Saturday, December 26, 2015

Calm after the Chaotic Fun

Arms flailing. Feet in the air. Toys all over the floor. Punch. Hug. Tackle. Two down. Pile on three. Up the stairs. Down through the railing. Under the stairs. Hit back. Smiles. Bellies down. Roll over. Up. Jump.

That is kinda what it was like watching three very sweet well behaved great grandsons in the family room this past week--Aidan, 9; Maddux 7; Payton 5. Perpetual motion occasionally slowed down when one or all three focused momentarily on some toy or game. Or when all three sat in a circle with pencils and paper playing a game they have created. Of course, they were outside a great deal with Gpa Gerry despite rainy weather Their energy is amazing, and I like watching them.

We said our goodbyes to their family last night because they quietly slipped out of the house this morning way before dawn to make it back to Texas where toys awaited them under their tree there in College Station. Tara and Bryan were torn and did stay for the final Johnson celebration last night but yielded to the boys’ eagerness to get back home on Christmas Day.

It was really fascinating the one morning when they were joined by two-year-old twins. Erin’s friend Candace brought Jamison and Mathison to the farm; and before long, they were over their shyness enough to join in the big boys’ play. I loved how the twins already knew about hooking up toy truck beds and tractors and wrestling with big boys.

Christmas started for us a week ago when we learned our son and wife, Gerry and Vickie, along with Geri Ann came in from Texas Thursday night. We were not sure the Archibalds were going to try to make that long journey with three boys this year, but Gerald had things ready for the boys just in case they made it. He received a text they’d be up Thursday afternoon, so when both groups arrived here, there were ten of us sleeping at Woodsong that Thursday night.

Gerald built a fire in his wood burner in his shop. Duke, Chloe, Chance, and Nelly were bedded there. Of course, Gerry seldom goes anywhere these days without bird dogs either taking them to someone or picking them up from someone, so those unnamed dogs were taken to Gerry’s kennels that have been on the farm ever since he moved from Johnston City to Georgia over eight years ago. Gerald and Gerry were up early the next morning to meet up with McLeansboro hunting buddies for breakfast and a hunt. Or did Gerald have a 7:30 physical therapy appointment that morning? The rest of us got up at a more reasonable time! I especially enjoyed some early morning time with Payton before the others came to the kitchen table. All three great grandsons have such tender hearts that they melt mine.

Gerry and Geri Ann were giving hitting clinics in this area, and Vickie goes along to help and encourage them. So they and their three little dogs were off Friday afternoon to the Champaign area for their first clinic in someone’s sports complex in a barn out in the country. From there, they traveled to a clinic at Louisville, KY, before arriving back at our house Sunday night. It is hard work, but Gerry and Geri Ann enjoy interacting with the softball girls. Oh, and there was a clinic this week in west Saint Louis area that I almost forgot.

Tara and Bryan let the boys run off steam Friday morning, before they left for their visit with Bryan’s mother Linda up north, who often has to settle for just Skyping with these grandsons. They had a deadline to get to the Chicago area in time for the boys to play with their cousin Sam before Brian’s sister began her evening nursing shift. They came back to Woodsong on Monday--or was it Tuesday--by way of Galesburg so they could visit Bryan’s dad and step mother there. Duke had stayed behind, and Gerald was watching over him and the bird dogs here. Duke was glad to see his family, and I think he enjoyed having Chloe, Chance, and Nelly back to play with again when they were all regularly let out to run in the yard.

Erin was still teaching on Friday in Belton, Texas, but drove up on Saturday. She dropped by briefly to say hello before she went on to her Gma Shirley’s to spend the night since her new little French bull dog Ruby is somewhat fragile with his little pug nose. If I am not mistaken, I believe I heard he slept with Gma Shirley that night. Erin showed up at the farm Sunday morning briefly before returning to enjoy the Borum family gathering across from Gma Shirley’s house. I think she returned that night then and let Ruby join his dog cousins in Gerald’s shop. As you can see, I am somewhat fuzzy on details because we were so busy having fun with people coming and going that I couldn’t always keep up. In all of this, Erin’s big event of each day was Skyping with her husband Josh over in South Korea.

Of course, the Taylors were soon over to see everyone, and Geri Ann left with Trent and Brianna to spend the night over there. Sam had arrived in town from Baylor on Thursday also, and Trent, Brianna, and he had all immediately traveled to their cousin Leslie and Mike’s house down in Nashville to see the latest Star Wars movie. So Sam was in the cousin mix whenever possible.

I loved getting to sit around and visit with Geri Ann’s high school friends Cece Hutchinson and Dustin Pritchett when they brought Geri Ann home from her visit with Cece, because I had missed them when they dropped by last Christmas when Geri Ann was here.

No one wanted me to cook, so I didn’t much, since people carried in food and were meeting up with friends and family for lunch and dinner. Vickie and Erin had fun taking Gma Shirley shopping and getting ready for family gatherings. Gerry’s cousin Bryce and son Lex arrived a few minutes after Gerry and Vickie had just left for dinner to see her nephew Jeremy’s new house. Bryce just shook his head because Gerry had texted he’d be here. It made me feel better that I wasn’t the only one with memory getting blurred! But Gerald enjoyed taking Bryce and Lex down to his office and making them some family photos including the new one just made that morning of Gerry and cousins Tim and DuWayne when they gathered with the uncles for breakfast in Jonesboro.

Gerry was home at Woodsong the next day when Bryce and Jaime dropped back by. Earlier when Mary Ellen and we were sitting at the table listening to Gerry’s stories, he had us in stitches telling of his and Bryce’s teen episodes hunting in the fields here. I was amazed how he had learned every back road, gate, and creek on the neighbors’ farms. No wonder he could later get around Mexico fields without getting lost. He must have inherited Gerald’s dad’s excellent sense of direction.

Gerry made sure his grandsons could go with him if they wanted when he took the bird dogs out to flush quail. And a midnight rabbit hunt for Wednesday and Thursday nights was a big deal. Although they felt the need to go back to Texas, we were grateful Tara could not resist staying for the annual Johnson family gathering held last night at her Uncle Louie and Aunt Chris’s house this year.

After all the drizzling and rainy weather, we relished Thursday's gorgeous weather. Dogs and people played in the yard without coats yesterday afternoon. Gerald had worked hard and outfitted a wagon with seats to haul folks behind the Gator, and he was able to take everyone for rides around the lake. Everyone was properly impressed that Payton, a kindergartener, was able to drive the Gator responsibly and well!

Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann stayed for Christmas dinner at Mary Ellen and Brian’s house today. They had bird dogs to deliver to Texas, and Gerry and Gerald spent the morning building a platform to also haul home a repaired four-wheeler. Vickie was her usual patient and understanding self as she laughed about their rivaling the Clampets of hillbilly fame. Geri Ann just shook her head.

Mary Ellen’s long table for eleven was beautiful, and the meal was marvelous topped off with pies and Brianna’s baked goodies. Since Trent had to leave early yesterday to go to work, we enjoyed the longer visit with him today. Sam was able to show us a photo of his brother Dave and wife Kristy with his new niece Lila Rose born this very morning!

Folks sent Erin back to the farm to bring Ruby over to play with Fifi, which turned out to be interesting. Fifi, eleven years old, did not appreciate a youngster like Ruby wanting to play and she told her so in no uncertain terms. Ruby interpreted Fifi’s barks as encouragement to keep jumping at her and playing. But all ended well, and we had a peaceful time together.

After gift opening, we hugged and waved off Gerry, Vickie, Geri Ann and their dogs. The rest of us drove into to Marion to Katherine’s house, and she got to enjoy Mary Ellen’s yummy food while we visited with her. Her wonderful aide Connie had come in this morning to give her breakfast and morning pills and help her be dressed and in her wheelchair for our visit.

Mary Ellen had prepared the Saran Ball game full of small gifts for us. The huge heavy ball was passed around the circle while the person beside the player tossed dice until a double showed up. If we could get enough wrap off during this tossing, we won a gift. Everyone played with great enthusiasm and much laughter as we tried to unwrap the ball and get to the gifts. By the time the last piece of wrap came off, we all had some goodies to take home and make us feel we had won.

All good times have to end. Gerald and Sam put Katherine back to bed with the Hoyer. I gave her pills; and after goodbyes, we left her to watch a special gift from Connie on her television.

It is now well past midnight and time for me to quit reflecting and turn off the Christmas trees and get in bed. I think Erin is back from a final visit with Candace and the twins—her little godsons. So to all a good night.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Taking It Easy

Because my stress test indicated I might have a problem, I was scheduled for a heart catheterization last Tuesday. I was told the stress test was only 80% accurate, so I was not positive what to expect.

Two brief episodes with pain in my left shoulder after I lay down to sleep at night had not made my primary doctor think I had a problem, but she told me to go to my heart doctor if I had another such experience. I did. Before I called and was worked in for an appointment, I had three more episodes. The heart doctor was suspicious and ordered the stress test, which I laughingly said cured me as I had no more episodes after that.

But a phone call came saying the stress test did look good, and so the doctor had scheduled the cath procedure at the Carbondale hospital. I was told another doctor would be called in if the cath showed blockage; otherwise I would go home that day. As it turned out, it was necessary to put two stints in to correct the problem. I came home the next day with instructions to take it easy for a couple of weeks, which I have been doing. Things have gone so well that I do not want to take any chances of messing up a good thing. Being told not to even lift a gallon of milk or something of that weight has been one of the harder directions to follow because I lift without thinking out of habit. Of course, I have always had Gerald lift truly heavy things, but that may not be wise at our age. Fortunately he lifts outdoor things with a fork lift.

I went to Carbondale feeling quite calm because Gerald had put up our two pre-lit Christmas trees—one upstairs in the first-floor living room and one downstairs in the walk-out family room. Getting the heavy boxes out of closets and putting the trees together and getting the lights correctly plugged is a big job, and I dread doing it every year. However, since Gerald had done all the difficult part for me, I knew I would enjoy decorating them when I got home.

I finished the upstairs tree last week. Tomorrow or next day, I yet need to add all the years’ accumulation of ornaments with their many memories to the downstairs tree. The colored lights, however, are pretty all by themselves. At our age, we have more decorations than we have a place for—most were gifts—so I have the gifts out. Big empty boxes are put back in the closet upstairs although that guest room bed is still covered with stuff. In the downstairs guest room, boxes are yet to be emptied, but soon will be.

No cookies are baked and probably won’t be since we aren’t supposed to be eating such. No cards have even been bought, and I may not send cards this year although I am reluctant to skip that pleasant task.

I just heard Gerald go upstairs and fix himself a sandwich or something simple for supper, so perhaps I should stop this and go join him. I am sure the store-bought chicken salad and potato salad are not in those booklets on healthy eating I was given at the hospital, but they are easier, and I will try to do better soon. Decades ago I pretty much quit frying things when Gerald’s dad was diagnosed with diabetes. He would often eat the noon meal with us if he was working on our farm. Much later in efforts to avoid the family diabetes on the advice of Gerald’s’ nutritionist, we switched to skim milk, less salt, and whole wheat pastas and bread. We use sweetener rather than sugar. But one new hospital pamphlet frowned on sweeteners as well as sugar. That may be a problem.

In the old days, I always used lots of raw veggies in our meals—cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach; but with both of us on warfarin, we were warned not to use much of those healthy vegetables. Healthy menus become complicated as you grow older. Since I have foolishly used food for comfort and to calm anxiety, my biggest need is to simply eat less. I am trying, but this is not easy for a food addict. Nor for someone whose duties require often being in the kitchen although I notice Gerald helping more all the time. Gerald is disciplined about his eating, so he both shames and inspires me. When there are just the two of us here, I have helped out by limiting his desserts to fruit, angel food cake, and goodies baked with sweetener. When he first started farming, I knew how much he enjoyed cake, and I would be sure there was one if I thought he was having an extra hard day. Now there has to be company in the house for him to enjoy such bounty. That makes it easier to take it easy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Christmas Month Begins

After the five days with family coming and going at Woodsong for Thanksgiving, the house is quiet now with just Gerald and me here. The leftovers have been eaten up or frozen. Big platter put away on top shelf. Fall decorations put away. Before the week is up, I hope to tackle the beds to get them in shape for Christmas company.

When Mary Ellen brought me home on Wednesday from a stress test at Carbondale, Jeannie and Rick and their little dogs Lucky and Leah were soon here. Gerald was meeting with the farm tax man preparing for the end of the year. Although she did not know I would be gone all morning, Jeannie had PMed me [Translation: Private Messaged on Facebook] the night before not to worry about their lunch, and so I didn’t. Later that day Cecelie and her boyfriend Ryan arrived, and there were six at the kitchen supper table. Soon Trent and Brianna came over and pulled up a chair before the younger generation started their cousin activities.

Mike and Leslie and their dogs Millie and Sidney arrived Thanksgiving morning from Nashville. Mike, a competitive weight lifter as well as personal trainer, was ready to help Katherine be able to join us. Her van was at the shop, and so she could not come in her motorized wheelchair as she has done in the past. Mike was able to lift her into the hand-pushed chair we used to use successfully and then into the car, out of the car, and back into the chair to be with the family.

Her aide followed us to the farm and stayed to help Katherine at the table until time for her to go to her own family gathering. I wish I could say it was a successful visit for Katherine, but that chair has become extremely painful now. After she had secured at aide at the last minute for the holiday, Katherine had assured me she would be okay not to join us, and I felt bad at how much she suffered to come. But she did get to see everyone and catch up with the rest of us on all the family news and see Cecelie as a brunette. I was very glad for her to have a day out of that hospital bed with her high intelligence so bored by television. Mike and Rick helped take her home and put her in bed just as her aide arrived to take over.

Although there were 14 here for dinner, an entire branch of our immediate family was celebrating in Texas. My sister’s large family has always celebrated there, and my brother’s family in central Illinois. Gerry and Vickie’s family haven’t been able to automatically make holidays since they moved out of state. That is appropriate as years pass and family spreads out. This year, however, Elijah traveled to Texas on his break to visit Sam and also his Illinois State friends down there. Sam and girlfriend Anna were playing with the Baylor band (in the rain) that weekend. So Elijah, Sam, and Anna joined their cousin Erin and the Archibald gang at Gerry and Vickie’s house. The only one not at either Woodsong or College Station was our Geri Ann, all alone in Oregon. Of course, she had friends there, but we were all thinking of her and wanting her with us. She will soon be home for Christmas break though.

Preparing for the cold winter ahead, Jeannie was riding her bicycle anytime the weather allowed it. After she filled the slow cooker with her healthy green beans we all like and fixed another crock pot with potatoes to bake, she took off. With a 2 o’clock dinner planned, it wasn’t necessary for me to get up early and put on the turkey this year. (Yes, just as Gerald predicted, it was nearer 3 or maybe after before we actually sat down to eat.) As always, Mary Ellen was busy cooking at her house making her yummy corn casserole her kids requested and the green bean casserole the men like. She’d brought over pies the day before. All the grandkids pitched in and helped prepare the dinner. Cecelie and Ryan set the tables and prepared pre-dinner snack trays. Brianna fried the required okra for us, and Trent stirred the giblet gravy until it thickened. Leslie had opened and bowled two cans of cranberry sauce and provided other help, but the home-made apple pie she brought proved she can cook as well as she can sing. I don’t know what else everyone did since I was with Mike getting Katherine here. Everyone put the food on the buffet and the little tables Gerald set up for us.

The cutest thing at the dinner besides my three granddaughters was the tray of adorable turkeys the grandkids made the night before. Somehow Oreo cookies and chocolates and candy corn were put together to create the little birds. They were so cute I couldn’t eat one, but I sure enjoyed seeing them!

The next day toward evening Gerry arrived after traveling through Texas rain. He was on his way to pick up bird dogs and to hunt with friends in the Carolinas. He had not been able to sleep Thanksgiving night and finally gave up and hopped out of bed and started earlier than he meant to. I think he may have pulled off the road to rest some, but he was tired out when he got here and meant to shower and go straight to bed. Even so, he stayed up when the gang gathered for supper and generously kept us laughing with his stories. Sometime during the evening, Elijah arrived from Texas and joined his cousins in their evening plans.

Early the next morning Gerry and Gerald went to someone’s house for breakfast with bird dog friends; and after picking up dogs, Gerry started off for the last lap of his journey east somewhat later in the morning than planned.

On Friday and Saturday people were sleeping in, seeing friends, and going shopping for bargains. Jeannie and Rick left at noon Saturday, and then Cecelie and Ryan and finally Elijah left Sunday during the morning. Gerald and I rested and watched our favorite preacher on his computer before we came upstairs and began eating left-overs. My first-to-arrive Christmas card was in the mailbox Monday and as always from Valerie Martin, my cousin's Jack widow. This morning on the breakfast table, I found a note from Gerald saying he was going to Union County to have breakfast with his brothers. Life has returned to normal.