Monday, August 30, 2010

First Day of School

I love homeschooling. I never thought this would be my life, but I'm so glad that circumstances have steered me into this course. I love that the first day of school means something totally different to me than many other moms. And I love that I get to participate in that back-to-school fun of tackling new subjects and new books right alongside my children.

Oliver did his part to start us off on the right foot by sleeping through the night--from 9 to 6. He even tacked on a bonus hour after that, just for good measure. For the record, that is the longest stretch he has ever slept in his life. I did my part by rustling up some good farm-girl grub.

Eggs from our own chickens, bacon from our friends' hog, and homemade donuts.
Then it was time for back-to-school presents! I am sad to say that my children have not inherited my innate love for all back-to-school supplies. However, by the time Carter got to the bendable ruler, he started to spark up a little enthusiasm. And Austin was most pleased with his ornithology field journal.

"Oh, cool!"
The wireless mouse was a winner.
Austin with his field journal.
 We had our usual obstacles to overcome. I had to hastily install a few software upgrades to get Biology working for Carter and our internet connection went out at one inopportune moment, but we managed to roll with it all just fine.

Online lessons are the best
Lounging on the couch with an African folktale
 Oliver has been as cooperative as one could expect a 12-month-old to be. He enjoyed flinging dry erase markers and CDs around the room and spying on one of Austin's online lessons. Overall, the day took much longer than it should have, but I am trying not to sweat the schedule thing. I can get overly worked up about time tables and deadlines. Really, as long as the boys are working steadily and staying engaged with their learning, I should not get my stomach in a knot over whether we finish at 2 or 4:30.

Here's to a great year!

One Year Ago

One year ago, I gave birth to a baby boy I hadn't expected to have and who I wasn't sure I was excited about. John and I had gone back and forth for some time over the decision of whether to have one more child, but could never feel really settled on the matter. Then, pondering things one day, I decided I felt like our family was complete and we were done. I felt pretty solid on this decision. Two short weeks later, I found out I was completely wrong and baby number three was on the way.

Throughout my pregnancy I went through many emotions, most of them negative and motivated by selfishness. With my then youngest just turning 9, I felt depressed at the idea of starting over with the demands of an infant. I was convinced the lives of my older children were ruined, because so much of our family's focus was going to have to shift to accommodating the many needs of a little one. Once I worked through that, I began to wrestle with the nagging fear that something would be wrong with the baby. I knew there must be a reason for us to be having a child at this point in our lives. The small part of me that wanted to be optimistic latched on to the belief that we were to be blessed with a daughter--something John and I both hoped for. When the ultrasound proved otherwise (I was so angry with the ultrasound tech for pronouncing the baby a boy that I wanted to punch him--as if it was all his fault) I became increasingly convinced that this baby was being sent as a trial for us. The closer my due date grew, the more I pored over every ultrasound image, looking for some defect, in a panic that something even worse than autism was in the cards for us. There were moments when I was able to set that all aside and allow myself to feel happy anticipation, but I was so afraid to get my hopes up, feeling that I would just be that much more devastated in the end. My midwife actually told me that she thought I was subconsciously blocking my body from going into labor because of my fears.

But then the fateful day arrived. Even then, my body resisted full blown labor; starting and stopping through the day until they threatened pitocin. Less than an hour later, my Oliver was born, dazzling me with his blond-haired, cherubic perfection. I examined him thoroughly; there was simply nothing to cause alarm. All the despair and fears of the previous nine months washed away in an instant and were replaced by the kind of joy only such opposition can create.

The past year has been amazing. There have been huge challenges to be sure, but even more than that there has been a renewal of my faith in God and my faith in myself. Oliver has brought so much more to our family than I ever feared he would take from it. I can't believe I nearly closed the door on the chance to be a new mother again at this point in my life.

Sharing his food
Oliver is definitely a Tigger kind of guy

Which one to throw first?
One year old and already can't wait to drive
Examining his percussion set
It was a race to get them all lit before the letters started to melt
Getting sleepy
The cake was barely put in front of him before he grabbed it and took a big bite
My boys!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Day Is It?

My mother cannot remember Easter Sunday of 2005. She doesn't remember waking up that morning, riding in an ambulance, or spending most of the day in the hospital. She has no idea how scary that day was for my dad and I, as we listened to her repeatedly ask what day it was and where she was. We feared the very worst as doctors ran test after test to determine if she was having a stroke or if there was some other explanation for her bizarre symptoms. She was on vacation, but she didn't remember that either. She had forgotten the past several weeks of her life and couldn't remember anything she was being told. The final diagnosis was transient global amnesia. None of us had ever heard of it. It is a very uncommon condition in which a person temporarily loses the ability to create new memory. Doctors do not know what causes it, though stress seems to be the trigger, especially for women. It is of short duration, harmless, and rarely returns. By that evening, my mother was foggy and tired, but otherwise back to normal. Her memory of the previous days returned, but she is a complete blank with regards to that one day.

So one week ago today, when I found myself driving my sweet husband to the hospital after finding him standing befuddled in our bedroom, unable to remember what day it was or anything he had done that morning, I had to ask myself, "How could something so uncommon happen to two unrelated people in my immediate family?" The unlikeliness of it frightened me to the point of being physically ill. To say it was disconcerting to have my best friend, the man who is my rock of support in every part of life, be so altered and disconnected, is an enormous understatement. As the more likely suspects were gradually ruled out by a string of tests that ran into the following day, I was able to release the death grip I had clamped down on my emotions. Ironically, it wasn't until he was himself again and back home, that I felt the full trauma of it all.

I am thankful that lightning can strike twice and that my husband's episode was indeed transient global amnesia and not a stroke or tumor or any of the other scary things the doctors mentioned to me that day. I am also thankful for the mercifully brief, though painful, reminder to not take his presence in my life for granted. I am not thankful that my request that he retire immediately was denied, but you can't have everything.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What I Learned On Vacation

1. There really are sharks at the Jersey shore.
2. Pizza tastes better on the boardwalk, even when you are eating it while holding a wiggly 11-month-old who is trying to pull all the cheese off with one hand and throw your water bottle with the other.
3. Never get into a hotel hot tub with a hairy male stranger.
4. You cannot hear anything at the Crayola Factory, especially not the very nice man giving a demonstration on how crayons are made. If you are into constant screaming, however, this is the place for you.
5. The National Canal Museum--just upstairs from the Crayola Factory--is much calmer and surprisingly fun.
6. Jim Thorpe, PA, is a gorgeous town--so much so that I am willing to overlook their inability to produce an authentic Philly cheesesteak.
7. Trains rock! There should be more of them.
8. Teenagers like to pick fights at midnight when everyone is trying to sleep.
9. I wish I had a motorhome.
10. Sometimes, hanging out in the hotel room is the most fun thing a family can do.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Birds of a Feather

I won't bore everyone with a detailed recap of our family's duck saga. Suffice it to say that we got four ducklings just over 3 years ago (it seems like much longer), have had many, many duck descendants pass through our world, and are left with just one. He is one of the original four, so I'm thinking he must have some type of duck super powers to have survived the deadly elements around here. He has gotten much more people friendly since the demise of his last duck companion. Sometimes I think he has been a little too friendly. I did not enjoy, for instance, the morning I came out on the porch to discover him sitting right outside my door beside a pile of ducky delight. Ugh! Anyway, we worried a little over him--concerned that he would not be happy without companionship within his own species. But he seemed to get by just fine between following us around and visiting the chicken coop.

Then, about a month ago, a juvenile guinea hen wandered up into our yard. We have no idea where she came from. She was too small to put in with the chickens, so we stuck her in the duck pen. We've just started letting her out the past few days. At first, she stayed very close to the pen, but today she decided she was safe enough to venture out and about the place. We're getting a kick out of her funny little sounds and seeing her wander through the trees and bushes. And it looks like our duck got a friend out of the bargain too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

This Vacation's Got Teeth

I'm blogging from Ocean City, New Jersey. My mom would argue that, by mentioning this, I'm alerting the world at large to the fact that I'm not at home, thereby issuing an open invitation to any would-be robbers out there. For all those criminal elements who might be planning a heist, all I ask is that you take some gerbils with you when you go.

Traveling with a baby is always challenging. There are extra packing needs, nap schedules to consider, safety issues, etc. For example, when you take your baby to the beach, be sure to watch out for sharks that may come ashore. Sharks can not tell the difference between a baby and a seal. If you do see a shark, it's a good idea to get a picture--for insurance purposes.

Okay, this one probably wouldn't eat a baby, but I bet it would bite one. This was the second one we saw. They just swam right up onto the beach. And I thought the jellyfish were intimidating! It made walking in the surf a little bit more of an adrenaline rush than usual.

We're heading to the Poconos tomorrow, so maybe it will be bear encounters next.