Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am thankful for my family. As I sit with G on the kitchen floor while C reads to the kiddos tonight, I'm thinking about the times life almost took a different path.


Like when my midwife couldn't find e's heartbeat at 40 weeks. When I couldn't feel her move. When I saw the complete knot in e's umbilical cord, but held a healthy baby in my arms. Like when the neurologist told E he wouldn't be here to do silly tests if he hadn't been wearing his bike helmet. Like when E reacted severely to DTaP.


And before that, all the little (and big) things that could have gone differently but instead came together perfectly for C and I to meet and marry. That was no small task.


Then there's G, and her 6 or 7 near-death experiences in the past few months.


There is a plan and a purpose for everyone, and for that I am grateful. But I am even more thankful that the plan includes holding my family close for another Thanksgiving.






Wednesday, November 27, 2013


It took us 3 months, but we finally completed the main lesson block about Native Americans. Whew! We read traditional stories, related housing and food to environment, and touched on some of the geography of the lower 48. This last part is worth mentioning:

For 3 years we lived in Alaska. I refused to put up a map that showed Alaska in a little box near California. We were near the top of the world in a state 1/3 the size of the continental US, and I wanted my children to know it. Everything about Alaska was extreme: the temperatures, the mosquitoes, the berries, the latitude, the dark in winter, the light in summer, the kindness of almost everyone we met. I could feel the earth tilt with the seasons up there. So I put up a satellite photo map of the world. My kids could see where we lived in relation to every other state and country, without the false colors and boundaries and funky sizing distortions of most maps.


Then a week ago I showed E a map of the lower 48. A drawing of the continental US with state boundaries marked. I had removed the boxes with Alaska and Hawaii, for reasons stated above...holy distortion, batman. I started pointing out the different geographical areas to E as if he already knew the basic layout of our country, because, well, I thought he did.


Unfortunately, not at all. He couldn't find a border he recognized in the whole map. Not even our home state of Oregon. Who can't find Oregon? It's the second box down on the west coast. He'd been pointing out Oregon and Virginia to e for years on our wall map...on our wall map. Oh, right. Our wall map of the world with no boundary lines or fake colors. Heh. Without realizing it, I had started with whole and was only now getting to specific parts. Of course he didn't recognize the US without Canada and Mexico and Alaska and the oceans.


So I showed him how it fit on North America, and he got it. Within a few minutes he could pick out a number of states he'd been to, plus others that we'd read about or had friends from. He knew the information in the larger context of a world map, but hadn't seen it in isolation. A gap caused by our lack of textbook use, people. Was it a problem? Maybe, maybe not. But either way it was easily and quickly fixed.


And then my boy took this unfamiliar shape and free-handed it as you see above. Drew it. No tracing. What do you think, mom? He's my son, right?


Then my girl took what I thought was a week's worth of writing and did it all at once.

Plus, she read it to me. Read. It. To. Me. It was a good day. :)




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Not Yet.

We went to the dr today thinking e was finished with casts. Not so. Here's why:


Here's her original x-ray. Her humorous is broken just above the elbow. Now I see why her arm had a dip in it- the long portion moved in and the short little bit flipped over and out.

So an orthopedic hand/elbow specialist put in 3 pins, re-located her elbow, and cast her arm. He then checked her again in 10 days- see the bone growth around the break below? Like a cocoon. She got x-rays and a new cast. He told us to come back in 3 weeks for the final cast removal.

Remember how I said he's a hand/elbow surgeon? Well, since she is a month past her surgery and only six years old, she was assigned to a pediatric ortho for the remainder of her care.

So today we saw the pediatric ortho. Getting the pins out was terrible...e was so frightened. For the first time ever in a drs office I had to hold her down. She screamed the. whole. time. Not that it really hurt, but it was downright terrifying.


They took the above x-ray with a low-radiation machine right in the cast room. The dr said it looked great, but e needed two more weeks of cast. Why? Because she's a kid. An adult would be in a part-time brace and start physical therapy, but a fall. Kids bump into things. Kids are rough and tumble. So children stay in a cast another two weeks to avoid re-injury, then they start using the arm. Rarely do they need therapy.


Bad news is no gymnastics until almost March. e is taking it all in stride; she has decided she might like to audition for a children's choir in January.


PS- in the cast room we met a girl who has brittle bone disease. She reassured e that the cast saw won't hurt, and that the pins only take a moment to get out. She was there having two casts removed and another put on, and yet she was so cheerful. On the way home, E told me that there are so many worse things than celiac. Indeed there are!


Monday, November 25, 2013



E has his first EVER gymnastics meet! It was perfect. We arrived early; Level 4 was still on the floor. e drew a lot of pictures. E sat on my knee and watched. Eventually his teammates arrived and he went with them to begin stretches.


The most exhilarating moment was when Level 4 awards were over and Levels 5-7 were told to begin their warm-up rotations. The out-breath of the younger group finishing was in stark contrast to the in-breath of the older, bigger, stronger children that rushed the floor. They were eager to begin. Where before there was empty space was now filled with running, flipping, twisting, swinging bodies. On the floor, rings, high bar, mushroom, pommel horse, vault, and parallel bars boys in slick uniforms ran through their routines. Amazing routines.


My E was not nearly as nervous as I thought he'd be. Three weeks ago he was a wreck. But today, cool and collected.

This is a mushroom, folks. Prep for pommel horse. So levels 5 and 6 do routines on both pommel horse and mushroom to make up their pommel score.

E did awesome. He finished in the top 6 in all apparatus plus all-around for his age and level at his first meet! A great start to the season. His coaches are pleased. I'm happy for him and proud of him. He has worked so very hard! But most of all I'm proud that his achievement comes out of his own motivation. We don't tell him to practice or do better. This is ALL HIM. He eats, breathes, and sleeps gymnastics. So as I watch him, I think how amazing this boy of mine is and pray that I can be more patient and loving in other areas I tell him to focus chores and sitting calmly at the table! One child can't do it all, right?


Saturday, November 23, 2013

The End of the Beginning

e's story came to an end with the tale of 3 shepherds traveling to see the King of Kings born in a manger,

and the prince arriving home to his cat. His mother was so surprised to see him that she dropped her needle. He, in turn, displayed his new attitude towards life by picking up the needle for her. Next week e will do a few summary pages of writing. She's hoping to enjoy that. :)

E completed his last group of peoples: people of the desert. He does love to draw in this style!

Our current little read-aloud. It reminds me of Whinnie the Pooh, only funnier. It's a great exercise in roundabout logic! E will sometimes stop me so he can think one through.

By the fireplace you can see our spinning wheel- more on that later!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Project Linus

I have always wanted to do something charitable with the children, but never knew what. How to do something with purpose, yet shield them from coming face-to-face with the hurt and sadness in the world? A friend suggested Project Linus for Snowball Express. Fleece blankets for children whose parents were killed in action. Perfect.


My kids knew the blankets were to comfort children who had lost a parent in action...a very scary thought, but manageable because they had no visual of those children's reality- the empty spot at the table, the flag-draped coffin, the tears and gravesite. What my children could see and feel was what they were doing to help, rather than the tragedy itself. The softness and warmth of the fleece, the effort and love we were putting into the project.

We plan to do many more blankets for Project Linus in the coming years.

The rains and the winds are scattering leaves! So pretty. I love autumn.

But what I love even more is that E feels free to be himself. :)


Tuesday, November 19, 2013



I asked e if I could write the lyrics to her favorite fall song on her painting. She enthusiastically said yes. I began, and made it through the first verse before she stopped me.


"I want to do it," she said.


So over the course of two days, she did it. I love looking at her handwriting. It is hers, nobody else's. Over time, she will write out her favorite songs, her observations, her hopes and dreams and stories, in that very same handwriting. Her handwriting will change as she grows, but it will still be hers. All hers.


Monday, November 18, 2013

I am the Clay

e made G a hay dish. Unfortunately G enjoys chewing the dish, so she only gets to use it under supervision. It sits on my desk and stares at me. It got me thinking.

On Saturday a good friend interviewed me. She's doing a study on homeschoolers, and, well, I homeschool. Perfect. Why do we homeschool? What are the pros? The cons? What would public schools have to change in order for us to even consider enrolling? Who is my muse in this venture? What have I learned about my children? Myself?

That last question was the hardest to answer. Myself? Myself as a mother, myself as a woman? Every answer I gave kept coming back to my children. My identity right now revolves around my children. I am their mother, their teacher. Day in and day out, they are always in front of me, beside me, behind me, asking me to make sense of this big world in a manner that they can understand. I don't know that I gave my friend a coherent response then, but after staring at this clay today, I think I've got it.


I am the clay. Homeschooling has stretched me further than I ever knew I could be stretched. It has pushed, molded, cut, sliced, scraped, flattened, and smoothed me into something better than I was before. Way better.


I am more patient, more trusting, more flexible. I don't hold my children or myself to standards based on anything but current personal progress. I am more forgiving, and more consistent. More sure of myself and my ideas. My priorities and my faith have gained clarity. I know how to follow, and yet lead. I am healthier than I've ever been. I am a much better help-meet to my husband. I have a much larger knowledge base than ever before. I have purpose, and a mission.


It has been a rocky path, but not without beauty and light. I am thankful for my quirky, creative, curious E. He has blazed a trail we all benefit from.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Back to School

e and G are recovering, doctor and vet appointments seem to be over for the time being, so this week was devoted to getting back into a schooly, art project routine.

We finished E's weaving project he started in Alaska. He's pretty proud of his work.

The children opted to make balloon and tissue paper lanterns for Martinmas this year. We invited our friends to walk with us, and fun was had by all. 4 children ages 6 to 11 tromping through the woods with lanterns in the dark, with the youngest one singing I go outside with my lantern, my lantern goes with me... It was a lovely night.

Children with lanterns in a dark wood are never still!

We are slowly making progress on E's spinning wheel. My sweet, crafty friend in Alaska made E the kit for his birthday last March. We finally, finally painted it, bees waxed it, and bought the few remaining bits. We should be up and spinning by next week!

Our friends brought clay and tools yesterday. So much fun! We haven't done any modeling in a long time.

e's number adventure continued from this last month


To this, finishing the main lesson on Roman Numerals. Her writing and drawing is not what it was last month. Amazing how much a cast on the non-dominant arm impacts skills we generally attribute only to the ability to use the dominant hand.

E's lesson book page from a month ago,

And the page from this week. The Pacific Northwest speaks to him- that's our home.

Today at the zoo, e noticed a gigantic bush of rosemary. She took a small pinch off the back side of it and carried it all the way home to add to our dinner. It was delicious.

e spent two days on this painting. Beautiful, no? Come Little Leaves is her favorite song right now.

E's math program is really working memorization of the times tables right now, so we've done an extra amount of jumping, skipping, jumping rope, ball-bouncing, etc to help work the facts into his head.

It is all things fall right now! The leaves are turning, the squirrels are everywhere... It is most certainly my favorite season!

e drew the squirrel!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Roses in November

Isn't this beautiful? A rose blooming in November! I am loving fall in Virginia.

We had our chimney swept, and started our first fire yesterday. It doesn't radiate heat like a woodstove, but it raised the temperature of our house to 65! And let me tell you, 65 never felt so warm. 65 felt downright toasty! The kids were excited to see a real fire. They noted how it moved, the different colors, the warmth, the positioning of the log. Everything. That's science!

Guinea's been super snuggle-y today. Time to go cuddle the pig and appreciate she is still with us!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


The children went trick-or-treating- E as a toilet, e as a bat- and of course came home with a lot of candy. Most of it they could not eat, so this is what they did:

We had all sorts of little sticky creations decorating our table! Best ever use of candy.


We also have flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, books, and a Wish Bone video that neighbors, friends, and family have sent or brought for little e's recovery. Thank you so much!


This piggy is still trucking along, despite the fact that our house is freakin cold! Our furnace died last week. We bought a small infrared heater for G's room, as piggies can't tolerate cold and we can't very well wrap her up in coats and mittens. The heater's been running constantly for 2 days now and can't get her room above 65. Brrr. Thankfully G is not as delicate as her breed would indicate. We had our chimney swept today, so by tonight we will have another source of heat.

The maple by the street is beginning to turn. It might finally be fall in Virginia!

We finally carved pumpkins yesterday. E carved the center pumpkin completely by himself!

I just realized one of E's drawings on the cast is a guinea pig pooping...

Today e had her split cast removed, x-rays taken, and a new cast put on. The pins were freaky to see, but luckily they are on the back of her elbow so she only got a quick glimpse of one rather than the full effect of all 3. Here's one x-ray:

Pretty new cast! Three weeks and she's done. Pretty amazing how fast children heal.


Monday, November 4, 2013


G had her surgery last Friday. She looked so frail and shivery when we got her back. So sad and scary to see her like that! When I held her, she seemed to settle a bit and warm up.

She made it past the riskiest 24 hours post-surgery, and we all breathed a little bit easier. Until Sunday morning. Her urine was thick with blood, and she cried. Even on the narcotic, she cried. I packed her up and spent all morning at the pet ER. They gave her fluids under the skin and sent us home with antibiotics.


No sooner had I settled her into her cage and grabbed a drink of water when I heard screams from outside. Horrible, awful screams that you never want to hear from a child. It was e.


E came running through the door, saying something about how he had told her not to do it. She copied him too much, he had told her not to do it. The clock read 12:20pm.


C carried e into the living room, telling me it was her elbow and did it look dislocated? I took one half-glance and scooped her up, yelling for E to bring my shoes to the car. We made it out the driveway so fast that our neighbor, who had seen/heard it all from her yard, didn't even have time to run over and offer to keep E.


The 8-minute drive to the nearest ER seemed to take forever. They wheeled her from room to room to room on a bed, thankfully not moving her, but nobody could seem to come up with pain medication. Even when she cried and I begged. She screamed through the x-rays. She asked me if she was going to die- otherwise why would Mommy be crying? Finally the dr splinted her arm and explained to us that she had indeed broken the long bone in her upper arm just above the elbow. The short piece left attached to her elbow then flipped out and dislocated. She would need surgery and a cast. e freaked at the idea of a cast, and someone finally showed up with Tylenol with codeine. We could see it swelling. While we waited for the ambulance that would transport her to the nearest military treatment facility (MTF), she was FINALLY given an IV port and a bit of morphine.


The ambulance medics were very kind. The driver found her favorite cartoon (Peep and the Big Wide World) on YouTube on his phone for her to watch while we waited for paperwork. Then finally, finally she was loaded into a pink ambulance. Pink. I kid you not. The medics asked E if he wanted to push any buttons or ride with us, but he declined. The poor kid was about 3 hours late for lunch by that point and pretty freaked at seeing his sis in pain.


The ambulance ride was bumpy and everything swayed- how do they manage to treat people in critical condition with all that motion? e was solidly strapped onto the stretcher, but I had only a lap belt and was trying to hold the phone steady above e for her to watch. A bit of a lost cause. The medic gave me a lot of advice on casts...what to request, how to care for, etc. Her brother broke a bone every summer as a child.


The MTF staff moved quickly. More x-rays, a parade of at least 5 drs and a handful of medics. Again transported through hallways in her bed. A big bed for such a small child. Finally they left us in a room with a tv and e watched Sid the Science Kid get a flu shot. Sort of. More drs and medics paraded through. C and E arrived with food, so C took over with e while E and I went across the hall so I could eat. I didn't want to eat in front of e; she was so hungry but labeled NPO.


Eventually it all came together and we walked with e in her bed up to prep for surgery. She was scared. C told her how he'd been scared for his surgery (appendectomy) but it turned out to be the best sleep ever! E promised her ice cream later. By now it was after 6:30pm. e chose her cast color (pink), mask flavor (watermelon), and the medic put a pair of grippy socks on her feet. They asked us a lot of questions, started e's IV, and wheeled her away.


C settled in to wait. E and I headed home to get food and supplies for overnight. We stopped at Target to get applesauce and some goodies. E took it upon himself to read labels, coming up with safe fruit cocktail and berry applesauce. Not foods he'd ever had, so he thought it would be something special. He also chose a balloon, glow sticks, and Halloween socks. We gave G her antibiotic, held her for a bit, told her to get better, then quickly gathered food/clothes and headed back. C had just texted that e was waking up at 9:30pm.


Remembering that the ambulance had gone though the tunnel (which had been closed many weekends for repairs), I didn't look up an alternative route. Mistake. I passed a sign saying 'tunnel closed 8pm Sunday- 9am Monday' and knew I was in trouble. The GPS, when I pushed the detour button, kept routing me to yet another on-ramp for the same tunnel. Over and over. Around and around. For over an hour and a half. I got so turned around that I had to call C to look it up on his iPad. By the time we got to the hospital, e was settled in a room and fully awake.


E and C went home around midnight, and then it was just e and I. She looked like she had been through the wringer. Her shirt was only still attached by one sleeve, so I cut it off and promised to make a doll blanket from the sequin heart. I explained the IV drip, and why her throat was sore. We watched the Enson set up a make-shift thing with ace bandages and Popsicle sticks to elevate her swollen arm, wondering how it would work. (It didn't.) Lying beside her, I managed to turn her arm and prop it upwards with pillows after she fell asleep. Enson took turns with a few doctors coming in every 45 minutes. Vitals, cast check, pain medicine, measuring urine... Are patients really allowed any sleep in a hospital? I did learn that many of the pediatric patients were ortho, so that Enson had been floated from the orthopedic ward to give more specialty care here. She told me she wished they had also sent some specialized equipment with her as well (as she took down the failed ace bandage contraption).


But the other pediatric ortho patients were not here just overnight like us. There was a boy who had broken his back and cracked his skull and will never walk again. A few kids and babies with bone infections. A baby born with half a brain and a too-small skull. Several children with skeletal deformities. As I cuddled with my sleeping e, I thanked The Lord that we were only here with a broken arm and prayed for those other children and their families whose road to recovery stretched much longer than ours.


Then at 5am e was wheeled down to x-ray in a gigantic wheelchair. She was terrified, remembering the pain of the first sets of pictures. The nurse took her back up to the fourth floor for Enson to give her 'roxy', a pain med that made her sleepy. After that, the x-rays were a cinch. A half hour later, the parade of drs resumed and ended at 9:30am with loading e and her cast into the car and heading home.


e's cast is sliced lengthwise on top and bottom, with spacers to keep it spread. When we brought her home, her arm was so swollen that it looked like muffin-top near her shoulder and sausages for fingers. We had to keep asking her to wiggle her fingers to check her circulation! Now, a week later, her cast is so loose that her sleeve slips down into it. Tomorrow she gets her 'real' cast. I'm a bit frightened... I don't want to see the pins when they remove this cast. I don't want her to see the pins. I like not having a visual for the full extent of her injury.

Guinea survived through all this as well as she could. She needed medicine and syringe feeding and holding as often as I could manage. She peed blood again yesterday... She had quit drinking! We've been syringing water into her mouth a lot and she is mostly back to normal now. The vet today says G looks great, keep forcing water. Silly piggy...drink your water!