Rice, rocks, and lighthouse

April 27, 2008

This is what we were doing the day we got the call about my dad's complications. Noah has become increasingly interested in "models"....spurred on by visits to the Marine museum on Parris Island (lots of battle scene models), this book from the library, and his trip to the train museum. The first part of the morning was spent collecting items from the yard and house (rocks, rice, pasta, leaves, corks, bottle top, graham crackers, toliet paper roll, tinker toys, etc). The second stage was pouring and sorting. Camille was heavily involved in this part of the process. She loved the different textures. Scooping and dumping. The third stage took place while Camille took her nap (hard to construct a model/scene with an active toddler scooping and dumping over and over again). Noah wanted to build a beach scene with a lighthouse as seen below. We all had fun and I think there will be many more "models" and trays of sand/bean, rice in our near future. Seriously this is good stuff for all ages.


We are back in Florida. We spent yesterday doing "normal" stuff which felt so good after being in the hospital, being on the road, eating all meals out, and living out of hotels. Noah had a soccer game. Adam and the kids washed the car. And I spent the day weeding which is truly one of the most therapeutic activities. Always feels good to get my hands back in the dirt. Good release for all of the frustration and angst from the past couple of weeks. Nice way to give my mind a break from all of the racing thoughts, the endless logistics (coming and going, Adam's upcoming deployment, our move to Louisiana for the summer or possibly longer, the floor repairs, etc), and the existential questions (why is this happening?). And best of all at the end of the weeding session I was able to step back and see an outcome. After living with weeks of unknowns and things out of my control, it felt so nice to have a physical accomplishment...a garden free of weeds.

It was hard not to think about my parents yesterday and wish I could do some kind of magical "weeding" and suddenly clear up all of the medical issues and transport them back home. The good news is that yesterday was a fairly peaceful day for both of them. No tests, no crisis situations, just resting. Hoping they have another peaceful day today and hoping the steroids are starting to do their job. My sister, Lili and Pris (a good family friend who had been with my mom since last week) had to go home this weekend. My Aunt Claire is headed up there today to take their places. We also have cousins in the DC area who have been a huge support to my parents. And to all of the other friends and family members who have reached out to us in so many thoughtful ways...thank you. Big thanks especially to Amy and Mike for letting us spend the night, Rabbi Jessica for the afternoon visit, Laureen for the bagels yesterday morning, and Nisha for the cooler full of amazing food that was waiting on our doorstep after our long drive home.

Hospital Update 4/25/08

April 25, 2008

The scope yesterday revealed that there is inflammation in the tissue of the lungs. They started him on steroids to decrease the inflammation. This morning they took him back to the operating room to perform a Tracheotomy which the doctors hope will prevent infection and help him to wean off the ventilator more easily. I am feeling extra worried this morning about the surgery because he is in such a weak state, but hoping that all will go smoothly. I'll try to post an update after he is out of surgery. We are all ready for some good news and sign of improvement. Hoping the steroids will make an impact and not cause further complications with his healing.

Hospital Update 4/24/08

April 24, 2008

Sorry for the recent lack of updates. We have been on the road. Adam and I have been making our way back down to Florida (with a stop in SC so Adam can check out of his current command assignment). Our plan is to get the kids settled back at home and then get back to Maryland as soon as possible.

The good news is that my dad continues to be fairly stable. The frustrating news is that he is still on the ventilator and there still hasn't been much improvement or clear understanding of the lung problem. He has been pretty sedated for the past couple of days as they continue to run tests. This morning at 10am he will be undergoing another procedure...placing scope/camera into his lungs to take samples. Hopefully this will provide some answers.

I have been receiving e-mails/comments asking for my dad's contact information at the hospital. Since he is in the Cardiac ICU, he can not receive flowers. We have a cousin in Maryland who has kindly offered to receive mail for him (cards/letters). If you want that address, please send me an e-mail at luciamorgan@yahoo.com

Hospital Update 4/21/2008

April 21, 2008

The day started out with the news that my dad was running a fever and seemed a little weaker. The day got a little better when a new staff doctor came on his case today who seems to be a good fit. Several other specialists were brought in today and more tests were run. Tests showed that the valve repair is looking great (the reason for the surgery). Waiting to get more tests results as they work to continue trying to figure out the issue with the lungs. Dad is continuing to write notes to all of us expressing his needs, his thoughts, and asking questions. He appreciates all of the healing thoughts and prayers. Time is starting to blur a bit as we all deal with exhaustion, nerves, and the uncertainties, but we continue to be hopeful and look forward to getting some good news soon.

Hospital Update 4/20/08

April 20, 2008

There has been some positive change in the most recent set of x-rays and the tube feedings have finally been successful (after three days without success). He is still on the ventilator, but stable. However there still isn't a clear reason or consensus on the treatment for this recent crisis. Which is frustrating and scary for all of us. It is a clear reminder that despite all of the amazing medical advances we currently have there are still times when things can't be "fixed" right away. In the age of instant gratification and robots (have I mentioned that there are robots in the hospital that deliver prescriptions...going room to room, up elevators...like the Jetsons)...in a time when things seem so modern and advanced, there is still so much that is unknown. In addition to struggling with the continuing uncertainty, I am also struggling with seeing my dad in such a weak state. I also admit to feeling uncomfortable in the ICU. There are alarms going off all the time. There are procedures that make my dad uncomfortable and that makes me cringe and want to leave the room. None of it feels natural or right to me. It's just not where my dad should be. He should be in the middle of a rice field painting. He should be in middle of Grant Street drawing and dancing the night away. He should be sitting on the porch surrounded by his grandkids, his dogs, and his cats. And that is what he desperately wants so much right now, too. He has a clipboard which he writes messages to us and today he wrote to several of us that he just wants to be back in Louisiana. He has also written several times that he will never take a glass of water for granted again. My dad is a fighter. He has overcome a serious bout with cancer. He has changed his diet and lifestyle dramatically to become cancer free for over fifteen years. He has survived neurosurgery and a car accident that should have left him seriously injured. He is a fighter and he is doing everything he can to win this fight. Keep the prayers and healing thoughts coming. It brings so much comfort to all of us

Hospital Update 4/19/08

April 19, 2008

It has been a rocky couple of days. My dad was placed back on the ventilator for the past two days and then taken off yesterday afternoon. Seemed to be stable. Taken off the vent and then placed back on again last night. This is such a scary time for all of us. Please continue to keep him in your prayers and thoughts. It is hard to see someone who is usually so vibrant and energetic struggling to breathe. My sisters are here and it is good to have us all together. Yesterday was my 35th birthday. It wasn't the birthday I had hoped for...my birthday wish was for some dramatic improvement. Just isn't happening. Adam has been such a big support for all of us. I know he is exhausted between spending every minute in the ICU...intrepreting for us, meeting with the staff, on the phone with specialists,etc. We have all been taking shifts with the kids and yesterday some amazing women from my on-line book club took the kids for the day (and also suprised me with birthday pastries and gifts...thank you Corinne, Kellie, and Cami). We appreciate all of the continued support and prayers. I'll try to update the blog now that we have internet access in the hotel.

More Prayers Please

April 16, 2008

We are headed up to Maryland. My dad is back in the ICU. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Orange creations

One of the big benefits of having less "stuff" around is that it creates time and space for more creativity. In addition to exploring our new surroundings, the kids and I have been drawing, crafting, and creating new things every day. The above is a needle felted bag I made for my sister's birthday. I have been wanting to try needle felting for a long time and I found it very enjoyable...great way to relieve tension by basically repeatedly piercing the felt with a barbed needle, but not so fun if you pierce your thumb! The other orange creation is Noah's "Beetlebop" shirt. Noah is a champion "Beetlebopper" (that's what we call VW bugs in our family)...he can spy one before any of us do and it has become a big part of our recent car trips. In addition to spying them he has been drawing them a lot lately and wanted me to make a Beetlebop shirt for him. So we collaborated. He drew a "Beetlebop train" on the t-shirt using a fabric fade marker and I embroidered over his drawing.


April 15, 2008

I saw this on the wall of an empty building in Charleston. It struck me because it is an on-going debate I have with myself (and Adam). Those of you who have known me for a long time know that I am a pack rat and I come from a long line of professional pack rats. I am not a big shopper, but I am a big "saver". I tend to create piles and nests of things that I might one day use for a project or articles/letters/photos that I might one day organize or re-read. I hold onto sentimental clothing items. And I pick things up from the curbs on garbage day...an old stool that I might one day re-paint, a lamp that just needed a new shade, outdoor climbing structure etc.

This pack ratting can cause problems...tripping over the "nests" on my side of the bed, trying to locate one of the many things I have saved, and occasional "discussions" with Adam about why this or that needs to be saved. One of the best things that has ever happened to me is marrying Adam. For many reasons, but one critical one is that with his military obligation comes the mandatory moves every three years. It is a pain to move every three years, but thank goodness we do because it forces me to go through my pack rat nests and whittle them down. And each time I do, I feel better and I swear that I won't accumulate so much stuff in our next house, but I do. I can't help it. I think it must be a genetic condition.

The frequent moves are a good way for cutting down on too much long term stuff. And our frequent travels are also good for me. Each time we travel I comment to myself and to Adam...wow, isn't this nice....we don't have piles of stuff everywhere, we don't have mounds of laundry because we only have enough clothing for five days, we don't have tons of toys because the kids don't really need them. And the same goes for our current living situation. Here we are living in a house for a month with one bag of library books, one large tin of tinker toys, one baby doll, paint, markers, paper, bikes, and beach buckets...and we are content, happy, and fairly clutter free. Now that doesn't mean things don't get a little messy each day, but it is so much easier to clean up when there is less stuff to start with. This isn't a new lesson for me, but it is one I think I will need over and over again. When we get back home I am resolved to attack my "piles" of stuff.

More Charleston Views

April 14, 2008

The Aquarium had some wonderful exhibits, but our favorite was the salt marsh which was set up on their rooftop. Specatular views of the bridge, river, sailboats, dolphins and some very close encounters with herons, turtles, and crabs. A wonderful place to learn more about coastal South Carolina.
View of Patriot's Point and the Yorktown from the Aquarium
Home located on the Battery...beautiful walk along the waterfront.


A great weekend escape to Charleston. Grand houses, gardens, and spring every where. We started off Saturday with lunch at the Farmer's Market...yummy crepes while listening to live bluegrass music...they even dedicated a song to Camille (she charmed the fiddler while they were warming up). Then a trip to the Yorktown Aircraft Carrier at Patriot's Point. This was very exciting for Noah. Followed by dinner and a musical production of "Frog and Toad". A very busy first day. Sunday was spent walking around the city, playing in the park, riding the trolley, and visiting the Aquarium. And we ended both days with a stop at Paola's Gelato shop which was conviently located next to our hotel...makes us hope we get orders to Italy someday.

Hunting Island

April 11, 2008

Yesterday we had a great afternoon adventure on Hunting Island...an amazing state park. After a beautiful drive through the marsh we entered a thick forest of palm trees, oaks, and pines which then opened up onto a pristine beach...no condos, no cars, nothing but stunning beach views, crashing waves, and salty ocean scents.

Yellow wild flowers blooming in the marsh leading out to the ocean

Noah and Camille hunting for hermit crabs and shells

And we didn't quite know what to make of this sign that was posted in the middle of the beach.

Family Travel Tips #2

April 10, 2008

Air Travel
With our recent flights still fresh in my mind...here are a few lessons we have learned. On this most recent trip, I came to the realization that flying across the country on a domestic flight is far worse than any international flight. I am shocked by how things have changed. There is an additional charge for everything...to curbside check bags, to buy pitiful "snack packs" during the flight, to watch a movie, etc. Next time I am packing my own toilet paper because I am sure that on future flights there will be a charge for that, too. International flights are long and get old quick, BUT at least there is food, entertainment, and pillows (although those are kind of gross if you think about it for too long).

So our tips for surviving air travel (in addition to carrying lots of cash) are:
1) Pack lots of interesting snacks (lollipops and fruit gummies are good for take off and landing, but chocolate is not a good in-flight snack because it can very messy!)

2) Dental floss and buckles keep toddlers happy (seriously both of our kids have spent more time with these two items or similar "real" things instead of the numerous toys we packed)

3) Wrap all toys in tissue paper (everything is more exciting and festive when wrapped, right?) and hand out travel "presents" (doesn't need to be new toys) throughout the trip

4) Ipod loaded with music and movies

5) Blank sketchbooks, crayons, and markers with attached lids, small magnadoodles are good, and light weight paper back books or fabric books

6) Finger puppets or barf bag puppets for some in-flight entertainment

7)This makes traveling with car seats so much easier (really does work well)

8) Always pack extra wipes, extra clothes and extra diapers. We were reminded of this lesson last summer.

9) Be sure to do lots of running between flights and see if the airport has any kids play areas. Seems that a lot of international terminals (especially in Asia) have indoor kid spaces (Taipei, Seoul, Okinawa are some good ones that come to mind). Haven't come across too many in domestic airports (but a mama can dream, right?)
10) Don't forget to pack extra patience, humor, antibacterial hand gel, dark chocolate, Advil and Benadryl!

Fishy Art

Noah isn't the only one drawing these days. We have a little "beach" area on the edge of the marsh a few blocks from our house. Camille is not usually a beach fan but she felt very comfortable here (probably the lack of significant waves) and she very quickly found a special black rock and an oyster shell which she used for drawing all over the sand. Reminded me of how primal drawing can be...those early cave drawings... no fancy supplies needed just imagination and a desire to create and leave one's mark. And speaking of art. We had an experience yesterday that made me mad. When we arrived here last week I was excited to discover a children's art studio around the corner. We stopped by one night and Noah asked to take a class. So yesterday was his first class. I hung around for a bit while they got started and found myself wanting to grab him and run out of the studio. The medium for the day was watercolor. But the teacher started the class by drawing a sea scene on each child's paper and then instructed them to trace over her lines with a black crayon before painting within the lines with the watercolors. Ugh. I am not a fan of coloring books, but especially not in an art "class"! Poor Noah was so nervous about putting the right colors in the right area because the teacher told him the seaweed should be green, the sand should be brown, etc. I couldn't keep my mouth shut and in a loud voice I told him there wasn't a right or wrong way to paint the scene. Luckily he listened to me, relaxed, and proceeded to paint a very detailed "camouflaged" fish. He had fun and he came home and added another layer to the painting with markers, but the experience left me feeling so sad that this is what an "art class" is for some people. I also felt ripped off...why did I pay money for that experience?! Here's the finished piece:


April 8, 2008

The good news is that my dad's surgery went very well. Thank you for the prayers, positive thoughts, and kind words. He will be in the ICU for the next few days recovering and hopefully all will continue to go well. The scary news of the day was that my sister called to say she was in "lockdown" in her college dorm because there was a gunman on her campus. Turrns out it was just a student with a "foam" gun playing in some sort of crazy zombie game...guess that "game" will no longer be allowed on campus. Very relieved tonight that my dad and my sister are doing well. Thank you again for all of the support and prayers.

Prayers and Thoughts

My dad is having open heart surgery today in Maryland. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. I am sitting here in South Carolina wishing I was there.


April 7, 2008

I just came across this post I wrote a year ago. What a difference a year makes. Noah is now consumed with drawing. He especially loves drawing with fine point pencils or pens. During our recent trip to Portland he filled an entire sketchbook in about four days (200 pages) with detailed drawings of vehicles...real and imaginary. Noah has also become very interested in making his own books which I "bind" by sewing the pages together on the sewing machine. One of the recent favorites was a book about a bottle of ketchup on wheels...that went to Aunt Lili for her birthday. This is a preview of his newest book which is a birthday present for his Aunt Emee.

8 Years

April 6, 2008

8 years of marriage. 8 years of happiness, adventures, challenges, and partnership. 8 years ago today we stood under a beautiful chuppa surrounded by our closest friends and family members. 8 wonderful years. Happy Anniversary!

Family Travel Tip #1

April 4, 2008

As you guys know, we travel a lot. Part of it is work-related for Adam, part of it is our love of travel, and part of it is that our children are still young enough that it is easy to pick up and go (well, not always easy but a little more flexible since they are in preschool). When we lived in Japan we traveled as much as possible and we started to do homestays during our trips. We loved doing the homestays because we got a very personal look at life in different Asian countries. We learned about daily life (like how kim chee is made in Korea), ate "real" food, met new friends, and got some great recommendations for local sites and restaurants. We would usually spend part of our trip in a homestay and part in a hotel...both were very different ways to experience a place.

Once we returned to the U.S. as a family of four, we quickly realized that we missed the space and the flavor of the homestay experience. After doing some on-line searching we started renting houses/apartments during our travels instead of hotels. We primarily use VRBO or HomeAway websites to find our accomodations. In the past year we have had some amazing experiences by doing this...a historic home home in old part of Savannah, waterfront cottage in Bainbridge Island, beach houses in Tybee Island and Hilton Head, a cute cottage in Portland, and now our current place in South Carolina.

We have found that we get some great deals at the last minute because the homeowners would rather have their homes filled than sitting empty...so often the cost of an entire house is the same cost as a hotel room in a non-descript hotel. We e-mail the owners directly to discuss price and get more details about places we are considering. We end up getting a fully stocked kitchen, bedrooms, yard, and best of all a real taste of local life. We try to meet the neighbors and get recommendations for local spots. We try to find a place within walking or biking distance to restaurants and shops. And I am happy to say we have only had positive experiences!

Our current house is especially wonderful because of the setting...on the edge of a marsh, but just a block from the main street of town, next door to a seafood restaurant where the shrimp boats unload every afternoon on the dock, the house feels like a tree house perched in the live oaks, and we have already become friends with the neighbors. I promise I am not getting any money from VRBO or Home Away sites, but seriously - I can not sing their praises loud enough. It is a great way for families to travel. Just thought I would share one of our survival methods for traveling with young children (and also since a couple of you had questions about the house).

To be expected

April 2, 2008

Our first destination yesterday was the local library where we purchased our visitor's card to use for the month. We happily headed towards the children's area and started hunting. All was going well until Camille got hungry and demanded to eat in the library. I was in the midst of checking our books out when her demands turned into a full fledged tantrum that culminated in her rolling on the ground screaming at the top of her lungs "poopybutt" over and over and over again. The situation was not helped any by the librarian who seemed to be moving as slow as molasses and by Noah who started yelling "Mama, she's calling you a poopybutt, make her stop". I could not get us out of that library fast enough (tantrums sound even more dramatic in quiet libraries with everyone staring!)

I know I shouldn't be suprised. Tantrums are part of being two. Expecting to have needs met immediatedly is also part of toddlerhood. But the "potty talk" is all part of being a second child. She wouldn't have had those lovely words to yell at me if she had received some training from her big brother.

It took her quite awhile to calm down from her tantrum but once we got home she very sweetly climbed up in a big chair and started reading her library books to "Baby Julian". This is the stage when I remember thinking Noah was possessed...one minute crazed and the next as if nothing had happpened...now the ride is starting all over again with Mei-Mei.


Yesterday I was finally able to exhale. After several crazy days of insurance people, plumbers, and floor guys the kids and I were finally able to drive up to join Adam in South Carolina. As I was driving I could finally feel my body relaxing. We spotted four rainbows in between rain showers and we had quite a memorable dinner stop. After picking up dinner from McDonald's (which my children call Old McDonald's) at a large truck stop, we sat in the parking lot facing a pine forest covered with wisteria...amazing amounts of wisteria. As we were sitting there, a mama hen emerged from the trees followed by several fuzzy baby chicks. The sick part of this sweet little dinner show was as I was sitting there with my two little chicks they were happily munching on chicken nuggets (which after reading Omnivore's Dilemna I swore they would never eat again). The dinner show ended with a serenade from a rooster perched in a tree by our van. Seemed so strange to watch this little nature scene in the midst of a busy truck stop....did the chickens escape from a truck and decide to claim this little patch of forest for their own?

We awoke this morning to sunshine and beautiful marsh views. I am so glad we are here.

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