My Birthday Week: A Homemade Climbing Wall, Twenty Humback Whales and Another Trip to the ER

I remember my life in snapshots. My mind takes mental pictures of my experiences and tucks them away into the recesses of my brain, many never to be seen again. Thank goodness for photographs and my relatively-recently acquired smartphone that makes taking pictures even more convenient. When I have an actual picture, it seduces the cobwebbed mental snapshots back into consciousness. I remember a large part of my life through the photos stored on my laptop. If I don’t have a picture, it is likely I might not remember that it happened. This is one reason I love taking pictures.

This week, I’m feeling particularly grateful for my photographs. Two days before my birthday, I took Andy to the ER  with a migraine that had stroke and seizure-like symptoms (more details below). It was terrifying. We cancelled the camping weekend we had planned to Redwood National Park and he spent much of the week recovering slowly. My memories of the week are a stupor of terrified, sleep-deprived, worried disappointment.

Then, I looked at my pictures and realized my birthday week was filled with love, adventure and celebration. It is certainly one that I won’t soon forget. I’m feeling grateful.

A Surprise Birthday Party with a Homemade Climbing Wall Birthday Present

Yup. I said a homemade climbing wall birthday present. That my husband built for me. Because he is freaking amazing. Then he invited some of my favorite people for a pre-birthday celebration. Did I mention that he build me a climbing wall? He is the best. husband. EVER.

A Spontaneous Trip to Monterey to Find Some Whales

My aunt phoned my mom from DC one morning to say there were a historic number of whales in Monterey Bay this year. She saw it on PBS the night before. So, naturally, my mom and I dropped our things and made a uncharacteristically spontaneous trip down to Monterey to find us some whales. I didn’t have my digital camera or warm clothes for myself or the baby; thank goodness for my phone and my mom’s big sweatshirts!  We sped down the highway and made it onto a whale-watching boat just in time; we saw dolphins, otters, over twenty humpback whales and four killer whales swimming around our boat, spraying water, flopping their tails and poking their heads out to spy around the surface (these are technical terms). This is one of my favorite mom-daughter adventures of all time.

Another Trip to the ER

I came home from whale watching to find Andy barely coherent on the bed with a heating pad on his face and all the lights turned off. He was slurring his words, complaining of tingling on his right arm and unable to remember names of important people in his life. He improved for a brief moment in the car to the ER, but deteriorated quickly once we arrived. At the worst moments, he could not talk, remember his name or birthday, understand or follow simple physical directions, stand or speak. He forgot who I was and he couldn’t remember Carter’s name. A team of nurses and doctors flocked around him asking him questions, running tests and finally, restraining and sedating him because he kept trying to fight them off. They thought he had a stroke or seizure and began a battery of tests that lasted into the early hours of the next morning. He had a CT scan, chest x-ray, blood tests, MRI (during which he barfed), EKG, EEG and who knows what else. They pumped him full of sedatives and he was unconscious until the next morning. He remembers almost nothing of the entire evening.  I, however, did not sleep that night and I remember every detail. The tests were mostly normal, so no seizure, stroke or tumor. Thank goodness.

I’m grateful for my step-dad who came from work, stayed with me until the middle of the night and continued to check on Andy’s medical updates through the following day. I’m grateful for my mom who watched the baby for me. I’m grateful for my brother-in-law who came when I called and gave Andy a blessing. I’m grateful Andy will be okay. It took him over a week to fully recover, but I’m hopeful we can find ways to avoid future complex migraines.

This is the fifth time in three years that we have been to the ER. We have been to the ER during this August-September time of year every year for three years and always on a special occasion. Three years ago Andy had an appendectomy on our anniversary and a week later I was med-evacuated from Goldwall after I fell from a climb before I made the first clip (miraculously, I sustained only bad bruising and no internal injuries); last year I had an emergency c-section and gave birth to Carter; this year…this. I am hopeful the pattern will not continue next year!

Another Plan B: Ardenwood Rail Fair

I was terribly disappointed that we had to cancel our camping trip to Redwood National Park; I had been looking forward to hiking Fern Canyon and spending time together with Andy and Carter. I needed to get away. But, alas, it was not in the stars for us. Nevertheless, Team Plan B still managed to have a lovely weekend together. First stop: Rail Fair, model trains, bluegrass, train rides and farm animals at Ardenwood!

Labor Day at the Beach

The beaches were absolutely packed, the waves splashed dangerously high and the weather was perfect. Carter is obsessed with sand and water, so the beach is his kingdom. His excitement makes everything even better.

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