Posted in family life, sqt

{sqt} – finding community and playing board games

I’m linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum again today for seven quick takes! I’ve had a bit of writer’s block this week and having a format laid out for me helps get the words flowing again 🙂

  1. I’ve been feeling a lot more isolated lately. Rondel (and even Limerick) are older than the kids who show up to the weekly church playgroup, all of their friends from church are in school or therapy most of the time, and I’m having trouble finding a homeschool group that is relaxed enough to accommodate our family’s needs. I mean, field trips and classes aren’t going to help the boys make friends, and park days where the kids are expected to play away from the adults is going to be hard with the little kids (and Rondel’s tendency to zone out and lose track of where he is and how to find his way back to me). And honestly, I don’t need a whole group, just one or two families who can walk through life with us right now.
  2. Sometimes I think our family falls into so many different/radical/tiny niche categories that I will never find anyone who really gets it on all levels. There’s the large “autism family” blanket – but oh wait, they don’t know how to handle an autistic parent, and they tend to support ABA therapies that are described as abusive by a lot of autistic adults who have experienced them (perks of an adult diagnosis here…). There’s the homeschool blanket – but we are using ESA funds from the state to help pay for speech therapy and curriculum, which puts us in a special legal category, and is apparently reason enough for several of the larger state groups to exclude us. And we’re Christian of course, but I’m uncomfortable in a lot of the Christian homeschooling circles (they can swing fundamentalist and Calvinist), and I want my kids to be exposed to the diversity of ideas and backgrounds that a secular group might offer – but I still want them to know (and hopefully believe) what I believe to be true about God. I could try to get all the pieces in different places but that is so much socializing and I don’t think I can handle that many people/groups/acquaintances!
  3. Mostly I just want Rondel to find a best friend. He told me he would like to play more with other kids but he ends up just watching them and doing his own thing a lot of the time because he isn’t sure how to join in. And I don’t know how to help him 😦 I just sort of clung to my best friend through most of childhood and depended on her to navigate social events. So I keep hoping he will meet someone to be that kind of friend… if you are ever wanting to pray for our family, that would be at the top of my list right now.
  4. In other news, we have been making more and more board games until they seem to be everywhere. We have number boards up to 100, 195, 223, and 550 (Limerick keeps requesting more and more numbers with smaller and smaller squares, but I think 550 is the limit even using our smallest game pieces). We have a traditional path-format board game with colored squares, a spiral snake with colored squares, a loop board game with the letters of the alphabet, and most recently a sting ray-shaped board with a colored path twisting along his body. My favorite game is called “LEGO Monsters” and we play it on path or spiral snake boards: each square gets one or two LEGO pieces of the same color as the square, and if a player’s piece lands on a square they get to collect the pieces and use them to build a monster. We all start with a head and eyes to make sure we aren’t missing those crucial elements, and we end up with some crazy creations! This game also has the advantage of removing the winning/losing element 🙂
  5. While I may get tired of playing the board games all day long, I have to admit they were the cause of the least stressful visit we have ever had to the pediatrician. Usually the boys have a lot of trouble keeping their hands off of things, leaving the light on, staying quiet when the doctor is talking, and so on – but this time they each brought a board game and were able to play contentedly even though we had to wait quite a while (not due to any fault of the doctor; Aubade has a UTI and we had to wait for her to pee so they could test it). Even the doctor complimented them on how well they behaved, which is definitely a first at this office!
  6. Another side effect of the board games is that Limerick is beginning to internalize a lot of the numbers and their relationships. He can do quite a bit of addition now without having to count to make sure, especially with numbers 1-6 (thank you dice) but also with larger numbers because of his number boards. It’s neat to see his understanding of the numbers deepen – when I watch him think about the sum of his three dice, for instance, or about what number he’ll be moving to after adding his roll to his current position, I can almost see him manipulating the numbers in his head, breaking them up and recombining them, becoming friends with them.
  7. And finally, we have been counting. Counting and counting and counting. We drove to church and Rondel counted the whole time drive and all the way to Sunday School (he made it to 1025). We drove to speech therapy and Rondel almost cried when we asked him to take a break from counting for his appointment and pick up again afterwards (poor guy – it is hard to stop when you’re in the middle of something and going strong!). I’m not sure what he likes about it, since he isn’t nearly as in love with numbers as Limerick, but hey, he’s never going to forget those numbers now!

How has your week been? Do you have tips for making connections and building community? How about any favorite board games (non-competitive games in particular)?

Posted in sqt

{sqt} – in which everyone gets sick

As usual I’m joining the seven quick takes link up at This Ain’t The Lyceum today – head over and read some of the other blogs!

  1. I missed out on the book theme last week, but I did have a very exciting book moment this week: my mom (who is a professor at the local community college) came home with a big cardboard box full of books that another professor was giving away, and told me to take anything that looked interesting. They seemed brand new and were non-fiction spanning the spectrum from memoir to science to investigative journalism. In other words, they were a treasure trove and I selected quite a few of them… I’ve started hinting to my husband that we need to put shelves up high on the walls because we have no more floor space for another bookshelf!
  2. The only one of these books that I’ve had a chance to finish so far is Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America, by Mary Otto.41ydn0xVu3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The book is primarily about public health policy, and explains quite a bit about both the history of dentistry and the current state of dental health access and expense. But it covers this potentially dry topic in a manner that is both rationally and emotionally powerful, drawing the reader in through stories of individuals affected by societal pressure for “perfect” teeth or by societal neglect of oral health. Before reading this, I had never realized the extent of either the available cosmetic dentistry services or the overall risks of poor dental health (I guess I live in a comfortable middle-class bubble here…), and I was surprised and saddened by much of what I learned. This book does not engage in a lot of philosophizing; it accumulates stories and statistics and allows the reader to come to their own conclusions.
  3. Another thing I have discovered this week is that drawing my own conclusions about medical issues is probably not a great idea, as they are likely to be wrong. Most of us have been sick this week, and Aubade had a cough and seemed miserable, so I called in to the doctor to ask for a refill on her Albuterol. The doctor asked us to come in (that is, the triage nurse called us at 3:25 and said that they wouldn’t refill the medicine without an appointment and that she had an opening at 4:00; we live 20 minutes away and the kids were in various states of undress and hadn’t had an afternoon snack yet), so we drove down there (and miraculously made it with three minutes to spare!) only to discover that Aubade wasn’t actually wheezing and thus didn’t need the Albuterol, but did have pinkeye and a double ear infections. Oh, and also that Limerick was extremely wheezy and did need the Albuterol, and had a higher fever than Aubade despite not feeling warm to my touch at all. So now they’re both drugged up, I’m nursing a sore eye, sore ears, and a headache, and Rondel is getting cabin fever from being cooped up all day with sick family.
  4. To occupy our time while quarantined in the house, we’ve been playing a lot of homemade board games, both on the number boards and with a rainbow-colored board game path we designed together (Rondel came up with a set of rules that are consistent, creative, and fair – I was really impressed). There are giant foam dice everywhere (we only have two, but they are always getting thrown around and lost and re-found), and the little animal toys we’ve been using as game pieces keep disappearing and reappearing and getting dumped out in the hallways, and the Duplos have literally made their way into every single room of the house such that walking around is an obstacle course (mostly afflicting poor Aubade who keeps tripping on them). Cleaning not only seems futile but requires a lot more energy than I have available being sick myself…
  5. We’ve also started coloring, drawing, and writing more again, since we’re stuck sitting around! Rondel even told me he wanted to learn how to write his letters, and persisted at it diligently until we left for swim lesson. He still switches hands when he writes, and he seems to see the parts of the letters instead of how those parts fit together to make a whole (his first “A” looked like a UFO before I verbalized for him a different way of perceiving and drawing it), but he did surprisingly well! Limerick is able to copy the letters well but doesn’t really pay any attention to direction and more often than not draws them sideways or upside down or reversed, without realizing it.
  6. Another thing that went surprisingly well was hiding tofu inside the popsicles I make for the kids, to increase the protein content (since they like to eat them as meals). It ended up just contributing a slight nutty flavor, which went really well with the peach-vanilla blend I was using. I loved it as a smoothie and the kids ate up all the popsicles!
  7. Also from the popsicles I’ve learned that frozen pineapple whips up in a food processor like egg whites or cream. If you process it with a little bit of milk it gives you something almost identical to whipped cream, just a bit more airy, that literally melts in your mouth. It is so good – I just want to eat it all plain every time I make it as a popsicle base. And I imagine if you used a non-dairy milk it could be a pretty decent whipped cream substitute!

I hope you all stay healthy and have a great week 🙂

Posted in family life

doctors and medicines (in which everyone is sick in various ways)

Well, it’s been a busy few weeks here. To be honest, it’s been harder since Aubade’s birth than I expected it would be, considering that this is our third baby (so we should have more confidence and experience by now) and that she is a significantly easier baby than the first two. It seems like life just keeps throwing curveballs at us…

To begin with, my physical and emotional recovery from the birth has been a bit more complicated this time around, what with the severe tear on the physical side and the postpartum depression and anxiety on the emotional side. Those baby blues I wrote about last month escalated into depression and anxiety so bad that they were making it hard for me to get out of bed and be present with the kids every day; I would get up and shower because I wanted to keep the tear clean, and force myself to get dressed in presentable clothes, because if I didn’t I would just curl up under the covers and feel horrible. My husband would get home from school and I would take Aubade up to bed with me and hide from the world, so overwhelmed from the few hours of parenting on my own. I wasn’t interested in anything at all, really, but I was devouring books just to keep my mind off of real life and to drown out the thoughts of fear and guilt that kept pouring in. And the anxiety – of being left alone with the kids, of driving, of leaving the house, of talking to people outside my family, of letting everyone down, of being “crazy”, and so on – was so strong (despite its obvious irrationality) that I would have waves of pain course through my chest.

My OB treated me with a series of progesterone shots, operating on the principle that the sudden decrease in progesterone at the end of pregnancy can throw the whole hormonal system out of sync and cause PPD/PPA. Fortunately my husband was able to take care of some of them at home so I didn’t have to set up an appointment every other day for the whole series! And they definitely took the edge off of the negative emotions. The first day it felt like I was on a high – much better than normal – and I thought maybe that’s how things would settle in… but no such luck. I’m still in a hole, but it’s not as deep as it was, and some days I feel like I might be climbing out of it.

In the middle of all of this, we started getting sick. Apparently it had been a mild winter here in the illness department, but February brought all the germs with it and everyone across the valley is catching and spreading disease. Naively I thought that Aubade would be safe from anything going around because her immune system would be bolstered by mine since she’s exclusively breastfeeding, but it didn’t work out that way. Last Thursday I took all three kids to their pediatrician and after prescribing albuterol, antibiotics, and steroids for the boys she told me to take Aubade straight to the ER at the children’s hospital by our house. I was in shock. The boys had never been sick as newborns, so I didn’t realize how differently a serious illness could present in a newborn as opposed to an older baby or toddler. But because they have fewer energy reserves to draw on, and because they don’t know how to breathe through their mouths, an upper respiratory infection that might just cause a cough and a runny nose in a toddler can accelerate a baby’s breathing rate to the point of exhaustion.

The ER took Aubade’s symptoms as seriously as our pediatrician had; we were in a room within 30 minutes, which is quite impressive for a busy urban emergency department, and within another 30 minutes a respiratory therapist had evaluated her and hooked her up to a high-flow oxygen machine. (The high-flow machine pushes air gently down the baby’s airways, so that they don’t have to work so hard to pull air in past all the congestion in their nose and lungs; the oxygen concentration was originally set twice as high as normal air but they told me it was really the pressure more than the oxygen that she needed.) May I note in passing how much I appreciated the ER nurses? Fast, competent, and caring without a hint of saccharine, they inspired confidence and relieved my anxieties without minimizing Aubade’s condition. Even before the respiratory therapist arrived, they had suctioned out her nose and lungs, and did so again a few hours later when her breathing began to worsen. The pediatric nurses we had after transferring out of the ER that evening were not so wonderful by comparison, though they weren’t bad by any means.

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Aubade in the ER

So… she ended up being in the hospital for the next two nights. The boys slept over at my mom’s house for one of those nights and the first night we had her back home; my husband fought off a stomach bug and tried to keep up with school and job applications and laundry; I sat in the hospital with Aubade and held her and watched movies and tried to sleep. It was rough, even though I could tell she was slowly improving the whole time we were there. RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) usually peaks around the fifth or sixth day, which is when we were in the hospital, so we were able to adequately support her breathing through the worst of it.

Rondel and Limerick caught the same virus, and both presented with coughs and ear infections, but since they are older it wasn’t as dangerous. Rondel is now on a preventative steroid inhalant, though, as every cold he gets turns into a cough – he’s been on Albuterol at least four times just this winter. I’m hoping it will help, and I’m also hoping it isn’t a sign that he’ll be officially diagnosed with asthma at some point in the future. I suppose the silver lining of all this is that my prayer life and relationship with the saints are both growing… that daily shower is a good time to maintain spiritual health as well as physical and emotional health, with a morning prayer thrown in with the shampooing and all. Better that than nothing, anyway, and I know the kids won’t distract me then.

But hopefully the rest of my maternity leave goes a bit better! We’ve still got a spring break trip up north, summer internship applications, physical therapy, and maybe a visit to a psychiatrist to fit in to these next five weeks, on top of the regular demands of school, parenting, and running a home… so if we can stay healthy (physically and mentally) it would be great 🙂

Posted in musings

an update

I wanted to thank all of you who prayed for my supervisor’s son earlier this summer. He is back home from the hospital at last, having successfully made it through a liver transplant and avoided a bone marrow transplant despite the life-threatening complications that almost necessitated it. My supervisor is still clearly worried about his son as the recovery is at this point a long, slow process – but he’s also so glad to be past that time of acute danger, when death hovered overhead and shadowed every conversation. There was no brain damage as far as they can tell at this point, and he’s getting back into school and academic work even though he can’t actually go back in person until his immune system is cleared for that kind of germ exposure 🙂 So thank you again for your prayers! It is such a huge relief for all of us to see things steadily improving after such a long time of fear and unknowing.

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – pretty much all real

I will be honest with you all, this was a rough week and a half. Last Tuesday we spend the morning playing at the park with the boys’ cousins – and by nap time Limerick was vomiting. And he didn’t stop for over 30 hours, most of that time losing it every 1-2 hours very violently. So then last Thursday he transitioned from one end to the other and Rondel started bringing everything back up. Both boys had low-grade fevers for a couple days and were essentially couch-ridden (I made them sick nests on the couches so they wouldn’t have to be upstairs in bed); Rondel slept for the majority of the day three days in a row, and I have never seen him that worn out and sick before in his life – which admittedly has been a rather short one, but still! It was a new mommy experience for me.

Yesterday was really the first day both boys were feeling (almost) back to normal – no diarrhea, no vomiting, and energy to get up and play for more than 10 minutes at a time. Through this whole week, I’ve been reminded of Auntie Leila’s rejoinder to consider this time of sickness as a time to sacrifice myself – my plans, my routines, my comfort – for the sake of these kids, to show them what Christ-like love is all about. As she puts it,

You know, when our children are sick, we have a wonderful opportunity to serve them in a completely different way from the way they are used to. We can take a break from all the demands of daily life — demands which include prying them away from love of self, encouraging them to serve others and take responsibility — and just take care of them. Rather than viewing this part of motherhood as a stressful chore that reveals our incompetence, we can see it as a real blessing.

It was very stressful for not to be able to clean the house, or have regular meals together, or get out of the house for the outside time that I need just as much as the boys normally do, (a lot more stressful than I would have anticipated!) and I had to keep telling myself that “love endures all things.”

Kind of humbling to realize how much of an emotional and spiritual challenge this week of sickness was to me… I’ve still got a long way to go to reach holiness! 😉

{real}

In the first days of the illness, Rondel was so concerned about his brother. He kept asking me when he would be feeling better, and what was wrong, and just wanted to comfort him with his presence. This is one of the beautiful side-effects of sickness, I think – the development of compassion in the sick child’s siblings.

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But all too soon he needed his own spot on the couch 😦 When Limerick started to feel better he seemed to find a lot of happiness in helping me take care of Rondel, especially when I would let him deliver a bottle to his brother, which was adorable and sweet.

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{happy}

One of the happy things that sustained us during the sick times (besides endlessly blowing bubbles for Limerick) was reading books. The boys like books well enough normally, but they also like to be moving and doing things – but when they didn’t have the energy to play, the books took them out of the moment and gave them something to think about. Limerick in particular has become far more excited about reading than he was before!

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demanding to read the Very Hungry Caterpillar

So there were some fun things in the middle of all the sickness – but all in all we are all extremely glad to have the blankets and sheets washed and off the couches, and a sense of normalcy and order restored to family life. I’m sure the boys are even more glad not to be hurting and sick anymore!

I really hope that you all had a better week than we did! And don’t forget to join me over at Like Mother, Like Daughter for the link-up today 🙂

Posted in musings

My mother’s hands

My mom has pretty normal hands. They’re not too big and not too small, with fingernails that are neither short and stubby nor long and elegantly manicured. Her knuckles stand out, as do her veins, and in the winter her skin gets horribly dry.

But to me, they are hands of strength. I’ve seen those hands, chapped and cut and bleeding, folding laundry and doing dishes, serving with endurance. I’ve seen them cleaning and organizing messes they had no part in making, or trimming and weeding the garden.

To me, they are hands of love: hands that soothe a feverish child, that prepare meals, that zip up dresses or style hair, that type emails and pick up phones to advocate for her family and students. 

To me, they are hands that create beauty and community, quilting and cross-stitching family treasures, decorating for each season, setting up events to bring people together and deepen friendships.

And when I rubbed my sick boy’s shoulder this morning, I looked down at my hand and saw my mom’s – and I thought, if my hands can bring half the service, love, and happiness to my family that hers have, they’ll be doing well.

Posted in family life, musings

meditations in the midst of a round of stomach flu

The boys are sleeping.

Limerick turns restlessly on his crib, mutters into the darkness, settles himself back down with his bottle of water.

Rondel lies curled up against the back cushions of the couch, pillow beneath him, blanket kicked aside, breathing quiet and small in the darkness.

And I hope that as they sleep they are healing, so that when they wake the pain and fatigue will be gone, and their normal energetic exuberance can resurface.

When the normal pattern of our life involves hours spent running and climbing and laughing outside, days in a row snuggled up on couches, dozing on and off, quiet and slow, feel foreign and strange. When bright eyes are dull and weary, when little faces are pale, when active limbs are still and calm, nothing seems right.

And I think to myself, this is only a stomach bug, and they’re going to be better in a few days, and however do mothers cope when this becomes a new normal, and sickness buries its talons into a family? How do they not break with the pain of it, loving so deeply and being so horribly unable to stop the hurting and restore health and energy to their baby? It takes my breath away, how lucky I am, how many good cards I’ve drawn in this game of life; and if it were all to fall apart, would my faith hold firm? I hope that it would, but I pray that such a test will never come.