Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Write it down, stay sane: Semi-Annual Bout of Ear Infections

  • Man, Brooketopia has been hit hard by the illness bugs in recents weeks.  We were cruising along, getting lots of school done and then BAM! hit by a bus Brookelets down left and right.
  • This week is running the same trend.  I took Penguin and Junebug (and, really, Bluebird and Monkeyboy as well...which is always fun) to the doctor yesterday because they were both complaining of ear pain.  Penguin was deemed to only be suffering from "inflammation" that could be treated with diligent dosing of ibuprofen, and Junebug was diagnosed with ear infections in both ears.  Trip to the grocery store for anti-biotics, ice cream, yogurt and "feel better" doughnuts.
  • I think doughnuts are best reserved for sad moments.  They're laden with fat and sugar and don't serve their purpose as breakfast very well.  Two infected eardrums earns you a doughnut.  Having a sibling with two infected eardrums earns you a doughnut by association.
  • (Oh yeah, that was after Michael's carpool got in a car accident before they left the neighborhood.  No worries, all is well for both afflicted vehicles and their passengers.)
  • I had Bluebird and Penguin bring school with them to the doctor's office and they actually finished their math lessons while we waited.  When we got home, I told Bluebird that I just needed her to do as much school as she could while I tended to sick kids...and every time I checked in on her, she was ploughing away.  What an awesome kid!

  • This morning found us with Penguin saying her ear hurt worse.  I gave her the day off from school and she settled in to watch some television, but she came back upstairs an hour later, in so much pain that she couldn't speak and she was doing that horrible, stiff walk of those who are hurting bad.  I pulled out all my herbal medicinal knowledge and did everything possible to alleviate her discomfort.  I phoned the doctor to make another appointment, was told they could see her within the hour, and then told I had wait almost three hours to get in because the other receptionist filled "my" appointment while my receptionist was talking to me.  Argh.
  • Parenting feels like a battlefield sometimes; like I have to elbow other parents and their children out of the way in order to get my kids where they need to be going.  I don't like feeling like I have to be that way.
  • When I was brushing Penguin's hair to get her ready to go to the doctor, her eardrum ruptured and all the lovely fluids that accompany such an event starting dribbling out of her ear.  We walked into the doctor's office with her holding gauze pads up to her ear to absorb the flow.  The doctor seemed surprised to see her again so soon, and then brushed off the fact that my child's eardrum had filled with enough pus and blood to explode with a nonchalant "Sometimes these things just happen pretty quick."  Then she threw up in the trash can and he hastened to exit the room.
  • I think I'm changing my pediatrician.

  • Penguin and I went on another trip to the grocery store for more anti-biotics, more gauze pads and a new Ace Bandage to hold the gauze pads to her ear while it oozes out its infectious contents.  She looks like a clumsy rabbit with her pigtails sticking up out of the bandage wrapped around her cranium.
  • We also bought more doughnuts.  An exploded eardrum earns you a doughnut.  Having a sibling with an exploded eardrum earns you doughnuts by association.
  • I noticed a "Maple Bacon" doughnut flavor yesterday, but wasn't in the mood for a doughnut.
  • Today I was in the mood for a doughnut, so I picked out two different flavors for myself.
  • Two, because I had my reservations about a Maple Bacon doughnut.
  • My instincts were spot on.  (((shudder)))
  • My dog really likes Maple Bacon doughnuts.
  • REALLY LIKES--so much that, in his manic attempt to consume said doughnut as quickly as possible, he accidentally pushed the doughnut out of his bowl and behind the water dispensing tower thing and he absolutely freaked out trying to get back there and retrieve his precious snack.  This made me laugh, which was good.
  • Bluebird diligently did her independent work while I was at the doctor with Penguin.  I am so monstrously proud of her.

  • We are throwing a birthday party on Saturday.  I am two weeks behind in my preparations.
  • It'll all work out in the end.

Friday, January 25, 2013

2012-2013 Weekly Report: January

Yes, we've been back to doing school ever since January 2nd, and this is the first I've written about any of it.  We've been showing up nearly every school day to do our work and we're moving along as we should.  It's not exciting, but it's productive--and that's pretty much all that matters in the long run.

Bluebird is in the world of adding multiple-digit numbers and she's faring well.  She's making progress on committing her 3 and 6 times tables to memory.  She's through Lesson 102 in Saxon Math 3, which means there's only 38 more lessons left in the book.

I'm thinking, rather than throw her into the next math book immediately after she finishes up Math 3, that I might spend the remainder of the year really going over math facts and getting everything so incredibly memorized that we won't have to deal with any math fact drama when we start working out of Saxon 5/4.  Thoughts?  I'm reading that Saxon 5/4 doesn't expect that level of proficiency in the beginning, so would I just be holding her back?  Will she pick it up during Saxon 5/4?  (Can you tell that I'm a little apprehensive over starting a new math level?)

Penguin is going through the motions of adding ten to a number and it's mind-numbingly easy work.  When she complains that she "already know[s] this," I just start using my high-pitched, excited voice and say "Yay!  Easy math day!"  (This appears to be a much better way to deal with the complaint, which I've had much time to practice with Bluebird and her disgust for any sort of review.)  Penguin's math facts are gelled quite nicely in her mind, and she just finished Lesson 92 in Saxon Math 1.  If we finish this book before the end of the year, I'm just going to plop her into the next book right away.

Junebug does a little math here and there.  It's hard to find time for it, honestly.  I'm aiming to do a math lesson with her twice a week, and if I can't manage that I am demanding that I not beat myself up about it.

Monkeyboy closing his eyes while Junebug "sneaks" a number for math game.

Language Arts
Bluebird is doing well.  Her penmanship is getting neater, spelling isn't difficult (it feels so good to say that!), grammar poses no challenge other than having to sit and go through it, and she's been working away at writing out thank you cards for Christmas presents.  She made up the poem shown here, and had me write it up on the board in cursive so she could copy it.  She's also working her way through Johnny Tremain, and exclaimed the other day that she was going to start reading about The Boston Tea Party!
Penguin is rocking the language arts as well.  She loves penmanship, she is enthusiastic about spelling, and grammar isn't difficult for her to understand.  She's done with writing her thank you cards, but I keep forgetting to put stamps on them and put them in the mail.  I'm trying to get her to do some reading out loud to Michael in the evenings and she's tackling huge words with very little effort.  Phonics Pathways is a great phonics curriculum.

Junebug has started on Phonics Pathways as well; she has finally memorized the sounds that the vowels say.  It took quite a few weeks, but we got there.  Now she's working on blending.  Some days she gets it, other days...not so much.  But I know, from experience, that it will come to her and fretting about it won't make it go any faster.  It's all about consistency.  We sit down for five minutes each school day and do what we can.  I'll bump her up to ten minutes a day come spring quarter, and she'll go the full fifteen minutes come next school year when she's officially a kindergartener.  (?!?!)

Doing what kids her age should be doing most--PLAYING!

Foreign Language
Bluebird seems to be doing well with Latin.  I'm still struggling with fitting this into our schedule.  For now I'm resigned to letting her do most of it on her own while I'm working with her sisters on their phonics and grammar.  She watches the lesson on the DVD and fills out her worksheets on her own.  I'd like to be more involved with this because it is quite necessary that I keep up with her!

We've gone over some stuff about China and we're starting up with the events leading up to the American Revolution.  I'd like to do a big American Revolution unit, but am somewhat lost about how to do it.  I might just go through it and save the big celebration for the next time we go through this--four years from now when I don't have a preschooler and a rambunctious two year old.  :)

We're still working on memorizing the Periodic Table.  Monkeyboy can now say most of the elements, which is kind of weird to listen to.  Junebug insists that "Praseodymium" is really "Crazy-o-dinium."  Love it.  Michael hasn't done any formal science teaching with them since the beginning of the new quarter.  Hmmm.  I think we've both just kind of forgotten.  That, and I keep taking Bluebird shopping on Saturdays because we're tired of being stuck in the house.

Bluebird has moved into the next piano book.

Physical Education
Bluebird is taking tennis lessons twice a week and is totally loving it.  Ever since I let her do the little tennis camp a couple of years ago, she's been asking to do more tennis.  Seeing how she's almost nine, I just couldn't come up with any other kind of excuse to keep her out of it anymore, so here we are.  She has a little purple racquet and cute little tights with a skirt, and she can barely contain herself when we pull up to the courts.  I'm glad she has this little diversion; it also serves the double purpose of forcing us to leave the house.  You would not believe how many errands are getting done now.

Penguin is jealous, but I can't afford to pay for both of them to take lessons.  I'm setting up some sports-related stuff to start once the weather warms up 'round here so she can have more to do.  (Because, really--skiing and ice skating with a preschooler and a two year old in tow?  Yeah, not my idea of productive, safe, OR fun.)

All in all, I'm satisfied with our progress this month.  In a converation I was having Michael last week, I came to the conclusion that I'm OK with just ploughing through the book work right now.  It's coming up on Birthday Season here in Brooketopia, and I'm wicked busy with party preparations at the moment.  The kids are excited and want to help, so why throw in extra school activities on top of it all when we're not complaining?  Get school done, move onto party stuff.  (I could bore you with all the different ways that throwing a party could count as schoolwork...but I always skip reading stuff like that when other homeschoolers go on and on about it, so I'll spare you the torture.)

Highlights of the Month:
  • Junebug finally nailing the vowel sounds.  It never gets old, teaching another human being to read.
  • Listening to Penguin read words I did not think she could read.  Yay!
  • Bluebird being able to do independent work.  I really needed for that to start happening.  She's a great independent learner--I think that may be her preferred method of doing things.
  • We're still interested in school and it's past MLK Jr. Day.  That has never happened.  I'm crediting the birthday excitement, getting out of the house, and some healthy habits I've been establishing.
Lowlights of the Month:
  • We got sick this week.  Boo.  I wish we could skip going to church from November through March and avoid bringing new stuff home all the time.
Funnies of the Month:
  • We were reading one of the history chapters about China, and it talked about riding on the back of an Imperial Dragon.  Bluebird sighed longingly and said "I would so love to do that."
  • "Crazy-o-dimium!"  At full volume.  Never gets old.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Blearily on a Monday Evening

I have many fabulous blog posts to write, I really do--but finding the time to write them is hard to come by at the moment.  Cue the theme music for a Post o' Random Thoughts:
  • I have New Year's goals.  But I don't want to share them.  Normally I want to scream out to the world what I'm planning on doing, but I'm kind of tired of announcing my plans and not following through.  I'm thinking of only showing what I've done this year, rather than fill up my time writing and talking about maybe doing stuff.
  • I love the idea of a theme word for the year.  I've noticed that a lot of folks do this, so I thought all during November and December about what my Word For 2013 was going to be.  Final decision:  REALIZE.  (As in, bring to fruition.)  I've had a lot of things I've wanted to do for years upon years, but have spent a whole lotta time saying "I can't do that because I'm pregnant/I'm nursing/my kids take naps/I homeschool/etc."  I don't want my life to be like that anymore.  2013 is going to be the year of REALIZING dreams and goals.
  • We completed our third week of school of this quarter.  Things are going well.  I think I'm going to let myself off the hook for projects and activities right now--we're busy with a lot of things (on purpose, in an attempt to add some color to the gray winter months) and school extras just add stress right now.
  • It's an odd year, which means birthday parties.  There are two birthdays in February and my evenings are completely booked with party prep.  I'm going all out this year, simply because I never really have and I have always wanted to be "that mom."  Time to REALIZE a little dream.
  • Seriously, I've been banking on being "that mom" since before I even met Michael--one semester I was taking 17 credits and then decided to throw on a cake decorating course as preparation for my future homemaking days.  Parties are fun.  Bring on the parties.
  • That "cake decorating semester" = highest GPA of my college career.  Having access to multiple cakes and endless tubs of frosting really make studying a whole lot more enjoyable.
  • Monkeyboy has caught the nasty virus that's making its way through our neighborhood.  He announced his illness by unceremoniously vomitting on me while I was sleeping.
  • Gotta tell ya, that is not my preferred method for being summoned to consciousness.
  • My kids are obsessed with The Avengers.  They all hate Tony Stark, think The Hulk is absolutely hilarious, and Junebug has a serious crush going on for Captain America.  The four of them love to call Loki "Hokey" and then erupt into squeals of laughter.
  • My Christmas tree is still up.  Michael was planning to throw it away, but then I realized that if he is planning on buying a new one this year that I could totally keep the old one and start REALIZING my wish for a Christmas tree is every room in the house.  As a result, he won't take the original down because he put it up with the intent of throwing it away and that apparently makes it harder to dismantle.  Something about the lights.
  • It's always about the lights in regards to Christmas.
  • And I'm on Minute 18 of the "20 minutes" I asked Michael to give me to write a blog post, so I'm going to end this little bit o' randomness and go spend some time with The Significant Other.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Today is Declared an Unscheduled Holiday

I took a break from the blog back in November because I knew that if I didn't, the pent-up venom caused from stressing out was going to explode onto the blog.  Seeing that the stress had nothing to do with homeschooling, or homemaking, or creativity, it didn't seem appropriate to allow such an event to occur.  So I went dark.

In addition to my responsibilities of being a wife, mother, homemaker, and educator of my children, I was also caring for my elderly neighbor.  She had had a support system, but the support system had to re-locate due to employment opportunities and I just kind of got assigned with her supervision.  I loved my neighbor and I was happy to care for her, but I also carried a lot of resentment about having the responsibility forced upon me.  It's one thing to step up to caring for your own parents, and it's another to feel backed into a corner and having to care for someone else's parent because...well, honestly, I just really couldn't understand why my neighbor had been left behind.

But you can't just leave a 70 year old woman, who was clearly suffering from some sort of dementia, on her own.  So I stepped up.  Many of us in our neighborhood stepped up, but I was the only one in her close circle who was consistently home during the day, so the daily monitoring fell to me.  At first, it was helping her get back into her house a couple times a week when she'd lock herself out.  Then it progressed into helping her find her keys so she could leave her house.  There were a few instances of having to clean up bloodied knees and elbows after she'd trip on her front step.  My kids and I started carrying in her groceries because it tired her out to walk up the stairs.

Things started getting worse, really fast, this last autumn.  People in the neighborhood started coming up to me and asking what was wrong with our neighbor because she wasn't acting like herself anymore.  At first it was one person asking, then three, then a whole lot of people.  I phoned her son, but he dismissed my concerns and reassured me that the behavior was normal for her, and I relayed the information to all the concerned parties.

She started having dizzy spells, so I started monitoring her medication and checking in on her multiple times each day.  She seemed to be a different version of herself, living through a different day of the week, each time I'd walk into her house.  She would tell me about people appearing in her home and car rides she had taken with her son earlier in the day, which made no sense because the window in our school room faces her living room and I could see her, sitting on her couch and crocheting, all morning long.

I started to worry full-time.  I took her with me just about anywhere that I went, whether it was church functions or Knit Nite or grocery shopping.  Her son kept telling me her behavior seemed very normal for her.  I reached the point of utter rage over the situation and just started spewing my frustration to anyone who would listen.  The unanimous response:  This was not something I should be dealing with, and her family needed to arrange for her care.

It took me another two weeks to gather up the courage to ask Michael to make the call.  (Personal bravery fail; but whatever, it got the job done.)  I felt horrendously guilty for "bailing" on my dear friend, but I couldn't handle it all anymore and I was terrified that I was going to walk in on her lifeless body laying in her bed from a medication overdose.  Michael phoned the son and, bless my husband forever, had a bit of a "Come to Jesus" conversation that included an unspoken ultimatum that our neighbor was going to be cared for within a week or that a phone call would be made to Social Services on her behalf.

She was on plane to her family in two days.  She didn't know that she was going away to stay (the official story was that her son found a last-minute deal and that she was going to visit for Thanksgiving), and she seemed rather confused when the bishop and his wife, her home teacher and his wife, and I showed up to say good bye before she was taken to the airport.

That was a few days before Thanksgiving.  We haven't heard anything since, despite multiple phone calls and voicemail messages.

Two days ago we had a dramatic temperature drop and Michael decided to go check on our neighbor's house that morning to make sure the pipes were OK.  He came back quickly and told me "It's bad."  The electricty and gas had been shut off sometime during the week before (while I was battling the flu and had forgotten to keep an eye on her porch light--my signal that the electricity had not been shut off) and now there were actual icicles hanging out of the faucets all through the house.  We needed to get a hold of the son, NOW.  So we left various messages, each stating that we desperately needed to talk to him immediately.

He phoned back late in the afternoon.  We talked pipes for about ten minutes, and then he said "Well, I should probably let you know that she passed away last week."

It turns out that my neighbor's "dementia" was actually brain cancer.  Brain cancer that had also mestastasized to her liver.  She didn't survive the surgery.

"Scaring" her when the girls
dressed up as Celts.
So I'm in a weird place right now.  She wasn't my mother or my grandmother (she was one week younger than my maternal grandother, so that's a more fitting category).  But she was the person who slept over at my house and watched my kids when I went to the hospital to have my babies.  She smoothed my hair and let me cry on her shoulder during my dark, dark, post-partum months (36 of them!), and then she would come over Friday evenings to babysit and kick Michael and I out of the house because she insisted that we "needed to go on dates."
I feel like I have lost a mother...of sorts.  It was hard to watch her fade away right before me, it was hard to send her away without letting her know what was going on, and now it's hard knowing that she is permanently gone and that I won't go visit her next summer.  She's just gone.

And I know, intellectually, that she's just in another place and that she's happier there.  And that knowledge has gotten me through the last two days as I knocked on doors to inform her friends in the neighborhood, face-to-face, of her passing.  But last night I just ran out of energy to be there for people anymore.  I've been telling myself that she wasn't family and that she's been gone for almost two months anyway and that it wouldn't bother me.  But truthfully, it does.

Sitting with Junebug at Bluebird's first soccer game.  (2009)
I miss her.  I miss just seeing her sitting on the couch in her living room.  I miss knocking on her door and telling her good news and her raising her fists in air and celebrating with me.  I miss laughing with her at Knit Nite.  I miss lecturing her about being safe and eating healthy and how she should let me take her to the doctor.  I miss helping her find her stuff, frustrating as it was.  I miss seeing her in the hallways at church and I miss seeing her set out in the morning for her daily walk.  I just miss her.

So, yeah, today is declared an unscheduled holiday, even though we weren't related and she's technically been gone for almost two months anyway.  I am going to mourn my friend/surrogate-mother-for-the-past-seven-years.

I'll probably mourn tomorrow.  And the day after that.  It will all be OK.  (Oh, bonus, no school next Monday anyway because of MLK Jr. Day.)

Bluebird & Penguin knocking on her door to show off their new science goggles and gloves(2009)
I am so thankful to have known her and that she was placed in my life to help me through some of the hardest things I've gone through so far in my young life.  I am thankful that we will meet again in the next life and I am thankful that she has been re-united with the babies that she wasn't allowed to mother in this life.  I wish I had weathered the stress of caring for her with more grace and more patience and hadn't complained about it.  I wish I had risen up and unflinchingly taken on the title of "Complete *itch" and insisted that she go to the doctor for more than just her prescription refills, especially after I thought she just "looked" unwell.  But then I remind myself of where she is now, and that she did get to spend her last holiday season with her children because Michael and I stood up and advocated for her, and I feel better about it.

I've learned a lot from all of this, and I certainly hope that I don't have to use my newfound knowledge EVER, but it is there and I will be able to do so much more if I'm presented with a situation like this again.  (Which actually seems likely because I'm the firstborn in my family and my parents just started their 50's.)  My gut was right all along and I let other people talk me out of what I thought I should be doing until it was too late.  (But then I remind myself of where she is now, and that she did get to spend her last holiday season with her children because Michael and I...)

I miss you, my dear friend, and I'll be looking for your face when my time comes (hopefully, not for many, many years) to travel to where you are now.  You were an incredible blessing in my life.