We arrived at my sister and brother in law’s house late Tuesday night and then left on Sunday. What a great time we had in Wyoming. Bracken had so much fun playing with Aunt Sam, Uncle Thomas, and Grandma Julie. (And their dog Tucker once he got more used to him.) The third picture down, the group shot, was taken with my sister’s camera, since mine didn’t turn out. (Oh, and that ‘Follow Your Heart’ sign was hanging in my sister’s kitchen and I loved it so much. My mom gave it to her for a graduation gift and it’s from Sticks, some favorite artwork of ours.)
In the beginning of our trip, between the plane ride and the heater in our hotel room, my sinuses were really out of whack. My nose was constantly running and then became all red and cracked. The sinus pressure in my head turned into a migraine one night. My mom and sister took such good care of me, knowing from experience how unpleasant those are. My sister taught me how to use a neti pot. (She checked on me in the bathroom and I told her “I don’t think I’m doing it right!”) It’s funny that it’s taken me all this time to actually try one, since she told me about it quite awhile ago. The neti pot completely cleared out my sinuses and they felt much better the rest of the trip. My mom got one for each of us while we were out there. In western Oregon I hardly ever even use lotion. In Wyoming my skin got so dry and I started using lip balm like crazy. At home I don’t use conditioner on my hair, but I don’t think I could get away with that out there because the climate is so much more dry.
We saw some of the most amazing sunsets while we were there. I snapped a picture of one from the window in our hotel room. There are some breathtaking mountains and views in Wyoming. There were some stretches with nothing but sagebrush and I commented that I didn’t see a single tree for miles, such a different view than I’m used to in Oregon. Some of the pictures of the landscape were taken on our drive, so there’s a glare from the glass.
We had such a nice Thanksgiving. I can’t take credit for the good food because I only helped with the food preparations a little. My mom and sister did most of it while I went to the hotel to put Bracken down for a nap. They made such a delicious meal for us and the leftovers were enjoyed for many days afterwards. We went to my sister’s boss’ house (how lucky is that to have such an awesome boss?), telling ourselves that we were only going to eat a little bit and save room for our own Thanksgiving dinner later. We all ended up getting way too stuffed and didn’t have room to eat again when we got home. Ha! My mom thought it was absolutely hilarious that we didn’t eat our own Thanksgiving meal on Thanksgiving, but ended up eating it the day after.
The last time I visited Wyoming, it was a quick visit. What I appreciated so much about this visit was being able to see their world so much more. I got to see the inside of my sister’s work this time. Now I can visualize her office every time I think of her at work. When people you love live far away, it makes it so much better when you can see their world in your mind. You know what I mean? Every time I talk to my sister now I can visualize so much more of her world there. We also got to meet more friends and co-workers, which was fun to see more of their community there. And we got to see the inside of the bike shop that Thomas owns. Last time we just got to drive past it and wave. In the downtown area where it’s located, they are having a contest for shops to decorate their storefronts like a winter wonderland. You can imagine how much Bracken loved decorating! My mom and sister did an amazing job, though my pictures didn’t really show it because of the glare on the windows. (By the way, if you ever happen to find yourself in the sweet little town of Lander, Wyoming, please visit the coolest bike shop in the world: Gannett Peak Sports, and say hello to the fine folks there!)
Sam and Thomas got permits from the forest service and we all went and cut down two little Christmas trees for their house. It’s the first time any of us had ever done that and it was so fun. That night my sister set up their Christmas tree and Bracken was so delighted to hang the ornaments on the tree (and play with them.) It really got us in the holiday spirit, and Bracken and I talked about needing to get our tree up soon.
We also got to have a belated birthday celebration for my sister. I don’t remember the last time I was able to celebrate her birthday with her in person, what a treat. I loved working away in her kitchen and making her a birthday dessert.
On another note, near the end of our trip, Bracken’s cheeks got bright red with bumps on them. My mom and sister thought maybe he was having a reaction to the glitter he had rubbed on his face the day before. That night I noticed he had some red bumps on his legs that resembled bug bites. It wasn’t chicken pox, my mom would have recognized that from my sister and I having them when we were little. Heat rash? I don’t really know what heat rash looks like, but it didn’t seem like that to me. I had been dressing Bracken in wool leggings for much of the trip and we wondered if that had been bothering him, the wool right next to his skin. It never had before. Then he told me his stomach hurt and he went in the bathroom and threw up. We left my sister’s house and went back to the hotel. Did he eat something that upset his stomach? Then, at the hotel he threw up more. He even woke up in his sleep and threw up more times, until he had nothing left to throw up. My mom and I didn’t get much sleep that night. We had a routine down. I’d grab the throw up container while my mom switched on the lights. At that point we figured it was the flu. It was the second time that Bracken had thrown up in his life. You know what a terrible feeling it is to watch someone you love feeling so awful. What made it even harder is that we were away from home. The next morning he drank and ate and felt so much better. I checked his legs and all the bumps were gone. I breathed a sigh of relief.
But then not long after the bumps came back. This time on his cheeks, arms, hands, legs, and feet. We drove over to my sister’s house and I called Jeff on the drive. He quickly looked some possibilities up on the internet and ruled them out. We didn’t know. What in the world? Bracken was all bundled up, and when I checked his rash again at my sister’s house, it was much worse. I was getting really concerned at this point. It was a Sunday and our only option would be to bring him to the emergency room. My sister called her mother in law, who is a nurse, and I called my friend who is also a nurse. Why did the rash keep fading away and then coming back? We ruled out an allergic reaction because it was doing that. My friend said she had a feeling that it was viral (which turned out to be right.) Then we got on the computer and researched all the childhood rashes we could find. My sister was the one who figured out what it was. We both read the description and- bingo. He got a virus called fifth disease. It’s also called slapped-cheek disease because it usually begins with the distinctive, sudden appearance of bright red cheeks that look as though the child has been slapped. (More info here.) It’s something that school age children get. (It says about 50% of adults are immune to it because they got it in childhood, often without even knowing it.) The rash comes out full force when the child is hot and fades away when they cool down. (It can last from 2 to 39 days.) Once the rash is present, they are no longer contagious. The only thing you can do for it, really, is to keep them hydrated and resting. Once we knew what we were dealing with, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Vomiting was not listed as one of the symptoms, but his immune system could have been down from the virus to catch another bug.
We left my sister’s house that day and drove a few hours to the airport. Bracken slept in the car. He ate well, said he was feeling good, and got a good night sleep that night. The next morning we went to the airport and with Bracken being all bundled up from the cold outside, his rash on his cheeks was really noticeable. I had some people giving me looks in the airport and I wanted to say: “It’s not contagious! Or I wouldn’t be here. I swear.” As I removed some layers and he cooled down, it faded away. Later he made some friends in the airport and started lifting up his pant leg to show them his rash, to my horror. I later told my mom and sister on the phone, as I laughed, that I was thinking in my head: ‘please no! I don’t need more looks!’ When we got home his rash practically disappeared and we’ve barely been able to see it since. Even after Jeff’s very long weekend, he made us a gourmet meal that night, bless his heart.
Today I cancelled all our plans and Bracken is on the mend. It feels good to be home. I’m so grateful for everything Jeff did to make it possible for Bracken and I to go on our trip. I’m so grateful to my mom for bringing us out there and all she did for us while we were there. I’m so grateful to Sam and Thomas for being such wonderful hosts (and for sharing all that delicious elk meat with us.) And I’m grateful that Bracken is on the mend. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as thankful before, at Thanksgiving time, as I have this year. Life is so humbling. There are so many challenges and so many things that are just so hard sometimes. It keeps reminding me, every time that I feel like complaining, that I need to be thankful for every little thing. I find myself being pulled away from that truth on a day to day basis and needing to bring myself back to it. I need to remember what’s really important in life and forget everything else. We need to be so grateful for the people in our life that we love and for all the time we get to spend with them because that’s what makes our lives blessed.