Friday, August 28, 2015

Scenes from the Driver's Seat

Driving home after a long day,
past fields of milo
and drying corn,
cotton in flower and lush rows of soybeans.
Cattle graze
and hay bales dot the gentle hills.
I gaze out the window and sigh in contentment
at the calming beauty
of rural scenes.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Glitter Girl and Poppy

Rachel started 2nd grade today. She was SO happy to go back to school. She had new shoes, a new lunchbox, and a new outfit covered in glitter.
Her teacher is wonderfully creative and always has fabulous art projects up to greet her new students. This year, there are paper versions of each child dressed in safari suits and looking through binoculars.
Rachel says her teacher is nice, the boys are annoying, and "you have to use your best handwriting every day!"

My dad was transferred from the hospital to a nursing home in a nearby town this week.  His new place is only 8 miles from the school where Rae and I spend our days, so after class today we drove up for a visit.
Rachel and her Poppy were both happy to see each other. They chatted and tossed around a soft ball and giggled about the copious amounts of glitter that Rae's clothes were shedding. It was a good visit and one that we can make more easily now. Yeah!

Dad is doing much better. He is no longer on oxygen, his pain is under control, he can stay awake for long periods of time, and he is no longer dopey from medication. You can sit and have long conversations with him, which makes him seem like Dad again. Even his nose has healed up and the bruises have faded. He's still stuck in bed with his foot elevated, but otherwise feels pretty good.

Dad knows he has more surgeries ahead of him, but the swelling in his foot and ankle is still too great to attempt correcting anything now. Waiting for swelling to go down is a long, slow process with no real time frame, which is frustrating for us all. At this point, we have no idea at all of how long Dad will be in the nursing home or what the next step is. This will be a long and complicated journey, but for now we have a place to rest. The nursing home is much quieter and less chaotic than the hospital. It is also considerably closer to our town, which makes it less stressful for Mom and me. Dad has had a constant stream of friends and family visit, which has been a good thing. He enjoys the company and the distraction and has been humbled by the enormity of his support network. All of us feel the power of the prayers that have surrounded us and we appreciate them so much.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What I've Learned This Week

It's been a long and crazy week, but we're in a better place than we were a week ago. Dad is making progress. He's awake a lot more. He's stronger. He's figuring out how to help himself more. The doctors say he might have more surgery Wednesday. Or he might not. We'll just have to wait and see.

Rachel continues to brighten our hospital world with her funny observations. This weekend she asked how Poppy was and I explained that he was really sleepy and kind of dopey from his medicine. Rae replied, "Oh, like the Seven Dwarfs!" Mom messaged me today that Dad was pretty grumpy. Still a dwarf. I brought him a picture to hang on his wall tonight. We're waiting for the day he's Happy.
Here are some random things I have learned over this past week:

-- I've learned nurses are awesome. Every single nurse and nurse's aid has treated Dad with such gentleness and patience. They explain things carefully to him and cheer him on. They are just amazing.

-- I've learned that there are no real answers in the hospital. Things happen or they don't. Surgeries happen on a certain day or they don't. No one is really in charge and everyone has different information. You can be frustrated by this or you can just roll with it. There's a very limited future in the hospital, just a lot of now time.

--I've learned that double occupancy hospital rooms well, suck. They're crowded and loud and there is constant commotion with hospital staff coming and going. And the whole concept of privacy is just a facade.

--On a related note, I've learned that crazy roommates are incredibly stressful, but then become part of family legend. Just ask one of us about Mr. Methadone or Magnet Man!

--I've learned that the hospital cafeteria has decent food and bad pop. And that the fresh fruit bar is greatly appreciated.

--I've learned that my phone is my friend, I have called and texted and emailed and posted on Facebook and been oh so grateful to be able to do so.

--I've learned where to find the family lounge and the bathrooms and the ice machine. I know where each bank of elevators goes and how to navigate the parking garage. I recognize the nurses and aides and the volunteers at the front desk. I've spent way too much time at the hospital...

--I've learned that taking care of parents who are sick or hurt or stressed out is sometimes a lot like taking care of a 3 year old. They whine. They cry. They ask the same questions over and over. They have little fits. They need lots of naps. And, just like caring for 3 year olds, you somehow find the patience to get them through each little crisis. And it's all okay.

--I've learned that friends really do mean it when they say "Let me know if there is anything you need." My parents friends and mine have stepped in to feed us, take care of my kids, sit with my dad, call, send messages of support, visit, hug us, listen, and take care of everything that needs done at home. That support has felt like blessings raining down upon us and it has helped us feel surrounded by love.

--I've learned that discussions about surgery and rehab and skilled nursing aren't as scary as you might imagine. In fact, after a week of hospital life, they sound quite positive.

--I've learned that You Take Care of Family is hard work, but that I am so glad that I can be there through all of this.

I have felt so many emotions this week - fear, sadness, grief, frustration. But mostly I have felt such deep gratitude. I am just so overwhelmingly grateful for all of the good in a tough time. Grateful for the friends who have surrounded us. Grateful for the prayers that have been said on our behalf. Grateful for my family. Grateful for my Dad. Just blessed.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Birthday Boy

Today is my Dad's 70th birthday.
Lying in the hospital is not exactly how he would have planned to spend the day, but we'll celebrate anyway,
The girls and I brought him cards and gifts, banners and party hats yesterday and we did our best to make his room festive.
Dad gave us the first real smiles we've seen all week.
And he even joined in some of the silliness.

Happy birthday, Dad. I wish you health and healing. We are so glad to be your family.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Spinning and Swinging

Yesterday morning, it was cool and cloudy so the girls and I went to the park.

We had ongoing conversations about Poppy and his injury and how families take care of one another.

Even surrounded by fabulous play equipment, Katherine was really only interested in chatting with me. And in playing with the yo-yo she has recently decided to master.
She talked about yo-yo tricks and all the possibilities of starting 6th grade and her odd excitement that Poppy will have a handicapped tag for his car so he can park closer. But mostly she just spun her yo-yo.

Rachel's favorite activity at any park is to swing. Especially in full-body swings like this one,
She giggled a lot and asked some questions and then pondered Poppy's foot. Earlier, I'd explained that the doctors will try to fix Poppy's ankle, but it will never be the same. He will probably have his ankle fused and will have limited motion in it. Rae twisted her foot this way and that and then asked, "You mean Poppy will never do ballet?" Nope! Although the thought of Poppy doing ballet before his fall is quite a mental picture...

I haven't been able to spend much time with my girls this week and I've missed them. Going to the park was a wonderful way to hang out and enjoy each other.
I think we all felt happier and a little more relaxed. We just needed some spinning and swinging.

Friday, August 21, 2015

After the Fall

My Dad had a terrible accident this week. Monday morning he was working at Habitat for Humanity, something he does several days a week and loves doing. He was working on the outside of the house and was stepping from a ladder to some scaffolding when the ladder slipped. Dad fell 4 or 5 feet, landing with all his weight on his left ankle. He ended up with an open compound fracture of both leg bones. That means both of his leg bones were sticking out of his skin, a horrible and gruesome injury. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Wichita and admitted as a trauma patient.

Dad had surgery Monday afternoon to put plates and pins in his ankle and stabilize the leg bones. He has multiple fractures on the top and sides of his foot and his heel and a severed tendon. None of this can be repaired until the swelling goes down. So for now, we sit with Dad and we wait.
Somehow in the fall, Dad also broke his nose. It's a fairly minor thing, but it makes him look pretty bad.

It's been a long, hard week. It's always hard to see someone you love in pain and Dad is in pain all of the time. The medical maze of hospitals has been frustrating and confusing. His nurses have been wonderful and he is getting excellent care, but there are endless streams of doctors and therapists and nurses and techs through his room and all of them have different, and often conflicting, information. 
I have been driving the hour back and forth to the city to sit with him every day. My sister and Steve and I have taken turns staying the night. It's tiring, but I am glad that I can be there.
My mom has had a hard time dealing with it all, which is understandable. Part of my job this week has been finding ways to help her, too. The lines between parent and child, care giver and person in need of care have blurred and shifted this week. But that has been okay, too. Wednesday was really difficult, but yesterday was much better, We'll be alright, but this is going to be a long, long journey.
We have had lots of support from family and friends. My parents have a huge network of supporters and they have stepped in when we needed them. Pastor friends have come to pray and we have all been amused by the crucifix on the hospital room wall, because the Jesus has a little hand like Rachel's.

Steve and I are trying to keep life as normal as possible for our girls. We've spent time with them and kept to the routines and surrounded them with people who bring them comfort. They've handled the disruption and fear of the week amazingly well. I'm trying to practice good self care, getting sleep and exercise, and decent food. I know that for me, documenting what's happening in pictures and words is how I process things, so I'll keep blogging even through the hard parts.

I have been profoundly grateful for the modern miracles of cell phones and texts and Facebook this week. They have allowed me to stay in constant contact with family, to call on people for support no matter where I am, and to let huge groups of friends know what's going on in a single message. And the words and messages of friends has been immensely comforting to all of us. Please keep those prayers coming!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Full Size

Katherine started playing violin right around her 8th birthday. She borrowed an adorable little 1/2 size instrument from the public school. Later she traded that violin in for a 3/4 size one. Now finally, after 3 1/2 years of playing, her arms are long enough to play a full size violin. And it's time to buy her an instrument of her own. Katherine is terribly excited by this possibility! We checked out different instrument shops and chose one with a friendly and incredibly knowledgeable owner who has been great to work with. He sent Katherine home with two different violins so she and her teacher could decide which was the best fit for her. And tonight, they made the choice. And Kate is one hapy girl!

We still have to return one violin and work out the details, but Katherine has a violin of her own and it's tone is louder, richer, and more beautiful than any she has played. I can't wait to watch her play it.

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way