Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Unforgettable Christmas of 2016

Christmas this year stretched throughout December. Robin's family and Dan's family visited mid December for an early Christmas celebration. Frank and I had eight houseguests, half of them four and under, sleeping under one roof. Christmas decorating was not as elaborate is in other years due to Frank's mishap, but there was still a decorated tree, lighted garlands, and stockings that I managed. We had been short one bed, but the rental of a hospital bed, set up in the living room for Frank, solved that problem. For the story behind Frank's fall and his emergency hip replacement see these two posts:

The color scheme on this year's tree was a non-traditional pink, lime, and turquoise. The pink was a definitely in deference to the presence of three granddaughters. But notice on this section of the tree there is still a turquoise blue ornament in deference to the presence of one grandson. I was bemused that this particular photo preserved a three to one ratio.

On top of each hutch is a garland at the base of a rocker toy. The two toned wooden hand-crafted train we purchased from a local toy store before we even had any grandchildren.

This black and white pinto pony rocker was used by Robin and Dan when they were little. The garlands amidst the greenery on both these hutches follow the pink, turquoise, and lime color scheme, although it is hard to discern in the night time glow.

In our kitchen nook hangs a wreath with a bear couple that Frank and I bought for ourselves when the last kid left home, since then it would be only the two of us.

This Christmas zebra rug tickled my funny bone. I think this may be our third year to deploy it.

But it was a tripping hazard for  Frank's walker so I slid it under one of the hutches. I think those striped legs in boots is even funnier than the whole critter.

I still had another yuletide rug that I like so I tucked it in under the piano with two penguin guardians.

Frank had distributed this last item in all our front windows (before he fell). When I moved to California and my Dad had left New Jersey, I asked for these. As a child I remember having them in each front window of my Linden, NJ home. They were called Reath Lites and had been manufactured in the adjacent city of Elizabeth, NJ. We have ten of them and I have never seen others like them at all even though Frank has researched them extensively on the internet. A long tube like, for a piano music lamp, shines up on a screen printed plexiglas sheet and they glow softy. They are a yearly tradition for us. They paint a serene picture.

Having four young children around was not at all peaceful (despite the calm wreaths in each window) but it sure was fun and joyous. Frank said he could lie in his hospital bed and hear the cacophony a room away from the playing, the  laughter (and the intermittent unavoidable crying). He could close his eyes and revel in it. My progeny he mused. 

The morning after the final airport pickup, the crew of eight set out on a walk to the local Starbuck's. Apparently parents of small children require coffee, which I do not stock. To my surprise I also have very few photos. It was too much of a zany zoo snap a few shots. That would require knowing where I had left my cell phone or where whoever was playing with it last had left it. But here are a few memories. From left to right the Starbuck's crew are adults, Robin/Jeremy, Carrie/Dan, and kids Isaiah (1 year 5 months) /Autumn (4 years 2 months), and Vivian (2 years 8 months) /Lillian (7 months).

The older girls got along fine dancing,

wearing matching pajamas from Grandma,

or wiggling under a quilt with younger siblings.

Down at floor level there was a lot to admire - not just Lillian,

but also the creations of the next generation of architects and builders.


Each grandchild has something handmade by Grandma. The links direct you to November or December posts in my DianeLoves2Quilt blog where I tell about the creation of each. There were doll quilts for Autumn and Vivian,

Alex, too got a quilted bunny pillow but his was not gifted until Christmas Day itself when he visited for the day.


Christmas 2016  was bittersweet because it was time to disperse those knitted stockings to the families where they belonged. Frank and I had enjoyed having the kids all together in spirit symbolically via those stockings but now it was time to have them go home with their namesakes and be filled in their own homes. The two families had arrived on Dec7th and Dec 8th, and were leaving on Dec 13th and Dec 14th. We took one final group shot. Alex was at a special Christmas camp that weekend and therefore not in the photo. Besides, his stocking was staying.

Christmas lasted longer for us this year because we had started early. We still had Alex's party at this home in San Ramon and Christmas Day with Alex here in Livermore remaining to celebrate. I had a friend stay home with Frank while I dropped in for a short while at Alex's party. He was quite festive in his Santa Claus tie and did not hesitate to tell everyone "HO, HO HO!"

Christmas Day was spent at our Livermore home. Alex and I paused for a photo shoot by Frank under the "wreath for two" and then Frank and I enjoyed watching Alex open his gifts.

Frank was able to watch from his bedside perch. Wouldn't it have been nice those early, early, Christmas mornings when your kids were little and excited, creeping from under their covers at the peek of dawn, if you'd had the luxury of a bed with Christmas tree view?

For one of his Christmas gifts, though, Frank did point out that this cane was not quite long enough for him to use.

Every critter on his wrapping paper was wearing a Santa hat in keeping with Alex's beloved theme of "HO, HO, HO".

Alex's loot is all piled on one chair - edibles, entertainment, home decor, and clothes - the entire gift category gamut.

We had an effort effective Christmas dinner of spiral ham and pierogi's. Alex scarfed it all down like a trooper.

After dinner, with a side dessert of Hershey Kisses, Alex liked the challenge of assembling his new 100 piece princess puzzle. Then I took Alex home to San Ramon while Frank rested and recovered from the busy day. Christmas Day was the first time I had left Frank home alone since his Dec 1st surgery. He was feeling better and I was feeling braver.

The day after Christmas was a gorgeous sunny day. Frank wanted to see if we could get music playing in our new Toyota RAV 4 via his cell phone and bluetooth since the car does not have a CD player. Frank was quite proud he managed to access iTunes, establish an account, and download some music. Out on our driveway he practiced climbing into the car without violating his positional restrictions ( and without pain). Moreover, he succeeded in getting the bluetooth interface to work with his cell phone and we had The Little Mermaid crooning along inside the vehicle. Victory!

I asked Frank as long as he had gotten himself into the car would he like to take short ride. We drove out among the vineyards of Livermore and some of the new developments in those areas. It was so pretty, I periodically stopped and took a few scenic photos of the countryside from the driver's seat. Frank began to tire and we headed home but it had been a pleasant, low key, and much needed outing together for both of us.

The coloration and quaintness of this house I found very appealing.


I do not want to end this post on a downer, but these happenings were also a part of the Christmas 2016 season for Frank and me. To not mention them is like trying to ignore the elephant in the room. But each unpleasant happening was mitigated to some extent and we weathered them all.

  • Frank's hip replacement was Dec 1st and though he tires easily, he is walking with a cane by Jan 1st. He is off pain meds, taking only Tylenol as needed. We hopefully anticipate the surgeon will release him from all positional restrictions at his appointment Jan 9th.
  • Fighting three months of plugged up ears, Frank had ear tubes inserted Dec 21st and he is hearing much better. Diane is grateful that the decibel level on the TV football games is greatly reduced and Frank's frequency of uttering "Eh...?" has diminished.
  • Our pleasant outing on Dec 26th where we drove amid the vineyard outreaches of Livermore had a "turn for the worse" when we re-entered the downtown area. While waiting to turn left at a light a few blocks from our home, our less-than-one-month old new Toyota RAV 4 was rear-ended. No one was injured and the other driver was insured and apologetic. He admitted it was totally his fault, his insurance company is paying for damages completely, and the repair should be complete by mid-January. The rear bumper and backup camera sensors will be replaced, the lift gate will be repaired and repainted - three coats of paint per our specialized pearl white selection. I guess now we do not have to fret about getting that first ding.

  • Alex went to the emergency room Dec 29th for a raging foot infection diagnosed as cellulitis. He was visiting with us here on New Year's Day and I could see that he was responding to antibiotics and is on the mend. If he keeps getting better as he is doing, he will not need to be hospitalized with IV antibiotics. Fingers crossed.
BRING ON 2017!
This cute pair of side by side pillows has a message. The Santa pillow on the right had his moustache twisted partially off and made less than perfect by the curious fingers of our grandson Isaiah on his first day visiting. But Santa is still soft and appealing and he can be fixed. He is kind of symbolic of our December this year. Christmas 2016 was not perfect but it was darn good. The wise owl pillow off to the left knows that with the right attitude, all can be weathered. It is not what happens but Whoo is around to help you through it. We had family visiting and kind neighbors and friends to help us out, not to mention the therapists and other medical personnel Whoo were right there by our side with advice and answers to our questions. Even the guy Whoo hit the new car turned out to be as nice as nice could be under the circumstances. We would be lucky to have as many good people in our lives in 2017.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Update on Frank's Hip Lifestyle

Today marks three weeks and a day from Frank's emergency hip replacement surgery after a nasty fall from a step ladder - more a mis-step ladder I should say. My Wander Or Ponder post dated December 15 titled Hip. Hip, and a Hampered Hooray tells the tale of the November 30th accident. Since surgery he has had two follow-up doctor visits where we had to load him in the car and drive him to a medical facility.

The first transport visit on 12/14/16 was to see a physician's assistant in orthopedics to check up on the wound and surgical site and ask general pain questions. At the hospital facility where the hip surgery was performed they had a curbside valet service that brought Frank a wheelchair and then parked the car for me. Nothing earth-shattering from the orthopedic exam, everything appears to be healing on schedule. Frank's stomach gave him some challenges. But we met them and made our exhausted way home. That outing tired him out.

The second transport visit on 12/21/16 really excited Frank. After complaining for three months about a "cold" or upper respiratory event that would not quit, Frank finally got to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist to address his plugged up ears that were driving him crazy. Unlike the orthopedic visit, this facility had no valet service. Manipulating Frank out of the car and into the building is a tale like that of a farmer who must transport a fox, a chicken, and a sack of grain across a river intact.

I park the car curbside in a temporary unloading zone. I run into the facility and get Frank a wheelchair with an appropriate seat height and side arms for support. I unload the walker we brought with us. Frank uses that to get out of the car and into the waiting wheelchair. I wheel Frank in the wheel chair indoors, carrying the folded up walker with us. I go back out to the car and park it in a less-temporary slot. I go back to the facility to rejoin Frank and take him to the doctor's office area. Frank was eager to be finally examined by a specialist, even though the effort of getting there tires him. The plugged ears have been frustrating for Frank, he claims possibly even more so than the hip, because he could not converse easily with well-wishers on the phone or with visitors or therapy personnel. I had to shout at him and the TV had to be blaring.

I must admit once indoors, the ENT office staff were extremely efficient in accommodating Frank's limited mobility. They brought an audiologist with her equipment to the examining room rather than moving Frank or asking him to return another day. They assessed he had no auditory nerve damage but indeed both ears behind the membrane were completely filled with fluid under pressure. Apparently in an adult, if ears do not drain of their own accord within three months, they are very unlikely to do so without intervention. The ENT doctor put tubes in each ear that day under a local. Here is the doctor's array of tools. Now I could see what my kids and grandkids went through and understand why children must be fully anesthetized.

Injecting the anesthetic was extremely painful. The doctor told Frank he would feel a slight burning sensation and then some pressure. Always ready with the railroad metaphors, Frank claimed it was like driving a railroad spike into his ear canal. Note his death grip on the chair arms. Gunky fluid was suctioned out. Frank had been storing that for weeks.

Ear tube insertion afterward was a piece of cake by comparison.

Frank no longer hears the continuous background sound of the ocean in his ears. Hearing will improve over the next couple weeks as the stretched ear drum membrane has a chance recover, relax, heal, and return to the flexibility it needs to vibrate with sound. We thanked the doctor profusely and left the office. After picking up antibiotic ear drops at the pharmacy, we undid our fox, chicken, and grain routine to drive home. The entire visit with travel time took about 4 hours. Frank was exhausted.

The license plates had arrived in the mail for the RAV4. I put the temporary Toyota dealer plates that had been on his new vehicle onto the head and foot of Frank's rented hospital bed.

Frank continues to have in-home physical therapy. He has graduated to walking laps with his walker outdoors in the joint-free paved street of our cul-de-sac. The sidewalk cracks are too much of a challenge just yet. Although not as rugged as the sidewalk, the street surface is not as sliding friendly as the our hardwood floors and it wears off the bottoms of the tennis balls. Once spherical, look how flat they are now. I think that is also an indicator on how much Frank needs to lean on the walker for support. So far three laps is my street walker's endurance limit.

Frank also wore holes clear through. Good thing one neighbor bought us a bag full of tennis balls and another neighbor slit them with an X to slip onto the walker legs.

Frank also has started practicing walking with a cane indoors where a wall or counter is by his right side for support. He is allowed to climb the stairs once a day with a cane and an assistant who acts more as an insurance policy rather than a support. He has also begun some resistance band exercises. The therapist is pleased with his progress and says he is ahead of schedule. He generally take just one pain pill a day and he often times it shortly before therapy. Yay!

When not exhausted, Frank is bored. Here he is helping me to organize some of my quilting notions using paraphernalia from his stamp collecting

We will have some calm now until after the first of the year. Frank's positional constraints will remain until a January 9th post-op visit. There will be no therapy or doctor visits between Christmas and New Year's Day. I plan to pick up Alex and bring him back to Livermore for a few hours on Christmas Day for a ham and pierogi dinner and to open some gifts. I have taken Alex bowling by myself but the last time he and Frank saw each other was November 29th, the day before Frank fractured his hip. Seeing each other will be good for both of them.