Down But Not Out

I know I haven’t written for a while… I’d love to say that life has been too busy, filled with incredible adventures, but the truth is – I got wrecked.

I under-estimated a cow, she tried to kill me and I’ve spent most of the past 3 months nursing myself slowly back to health.

“What were you doing all by yourself with a cow that had just calved?”

Yep. I’ve heard it.

This is what we do. This is what hundreds, if not thousands, of ranchers do every day during calving season. Most of us have full-time jobs away from the farm. If you are the one person home at the time a calf drops, you go out to vaccinate and tag it before it gains the strength to outrun you – which is a freakishly short period of time, hours at best, minutes at worst.

There is no “neighborhood calf watch” program. We don’t rally the troops, hold hands and move as a group into neighboring pastures to check on herds. When we see an expectant cow that wanders off from the herd and has her tail stuck out straight for more than 5 minutes, we grab our vet packs, a Sharpie pen and if we remember, our cell phone, and then head for the pasture.

I watched her struggle from afar. She stood, she lied down, she stood back up. She had an amniotic bag hanging down with what looked like clear fluid and I was pretty certain I could make out a front hoof. Every time she stood up to move, the bag receded, so I stayed my distance, not to add stress. I watched this go on for hours. That’s normal. This was her first calf. These things take time.

It’s when she started grunting that I started to worry. Each contraction would produce that single front hoof but nothing more, then it would recede. Her amniotic fluid bag continued to grow until it finally broke. She was in trouble. I called for help and slowly started working behind her to move her to the corral where we had a squeeze so a vet could get to her to give her the help she needed to get this baby out. Once she flashed me a sideways look that made me a little nervous, but my husband was there to help me get her to the pen without incident.

Some very appreciated, seasoned ranch hands and cattlemen arrived to help us pull this calf out within an hour of her water bag breaking. We got her in the shoot, got a chain around the calf’s front hawks and pulled. He was stuck. The calf was in the proper position but was absolutely huge – and stuck. His nose was still pink but beginning to turn blue. We needed this baby out now and our mama was already tired. We got a rope tied to an ATV and gently stretched the birth canal and pulled with the ATV at the same time the cow had a contraction – and with a splash of fluid, the bull calf was born.

He was the size of my calf born six weeks earlier and not quick to respond. The experienced cattlemen used the time-honored trick of tickling the new calf’s nostril with hay. The bull calf sputtered and coughed and his nose began to pink up. The mama began licking the baby and we knew all would be well. He got a quick ear tag, a shot of selenium, a quick iodine dip of his umbilical cord and we banded him while we could still catch him. We left cow and calf alone to bond. His head was swollen and he wasn’t quick to stand, but letting the mama bond with her baby trumped anything else we could do.

A first-time mama cow has a lot to learn in the first few hours after giving birth. Miss Piggy was starting off right by licking her baby clean and learning his scent. This licking also stimulates the calf. In a perfect world, the calf is up and feeding on that antibody-rich colostrum within the first hour of life. The reality is, not all cows accept their calves and not all calves figure out where to find their milk source. This bull calf seemed to flounder around a bit more than most. He kept turning around, away from the udder, then he’d lay down. More than once, I had to wave Miss Piggy back because she was stepping right on top of her baby. By nightfall though, the little bull calf had a big white milk mustache so I went to sleep feeling good that all would be well.

How wrong I was…

We kept them in the corral that night. It was a traumatic birth that warranted a watchful eye. Miss Piggy got a big flake of alfalfa, she had water, it was a warm but not hot summer evening.  It was simply a matter of this calf getting a chance to perk up a bit more before we let them both out into the pasture to join the rest of the herd.

I went out the next day to find the bull calf tucked in between the squeeze and the corral panel. Miss Piggy stood over him. I stood outside the corral and watched. He sensed my presence and got up, still shaky, walked away from his mama and lied down in the first patch of shade he came to. “Hmmm… That’s not normal,” I thought. Most calves, even in the sub-freezing temps of winter, are so active by day 2 that they are hard to catch – and certainly not shaky. I stood outside the corral and continued to watch. Something was off with this calf – but what?

My presence made both Miss Piggy and her calf uneasy. She’d quietly call him to her and he’d stand up but tended to go to the nearest shadow, then lied down. That was weird. Most babies go right to their mama. Something was definitely wrong. He shuffled, he floundered. It was then that I began to wonder if he could see. And why was he still so shaky? Did he need a colostrum or glucose supplement? Was Miss Piggy stressing him out being separated from the herd for so long?

I decided to let them out of the corral so I could watch how they interacted among the rest of the herd. This is where everything went terribly wrong. I underestimated a bossy first-time mama with her baby.

The bull calf was in the far corner of the corral and Miss Piggy stood guard over him.  I was conscientious to give them both plenty of room. From the opposite corner of the corral, I opened one set of gates and then the second. She didn’t seem to notice. I started walking towards her with the plan to get behind them and apply just enough pressure that she’d walk out of the corral and join the herd with her baby by her side. I never made it that far.

I made it about 15 steps into the middle of the corral when the bull calf let out a squeal and Miss Piggy turned towards me with her head down and a glazed over look in her eye that made it clear – she wanted to kill me.

I knew I was in big trouble. I also knew if I turned to run, she’d charge and trample me. My only hope was to convince her that I wasn’t a threat and I slowly started to back up. She snorted, threw her head and charged me at full speed.

(I’ve been told by experienced rodeo participants that it was at that moment that I should have stepped to the side and she would have gone right past me.  I don’t remember ever having that option but I have faith that had it existed, I would have instinctively done so.  It all happened so fast that the details all blend together but the following is what I do remember.)

I punched her in the eye as her head hit my stomach and she rolled me off her shoulder. Unfortunately, this resulted in both of my arms being pinned down as I hit the ground nose first. “Crack!!!” I knew I broke my nose. I felt the numbness of a direct facial blow and the warm sensation of blood streaming down my face.

I got up on my hands and knees but she wasn’t done. She got her head underneath me and threw my body like a rag doll high into the air. I landed on her back, still on my hands and knees, facing her tail. At this point, two thoughts went through my mind.

My first was, “Oh crap, do I hold on or do I let go? I don’t want the business end of this cow!” I knew if she kicked me in the head, she’d kill me. Game over. To-do list, done.

My other thought was one of those random thoughts that you never imagine entering your mind at a time like this. It was, “Oh Miss Piggy, you have such soft hair!” Red Angus are new to me and I was genuinely amazed at how soft her back was — and then I felt my universe shift.  I was suddenly weightless.

I remember watching the corral get smaller and smaller below me as she launched me high into the air — things get a bit fuzzy after that.  I don’t remember hitting the ground, I just remember being overcome with the overwhelming need to get up and get out of that corral.

Miss Piggy was back in the corner of the pen, still snorting, stomping and clearly not pleased.  My body felt numb.  I ran my tongue over my teeth and was instantly relieved that they were all intact.  I simultaneously stood and scooted myself to get behind a post in the corral to protect me from further attacks. My phone had fallen from my pocket and when I reached down to grab it, I saw my left kneecap.  It was no longer over my knee but resting oddly on the side of my leg. I knew I had about 10 seconds to get out of there before the pain hit.

I don’t remember climbing over the corral panels but I know I did. I had taken our side-by-side out to the corral that day and I got in the driver’s seat with only one thought: I need ice. I didn’t look at my knee, it made me nauseous. Yes, I am an ER nurse and I’ve seen more than one dislocated kneecap. It’s different when it’s your own.

It was about the moment I drove over the cattleguard to our house that the pain hit. My face was numb but the pain in my leg was excruciating. It was all I could do not to vomit. I remember very distinctly recalling my recent DNA findings and saying aloud, “I’m a f-ing Viking, I can do this.”

By the time I got to the house, the joint that was once my knee was too swollen to bend and removing myself from of the driver’s seat of the side-by-side was a challenge. Thank goodness I had left a shovel out and it was within an arm’s length of the ATV.  My only focus was getting ice packs on my injuries.

I grabbed the shovel and used it to physically drag myself out of the driver’s seat.  I used it as a cane until I came to another shovel. I blame the dogs for the scratches in our newly refinished wood floors, but I suspect it was the shovels I used as crutches to make it to the freezer for some ice packs. Home, with ice on my wounds, I took the cell phone from my back pocket and made the call to my husband, “Hunny, Miss Piggy tried to kill me. I need help.”

He’d just sat down at a funeral and told me so. I remember he sounded annoyed. I told him that I was pretty sure she broke my nose and probably broke my leg. His tone changed.  All he said was, “I’m on my way,” and hung up. I can’t pretend to know what went through his mind, I only hear from the people who were there when he got the call that he turned as white as a ghost, stood up and disappeared.

Things get a bit fuzzy at this point. I knew I needed ice. I knew I needed to get to the house. I knew I needed to call for help. As far as I was concerned, I’d completed all three tasks. I closed my eyes and focused on anything but my body to help dull the pain.

My leg was writhing with spasms. My kneecap was on the side of my leg. I’d put my tooth through my lip. My face was swelling like a dinner plate. I had 2 lumps on my face that looked like noses and neither one was straight. I concentrated on not vomiting. My neck was okay. I didn’t believe I’d been knocked out. My foot wasn’t blue, I could feel and wiggle my toes. Even though she’d come straight for me, the impact to my chest had been soft and my breathing was fine. My knee was wrecked and I was sure my nose was broken but neither of these was life-threatening. I knew this would hurt for a while and might leave a permanent mark, but I was really and truly okay.

My next memory was the look on my husband’s face and hearing him say, “I’m calling an ambulance.” I remember telling him that I was okay, “It’s just my nose and my knee and you’re not calling an ambulance.” I vaguely remember telling him he’d have to help me splint my leg and that it would hurt but we just have to do it and where to find the supplies.

When people speak of an outer-body experience, I think I understand a little more of what they are speaking about now.  Splinting my leg did hurt.  It hurt so bad that I disconnected from my body for an instant. I suspect that was also the instant that my kneecap slipped back into alignment.

My next memory was looking up to see a young man in a paramedic shirt and asking him where he’d come from – my husband had called our neighbors for help to get me into the car and they’d sent an EMT trained employee to our house. He checked the CMS (circulation, motor skills and nerve sensations) of my leg and husband’s splinting job and helped load me up into my car to go visit my coworkers at the local ER to get checked out.

I’ve been an ER nurse for 11 years and covered lab draws for the ER the 10 years prior to that so believe me when I tell you, I’ve spent much of my life behind those emergency room doors – and that little of that experience prepared me for being on the patient side of that stretcher. I was more hurt than I’d ever been in my life, I was afraid my time on the ski slope had just come to an abrupt end, I was in so much pain that concentrating on not puking was really my only focus and I knew I was covered in blood, sweat, dirt and cow poop with a very crooked nose. My coworkers rose to the occasion, like they always do, and made me feel safe and as normal as can be expected as they fixed the nausea and pain.

By the time we’d arrived at the ER, my kneecap was back in place. CT scans and X-rays showed no fractures of either the leg or facial bones. No neck, rib or spine fractures. I got lucky. I had head to toe bruising, soft tissue swelling, sprains, strains and likely a mild concussion but considering an angry, 1200 pound animal had just thrown me around like a rag doll – I was essentially fine.

That was 11 weeks, an MRI, 6 weeks of an immobilized knee and 5 weeks of physical therapy ago. The hardest part was the first 3 weeks of no driving. Correction, that was the second hardest part. The truly most difficult part for me in this healing process is having the patience to let my body heal. I had a significant bruise on the end of my femur with enough swelling under the kneecap to render my knee joint useless. It took a full six weeks to be able to bend my leg at all – yes, AT ALL… I’ve basically been gimping around like a peg-leg pirate… A very SLOW peg-leg pirate… Tasks that once took minutes took hours. No lie.

My face swelled, I got two dark blue shiners, my now slightly offset nose had a lump next to it for a few weeks and it took a while for the facial lacerations and contusions to heal but they did. I still have some visible bruises on both legs and that swelling around my left knee – but it bends and is beginning to look more like a knee again.

It’s also taken most of these past 11 weeks to convince the people who saw me at my worst that I’m really okay. For weeks my husband stared at me with a weird look on his face and only said, “I’m so glad you’re not dead.” I think seeing the look on my loved ones faces when they saw me injured was honestly harder for me than anything – but I’m mostly better now, besides an awkward limp and weird piece of cartilage in my nose. The lump might be here to stay but the limp gets better every day. The body’s self-healing properties are truly amazing.

We traded poor Miss Piggy off with her calf for some hay. While she was reacting instinctively, she was also too aggressive for us to have out here. I’ve been around cattle for several years and this level of aggression was a first for me. I simply underestimated her. It won’t happen again. I don’t know that I’ll ever know what was wrong with her bull calf. My husband is my source for info and he “never wants to speak of that cow again”. Frankly, after all that I’ve put him through, I’m inclined to honor his wishes.

So that’s the story of my summer/fall – mostly wrecked with hopes of being healed up by ski season. Right now I’m just grateful to be alive and surrounded by a tribe that would miss me if I weren’t.

I also no longer want to breed bucking bulls and will second guess any calf born with a sire named Gladiator. It just seems smart.

Shark Week

Pump House Bar and Grill Shark Week Party

I get asked all the time: “Hey, what’s your thing with Shark Week?”  This is the story behind it.

It was circa 1995. I had 4 partially impacted wisdom teeth cracked out of my skull. Armed only with ice packs, ibuprofen and a Costco sized box of popsicles, I settled deep into the pillows of my futon and clicked the remote control. This is how Discovery’s Shark Week and I were introduced. I spent the next few days completely enthralled in ocean documentaries focusing on sharks. It fed my not-so-inner nerd with marine science. It fueled the adrenaline freak in me with survival stories. It helped the time pass quickly as I healed over the next few days.

A year later I found myself on that same futon, this time recovering from the sharp slices of a surgical knife. Was the timing coincidence or fate? We’ll never know for sure, but what remains undisputed is that reaching for the remote the second time, changed my course. Discovery’s Shark Week was again front and center on my TV and this time, I was hooked.

I’ve watched the programming evolve over the years. I’ve watched the young marine biologists and cinematographers advance through their careers. I’ve watched programming leaps as technology advanced. I’ve cringed as commercialism pushed Shark Week into mockumentaries, sharknadoes and filmmakers put retired athletes into shark cages for nothing more than an attempt to bump ratings.

Shark Week is a tradition in our home and the tradition inevitably spilled over into the lives of the littles around me. It’s the one time of year we get to celebrate science, marine biology, amazing cinematography, survival stories and some jawsome great white breaches. We brush up on our shark facts. We out shark each other. We pun. We shark premiere. We shark the entire week up with cheesy jokes and saved spectacular “must see and repeat” TV moments. It’s the one week out of the year that natural selection dominates and after many nights of cheating Darwin in a busy ER, there is a quiet satisfaction in watching the ocean’s apex predator dominate.

In short, it’s a nerd thing. And sharks are just really cool.

Smith Rock Sunrise

Smith Rock Sunrise 5.25.18
Early sunrise behind Smith Rock by Amy Auxier Jordan

Sunrises are one of the best rewards this world has to offer after spending the night working an emotionally difficult night shift in the local emergency room. This one did not disappoint.

Blood Orange Cranberry Cocktail with St. Germain

Blood Orange Cranberry Cocktail with St. Germain

If cranberry juice, orange juice, peach schnapps and vodka is commonly known as Sex on the Beach, well, this cocktail should be titled Sex in the Garden! A blend of some of the most exotic flavors on earth fuse to create a smooth, sophisticated and subtle drink that’s not too flowery, not too sweet with just enough tartness to bring your tastebuds to a standing ovation. Perfect for an evening on the deck after a long day in the garden!

How To Make It

Fill glass size mason jar with ice.

Add 1.5 oz of vodka

Add 0.5 oz of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Fill rest of glass with Langer’s Cranberry Blood Orange juice*

I top mine with a squeeze of lime but a slice of blood orange with a few cranberries to float on top would be beautiful.

*If unable to find this juice, 4 oz of cranberry juice with 1 oz of fresh squeezed blood orange juice would work, too. Add a splash of simple syrup (1:1 ratio dissolved sugar to water) if not sweet enough.

Mt Jefferson from Culver, Oregon
Cheers!

My Hanging Flower Basket Tips

I confess. I blew my flower budget on trees last year. I had the intentions of buying just one tree but that turned into two, then I found a variety I’d been looking for and then, impulsively, I bought one more — for a grand total of 4 trees and just over $200.

This number is important, because it is my total yearly flower budget for soil, planters, annuals, sprinkler wands, hoses and everything else need to keep our covered porch blooming — and I blew it.

I’ve spent much more in the past. I’ve also gone smaller but I’ve learned $200 is my magic number. It enough to make 7 beautiful baskets but not so much that I get sick to my stomach if they get parched and die during one of my long stretches of night shifts at the work.

(It happens. I’m usually exhausted, I assume my husband will take care of everything like he normally does. He’s exhausted, he assumes that I will take care of everything like I normally do. The result is painfully ugly and there is no recovering from it – at least for the plants. The marriage takes a day or two, but generally heals once the sting of loss is over.)

Keeping flowers alive in a sea of sagebrush can be a challenge. I’m far from a Master Gardener but I’ve spent the past twenty or so years, with my hands in the dirt, trying to figure out the best way to add color to my world. These are some tips I have learned along the way to keep my color baskets alive and blooming:

  • Soil Matters — I use moisture control potting soil with fertilizer in the mix. Our deck gets HOT and this mix buys an extra 12 hours between waterings. It also keeps the greens green and the blooms proliferating. I don’t reuse soil but I do recycle it into my flowerbeds and garden.
  • Container Size Makes a Difference — The bigger the container, the more soil it can hold and the wetter the roots will stay. I like to use peat pots. They keep the roots cool and don’t get as hot as plastic or require as much water as coco fiber lined baskets. The caveat is that they need replaced every few years. I’ve found this true with both plastic and fiber hangers so I don’t mind it.
  • Pick Your Plants Wisely —  Know what thrives in your growing conditions. This will vary from porch to porch.
  • Replant Preplanted Flower Baskets — The soil used to grow baskets in a moisture heavy greenhouse planted for the big box stores is made to keep the roots from getting too wet. On a porch open to extreme elements, they need different soil. The roots also need more room. Save yourself $50 and some heartache. Get those plants in potting soil and a slightly bigger plant pot and you won’t be disappointed. (If you purchase your baskets from a local nursery, you might be able to skip this step.)

I’ve learned geraniums can’t take the wind, bleeding hearts can’t take the cold, lobelia can’t take the heat, calibrachoa doesn’t like ANYTHING about our porch and petunias are the only plants that thrive out here – so petunia baskets are my staple.

(Though, I confess, once in a while, I get brave and toss a verbena plant or some sweet smelling alyssum. Sometimes it works, some times – not so much – but the petunias fill in where any fatalities have occurred so it doesn’t feel like such a loss.)

I usually splurge on the Wave variety of petunias. They are a trademarked hybrid that promise to grow bigger and better than heirloom petunias. They also average $9 a six pack as oppose to $3 for the heirloom variety. Last year, due to an exhausted flower budget, I cut back on Waves. I still bought a couple packs but filled the rest of my baskets with heirlooms to save some money and assuage my overspending guilt.

It let the nerd in me run a side-by-side growth experiment. Wave vs Heirloom. Is it really worth the extra money to splurge on hybrids? Like most things, it’s really a matter of opinion. My Wave baskets crushed the heirlooms in growth, blooms and vigor early in the season but the heirlooms caught up and looked just as lovely near the end. This was more than impressive considering we sustained weeks upon weeks of 90+ daily temps in a row, perhaps our hottest summer on record?

While this was no where near a perfect experiment, the Waves were premium starts with a premium price tag – all other conditions were about the same. I used the same planters and soil.  The flowers also had similar sunlight, water and wind exposure.  This is what they looked like near the end of July.

Heirloom Petunias
Heirloom Petunias
Wave Petunias
Wave Petunias

While every plant has its place, I’ll be splurging on Waves. I might fill in some spots with heirlooms, we’ll have to wait and see. I’m also giving up $6 a cup coffee and putting the money saved towards an annual tree budget.

These photos were taken in July of 2017, but by the end of August – the heirlooms were just as full as the Waves.

Wave Petunias
Trademarked Wave Petunia Baskets
Heirloom Petunia Baskets
Heirloom Petunia Baskets

Different climates require different approaches.  What are your favorite planter flowers and how do you keep them hearty all summer?  I love learning new tricks and would love to hear my reader’s stories.  Please feel free to share in comments!

Sweet Ginger Lemon Drop Martini

On grey winter days that aren’t chilly enough to bring snow but aren’t warm enough to enjoy being outside, I find myself looking for sunshine any place I can find it. I believe this is what has lead to the recent run on trying out new lemon martini concoctions. A dash of bright sunshine in a sugar rimmed martini glass helps to bring out warm, rosie cheeks and a smile.

The Sweet Ginger Lemon Drop is a twist on the classic and the secret ingredient is Crater Lake’s Sweet Ginger Vodka produced by our local Bend Distillery. If you haven’t tried this yet, you’re missing out. It adds a flavor layer that compliments the simple Lemon Drop boosting it to a new level of sophistication.

The original recipe is courtesy of CraterLakeSpirits.com

Sweet Ginger Lemon Drop Martini
Sweet Ginger Lemon Drop Martini

Sweet Ginger Lemon Drop Martini Recipe

Fresh Lemons

Sugar

Crater Lake Sweet Ginger Vodka

Ice

Dissolve equal amounts of table sugar into heated water to make simple syrup. I make enough to last several days with 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. Extra can be kept covered in the refrigerator for a few days. Sugar must be completely dissolved or liquid will be grainy. Refrigerate until cool.

Chill martini glass in freezer. Save a wedge of the lemon for garnish, then squeeze remaining lemons to make 2 oz of juice – one medium ripe lemon should do it. Rim chilled martini glass with lemon wedge and then dip in granulated sugar to creat sugared rim.

Fill cocktail shaker with 1-2 cups of ice, add the 2oz fresh lemon juice to shaker with 2 oz of Sweet Ginger Vodka and 1.5 oz of simple syrup sugar mix. Shake until outside of shaker begins to frost then strain into prepared martini glass.

Garnish with lemon wedge and enjoy!

Do you have a variation of the classic lemon drop martini that is note worthy?  Leave me a message, I’d love to give it a try!

Sweet Ginger Lemon Drop Martini
Sweet Ginger Lemon Drop Martini

Lemon Dream Martini

If you wish you could wrap your fingers around a lemon dreamsicle, this is a martini for you! It’s not quite as tart as a lemon drop, not as sweet as limoncello and the cream is the perfect addition.

Lemon Dream Martini

Lemon Dream Martini 

1.5 ounces Lemon Vodka

1.5 ounces Limoncello

3 ounces of half and half or cream

1-2 teaspoons of frozen lemonade concentrate

Lemon Drop rimming sugar or crushed lemon drop candies

Fresh Sliced Lemons

Ice

Slice lemons and use one to rim top of martini glass, then dip in lemon drop rimming sugar. Place in freezer. In cocktail shaker, add generous amount of ice. I fill mine 1/2 to 3/4 of the way with fresh ice. Add 1-2 heaping spoons of frozen lemonade concentrate, limoncello, vodka and cream. Cover. Shake until frost begins to form on outside of shaker. Pour into chilled glass. Garnish with a fresh lemon slice. I like to give mine a squeeze before floating the lemon on top.  Enjoy!

If you want this more tart, squeeze in more lemon juice. Control the sweetness by adding or subtracting lemonade concentrate or limoncello. Want a stronger cocktail? Cut back on cream or half and half.  Need a lighter version?  Use 2% or whole milk instead of cream.

Lemon Dream Martini

I’d love to hear what you think of this cocktail! I’m also completely open to better name suggestions, drop me a comment!

Disabilities: Removing the Dis and Focusing on Abilities

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My six year old nephew called me last summer. He had been looking through photos of his brother and cousin up at the mountain, noticed he wasn’t in the pictures and had something to say about that.

“Auntie A! Meeeeeeeee skiiiiiiii!!!”

I was cautiously optimistic to hear his request. We’d had him up on skis when he was 4 but he was more interested in eating snow than staying upright. When he was 5, we repeated our trip but when given the option, he chose a sled over skis. Maybe this would be the magical year!

Grant on skis, age 4
At age 4, he was more interested in eating snow than skiing

We’ve been practicing over the past few winters on plastic, slip-on skis to help him get use to the idea of staying upright with his feet strapped onto long boards. At times our quest felt futile. Without real edges or any surface for traction, the plastic skis slipped out from underneath him on the snow. His usually patient and easy going demeanor would give in to frustration. We’d put the skis away until the next time and repeat.

We Carry Our Own Equipment
Even at age 5, we carry our own skis

My nephew has Down Syndrome and that extra chromosome doesn’t do him any favors when it comes to learning a new sport. Muscle flaccidity, decreased motor skill, difficulty with coordination, challenges with verbal skills; it all comes with Trisomy 21. One specialist likened it to trying to function with your body in a sock. Simple things are difficult, like moving the tongue, holding a crayon, picking up a toothpick, using words, turning verbal instructions into actions.

We do all of those things anyway. We focus on our cans, not our can’ts. We use patience and repetition. We laugh a lot. We celebrate advances. We don’t get hung up on imperfection. We move forward, we move backwards, we try again, we don’t give up. This applies to every child, regardless of chromosome count. Some things are hard. We do them anyway.

He’s just six years old, he has an extra chromosome and New Year’s Eve, he made it up the chairlift and down his first run on skis, using his own strength and coordination to control his speed and stop.

And THAT is how we take the dis out of disability!

Focus on Abilities
Thumbs up! He’s officially a skier!

 

“I saw it on Pinterest.”

No! No! No! No! I’m not going to do it. I am NOT pushing that Pinterest app icon. Pinterest got me into this mess in the first place. Why didn’t I just order a cake? We live within 40 miles of some of the world’s best cake shops. Sure the drive is time consuming and the idea of transporting a cake without melting, dropping, sliding or dumping it is nerve wrecking and the cost for a decent sized cake (to feed 80+) feels more like a car payment than a cake purchase these days, but for the love of all things beautiful – what possessed me to decided that since I “had the pans” that I could take on such a feat?!!

Oh yah… Pinterest.

One night on Pinterest and I was ready to melt down the plastic to make the cake topper party animals myself. What the heck was I thinking? And no – I didn’t even have all the pans I needed. I have decorated one cake in the past 13 years. One. And it turned out so lopsided that I modified it at the last minute to make it look like I did it intentionally. I haven’t baked or decorated a cake like this EVER.

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It seemed so simple at the time. A glass of wine, a few inspiration Pinterest pins and the ideas began flowing. A tiered cake, it had to be tiered… And different cake flavors and filling combinations for each layer – oh, and look at those cupcakes! I’d make those, too! Ombré icing is a must. Oh my gosh – look at those party animal cake toppers! How hard could that be? So perfect and adorable!

https://pin.it/v2kaer5rwlc6oq

https://pin.it/7xtpecb4t6z32z

Before I knew it, my pinning had spiraled out of control and I had masterminded an impossible but beautiful birthday cake: it would be layered with a lemon poppyseed cake with lemon filling, white cake with raspberry filling, red velvet cake with cream cheese filling and surrounded by a ton of very cute chocolate on chocolate cupcakes decorated like horses. The cake would be dark to light pink ombré rosettes from the base up to the top where it would display a group of party animals, complete with celebration banner and party hats. (Squeal!) Thank you, Pinterest! It was going to be amazing and a perfect surprise for my dear friend!

https://pin.it/pkmpm3theu77hh

Uh-huh.

What the @*$# was I thinking??! I’m a nurse, for crying out loud! It would be nice if Pinterest provided some sort of warning, like those annoying web pop-up ads, just to remind me that hey, I’m no where near a professional baker with any substantial experience or knowledge to pull something like this off – but no. I was pretty sure I could do ANYTHING with my new Pinterest “Cake Board” for inspiration.

A few days into it and my optimism faded. When I had to go to the specialty store to purchase additional cake pans, I knew I was in over my head. I kept having flashbacks to the epic moment in Top Gun when Tom Cruise’s character is being told, “Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!”

So was I.

What do you mean I need cake supports? And how, exactly, do I store this cake until the party? And how do I stack the tiers again? I’ve never made a rosette in my life and how am I going to pull off ombré anything?! The idea of making tiny party hats for a bunch of plastic animals has GOT to be borderline psychotic.

My anxiety was nearing the panic level and I hadn’t even begun! I sat in my kitchen, drinking a beer to calm my nerves, staring at my KitchenAid Mixer like a lifeline. We had to pull this off. HAD TO! There was no plan B, no backup plan.

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Seriously. Not even exaggerating.

First and foremost, I needed to find a decent cream cheese frosting recipe that was creamy enough to be good but stiff enough to hold the shape of a rosette. And THAT brings us back to the beginning of my story, I was tempted to consult Pinterest. I used Google instead. Then, true to form, I created my own. (Yes, this is one of those character traits I wish I didn’t have – such a strong need for something to be perfect, that I reinvent it myself, often failing repeatedly until I get it just right. This was one of those many moments in my life.)

Filling the cake layer
After baking the cakes, I froze the layers, then let them thaw to split, fill and add a “crumb coat” of frosting.
Cake Freezer
After the filling and crumb coat, I stuck them back in the freezer to chill. It worked out well that we’d just brought home a new freezer and it was empty!
Stacking the Cake
I used wood dowels and parchment lined cardboard layers to support the weight of the cake. It was very, very heavy!
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I worked on the farm animal’s party hats and banner between chilling the cake.

The great news is that everything came together just as I imagined it.

It required 11 cake mixes, doctored to fit my cause, of course; 40 eggs, six pounds of butter, 2 pounds of cream cheese and roughly 10 pounds of powdered sugar. It took 4 long days to complete and there was more than one moment of pure panic when it came time to move the monster but I think it was worth all the work. There are a few things, I’d do differently, but let’s be honest, when I convince myself to do this again someday, I’ll likely have forgotten what those things are so I’m just going to be happy with the way this birthday cake turned out – and then delete my Pinterest account.

Just kidding. I’ve already started a new Pinterest board. Heaven help us.

I’d love to hear about some of your great Pinterest projects if you feel like sharing!

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It took some practice and next time I’ll stack the tiers a little differently, but all in all, it was better than I anticipated! It also helped that it was 17 degrees outside, so chilling the top frosting layer was easy – lifting the cake, not so much…
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I removed our refrigerator shelves to store the cake overnight.
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And spent the rest of the night decorating chocolate cupcakes with Nutter Butter horse toppers.
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I was on pins and needles for the short drive to our party venue, but we made it and everything came together just as I had imagined it!
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The look on my friend’s face made it ALL worth it when we lit the candles and sang Happy Birthday!!!

My inspirational Pinterest “Cake” Board link.

The Dreaded Treadmill

I am not an exercise enthusiast but as a nurse, I do have a special appreciation of the body and I deeply respect life.

I’ve worked in a hospital for over twenty years now and the majority of those years, I’ve been an emergency room nurse. I’ve watched the human spirit fight for life as the body runs out of energy to hold on. I’ve seen up close and personal the habits that rob life of it’s quality. I’ve seen illness steal the light from a life well lived.

There are many events we have no control over but as much as I despise scheduled exercise, oh how I love skiing and hiking and being outside! I enjoy being able to bend down to tie my own shoes. I appreciate being able to climb up on the counters to water my own plants. It brings me joy to be able to physically participate in a child’s life and run on the playground, swing on the swings and zip down the slide without having to stop to catch my breath. This is the good stuff.

From the Summit
Black Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.

So I exercise.

I put on my Nikes and I fire up ol’ Mo, my aptly named treadmill, and I curse and I cry and I get it done. I quit at least 30 times an hour, but then I remember my “why” and I get my head back in the game and I keep going. I play mental games with myself. I do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Polar Bear 5K
My first ever 5K was done in snow boots and with this little man on my shoulders. It took 56 minutes but we did it!

I need to be able to perform solid chest compressions for at least 2 minutes straight without getting tired. (It sounds easier than it is.) I need to be able to downhill ski for 8 hours straight, keep up with my pre-teen mountain master nephews and still have the energy to make the hour drive home – and then do it again the next day. I need to be able to climb a haystack, lift a bale of hay, load it into a pick-up truck and then lift it again into a hay feeder. And sometimes, I need to be fast enough to make it to the gate before the bull. Well, that last one hasn’t happened yet, but if it ever does, I need to be ready!

That’s Some Bull

So I keep exercising, even though I despise it.

I challenged my 9 year old nephew to a 5K Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning. He’s an athlete. We’ve walked a couple races in the past but he’s been chomping at the bit to run one for time. He’s too little to run a 5K alone, so I’ve been training and training HARD to be able to drop the reins and let the little guy give it all he’s got but still be able to keep up with him.

Polar Bear Run 2017

I’ve been using the Couch Potato to 5K app to coach me along. I’ve crossed the threshold from mostly walker to mostly runner as of late and I’m actually beginning to feel excited about the upcoming race – though, I have to confess, I’m even MORE excited that our mountain just announced an early lift opening the day after the race and that is my real reason for cardio conditioning – ski season.

Down Syndrome Fun Walk

I’m not fast, it’s not pretty and I’m not a natural – but I get it done because I believe the body is a tool and I have to keep it conditioned to perform the activities that I enjoy. It’s really that simple.

So wish me luck. The little guy has vowed, in playful jest, to “totally smoke me and leave me in the dust” next Thursday. Personally, I think I just might surprise him.

Polar Bear Rn
Single digits may have slowed us down for this race but we still finished.

These are iTune links to two of the apps I’ve used.  I like to mix things up so I’m always guessing what the next day will bring.  I believe they both offer Android versions as well and no – nobody is paying me to mention their product.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/5k-runner-couch-potato-to-5k/id439852091?mt=8

D980B8AD-0A58-48D5-9AEC-A0492C83911D

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/c25k-5k-trainer/id485971733?mt=8v

C25K