Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Boy Scout Rank Advancements and Honors Awards

Things have really started to pull together for Ethan. On Monday night we attended his Boy Scout Troop Court of Honor. First he received quite a few merit badges including Railroading, Model Building, Family Life, and Woodworking. He was also awarded the Star rank. We were proud of the hard work he did to get to this level. He has one rank left before he can begin is Eagle project.

Next he was elected to the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader position. This will be a good fit for him, allowing him a chance to put his leadership skills to the test.
The biggest surprise of the evening was his election as a candidate for the Order of the Arrow. This is a service oriented honor society. Each troop can only put one or two boys up for consideration each year. Next he will have to complete an OA Ordeal to be accepted into the order. If you look closer you can see the sash they wear that indicated their life membership in the order.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Keenan Graduates from Marine Corps. Boot Camp with Honors

Keenan is our pseudoson. He began attending our school at a young age. He would ride to school with us in the morning and spend the summer days with us. He was, or rather still is, like a brother and a son. He is now about 22 years old and he recently graduated with honors from the Marine Corp.s boot camp in San Diego. Last week Larr went out to be there for the ceremonies. Here is what he brought back:
Guest Blogger - Larr, my husband:
Keenan Q. graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp (aka Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego) February 13, 2009.

Larry and Debra from the school went to watch
John and Janet (his parents) also attended.
Larry, John and Janet flew out Wednesday night and stayed with other families at a beech house near the MCRD

Boot camp is 13 weeks long and involves a lot of walking ("If I wasn't eating, sleeping or in class I was on my feet")

He was part of a platoon of 82 men ranging in age from 17 to 26 (Keenan is 23). There were 6 platoons in Bravo Company.
Keenan volunteered for the leadership position known as Guide shortly after arriving. ("I got yelled at a lot more and less sleep than the rest of the platoon.")

As is expected, he got fired once from this position. He thought "...Good...I'll be able to go back to being a normal recruit for a few days, rest and then get the Guide position back." He was rehired within 24 hours.

He came by the school for a brief visit on Tuesday February 17th

He will get 22 days of leave (14 of which he will do recruiter assistant)
Goes back for 4 weeks of Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton after which he will go to 99 Palms CA (the Marines call it "99 stumps") for further training in his MOS (Military Occupational Specialty).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Small Bit of Virtual Window Shopping

I need to shift gears a bit and relax. Larr is in San Diego celebrating Keenan's graduation from the Marine Corp. Ellie is having a blast at a dog show. She is doing a good bit of shopping herself. Ethan is with his scouting troop building their sled for the Klondike that is coming up in a few weeks. It is a weekend of winter camping. Last year they earned two Polar Bear patch awards for camping at below zero temperatures. I think they might have a good shot at it again this year. I am at home dividing my time between cleaning and the computer. I thought I would do a little virtual window shopping and here are some things I love:

I love the digital scrapbooking stuff by Creashens. I appreciate how her elements accent the photo instead of fighting for the spotlight. I love the Valentine's Day kit that she collaborated to create and sell through Catscrap, a really fun digital scrapbooking store.
I love the polka dot sheets from The Company Store. I wish I had a good excuse to buy new sheets and pillow cases. Ellie would love them, too. I would get the blue set. She would mix and match between the green and orange. Those are her current favorites.
I love that Neuvation Cycles in CA is working hard to make really good racing wheels at a more affordable price. I am pretty sure they have everyone beat. I am really hoping to get a set of their wheels for Ellie.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eleanor - March 20, 1928 - February 10, 2009

Monday was a bad day. One I don't think I will forget. Larr and the kids went to visit with Eleanor before going to school. They've done this nearly every day since we found out that Eleanor was ill. Monday found her clutching Don's hand and pleading for help, "Don, please get me help. PPPLLLEEEAAAASSSEE!" (These were the first clear words we've heard her utter in many weeks.) It frightened the kids. It frightened everyone, actually. There was nothing Don or any of us could do so by noon she was moved into the hospice. We had hoped that she could die at home, but this really was the best answer. Her pain had become too intense and we had no means to curb it more than we had already tried. At the hospice they were able to give her other medications that worked like a charm. The change was really best for all involved. Eleanor's pain was managed. Don could just be the loving, dedicated husband he has been throughout this ordeal. He no longer had to be his caregiver, too. From that point on she was not very concious. Her blood pressure went up and down. So did her breathing. I was beside myself and met with Skye, the head nurse for the crew that evening, otherwise known as a angel in disguise. I calmed down after a while. I had to try and keep some of my stress to myself. I was upsetting Don. We thought she would be stable. Larr and I went home. Larr was called back at 11:30 p.m. They could not find her pulse. Larr and Don rallied. Eleanor perked up, sort of. None of us slept well that night. My stress and anxiety produced a back ache, a stomach ache, all of my teeth hurt and I had a head ache. I was a wreck. Larr attempted to sleep on a pullout couch bed. Don slept in a recliner next to Eleanor.

Tuesday she began to make that terrible gurgling sound that comes from the liquid in her lungs. Towards the end the blood simply can't power all of the function and something has to give. The arms and legs become colder. The thinking is fuzzy because the blood is making slower trip through each segment. The organs in the torso fight for controll. The lungs eventually lose the fight. At around 4:30 Bonnie came in to help me do a casting of my hand holding Eleanor's hand. This is an amazing and wonderful service she offers and it will be an item I treasure. (I will write about it more on another day.) She mixed up a power liquid item and dipped out hands in it. We held still for about five minutes while the mold gelled.It is the same stuff used to make imprints for dentures. We removed Eleanor's hand first, then mine. About 10 minutes later a thick burgandy-black liquid began to be expelled from Eleanor's mouth. It did not seem to bother her, but was terribly alarming to us. It looked like old blood. We called the nurse. She checked Eleanor's vitals and noted that her color was beginning to drain from her face and limbs. Larr and Don held her hands. Ethan comforted Don. I tried to comfort Larr. He bent forward and whispered in her ear. We were told that hearing is the last sense to go. Larr could feel her life force leave her body. Her face was peaceful and the gurgling sound had quieted. We sat there for some time, hoping that the heart would jump into action, but she was gone. The ending was as good as it could be in such a situation. She was peaceful and we were with her. We were all so sad. We were relieved, too. Her suffering had ended. Calls were made. The minister, Paul, came by for the second time that day. We spent the evening together. Don's leg was hurting. We thought it was from stress. We would soon find we were wrong.

Wednesday Larr found Don unable to get out of his bed. His lower leg had swollen to an enormous size and had change to a shade of deep wine red. Instead of going to take care of funeral arrangements Larr took his father to the doctor. After many tests it was discovered that Don has a blood clot in his leg. Alarmed, we are on full alert, again. Larr had to go out of town so the kids and I spent the evening with Grandpa.

Thursday morning Don's lower leg hurt even more. Uncle Mark and I went over to get him out of bed. Mark took him to the doctor again while I cleaned the house. I tucked away all the evidence of Eleanor's illness and washed her clothes, putting them into her closet and closing the door. There to be found, but not out in the open as to remind Don of his loss. They doctor ran more tests and found that Don's blood has been behaving badly.The red blood cells have become sticky and clumpy. They slow down the flow of blood. As a result, the other cells have created more blood and now he has too much. The nurses removed a cup of blood today and will do the same again tomorrow. They've also given him a new blood thinner. We've kept him in bed. The hospital bed that was for Eleanor is now serving Don, helping him feel better. There was a large number of visitors today, helping to keep Don entertained. This evening Doug (Larr's middle brother) arrives and he will take over the care of Don. Tomorrow I go back to work. I have not stepped into the school since last week.

Eleanor's death does not seem real, yet. I am not sure what it will take to get there. Perhaps we are still all too shell shocked to feel the full impact. Perhaps it is being kept at bay with this new wave of concern that has been shifted to Don. Perhaps it will visit little but little, letting us get used to the grief that will settle on our hearts like a bird on a branch. Days, or rather weeks, like this make me thankful for the time (the exciting and the mundane alike) we have with our family

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ellie and I

I needed this photo to post somewhere else so I thought it might be nice to post here, too.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Puppy Love

Last Saturday I was happy to have a chance to and pick up Ellie from Anna's house. I love to visit with Laura, but this trip had a lovely little bonus - puppies! She has a large batch of Havanese puppies that were about two weeks old last Saturday.

They were so tiny, some of them not even as big as a can of soda. They are so young that most of them still had their eyes and ears shut. (Did you know that puppies are born with their ears shut? News to me.) They were warm and snugly. If you put a finger near a mouth you were likely to be sucked. I am not sure who my favorite it. I think it might be Juniper. She does not have a great sucking reflex so she is struggling a bit. Luckily God send her to Laura's house where she gets all star care. She needs to be tube fed every four hours and gets weighed at least once a day to make sure she is growing at the right rate. In a house with a less patient and knowledgeable caregiver she most likely would have died. So I cheer her on every day.

Her litter mate, Gwen, is living large and has not latching problems. She is a big, sweet girls whose disposition reminds you to enjoy every moment of your life.

The boys are lovely, too. I enjoyed looking at the swirl patterns their fur makes. When they grow bigger their fur will become long and you will no longer see those lovely swirls. Each one has his own texture and color pattern. I am not sure who my favorite boy is - I love them all.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Working on a Tribute for Eleanor

Ack, where have I been you say? My kids might almost say the same thing. This last week things have taken a big turn for the worse. Last Sunday while people were prepping for the Superbowl, we were picking out a place in the cemetery for Eleanor and for Don when his time comes. I actually stayed with Eleanor while the guys did the difficult work of reconciling with this duty. The hospice nurse has given us strong hints that the end is very near. Her need for pain medication has gone from about 5 times a day to upwards of twice an hour now. The medication puts her in a pain free fog. Or at least I hope it is really pain free. Most of the time she looks like she is just sleeping, but sometimes she chimes in on the conversations. We talked about flowers on Wednesday. It amazes me that she can respond to that but cannot tell us when she is thirsty. It is getting more and more difficult for the kids to visit her. Ethan does not want to be the first person to enter the room anymore for fear that he will find that she has died. It is scary. The other night her breathing was erratic. Some breathes would be normal then there would be long periods where she looked like she was not breathing. We have made all of the difficult phone calls and put the out of town family members on alert.

Meanwhile I am working on my video tribute to her. I've been working my way through a life time of slides. Eleanor does not like to have her photograph taken so there are not that many to find. I pick a reel and look at each slide in the light. Put it back in place and look at another one. I had hoped to go through all of the reels, but that is just not happening. The kids tried to help me but they could not recognize her in the earlier photos. On Wednesday Don urged me to have it ready to show her by today, Friday. He is worried that she will not get an opportunity to see it. I think the opportunity may have already passed. However, each night after feeding the family I have been plugging away at this project. It has been hard, emotional and wonderful all at the same time. I was up until past 11:00 p.m. last night burning a version that I tried to show her this morning. I had a hard time picking good music. I started with "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" followed by "What a Wonderful World" and ended with "We'll Meet Again." Larr said that the music takes it too over the top. He asked me to turn the music off so he could watch the slides without it. He thinks I should put something more nondescript with it. I showed what I have done to Don. He was emotional too, but that is no surprise. He wants me to find someway to be able to stop it on some of the slides so that they can look at an image longer. I will have to research and see if you can do that. I am using ProShow Gold, a fabulous program. However, I don't know it very well so I don't know if that option exists. If not, I will simply make a file with the photos for him.

Don and my husband are dealing with this end very gracefully. It is down to sitting with her, holding her hand, giving her kisses. If you are lucky you might even get a kiss back. You can see the love they have in her face. In some ways I am thankful that we have this time to be very consciously appreciative for her in our lives. In other ways I worry that she is beginning to linger. She spends most of her time sleeping and does not seem to be able to be very conscious even when people are there to see her. We wonder if she is waiting for something or if she just does not want to go. We will simply be thankful for each day that we can hold her soft, warm hand, brush back her hair from her face and remember her love for us. The slide show is my way of remembering.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Masquerade Ball

Ellie and her friends had planned for the Masquerade Ball for nearly a month. Davis, Anna's step dad, took them shopping for an entire day. Ellie and I visited at least four store. Then they found what they were looking for - party dresses. When she told me what she was looking for I did a double take. She took me completely by surprise. I thought she would not be caught dead in a dress, but I was wrong. She said, "Mom, I am not sure how many more dances there will be and I want to go normal to at least one." I was even more amazed when I saw what she was able to get for $10. They completed their "look" with wild socks and Converse tennis shoes. (Ellie had really cool socks but the dryer destroyed one last week. :() They accessorized themselves with big hoop earrings and bead necklaces. They had planned to do feather boas, but that did not happen.

They assembled at our house Saturday morning to hang out, do their nails, etc. By the we needed to leave they had completely transformed themselves. I thought it was great. My how they have grown in the last year!

After eating a lovely dinner we had dance lesson lead by Lena, the person who teaches dance at our school, and her brother, Teddy, who happens to be one of my students. They did a lovely job whipping the crowd into a passing line dancing crowd. Later in the evening we got down to more contemporary music. Ethan opted to be the DJ for most of the evening. He has always preferred to be behind the scene when events like these take place.

It was great to see so many of the kids dressed up. I especially love to see Ari in costumes. He is such a beautiful person, but even more stunning as a pirate. Costumes seem to be one of his things. I'd say the evening was a success.

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