Sunday, January 01, 2006

A December to remember

As we headed into December this year, our family eagerly anticipated the traditions of Advent and, in our home school, a special month of study revolving around the Christmas story. We pulled out the Advent wreath, a new Advent story/devotional, and Sunday November 27 we welcomed Advent 2005.

Our first week of our Christmas Unit Study started out wonderfully. We had a special Advent circle time, Farmer Boy (grade 3) started a Christmas Study Journal, and both children enjoyed making angel crafts using outlines of their hands and feet. I felt like a Good Mother.

Imagine my (bleary-eyed) surprise, then, to awaken on December 1st, after just a few restless hours of sleep on a chair-bed, in my husband's hospital room. The afternoon before, a bad bout of "gas" after a lentil soup lunch had proven to be more than even my stout-hearted husband could handle, and despite much protestation, we took him to the ER. A good thing, as he had an incarcerated hernia... a potentially life-threatening situation (and definitely not caused by lentil soup). Poor Stephen endured hours of tests, uncomfortable poking and prodding, and the horrors of a naso-gastric tube that evening.

First thing on Dec. 1 he had surgery to repair the hernia. My brother and a friend helped by caring for the children so that I could be with Stephen in the hospital. We brought him home the night of Dec. 2.

The next few days were rather anxiety filled for me. It is amazing how fast patients are pushed out of hospitals these days. I am all for getting out of the hospital, but it is rather a bit of pressure on the healthy spouse to send someone home who isn't breathing properly and takes 5 minutes to bend enough to get into a car.

It soon came to light that Stephen is one of the extremely rare people who has a reaction to steri-strips. The blisters that the steri-strips caused ended up being more problematic than the incision. When all was said and done he had a rather quick recovery, thankfully, and now we are the Bionic Couple (he has a mesh tummy and I have a titanium marker in my right breast from a breast biopsy).

I have found a silver lining to the Great Hernia Adventure. During Stephen's receovery period, when he couldn't drive, I learned how to drive the tractor and move bales of hay. This was MUCH fun!! I was nervous at first, but once I understood which buttons and levers did what, I had a blast. :-)

Stephen took a week off work, then things began to get back to normal. Farmer Boy was in the local Christmas parade with his Scout troop. Both children were in the Christmas play at our church Christmas party. And despite the hospital detour, we managed to quickly find our place again in our Christmas study, and finished out the school year just where I'd hoped.

As we headed into the days before Christmas, while I was more tired than usual, I felt that things seemed to be falling into place (except for the mess in the house which continued to plague me).

On the Thursday before Christmas, before heading into the city to do some errands, Stephen tried to remove the broiler element from our stove, which was malfunctioning. After some difficulty, he succeeded, immediately produced a blinding flash, a puff of white smoke, and little balls of molten metal bouncing on the wood floor. Miraculously, he wasn't hurt! Then ensued two days of unsuccessful searching for the part (even "finding" it, only to discover that the company changed the design but not the part number!). By Friday night (the 23rd) it was becoming clear we were not going to be cooking Christmas dinner in our kitchen.

Saturday morning (the 24th), at around 8:30am, we phoned my parents, who had already gone to Austin to visit with my brother. We all agreed to move the festivities to his house. The children had gotten over their disappointment at not being home and had begun to get excited about a sleepover at Uncle Dave's. I started packing up food and recipes, gifts and clothes. We decided that I would start the dough for our annual Christmas breakfast braid, it would rise in the car, be baked at Dave's house and be done in time for us to go to the church my mom had found in the phone book.

We were almost packed, and I had just finished the dough and started the rise. It was 15 minutes before we were to leave. The phone rang: "Don't leave yet, Dave's throwing up." Within a half hour it was clear my brother was really sick. Plan B switched to Plan C. My parents, not wanting to get sick, decided to leave, but just in case they were exposed enough, they didn't want to get US sick. Everyone was going to spend Christmas at their own houses. Round 2 of unhappy children.

The dough for the braid ended up being the chickens' special breakfast, and we humans ate store bought muffins on Christmas morning.

We all decided we would reschedule our celebration to Tuesday the 27th. Christmas night, the Princess woke up throwing up, and spent the next two hours back and forth from bed to bathroom. The next day she and I both felt terrible, and my brother's wife was sick. We rescheduled yet again. Plan D: Friday the 30th. Round 3 of unhappy children.

Wednesday, Farmer Boy had a very short bout of throwing up, but was better within a few hours. We were on track for Friday; we were hopeful! Wednesday night the Princess spiked a 102.6 fever. Aaaaarggh!

In the middle of all this, I was very worried about getting sick, becasue I am pregnant. Lots of vitamin C, water, and prayer seemed to help, because I did not throw up (danger of dehydration) nor did I run a temp (can be dangerous for the baby), despite being in constant contact with a very sick little girl. I did have two days of feeling really weird, but never with dangerous symptoms.

All day Thursday the girl ran a low grade fever. She really wanted to go her grandparents' and they decided they could live with a temp of less than 100. So Thursday night we set off. Miraculously, by the time we got there her fever was gone! She was fine on Friday (although that was one of MY low days) and we finally had our many times delayed big family gathering. It was very nice, and much more relaxing for me than it would have been at my house, thanks to the love and sacrifice of my wonderful parents. On Saturday, my dad even took care of the kids while Mom and I went to a movie!! It wasn't as relaxing for Stephen, who only stayed one day and night because of our animals. But the children and I were there for three days and three nights.

The year ended quietly for us. Stephen was home, and I was at my parents'. We were all tired, so did not do anything special. But for me it was lovely... a clean house, a quiet room, time to read. These are great joys for me, so 2006 rang in in peace, and with a loving phone call with my sweet husband at midnight.

I am looking forward to another year of adventures!

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