Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cameras

My sister loves having a camera at hand.  If there is an event, a planned trip or people visiting, she's often got her camera out.  Back in the day, she would use the Polaroid and then stand there waving the picture while it developed.  She always travels with a camera.


The polaroid went to Colonial Williamsburg.


The trip to Busch Gardens required a disposable 35mm.


While a cookout in the back yard brought out a different 35mm camera.

She documents her life and fills her photo albums with her pictures.  While she has taken some good shots in her life, there are many pictures involving stray fingers intruding on the image.  She also seems to have a knack for capturing the least flattering candids possible.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

9 and 10

There are times when Mom and I, during a Skype session, have to turn to deal with our respective children and their behavior.  Usually, it is one or the other of us.  Sometimes, it is both.


We've taken to using a short-hand communication that we both understand.  Instead of saying "Gee, this person is really bothering me and their behavior is not the best today.  I wish they would just stop right now" or "For the love of God, stop it already!" or something similar,  we often just look at each other and say "...9... and 10."

We both have special needs children who have behavior issues despite their vast age differences.  So, in many ways, we are able to empathize with each other.  As all parents know, some days are more trying than others.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Her Food Preferences

As Lyn has gotten older, she has limited the number of foods that she will willingly eat.  Lyn has no dietary restrictions and no food allergies.  She does, however, have very strong preferences.  This is proving to be a challenge with providing lunches for Lyn's time at day hab.

Last night, Mom and I talked for a while to come up with lunch ideas for Lyn while keeping in mind her food preferences.  For example, Lyn will not eat chicken nuggets but will eat unbreaded, unseasoned chicken tenders.  She will not eat meatballs but she will eat a hamburger.  She does not like mashed potatoes but she will eat boiled potatoes that you squash on her plate with a little butter.  She will not eat kielbasa but she will eat smoked sausage.  Lyn does not like sandwiches, soups, or salads and will only eat them if there is no other option.  She likes pasta, sometimes rice and very occasionally potatoes.  She also doesn't like leftovers.


Her dietary restrictions are contradictory in many ways.  It is just the way she is.  There is no use arguing with her or pointing out that a hamburger is essentially a sandwich, that Cheesy Chicken Chowder is a soup, or that carrot or macaroni salads are in the salad family.

As for the leftovers issue, apparently there is a bit of an option here.  Mom just purchased Lyn a new set of lunch containers.  Mom will be putting food in these containers after dinner so that Lyn can have it for lunch the next day.  The food in these containers is NOT leftovers according to Lyn.

My husband and I take our lunches to work most days.  I rely heavily on leftovers.  It is a good thing that Lyn's new containers lift the leftover restriction because they've asked me to help them come up with ideas for lunches.  Even without this restriction, her food preferences are always a challenge for me.  I'm sure I'll be able to make some suggestions.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Scrapbook

One of the activities that Lyn has done with her speech therapist is to maintain a scrapbook.  Her scrapbook contains pictures, ticket stubs, brochures from places visited as well as a sentence about each item.

I recently spent a chunk of time looking for a picture of my sister that I remembered from a Spring visit a few years ago.  I had forgotten about her scrapbook and was reminded of it when I called Mom to see if she had the picture for which I was looking.  Mom knew of the picture but wasn't sure exactly where it was at the moment.  She turned to Lyn and asked if she happened to know.  Of course!  It was in her scrapbook.

Lyn hastened to her room and pulled out the scrapbook along with the 3 photo albums she maintains.  She flipped to the pages and pulled them out.  Mom scanned them and sent them to me.


Lyn has never let me see her scrapbook.  She has only let me look at one of her photo albums once or twice.  She treasures her photos and frequently looks through them.  She's also been known to rearrange the pictures time and time again.  She has lent me pictures from one of the albums, pictures that she picked and removed.  I was allowed to scan them for use here before returning them to her.

This however, is a bit different.  This image delighted me when I got it in my In Box.  This is a great example of my sister's work.  She would have decided what she wanted to say and asked her therapist to help her spell the words.  When she's working very hard to make sure the words are right, she first puts them down in pencil and then traces that in marker as you can see here.

As Lyn learned to write, she would usually turn to Mom for help.  Mom spent many hours drafting the words Lyn wanted to say in dots or short dashes.  Lyn could then connect the dots to complete the letter.  It didn't matter if Lyn was writing "Happy Birthday" or "Feel better."  Every word was approached in this manner.  There came a time when Mom no longer had to dot out the letters.  Instead, she could call out each letter in slow succession as Lyn wrote them down.   This is what allowed Lyn to help write the week's grocery list, a task she was proud of when she could do it.

There are some words she eventually learned to spell on her own.  She can spell her first name and my last name.  She can write "I love you"and usually does so without punctuation.  Punctuation, after all, is optional to Lyn.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Coconut Oil

A couple of months ago, Mom approached me with an article that a friend had forwarded to her.  It was about coconut oil as a treatment and possible cure for Alzheimer's disease.  I read through it, nosed a bit around the internet and responded to Mom.  I had decided at that time to not write it up here.  However, this week has seen the topic come back up repeatedly.  So, against my initial desire to not weigh in, I am.



Advocates of coconut oil are proclaiming that it provides ketones to the brain as an alternative source of fuel if the brain is unable to use its normal fuel of glucose.  Some have stated that it provided miraculous cures for AIDS.  Some of the other disorders supposedly helped by coconut oil include Parkinson's Disease, ALS, Schizophrenia, herpes, autism and epilepsy.  There are claims that it has anti-cancer effects, weight loss benefits and stimulates the thyroid and is even a poison antidote

Can we stop here?  Do I need to continue with more links that sound more and more like someone's selling something?


Yep.  Sounds like snake oil to me.  What studies have been done to prove this?  None that I could find.  However, our friends at the Mayo clinic have weighed in on the impact to thyroids.  Coconut oil does not stimulate the thyroid and is not a panacea for weight loss.   They do list coconut oil as a type of fat to avoid for a healthy heart.  With the proponents advocating you take up to 3 tablespoons a day of pure fat, I think I'll advocate we not kill my sister with heart disease first.

Additional Information Sources:
Snopes: Coconut Oil claims are Undetermined
How Stuff Works: Coconut Oil

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nature Walk

Earlier this week, Lyn decided that her activity at day hab would be a visit to the Rio Grande Nature Center.

At the Nature Center's entrance
The Nature Center is in the bosque along the Rio Grande there in Albuquerque.  The grounds are extensive  and trails extend for miles along the river.  The paths are well maintained and highly used by walkers, joggers and individuals on bikes each day.

She saw ducks when she went to the observation deck and looked out over the pond.  Lyn was excited to see a police officer patrolling the area in his trucks.  However, she was disappointed to not see any turtles in the pond.  She heard cranes and geese, too.

At the end of the day, she was exhausted.  She wanted to call me because the mittens I had made her arrived but she was struggling to stay awake until dinner time.  It doesn't take much to wear her out anymore and 9 pm is her new bedtime.  Even Thursday's bowling is wearing her out now, too.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gardening

To all who have found this blog though yesterday's post on Metafilter, welcome!  We hope you like what you find and decide to stay a while.

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Lyn will help Mom with her gardening.  It is not her favorite way to help, but she'll do it.


After they moved out of the house with the half acre of grass, Mom wanted a yard the size of a postage stamp.  The previous yard required constant work.  One day a week, you had to flood the lawn and let the water run until you got a couple of inches of standing water.  The next day, you had to let the water finish seeping in.  By the third or fourth day, you had to mow it.  If you didn't do this, the lawn would dry out and turn to dust very quickly.  Unlike Kentucky, New Mexico is not known for lush lawns.

The current house had to use less water and require less work than what they had managed for a decade.  Mom knew what she was after and got it exactly.  Mom maintains the small raised flower bed at the back of the property which Lyn is pictured sitting in above.  The wheel barrow and a bunch of pots round out their current gardening effort.  Mom picked out plants that are well suited for the area and the bed has filled out over the past couple of years.

Once the bed was planted, Lyn decided that she would help water the plants.  She will sometimes offer to do it on her own.  At other times, Mom might ask her to do it.  Either way, Mom now has to check to make sure that all the plants were watered when Lyn's done.

The lawn doesn't count in their yard maintenance efforts.  It is artificial and just requires the occasional vacuuming.  Yes, they sometimes vacuum the lawn.  They have to because they also feed the birds who make quite a mess.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Silver Alert

Last week, Mom enrolled Lyn in the city's new Silver Alert program.  Mom did not take Lyn with her and Lyn does not know she is enrolled.  Knowing about it may actually confuse and upset her.


The Silver Alert program requirements in New Mexico state the registered person must have dementia or another cognitive impairment.  Other states have age requirements in addition to the cognitive impairment requirement.  When Mom explained Lyn's situation no one hesitated to enroll her.  The program employees were very polite, kind and helpful.  They collected Lyn's information and stored it on a jump drive which was given to Mom.  


If Lyn wanders off, Mom will call a specific police phone number.  An officer comes and uses the jumpdrive to begin the search immediately.  After the person is located a bracelet is put on their wrist.  Thereafter, the monitored individual is to check in with the police department monthly to be sure the bracelet is still working.  The bracelet is used if the individual wanders off again.  The police an locate the lost individual the radio transmissions locating the bracelet.


This is a huge relief and assistance to care providers of those with cognitive impairments or dementia.  Of the 22,000 dementia patients in just New Mexico, over half will wander off at some point during their care.


Additional Information:
Wikipedia - Silver Alert

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Converting Cells for Study

I did not know until recently that humans are the only animals known to get Alzheimer's disease.  Apparently, event chimps do not get it.  So, the mice used in the study mentioned last week, had to be genetically altered to mimic the symptoms of the disease even though they really don't get it.

Scientists need to be able to study human brain cells which will develop Alzheimer's disease to really begin to get a better understanding of the cause and progression of the disease.   Acquiring human brain cells for study is problematic.  Cells from a deceased donor will not continue functioning or may be too far damaged by the disease to allow study to reveal the cause of the disease.  Cells from a living donor are problematic because you risk damaging the person's brain.  To acquire viable human brain cells, scientists have started converting human skin cells to stem cells which are then converted into human brain cells.  Donations of skin are coming from individuals who are at high risk for Alzheimer's as well as those who are not.

Amazing!

Additional Information:
Chemical Marker May Predict Cognitive Decline Risk
3-D Microscopy to Aid in Cell Analysis

Monday, February 20, 2012

Taking Care of Herself

Lyn has a very busy schedule now that day hab has been added into the mix.  Aside from day hab, she's still working with her speech therapist, bowling and going out a couple times a week with her respite provider.  They have cut back the hours spent with the respite provider a bit because day hab is going so well for Lyn.


The change in the schedule has opened up about 20 hours a week for Mom.  This is such a welcome change for her.  Mom has decided that she's going to look into activities or exercise classes for herself.  I am thrilled to hear that she's doing this.  While she is technically retired and is very active in her church, she will benefit greatly from the physical activity as well as the social and mental stimulation that she'll get by interacting with others involved in whatever activity or class she enrolls.

Being a full-time caretaker for another person is physically and emotionally draining.  When a parent is tending to a young child, we have the hope that the child will grow and begin taking on independence to help us get through the long days and the nights of interrupted sleep.  When you're caring for a person in the twilight of their life, you don't have that hope to help you through.  You know that your care for this person will only increase until the person is at a point of requiring a nursing home or passes away.  With a child, you can mark developmental milestones which may be met at a fairly consistent rate.  With a declining individual, they may also have milestones but those changes may not come at a pace you can anticipate.  As I write this, I recognize the ever increasing responsibility Mom is taking on and am proud of her for recognizing that she needs to also protect her own physical and emotional health.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Memories Are Interesting

Over 10 years ago, my side of the family had a falling out with another member of the extended family.  As with all such events, at this point, laying blame is irrelevant as both sides of the disagreement bear responsibility for the current state of relations or lack thereof.  The interesting thing in this tale of familial strife is not that it occurred, but that Lyn is currently mourning it.

Earlier this week, as Mom and Lyn got into the car to head out to day hab, Lyn withdrew into herself and became quiet and unwilling to talk.  As they approached the freeway, she was on the verge of tears and was not responding to Mom's attempts to get her to focus on how happy she had been just moments before while playing with Nikka.  She eventually blurted out that she misses members of the above mentioned relative's family.



Now, there was nothing in the morning that brought up this part of our family.  So what caused this?  Based off what we know of memories, something in her brain stimulated the neural pathways that store the memories that evoked the emotional response Mom witnessed.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what triggered it.  In all honesty, I don't always know why a particular memory, good or bad, will pop to the forefront of my thoughts and evoke an emotional response.  The difference here, however, is significant to me.

As individuals with dementia experience more and more loss of neural pathways which have been laid down more recently, they begin to exist in a time of their life which has already passed.  For example, my husband's grandmother had Alzheimer's for over a decade before she passed.  As each year of her disease progressed, her memories of her life seemed to go backwards.  For her, the life experiences she could recall  corresponded to different times in her life.  At one point, she could only recall the first 30 years of her life.  At a later time, she could only remember the first 15 years of her life and so on.

This is what I believe is happening to my sister.  She is grieving an event that happened a decade ago as though it was fresh and just happened this week.  In a way, I hope she is not stuck here for long.  For another person, that would mean that they would move beyond and set the conflict aside.  For my sister, I recognize that what I'm saying means that she may just be loosing the neural pathways that remember this event.  It is a double-edged sword in this case.  I don't want to see my sister upset and know that may mean I'm hoping this particular bit is quickly lost.

Additional Information:
How to Respond to Someone with Alzheimer's Who's Crying

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

She Decided

From Mom:

Out of the blue I was informed that "I don't have Sundowner's."  We weren't talking about anything when this came out about an hour ago.  I asked why she said that and she said  "just because".  I asked if she knew what it was and she said she didn't.  So, I briefly explained.  I asked if she remembered going down to Las Cruces for Special Olympics and would be upset and cry before bed.  Yes, she remembered.  So I said, that was because she wasn't at home where things were familiar.  She would cry as a way to deal with it.  She acknowledged in the morning everything was ok again.

I told her it wasn't something we worry about now that we know why she gets anxious and cries like that.  She said we won't have to worry about her crying because she will just be here.  I agreed that was best for her.

End of discussion.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brain Plaques in Mice

Last week, a news story circulated indicating that initial research has found that a cancer drug can rapidly clear brain protein plaques in mice.  In Alzheimer's patients, beta-amyloid proteins build up in the brain and kill brain cells.  A healthy brain is able to clear these proteins.  It is thought that reducing the plaques could potentially slow the progression of Alzheimer's.

The body will continue to produce the plaques.  So, any treatment will have to be recurring to be effective.  Additionally, the treatment may not work on humans and human testing will be needed to make that determination.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Swings

Lyn likes to swing.  If there is a playground with a swing set, she's been known to spend hours just swinging.

When she was a toddler, our parents had a swing chair in the house.  It was the early 1970's, after all.  Lyn would sit in the chair.  Instead of swinging to and fro, she preferred to be spun in a circle.  Our father would twist up the chair and let it go.  She loved it!  They would do this over and over.  No matter how much they spun her around, she didn't get dizzy.  You could spin her several times, take her out of the chair and she could walk straight ahead without falling or careening.

She also loved being held upside down by her ankles.  Our father would do that for her as well.  Being upside down for extended periods did not make her dizzy either.

When she started pre-school, the staff there commended our parents for these activities saying that they helped push blood into her brain.



She will still swing today though it might take a little encouragement.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Very Clever

Mom took Lyn to the circus on Sunday.  Their tickets were a gift from the local Shriner's again.

Their program
They left the house early to get there because they live on the opposite side of town.  Plus, Mom figured it might be easier on my sister to get there before a press of people at the door.  They found a parking spot right near the entrance to Tingley Coliseum which was the venue for the show.  They were in and seated within minutes and Lyn was comfortable and happy.



The three rings of the circus were kept busy at all times during the show.  Lyn, of course, loved the clowns.



After each act, Lyn would declare that it was "very clever."  It didn't matter if it was the tigers, the jugglers or the arial acts.  They were all very clever. 

Lyn tells me that her favorite performance was the trapeze.  She told her speech therapist that her favorite was the motorcycles in the Ball of Death.  Either way, Lyn was excited to be at the circus.  Her excitement helped keep her comfortable despite the large crowd.  The early arrival and then waiting a bit before departure kept Lyn out of the mass passing through the doors which also helped.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Water Water Everywhere

When Mom was pregnant with me, Lyn was just two and still non-verbal.  Impulse control did not exist.  They lived in Alabama, having been stationed at Red Stone Arsenal.

One summer day, they took a picnic to a grassy area near the river.  Lyn was fascinated with the water and kept wanting to get into it.  Mom was 8 months pregnant and was unable to move quickly.  Our father and a buddy wanted to go fishing and were not planning to stay with Mom.  Mom pointed out to the guys that there was a problem.  Lyn needed hands-on care to be kept out of the river for her own safety.

The men contemplated the situation and came up with a solution.  From the trunk, they pulled out a length of nylon parachute cord.  They cut off a length of cord.  One end was gently tied around Lyn's waist.  The other was tied around the tree.  Lyn had at least 15 feet of cord to walk around and play.  Mom set the blanket at the base of the tree and settled in for the afternoon.

While they were setting up, two MP's drove by and waved.  After the men went down to the river to fish, the MP's happened back by, waved again and stopped about 10 feet down the road.  They threw the jeep into reverse and quickly came back.

"Ma'am, you cannot tie that child to a tree." One of the MP's called out to Mom as they hopped out of the jeep.  Mom pointed out that if Lyn wasn't secured, she'd bolt for the river and Mom couldn't catch her.

As Mom was speaking to one, the other untied Lyn.  The whole time, he was telling her to stay with her Mom, to not run to the river and to be a good girl.  Lyn nodded her head as she always did when people spoke to her.  As soon as the cord was untied, she sprinted for the river.  The MP was stunned and barely caught her before she fell in.

He brought her back and went through his speech.  The other MP and Mom watched as he tried again to reason with her.  As soon as he let go, she was off like a shot again.  Once more he caught her and brought her back.  The warnings were issued a third time, more sternly this time.  Lyn continued to smile and nod.  He let go and had to scramble to get her before she was swept away.

This time, upon returning to the tree, he tied the cord gently back around her waist.  The MP's told Mom to enjoy her afternoon and they drove off.  They reported the incident to their superior officer who happened to be Mom's neighbor.  He was familiar with Lyn and the family situation.

Lyn has always been attracted to the sound of running water.  It was evident as a toddler and it is evident as an adult.

The Spirit of Norfolk
When I used to live in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Lyn wanted to see the water or the boats each time she visited.  We always accommodated that desire because we knew she wouldn't throw herself in the water.

Norfolk's Waterside

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ft. Union

Every couple of years, Mom likes to head out to the ruins of Ft. Union as one of their day trips.  Lyn does not like that location for a day trip.  She tolerates it because she is getting out (a daily requirement) and she knows she'll be home before sunset.

Picking a rock out of her shoe

Ft. Union is out in the middle of nowhere.  The nearest food, gas or lodging is about 29 miles South or 54 miles North.  The ruins, which encompass three forts of the same name, are a three hour drive from Albuquerque.

The trip, due to the wonderful weather in New Mexico, usually involves a picnic lunch, a sunny day, a bit of breeze and those intoxicating New Mexican skies.  What's not to like?


Apparently, a lot.  Don't let the glasses fool you.  She's giving The Look.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day Hab Week 1

The first week of day hab has ended and it has been a resounding success.  Lyn likes the staff.  Lyn likes the other clients and the possibilities for the activities she can choose from.  She's come home each day happy but tired.  Her activities for the week included:

Monday - Bowling - score 85
Tuesday - Made Valentines cookies and walked the mall
Wednesday - Bowling - score 95
Thursday - Watched the airplanes land and take off at the airport viewing area
Friday - Went to a dollar movie

The day hab staff are starting a daily log to record Lyn's activities.  Lyn will be asked to decorate it.  She's very excited.  Aside from noting her daily activities, they will note her behavior and her responses to various events.

After Thursday's time at day hab, Lyn had her regularly scheduled bowling.  As you can see from her scores, she's not always consistent.  Thursday's scores were pretty tightly grouped.  She was on and it was a good day.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mom's Bucket List

From Mom:

My bucket list thoughts:  Two years ago, when we went to Christmas on the Pecos, I said "this was on my bucket list."  Lyn informed me that I couldn't have a bucket list, even though she didn't know what that meant.  

At the time I laughed.  Now, with this twist in her life I will listen to her.  I don't have a bucket list.  She is my sole focus.  I know I cannot travel except for day trips.  I know I cannot do what I want because her safety and well-being come first.

Lyn and Mom - July 2009


This doesn't make me sad, really.  I have tried to live life by knowing whatever I am dealing with I can look around and see people dealing with much worse.  So much in life is mind over matter.  I can think of other reasons for a pity party and this isn't one of them.

I am thankful to live in this great country, in this Land of Enchantment.  I am thankful for each of my children.  They have all made me proud for various reasons like the fact that no one has done drugs or had run ins with the police.  They all are productive citizens and have good work ethics.  They are kind, thoughtful and helpful to less fortunate.  What more could a mother want?  I am blessed. 

Perhaps I've finished my bucket list and didn't realize it.  I've traveled, met interesting people and eaten good food.  Perhaps some day, a few years from now, I can re-think the list.  But for now, it's just a day-to-day plan.

If, dear reader, this makes you sad, please don't be.  I understand things in this blog have brought tears to your eyes.  Please don't cry.  Our life is happy, our life is and has been productive.  Looking back, I wouldn't have done anything differently.  I am strong and independent because of this.  

There is ONE thing I want to do, need to do in the dementia travels.  I am determined to shed light on early on-set dementia for the intellectually challenged.  I'm not quite sure how this will happen but it will.  My stubborn German/Irish personality will do it.  Perhaps I can speak to a few people, organizations as well as other parents.

Any ideas for me?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Puzzles

Lyn is, in many ways, a puzzle of a person.  She's never been one to be classified easily.  She doesn't fit expectations of what she should or could be able to accomplish.  One of the things that Lyn has been able to do is jigsaw puzzles.


Lyn has been doing them since we were young.  The earliest memory we have of Lyn working on puzzles happened when we were in high school over 20 years ago.  (No much over, mind you.)  We were living in Montana when an Aunt and Uncle came to visit us.  Lyn asked our Uncle to join her in the dining room where she had a puzzle started.  He did.  They sat there working on the puzzle together until dinner.

She used to be able to sit for an hour or two working on the puzzle.  She's not able to do that any more.  Her frustration limit is much shorter.  Mom is having to intervene when she sees Lyn getting more and more frustrated to prevent a burst of tears.  When Mom sees the frustration increasing, she asks Lyn to just walk away from the puzzle.  She can leave it on the table and come back to it later.  She just needs to take more breaks from it now.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In Her Own Time

Lyn was late to hit many of her developmental milestones.  Some of her milestones were met at a point that is considered a little late, but still in normal range.  She rolled over at 5 months and sat on her own at 7 months.  She could drink from a cup at 9 months but didn't feed herself until 17 months.  She didn't feed herself using a utensil until she was 3 1/2 years.  She couldn't dress herself until she was 4 years old.  She hit her terrible twos when she was four.  Mom likes to point out that Lyn and I went through the terrible twos together.  Poor Mom.

She didn't walk until she was about 15 months.  She ran for the first time at 18 months.

Dress by Mom
These late milestones set the tone for Lyn's life.  She has always done things in her own time.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day Hab Begins

Yesterday, Lyn started with her new day hab.  She will be going five days a week and will take a lunch with her each day.  The client to care provider ratio is great; nearly one to one.  This allows the staff to focus on the needs of each client.

Today, Lyn got to go bowling.  She didn't have her own gear and bowled an 85.  (I won't chart it because it was equipment she's not used to and that does make a difference.)  Tomorrow, they are planning to make cookies in the morning, having lunch at the mall and then walk around the mall for a while.

Lyn was super excited to go.  When Mom picked her up in the afternoon, Lyn was happy with her time there.  She chatted nearly the entire ride home.

When I called, it was only about 2 hours after Mom picked Lyn up.  It was well before their dinner time and Lyn was already in the bath.  She was already folding up for the night.  Lyn got to the phone before the call ended and wanted to talk to me.  "My whole entire day was good!"

Mom says that if every day is even kind of this good for Lyn, then it is good for them both.  It is a welcome 4 hours of additional interaction for Lyn and a welcome resource for Mom.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Morning Routine

Lyn lives in the hot air balloon capital of the world.  There are more balloons registered there than any other place in the world.  As a result, if weather conditions allow, you will frequently find a balloon or six in the air on any given day.  Mom's house looks over the city and has a good view of any balloons that are up.


Each morning, when Lyn gets up, she heads into the living room to see if any balloons are up.  She gives a count and announces it as well.  If none are up, there's a comment of disappointment.   

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Big Macaroni

When our grandparents were alive, we frequently spent nights over at their house.  During the summer, we would even spend a week or two at a time there.  It all depended upon our activity schedule, really.  The routine was pretty much always the same.  Grandpa would spend his afternoons and evenings out on the front porch which served as their living room.  Grandma could be found in either her room or the kitchen.  She liked to cook and it didn't take much to convince her to cook something special just for you.

Our grandparents were born in the early part of the 1900's and both had fairly rural upbringings.  As a result, their half acre was coaxed into a fairly productive piece of land.  They had apple and peach trees and frequently maintained a vegetable garden.  Grandpa would dry sliced apples out on the clothes rack.  The lack of humidity allowed them that simple preservation method.  Grandma would put up many jars of jam or pickles each year.  Behind Grandpa's work shed, they had several wooden barrels filled with glass jars just waiting a hot wash and a parafin seal.

Grandma was not what we would call a foodie today.  She was a good cook, though.  Her food was simple, easily put together and satisfying.  It was comfort food.  Pintos and cornbread, chile rellano pie, ham and cabbage, and stuffed trout were all things I remember her cooking.  Lyn particularly liked a dish  called big macaroni.

I'm not sure who gave the dish its descriptive name.  It may have been Grandma or one of us kids.  Regardless, if we were to stay at Grandma's for the night, big macaroni was a frequent request.  When asked for it, Grandma always seemed to have the ingredients on hand.  We were amazed at the size of the noodles she used because Mom used either spaghetti or elbow macaroni.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized she just used rigatoni and chuckled at us when we thought the noodles had dramatically increased in size in the water.  What can I say?  We were unobservant kids who didn't pay attention to the pasta as she pulled it off the shelf.

Her sauce tasted differently from Mom's as well.  Mom lived in Italy for 4 years and learned a tremendous amount about Italian cooking while there.  Grandma didn't make her own sauce like Mom.  Grandma didn't use Prego, either.  I laugh as I write this.  Grandma used either tomato juice or V8 as her sauce.  Big macaroni was V8, rigatoni and ground beef and we loved it!  Lyn was happy when Grandma made big macaroni.

Given last night's dinner, I wish Lyn could have joined us for big macaroni.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Circus

Every year, for the last four years, Lyn has been treated to the circus by the generosity of the Shriners there in New Mexico.  The gentlemen who host her at the circus treat her like a queen.


They have gotten her up onto the elephant for a ride.  They have had her seated in the box seats with the Potentate and the other leaders.  They have allowed her floor access to meet the clowns.


I don't know how they were put in touch with my sister; perhaps through Special Olympics or perhaps because of her job at Wendy's.  Either way, their kindness to her has brought her so much joy.  She has been to the circus many times before; just never as a special guest getting fussed over.

These smiles tell of her great delight.

If any of the Shriners ever read this, thank you.

Update:  When I wrote this last night, I didn't know that the Shriners had once again sent Lyn tickets.  Lyn is thrilled that she'll be attending this year's performance later this month.  Once again, to the gentlemen of the Shriners, thank you.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Registering Lyn

Beginning on February 14, the city's Office of Senior Affairs will begin a program for people with dementia or Alzheimer's.  You can register the person and give a recent photo.  If the registered person wanders away the caregiver notifies the city.  An immediate search begins; very much like an Amber alert.  Mom called the City and asked if this includes people with early on-set because the newspaper article just says "seniors.''  The lady who answered said it will include anyone with the condition.   On the 14th, Mom will go to the Senior Center and register Lyn.  It is a new program which has been put into place after a 73 year old gentleman with Alzheimer's died from exposure after being lost for a week.

In the meantime, Lyn will keep to her schedule of outtings and bowling.  She starts as a day hab client on Monday and will be attending activities at the second day hab facility they visited.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Helping Hands

Years ago, Mom and Lyn lived in the house where Mom grew up.  It was on a half acre not far from the Rio Grande in a part of town called the South Valley.  The property had been purchased by my grandparents in 1947.  The house had several additions over the years that my grandfather, a cabinet maker, had made.  It was a bit of a hodge-podge of a property, but it was a center for our family for nearly 60 years.

At some point, the house had septic tanks before it was hooked up to city sewage.  When septic tanks are no longer used, they are usually filled with sand after they are emptied.  If you don't, then when the tank itself rots away, you risk breaking through the thin layer of ground that covers the tank or having the ground collapse into the void that was the tank.  When the septic tanks on property were no longer used, we all assumed that Grandpa had them properly filled in.  It wasn't until years after his death that we found out he had not done this.

Mom noticed that the flagstone patio was having a problem and quickly determined that the septic tank had rotted away and the ground above was collapsing.  She ordered aggregate and my brother came over to fill the void.  Lyn, of course, jumped right in to help.


They got the hole filled and the flagstone patio put back to order.

Lyn's willingness to help comes out no matter who is around.  There was the time that one of our uncles came over with a riding lawn mower and she asked to mow the lawn.  Lyn had never ridden a mower before and, to the best of my recollection, never operated a regular mower either.  However, our uncle told her to hop up.  He got her started and walked beside her talking her through the process.  In this manner, they mowed the entire yard.


Lyn loves to help in any way she can.  She likes to see people smile and thank her for her efforts.  She is genuinely generous with her assistance.  She will quickly identify a task she can help with and offer up her services.  Sometimes, she's vocal about firmly stating "I can do that!"  If she's around, you have to be prepared and ready for the offer of her helping hands.  Lyn has never been afraid of getting into a task and doing what she can to make it go faster.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

VLA

In the year that we visited Mt. Vernon, we also visited the Very Large Array (VLA) which is on the Plains of San Agustin in New Mexico.  The VLA is about two hours South and West of Mom's house.  This makes it an easy day trip for Lyn to handle.



Unless you've visited the VLA, it is hard to comprehend just how big it is.  There is next to nothing around the VLA.  The nearest town of any size, Soccorro, is 50 miles away.  The VLA's neighbors are mostly jackrabbits and pronghorn.  When it is in its A configuration, it has a maximum antenna separation of 22 mile (36km).  Each antenna is 82 feet (25m) tall.  The antenna are on railroad tracks which allow them to be reconfigured about every 4 months.  The day we visited, they were in their A configuration.


The center antenna is in a fixed position and is the only one visitors can approach.

The VLA has a visitor's center.  It did not when I visited the first time when I was just 10.  We watched the film, chatted with the lady in the gift shop and wandered around the grounds where they have several interactive displays.  Lyn was perplexed by the paired parabolas which allowed us to whisper to each other.


It was a fun day.