Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nonna's Recovery

Nonna should be in the hospital for a few more days for observations. She is doing well both mentally and physically. Our two nurses in the family, Stacey and Cheryl Ann, are caring for Nonna right now at home and in the hospital. What a relief to have them involved and double-checking the hospital staff. I don't think Nonna could get better care than this. Over the next two weeks she will need to rest and attend some physical therapy. The plan for action will be determined after this period of rest. We love you Nonna and Pop-Pop!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Surrounded by Family

Nonna can only receive visitors a few times each day and only for 30 minutes at a time. From what I hear, her room has been filled with family at every opportunity. We all love her so much! As the word spread, many family members wanted to hear all the updates and be included on all the emails. Tom just wrote: "Use this new thread to forward an update this evening. I have downloaded my entire contact list and I believe we have every limb of the family tree covered" So the next hurdle: CT scan revealed 4.4-5.9 cm mass in left lung; 4.3-4.4 cm mass in cervix, and a lesion in liver. Ultrtasound will be done later on liver and cervix. Keep praying.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stacey's update

My sister-in-law Stacey arrived in Gastonia today to help out Nonna and Pop-Pop. If I ever need medical attention, she is the nurse I want looking after me. I'm so glad she is there to help. Here is her update:

Dad and I have settled in for the evening after visiting with Mom in the Surgical ICU. We came home to a great dinner Cheryl made for us. Yummy!! Mom was alert and able to recognize every one even calling them by name. She still has difficulty with recall of certain events and date/time. However, once reoriented to such details she is able to correct her recall. Both Dad and Jeanne Marie feel she greatly improved from their noon visit. Since this was my first assessment of her I had no previous findings to compare, but I am very pleased with her recovery thus far. Generally, she is in stable\good condition and the SICU MD is planning to transfer her to a step-down unit tomorrow. She will be there for at least two more days. This will allow more open visitation hours. I will keep you all updated with an email in the evening once returning from the hospital, but feel free to call me with any concerns or questions.

My goal for tomorrow is to begin plan of care for Mom which involves planning for discharge. I can complete this task by working with the case manager assigned to her new unit once transferred. I am also hoping to meet with more specialist to address the other MRI/CT findings.


Jamie's update

Mom was kept under sedation last night with a breathing tube. This morning they removed the tube and stopped the anesthesia. At 9 am she was semi-awake, and at noon when Dad, Jeanne, Tom and Cheryl visited her she was awake and able to talk (more details in Tom's e-mail below). I don't know about the visit at 5, but at 8 when Dad, Jeanne, Cheryl, Stacey, Kathy, KG and Brett visited her she was very alert, knew everyone and was anxious to know the next steps medically. I believe the only doctor she saw today was the neurosurgeon but should she more tomorrow and the next day to decide on the path forward. She should move out of the surgical ICU tomorrow.

Nonna Updates

Successful surgery!

(from last night)
Mom's surgery just ended (after 2.5 hrs). The doctor said it went well - he feels he got all of both tumors. He took a CT scan post-op and it looks fine. Mom will have an MRI in the morning, as well. She will be in the surgical ICU tonight. Other specialists will see her beginning tomorrow. The doctor said preliminary analyses of the tumors suggest they metastisized from the lungs.

(from this morning)
Mom was semi-awake this morning and they said she had a good night. When we came back for the 12 visit, they have removed her tubes and she was awake and able to talk. Her head was hurting and they gave her pain meds, which made her sleepy. At least we got a good 30min visit. She was able to move well, speak clearly, and recognized everyone.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Please Pray

The neurosurgeon just saw Mom & Dad. The MRI from last night revealed two tumors in the back of Mom's head - one about the size of a golf ball and one smaller. The location of the larger one is causing the headaches, equilibrium and nausea. They can be removed surgically, and Mom & Dad have decided to have the surgery this afternoon at 4. The neurosurgeon plans to remove the smaller one first, then the larger. Both will be biopsied for further evaluation. He expects Mom will be in the hospital for 3-5 days, possibly longer depending on the amount of rehab she needs.

The results from the CT scan of Mom's chest/abdomen/pelvis has not been read by a radiologist yet because it was done so late last night. They expect to hear about that later today.

Praying for Nonna

This was difficult news to receive yesterday: Mom has had a chest x-ray and CT scan of her brain which showed a mass in her chest and several 'areas' in her brain. She will have an MRI of her head and CT scan of her chest tonight which will proivide much better information for the docs to diagnose.
We are waiting and praying for Nonna and Pop-Pop.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pasta Video

Let's Make some Pasta!

Emily's sacramental preparation homework had us make unleavened bread to illustrate what the Jewish people ate during their flight from Egypt. Unleavened bread has no yeast so the preparation and cooking time is much less because you don't have to wait for the dough to rise. In an earlier blog post we made the pretzels to demonstrate the longer process of making leavened bread. Since Chris is Italian, he thought the unleavened bread project would be a great opportunity to make homemade pasta... like his grandmother used to do. The kids thought this was a great idea too! As official photographer and family blogger, I documented the event very carefully for future memories.

Pasta is made from flour, eggs and a little bit of water. You can see our pasta chefs are ready to go. We got our pasta machine shortly before Emily was born and have used it only a few times. My very ambitious husband made homemade pasta for the reception at our house following David's baptism. I wish I had a picture of that... it was crazy. He made so much pasta that he had it hanging to dry in our kitchen on clothes hangers from all the cabinets. His plan was to make a sampling of pasta this time. Anyway, here they are... ready to go! "Let's make some Pasta!"

So, you start by putting a little bit of dough in the machine and cranking the handle to "knead" it.

You pass the dough through the pasta machine 6 times which makes progressively thinner and thinner pasta. Six passes also allows for the kiddos to get lots of turns cranking the machine. Chris says it is very helpful to have the extra hands doing the cranking so his can be free to guide the pasta. Apparently, pasta making is tricky all by yourself. If you don't keep it straight, it tends to crumple... which can be frustrating.
Here is what the final sheet of pasta looks like after six passes through the machine. Pretty impressive, eh?

The sheets have to dry for about 10 minutes before you can cut them.

Here is the really impressive long sheet of pasta! The kids liked this a lot.

And here they are cutting the sheet into spaghetti. This reminded David of his favorite playdough attachement...

Look at all that pasta!

And more pasta!

And even more pasta!

In the end, we boiled our spaghetti for about five minutes and it was delicious! Emily wanted to know if we could stop buying pasta at the store and just make it from scratch every time! Good family fun, eh?

Painting Pottery

Emily and Elle got together at this new pottery place for some creative fun. They selected pottery pieces to paint. Emily picked an angel and Elle selected an I love Mom coffee mug. These two girls love painting and crafts so you can imagine they really enjoyed this outing.

Here is Emily's angel in the beginning stages.

Once your pottery is painted, you can leave it to be fired. A piece of pottery that has been fired in the oven is very shiny and I would guess waterproof... in the case of a coffee mug. But, my sweet girl didn't want to part with her angel so we just took ours home. Here are the girls posing in the lobby. The big smiles imply they had a pretty good time.

And I took this picture today of Emily's finished product. And yes, our azaleas are going nuts right now. They are so beautiful!

Up close, you can see her angel is smiling.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Here are my girls in their lovely green Saint Patrick Day shirts. Lia has been wearing hers non-stop since we got it and loves wearing it with her green capri pants. Emily wouldn't put hers on till the big day. She said she was "saving it for the big day" and wanted to make sure she wasn't going to get pinched.

We found a craft on the Catholic Icing blog that I happened to have all the materials for. After reading aobut St. Patrick we learned how he used a shamrock to teach the Irish the concept of the Trinity. As a clover is three leaves and one stem, the trinity is three persons in one God. The heart is for God the Father, the cross is for God the Son and the dove is for God the Holy Spirit.

Didn't they come out great!

After our craft, we walked over to the pond to visit the ducklings and hang out together as a family.

Saint Patrick of Ireland, Pray for Us!

Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras Crafts

My kids love crafts and I can't always handle the planning and the mess so I am always looking for opportunities to do crafty things outside of our home! On Fat Tuesday, we went to the Children's Museum and the kids were able to paint masks and decorate crowns. Emily is modeling hers here.

And on Saturdays, the Lakeshore Learning store has free craft tables set up for the kids. They love this! When Chris is travelling, this is an excellent outing for Saturday after breakfast! David is making his mask in this picture.

Here is Emily with her peacock mask and animal crown.

David picked a gorilla...

And Lia, after initial disappointment that there were no kitty cat crafts, happily made a zebra crown and enjoyed wearing it around the store.

And Lakeshore Learning benefited a little from our visit as well. David found a kid sized magnifying glass and I picked up some much needed washable ink pads for our stamps. I am happy to report that David has been very busy examining bugs in the great outdoors with his magnifying glass. And when he's not looking at bugs, he can be found holding it up to his face and saying, "I'm Mr. Big Eye!" This, of course, amuses his sibling to no end.

Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure

Ash Wednesday was March 9th marking the beginning of Lent. Like last year, we are following the Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure. We are learning about our faith through the short videos, praying a decade of the rosary each day and taking advantage of the great coloring sheets, crosswords and word searches this amazing family puts together every year. If you are looking for an easy way to teach the catholic faith to your children... this is the best resource I have ever found and it is free.

The Houston Zoo

The weather was beautiful the first week of March and we decided to visit the zoo on Wednesday. We were really excited that Nana could come and enjoy it with us. This picture was taken at the entrance gate and the kids were very excited! I think they wanted to see it all at once!

We were excited to visit the new African Forest. Here Emily and Lia are checking out the pygmy huts.

And David is consulting his map in the pygmy hut. He dearly loves maps. He is likely to run into walls while attempting to navigate with his map.

And the bongo drums...

But most amazing of all were the chimpanzees, There is just a glass wall between Emily and this chimp.
I don't think I've ever seen one this close.

We ended our day at the African souvenier shop. The kids all got african drums. Emily calls them Tom Toms. They were made with real animal skin... and a word to the wise... dogs think they are chew toys. I found Annie trying to sneak off with one as a chew toy and warned the kids not to leave them lying around. It is hard to see but they are all holding their new toys in this picture. We'll see how long they last. ;-) Very fun day!

More Baby Ducklings!

On our way to meet Nana at the zoo... I happened to see these sweet little baby ducklings at the pond by our house. I had to stop the car to take a picture. There are nine of them and they are as cute as can be. We will be keeping tabs on them as they grow.

Holy Name Retreat Center

I was very blessed to be able to attend a women's retreat at the Holy Name Retreat Center in Houston the last weekend of February. The combination of six months of homeschooling and my husband's increased work and frequent travel had me searching for some way to take a little break. When I presented the brochure for this retreat center to Chris, he was not only supportive, but filled out all the paperwork for me and mailed the check in! He marked the dates on his work calendar and promised to take care of the kids.

The Passionist priests at this retreat center and the Dominican sisters who assisted were very welcoming and provided an incredibly loving family environment. Their "signature" was to begin all talks with jokes... and each tried to outdo the other. Our topic was forgiveness. Forgiveness of others, forgiving yourself and forgiveness from God. I enjoyed the discussions, the quiet time to pray, the fellowship, the rest and the three fabulous meals per day. This was heaven for me and I hope to do it again next year.
The retreat grounds were beautiful. Morning and evening prayers were said in the chapel and I was able to receive the sacrament of reconcilliation... which I happily reported to Emily when I got home!

The freezing weather had damaged a lot of the plants in the gardens, but it was still beautiful. Here is the Our Lady of Guadelupe prayer garden.