Sobering News

June 13, 2018

I love this photo of our son Jon, his wife Amanda, and their baby Amelie, taken just a few days ago. Ami is a bright and happy baby who smiles all over her face.

Yesterday Ami was sedated for an MRI to check the development of a lung problem that doctors had been tracking since she was about 12 weeks’ gestation. Amanda endured almost weekly ultrasounds throughout her pregnancy and there was a fear that at birth Ami would have to be rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Then Ami was born and everything seemed to be fine. No NICU, no special care at all. We all breathed an enormous sigh of relief and thanked God. Later office tests seemed to indicate that the non-cancerous mass in her lung was now of negligible size.

Thus the news from yesterday’s MRI came as a shock. The mass is still there, it is impinging on Ami’s lung development, and it must be removed so the lung can develop properly. The doctor prepared Jon and Amanda for the possibility that the entire lower lobe of the left lung might have to be removed. While this should not affect Ami’s future breathing capacity (the remaining lobe should grow to fill the cavity), dealing with the mass at all will be a major surgery and clearly not something one wishes to contemplate for their six-month-old baby girl.

No plans or dates have yet been set but I am trying to think of ways I can be as helpful and supportive as possible.




January 8, 2018

In Minnesota, the sub-zero weather was so bitter that several races had to be canceled. (That is Lucy’s breath frozen to her face.) Nevertheless, she qualified for the team going to the biathlon Junior World Championships, in Otepää, Estonia!

Her shooting wasn’t where she wanted it to be but her skiing speed kept her high in the rankings (racers ski penalty laps for missed shots). Qualifying for the team was a feat, especially considering that these were her first real biathlon races on snow.

Unfortunately, between expenses and timing it is unlikely Lucy will be going to Estonia in January. Her goal is to qualify for and compete at the college championship ski races (NCAAs), which are held only a day or two later in the United States. Biathlon has the potential to be a great opportunity for her but it is one that will wait. Though Lucy will continue to train and strive to improve, for now the college circuit is her primary focus.

I really understand very little about sports but it makes me happy indeed to see my girl rewarded for her gritty dedication, day after day for years.

Cold and a Cold

December 28, 2017

It is 23° below zero this morning and the weather station says the wind chill is -46° F. It’s frigid. The timbers of the house thud as they contract in protest. Last night when I walked the dogs by moonlight before bedtime, my boots squeaked on the snow and the hairs inside my nose froze with my breathing. The nose-hair-freezing sensation is the signal that winter is really here. At such temperatures the dogs are extremely efficient so we can all scamper back to the warmth of the house.

I came down with a cold on Christmas evening and so we did not go to Connecticut on the 26th to see Amanda, Jon, and our new grandchild, Ami. We now are planning to go January 1st, picking up Lucy in Albany on the way.

Lucy left Tuesday evening to fly out to the biathlon team trials in Minnesota. Though she’d only had two fever-free days, her ticket had been purchased and was non-refundable. It seems unlikely she can do well after her siege with flu but her friends were going and the experience in the biathlon world will be valuable.

Biathlon (ski racing combined with target shooting) is a small but meticulous and demanding sport. We happen to live in one of the few towns in the country where people train for it. Lucy attended a free invitational talent camp last summer and the other young women were so friendly and the coaches so encouraging that she is considering adding make the U.S. women’s biathlon team to her list of goals.

Lucy last summer

Her birthday present last fall was a lockable rifle case for traveling. The hard-shell case is lined with foam which had to be cut precisely to fit her disassembled rifle. Online I found multiple sites that explained how difficult this was and how to accomplish it — with an electric knife or with a hot-wire foam cutter, neither of which tool I had.

Lucy’s ride to the airport was due to arrive at any moment. I was starting to feel anxious when DH’s phone rang.

It was our friend, Gary. He lives in the Berkshires but was ice climbing down the highway, and he and his climbing partner had lost their car keys and were freezing. DH went down and brought Gary and John back to the house.

It was a mad scene: the dogs barking and jumping, Lucy packing frantically in the mudroom, John on the phone with AAA, DH making tea to warm the climbers, me trying to straighten beds so Gary and John could spend the night in a pinch . . . but all the while I was thinking with relief: Hooray! Gary’s here! He’ll help me figure out this foam!

And of course, he did. Here he is, about to attack it with me. We used a tomato knife.

Eventually Lucy and her rifle were safely packed and picked up. Gary and John borrowed our car to go to Gary’s cabin in a nearby town. DH and I had a quiet supper of Christmas leftovers.

Meanwhile, since a fortnight of temperatures below zero is predicted, naturally a heater in the farm apartment has failed. Our tenant is away. I could not reach the electrician so I purchased a space heater. The attic and the mudroom, being unfinished, also do not yet have functioning heaters. All of these spaces have water pipes. Each evening I walk around the house, opening doors to heat, checking thermostats and nudging them upward.

So far, so good.

A Happy Christmas

December 26, 2017

We had a small but happy Christmas.

Lucy was finally well enough by Christmas Eve afternoon to help decorate the tree. The Charlie Brown tree I’d dragged home from the back acres was so skimpy that we laughed throughout the trimming. Just putting on the lights caused the poor branches to sag and we decided against hanging any of our breakable ornaments. Still, with our papier-maché star on the top we were pleased. Perry Como sang “Joy to the World” and the dogs wagged their tails. A tree in the house!

With no fireplace or mantel yet, I planned that we would hang our Christmas stockings on the staircase. However the old brass holders kept slipping off the stairs and thudding to the floor. Farm girl solution: I zip-tied the stockings to the balusters.

I had hoped we would get to the 5 PM candlelight service at church but I was still mucking stalls then. As it was, DH and I didn’t get to bed until midnight. We could hear Lucy coughing hard.

A normal Christmas in our family starts early. When Jon was small he was always so excited he would wake us at 4 AM. Though we are early risers by nature, I had to decree that 6 AM was the earliest any festivities could begin. This year, with Lucy sick, DH and I were drinking tea and coffee before she came down, yawning, at 7. For our family this was nearly a noon start.

Snow falling, a fire, carols on the stereo, and presents — it was a beautiful Christmas morning. We missed Jon and Amanda but the mood was still festive. We each received several books. Lucy got a pair of Target sneakers to replace her old ones with holes; DH got some khakis for work. I led them both to the basement to show them the project I have been working on for them behind the tarp (I’ll write about this when I finish it this week).

There was a lot of good-natured teasing over the titles of the used books I’d put on my Christmas list. “How do you come up with these?” DH wrote on one package. I explained that it was a fabulous study of a man hanged in Connecticut in 1777 — in fact, I’d actually anonymously corrected the entry about him on Wikipedia. As I was speaking, I caught a glimpse of Lucy’s face. I wasn’t sure if her expression was fascinated or appalled.

Meanwhile we received photos from Jon, Amanda, Ami, and Judy in Connecticut. The new family had broken in Ami early to one of our traditions, reading aloud on Christmas Eve. I always read a version of the Nativity story, Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.

By his early teens, Jon was in charge of reading aloud The Night Before Christmas. He had asked for a copy of “our” edition as a baby gift.

Ami may not have followed the plot in every detail.

But all of the photos filled me with joy, particularly this one.

Then I was busy preparing our Christmas feast, boiling and mashing sweet potatoes, kneading up a batch of whole wheat buttermilk rolls, roasting the turkey, preparing the stuffing, baking a pecan pie. Our friend Mike was our only guest this year, but the traditional meal is a big part of our Christmas.

As we were clearing the dishes afterward, I asked Lucy to take the annual photo of Mike and “Sis.” (My name is too difficult for Mike and sixteen years ago, when I discovered he had no family, I adopted him into ours.)

I thought Mike looked a bit tentative in the first shot, so in the next one, I tickled him.

Although my chest was tight, I was starting to cough, and I was in bed by 7 PM, it was a merry Christmas. I am so lucky.

Lucy is Home for Christmas!

December 20, 2017

… but sick. She had told us by email that she’d fallen sick with a cold and cough on Sunday after her races in Canada. (She won!)

I hadn’t paid much attention to the news that she was sick. Lucy is prey to colds which while barely noticeable during the daylight hours, the minute she lies down keep her coughing all night. This has been true since she was a baby, and was true for Jon as well. (I thought all small children coughed until they vomited every time they had a cold. I sat up holding both of them upright in bed for many years.) So hearing that she had a cold and didn’t sleep well before her finals didn’t ring any alarm bells for me.

However when I picked her up at college last night she seemed subdued. She also coughed non-stop. (As I breathed the trapped air in the car I thought to myself, I’m doomed.) She was wearing her down ski team jacket in the car — it wasn’t cold — and kept cranking up the heat. My plan had been to pick up a frozen pizza on the ride home for an easy supper. Lucy said she wasn’t hungry (what?? Lucy is always hungry) and she’d rather just get home. Once we arrived, still wearing her ski jacket, she huddled by the fire.

I searched until I found a thermometer. She had a temperature of 102.6°. Oh dear.

Lucy coughed most of last night. When I got up at 3 to bring her meds and a water bottle, her skin was dry and hot.

I am canceling our plans to go to Connecticut to see the baby tomorrow. I’m very disappointed, but will try to reschedule the trip for next week. This virus apparently felled half the ski team while they were in Canada. The last thing Amanda, Jon, and Ami need is a bad bug.

In the meantime, I will take care of my own baby girl.

Our Top Christmas Present

December 16, 2017

… due for delivery December 25, arrived early!

Our dear daughter-in-law, Amanda, went into labor early Friday morning. She and Jon drove to the hospital that afternoon. All through Friday night I threw off the covers and crept downstairs to monitor the email updates from Jon. The difficult labor went on for more than 40 hours. At 7:47 PM, December 16, our granddaughter, Amelie (called “Ami,” pronounced Ah-me) was born.

After the tough delivery and considerable blood loss, Amanda preferred to wait until she had showered before her photo was taken, so all our pictures so far feature the proud dad.

Though doctors had had serious concerns for the baby’s health throughout the pregnancy, requiring MRIs and weekly check-ups, Ami was born strong and vigorous. She may need a small surgery at around nine months old, or the problem may disappear entirely. We are blessed.

Oh happy day!



Goings and Comings

December 1, 2017

Early to barn chores yesterday to put out hay, turn out the cows, then sort out the four ewe lambs and turn out the rest of the flock.

My buyers from Maine arrived exactly at 7:30 AM as promised. Unfortunately they arrived in an open truck with a stake rack only two bars high. My sheep would have been loose on the highway — except that they’d never have made it to the highway; in their panic they’d have hopped out at the farm. I had a moment of inner rage. (My patience is a thin veneer, especially under the time pressure of having to shower and change and get to work on time.) However I managed to smile and move on to problem-solving. In the end I gave them half of a welded wire panel and we tied it on over the top of the stake rack with baling twine.

The couple was very pleasant and their obvious delight in the beauty of the sheep — so much bigger and prettier, they said, than their flock of Clun Forests descended from stock from another breeder — that I was mollified long before they drove out. They spoke of moving their sheep to fresh grass every day, and it always makes me happy to have my animals go to good homes. Meanwhile I am relieved to have lower numbers in my barn. (I have two handsome ram lambs still to sell. Given the lateness of the season I may be wintering them over.)

After teaching my four classes I went to town for errands. Imagine my surprise and delight when I drove in after dark to see a college van dropping off Lucy for the night! The ski team was in town to ski on the neighboring trails and will be returning today, so Lucy elected to sleep at home.

Happiness is having your baby girl showered and in p.j.s doing homework in front of the fire, even just for one night.