Our Blessed Chaos

My hubby + a 1st grader + twins in kindergarten + 4 critters..... Yeah it is chaos, but we are blessed!

Today's Verse

I started out the month of April in North Carolina and was thrilled with a beautiful spring.  I took pictures like these in our yard and our neighbor's yard a day or two after the first day of spring...

Our house is in the background and is the view from my bedroom!

It was even warm enough to dig out some shorts!

but then I came to Saskatchewan and apparently travelled back in time to the middle of winter.  We woke up this morning to this...

We knew it was snowing but we didn't know how much because we couldn't even see through most of the windows!

All the snow was gone when we got here about a week ago.  This is all fresh snow!!

I am thinking it will be at least a couple days before I can drive my van!

This is at least a 4 foot drift!

maybe I should have packed more than raincoats and rubber boots?

and I had to exchange my flipflops for Papa's snowboots!
We were all dressed up and ready to go out into the snow storm...

We were not out very long, it took us longer to get dressed than we were outside. 
They were not impressed with being out in a snow storm!
 Oh and yes, I did check the calendar and it is in fact April 30.  So nope, not time travel just a reminder that anything can happen with the weather in Saskatchewan!  And yep I am really missing North Carolina right about now...

I have not posted for a couple days because there has not been much change with my dad.  He was taken off of the breathing machine on Tuesday and has been breathing fine and has not been in any pain.  His meals have been slowly changing from clear fluids to this evening he had a sandwich.  Progress!!!

He has also been getting some strength back, although this is a very slow.  When I was there on Thursday he managed to pick up a glass and take a drink of water and put the glass back down without any assistance.  When he put it down he kind of smirked and said whew that was a pretty big job.  I laughed and said yes indeed it was.  Of course what you don't know is that there is a family joke about pretty big jobs and being pretty busy - and it would take too long to explain and wouldn't be nearly as funny so I won't bother you with it.  The point is that his sense of humor is there and we are seeing him come back.  At one point he was even humming along to a song on the radio. 

The downside is that many of his comments are kind of strange and he is often very confused. According to the nurses he is suffering from sleep deprivation and one nurse even called it ICU-itis.  At this point we are praying that they can find a good medication to help him get a few nights of good restful sleep and the confusion will go away. 

Today was a really good day with a great big step in the right direction.  My mom and I have been taking turns going to the hospital and today was my day.  I got to dad's room early in the afternoon and he was awake but still on the ventilator.  His nurse told me that they were waiting for the doctor and then they would take the breathing tubes out. 

This particular nurse is one of our favorites and I had some good phone conversations with him while I was still in North Carolina.  Anyway, I was somewhat amused by his obvious impatience with the doctor!  Well, he soon cornered the doctor and I was kicked out for quite awhile.  When I returned the breathing tubes were gone and he was only using a breathing mask.  This mask provided him with moist air as his throat and vocal cords would be sore for awhile.

For the next couple of hours he was on this mask and he could have ice chips.  His voice was very raspy and even though he tried to talk a little it was very hard to understand him.  Later they took the mask away and he was put on oxygen with just the nasal prongs.  Then we could understand him a little better and his voice was coming back a bit more. 

Soon his gourmet supper arrived - juice and blue jello!  I know my dad well enough to know that jello of any kind would not be appealing.  However, we joked that because Papa had blue jello that the kids would be wanting blue jello and he agreed with that!  He ate some of the jello but was more interested in the juice and kept asking for ice water. 

He had been completely sedated for an entire week and so he is still very weak and it is going to take quite some time for him to get strength back, but today was a huge step in the right direction.  And I when I was about to leave I said "I Love You Papa" and then I heard the 5 most wonderful words ever "I Love You Too Sweetheart".   Precious, precious words indeed!

Today was another good day for my dad.  He was off of sedation and breathing on his own longer than yesterday.  This is very good progress and they are thinking about taking the breathing tube out soon!

When my mom left this evening they were sedating him again for the night so that he can get some good rest.  Maybe the tubes will come out as early as tomorrow.  Now that would be a huge blessing!

Today was Easter Sunday, so the kids were excited that the Easter Bunny came.  Then we went to church and after lunch I went up to the hospital.  When I arrived the nurse told me that my dad was breathing on his own.  The ventilator was providing some support but essentially he was breathing on his own and that was fantastic news.  While I was there they stopped the sedation drugs so that he would wake up.  That took some time and he was pretty groggy the whole time I was there, but imagine how you would feel after being sedated into a coma for nearly a week!!

Once the sedation wore off a bit he was able to respond to commands and wiggled his toes and squeezed our hands.  Of course he could not talk to us because of the tubes in his throat, but he was able to move his head to answer yes or no questions.  He shook his head no when asked if he was in pain.  I don't know if he knew it was me talking to him or if he thought it was just another nurse, but he did respond to some of the things I said to him.  It was a busy afternoon and I stayed much longer than I had intended and even missed the steak my brother barbequed for supper.  If you don't know my brother, then you have missed out on some fantastic cooking.  I have no cooking skills because he got all of them!  So I was slightly bummed that I missed that but I also was not about to leave the hospital while my dad was awake.

Anyway, after a couple of hours his breathing became more labored and the numbers were starting to get out of the ranges they wanted to see.  They decided to sedate him again and put him back on the breathing machine.  They were pleased with the progress he made, but his lungs still need more rest.  He will rest through the night and will be woken up again tomorrow.

Another bit of information... my cousin is an xray tech at the hospital my dad is in, and she has not been doing this job very long.  However, she knew at some point she would have to xray someone that she knew and who was very, very sick.  I cannot imagine how she managed to do it but she did and I am pretty sure she will have to xray him again tomorrow.  If you know her please give her an extra big hug for what she does.  Not only is it a very hard thing to see but would be even harder to do your job when it is someone you know and love...

A couple weeks ago my mom called to tell me that my dad had been admitted into the hospital in the small town where they live.  He had not been feeling well, had no appetite and was in a lot of pain for a couple days.  So on a Monday he went to the doctor and was sent over to the hospital to be admitted.

***A quick disclaimer!  Some of this information is second and third hand and even many days old.  Much has occurred in these last couple of weeks so I may not have the terminology correct or even the dates.  I certainly have no medical training and don't have a clue about most of it, other than what we are being told.  However, the purpose of me even posting this information is because there are so many people who care about my dad and our family that we cannot possibly keep everyone up to date on a daily basis except through this blog.  My prayer is that WHEN my dad recovers he will not strangle me for doing this!!!***

A diagnosis of pancreatitis was soon determined and the treatment/testing was to do several blood tests to determine what the pancreas was doing and how the digestive enzymes were functioning. As this was going on the fluids in his body were building up. This went on for most of the week until he was tranferred to the hospital in the next biggest town for more testing and with increased pain and now a fever.

After a couple days in this hospital his condition continued to deteriorate as the fluids continued to build up, including fluid in his lungs.  He was having more trouble breathing and was on oxygen.  One evening his breathing became very labored and his heart rate went really high and was irregular.  That got him a pretty fast trip to ICU.  However, after a couple hours the medication worked and his heart rate was back down and his breathing was much better. 

Over the next couple of days there was improvement and seemed that he was improving, enough so that I had decided not to make the 2000 mile trip home.  But then on Saturday they determined that there was some pnemonia in his lung and went downhill very quickly from there.  By Monday night he was completely sedated into a medically induced coma and placed on ventilator. 

They are now saying that not only is there pnemonia in his lungs but they have used the term ARDS or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.   Basically the breathing machine and the sedation are so that his body and lungs have a chance to rest and recover.  For the last couple of days they have slowly been trying to wean him off of the ventilator and bringing him out of sedation.  He needs to be breathing on his own and fully alert before they can take him off of the ventilator.  We have no idea at this point how long, or even if that will happen.   All we can do is pray.

My trip...
So I am sure that you are wondering about that 2000 mile trip home that I mentioned earlier.  Well, it is about a 5 day trip from our house in North Carolina to my hometown in Saskatchewan.  Certainly not a trip that you can make without a bit of planning - both if travelling by vehicle or by flying. 

The first week or so that my dad was in the hospital was not overly concerning.  Certainly not to the point where I felt I needed to rush home.  Although, for lack of a better description, it really really sucks to be so far away in such a situation.  Then the night that he was put into ICU was the night that I suddenly felt the need to be home.  But it is just not that easy to get home.  Flying is very expensive and driving takes 5 days.  On top of that Sam's passport was expired.  Although I soon learned that if we were travelling by vehicle he could cross the border with only a copy of his birth certificate.

The couple of days after he was sent to ICU were more positive and I made the decision that I would not go home at that point.  Besides the 5 day drive I knew that hubby would have to be away for work for a few days at a time so there were the critters to take care of - two dogs, the new puppy, the cat, and the 19 chickens still in my living room!!!  So with my dad improving I was comfortable not going.  Until the next day when they found pnemonia.  I started to pack and left Monday morning, which was the same day he was put on the ventilator and I was wishing I had left on Saturday when I originally had planned.

Anyway, I was on the road and headed home.  It was an interesting trip but the most amazing was how well the kids did.  Of course there was complaining and fighting over toys, but generally they settled into the routine of driving and making short stops.  The first couple of days I also stopped at Walmart (love GPS) and they each got a new toy, including Leapster and Tag, which made it possible to switch toys throughout the day.  However, the most exciting part of the day for them was stopping at the hotel rooms!

However, it was not a trip without problems! 

Day 1
I was only 10 miles from home when I blew the fuse to plug in the cooler.  So now we had no cooler to keep milk and drinks cold.  Thankfully our van has 2 plugins so I was still able to have the GPS.  Later that day I realized that I had forgotten to bring my debit cards and Canadian credit cards, not a serious problem - just inconvenient and will cost me more in bank fees...sigh...

Day 2
Driving through West Virginia was beautiful and the kids were so excited to see mountains!  They were bouncing in their seats yelling things like "OOOHHH mountains!  OHHH look at that one!  WOW that is the hugest mountain we have ever seen.  Oh Mama this is the bestest adventure ever!"  Hahaha
Then it started to rain and rain and rain.  It rained through the entire state of Ohio and most of Indiana!  Close to the end of the day we were fairly close to Chicago and I wanted to be on the other side of the city so that I did not have to fight traffic in the morning.  Great plan until it the torrential rains started.  Not great driving conditions! I didn't even want to take my hands off the wheel to try to find a hotel, so I just stayed in my lane and drove and tried not to jump to much when the thunder cracked!

Day 3
Wasn't long and we were in Wisconsin and it started to snow.  Our first stop that morning was a bit uncomfortable as I was having to walk through slushy snow in my flip-flops!  I knew where my other shoes were - at the bottom of my suitcase under a bunch of other stuff!  It would take too long to dig them out standing there in snow in my flip-flops - I kept driving!  By the time we got through Minnesota I was wondering where all the flooding was and if we would be in that path.  We did see some flooded fields but there were no road closures and we made it to Grand Forks that night.

Day 4
A few miles into the day and we were detoured off the interstate due to flooding.  The kids kept asking me "Is that the ocean?  Can we go swimming?"  Entire fields were completely under water!  Soon we were at the border crossing and after answering many questions - I can't remember all of them, but here is a sample of the questions he asked me...
"How many are travelling with you?" - my three children
"I need you to open that side door" - ok (so I did)
"Why are you coming to Canada" - Dad is in the hospital
"Where do you live?" - North Carolina
"You are Canadian?" - yes
"Your children are US citizens?" - yes
"Is their father travelling with you?" - no (and I gave him the notarized letter from hubby stating his knowledge and permission for me to travel out of the country with our children - sheesh)
"Who owns this van?" - I do
"Why do you live in North Carolina and have California plates?" - husband is military.  
"Why do only 2 of your children have passports?" - one is expired.
"Where is this one's original birth certificate?"  - with the passport application
"How long are you staying" - I have no idea (which raised his eyebrows and I got quite a look so I quickly added) - it will depend on what happens with my dad.
"Longer than 2 days?" - yes
"Drive safely ma'am"

whew!  We got in!!!  I grabbed my phone to call hubby and friends who were praying that we would get in.  As soon as I crossed into Manitoba I had no cell coverage!  I now had to drive all the way to Saskatchewan before anyone would know that I was actually still driving and not detained at the border!  I did find a payphone to call hubby but who knows what that will cost.

A few hours later I got to Saskatchewan and was able to use my phone again.  And a short time later we  finally arrived at Papa & Mimi's house.  I phoned the hospital to get an update on my dad and then talked to my mom.  Of course she had no idea we were coming - no need for her to worry about us!! So I asked when she would be home and told her that there was a special delivery waiting for her.  She thought I sent flowers or something!  HAHA you can imagine her shock when she walked in to see three little kids saying HI MIMI!!

My good friend Melissa introduced me to the concept of grinding your own grain to get freshly ground flour. I have been making homemade bread for quite some time now. But with all the ooh's and ahh's I get and the comments such as "Oh, I could never do that", I thought it was time to do a post on how I make bread.  I am sure that it will take me longer to create this post than it did to make these two loaves of bread!

Start with 3 1/2 teaspoons of yeast. 

Then two cups of water.  This looks like more than 2 cups, but really it is actually 2 cups.
 There is some optical illusion that happened with my camera that I could not seem to overcome. 

The water needs to be quite warm, about 90-110 degrees F. 
Just the right temperature in my microwave is a bit over a minute.

Meanwhile, a minute is about all you need to scoop out 4 cups of wheat. 
I prefer hard white for bread.
Dump the warm water into the yeast.  It needs to sit for a few minutes so the yeast can proof. 
So I let it sit there proofing away while I do the next few steps. 
Or if you are a preschooler then you would say POOF everytime the yeast expands!
Then turn on the grain mill and dump in the 4 cups of wheat.  It is quite loud when you first turn it on so if you have small children then you should give them a "BIG NOISE" alert because if you forget then you will scare them.  And I have not found a good way to make bread and deal with screaming children.
And, yes, I leave my mill set on the finest setting even for bread. 

While the yeast is proofing and the grain is grinding I pour 1/2 cup of oil.

On top of the oil I pour 1/2 cup of honey.
By now the grain mill has done its job - yes it truly only takes a few minutes to grind the grain!

And the yeast is done proofing so I add 2 teaspoons of salt.

Pour in the oil and honey.

Add 3 cups of flour. 
This flour is super fluffy so I tend to pack it down in the cup a bit.
Then turn on the mixer.
Meanwhile I get my sink ready to wash dishes and by the time I have the water ready...

the flour is all mixed in and it is nice and smooth.
Then add in a heaping teaspoon of dough enhancer. 
The directions say a tablespoon, but I figure a heaping teaspoon is close enough.

and add two more cups of flour.
At this point I change the beater to the dough hook and let it mix for a minute until all the flour is mixed in.

The dough is starting to form, but it is still way to sticky so we have to add more flour!
I have never measured how much I add, but my best guess is about a 1/4 cup at a time.

My mixer has a timer on it, so at this point I set it for 15 minutes. 
This is enough time to get the dough into a ball and for the mixer to do enough kneading.

After the flour has mixed in, if it is still sticking to the sides I add a bit more flour.
Sometimes when I stop to add more flour I also scrape the sides

or sometimes I will push the dough off the dough hook.
I don't know why, just something that I do

Finally you will get a ball of dough that does not stick to the sides anymore.
Then I let the mixer do the kneading until the 15 minutes is up.
I put any leftover flour into a ziploc bag and store in the freezer.
I often use this flour for making waffles or muffins.

I also turn on the oven light to make it nice and warm in the oven.
Then while I am waiting for the mixer to finish I am doing the dishes. 
When the mixer is done I form the dough into a ball and put it into a bowl. 

Then the whole bowl goes into the oven.  Do not put this kind of bowl into a preheated oven!
The only warmth is from the oven light. It needs to rise until double, so I usually set the timer for 1 hour 45 minutes.

Up to this point I have spent maybe half an hour in the kitchen. Yep thats it, only half an hour to mix the dough and do the dishes!

This is the ball after 1 hour and 45 minutes.  I punch it down and knead it slightly before cutting it in half.

Form the two halves into basic loaf shapes and back into the oven to rise again, which should take about 1 hour 20 minutes. I also cover the pans with a dishcloth, don't know why...

After the second rising take the pans out of the oven so you can preheat to 350.
Then the pans go back in to bake for 25-30 minutes.  My oven is best at 29 minutes.

Here are the baked loaves.  Usually I get more rise out of my dough, so I am not sure what happened that day.  Maybe taking all the pictures threw the routine off.

After 10 minutes out of the oven I dump the loaves out of the pans and onto a cooling rack.  The great part about the cooling rack is that it leaves lines on the bottom of the loaf which happen to be perfect guides for cutting just the right thickness of a slice of bread.
So there you go.  A recipe and picture instructions for making homemade bread with freshly ground flour.  If you have a mixer and invest in a grinder and some wheat you can do this too.  I won't even start on the health benefits right now because I need to go have a piece...too bad you can't smell the house when it is baking or taste that end piece when it is still warm enough to melt the butter YUMMM

Because we don't have quite enough to do around here and it is not nearly chaotic enough...we decided to get chickens!  At first it was going to be just a few chickens for eggs, so I put in an order for 8 Rhode Island Reds and hubby started to build a small coop.

Then he said to me one day... "We should have some chickens for meat too." 
To which I said, "then you are gonna need a bigger coop!" 
So we ordered a shed that will be converted into a coop.

When I went to pick up the 8 day-old chicks I ordered, they had some Jersey Giants (which I knew would be great meat birds) that were only about a week old so I got 10 of those.  While they were putting them into a box I asked if they were all hens.
She said "Yes, did you want a rooster?" 
I said "I don't know, do I need a rooster?"  At that point I wasn't planning on getting one..
She said "Well, they are free."
I said "Okay, I will take one!"  So now we have a Barred Rock rooster too!

If you are keeping count, that adds up to 19 chicks.  A very odd number that I am sure drives my hubby crazy!!!  Here they are...aren't they precious?! Yeah precious pooping machines!!!  But that's okay, the cute peeping makes up for it, and soon we will have yummy eggs.  Oh, and we named the black ones, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Nuggets.

Carlee is holding the rooster.  We named him Rocky Roo

awww so sweet and cuddly

until they start flapping those little wings!