Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In spite of the last blog .....

Well, we thought we had a place for the summer get together but, after seeing it, we decided to keep on looking.
There are a number of considerations we have when looking for a house. We need a bedroom for each family and another for the kids. That is five bedrooms, minimum. We also enjoy having a large gathering place in the house so folks can talk while cooking and having dinner. A table big enough for all of us to eat at the same time would be wonderful. We definitely need a beach nearby for the kids to swim and ideally a fire pit so we can spend the evening outside around a fire. The house we saw had the beach, gathering place and fire pit but only four bedrooms. That means someone had to sleep on the futon. And although Jeanne and I were willing to sleep in the room with the bunk beds (hence with the kids), the price of the house ($3500 for the week), was too much for what we were giving up. So, Jeanne got on the computer and after another extensive search, we now have two other options we will be looking at this weekend.
The first is in New London, about 95 miles north and west of the Cities. This home has 8 bedrooms, dishwasher, and 3 bathrooms, with ac. It includes a walkout patios facing Norway Lake from dining room and family room in basement. It is part of a resort, which has both it’s up and down sides.
The second is on Cedar Lake. We would have to rent two homes since none of the houses are big enough to allow all of us to have a bed room. Having said that, the place has a big beach, is private, not a resort, and has a fire pit and lots of room for the kids to play. This is not the most ideal, but we started our search a little late and have to make do with what is available.
This weekend we plan on traveling to both sites and make a final decision. We have asked both parties to pencil us in until the weekend. If you want to check out the two places go to> http://www.northlandcabincare.com/rental/cedar_lake_estate/index.html for the two cabins and to http://www.sunsetshoresresort-mn.com/layout.htm for the Minnesota cabin.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Summer Vacation for the family is all set

Our geographically spread clan has met each year for a family reunion. We have been doing this for the past seven or so years and each year we get together, I become more proud of my boys and their families. Jeanne and I “did good” raising them.

My family of origin is just not close at all. My sister has never been to our home in Minnesota. My brother, Jeff, came only because the national organization of chiefs of police had their convention in Minnesota one year and in our almost forty years of marriage, my mother has only visited us four times (maybe). In all fairness, the road goes both ways and Jeanne and I have limited our visits to my family as well, which is to say, we are not a close family.

Jeanne and I wanted to make sure we raised a family a lot closer than mine so about seven years ago with Mike's help, we organized our first family get together or as Jeanne calls it, a family re-union. Our first trip was to Utah. Scott and Tami live in Salt Lake City and Mike’s college roommate's family owned a beautiful home at Park City. We borrowed the home for a week and everyone had a great time. There was lots of wine, talk, food and just reconnecting which is important when we are spread out across the country in Minnesota, Chicago and Utah.

The next year, Jeanne and I rented a large home in Florida so my mother could be part of the party. Each day we would pick her up and bring her to the house where she would reconnect to her grandkids and great grandkids. Sometime during this visit, Scott expressed a desire to have a reunion in Minnesota where his daughters could have the same north woods experiences he had as a child. When the boys were younger, we spent just about every weekend up north in our camper. It must have been a memorable time in his young life to have him asks that his daughters experience a similar encounter with north Minnesota. So, after Florida, it was off to Holiday Resort outside of Garrison for another week together, this time in northern Minnesota. Since we were in Minnesota, we invited some aunts, uncles and cousins to join us. They came and we had a excellent week. Since then we have been to Cape Cod, and back to Florida and Utah and now back to Minnesota.

We have rented a large home on Lake Minnwawa outside of Brainerd. The house has three bedrooms, a loft and a den and can sleep 14 to 18 people. Like years past, we will be inviting cousins, uncles and any other family member who would like to join us for the day or the week. Renting the homes is not cheap, nor is the cost of travel for a family of four from Utah, but it is an investment in keeping our family a family.

There is a movie: Mr. Holland Opus. In the show, the main character is a music teacher who spends his life teaching high school kids and never finishes his music masterpiece. As he is getting ready to retire, the community gives him a “retirement party.” At that party one of his students says that although Mr. Holland never completed his music masterpiece, his real Opus are the students he taught. I feel that way. I love to sit in a corner watching our children, they are our Opus. They have grown up to be wonderful husbands, and fathers and are raising amazing children. I wonder where they learned all that they do as adults. I hope some of it came from us.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I hate the snow

I know the east coast has been hit with massive (for them at least) snow storms. Thirty inches of snow for a area that has one snow plow in each town can't be much fun. But their snow is transitory. It comes as a massive big blast on Monday and by the weekend, the sun is out and all the snow is slush. A week of 40 degree temps and it is over. However, that is not Minnesota. I was shoveling some snow yesterday and notice it was the same snow that fell on November. This year, at least, once it snowed, it stayed and it looks like it has no intention of leaving. It has been so bad that I finally gave in to Jeanne and hired someone to climb on my roof and remove the stuff. Three hours and $50 later, he was still not done and has to return tomorrow. The ice dams on my house belong on the Three Gorges blocking the Yahtzee River, they are so large. The icicles are so dangerous I had to remove them before they fell on some child and pierced his head to his heart. I have seen stalactites in major caves smaller. It has been a different year. My son, in Utah, wrote that he is tired of hearing about the snow in Washington DC on NPR. He wants his "snow back" because the ski areas in Utah need the snow and he is tired of skiing on "Colorado snow." I offered him our snow but getting it there created a problem.

The sun seems higher in the sky. Snow seems to be melting and the weather guy just said look for more snow this weekend. Looks like we are putting off our trip up north for another two weeks. My guess is all the snow will be gone by August, just in time to start up again for the 2010-2011 season. I want to be a snow bird......

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Life is too short...

This afternoon I met my Mom and my sister, Sue, over at the Pieper Cancer Center near Abbott Northwestern Hospital. When Mom was hospitalized for a mild heart attack in the beginning of December (shortly after moving into an assisted living facility) we asked that she also receive a gynecological exam. Sue and I had seen some signs that there may be problems in that area. After that test and a later ultrasound, it was revealed that Mom had a 5 cm mass in her uterus (her uterus is only 9 cm wide, so it is significant). The million dollar question, of course, is what is it - a polyp or a cancerous tumor and, if cancer, how aggressive it might be? So we met a woman gynecological oncologist from Minnesota Oncology (Minneapolis Clinic). The exam went very smoothly, relatively speaking, for a 97 yr. old woman. It took all of about 10 minutes and Mom didn't experience any pain, just some mild discomfort. The doctor said she removed quite a bit of tissue for a biopsy and that it didn't feel like a polyp. She seemed to imply that it was a cancerous tumor - results should be known by next Monday.

So, of course, Mom wanted to know options:
  1. A hysterectomy - surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries - not a viable option for a woman her age who had just suffered a mild heart attack.
  2. Just leave it be as it is - it may grow slowly or it may be an aggressive form of cancer (we'll know Monday which kind it is) - symptoms may be mild as they are now, or there may be heavier bleeding and discomfort.
  3. A targeted series of radiation treatments - three or four times - targeted directly at the tumor - not to eliminate it, but to "keep it at bay", not growing any larger.

The doctor also discussed DNR and DNI directives with Mom (do not resuscitate and do not intubate) - that they needed to be updated so that Millstream Commons staff and family know her wishes - let's say they/we find her on the floor or unconscious...then what?

Finally, she talked to Mom (and us) very frankly about locating a hospice - particularly if the results are serious. She said that hospice care is very good, not only for a patient dealing with end-of-life issues, but also for family members. For a patient, it helps remove or alleviate the fear of death. For family members it allows for the discussion of end-of-life issues.

Mom took this all in very rationally - says that at this point she will leave it alone. The doctor said that could be her desire now, but not to worry about changing her mind. Mom agreed to update her DNR and DNI directives. As to the hospice, both Sue and I feel that this is premature (Sue says that there is a good hospice unit in Faribault, if that time comes).

So, what do I feel about all of this? It sort of feels unreal...I cannot imagine my Mom not being around...she is my best friend (next to Bob) and offers me a listening heart and unconditional love. I want for her not to suffer and to spend her last days/months/years in a respectful and dignified manner - as a matriarch deserves. It's difficult to see her start slipping...God be with her on this journey.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another opportunity to act like a grand pa

Jeanne was suppose to post about the grand kids and their visit to great grandmother a few Sundays ago but she got busy, the Vikings lost and she hasn't had the time to post anything since. It is hard to post stuff when you come home, eat and fall a sleep watching TV.
Our weekends have been full of lots of activities. Our neighbor (and tenant) is a singe mom and she asked me if I could babysit her three kids on a no-school Friday. I said yes and planned a full day with the three of them. On the appointed Friday, her youngest boy (Gavin) was sick so the two girls and I went off to the Mall of America to use the rest of the points Mike and my grandsons had left after their trip. On the way to the Mall, we stopped at the Walker's Outdoor Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The kids had seen the "Spoon and the Cherry" from the road but they had never seen it close enough to touch it. It was fun watching them have the experience of appreciating art from a 9 or 11 year old perspective. From the Garden we went off to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
I have been to this museum many time but I don't remember enjoying it as much as I did seeing the art work through the eyes of young girls. Olivia kept saying some of the paintings had eyes that followed her and that was spooky. They used words like "weired", "spooky" and "scary" to describe some of the art in the museum. They were fascinated with the African exhibits, especially the masks. One had a 12 foot hat on it and that got their attention. We spent over an hour at the museum before I pulled the plug and said we had to go to the Mall for a few rides.
When I agreed to babysit I had the impression that only our school district had the day off. Boy! was I wrong. There had to be over a thousand kids at the Nickelodeon universe park. Seems half the twin cities had the day-off from school. I told the girls that they could pick any rides they wanted to but they had to alternate their choices. I raised three boys and, as a aged male, had the impression girls were dainty, gentle, lady like creatures who would be too scared to go on the fast, high, spin and puke rides. Well, I either never got it or just missed that part of parenting. These girls went on every ride with the exception of one and if there was time, they would have repeated the most spinning, hair-raising rides over and over again. We spent a few hours at the park and then had to head home. Another thing about girls I didn't know. They eat as much as boys do, at least in the snack department. On the way home they lamented that they were hungry and had to have snacks when we got home.
When your grand kids are miles and miles away, it is great to act like a grand parent even if the children are not yours. I fully enjoyed myself and I am looking forward to babysitting the kids anytime mom needs the coverage. Surrogate grand parenting is a lot better than just having your kids miles and miles away. You see old things with new eyes and that makes them so much more exciting.