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.

Monday, September 14, 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.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

popsicle partners

Earlier this week, William and Carolyn both had their tonsils and adenoids removed.


Going in to the surgery, the kids had asked the doctor to let them know who had the biggest tonsils.  Because at 10-years old, every thing is a competition.  Including the size of your tonsils.

Following the surgery, we were informed that Carolyn "won" and had the larger of the two tonsils and adenoids.  Not just in our family, but in all of 2015.  Our good doctor was very impressed at the size of her adenoid tissue, and said it was some of the largest he had ever seen.  Upon hearing that, whatever questions or concerns I'd had about subjecting our children to this procedure, were immediately eradicated.  I so love it when we make good parenting choices!

The doctor told us, "Your children are going to be totally different kids; they can now breathe and will feel so, so much better!"  He also told us that if we had any questions or concerns, we could call his office ... or just walk over and knock on his door.

(Because he only lives two houses away from us.)


A few things I want to remember about the day include Carolyn, feeling so concerned and breaking down in to tears when we began to get her ready for the surgery ... which made me break down in tears.  The nurse started her IV and administered something I cannot even recall (I'm sure one of my pharmacist sisters would know), to take the edge off.

Within mere seconds, my daughter had a dreamy look in her eyes, and slowly lifting her bandaged IV hand, gently whispered, "Little hand, I'm so very sorry they did that to you.  You are a good little handy hand and I love you."  Then she kissed her hand.

The nurse standing near her chuckled and asked, "Carolyn, what is your hand's name?" And my daughter looked at her as if she grew two heads and said, "HAAAAAND."


Then she gave her a smirk and said, "Silly nurse!"  Then she stared at her for a long moment and asked, "Why do you have two heads?" 

Other things to remember about this event, include the sequence of them coming out of surgery, Carolyn first, followed shortly thereafter by William.  Carolyn insisted on seeing her brother, and wanted the recovery room curtain open so she could have him in her sights.

There were notes, traded between my two groggy children in the recovery room.




The car ride home, with William asleep on his sister's arm.


The domestic recovery room (aka: family room), with the two of them snuggled next to each other with note pads for communication, and glasses full of ice chips and water.  Note Charlie asleep on the couch, too.  Major surgery (on others!) totally takes it out of my Guy.




Jello and Ice cream.  Thankfully, Blue Bell is back on the shelves this very week.  Kismet!


Tender loving care from their siblings.

The key to the game right now is pain management, so I'm ensuring that we've got our clocks set and am administering the appropriate medication every six hours, on the dot. 

The only hiccup has been the movies that they're watching. William is 100% Marvel superheroes - all day, every day.  Whereas, Carolyn enjoys a good strong feminine heroine movie now and again.

William is not too keen on watching Pride and Prejudice, but he'd totally do it for his sister.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

twofer tonsil tuesday

I'm not sure I mentioned that one of the reasons we delayed our move from Virginia to Texas is because Carolyn needed to have her tonsils and adenoids removed.  Her adenoids, primarily, because they are completely preventing her from breathing through her nose, and we think it may be contributing to sleep apnea, and attention deficit, and a host of other issues.

Not to mention, her orthodontist pointed out that mouth breathing may have a significant impact on the shape of her pallet, that we just spent a year and a half correcting. And since we had strep throat a whopping 17 times in 2014 across the five of us (kids had it 4X, I had it 1X) ... we figured while we were in there, we may as well take out the tonsils, too.

But then Carolyn was sick and unable to pass her pre-op so her surgery was scheduled from last week of April until first week of May.  And then my Dad passed away and surgery was postponed indefinitely.  And then it was the end of school, and I didn't want her to miss any state required testing, or saying goodbye to friends.  And then she was sick again in late June and early July, and unable to pass her pre-op and eventually, I decided WE NEED TO JUST GO.   Surely there will be Ear Nose and Throat doctors in Texas that are fully capable of removing tonsils and adenoids.

So we moved to Texas and on the day that we were driving in to our new neighborhood for the first time, I happened to notice that there was an ENT office 1/2 mile from our house.

"Well, would you look at that! That's very convenient!" I said to my family.

And the next day, when I was taking my first walk around the neighborhood with Louie, I met a lovely woman who lives a few houses down the street, who was also out walking her dog.  And this woman, the absolute very first person that we met while in Texas, said to me, "If you need anything, please let me know.  I've lived in this area for decades, and my husband is an ENT."

Her husband is an ENT.

It's kismet!

So it is, that exact same husband, a highly respected ENT in the area, will be doing a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy on both Carolyn and William, today; at approximately 10 AM and 11 AM, CST, respectively.


William was added to the mix because it recently dawned on us that he sounds like Darth Vader when he breathes. On a whim, I took him to the ENT along with Carolyn, and the doctor confirmed that his adenoids are just as blocked as Carolyn's and his tonsils are huge.

My poor children can hardly breathe.

We're very hopeful that this procedure - which I have seriously considered the benefits for the past several months - will help them both feel signficantly better.   I'm also hopeful that I don't gain five pounds in the next week, sympathy eating ice cream alongside my two sweet patients.