ~ ~

Our quirky huge rental house is empty except for us and suddenly 5 people seems so quiet.

We've had such a great trip up here with our group of 18 (pro tip: most group discounts start at 20; bring more friends). We've never vacationed with friends before, much less a whole gaggle of them. Our trips are usually about us getting away and being together and I love them more than I love any other minutes all year times 10, so I wasn't sure what it would be like to add 13 non-LagLiv-persons to a 6-day getaway, but it went SO well and so smoothly and was SO much fun. I'm not even saying that because most of them will read this blog post later... it's just- it was easy, easy and fun, and that is exactly what vacations should be.

The kids- all 10 of them- got along great (I mean, like 98% of the time) and everyone was involved in the cooking, cleaning, and parenting, like we were just a nice, smoothly-running commune who decided to spend a week in the mountains. I'm ready to go again with the whole crew, assuming they'll have us.

~ ~ ~ [Now writing in present-day which is 11:40 p.m. on Tuesday night which is clearly not going to bed early like I promised myself but whatever I'm finishing this] ~ ~ ~

When we last left off it was Tuesday night and we had lost Landon for over 20 minutes and several hundred vertical feet next to a roaring waterfall and my voice was still breaking any time I talked about it. Wednesday dawned, bright and full of the possibility of always knowing where your children are, and 3 of our men (James included) had already left the house to go hike Quandry, a nearby 14,200 foot high peak. James didn't even pack a jacket on this trip and we've never hiked anything over 12,500 feet, so he was a little unprepared for the physical demands of his first 14'er. But all three of them made it and he sent me pics along with a text that read "Cold as f$&@."

I think they round-tripped it in less than 5 hours, so they were feeling pretty shaky-legged and proud of themselves when they met up with us on the Blue Lakes hike later that morning.

basically on top of Everest

Our hike was much simpler, which is good since we had 10 children we couldn't lose eye-contact with. Blue Lakes was right at the base of Quandry and wound around a beautiful lake surrounded by boulders to climb and a waterfall to go explore.

The tutu-wearing toddlers hiked like newly minted experts, scrabbling over rocks and discussing princess fashion. At one point Cora had had enough (of what, I'm not sure) and decided to let out a few screams, and sweet J turned to her and said to her in her most reasonable 4-year-old voice, "Cora, you do not have to scream. You can just cry."

Really the kids were all great, scrambling over the rocks like excited puppies, but we were happy when our manly mountain climbers joined back up with our group. 10 is a lot of kids.

After some water-logged detours, we made it to the waterfall and got a group shot before climbing all around and then back to the cars.

We rounded out the rest of the day with movie-watching, tea-drinking, wine-drinking, and shopping/cookie-buying in downtown Breckenridge.

We had a great home-cooked dinner by one of our friends and that night I introduced everyone to a beloved group camping tradition from my childhood- Pass the Pigs! Shockingly no one had ever heard of this amazing game, but the group quickly caught on and the pigs were hot! I think one of the best things about a group vacation, besides basically everything about it, is getting to play games and learning new ones to bring home.

On Thursday, our last full day, we headed to the Epic Discovery park on Peak 8 at Breck. You take a gondola up to pay near-lift-ticket prices for rides, slides, and a multitude of mountain activities on the summer ski slopes. It was our only activity that cost any money and it was super fun.

We rode the Alpine Slide (James's favorite) and Gold Coaster (my favorite; also Cora's, who is a tiny little SPEED DEMON), climbed up giant rock faces, ran around in a maze, and watched the kids to a ropes course and zipline.

Cora did everything and delighted in it all.

On that last night we hired a local sitter to watch our brood while we went out to dinner with just the adults and it was an excellent decision for everyone. The kids had a blast, the sitter (a lovely local daycare employee) made a bunch of money and promised our kids were good, and we got to eat a seriously delicious meal and drink adult beverages in giant cups made from canteens. Winning!

Our friends all cleared out Friday morning and we hung out to savor the mountain air and then slowly made our way over to Denver to eventually stay the night with my sister.

We had 85 miles to drive and managed to stretch it out for 6 hours, stopping in all our favorite places- Lake Dillon! Keystone! the Continental Divide! Idaho Springs! Every beautiful climbable rock along Highway 6!


I really feel like we're our best selves in Colorado.

Like we're all operating at a higher, happier, admittedly less-oxygenated level.

Climbing rocks.

Enjoying the views.

Beach combing barefoot in freezing mountain rivers.

Jumping over water while holding two children after giving up on continuing the tradition with all 3...


We made it to Denver and picked up not-so-baby Skyla from daycare. I was on the approved list, but she wasn't so sure... Luckily her skepticism about me vanished once she got to the chaos that had taken over her house. My kids play-tested ALL of her toys and wanted to talk to her ALL about them and she was like, you! kidnapper lady! hold me!

And I did.

We enjoyed a lovely meal and night with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and then left early in the morning on Saturday for our long haul home.

It was a wonderful trip. Unexpected and unplanned- I'd just recommitted to NOT going on a vacation this summer when our friend was like hey, want to go to Colorado and I accidentally immediately yelled YES!, but it ended up being very inexpensive and totally was worth all the pennies. I love that state. I love the mountains. I'm still googling neighborhoods.

This week is crazy and chaotic and I'm still vacation-hungover, so I'm going to save Texas-based-reality for later and just soak up my memories of that cool air and the spectacular views from what already feels like a long time ago.