Wednesday, December 30, 2015

our sergeant major

My mother called this morning to tell me that her big brother, our Uncle Bernie, passed away this morning.  From all the stories that I've heard through my mother, as far as brothers go, Uncle Bernie was one of the greats.  He was the third in line of nine children, and for her entire life, he absolutely adored my mother who is number nine.


Uncle Bernie doted on my mother when she was a child, and fiercely supported her during the painful divorce from my father.  Because of his kindness and compassion, Unk Bernie will always have a special place in my mother's heart. And my heart, too.

I've written about Uncle Bernie before here and here and here and here and here.

Legend has it, he was the youngest Sergeant Major in the history of the United States Marine Corp.  He enlisted when he was a teenager, during World War II, and because of his work ethic, tenacity, and fiery spirit, he rapidly moved up the ranks and achieved Sergeant Major by the age of 21.   He was at the infamous Battle of Guadalcanal and has long had the reputation of being tough as nails. 

When I introduced him to Charlie, many years ago, at his daughter Jackie's wedding in 1992, I told my then boyfriend that my Uncle "was a former Marine." The words hadn't even completely left my mouth when my uncle sternly corrected me, "Young Lady, once a Marine ... ALWAYS a Marine!" 

(Thank you Uncle Bernie ... I've never made that same faux pas again!)

When he first ventured in to the world of personal computers nearly two decades ago, Uncle Bernie's email address was SgtMaj21, and he'd often forward jokes, stories, or various anecdotes with a sentence or two about how much he was enjoying this "new technology!" We swapped emails for the next few years, and I'm honored that my then 83-year old Uncle left a comment on my very first blog post in 2006.

Uncle Bernie and his beautiful wife, Aunt Lorraine, had eight children themselves and after the triplets were born, they sent me a lovely note to express how proud they were of triplets in our family, and to warn me ahead of time, that they'd be bragging about them on our behalf.


During his time in the USMC, he was stationed in San Diego for a while, and would tell me how much he loved the brilliant blue sky against the rugged desert mountains.  He once told me the story of a plane that he took off from Coronado Island that crashed very soon after lift off.  He and the pilot parachuted to safety, but the plane is still somewhere off the coast, in the depths of the Pacific.

Uncle Bernie is one of the greatest generation.  He was a great Marine, a great brother, and a great Uncle - who was the inspiration for my brother Frank, to enlist in the Marines as well.  But more than any of that, he was a great husband and a great father and I know this because his family is solid and that doesn't happen by chance.

Tonight, it is my heart felt prayer that our fiery Uncle Bernie's spirit is once again united with his beloved, Lorraine, and his daughter, Andrea. While we will mourn his loss, we will also celebrate the amazing life that he has led ... an abundantly full and predominantly healthy life that spanned 93.5 wonderful years.


Semper Fi, Uncle Bernie.  I've always been so proud to be your niece and have often bragged on your behalf, too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

the texas polar bear plunge

When I went on my solo-house hunting trip to Texas this past June, I assured Charlie and the children that I would find a house with a pool.  As luck would have it, our pool has an adjoining hot tub and I'm happily surprised at the amount of use they receive.  Even as the temperature has continued to drop, Charlie swam in the pool, nightly, through October.  But now that the air temperature is in the 50's range, and the pool temperature is in the low 60's range ... we haven't been using the pool at all.

Until tonight. 

After sitting in the hot tub for all of five minutes, the boys decided that they would jump in to the pool which was frigid cold, and swim one full lap.  Charlie led the charge, followed by his two thrill-seeking sons.  Here's Henry paddling and kicking as fast as his little limbs can manage:


Meanwhile, the girls stayed in the 103 degree hot tub because while we love a challenge, we're not totally crazy.  And given the option of being miserable and cold ... or happy and warm, we unanimously opted for the latter.  Must be something about the XX chromosome.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

it came upon a midnight clear

This time of the year is always magical.  But this year, the lights are a little brighter ... the songs are a little merrier ... and the feeling is just a lot more holy.

All the pathology reports are back and the right side tumor was negative.  My healing is progressing - slowly but surely - and I'm grateful for family, friends, and joy.   I've been like George Bailey, smiling from ear to ear, hugging my children and husband at every possible moment, and winking at the heavens every time I hear a bell ring.

"Atta boy, Clarence. ATTA BOY!" 

When my mother was here, in between working with the children on their knitting...


And playing games of Connect Four ...


Mom took on the task of wrapping all of our December books for us while the children were in school.


Each night this month, we've read a page from our Advent book, and unwrapped a Christmas book while the excitement has been steadily, steadily, growing.


Last year at this time, William and I had "the talk" about Santa.  And this past October, as I was tucking the girls in to bed one night, they asked about Santa.  They'd already had several questions about Jackson the Elf (including why they found him in our Virginia closet this past summer before our move?!), and after hemming and hawing, I told them the truth about the Man in Red, just as I had told their brother.

I also let them know that although William knew, Henry didn't and it was very important for us to preserve the magic for him.

Even though the older kids KNOW the truth, the girls choose not to BELIEVE the truth, about Jackson or Santa, which is 100% fine by me.  If they want to keep writing letters to Santa, and excitedly hunt around the house each morning for the Elf alongside Henry, I'm more than happy to oblige.

Now before I go any further, it's important to mention that last year we put the triplets in braces.

I'd seriously debated putting Elizabeth in, because she was still sucking her thumb and I didn't want to put for the effort (or money), if she wasn't committed to having straight teeth.  But she promised me.  Crossed her heart and pinky swear'd and all of that.  No surprise to anyone (least of all me), she didn't give up sucking her thumb, because she couldn't function without Bunny.

So this year the braces came off, and the thumb is still in and I'm again reminded how the wise do not trust their children with a secret, nor make deals with said juveniles.  I've also been frequently encouraging Elizabeth to try and go a day or more without Bunny and thus, thumb sucking.  Because the only time she sucks her thumb is when she has Bunny.

So this week, Jackson the Elf - who let me remind you, the triplets know is not real - hijacked Bunny.  When we woke up on Sunday morning,  as I posted on Twitter, Jackson was perched way on top of the kitchen cabinets, with Bunny in his clutches.  We laughed and laughed, thinking how funny it was that Bunny would get a ride to the North Pole and meet Santa.

Everyone laughed, including Elizabeth.

Jackson our Elf-on-the-Shelf has taken a hostage. Looks like Bunny is going to the North Pole...!
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I'm thinking how great it would be if Bunny appears at the bottom of Elizabeth's stocking on Christmas morn, smelling of peppermint and wearing a little red scarf.

I've got it all planned out. 

But the next day, when Jackson appeared on a chandelier still clutching Bunny, it wasn't funny anymore and Elizabeth wanted Bunny back.  Now. Now. Now.

On Monday, Henry sneaks in to our bedroom closet and discovers (almost) the entire unwrapped present stash which had been hidden beneath blankets.  Fortunately, we intercepted him before he gave a FULL REPORT to his siblings. We immediately sit the children down and talk to them about the excitement and anticipation of Christmas, the element of surprise, and the feeling of magic.  Much of that will disappear if they are sneaky, so please let's not ruin the surprise, or we'll have no choice but donate all those toys. And they'll get coal.

Charlie takes off to bring Henry to a birthday party, and I'm home with the the trio and we're sitting down at the table, beneath Jackson (and Bunny) to work on math.  While I'm all for sleeping in, and watching movies, and playing nonstop ... I'm also an advocate for keeping their minds sharp.  At least a few times during their break from school,  I'll have them write in their journals and work on IXL.  (If you have children and haven't yet discovered IXL, discover it now ... it's the best online math program I've found!)

William and Carolyn plow through their math, no problem.  Elizabeth, who was off to a good start and is fully capable of doing her math, starts to slip.  She becomes distracted and wants Bunny back. Her bottom lip comes out, as I'm telling her that first and foremost, legend has it we aren't supposed to touch the Elf.  Also, she promised me she'd stop sucking her thumb if we put her in braces and more than a year later - she is still sucking her thumb.  And then the tears start to roll. And roll.  

And roll. 

I'm probably going to do a dismal job of explaining what an overly dramatic tween is like.  But if you have - or have ever had one - you might understand.  This may come as a surprise, but my Elizabeth, my precious sweet child that I adore more than life itself,  is one of the most overly dramatic tweens that has ever lived.  At least,  she eclipses and then repeatedly orbits her identically aged tween siblings. As I've previously conveyed, one of her nicknames is Loki, because of the chaos she will intentionally cause.

I know there is a reason behind this irrational behavior, and I'm working on that tirelessly. The cure involves a lot of one-on-one time, patience, and love, love, love.

You know, the key ingredients to parenting, or life, in general.

But there we are on Monday, the Winter Solstice - the triplets and me.  Christmas music is playing in the background, cheery sparkling lights are on throughout the house, the smell of pumpkin spice muffins fills the air.  Carolyn and William have finished their math, and are writing to their Compassion friends, and Elizabeth is now on the brink of a seizure because her Bunny - which she knows is safe, and will come back to her, is currently in the clutches of a fictious Elf, above her.

After a few minutes of trying to logically work through the situation and fairy tale consequences, my patience meter - along with the patience meters of William and Carolyn - was tapped out.  I reached up and grabbed Jackson off the chandelier, and pulled Bunny out of his arms as a look of horror swept across Elizabeth's face.

Handing Elizabeth Bunny, I took a deep breath and said, "Elizabeth, how else would I get Bunny down if I didn't touch Jackson? You knew that this would happen...."

She throws her hands over her face and continues to cry, "YOU RUINED THE MAGIC! YOU RUINED THE MAGIC!"



The one who is slowly recovering from brain surgery and has done everything within my ability to make this Christmas a special one?? 

Suspecting that I might be trespassing in the parental fail zone from which there is very seldom any return,  I had an out of body experience and watched in disbelief as a mother who looked just like me went in for the field goal and dropped kicked that Elf across the living room.

Mrs. Clause shoots ... and scores.

After a brief stay in the Elf hospital, Jackson is back to work today, Bunny is MIA, and I'm reminded how fiercely human we all are.  Thank goodness for apologies and forgiveness.

And every so often ... egg nog with a little spot of brandy.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

hark, the herald angels sing!

I've held off on updating my blog for the past few weeks because:

1) Recovering from surgery has really taken it out of me...


2) I didn't have any news to share because the pathology report wasn't back yet. 

But today at 5:09 PM, my doctor's office finally called ... after we've called them every single day for the past six days because the results were supposed to be in last week ... and I was told that the preliminary pathology report shows that the tumor they removed was benign.  They're now sending it off to other laboratories (Baylor and MD Anderson) to confirm the results.  

While we're waiting for those reports to come back, and hopefully validate the initial results, I'd like to take a quick moment to reflect on the past few weeks.  


My sister Eileen flew in on Monday, two days before the operation, to lend her moral support.  It was so awesome to have her here, not just because I love my sister and appreciated having her nearby ... but also, she totally helped the children prepare for their 5th grade Science benchmark test.  She also helped with Math. And Social Studies. And Language Arts. And laundry.  She deserves not only a Sister Award, but an Awesome Angel Aunt Homework award. 


Also, before I completely forget, I need to memorialize how when we arrived for surgery on Wednesday morning, as I was signing in, the receptionist looked at Eileen and Charlie and said something to the effect of "How nice it is that both of your parents are with you! Will they be remaining here during the entire operation?" 

Once I gained my composure from the long pause, followed by the hilarious outburst of laughter at my sister and husband's expressions ... I was reading and initialing my surgical orders, which indicated that I needed this brain surgery procedure because my symptom was, and I quote, "Tumor causing giddiness."  

I looked at Eileen and Charlie and said, "Hey Mom and Dad!  Who knew giddiness was a medical condition?!"  Funny moments abound! 

The surgery went well, the right side tumor came out with no apparent problem - and post op, I actually scoffed at the month supply of narcotic pain medication and anti-nausea medication that they prescribed for me.  Being the daughter of a pharmacist, and sister of two pharmacists, it's probably odd that I'm so opposed to taking medication unless absolutely necessary. 

Let's just say THANK GOD Charlie had the prescriptions filled, because within two days - once all the meds they'd given me along with my anesthesia were out of my system - I was a pill popping fool.  And then I was a napping fool because narcotics tend to make you very, very sleepy.  I can't say I remember a lot other than my wonderfully soft pillow between November 20 and December 10th.  

Yes, I know, I know it's not yet December 10th ... but I suspect even this time will be a blur to me because I'm still on pain and anti-nausea medicine. 

Scrolling through photos that the children took using my phone, I see that William polished off a half gallon of egg nog and is preparing himself for Bachelorhood.  


And I do recall hearing that Henry's adorable little soccer team won their final match. 

Henry's team photo

As of this writing, I'm feeling better, but my ear is troublesome.  The incision was behind the entire length of my right ear; and from what I can tell, they cut it and flipped the whole lobe over to make a 2-inch incision through my mastoid.  My ear lobe is numb, and I 'm almost completely deaf.   I've kept a cotton ball plugged in to it, because although I cannot hear - there's a weird painful pressure whenever it is exposed. 

Also, it pops all the time.  

But the popping is from the inside of my head. And it's loud enough that if I put my cheek next to yours, you can hear it.  It sounds like fireworks.  CRACK! POP! CRACK CRACK PZZZZZ! 

When I sleep at night, if I roll over on that side, the sound and feeling of it wakes me up because even the slightest pressure on the ear makes it sound like I've got Pop Rocks jammed in my ear canal. That in turns wakes Charlie up because I can't contain myself from saying, "COME ON! THIS IS SO GROSSSSSS!!" 

The doctor says my hearing should return in a a few months once the swelling around my auditory nerve subsides, and the popping noise should cease within 6 to 12 months as I continue to heal.  While that is a bit of an inconvenience, it's not totally miserable. 

Actually, it is ... who am I kidding?!

But after receiving my results today that preliminary reports show it as benign, I can assure you that any attempt at curing me of "giddiness" were tremendously unsuccessful. 
Within the next few days, I'll post photos of the past two weeks with my wonderful Mother Mary, who flew in and helped me convalesce.  Moms really are the best, and I'm so blessed to have one of the Greats.  I'm also blessed beyond measure to have so many friends that I've met through this blog who have been sending me an abundance of prayers and encouragement.  

Gosh darn it...  I love you guys!   xoxoxo 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

our favorite veteran ever

This past March, we embarked on a 3,000-mile road trip from Virginia to Texas, in order to check things out as a family before we made the commitment that we would move south.  My goal was that at the conclusion of the trip, we would have 12 enthusiastic thumbs up.   Seeing as we're now in Texas, I'd say the trip was a success.  But the highlight of the entire trip was a surprise detour we made on our way home.

Now I may have mentioned that my nephew, Tommy, enlisted in the military last year. After thinking that he might go to the Naval Academy, he surprised us all - his mother especially - by deciding that he would instead become a combat medic in the Army.  And so it is, he headed off to basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma last August, a mere week after he was with us for our 20-year anniversary on Nantucket.


My children adore their cousin Tommy.  So during his time at basic training, they wrote him several letters, telling him how proud they were of their big cousin:


And they drew him many a picture of encouragement:


Tommy wrote them back:


And also included pictures of encouragement:


To this very day, William still does 100 sit-ups every night, because he knows that Tommy is doing it, too, and he pledged to his cousin that he'd be working out with him.  Following Halloween, the kids talked to several of their friends about donating candy, and we shipped off a package to Tommy that weighed nearly 10 pounds and the parents all agreed, if it had stayed in our houses - would have resulted in us gaining 50 pounds. It's a mass / caloritic ratio mystery ... so yay for 18-year old metabolism and intense PT activities every day!

On our trip home from Texas, we had a bead on Nashville, Tennessee. Our plan was that we'd make a stop and check out a show at the Grand Ole' Opry ... because as luck would have it, The Charlie Daniel's Band was playing.

In the midst of our road trip planning exercises, I received a text message from my sister, Eileen, and she asked where we were.  When I told her that we were heading to Nashville, she excitedly wrote to me that Tommy was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky - which was only an hour away.   And so it is, Charlie and I made the immediate decision that we would forego Charlie Daniel's and drive to Kentucky.  The kids meanwhile, were oblivious to all of this.  We just told them that because it was Tuesday, we'd be having a day of fun "T's".

For lunch, we'd have turkey with iced tea.  And then, we would drive through Tennessee, and stop by the T-Rex museum.  For dinner, we would have a T-bone.  But alas, on our way to the T-Rex museum, we started having terrible car trouble.  Or so the kids thought.  Little did they know, the best "T" surprise was in store.

Here's what happened next (pardon my totally obnoxious voice - I was just so excited!):

On this Veteran's Day ... my heartfelt gratitude goes to the young and old who faithfully, courageously, and willingly serve our country.


We love you, cousin Tommy.   Please (please, please, please x infinity) stay safe out there.

Monday, November 09, 2015

everybody is a part of everything

As I've written before, I'm very much enjoying our move to Texas.


From a personal perspective - we love the new community, and our neighbors are wonderful.  Not just the doctor that performed surgery on 2/6 of our family (or 1/3 if we were to reduce to the simplest form) the first month we were here, and has since been very helpful with my "brain" issue - but especially our next door neighbors who are also new to the area.  Our children are the same ages, and play soccer together.  We've bonded on a very primitive level ... they are our kind of people.

Our tribe. 

From a professional perspective, it's been spectacular.  While I'm in the same role, our new collaborative workspaces are amazing, and I'm having the opportunity to positively interface with so many colleagues.  Just last week, Charlie decided to just float his resume and mere hours (if not minutes) later, he had people calling and asking him when he could start?  For the two of us, this move couldn't be better.

As for the children ...

Elizabeth is thriving, especially socially.  She's joined the Chess Club and thus far, is undefeated.  A few weeks ago, she challenged the Assistant Principal to a game and from what I understand, won in less than 12 moves.  Much to the dismay of her siblings, she's an absolute shark when it comes to puzzles and triumphs every time she plays.  After several years of special education services in Virginia, she was positively diagnosed with dyslexia just last month, in Texas.   This can and will be it's own separate post - but the fact is, our school here zeroed in on it immediately, and she is in great hands.

Henry is thriving, too.  I'm so thankful that we opted to start him a year later, because although he is the oldest child in his class by a few months - it's been perfect for him.  He has befriended all the kids in his class, and he easily grasps all of his academic material. If he'd focus on what he was doing - instead of hurrying to get things done as quickly as possible so that he can direct his attention to reading / writing / daydreaming about dinosaurs ... he'd have straight A's.

Carolyn is doing amazing.  For all of the concern that I had about whether or not to take her tonsils and adenoids out - and the remorse that we did the surgery as we went through a long and difficult recovery - there's no question that it has changed her life for the better.  She really is a changed child.  I'd never believed how much of a difference it would have, if I hadn't witnessed it myself.  Gone is the child that would need to be reminded 25 times to do something.   The post-surgical Carolyn takes responsibility for herself and her belongings and her grades have been steadily climbing.

Then there's William. Academically, he's at the top of his class.  He's one of those kids that just "gets it."  Everything comes to him very easily and he's motivated to do well, so it's the perfect combination. Book wise, he's golden.  But socially, he is struggling so hard.

In Virginia, William was quite possibly one of the most popular kids in his class.  He befriended everyone.  In fact, a few years ago for Thanksgiving, one of the boys in his class - who had just moved to the area from New Jersey - stood up at an assembly about "Giving Thanks" and shyly read to a gathered audience, how thankful he was for our William, because he was so kind to him and made him feel comfortable and welcome in this new environment.   Given his track record in Virginia, I thought for sure he'd do fine anywhere. 

Ah, but remember how William and his sister had their tonsils removed the second week of school?  They then missed two weeks of school for their recovery?  And when they returned to school, they were in study hall for the next two (plus) weeks, catching up on various lessons and missed assignments.  Because they were in study hall - they ate lunch at their desks and didn't go to the cafeteria or recess.  At their new school, they have various periods and move around from one class to the next with differing students, so the only time they really have to socialize with one another is at lunch and recess.  But because he was out for more than a month - the first month of school - he missed out not only on schoolwork, but on the social circles that were being established.  For whatever reason, it hasn't slowed Carolyn down at all.  But it has derailed William.

In a nutshell, he hasn't found his school tribe yet, and it's been excruciating.

For the past month, beginning at around 5:00 on Sunday night, he'll start to dread a new school week beginning.  Last week, he was so distraught, and there was absolutely nothing I could do or say to help him, unless my words in some way involved pulling him out of school and teaching him at home.   Eventually, I told him to sit down and write out his thoughts because it always helps me to get things out on paper.    He started writing, and writing, and writing.    

Once he'd wrapped up his epistle, and I got him settled in to bed for the night, I crafted an email to his teacher and the School Counselor.  I told them that I was very concerned about his transition, and then I copied and pasted a portion of what he had written.  The part where, "school is a foreboding institution - a monument of sadness that robs me of my joy and sucks at my soul." 

The next morning, the Counselor reached out to me with an email that effectively said, "Wow, thank you for letting us know.  We're ON IT."  She then swung in to action and had William come to her office for a chat.  The science teacher also swung in to action and appointed William to the Ecology Club. Among his gardening activities that he gets to do on a monthly basis, he also gets to police the kids in the cafeteria a few times a month, and ensure that they do not mix recyclables with trash.  It's a big responsibility!

Still, he is distraught.  And it really didn't help matters that on Friday night, the kids had a grade-wide social at their school and at one point, William tripped and bumped in to a boy. The friend of that boy thought it was intentional, and retaliated by punching him in the chest and pushing him in to a wall.

I was there, manning the drink booth.  And while I didn't see it happen, I did hear about via a devastated William ... and if you think that my response was to immediately find the boy and have a little "chat" you'd be 100% right.  Meanwhile, William was hiding in the dark cafeteria behind the refrigerator.  Mortified, not by my actions - but that someone would do that to him.

Last night, as I was tucking him in to bed, he asked me to please come to school and have lunch with him, today.  Because this is likely my last week in the office for the rest of the year - I have a million things to do.  I didn't commit to William, but today I realized that none of my work activities, are more important than being with my little guy in his time of trouble.

So at 11:15, I packed up and left for the school.  When I arrived and walked in to the crowded cafeteria, I immediately saw Carolyn at a table with her friends. I then saw Elizabeth at a table with her friends.  And then I saw William, sitting all by himself.  His shoulders were slumped and he was sadly looking around.  My heart broke and fell down in pieces to my knees.   When he turned and saw me - the look that came across his face, I can't even describe it.

I pulled up a chair and said, "How you doing, big guy?"  He broke in to a huge smile said, "I'm doing GREAT, now that you are here.  Mom, I love you so, so, so, so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you."   We talked for a few minutes, and eyed out the scene in the cafeteria.  I asked why his sisters weren't sitting with him (WHY?!?) and he explained that he came in after they did and there were no seats at their tables. And they can't move seats once they sit down because the Cafeteria Ladies rule with an Iron Fist called Detention.

Also, even if there had been seats at their tables ... they are girls.

Sitting next to us, were a table full of boys.  I asked William if he knew them - and he said yes.  I then asked if he'd take any exception to me talking to them - and he said no.  So without further adieu I stood up, and walked over to their table.  All of their eyes turned to look at me, this grownup, who surely has something VERY IMPORTANT to say.

I said to the boys, "Hi guys, do you know William?"  Then I nodded my head over my shoulder.  They all said that they knew him.  I then continued, "Did you know that we JUST moved here?  And that William had to have his tonsils taken out the second week of school?"  They didn't know that.  So I continued, "And because of his surgery he missed TWO WEEKS of school. And then, he missed TWO MORE WEEKS because he had to go to study hall.  And by the time he was able to stop going to Study Hall, he felt like all the friends were gone. Can you imagine?" 

Their eyes looked legitimately concerned and they arched their necks to look around me, at William, who was playing with his mashed potatoes.  I concluded by saying, "Can I ask you guys a favor?  If you happen to see William sitting in the cafeteria by himself - or wandering around at recess by himself, can you maybe invite him over?  Will you keep your eye on him, because he's having a really hard time fitting in."

In unison they all said, "YES M'AM!" Then they all pointed out that there was an extra chair at the table and would William come over and sit with them RIGHT NOW?

He did. And so did I.

And for the next 15 minutes, we talked to them about their favorite sports, movies, and food.  We then talked about a delayed birthday party for William ... and maybe they could come help us celebrate.  And that's how it is that I made plans to take a bunch of fifth grade boys out to play paintball in mid-December.  Not sure my neurologist will give me clearance to do that - so Charlie might have to be my backfill.

As I was getting up to grab a pen so I could write down all the boys' telephone numbers so we could coordinate our paintball outing,  I happened to walk past a table and sitting there - all by herself - was a little girl with slumped shoulders, playing with her mashed potatoes.

And my heart broke all over again.

I swooped by Carolyn's table and asked her to come with me.  She initially resisted by saying that she'd get in trouble if she left her table, and I told her that she'd get in trouble if she didn't.   I asked my daughter what the girl's name was, and she said, "Ashley."  Walking back to the table, I leaned down and said, "Hi Ashley. How are you doing?"   She looked surprised and said, "Um, I'm OK."  So I very gently asked her, "Ashley, why are you sitting over here, all by yourself?" And she whispered, "I don't have any friends."

My hearing isn't so great at the moment, so the poor child had to repeat it THREE TIMES before I heard what she said.  Carolyn, who undoubtedly heard it the first time and had more time to process this information, stepped forward and said, "I'll be your friend, Ashley, and I'd really like to sit with you."

As I'm standing there with beams of sunshine coming out of my ears, the Lunch Lady came over to tell me that they really make every attempt at spotting kids that are sitting by themselves and try to get them to sit with others.  "But" she told me, "We can't MAKE them move. If they want to sit by themselves, that's their choice."

I told her, "That's why it helps to have me here, because as a parent, I can make them move ... and I will make them move.  If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that no fifth grader wants to sit by themselves in a crowded cafeteria. They might tell you that they do, but it's a 25-minute torture sentence."

After I told her what has happened with William the past several weeks, the Lunch Lady promised me that she'll step up her efforts.  And I promised her that I'll drop by several times a month to help.

Tonight over dinner, William was in great spirits and is excited about the prospect of friends, and paintball.  And Carolyn and Elizabeth have Ashley in their crosshairs - or anyone else that might be sitting by themselves.


As it turns out, taking a one-hour break from work to spend with my fifth graders, was quite possibly the most important lunch meeting I've had all year.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

the power of distraction

So in other news ....

Halloween was this past weekend and I didn't get a single picture of all four kids in their costumes.  Although I'd asked them to please not leave the house without me taking a picture of them, do they listen?    (Usually yes ... on Halloween night when everyone is desperate to get outside ... no.)

For the record, William was a werewolf, Elizabeth was Frankenstein's daughter, Henry was a dinosaur trainer (Owen, to be exact), and Carolyn was a zombie colonial girl.  It brings me great joy that Carolyn still wears her costume from Colonial Williamsburg that I purchased two years ago, after one too many ales, when I thought it would be a superb idea to spend the equivalent of a mortgage on handmade colonial garb for the whole family.  It's good to know that at least one of my children is getting our money's worth out of the costume.

Here's Elizabeth with her haul ... she lost count at 420 pieces of candy.


Charlie and I were dressed up, too ... as Colonial people, of course.  When we arrived at the neighborhood block party and we were the only adults dressed up, Charlie said aloud to everyone, "So ... it would appear that WE were the only ones that received the memo?!"  

After the neighborhood shindig, we retreated back to our house, dragged out our fire pit, and hosted several friends at the base of our driveway.  And so it is, our tradition of Halloween 'smores has successfully migrated and taken root in Texas.


Last week, I was away on a business trip in Puerto Rico, and after our very productive meetings during the day, I had the privilege of kayaking with one of our senior managers (my boss' boss) through a bioluminescent lagoon in twilight.  It was so awesome ... one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life.  We paddled through a twilight harbor, and entered this lagoon where the pitch black sky was drenched in stars.  We put our hands in to the water and splashed around to see the phytoplankton light up, and over head, there was a huge shooting star.   A fiery meteor so large, I could make out the shape and texture of its rocky surface as it flew through the atmosphere.

It was a truly spiritual experience and I felt the most amazing sense of peace in my soul.

On our paddle back to the loading zone, we navigated a canal that was draped in mangroves.  Our guide shined a light up in to the trees and pointed out the 4-foot iguana that was perched on the limbs above us and told us how these huge reptiles, with their huge claws, will often teeter off the branches and fall in to the boats.  In that moment, we heard a loud "SPLASH!" and both my senior manager and I let out a scream and startled so hard, we almost capsized.  We then started rowing so fast, our previously synchronized paddles were clanking off each other.

(Good feeling GONE.)


While I was away, Charlie received this letter from our insurance company. I'm not sure why this cracks me up ... it's really not very funny, but it is nice to know that my insurance has approved me for brain surgery.  


As word travels that I'll be going in for surgery in the next few weeks, so many people have expressed that they are amazed how "composed" I seem to be during all of this.  To which I've replied, "What is the other option?"  

As my sister Janet says, ours minds can be like a bad neighborhood, so she prefers not to go in there, alone.  You've got to roll up the windows, lock the doors, turn on some happy music, and keep your eyes on the road.  

Perspective is important.  Consider, if not for modern medicine, I would have checked out of this world 40 years ago, when I had a ruptured gangrenous appendix at the age of 5.  Charlie would have checked out at 18-years old when he had a ruptured gangrenous appendix.  When I look at things that way, I clearly see that each day has been nothing if not a gift.


Between me and the kids, this week I've been at the doctor's office almost every day.  I've been going through a lot of tests, and the triplets have been going in for their 11-year-old check ups.

What I didn't realize is that ELEVEN is a big age for shots.  In addition to the flu shot, they get their tetanus vaccination, and a host of other things (at least three that I could count).  To say that Elizabeth turned inside out at the prospect of a shot is an understatement.  Yesterday, she received her flu vaccination, and the only way she could get it, is if she was cradled in my lap with her head on my shoulder.  When she overheard me talking to her father that she would be going back in two weeks for more shots, she imploded.

So I told her exactly what I've been telling myself the past few weeks.

"Why worry about something that hasn't happened? Why distress ourselves with dark imaginings for what may or may not occur? It's not in the here.  It's not in the now.  So let it go and just be present in THIS moment."   Then I showed her a picture of the 38 shots I had to have when I had my allergy testing last month.


At the sight of this, she screamed like a 4-foot lizard had fallen in to her boat.

And agreed, yes ... it could always be worse.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

when the cup is half full

So, earlier this week I went back to see the neurologist and it turns out I've got two tumors.  One on the left and one on the right.  In case there was any question, being diagnosed with "multiples" in tumor language is not nearly as much fun as the diagnoses of "multiples" in children language ... although the sensation of surprise is comparable.

The doctor initially thought that I had a glomus jugulare tumor, but because they didn't "light up" with the contrast during my recent MRI, he's not quite sure what they are.  He's assured me that malignant tumors in this region of the skull are extremely rare ... in fact the only time he's ever seen one is when it metastasized from somewhere else.  That's good news for me. I think.

At this juncture, we know that the tumors are eroding the bone, and are very close - if not impeding on the temporal lobe - so I'll be going in for basal skull brain surgery on November 18th to get the pathological scoop.  (Literally.)

While I'm remaining very optimistic that everything is and will be fine - and this will soon become yet another blip on the radar of life - there is this small little voice that whispers, "What if..." 

My hearing is further damaged? 

There's a hemorrhage?

It's malignant?

What's really amazed me is that the little voice of worry, is being drowned out by an even louder voice of strength that is shouting, "WOW... WHAT A GIFT!"

The truly beautiful thing about having a health situation like the one I'm currently facing, is that it makes you abundantly aware of your fragility and mortality.   I'd suggest that the vast majority of people are so busy with their lives, they never really stop to think that this could be their last day.

Or year. 

We have plans! Schedules to keep! Goals to accomplish!  Rooms to paint, albums to organize, pounds to lose, trips to travel, children to raise!

At least for me, I've been far too busy to even think about the prospect of NOT being here.  The mere concept of that is simply inconceivable.  It's got to be an emotional defense mechanism because if we dwell on the not of being here - the possibility of departing our loved ones - we'd slump in to a state of perpetual depression.  That's surely part of the reason, seven years later, I still haven't finalized my Will.  Yep, totally flaked... can you believe I never had it notarized!?

So this blip on the radar, has been an excellent reminder that we're not in control.  While being organized and having a clean house and stocked refrigerator, might give the illusion of control, we don't completely hold the reins on our fate.  The only thing we can control is our attitude, so I'm trying to keep a positive one.

It's also been a gift to be reminded that we're part of something.


People from all over the world have been sending me emails (I'll respond to all of them soon, I promise!), and friends and family have been showering us with calls and offers to travel to Texas and stay for as long as necessary.  The kids asked me one night when I was tucking them in to bed, "Mom? Why were you crying earlier today? Is it because you are going to die?!" and I laughed, "No, I'm not worried at all about that .... we are blessed because we have so many people that love us.  That feeling of being lifted up, it makes me so grateful I weep!"

My sister called me last night to tell me about a sweet little girl that lives across the street from her, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was two. The doctors surgically removed most of it.  She's now seven, and recently lost sight in one eye because the tumor had regrown and damaged her optic nerve.  This past May, she had a massive stroke, while undergoing surgery.  Her recovery has been very long, and is now punctuated with chemotherapy, because the re-growth is malignant.

It's so difficult to see God's Fingerprints on that situation, but I'm sure they are there, just as they are on so many other incomprehensibly sad situations.  Perhaps these things happen - in part, to spark love and compassion?  And maybe remind us of the beauty in what we have in the here and now?


A favorite passage of mine is from the Buddhist teaching:
One day some people came to the master and asked, 'How can you be happy in a world of such impermanence?  The master held up a glass and said, 'Someone gave me this glass and I really like this glass. It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight.  I touch it and it rings! One day the wind may blow it off the shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the table. And I say, 'Of Course!' When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.' 
Another way of looking at it, is to consider the conversation I had with my mother earlier in the month. Her response upon first hearing all of this was to say, "Well, you know ... NONE of us are getting out of this world alive!" 

True that.  Treasure your cup ...


And all the awesomeness in it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

what are the odds?

It really seems like our move to Texas was meant to be.  Or at a minimum, we are supposed to be exactly HERE at this point in time.

Last month, I mentioned that Carolyn needed to have her tonsils taken out - and because she was (repeatedly) unable to have them removed in Virginia - we finally decided to make the move and find an ENT surgeon, here.  As luck would have it, there is an ENT office in our neighborhood. And, a well respected ENT surgeon lives less than a hundred feet away.  This ENT surgeon happens to be the same one who took out Carolyn, and William's tonsils and adenoids, just last month.

As I also mentioned, when we moved to Texas, I had a slight cold that led to the worst ear infection, I've ever had in my life.  After suffering through it for a few days, hoping that a spare Z-pack I had would do the trick, I went to the Emergency Room because I was new here, and didn't yet have a Primary Care Physician.  The ER doctor prescribed me a stronger antibiotic and told me that if I wasn't better in three days, to let them know.

Because I'd talked to my mother - and she was adamant that I get in to see the ENT - I called the ER three days later, and asked that they refer me. Which they did.

When I arrived at the ENT, two days later, they did a hearing test and told me I'd lost approximately 50% of the hearing in my right ear.  The ENT immediately scheduled me to have a CT-scan and an MRI ... and a few days later, I was back in the ENT's office and was told that I was being referred to The Medical Center in Houston, because there was something "suspicious" with my images.  I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I wasn't thinking it would be too big of a deal.  When I was in that MRI machine ... on the first day of our children's school ... I fell asleep and had a dream that I'd totally missed the bus.  Maybe I startled and it was blurry?

My appointment with the neurologist was last week and after he had me answer a number of different questions, and walk across the room, and touch my fingers to my nose, and bend down to touch my toes, he inquired on the headaches I've been having.  These pesky headaches that happen at least daily and sometimes persist for hours, started around the same time as our move to Texas.

They originate from behind my right ear and radiate across my entire head.  I've been chalking them up to the ear infection, dehydration, lack of sleep, stress, relocation, hormones, the vast quantities of barbecue we've been eating each week, and fifth grade homework.

The neurologist nods and says,  "I suspect you've got a cyst.  But let me go look at your MRI and I'll be right back...."

Almost 45 minutes later he comes back and says, "Well, it's definitely not a cyst."  I smile and am just about to say, "Phew, that's good news!" when he continues, "It's a tumor." 

Unfortunately, I only retained 27% of what he said from that point on.

There are a lot of questions, I don't yet know - including where exactly it is, or whether or not it's malignant.  We do know it's about the size of a small walnut.  Yesterday, I was back having another MRI - and within the next few days, I'll be meeting with the neurologist, again, to determine the course of action, which he assures me will likely include surgery and a lengthy recovery.

While I still have some slight loss (~5%) and it feels like I've got fluid sloshing around my ear, my hearing has largely returned.  And from what the neurologist can tell preliminarily, this tumor is likely NOT the cause of that hearing loss; although it is probably the cause for my persistent headaches.  

When I was leaving his office last week, he told me that this is what they call an "incidental finding." If they hadn't been in there, investigating my hearing loss - on this exact ear - they wouldn't have known about the tumor, until who knows when?   Of course that begs the question, how many of us are walking around with absolutely NO idea what's going on inside our bodies?

(Insert need for everyone to have full body MRIs!)

It could just be that it's all coincidental, but I think living where we are - in this location - with these ENT specialists literally in our yard, is no accident.  Moreover, the doctor told me, "If I didn't know better, I'd think you have someone upstairs looking out for you..."

YES, I'm sure I do.  (Thanks Dad!) (And Mom, who talked me in to going to the ENT!)

I'm sure that whatever happens, all will be good because no doubt, the universe is unfolding as it should and God's fingerprints are all over everything.  Meanwhile, on a more serious note ... I'm still trying to figure out how to work this situation in to to my annual rhyming Christmas letter.

There's been a rumor... ?

We must always try to keep our sense of humor... ?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

they fill up my senses, like a night in the forest

Tomorrow ... my once three-pound babies will turn eleven-years-old.  ELEVEN.  We're now solidly in the throes of tweendom and I'm in awe thinking about where the time has gone?

As these children become older and more independent, time doesn't seem to be slowing down ... in contrast - it just keeps moving faster.  Long gone are the days when I'd gaze at the clock dreaming of nap time.  Now, because of the lengthy school days - and after school activities (including but not limited to homework, soccer, dinner, and showers); my time with the children seems so fleeting and so, so precious.  Except when they're fighting with me over homework. Which is still almost every night.  But I'm trying to focus on the positive.

For as long as I can remember, our most special time of the day is bedtime, when I'll sit with them, on the edge of their beds, in their dimly lit rooms and recount the events from the day.  Sometimes, I feel like I hurry along our conversations because it's late - and they need to sleep - or I'm zapped and I need to put my feet up.

But whether a brief two-minute conversation, or more lengthy twenty-two minute conversation ... we'll talk, and pray, and I'll run my fingers through their hair and tell them - every night I tell them - how much I love and adore them and how incredibly GRATEFUL I am that they blessed my world.

No truer words have ever been written on this blog:  I really am the luckiest person alive.

Tonight Charlie and I spent a few hours after they went to sleep, blowing up 48 balloons, which we strung around the house.  Ever since their seventh birthday in Virginia, we've made it a tradition to decorate the house on the eve of their birthday.  Because when 50% of your family celebrates the exact same birthday ... it deserves some festivity.

These lists have been hanging up on the fridge for the past few weeks, since perhaps early September, but I took a photo of them tonight, so I can memorialize their birthday gift wishes @ 11:


William's birthday list - he really wants an X-Box 360 and Marvel Superhero games.  Also, Jurassic World X-Box games.  Because if there is one thing that he and his little brother love to do - it's to talk / play / breathe / dream about anything and everything related to superheroes and dinosaurs.  Add a video game to that mix and you've got the recipe for 8- and 11-year old male euphoria.

William would also like Love, Hope, and Peace throughout the world.  Oh, and a Nerf Sword. So glad that was listed after his charitable desires.

(Ankit is our Indian friend, through Compassion International, that we've been sponsoring for the past six years. I'm happy to see that William is thinking of his pen pal, on his birthday. Although I suspect it has something to do with me repeatedly telling him, "It isn't always about what *we* want. It cannot be 'me, me, me!' We must think of others, and what we can do to make the world better."   This is evidence he's hearing at least a little of what I'm saying and for that, I rejoice.)


Elizabeth's birthday list - a phone, a baseball mitt, roller skates, colored pencils, get ears pierced, cowboy boots, new tennis shoes, visit her best friend from Virginia - Rosie - and get two new guinea pigs.   I haven't written about it yet, but in July, we made the very difficult decision to leave our two guinea pigs, Barack and Georgie (also known as James Brown and Einstein; Chocolate and Oreo), in Virginia.  The day before we pulled out of town, I came to my senses and realized that driving 1,500 miles with two guinea pigs AND the rambunctious dog in the middle of summer, was infinitesimally more than I could handle.

For as much as I loved our guinea pigs ... I didn't love them that much.  Nor did I love them so much that I'm in a hurry to replace them anytime soon.  If soon = 90 years.


Carolyn's birthday list - a real baseball bat, cowboy boots, a walkman, and then a lot of time spent together as a big happy family.  Going to the movies - fishing - and having my Mom and Jim visit.  My favorite birthday wish of hers is that we "Drive around Texas and give money to the poor people."

I think this wish stems from a situation last year, when we were on a road trip, and saw an elderly homeless man near a traffic light, in the pouring rain, holding out a cup.  We'd stopped at the red, and reached out the window to hand him some food and money. That gesture was a highlight of our children's trip.   I'm so glad to see that the memory of how good that small act felt in her heart, stuck with my sweet girl.   But pray tell, how do we find all the poor people in Texas?  And where does all the money come from?

In regards to distribution - do we just roll down our windows and throw it out?

Clearly, there's still some logistics we need to work out.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

so, around the same time they qualify for AARP

Despite pleas from the children to buy them their own phones ... we've held out because I see no reason for our 10-year olds to have that kind of technology.  I'm so mean, because apparently "Everyone else MOM, EVERYONE has one."  Our poor children, they're so deprived.  

A few months ago, Charlie replaced his iPhone with a new one, and the kids thought that meant they could have his old phone which he'd stashed away somewhere.  When they found the old phone, they probably felt like they'd just won the lottery - and thought they'd try to crack the security passcode.  

I only figured out what had happened when William asked if I could let him use a calculator.    


This was a fun little math project for us to work on together.   Although probably more fun for me and Charlie, than the children. 


We calculated that the phone will be unlocked in approximately 45 years ... or around the same time they may be planning to retire.  

Suffice to say, they're very, very upset with Siri.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

what's in you wednesday (the ficus edition)

It's been a while since I've written one of these "what's in you" posts ... but I'm trying to get in to a better habit of jotting down thoughts more often than I have been; and tonight when I was at the gym (Me, at the GYM! Miracle of miracles!), it struck me that it was Wednesday.

So I decided I'd blog about this, and leaning back - took a picture of my little workout partner, who was taking 214 steps a minute, next to me who was only taking 120 steps a minute, and then nearly toppled off the machine because holding on with one hand while snapping a picture with the other hand, as you're on a moving ellipse machine is really not a good idea.  


Point is!

The same week we moved to Texas, two months ago this week, I picked up a little cold.  It stuck with me for the entire drive south, and then knocked me flat a week later.  The week of our 21st wedding anniversary ... I developed an ear infection, which was so painful, it woke me up in the middle of the night in tears. After waking Charlie up and telling him that he was on alert to take me to the hospital, I guzzled Tylenol and tried to sleep while sitting upright with my head on a heating pad.

When the sun rose, I went to the ER and they told me, "Yep, you have an ear infection." They prescribed antibiotics and pain medication, and sent me home.  Three days later, it wasn't any better. So the ER doctor referred me to the ENT at the end of our street (so convenient!) and after a hearing test, they informed me that yes, I do have an infection, and also - I have at least 50% hearing loss in my right ear.

Say what?!

No, really. What did you say??

I was sure that the hearing loss was due to the ear infection, and if they could just get the fluid out of my inner ear, my hearing would return.  Perhaps they could put in tubes??

But my highly respected otolaryngologist, who ordered an MRI and multiple CT scans, didn't agree with my theory.  During my second or third visit, he held up one my scans and said, "This is a very unusual and complicated case. There's something happening here and here, and here, and see this shadowed area on your temporal bone? This is especially curious..." so I've been referred to a chief neurologist in Houston.

I've noticed a very strong similarity between me and a ficus tree. You know how every time you move one of those plants, they get so stressed out by their new environment - they lose their leaves?  That's me!!  While a somewhat different scenario this time, I'm just losing my leaves, again.

But soon the roots will be down and everything will grow back JUST FINE!

I'm confident that the "curious" issue will be demystified and my hearing is soon restored. Although if it isn't restored until AFTER the children get in to a good routine with their homework, and aren't so "vocal" about their displeasure of completing it ... I wouldn't mind.  (At least not terribly.)

Meanwhile, Charlie completely and totally threw his back out last weekend.  It was our last day on a beach weekend, and we were packing up to leave.  My husband was innocuously bending over to toss a box of Ziploc bags in to a crate, and his back seized up on him.  He let out a yelp, grabbed his lower back with both hands, fell to his knees, before going face first on the floor with a thud.

He told me later, it felt like he had been hit with a taser.

Thankfully, our good friend who was with us, has had a history of back problems, so never leaves home without a full supply of prescription grade anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers.  Charlie took two flexeril (we later learned that he should have only taken one), a handful of ibuprofen, and got in to the car before falling asleep for the next 24 hours.

Last week was a tough week; he could hardly move for four days.  Next week, the day after I see my neurologist, he'll be seeing an orthopedist about his back. Oh, and his foot. It seems he has a Morton's Neuroma that needs to be surgically removed, because after receiving steroid shots every six weeks for the past 18-months, it's been suggested that he get it resolved once and for all.

All this to say ... THIS IS LIFE! 

Everyone - at some stage - has health challenges.  As for us, we're getting older, and things break.  Although I look at my former boss, who has 15 years on me but still manages to work out every day, completes several triathlons a year, and is strong as an ox.

His Fountain of Youth is and always has been, Exercise. 

So in an effort to combat the effects of gravity and time - we recently joined the YMCA and have penciled in to our calendar that we will go - three times a week - come hell or high-water or fifth grade homework times three.   The goal is that we'll get stronger, and the kids will, too.


At a minimum, we'll hopefully be demonstrating that carving time out of your day to take care of yourself and keep your body strong, is one of the most important things you can do in your entire life.  (Making sure you always have extra strength pain medication on hand is a close second.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

cabot, cortez, and pedro menendez de aviles

My new strategy for setting a timer and letting the children do their homework on their own is not going so well. This is the scene at our kitchen table T+90:


We've got a great place to sit, excellent lighting, the assignment neatly laid out, and a nicely sharpened pencil. The only thing missing is the student who is vowing to never talk with me for at least the rest of the day, and possibly the whole week - if I don't stop what I'm doing and help them read the newspaper article about early explorers. And then, just help a little bit more with finishing the crossword puzzle.

Dinner?  Who needs dinner?! 

Monday, September 28, 2015

are you smarter than a 5th grader?

Does anyone remember the show, "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader" that was on several years ago?   Actually, in pulling the link for this blog, I see that it's still on the air.   Maybe the reason I don't know it's still on the air is because we never seem to have a spare moment to do things like watch television.

Which leads me to the purpose of this blog post.

Words nearly escape me as I try to convey the feeling of supervising homework with fifth grade triplets.  Maybe it's a function of moving from one school district to what feels like a much more challenging new one; or maybe it's the academic jump from fourth to fifth grade.  Or maybe it's the transition from elementary school to intermediate school, with increased responsibility and workload.

All I know is that the amount of homework has gone up significantly this year, and my odds of winning BIG TIME have gone up should I ever be on a show about fifth grade curriculum, that is still apparently on the air.


To manage this considerable spike, I've made every attempt to pull what "tools" I can from my "toolbox" to help our children on the home front.  In my professional career which spans more than 20 years, I've directed global teams of people working on multi-million dollar projects with a common end point.  We've successfully navigated obstacles with efficiency and ease because of what I consider to be my outstanding ability to be patient, organized, and focused.

But all of those stellar people and project management skills that I so aptly possess in a professional setting, are gone with an audible - WHOOSH - the moment I try to help my 10-year old children with their homework.  The instantaneous feeling of being overwhelmed, outnumbered, and desperate surpasses even the days of my precious children's infancy.

(Insert a picture of me pulling my hair by its roots.)


The kids are trying to understand what they need to do, and we're trying to understand what they need to do.  We often resemble the blind leading the blind.   My theory that a child should only spend 10 minutes per grade on their homework, so in the case of our children = 50 minutes per night, is sufficient for their math and language arts.

But not also for their science and social studies. 

Tonight for example, we spent more than two hours on their social studies trying to access a website and complete two assignments, before we received an e-mail from their teacher saying in effect, "As a result of the numerous emails received tonight, I just wanted to clarify that all the children needed to do was log on and demonstrate that they could access the information."

Wha?! Who?? 

Most nights, we'll start working on home work by 5 PM, after the kids get off the bus at 4:15 ... and our homework marathon will span until 8 PM; sometimes it resumes at 6:30 in the morning before the kids leave for school at 7:45.  The roughly one hour of home work per night generally translates to one hour PER child, which means THREE HOURS for us.

It would be so much easier if I could just do their homework for them.  I'd get all three done in less than 30 minutes.  But NO.  Apparently, that's not OK and totally frowned upon, as evidenced by my children furiously erasing even the slightest marks that I make on their paper.

We need to teach them and teaching a fifth grader who is also your child, has to be the hardest thing in the world because as far as our children are considered, we just don't get it.   Yes Mom and Dad, we KNOW you went to school for more than 20 years each, but school has obviously CHANGED since you were a student.

And yet .... they still insist we help them!!


On those nights we have soccer, or try to do something crazy like make and eat dinner, we'll wrap up earlier and the kids will finish it, before bed time.  But when I say "finish it" they usually sit staring at their paper until Charlie and I will stand over their shoulder and work them through it.

I wonder, but am still not ready to let them completely sink (although it's coming soon), would they get anything done if we weren't there prodding them along?

Here's an excerpt from tonight, and yes - I honestly promise that all of these urgent questions came at me in the exact same moment and every one of them expected an immediate response:

"MOM!  How many times does seven go in to sixty three .... MOM! how do you spell "environment" ... MOM MOM MOM MOM what's my log-in password?"  

To the first child I handed an arabacus and said, "FIGURE IT OUT."  To the second I handed a dictionary and said, "STARTS WITH AN E". And to the third I said, "Your guess is as good as mine, ask your teacher tomorrow."

That was just one barrage of questions. More came and kept on coming.   Meanwhile, there's little Henry and I didn't even have the stamina to help him, so put his older sibling on the task.


For as much as I want to help our children succeed, three hours of homework a night for Charlie and I is NOT sustainable.  This is a loaded question, but doesn't it seem insane that 10-year olds are in school for nine hours a day and then spend another several hours at night doing MORE school work?

Where is the balance in life?!  

And more importantly, how do other people do this, especially those who have multiple after school events happening each week? Do you sleep??

And for other parents with similarly aged children, does it feel like 95% of the battle is getting them to take responsibility and sit down and DO the work?

At the risk of not working with our children to do their absolute best, I'm ready to set a timer and tell them they've got ONE HOUR to get their work done - on their own - and if they don't get it done, then oh well.  Pay better attention in class, and be more efficient at home.

If we have to repeat fifth grade so be it.   Although, it makes me wonder, is my temptation to keep helping them and sacrifice the rest of our lives, a function of my concern that they will not be successful in school and will fall behind, or am I worried that I'll be dubbed as a deadbeat parent who doesn't keep their child on the crest of the academic wave?

After some reflection on that thought, I know it's because I don't want them to fall behind and feel lost in school ... I've been there and it's awful.

Still. We've got to do something, and soon. 

Charlie and I are dying over here by decimals and fractions, which can be volumetrically measured in a graduated cylinder, and geographically positioned just west of the Prime Meridian and north of the equator.

Monday, September 21, 2015

one more reason to carpe diem

This one ... right here ... is so intellectual.


He's been reading a lot about earth science, astronomy, and after watching a program on the universe that aired on National Geographic, he's been very interested in The Big Bang Theory.  What is it, who came up with the idea, where's the proof, and while we're on this philosophical topic ... how exactly is the world going to end?   

Charlie and I have had a lot of fun talking with him about the concept and the various proofs that exist. While my geologist husband and I have had a good time theorizing with our son, he's not at ALL keen on the idea.  Instead of looking at it as a potentially wonderful scientific miracle, he thinks the whole concept is depressing. He's particularly bothered by the fact that the world which one day started, will one day come to an end.   Tonight after dinner, he said to me, "It's like that dumb song, 'All We Are Is Dust in The Wind.'"

When I said, "Well, we kind of are like dust in the wind..." he snapped, "We most certainly are NOT dust in the wind. WE ARE THE WIND.  We are the energy that moves through everything! And I'm going to do something - I don't know what yet, but something - about how this whole world is supposed to 'scientifically' end."

I love it ... and I can't wait to see the topic of his science fair project next spring. Something tells me he's going to come up with a plan to stop plate tectonics woven in with transcendental meditation.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

tonsillectomy recovery time (aka: the seeming eternity)

It'll be two weeks on Tuesday that our children had their tonsils and adenoids removed; and I would be remiss to not capture what this experience has been like for us.


Interestingly enough, I'd had my tonsils and adenoids removed when I was ten-years-old and had just started fifth grade, also.  I remember waking up from surgery and crying for my mother, and my mother - who was working at the time, was not there. But my Aunt Grace - who looks very much like my mother was there - and so the nurse put my Auntie in front of me and said, "Here she is, Dear."  

And I howled ... because as much as I love my Aunt Grace - I knew that she wasn't my mother. That is one of the few things I remember of the situation.  I also remember that I spent two or three nights in the hospital, because back in the "olden" days, tonsillectomies were in-patient.  

So the children had their tonsils out on Tuesday morning and we took them home on Tuesday afternoon.   The doctor told us that they'd likely miss one full week of school, and would need to have limited activities for two weeks.  (Note, our Virginia doctor told us that they'd need to miss TWO full weeks of school, so we were hopeful that perhaps they heal faster the closer you get to the equator.)  

The doctor also told us that they'll be very sore the first few days, and then seem to improve, until the scabs fall off around Day 7, and then they'll have a "dip" and seem to relapse.

But then they'll rebound and continue to improve.  

The day prior to their surgery,  I had filled their prescriptions for lidocaine lollipops, Tylenol with codeine, and Zofran (to offset any upset from the codeine).   We had an abundance of popsicles, ice cream, Jell-O, juices, and straws on hand.  I felt we were as prepared as we could possibly be.

The doctor told us Tuesday would be a mellow day; somewhat of a "honeymoon" because the kids would still have morphine in their system from the procedure.  Sure enough Tuesday afternoon, albeit groggy, they seemed fine; nibbling ice cream and contemplating the movies they'd watch during their recovery time.

Wednesday, was still pretty mellow.  No significant pain; although we stayed on our pain medication very religiously administering it every six hours, round the clock.

Thursday, was much the same as Wednesday.  I started to taper off the Tylenol with codeine, and introduce straight liquid Tylenol because I'd rather not give the children narcotics unless they ABSOLUTELY need them.  Responsible parenting; right here.  Also, I was sure the worst was behind us. What little did I know.

Friday, William started to complain of a headache, neck and jaw pain.  This continues to amplify throughout the day.  I'm still administering plain old liquid Tylenol every four hours.

Saturday, William continues to complain with increased intensity; Carolyn seems to be doing OK and Charlie and I wonder if it's because girls have a higher threshold for pain? The doctor calls and tells me that we have a window of opportunity to begin alternating Tylenol with Motrin until Sunday afternoon, because their scabs will not fall off until likely Monday - and so I won't be able to give them an anticoagulant within 24 hours of those scabs coming off, because of an increased risk of bleeding. BUT, by giving them Motrin - an anti-inflammatory - that could help with their neck pain.  Liquid Motrin is introduced every eight hours.  The only thing that makes him feel better is a bubble bath.


Sunday morning at 2 AM, William is awake screaming from the pain.  I get the Worst Mother of the Year Award because I had promised him that I would turn the baby monitor on that I just found during our move, so if he needed anything, I'd be there in a jiffy.  While I did turn the monitor on in HIS room, I neglected to turn it on in OUR room.  And so it is, he woke up and called for me - for several minutes to no avail - before climbing out of his bunk bed and navigating through the dark house to find me.  It was awful, awful, awful and I wound up sleeping with him on the couch.

Monday, William is miserable - all day.  Tylenol with codeine has been reinitiated every six hours.  Sometimes, we can't even make it the full six hours.  Carolyn is starting to go downhill fast, too.  She sleeps on the couch next to her brother.  We think this has to be the "dip" the doctor referred to, and the scabs must be coming off.  I'd like to look in their mouths, but their post-surgical breath is so outrageously bad, I'd pass out cold if they breathed on me.  I innocently ask Charlie to look and in doing so, also collect my Worst Wife of the Year Award.

There's no way they're returning to school on Tuesday. 

Tuesday, William continues to be miserable.  To the point that he will at random times, cry uncontrollably.  He's drinking more than 80 ounces a day, so is sufficiently hydrated - we're also religiously administering medicine, but it's awful.  He sits with an ice pack on his neck and sucks ice chips.  By Tuesday afternoon, Carolyn is a wreck.  Both kids sleep on the couch again.


Wednesday, both children are up in the middle of the night, crippled with pain.  I'm delirious from sleep deprivation, it feels like I have newborns again.   I'm beginning to question if this procedure was the right thing to do.  I'm beginning to question my own existence and which way is up.

Thursday, pain - pain - pain.  Lots of crying.  Both children are miserable. So am I. This isn't the relapse or "dip" I'd envisioned ... they've absolutely bottomed out.  

Friday, ever so slight improvement for William. He doesn't cry as much.  Carolyn is miserable and Charlie has called in for a refill of her lidocaine lollipop.  By Friday evening she is feeling slightly better, but now her ears are hurting.


Saturday, continued improvement for William; Carolyn maybe slight improvement, but still breaks down in to tears from the pain.  William is back on liquid Tylenol; Carolyn is still on Tylenol with codeine.

Sunday, William has finally turned a corner.  Carolyn is doing better, but still cries every so often from the pain of a sore throat and ears.  She is also back on liquid Tylenol.  Henry, the awesome little brother that he is, tries to lessen their pain by reading aloud. His book today was "Ben Hur."  The kids said it didn't help.  He got them popsicles, instead.


Tomorrow, William will be returning to school; I'm still not sure about Carolyn.

It's safe to say that TWO WEEKS is at base case, the recovery time needed for a tonsillectomy. Anything less than that, I'd suggest that you have super-human powers and are somewhat immune to pain.  Like the young boy in the hospital room next to me in 1981 when I had my tonsils removed ... he had a hankering for Cap'n Crunch following his procedure - and they actually brought it to him.

Yep, I remember that, too.