Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Grant's Farm: Behind the Scenes

On Sunday my family and I were invited to join our friends, the Tevlins, for a behind the scenes tour of Grant's Farm.  While I was looking forward to spending a lazy day in the sunshine with friends and family, I wondered what we could possibly see or do that we haven't experienced already.  As a native St. Louisan, I grew up visiting Grant's Farm and continued the tradition of frequent visits with my own family.  I thought we had seen and done it all.

I was wrong.

The 2+ hour tour began in the Clydesdale barn.  Our two guides shared all kinds of interesting facts about these hearty horses, the training involved and the selection process used for building a Budweiser draft horse team. The kids had the opportunity to spend time with a former Budweiser team member.  Natalie wanted no part of the horse, but Noah happily stroked the 18 hands-tall animal while chatting away with his friend.  It was obvious that contact with the horse was immediately therapeutic.  Prior to our arrival, Noah had been quite agitated and very much against going on the tour. 

We traveled the grounds via a specially designed truck with covered seating.  We stopped frequently -- to walk the grounds and peek inside Ulysses Grant's cabin, to feed the koi fish abundant in Mirror Lake and to take in the sights and history of the AB family's mansion.  Towards the end of the tour we came upon a group of buffalo.  It was then that Natalie really perked up.  She immediately had a favorite - Fred, the bull buffalo of the herd.  She eagerly scooped out cupfuls of feed for the one ton, hairy beast.

All of this left me scratching my head...

Pet a beautiful, calm, chestnut-colored horse with snow-stocking feet?  = NO
Feed a hump-backed, shaggy-furred, beast with horns? = YES!

Our behind-the-scenes tour was certainly full of surprises. Thank you Tevlin family for giving us a fun, memorable good time!

Prior to the tour, we stopped in for a peek at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.  The museum offers free tours and a junior ranger program for kids to enjoy...anytime -- you only need to ask.

Natalie tries on period clothes at the museum

The AB mansion
The playhouse that sits beside the AB mansion...check out the zebras.
Grant's cabin

The steer started walking over to us as soon as they spied our truck.
Nat feeds Fred


Friday, October 17, 2014

After the Storm

After so many dark, sloshy days -- the recent sunshine has served to lift more than a few clouds that had been hanging over our house.  Last Thursday, Noah had surgery to repair a perforation on his left eardrum.  The hope was to restore his hearing and reduce the occurrence of infections.  He'd had surgery about two years ago to patch the hole, however, it was not successful and the hole that had consumed 30% of his eardrum had grown to 50%. As a result, his hearing in his left ear was very poor.

We arrived at the surgery center at 6:20 a.m. after spending nearly an hour on the highway under a thunderous dark sky.  Steve stayed behind to get Natalie to school. The plan was to have him meet up with us after drop off.  While Noah's surgery would be more invasive than the previous one, his surgeon was seasoned and I felt we were doing the best for Noah.

Eight hours later...I wasn't so sure.

While most patients who have tympanoplasty with mastoidectomy stay overnight at the hospital -- our doctor reasoned that Noah had done so well with surgery that he thought it best he recoup at home.  He also wanted him to avoid possible exposure to MRSA infections which have been on the rise. However, resting at home never happened because Noah was plagued with vomiting and subsequent dry heaving which sent his pain level through the roof. But controlling his pain was virtually impossible since he couldn't keep anything down.  It was a horrible cycle. I had never felt so helpless as I watched Noah beg me to "make it stop!" "take it out".
About this time, Steve and Natalie walked through the door.  I watched as Natalie stood shell-shocked as she took in the scene.  Her brother hurting and me failing at providing him with any relief.  I'm sure it was scary.  I was certainly scared.

Thankfully, I was able to reach the doctor.  He felt terrible as he listened to Noah heave and wail in the background and immediately suggested we bring him back to stay.  Unfortunately, our only option was to go through the ER.  This meant we had to be completely re-entered into the system.  Apparently all information that had previously been entered at Mercy's Surgery Center is not accessible to Mercy's ER staff.  As I steadied Noah on the scale, the in-take nurse asked me silly questions like "when did his pain start?"

"Hmm..well, he was vomiting when we left the surgery center at 2 p.m. and he's been miserable ever since."

More redundant questions...finally the nurse gave him zofran to calm his stomach, but the movement from wheelchair to an ER bed sent him back into the throes of heaving.

Next, the ER doctor entered and began asking us questions like "what brings you in here today?"

Three and a half hours later - Noah was assigned a bed. I was so weary - my hair hurt.  My heart ached as I scanned Noah's gray complexion, dark circles beneath his eyes and the bubble-like headband pooling with blood.  I wondered how moms and dads who have children with long term illnesses cope.  Certainly they are super heroes.

That night Noah woke every hour on the hour to use the bathroom as the I.V. fluids were sending his bladder into overdrive.  He looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested he use a urinal.  I scrambled to untangle his lines and keep up with him as he made a beeline for the door. By morning, I knew Noah had turned the corner when he asked about breakfast. As I read the menu to him, he became more and more excited.

"Noah, they have cheesy eggs."
"Oh my!"
"Would you like bacon or sausage?"
"I don't know...I can't decide!"

I ordered a slew of items I thought for sure he'd never finish.

He proved me wrong.

As Noah and I headed home I wondered how Steve and Natalie had fared without us.  Her teacher had emailed me earlier that Natalie had complained of a stomachache, but told her she didn't need to go to the nurse...she was just worried about Noah. In the end Steve did a great job holding down the fort with Natalie. He even came up with a new hair style for her...to which Natalie named, "The Big Steve". 

I am so very grateful for my Big Steve and for family and friends who prayed for Noah during the storm. 

Today the sun is shining.

Thank you.
After surgery - heading home the first time.
Natalie shows off "The Big Steve"

Monday, October 13, 2014

Deep Thoughts From Noah #52

I don't know why, but Noah has been interested in getting married since he was 5 years old.

Morning car ride convo...
Noah: Mom, I know why Goofy never married.
Me: You do?
Noah: Yeah, it's because he has too many happy thoughts and he never went to college.
Me: I see.

(I don't know if I should be upset that he believes only moderately happy people get married or relieved that he feels it's best to finish school before heading down the aisle.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Musings From Natalie #102

"Mom, I think when I have kids I'm going to name them Marco and Polo."

(I guess this is an improvement...two years ago she told me she was going to have two girls -- one named Candy and the other Sparkle.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Deep Thoughts from Noah #51

Noah got brave this morning and decided to try cream cheese with his bagel...

"Mom, I can't believe how good this tastes.  It's making my taste buds dance."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Impromptu Visit to China

While Saint Louis may not have an ocean to dive into or mountains to climb...family friendly activities abound.  Last Sunday we had no plans for the day, but with a little Googling, Steve had found a wonderful activity for Natalie and I to enjoy together. Not only was it free but it was located walking distance from our home.  Webster University hosted a 10th anniversary celebration of the Confucius Institute.  The university was among the first to have an Institute.  Today there are 90 across the United States -- more than 400 Confucius Institutes throughout the world.  The purpose of these non-profit institutes is to promote Chinese language and culture and facilitate cultural exchanges.

What a treat! 

The performance was held in the auditorium of Webster's Community Music School.  The 13 act show performed by students from Beijing Normal University featured a medley of traditional Chinese artistic expression including; dance, martial arts, music, calligraphy and opera.

If you missed the performance, but are interested in learning more -- Webster University is hosting a series of events during the month of October beginning with an exhibit featuring traditional Chinese art. The exhibit opens on Sunday, October 5th from 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. at The Old Orchard Gallery at 39B South Old Orchard, Webster Groves.  Artists will be present at the opening and a limited quantity of signed photo books will be available.  Light refreshments will be served.  Admission is FREE.  The art exhibit will run 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, October 6th through October 22nd.

The opening number combined dance with martial arts.  The piece was called Flying Dragon
The pipa (pronounced pea-pa) is the most popular Chinese instrument.
A four string instrument and one of the oldest with more than 2,000 years of history.
Song of Xiang He
This one was one of our favorites.  They sang and danced on, around and over the drums.
"I don't know what they were saying, but it was pretty," shared Natalie
We got a taste of Beijing Opera called Guifei Zuijiu. 
While we weren't fans of the songs, we did love his dramatic make-up and flamboyant ensemble.

Male Group Dance: Story of my Hometown
Group Chinese Instrument Ensemble

This piece was called Fascinating Dunhuang
The Propitious Tree
The Dream of Nanna.
A dance that tells the story of a girl who lives in the mountains, but longs for another life elsewhere.
The Euphrates Poplar
This piece celebrated the 56 ethnic groups that make up China.

Natalie - with all of the performers.
She was tickled to find two cakes on the Webster U. campus

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Family Time Travelers

Last Sunday we traveled back in time to celebrate Pioneer Days at the Daniel Boone Home & Heritage Center (DBHHC) located in historic Defiance, Missouri. Boone's Home overlooks a village made up of more than a dozen 19th century buildings. Each structure has been moved to the site from within 50 miles of the area. Buildings include a general store, school house, chapel, woodworking shop and grist mill and offer a glimpse into life on the Missouri frontier.

The DBHHC is owned and operated by Lindenwood University. According to their website, their mission is to provide a center for fully integrated learning on all education levels; to preserve and protect the historic structures, collections, and natural resources that comprise the facility; and to interpret the early American frontier experience in Missouri as exemplified by the Boone family and their contemporaries.

The kids had a ball dipping candles, throwing tomahawks and learning about games kids their age would have played back in the day.  They marveled at all the craftsmen skills required to create comforts we take for granted  -- like spinning wool for clothing, carving wood for every day furniture and cooking food for hours in fire-pitted ovens.  Natalie learned from one of the carpenters where the phrase "good night sleep tight" originated.  Back then beds were constructed of a web of ropes that had to be tightened regularly to keep from sagging.

As we meandered through the village, drinking in the sunshine, we sort of lost track of time and I was surprised to learn three hours had passed without a gripe from the peanut gallery.  It was a great day to unplug from electronics and connect with each other.

Daniel Boone stl250 cake!

"This is gonna take awhile, I think."
Noah does the tomahawk two-step
Natalie and Steve listen as the women spin yarn and tales about their lives on the frontier.

Inside the Peace Chapel

Time for School!
The kids sampled the sweet leaves of a stevia plant.

Natalie was happy to try her hand at sewing.

Taking a break to enjoy the sunshine.