Saturday, September 5, 2009

I'll Be Back

I am not yet able to write very much about my adventures and experiences of the past couple of weeks. I am getting by. I am doing what has to be done, taking care of my children, schooling them, feeding them, cleaning up after them. Honestly, I don't think I would have even been able to pull off this basic level of parenting lately without the assistance of my sister, Gigi.

I am now seeing a specialist who has changed all my meds, and, most helpfully I hope, referred me to a therapist. The downside of this is that the last remnants of my appetite have gone. No eating = no energy. I need to exercise, to move my body in order to get better. I do not believe medicine alone can cure a person. I believe in treating the whole person: body, mind, spirit.

I will talk. I will eat. I will move about and help my body stay strong.
I will be better. I will be better soon. I demand it of myself.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Panic

Late Monday night, after all the kids were asleep, I started to feel that weird combination of symptoms that heralds a panic attack. Chest tight, breathing shallow, hands shaking, heart racing. A quick scan of the medicine basket revealed no Ativan, no Klonopin, no Valium and two cigarettes.

This seemed like a good time to indulge in some medicinal tobacco. Praying to Jehovah, Jesus, Mary, and Allah (for good measure) that my kids would not wake up, I sneaked outside with the cigarette and a candle lighter the approximate length of my forearm. It took me four tries to light up. I couldn't draw breath enough to smoke it. I don't remember where I disposed of it. I don't even remember if I went out front or out back.

Next, I think I tried some deep breathing and meditating, to no avail. I'm crap at meditation. I then tried to distract myself on the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, my Google Reader, nothing held my attention.

I decided to drink a glass of Chardonnay and take a hot bath. I drank a little wine and threw it up while my bath was running. By the time I got out of the tub, I was in truly bad shape. I called my sister, Gigi, and asked her to come over. I vomited some more. I took my own blood pressure, 190/98, pulse 140. When Gigi got here, we decided together it was time to go to the emergency room.

I must have looked pretty bad, or they were afraid I was having a heart attack, or maybe it was a slow night for emergencies, but they took me directly back. First I had an EKG to rule out heart problems. Fairly shortly, I had an IV and 2 mg of Ativan in my system. I don't know how much later, but it couldn't have been long, we were on the way home. When we got there, the kids were all up and Gigi cooked breakfast.

I phoned and got an appointment with my regular doctor's office. I drove myself to my noon appointment. Without examining me very much at all, other than pulling off EKG electrodes I didn't realize I still wore, the doctor referred me for a psychological evaluation. I thought this was a bit much. I did not feel like one panic attack requiring an emergency room visit called for a psych eval, but, as the psychiatrist's office was just down the street, and psychological care is covered at 100% while Captain T is out of country, I went.

I was surprised that the first visit did not involve seeing a doctor. I filled out a bunch of paperwork and a couple of assessments, and a nurse told me they would call me with my next appointment time. I then drove home, picked up my children, and met Kim and Alexis at the park for a play date. After an hour or so, I drove back home. (I am chronicling all of this running around for a reason, and I hope you are not bored.)

I drove to Tapa's house for supper, then drove home. I spoke on the phone with Gigi, and she decided to come spend the night, just in case I needed her. (Allow me to interject here that my sister is beyond awesome.) I finally relaxed with another adult in the house, and I slept more consecutive hours than I have in years.

This morning, I tried to go about business as usual with our school day. It occurred to me late morning that I had not bathed since Sunday (unless you count my late Monday night bath, no soap involved.) I have never gone that long without washing. During my bath, I reflected on the craziness of the past few days. I had to admit to myself that showing up to a doctor's appointment unwashed, hair greasy, wearing no make-up or jewelry, with electrodes stuck to my skin, thirteen pounds lighter than at my last appointment seemed like probable grounds for a psych eval.

It also dawned on me during this time that I had gone 36 hours with no sleep, even after 2 mg of IV Ativan. I had driven over 100 miles, part of those with three kids in the van. I know what 2 mg of Ativan does to a person because I have worked in the health care field. It scared me that my body and mind were so wired up that I was not knocked out by the drug.

I have been doing some hard thinking today. I have got to let go of some of my fears somehow. I must stop walking around afraid of what will happen next. I have to figure out a way to relax my body and mind. There has to be a state of mind better than the one in which I currently live. I am going to keep my first appointment with that psychiatrist.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wonder and Doubt

I wrote this several weeks ago. I decided to publish it tonight. I don't know why.

As I sit up waiting for a phone call from Afghanistan that may or may not come, my mind wanders, and I find myself looking back on some things that shaped my life.

I am considering the idea of "burning in Hell." Will I burn in hell if I don't subscribe to your concept of God?

I lived in fear for most of my life that I would burn in hell if I did not choose to believe and/or profess to believe a certain set of rules about religion, God and behavior. I've been told time and again that any nagging thoughts or doubts are a test of faith, but...

What if God wants us to wonder and doubt? Why did God allow us such intelligence and curiosity if we are expected to squelch it, to be embarrassed of it, to fear it. Do the thoughts and doubts in our heads (the ones we can't help, the ones we may wish to be without), prove that we aren't worthy, and that our faith isn't strong enough? That just doesn't make sense to me.

What if we let it go? What if we allowed ourselves to enjoy our curious and mischievous minds? What if we could accept ourselves as we are, and stop trying to mold our minds and hearts to match the cookie-cutter ideal of those around us? What if we celebrated and gave thanks that we are capable of doubt and wonder? How good would it feel to throw off decades of guilt and remorse?

I think that might be what freedom feels like.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Baby Hedwig

I sit here holding my youngest son's lovey. Her name is Baby Hedwig, and she has been a part of our family for many years. I am holding her tonight because he went to bed without her. My youngest son has gone to sleep without his lovey. I didn't realize this would be a sad occasion.

I have, over the past few years, had a love/hate relationship with Baby Hedwig. I have loved her because, besides being very cute and cuddly, she has given my dear B many days and nights of comfort. She has been with him through such trials as Daddy leaving and surgery.



I have hated her because, on numerous occasions, I have been made to run late or waste gasoline by cries of, "Baby Hedwig! She got left at home!"
Oh, yes. I have cursed that owl. I have dreamed of the day when Baby Hedwig could be left at home or even, perhaps, forgotten at Nanny's house without need of sending out a search party.



Tonight, I found Baby Hedwig lying forgotten on the kitchen table.



I picked her up and held her. My baby boy no longer needs his Baby Hedwig. And, Baby Hedwig, if he doesn't need you, maybe he needs me just a little less too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Not Quite WordlessWednesday

B Gets an Adenoidectomy and Ear Tubes

The doctor came in to meet everyone in the pre-op room, and the nurse took a picture. The lovely lady in front is my mother, Nanny.


The doctor had a little surprise for B. (He is now calling this dog his "souvenir.")



We waited a while. We got a little bored and Nanny took another picture.



We waited a little more. B faked a nap.


B's friend Hedwig needed an operation, too.

They let her stay with him the whole time.


When we got home, B was starving. He needed some Jello.


Wow. He's very hungry.



"He didn't save me any."



Soon, B felt well enough to play on the computer.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stanley Does a Trick or Two

You can teach a cat tricks, but he will do them when only when he feels like it.

Let me tell you right away that I am not good with the camera, and this was done with my iPhone. The quality is low, but the cuteness factor is high. I also managed to cut off the beginning. The missing audio is me saying, "Uh-oh," which prompts him to fall down. It's short and sweet.


video


Wow, I have an annoying voice.

Let me know if you like it, and I'll film him giving H high five.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Nu-nu

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2009), I have decided to share with you a few funny anecdotes from my memories of nursing three boys.

I nursed all three of my boys, the longest being around 18 months. I am all for breastfeeding, and yet, I realize different families have different needs. I applaud the working mother who provides her infant with those vital six weeks of initial nutrition, while I support the right of the mother who chooses to nurse her child far beyond the time that felt right for me. There are plenty of posts you can read if you are looking for reasons to nurse your children, or even to bottle-feed them. I shall assume that readers who have gotten this far are breastfeeding mothers or supportive friends, and I will provide you now with a bit of humor.

I nursed my firstborn for only a few months. He was breast- and bottle-fed, but he doesn't remember any of this, and assumes, as he can only remember seeing his little brothers and cousins being nursed, that, of course, that's how babies are fed. When my second child, J, was less than a year old, we went to have family photos made at a Sears store in our local mall. A mother in the waiting area was feeding her child from a bottle. H, around six years old at the time, was mesmerized. I vaguely remember trying to call his attention to other things, but he was only interested in this baby eating out of a glass device. When I finally got him settled back with the family, he told me with evident respect,"That baby is only six months old and already he knows how to drink out of a bottle!"

And much more recently: A sample pack of formula from WalMart showed up in our mailbox. I saved it knowing that my cousin was planning to return to work, and figuring on saving her some money. This canister of baby formula caught the attention of my youngest, who asked many eager questions about it. I even found him playing with it a few times, pretending to sell it in his "store." I decided the time had come to explain what was in the canister. I told him that some mothers could not nurse their babies, and so they bought artificial baby milk at the grocery store. His response, which I will never forget,"Wow. They must have a lot of extra money."

One last story. This one may not be funny, but if you have read this far, please keep it up. It will be worth your extra minute. I nursed my second child, J, until I was 4 or 5 months along with B, and my breasts became so sore, I had to wean him. J was old enough by this time to remember nursing, which he called "nu-nu." Even when B was born, he still remembered nursing to some extent. A couple of days after B was born, J crawled into my lap and said clearly, "I want nu-nu." He was so small, barely past two. Even though he had been weaned for months, I offered him my breast. He barely even tried to nurse. He snuggled into my chest and breathed a heavy sigh as I rocked him in the rocking chair. I don't know how long I held him there and rocked him, without nursing him. He came to me regularly over the next few weeks (or months, my memory is not the best) asking for nu-nu. I no longer tried to nurse him, but held him close and rocked him, and gave him exactly what he had asked me for.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Things I Have Learned: Homeschool Math Edition

Today, I have decided to pass along some things I have learned in my eight year journey into homeschooling, in the hope that I might pass along some wisdom, and keep a few of you from wasting precious money and time.

Math

It is truly amazing how much time, money and effort homeschooling families put into introductory math lessons. I have been in this category myself, so I know whereof I speak. After much consideration and on-the-job training, I have come to this conclusion: You do not need a math curriculum for your four- to eight-year-old child.
What follows is my own idea of an ideal math curriculum for your young student. Take it or leave it, as fits your family.

- Every day, count things around you. (How many apples do we need to buy? How many chairs do we need for the party? How many Legos did it take you to make that wall?)

- Make sure your child can recognize digits and number words. This is easily done by pointing them out in a magazine, newspaper, board book, or sign. All around us are numbers, if we take the time to notice them and share them with our children.

-Work on basic addition and subtraction facts with your young child. You can make flashcards with index cards and a marker for less than a dollar. My children used to enjoy making a game of it in the kitchen. For every correct answer, they advanced one floor tile. For an incorrect answer, they stepped back one tile. When they made it all the way to me, at the other side of the kitchen, we did a big 'high five'.

-Allow your children to play with measuring cups and spoons. This is a great introduction to fractions. To take this further for older children, have them help you double or halve a recipe.

-Make the calendar and the clock a part of every day. Have your child tell you when it is time for lunch or playtime. Practice writing today's date on his drawings. Memorize the days of the week and the months of the year by making a song of it. (How many days is it until Christmas? On which day of the week does Mommy's birthday fall? Can you tell me what is the eighth month of the year? What time is it? How long until playtime?)

-Our Store: Perhaps the single best learning opportunity there is, and a lot of fun to boot. Put some price tags on some of your pantry items, and then take turns with your children playing customer and shopkeeper. You will be amazed how far this pushes mental math. Use real money to "pay" and to make change.

-Math Manipulatives: a giant black hole to suck in your money. You may be tempted to purchase the big package of "manipulatives" that is suggested to complement your child's early math curriculum (which you probably don't need!). Here are my suggestions for a few common math manipulatives:

- Play money: Just use real money. Why pay for fakes? Just set aside a jar of actual money for your children to use for school. They will then get practice with the real thing they will need to use later in life. Pennies are highly useful as counters as well, and are surely cheaper.

- Blocks: besides being a lot of fun to stack and make towers, blocks are useful as counters, and can be expanded, if your child is ready, to model the concepts of perimeter, area, and volume.

- As previously mentioned, your measuring cups and spoons.

These are just a few ideas. I hope you can expand these with your own creativity. Each parent knows what will excite and motivate their children to learn.

Before closing, I would like to leave you with a couple of examples that I hope will encourage you (and if they don't, well, they are cute stories, nonetheless).


A Tale of Two Shopkeepers:

Eight-year-old J and six-year-old B , considering a play cash register: (This may not be verbatim, but I believe it is close.)
J: There are twelve keys here, you see? Four rows, three keys in each row.
B: Uh-huh.
J, looking to show off his new knowledge of multiplication: Can you add 3 plus 3 plus 3 plus 3?
B, after a moment of thinking: 3 plus 3 is six, right? so that's 6 plus 6. I think it's 12.
J (who lavishly praises the mental workings of his brother): YES! GOOD! You added it up.
Now look here: 3+3+3+3 is 12. You got it. That's the same as 6+6 is 12. You can also say that four groups of three equals twelve. Four groups of three is 3+3+3+3. You see? Multiplying is just like adding over and over. Three groups of four is twelve. Three times four is twelve.
B totally understood this coming from a peer, in this case, an older brother. He will have a firm base upon which to build his mathematical education. He gets it. No workbook or textbook involved. This information now belongs to him.


A Tale of Squares and Square Roots:

J and B had heard me talking with H (six years older) about squares and square roots. The blocks were out in a teasingly accessible area, and I began to stack them in ascending order, using only perfect squares. One block, four blocks, nine blocks, sixteen blocks...
I left to prepare supper.
Later that same evening B called me to look at his blocks. "Eighty-one," he declared, "makes a square of nine." Perhaps five minutes of further instruction later, my 6 year-old had total grasp of the concept of square numbers.

I'd like to leave you with one more math story, in the hopes that I am not rambling on and boring you.


How J "Did an Algebra":

Our wonderful local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship provides free math tutoring classes for middle and high school students, which my eldest, H, was keen to attend, perhaps not for acquiring knowledge, but for social reasons. Shall we leave that for another post and concentrate on the subject at hand?
J's piano lessons happened to occur just before these math sessions H wanted to attend. So we decided we would all go together to save time and gas. H would wait quietly while J had his piano lesson, then J in turn, would sit quietly during the "big kid" math class. We did this a few weeks in a row. I assumed J, as he was quiet and scribbling constantly, was drawing cartoons, as he does in free time at home. J liked to keep a notebook just like the big kids, and I did not bother him by looking at his papers.
After about four weeks of this, on our way home from the math class, J announced, "Today, I did an algebra."
"Great. Show it to me when we get home," was my response.
At home, a great surprise awaited me. Not only had J (8) made up an algebraic equation, he had solved for x, and ended up with the correct answer.

Yes, J, you did "do an algebra."
And you showed us how wonderfully open and intelligent a child can be if we simply refrain from holding him back.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why I Choose to Homeschool

Homeschooling first occurred to me when my firstborn, "H", was in kindergarten. We became pregnant and had our first child earlier than we expected (I was in college). When the time came, we felt the need to enroll him in a reputable preschool, where he might be prepared for his school career and have a bit of fun with the other children, while providing me with time to attend classes. We sent him to a very nice, small, private prep school, the same prep school from which I graduated, once upon a time. This particular school, by the way, is considered to be one of the best in our area.

H attended preschool and most of first grade at this school before it became clear to everyone involved that H was not to be able to learn in a classroom setting. Soon after, I brought him home to teach, leaving behind a fresh career in physical therapy, and also pregnant with my second son. This was to become one of the best decisions I have ever made.

With subsequent research and testing, we were to find that our oldest son had severe learning disabilities, problems with short term and long term memory, and dysgraphia. In short, in order to learn, he requires one-on-one teaching methods, and the flexibility provided us by homeschooling. We can repeat a lesson whenever and however many times needed for it to "stick." I do not believe this level of individualized learning could have ever been reached in our public school special education classes. He is now 15 years of age, and I am proud to say that he is ready for high school. Really ready. Not just in a loving mother's opinion; he is at grade level in every subject.

It may not seem like a very big accomplishment to have a 15 year old son ready to enter high school, but I am willing to open my heart to you and tell you that it is my proudest and dearest achievement. Every tiny step of his education has been purchased with hard work, frustration and tears, both his and mine. Tears fall onto my desk as I share with you my life's work. And my heart breaks a little as I consider that he will never be able to express himself in such a manner, that he will struggle every day of his life to write out the grocery list, to fill out the check to pay his power bill, to, perhaps, write a love letter to his beloved.

If we are able to stay on the track I have planned out for us, H will graduate from high school just shy of his 19th birthday, with a regular diploma, with achievements equal to all of those to whom it comes easily. And I will know in my heart that I have done the right thing. I will have saved him from being labeled "special." I will have given him the chance to just be.

Stacey