Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Competition

I was hearing loud counting coming from Papa Bear’s den. In Papa Bear’s voice. A bit later he comes down to the study. “You gotta come see this!”. Up I go.

Papa Bear and Brother Bear had been watching the movie “Kindergarten Cop”. There’s a scene where Arnie’s character has the kids doing sit-ups, and that got Brother Bear inspired to see how many he could do. He took a couple of stabs at it, and got as high as 40.

Then, it was T-Bear’s turn. After a little breathing instruction from Papa Bear, T-Bear gets going, hits 40, and keeps going. He makes it all the way to 100 before he stops. Slow and steady, doing the proper breathing, very focused. I don’t think I’ve seen such focused determination in him before.

Next up was Angel Bear. Same concentration, same focus on breathing properly, same determination. T-Bear is holding his feet and encouraging him the whole time, and Angel Bear hits 107.

It was awesome to watch the dynamics between the boys, each supporting the other and encouraging them to keep going, even if it meant breaking their own newly minted record.

I’m pretty sure they’ll be feelin’ the pain when they get up this morning. But, they couldn’t have been prouder of their efforts than they were last night. Papa Bear was a little proud, too.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Free-Range Turtle Moment

Our visitor, who has been dubbed Squirtle (that’d be a Pokemon character), was released into the wilds of our subdivision’s creek today. Seeing as I’m trying to become a Free-Range Mom, I let Brother Bear and Angel Bear walk over to the creek on their own to perform the release. It’s about a five minute walk. Yes, they made it home alive, unmolested, and unabducted by predators lurking in the bushes. Amazing, isn’t it?

Angel Bear, however, did come home crying. Hard. He was very upset about letting Squirtle go. He wanted to keep Squirtle forever, and was very concerned that Squirtle might be bitten by a water moccasin. Okay, I hadn’t really considered that as a possible reason not to return a turtle to the wild. But, okay. We’re all probably just a little hyper-aware of snakes just now, in light of Papa Bear’s recent run-in with the copperhead.

So, he cried for about half an hour, the little dear (Angel Bear, not Papa Bear). He’s gotten over it, and just a little while ago was prancing about naked in the kitchen (again, Angel Bear, not Papa Bear). Kids are so resilient. Maybe we grownups should take a lesson from them. The resilient part, not the naked part. Or, maybe both. Couldn’t hurt.

Where ARE Those Darned Kitchen Elves When You Need Them?!?

Remember the story of the cobbler who left out materials for some new shoes one night, and next morning awoke to find his work done for him? So, next night he leaves out more materials, and VIOLA!, the work is done next morning? This continues for a while, until one night (undoubtedly egged on by his wife, the female ALWAYS being the trouble-maker in all traditional fairy tales), he stays up late and peeks into the shop to see what’s going on. The moment he spies the tiny little helpers, they disappear, never to be seen again. Back to assembling shoes the old-fashioned way. I distinctly remember watching the not-so-slickly-produced film in elementary school (I seem to remember crude stop-motion and clay figures), and I’m pretty sure it’s considered a “staple” fable (I’ll have to check my copy of The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy to verify that).

So, anyway, I’ve been leaving out unwashed dishes for a while now, absolutely certain that the Kitchen Elves will pay me a visit, wash up all those dishes (especially the cooking pans left to “soak” in cold, greasy water, because that makes them SOOOO much easier to clean), and I’ll walk downstairs to an immaculately clean, tidy kitchen when I drag myself out of bed to make breakfast in the morning. I’m still waiting for the little buggers to show.

I’ve tried leaving out enticements. An apple core on the counter. Not-quite-finished-off ice cream bowl in the sink (intentionally NOT left immersed in the pan of cold, greasy water, ‘cause who wants to slurp up THAT?). I’ve even left the compost container’s lid partially askew, thinking they might like the dried out egg shells and moldy strawberries. I mean, how picky can a Kitchen Elf be?

So, here I am. Waiting patiently. And, they’re not coming. They’re leaving ME with this mess, created by my insistence on COOKING three meals a day. After all, when you’re homeschooling three kids, and have hubby working from home, and caring for a child with an LD AND diabetes, and are a wanna-be health-nut who is intrinsically suspicious of all processed and non-organic food-like products, what else do you have to do with your “free” time besides cook three full meals per day? Plus snacks. And, wash and rinse and load and run and unload dishes a couple of times a day?

So, here I am. Waiting patiently. And, they’re not coming. Maybe some of my pagan friends can send a few Kitchen Elves my way. Pleeeeese?!? And, while you're at it, put in a good work for me with the Laundry Elves.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Most homeschoolers are familiar with the term "strewing". Mom subtlely leaves intriguing items laying about here and there in hopes of enticing the children to pick it up, ask questions and/or explore said item. I mostly strew books (go figure).
This is our family "learning space". It has been strewn. Not by me. By the "strewees". And, we're not even doing school.
Yep, I hit my head, came to my sense, and called for vacation. What was I thinking, doing "school" in the middle of summer vacation, and in the middle of everything else that's been going on? I can be a wee bit nutty at times.
BTW, the odd bucket of water on the table is where our visitor is staying while he visits. He'll be going home any day now. Really.

Love This

Pencil urchins. Love the site, too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Never Argue With A Woman

My dearest hubby sent this to me. Couldn't help passing it along for all of the "readers" among us :)

One morning a husband returns after several hours of fishing at a vacation lake and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, and reads her book. Along comes a Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, 'Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?'

'Reading a book,' she replies (thinking, 'isn’t that obvious?').

'You're in a Restricted Fishing Area,' he informs her.

'I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading.'

'Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.'

'For reading a book,' she replies.

'You're in a Restricted Fishing Area,' he informs her again.

'I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading.'

'Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.'

'If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault,' says the woman.

'But I haven't even touched you,' says the game warden.

'That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment.'

'Have a nice day ma'am,' and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can also think.

Note: I didn't bother correcting all the grammar. I was laughing too hard.

Our Newest Visitor

Driving home from the movie theater (where we saw Star Trek for the 2nd time...yee haa!), we came across this little guy wandering down our street just in front of the house.

We scooped him up, of course, so he wouldn't get squished. And brought him in the house, of course, because...well, just because. Angel Bear insists we're going to keep him forever (we're not). Brother Bear spent about an hour yesterday researching the care and feeding of snappers, and coming up with every possible angle for keeping him (we're not).
These guys grow fast, and grow big. They require a lot of space, are incredibly messy, and will eat just about anything, including your fingers.
We'll be taking him down to our local creek soon, which is where I suspect he wandered from.

More Free Range Kids

Loved hearing about Irving so much, just had to share...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Our Fourth Trip to the ER

Today Brother Bear was bitten by some unidentified insect. He described the bite as “burning”, and the finger was swelling and stiffening, so off we went to the Emergency Room. For the fourth time in two months.

The first was May 6th, the day before we left for vacation in Orlando, when Angel Bear burned his arm on some hot soup. The second was on May 13th, in Orlando, when T-Bear was diagnosed with T1. The third was on June 10th when Papa Bear was bitten by a Copperhead snake. So, this was our fourth trip.

Then, of course, there was the kid's pet rabbit dying on May 30th. And, the dog having a severe allergy that's required numerous trips to the vet this past month (always great for the budget). Oh, yeah, and the boat breaking down on the lake, and the boat trailer blowing a tire.

Brother Bear is fine. Gave him some Benedryl for the reaction. The burning sensation has stopped. He’s back to his usual spit-fire. But, I'm starting to feel just slightly cursed, ya know? Wonder what tomorrow will hold for us?

Did I mention Papa Bear was out of town on business during this little ER trip? He'll be home tonight. Knock on wood.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin', Keep That Bear Cub Rollin'

Angel Bear decked out in T-Bear's brand new roller skates and gear. Don't know what happened to the shirt.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Birthday Boating

Ahhh, where shall I begin?

Today was T-Bear’s eight birthday, and we took the boat out for a day on the lake. This trip to Lake Linear encompassed three “firsts”. Our first day on the lake this summer. Our first trip on the boat since it’s been de-winterized and “fixed” (last season ended with the boat being towed due to engine failure). And, our first significant “excursion” since T-Bear’s diagnosis.

I was a little apprehensive about this outing, but I did my homework. At T-Bear’s checkup last Friday, I talked to Dr. A about how to incorporate this sort of thing into our management routine. Later in the week, I consulted my new friends at Juvenation, the on-line T1 support community I joined recently. I whined and anxted on-line to a couple of my best friends. I ran through just about every contingency I could imagine, made my preparations, pulled myself up by my panties, and off we went.

First, let me say the kids had a BLAST. The two-seater tow raft is the best amusement ride ever dreamed up.

Brother Bear & Cuz H in tow raft

T-Bear rafting

I can tell you first-hand, because, yes, I did get in and go for a joy(-ish?) ride with T-Bear. He was grinning from ear-to-ear and laughing hysterically the entire time, alternately squealing “yippee” and “I’m gonna die!”. I was in the “control” seat which features a prominently-displayed picture of hand signals. You know, so you can signal to the driver of the boat things such as “go faster”, “go slower”, “turn right”, “turn left”, “all’s well”, and “get me out of this deathtrap”. However, there was no way in hell I was going to let go of the “oh, shit” handles long enough to signal a damn thing to Papa Bear, our driver. And, I was laughing the entire time, reveling in the sheer joy plastered all over T-Bear’s face the entire ride. I’m sure I’ll be visiting the chiropractor tomorrow.

T-Bear enjoying the speed

Angel Bear hangin' on
We had some nice swim time.

Brother Bear snorkling
Mom: What do you see down there?
Brother Bear: Mud.

Papa Bear had some fishing time, and, of course, loves being at the helm.

T-Bear took a turn at the helm, as well.

Well, okay, not really.

On our way back to the launching area, the boat died. Really. Entirely. Couldn’t get it started at all, no matter what. So, we called TowBoatUS for a tow back to the launch (Papa Bear wisely joined this service last year, which is sort of like AAA for boats, so our tow was free). Took about an hour for them to get to us, but a very nice Bubba with a boat that works came and hitched us up and towed us back to the launch. We hand-mounted the boat onto the trailer, and off we went home.

And here, she is, parked in the driveway. Oh, yeah, no she isn’t. Did I mention that on the drive home, one of the tires blew on the boat trailer? We pulled off, unloaded everything off the boat into the truck, unhitched, and left her sitting on the side of the highway. Papa Bear’s going to pick up a spare tire tomorrow, go back out to wherever we left the boat, pop on the new tire, and bring ‘er home. Maybe.

A few things we learned today.

1. Yes, we can have an all-day excursion, including lots of physical activity and unplanned glitches, and with amped-up monitoring and plenty of snacks, T-Bear’s numbers can be kept under control.

2. During the honeymoon phase (the first 6 to 12 months after diagnosis), the pancreas is still producing enough insulin on its own, you can cut way back on injections during times of high activity, and still not go too high. (After honeymoon phase, the pancreas shuts down insulin production entirely).

3. It’s probably not a good idea to get the tow line wrapped up in the boat motor. It snaps the rope, and makes the engine unhappy.

4. It’s probably a good idea to pull the anchor up before you take off. It slows down the boat, and when the rope gets wrapped around the boat motor, it makes the engine unhappy.

Up tomorrow - Birthday Party!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This is the Crew of the USS Enterprise

Courtesy of Brother Bear. They apparently don't all fit into the ship. Don't ask about the monkey...I have no idea and am afraid to ask.

Why Buy a New Cart, When You Can Just Build a Handle?

Papa Bear's handiwork.

DaVinci Cannon

Papa Bear's shop vac can either suck or blow, depending on where you hook up the hose. Angel Bear forwent the hose part, and attached the rigid tube to the "blow" side. Popped a handfull of acorns in the tube, and hit the on button.

Yeah, the acorns did fly out, far enough to pelt the side of the house. A later version of the Cannon using the flexible tube had the added benefit of a more acurate aim, and covering the acorns with dirty, old grease from the BBQ (Papa Bear had used it to clean out the bottom of the grill). Our white siding now has a really interesting pattern of black splats on it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our First Crash

Remember the scene from the movie Steel Magnolias in which Julia Robert’s character has a freak-out in Trudy’s Salon, while Sally Fields’ mom-character tries to force orange juice down her throat? Well, that, apparently, is a fairly accurate depiction of what a “moderate low” for a diabetic can be like. Ours was a little less dramatic, being a “mild low”. But, not much.

What Happened:
T-Bear’s glucose dropped to 55 before lunch, less than two hours after breakfast. Our current target range is 80-150 at least 2 hours after a meal; “normal” for kids ages 6-12 is 70-180; a “low” is anything under 60. I’m not sure exactly what point the “diabetic coma” stage sets in, and I pray I’ll never find out first-hand. The sitting on the kitchen floor in hysterics, whining “I don’t want to go to the hospital” and “I don’t want to die”, while frantically cramming goldfish crackers into his mouth…well, that’s enough “first hand” experience for me, thank you very much. Let’s not have another 55 anytime soon, shall we?

What I Learned (‘cause I’m a “growth mindset” person…thanks, S!):
* T-Bear’s signs of a drop include dark circles under his eyes, and droopy, whiney, sluggish behavior.
* Sleep is incredibly important. He needs at least 12 hours of sleep to function normally, and that includes being able to eat a decent breakfast.
* Protein at breakfast. Trying to get away from the scrambled-eggs-every-morning-at-breakfast thing, I tried T-Bear on cereal and milk. Nope. Bad idea, particularly on top of a late night.
* Rufus is De Man! Never underestimate the power of a stuffed sack of fuzzy cloth to comfort a child in crisis. T-Bear insisted that Rufus have his insulin shot, too, before they sat down to eat lunch together. Go, Rufus.
* Mama Bear needs to effectively manage her own health. I was up too late, didn’t get enough sleep, didn’t eat breakfast, and didn’t spot the drop before it reached freak-out level. Will do much better next time.
* A low can blow your entire day. I had plans for today. Really. Now, not only will I not accomplish those plans, but I can’t even remember what they were. I’m fully focused on getting back into “normal function”…both me and T-Bear, not to mention everyone else in the family
* Guilt sucks. I’m in charge of T-Bear’s care and feeding, and I screwed up. And, he paid for it. Shit. Will do much better next time.

The Silver Lining:
We survived our first freak-out drop, and T-Bear seems to be fine. Lows are my biggest concern for T-Bear, and we made it through the first one. High five.

Diabetic Crash Gear

During a diabetic glucose/blood sugar (BS) low, the person may experience a number of symptoms, including hunger; feeling shaky, sweaty and/or weak; confusion; sleepiness (at unusual times); behavioral/mood changes; and double vision. T-Bear’s symptoms, as we learned, may include dark circles under and around the eyes, emotional distress, and separation anxiety.

From “A First Book for Understanding Diabetes” (featuring Pink Panther):

During a “mild” low, the person remains responsive, is alert, and able to drink or eat safely. In this case, we test to verify BG (blood glucose) level, give 1 small juice-box (15 g sugar) or 1 glucose tablet; wait 15 minutes and retest. Repeat as necessary. Once the BG is over 70, give 15g carb solid snack.

During a “moderate” low, the person is not alert, is not able to drink or eat safely, and is not able to self-treat. In this case, we give Intsa-Glucose (a gel form of sugar) between the cheek and gums, rub it in, and re-test after 10-20 minutes. Once alertness kicks in, we revert to “mild” treatment.

During a “severe” low, the person loses consciousness, and may go into a seizure. In this case, we give Glucagon by syringe. We’ve got a red case in our Camy Kit with this option. Inject the liquid in the syringe into the bottle with the tablet, draw resulting mixture back into the syringe, and administer same as usual insulin dose. Call doctor if person responds, or 9-1-1 if person does not respond.

Spending most of my adult life in Earthquake Country, I’m used to preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. I guess diabetes is right up my alley in this regard.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back to School

Yesterday was our first day “back to school” after a break of about a month and a half, and I’ve changed things a bit. Again. I’ve backed off being a TJEd purist, and have begun scheduling content, and requiring. Heh. We’re even using workbooks and flashcards. Scandelous, I know. But, we’re also back to reading our classics. Brother Bear and I are reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe again. T-Bear is back to listening to audiobooks on his headphones to help his CAPD. And, we’re back to working on our penmanship. So far, so good. No mass rebellion yet. Haven’t gotten through today, though. The day is still young.

Eight Keys of Great Teaching (TJEd Principles)

YOU, not Them
Inspire, not Require
Structure Time, not Content
Simplicity, not Complexity
Quality, not Conformity
Mentors, not Professors
Classics, not Textbooks
Secure, not Stressed

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) in a Nutshell

In addition to diabetes, T-Bear has CAPD, which we’ve known about since he was three. Some kids get all the breaks. Just in case anyone is curious about what living with CAPD is like, I've pulled the following information from an article called “Recognizing and Treating Children with Central Auditory Processing Disorders” written by Maxine L. Young, M.S., CCC-A/SLP, FAAA. Please shoot me a note or post a comment if you’d like a copy of the whole article in Adobe Reader.

What is CAPD?
Children and adults who have central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) are a heterogeneous group of people who have difficulty using auditory information to communicate and learn. CAPD is not a specific problem or disease; rather it is a set of problems that occur in different kinds of listening tasks. Often children with CAPD are first diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities. Later, an audiologist may render a diagnosis of CAPD. To audiologists, CAPD includes problems with one or more of the following auditory tasks (ASHA CAPD Task Force, 1996):

* Sound localization and lateralization
* Auditory discrimination
* Auditory pattern recognition
* Temporal aspects of audition (resolution, masking, integration, ordering)
* Auditory performance decrements with competing acoustic signals
* Auditory performance with degraded acoustic signals

Audiologists make the diagnosis using standardized tests of these skills administered incarefully controlled acoustic environments with very sophisticated calibrated equipment. Because the American Speech Language Hearing Association has determined that diagnosis of CAPD falls under the scope of practice of audiology, it is important to understand what the audiological diagnosis means.

Sound localization and lateralization refers to the ability of a child or adult to know where a sound has occurred in space. This is an important survival skill; localization is used to identify a source of sound, like a moving vehicle or barking dog.

Auditory discrimination refers to the ability to distinguish one sound from another. The term is most often used for distinguishing speech sounds, such as phoneme /p/ from phoneme /b/.

Auditory pattern recognition refers to the ability to determine similarities and differences in patterns of sounds.

Temporal aspects of auditory processing refers to the ability to sequence sounds, integrate a sequence of sounds into words or other meaningful combinations, and perceive sounds as separate when they quickly follow one another.

Auditory performance decrements refers to the ability to perceive speech or other sounds when another signal is present. The other signal might be noise or another similar speech signal, and the competing signal might be soft or loud.

Auditory performance with degraded acoustic signals refers to the ability to perceive a signal in which some of the information is missing. A degraded signal might be one where parts of the sound spectrum have been deleted, the highest or lowest frequency components of the sound are removed, or where the sound is compressed in time.

As can be seen from the above descriptions, these auditory tasks are not easily compared to what a teacher or parent might observe in the classroom or at home. A teacher might observe that a child cannot “listen” well when there is a lot of noise in the room. A parent might observe that the child is easily distracted when two people are talking to him or her at once. Because these functional “real life” behaviors are difficult to test objectively, and because they may be symptomatic of other problems not related to the auditory system, the audiologist must use more objective measures that may or may not directly correspond to these observable behaviors.

So, there you have it in a nutshell. I'm always happy to answer questions if you have 'em.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Boy's Rite of Passage

Learning to flip your eyelids inside-out. Inspired by Bill Cosby's "roller coaster" skit.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Papa Bear - Back On His Foot

It's Saturday, and Papa Bear is back on his foot. After being bitten by a Copper Head on Wednesday, he spent Wednesday night under observation in the ER at Emory. We picked him up and brought him home on Thursday morning, and he spent most of the day with said foot elevated. Yesterday (Friday) he was able to work at his desk much of the day, but it was still painful, and he was still medicated. After some careful reconsidering (with the gentle prodding of his wife, mother, doctor, and client), Papa Bear opted to NOT take the boat out today, and to cancel his business trip scheduled for tomorrow. He did, however, run off to the grocery store this afternoon, just to get out of the house and move around a bit.

The notorious foot itself, having taken on a sickly blue-ish gray color across most of the top and one side, is now getting a little more flesh-like tone to it today, but continues to be swollen and tender. Not as many drugs needed to keep the pain managed, which is a good sign. The venom never moved past the ankle, which is also a very good thing. So, overall, Papa Bear's well on the road to full recovery.

All set for the next crisis.... (just kidding).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Numbers In My Head

I’ve never been good with numbers. Edit that: I’ve never been good at memorizing numbers; handling numbers I’m great at, a knack which naturally lent itself to my BC livelihood as a bookkeeper. But, I have a total numeric memory capacity of exactly two telephone numbers. Three if it is absolutely essential. Papa Bear, on the other hand, has a virtual rol-o-dex in his head. It’s bloody amazing how many phone numbers he can remember.

So, I’m standing there in the endocrinologist’s office, doing T-Bear’s intake (height, weight, blood pressure, etc.), and the intake nurse is asking me all of these questions relating to numbers. What is his insulin-to-carb ratio at each meal? What time is each meal, and how many carbs is he eating per meal? What is his sliding scale correction ratio, both daytime and bedtime? What have been his average low and high since his last checkup? And, I’m supposed to rattle all of this off, right off the top of my head, like I can remember this stuff.

The funny thing is, I did remember it. Sure, I’ve got my cheat-sheet with complete hour-by-hour directions for T-Bear’s care and feeding taped to the fridge and in his camy kit, which I refer to as I’m going about testing, feeding and dosing. But, actually, when it came right down to it, I was able to rattle off all the right answers off the top of my head. Go figure. I guess repetition is the mother of memorization.

Now, the really good news is, T-Bear’s numbers have been really good the past week or so. He’s put on seven pounds since his last check, and he’s back up to his normal fightin’ weight. With much tweeking and adjusting, the ped endo nurses and I seem to have zoned in on the perfect combination of unsulin, carbs, timing, etc., even though we’ve kind of ditched the nutritionist’s eating plan and settled back into a more natural eating plan for T-Bear. Here is what T-Bear’s magic numbers look like:

Carb Grams per Meal: Breakfast 30-45, Lunch 45, Snack 30, Dinner 30, Bedtime 30
Unsulin-to-Carb Ratios: Breakfast 1:15, Lunch 1:12, Dinner 1:12, Bedtime 1:30
Sliding Scale Correction over 150: (BG-100)/50; Bedtime= (BG-100)/100
Lantus 10 units daily

So, there you have it. Diabetic health by the numbers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My “Day Without Stress” and The Snake Bite

Yesterday morning I woke up and decided I was going to have a day without stress. Just for one day. I’ve been experiencing a little stress lately (snort), but Dr. Dyer assures me that stress is not something that I can run out and get a bucket full of and bring home, it’s just the result of the manner in which I choose to respond to circumstances, and as such, is completely within my ability to control. So, I decided that today (yesterday) I would choose to have no stress. Just for the day. Just to see how it goes. Here’s how it went.

Stress Test Number One: Getting children to bathe/shower before breakfast in a timely manner. We had a Kids Book Club meeting to attend. Earlier than usual. And further away than usual, requiring additional drive time. To a place I’ve never been before (see below). I’ve got to get three kids up, bathed/showered, dressed and fed (and one tested and dosed) before we leave at 11:30. And, we’ve got three “bathing lingerers”. Those who have birthed members of this particular species know that I’m talking about. I did raise my voice (just over the sound of the shower) to emphasis the need to get in and out promptly and shampoo hair. A few times. And then I yelled. Just to be heard over the sound of the shower.

Stress Test Number Two: Diabetes Eating Schedule vs. Social Snacking. I’ve been working on accommodating the “optimum diabetic eating plan” to T-Bear’s natural eating pattern, and we’ve pretty much settled into a routine that works for us (which, I’m sure, the diabetic dietician would not entirely approve of). But, leaving the house at 11:30 am, with social snacks scheduled for 1:30 pm… well, that presents a little hiccup in our plan. But, I was determined to just go with it, adjust and dose as neccessary, and “correct” T-Bear’s numbers at dinner. No sweat. No stress.

Stress Test Number Three: Getting to a new place. I can’t get anywhere without getting lost, even with a GPS, unless I’ve been there at least five times. End of story. The first time I go somewhere new, even with the GPS AND Google Maps, I take at least one wrong turn and have to adjust course. It might have something to do with the constant “question and observation” commentary coming from three kids in the car. I don’t know, because I can’t remember back to a time when I didn’t have at least one “talker” in the car with me. I do have vague memories of myself as a single adult with only a Thomas Guide to show the way, but that’s a pretty vague memory. But, add on to the “easily losing one’s way” tendency to Stress Test Number Four (below), and you’re pretty much guaranteed I’m going to miss a turn (or two) and add a few more minutes to the time it takes to get where we’re going.

De-Stress Number One: We left the house early. Really early. I figure we would have arrived half-hour early, if I didn’t take a wrong turn. Or two. I even had Brother Bear call S to be sure it would be okay for us to arrive ahead of schedule.

Stress Test Number Four: Husband gets bit by a Copper Head Snake. Three minutes from our destination, Papa Bear calls to let me know he’s been bitten by a snake in our garage. He’s done some research on the internet, and it looks like a Copper Head, which is venomous. Not lethal, but pretty painful, and there could be complications. We’ve got one vehicle, and I’m currently driving it (look, there goes the street we were supposed to turn right on), half an hour away from home. After a couple of turn-arounds while talking to Papa Bear on the phone (and answering several insistent questions from Brother Bear, and trying not to look like I’m talking on the phone because there are an unusual number of sheriff’s vehicles parked along our route and we have a hands-free law in our State), I manage to pull in to our destination, already having decided to leave the kids at the Book Club meeting and return home pronto to tend to Papa Bear, when I get a second call from Papa Bear. It’s getting worse. I instruct Papa Bear to immediately call 9-1-1 if he starts feeling the least bit “weird”.

Stress Test Number Five: I can’t leave T-Bear with, well, anyone who is not a trained nurse, because he’s going to need testing and calculating and dosing within the next hour or so (note to Self; keep a copy of T-Bear’s current “routine” with dosing instructions in his Cami Kit). Except, in my stress fog (which I’m not supposed to be in), I forget this little detail. I walk into S’s house, dutifully carrying T-Bear’s Cami Kit. “I’ve got a small crisis. Papa Bear’s been bitten by a snake. Can I leave the kids with you?” S has a “deer-in-the-headlights” look on her face, which, in my fog, I’m not deciphering. An apologetic “I’m so sorry, I just am not equipped to keep T-Bear”. Oh, shit. Duh. Right. Okay, gotta take T-Bear with me. Poor, put-upon and stressed T-Bear has a melt-down because he can’t stay for this much-anticipated social event and play time. I don’t respond in a very Dyer-like manner, but do end up getting T-Bear back in the car and on the way toward home.

Stress Test Number Six: Did I mention I started my “ladies’ time” yesterday? Thank goodness I opted for my Moon Cup this morning, and don’t have to deal with “it” for about 12 hours.

Neutral-Stress Moment: After an apology to T-Bear in the car for my small outburst, we return home. Quickly. Papa Bear seems fine. He’s holding a plastic take-out container with a dead snake in it. Lovely. We drive to the closest Doc-In-The-Box clinic (within five minutes of home). They can’t take him, because they are not equipped to deal with snake bites. Off to the nearest Emergency Room (thankfully, within 10 minutes of home). They can take him. I leave Papa Bear in the waiting room while I whisk T-Bear off to Wendy’s (“you can have lunch anywhere you want”) to feed him. Test and dose in the car in the parking lot (great thing about fast food….you know what you’re dealing with, and that it will be delivered and eaten within the Magic 30-Minute Insulin Window). Grab a “to go” for Papa Bear, and back to the ER.

De-Sress Number One: Papa Bear is doing fine, and is in good hands. Our nurse is awesome, we’re being checked on and updated frequently, and everyone is relaxed and attentive. Papa Bear gets drugs (ER’s always have the best drugs), and is feeling MUCH better. He’ll need to be kept overnight for observation.

Stress Test Number Seven: T-Bear’s flash-backs. We’ve been sitting in the ER cubicle for about ½ hour, and T-Bear is having some stress remembering his very recent violent illness, visit to the ER, and resulting hospital stay. And resulting diagnosis and accompanying…well, you get the picture. He’s getting more and more fidgety and uncomfortable and stressed as we sit there, despite the comforting presence of Rufus. And, watching the soap opera playing on the overhead TV is, amazingly, not really capturing his attention and diverting him. Time to exit. Soon.

Breaks-Your-Heart Moment One: T-Bear offers Rufus to Papa Bear to make him feel better.

Stress Test Number Eight: Papa Bear’s business cell phone is just about to die, and he’s pretty much on-call 24/7 in his job. I need to take it with me to recharge in the car, call his boss (Erik, who is a Big Ol’ Love) with an update, and then return it to Papa Bear after picking up my stray kids. This means I can’t just call Papa Bear on his cell phone to figure out where he’s been moved to for his stay. I have to track him down once we get back to the hospital. Okay, deal with that later. And (goodness, gracious), answer a few business calls while I’m driving (ring….”Hello, Papa Bear’s phone, can I help you?”…shit, I just turned left when I should have turned right…Shut Up, GPS, I know I have “make a U-turn when possible”!).

Stress Test Number Nine: Oh, shit. T-Bear has an appointment at the endocrinologist’s office tomorrow morning. As I’m driving, I pull up “pediatric” on my cell phone, looking for “pediatric endocrinologist” while I’m negotiating traffic (to a place I’ve only been once and got lost on the way), hit “send”, listen to my automated options and hit “5” for appointments, and proceed to explain to the appointments lady that my husband is in the hospital and I have to reschedule tomorrow’s appointment. After a few minutes of complete confusion, I realize I’ve called the wrong “pediatric” office, apologize profusely for having wasted this poor lady’s time fruitlessly searching for an appointment that doesn’t exist, and try again. I manage to get the pediatric endocrinologist’s office by scrolling through previous received calls on my cell phone, and have to make do with leaving a message to reschedule tomorrow’s appointment.

De-Stress Number Two: G calls to check in, and divulges the Group Plan to have a “special needs kids class” to train our Core Group moms in how to care for and appropriately feed the kids in our group with special dietary needs, so we all have someone to leave our kids with in the event of an emergency. Brilliant. I love brilliant moms. S re-emphasizes this plan when I pick up the boys. Love our support network.

Stress Test Number Ten: T-Bear is totally “done in” for the day and needs a little down time, but I don’t have anyone to leave him with while I take Brother Bear and Angel Bear to the hospital to visit Papa Bear (which the boys desperately need to assure themselves he is okay). I’m mentally running through options (which are few and far between) and leave a message for M, our lovely (nurse) neighbor, to see if she can lend a hand on short notice.

De-Stress Number Three: Nurse M returns home “just in time”. Just as we pull in at home, M shows up in her nurse’s uniform, fully prepared to take T-Bear for a while. Hand off the Cami Pack with Routine instructions, and I’m off to the hospital with Brother Bear and Angel Bear to check in with Papa Bear. Just have to get back home by 6-ish to feed The Bears dinner.

De-Stress Number Four: Papa Bear is fine. I manage to track down Papa Bear’s whereabouts at the hospital (despite the absence of a human being at the information desk), and we check in for a short visit. He’s doing fine. His nurse, who is taking his medical history, is putting up with his cheekiness with good humor. He should be home tomorrow.

Stress Test Number Eleven: We’re out of toilet paper and wine, and I really need to get to the grocery store. Call Nurse M on the phone, confirm drop-off of remaining offspring, run by the grocery store for essentials and instant dinner. Try not to laugh hysterically at the Very Young Bag Boy who is complaining about having hit is elbow on the bag rack, the epitome of his “bad day”. Run home, unload grocery, fetch children. Test, calculate, dose and feed.

Stress Tests Number Twelve Through Whatever: Dogs with medical issues who don't want to take their pills, trash night, basement is a disaster area, and dog who digs through kitchen trash and spreads it all over the house when you’re not looking. Not even going to bore you with the details.

The End: End the day with three kids in my bed, along with a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Double Fudge ice cream and a glass of Fitzer Pino Noir. No stress. Until the dog on steroids wakes me at 2:00 am because she desperately needs to pee, which touches off my insomnia. Which is why you’re reading this.

Now, if you’ve hung in this long, and read though this entire diatribe, you are either a mom, have horrible insomnia, or are a very good friend. In any case, Bless You. And, as Scarlet says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Don't You Hate It When...

…your laptop shuts itself down in the middle of typing up a blog entry because it’s just downloaded an update from the internet (on its own, while you weren’t looking) and needs to shut down and restart to reconfigure something (which you’re completely ignorant of the importance of)?

Apparently, when I hit “enter”, my laptop interpreted that as saying “yes, shut down right this second”, when what I really meant was “I need to start a new paragraph”. That’s what happens when your eye-hand coordination (organic processing speed) lags far, far, far behind your laptop’s (synthetic) processing speed. Poor, pitiful, slow human that I am, it actually took a few seconds for me to realize what was happening and stop typing. And wait. And wait. Just hold that thought while She shuts down, reconfigures (which takes a while), reboots, and reopens the programs that were open when She told me to “talk to the hand”. Except, She never re-opened the document I was typing on when She had her little time out. And, She didn’t manage to auto-save the document I was typing on when She took Her little coffee break. And, She has absolutely no appreciation for the fact that I can’t possibly hold a thought for a full five minutes to wait for Her to reconfigure, because, well, I’m a mom. And, certainly no appreciation for the fact that I’ve been sitting here typing in the dark, because it’s 3:00 am and I’ve got kids in the bed with me who should not be wakened by something as intrusive as a light being turned on.

So, I’m starting over. Trying to re-grasp the illusive thought I was in the middle of, plus all of the brilliant material I had managed to write in the past 20 minutes. At 3:00 am. Ha. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing at 3:00 am….

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Does It Take To Eat Out?

Yesterday was our first real “eating out” challenge. Two challenges, in fact. Previously, we had attended a couple of birthday parties, but they were just next door and across the street, so we could always run home if there was need to do so. And there were private powder rooms to do our thing in.

Yesterday was our homeschool group’s Park Day, and for the first time this year we met at our summer location, “The Duck Park”. Our usual park is within walking distance from the house, but The Duck Park is about a 20 minute drive. And, we’ve moved our meeting time up from 1:00 pm to 11:00 am when it’s a little cooler, so it’s in the middle of lunch time. So, after a light breakfast, we pack up, drop by one of our favorite local digs, Jen’s New York Deli, for some subs, and head for the park. What do we pack? Among the usual “stuff” needed for a park outing with kids, we pack T-Bear’s cami kit, a very cool little kit that Dr. A gave T-Bear at his first visit.

And, because it was 90 degrees yesterday, I packed a small lunch cooler with ice to keep the insulin in. Insulin spoils if it reaches 90 degrees or freezes.

So, here are the contents of T-Bear’s cami kit:

*Glucose testing kit (multi-click lancet, glucose monitor, test strips, alcohol wipes and bandaids)
*Portable insulin kit (holds insulin, syringes, alcohol wipes and bandaids)
*The all important “rocket” injection device
*Log book and pen
*Emergency juice and snack
*Keytone test strips
*Hand sanitizer
*Emergency glucose tablets
*Emergency glucose gel
*Emergency glucose crash kit

So, I managed to remember to pack everything (almost), get our lunch, and get to the park. Because it was crowded yesterday, our group was not able to snag our usual picnic table, and settled for the fountain benches near the play ground. T-Bear, of course, was starving as soon as we arrived, so off we went to the restroom area to do our pre-meal prep. Of course, the restrooms themselves are not appropriate for doing testing and injecting, because there is no flat surface (other than the top of the trash can) to set out our cami kit, and they’re not exactly what I would call hygienic. So, after washing up, we staged ourselves at a picnic bench near the restrooms. Testing was fine, but once I got T-Bear’s dose ready, I realized I didn’t pack the all-important rocket. He was going to have to inject without it, didn’t want to do it himself, and wanted privacy. Well, eventually we compromised and he agreed to have me inject him discretely under the table since there wasn’t anyone around, and there was no place to set our open kit in the restroom. Pack up cami kit, and go eat.

That was our first challenge of the day. Our second came about because of my own brilliant idea. “Let go out for Mexican for dinner”. I was really craving comfort food; beans, rice and margaritas. Packed up, and off we went. This time, I had backup. Since we were sitting at a booth, I discretely tested T-Bear at the table, and once I’d figured out how much T-Bear was likely to eat (a LOT of carbs!), I gave Papa Bear the number and sent him off to the men’s room with T-Bear to dose. Apparently it went fine, because I didn’t hear any stories afterward.

So, those were our two adventures in eating yesterday. On tap for today: Book Club at S’s house. It’s a little bit of a drive. In the middle of lunchtime. Involving snacks. Excuse me while I go calculate our day…

Monday, June 8, 2009

Huck Finn Revisited

Brother Bear, General Contractor, has been hired by Five Bears to paint the fence on the right side of the house. After discussing with the customers what they wanted, inspecting the job, and evaluating the time involved, Brother Bear GC came back with a quote of $20 to be completed within 1½ weeks. Today was Day One.

Fence built 2 1/2 years ago...needs to be painted.

So, after helping to get the lid off the can of paint, and confirming the "stirring procedure" (you really need power tools for this?!?)....

...and locating small rollers and a paint pan, half an hour or so later I went out to check on the progress.

Not bad for ½ hour of unsupervised work.

I asked Brother Bear if he was subbing out to Angel Bear. After explaining the roles of General Contractor and Subcontractor to him, Brother Bear says, “I’m not PAYING him, he volunteered!”. After reminding him that we had agreed on an early completion bonus, and with Angel Bear’s help the job would be finished that much faster, I left Brother Bear to think on what would be fair. Brother Bear is already calculating how quickly they can finish the project in terms of what that might total out to in payment. Shrewd business mind. We’ll see what happens when the project is finished.

Just a quick note on maturity and development. A year ago, Brother Bear would have said "Yeah, I'll do that for $20", started the project, and then peetered out when it got tough. I think he's got enough focus and determination (and desire for funds, which he's already spent in his head), that he may just finish this project on his own. And, he's already calculating how much he might charge to paint the larger fence on the left side of the house. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that maturity is catching up with desire.

End of Day One

P.S. I think I'm getting better at the "boy" thing...

Replacements, Ltd

This is one of my favorite website, even though I visit it rarely.

Replacements, Ltd.

Ever wish you could buy just ONE plate or bowl or cup to replace the one that was broken from your favorite set of (discontinued) dishes? Check out this site. I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find it. I just ordered some replacements for my “every day” dishes. And, better yet, I found some replacements for our everyday silver set. I was able to buy 10 forks to match our original set. Not an entire place setting…just forks (‘cause we’re ALWAYS running short of forks). Doesn’t take much to make my day.

Oooohhhh, maybe I can find some serving silver to match, too, so I can stop using the cooking utensils. Wouldn't that be novel?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Free Range Moment

Aaaaaaaagh! I just sent my oldest son to the library! By himself!

Having stumbled across the Free Range Kids website several months ago, and having read the book a few months ago, I have been quietly contemplating ways in which I could give our almost-10-year-old Brother Bear a bit more freedom and independence, without going nuts with worry. In the process of de-cluttering his room, the opportunity presented itself. This was it. I had to either go for it, or give up forever the dream of becoming a Free Range Parent.

So, Brother Bear is sitting there, perched on his chair, sorting the 5 Billionth LEGO (with another 5 Billion waiting patiently in the sorter), when he says to me, “You know, I should be listening to Mr. Popper’s Penguins on my iPod while I’m sorting LEGOs.” Mr. Popper’s Penguins is the book he is supposed to be reading for his Kids’ Book Club, to be discussed next week. He’s read one chapter. He prefers to listen to books on CD or Audible.

Me: “Yeah, that would be a good use of your time.”

Him: “You should run up to the library and get it on audiobook for me.”

Me: “Uh, nooooo. YOU should run up to the library and get it yourself.”

Him: “Really?”

Me: “Yeah. You’ve got your own library card. You know where the library is. Here’s my phone. Call me if you need anything.”

Off he goes.

Now, at his age, I never would have had the courage and fortitude to embark on an adventure such as this, because I was a wimpy, lilly-livered, hidden-in-the-shell child if ever you met one. But, Brother Bear is cut from an entirely different cloth. His father’s cloth (thank goodness). So, off he goes.

Now, I’m running through my compulsive little mind every possible glitch that could possibly occur in the ten minutes or so it takes to get from our house to the library (less than two blocks away), and how he would probably handle it. I also mentally ran through the procedure of finding the exact audiobook he is looking for once at the library (I had only worked up the courage to ask a real-live librarian for assistance in finding something the previous week, after visiting THIS SAME library for about two years). I was pretty sure there might be some hiccups along the way, which is why I gave Brother Bear my cell phone. Sure enough, we got a call on Papa Bear’s work line.

“They changed the procedure for checking things out on April 1st. I need my PIN number to check out.”

Okay, he’d been gone 10 minutes, and he’d already managed to get down there, get the librarian to find exactly what he was looking for, and was in the process of checking out. Mind you, he was not the least bit embarrassed or distressed at not being able to check out himself (unlike me, who would have been mortified and expecting the Library Police to swoop in and whisk me off to Library Jail for being such a dufus I couldn't check myself out). He was just dealing with the situation.

Me: “Your card is on my account. Will my PIN work on your card?”

I hear Brother Bear asking the librarian. The answer is “probably.”

Me: “Okay, here’s my PIN. Try it, and if it doesn’t work, call me back.”

No call back. Ten minutes later, he shows up at home with audiobook in hand.

Victory. And, a little more freedom for Brother Bear. Sigh. And Applause.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cool LEGO Gizmos

I’d always wondered what this mysterious LEGO piece was for. When we visited the LEGO store in Orlando, the very friendly cashier was kind enough to demonstrate one and offer to sell it to us. I declined to purchase said item, and upon returning home discovered we already had two. Now that I think on it, it seemed to me I HAD seen these things before, and couldn’t imagine what they’d be used for. Now I know. This is a LEGO separator. And, it actually works. Really. ‘Nuff said.

Here’s my other favorite LEGO-related gizmo. If you’ve got more than, say, 100 LEGOs in your house, you definitely need one of these…

Of course, we have waaaaay too many LEGOs to all fit into one block, but it definitely helps in the sorting process…

Thursday, June 4, 2009

De-Clutter Update

In It’s All Too Much, Peter Walsh advises starting with the biggest disaster area in your house and focus on getting it done, so you can feel a sense of accomplishment. Well, aside from the garage, the biggest disaster was Brother Bear’s room.

Now, I’m just a natural-born organizer, so the idea that there could possibly be a human being on the planet who does not “grok” the concept and process of organization, much less that that human being could possibly live my MY home, is beyond my ability to comprehend. However, I honestly seek to be as understanding and helpful as possible to those poor individuals not born with the Organization Gene (or, alternatively, bashed upon the head by the Organization Fairy at some point in their life), so this time around I was determined to AID Brother Bear in the organization process in the hopes he would get a sense of how HE would like his personal space to be from now on. I won’t bother to describe what we were starting with, but let me just say we’re tackling this one stage at a time.

Progress! We can see the floor!

Stage One: Determine zones. Per Walsh’s advice, I had Brother Bear decide what he wanted each zone in his room to be used for, and I used masking tape and a sharpie to label each zone. Really. I kid you not. Top bunk is for sleeping, bottom bunk is the Secret Spy Fort and appropriate accoutrements. The shelf is divided; stuffed animals on top shelf, then books, then electronics, then the Blue Man Group keyboard. The top surface of the bed-side table is designated for the lamp, picture, and books currently being read; the drawer is for current Guinness Book of World Records projects (longest rubber band chain, and most bottle caps collected); the lower portion is for more books (yay!). The table is for Projects I Am Working On (LEGOs). The top of the dresser, next to the aquarium, is for Model Display.

Project Assembly Zone

Stage Two: Bed, bookcase and bed-side table. Remove everything that does not belong, clean up and replace everything that does. The laundry alone took most of one day.

Stage Three: Tackling floor space. This took the better part of two days, and required the purchase and labeling of storage bins. Bins and/or stacking drawers (which will eventually be located in the closet) designated for: laundry; hats, helmets, and masks (really); outdoor, sports & weapons (really); small toys; Bakugan; writing stuff (go figure); and dinosaurs. Also, dresser drawers were labeled: undies; PJ’s; jeans, shorts & sweaters; swim & uniforms; costumes; and more costumes.

Critical Decision Number One: Since there were no surviving fish in the aquarium, Brother Bear decided to transfer to the two snails to other household aquariums (of which we have several), and remove and store his aquarium to make space for more display room. He has a lot of LEGO creations to display.

Stage Four: Master LEGO sorting. Under all of the Stuff strewn about the room, there was a three inch layer of LEGOs. Up till now, Mama Bear has been the Primary LEGO Sorter. I’m a little compulsive about this, however I have now officially turned the reins over to Brother Bear, and he spent a good deal of time (3+ hours) sorting loose LEGOs into our stacking towers (which I had originally envisioned, implemented, and sorted LEGOs into). Brother Bear now has a firm grasp on exactly how much time and effort it requires to keep 20Billion LEGOs properly sorted so you can find the one piece you are looking for quickly and easily.

Stage Five: The Dreaded Closet. Sigh. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day.

Pretty Much What The Room Used to Look Like.
No, I Didn't Put The Sign There

A Tale of Too Many LEGOs (drafted a few months ago)

Yes, you can actually have too many LEGOs. I know, it’s almost blasphemous, but it is true. I found this out several years ago when we were blessed with a bounteous gift of LEGOs. One of the families on our local homeschool loop posted “free garage sale leftovers” including a couple of boxes of LEGOs. Having at the time two boys and expecting a third, I jumped on it, and being the first to respond, by a mere five minutes or so, I was given the green light to come pick them up.

I showed up at this nice family’s home, and they helped me load the booty into my van. Thank goodness I had a van, because I’m not sure it would have all fit into a smaller car. There were about four boxes. Now, I’m not talking about shoe boxes. I’m not even talking about book boxes. I’m talking about BOXES, the kind that are labeled “medium” when you buy them at the box store or storage place. If you took four tall kitchen trash bags and loaded them to near-bursting with LEGOs, you’d get an idea how many blocks we’re talking about here. I figure close to a zillion or so. The best part of this gift, though, was that this family also passed down to us the instruction booklets for every one of the kits that was rattling around in those boxes in a zillion pieces. Thank goodness, someone more compulsive than me.

So, I showed up at home with our booty and two very excited young boys. I asked hubby to bring them in from the van, which resulted in a sort of “oh, my, gosh, what have you found” gleeful grin, and he plopped the boxes on the living room floor. Naturally, our oldest wanted to IMMEDIATELY dig in and start building something. That’s when I discovered that there absolutely CAN be TOO MANY LEGOs. Brother Bear (then about five years old) wanted to build the pirate ship (naturally), I pulled out the perfectly preserved instruction booklet, and since I had been designated “digger”, I started digging through the boxes of LEGOs to find the pieces we needed, in the order we needed them. Ummmmm. “needle in a haystack” might just begin to approach this task. Especially when it came to finding the itty bitty teenie weenie (aka 1x1flat w/appendage) parts that were used to hold the flaps on the side of the ship that cover the cannons. And, we needed a lot of them. Sort of like a mom’s purse, the most urgently needed item always sifts down to the very bottom. Of four boxes.

Okay, that didn’t work out so well. So, now it was time to figure out how to organize all these LEGOs in a way that we could actually use them. I had some stacking bins, and that seemed like a good place to start. But, where to start? Well, for some inane reason, I started out by sorting by color, until my youngest brother, the engineer, came for a very timely visit and commented that, if it were he, he would sort them by utility. Duh. So, I started to try to figure out how to sort them by utility. And, I did.

LEGO Central
Now, for those of you who are neither obsessive nor compulsive, this may seem like a fairly straightforward task. But, for those of us who tend to be distracted by the minutiae of life in our attempts to keep every detail neatly tucked away in its appropriately labeled little box, sorting LEGOs by utility is not as easy as it sounds. Sure, the larger categories are easy enough. We’ve got 1xflats, 2xflats, large flats, 1xtalls and 2xtalls, but then what? Slants, wheels, pirate stuff, peopleplantandanimal stuff, and doors&windows. And then, you start ending up with all these specialty pieces. Stuff I never saw when I was building LEGOs with my brothers as a child, because “kits” hadn’t been invented yet. We just had blocks, not specialty pieces. How do you sort those things? Well, eventually I came up with “parts”, “medium odd”, “small odd”, and “tiny odd”. Don’t even ask me how much I stress everytime I have to decide between a large “tiny” and a tiny “medium”. It’s about as close to hell as I ever want to get.

But, overall, it’s worked. The boys can find what they’re looking for most of the time. Every couple of months I have to have a wholesale “disassemble all of your half-finished projects and dump it in the sorter so I can sort LEGOs day”. And, of course, anytime we have little friends over, the first rule that is calmly and kindly reiterated is “never dump the bins onto the floor, and, for goodness sake, don’t put anything back into a bin unless you are absolutely positive you know it goes there FOR SURE!” Said very calmly, of course.

Now, back to my sorting….

Bachelor Birthday Bail-out

We received a last minute invitation to a birthday party. Our new neighbor across the street has a sweet little boy who is turning two. Brother Bear had run over to say “hi” when he saw them in the drive, and came back a moment later, bursting through the kitchen door.

“We’ve been invited to C’s birthday party!”

“When is it?”

“From one til three.”

Half joking, “Today?”


Not joking, “Uh, are you sure it’s today?”


It’s 12:15 and I’m cooking lunch so we can eat before we join up with our homeschool group for weekly Park Day at 1:00. And, we’ve got our niece, H, with us until my mother-in-law picks her up at 3:00.

Perhaps Brother Bear misunderstood. I need some sort of confirmation before I attempt the Herculean task (for me) of being flexible and changing plans in mid-stream. Reminding myself of the book I’ve been listening to, MindSet, which lauds the growth mindset over the fixed mindset, I ask Brother Bear to run back over and ask what we can bring.

“Anything we want. They’re having hamburgers and hotdogs.”

“Okay, go see what the other kids want to do, go to the park or go to the birthday party.” (As if there would be any question).

“We all want to go to the party.”

Okay, well the soup is done, but somehow I don’t imagine Italian Soup will be a compliment to hamburgers and hotdogs. And, I certainly cannot visit a new neighbor’s home for the first time, and for a party no less, and show up empty handed. What can I throw together quickly? Pasta salad.

So, while Brother Bear makes a nice birthday card, I throw together a pasta salad (with no mayo, because I’m out), then shower and dress, get together T-Bear’s Camy Kit, let Papa Bear know what’s going on, and dash across the street only about 15 minutes late for the party. Papa Bear, meanwhile, is running up to the store to grab a quick gift. Amazing what you can find at Ace Hardware.

We go around back to the yard where everyone is, and “everyone” is our neighbor S, two ladies with miscellaneous kids, and an older gentleman who is S’s father. Dad is sitting in a camp chair attempting to assemble a BBQ grill. “Do you know anything about putting one of these things together?” he asks me. So, I squat down in my skirt and try to help put the thing together. The assembly has been set up directly in full sun, so not only am I sweating in a very unladylike manner within moments (I had to excuse myself to rinse the sweat out of one burning eye), but each time I try to pick up a piece of hardware (all of which were black) I burn my fingers. But, we do manage to get it put together “enough” to function for the party. S dumps in the charcoal, but can’t find any matches in the many boxes which still dominate his family room and kitchen. I run across the street for matches, and also grab a bag of frozen hamburger patties, since the pile of handmade patties I saw in the kitchen were 1) adorably petite and 2) few in number. I know how much my Bears can eat.

In my absence, S finds some matches, but apparently the charcoal is old, and it won’t light. He’s already doused it with gasoline once, and it’s barely flickering. We back up all non-essential personnel to a safe distance, and he douses it again. Nice big fire for a few seconds, then a very anemic little dancing flame. A third douse, amazingly, does not do the trick. S is now getting desperate enough he’s going to run up to Dairy Queen and buy everyone lunch. I convince him to let me take the meat back to our house, grill it, and bring it back, knowing full well Papa Bear is on a conference call, the grill needs a new propane tank (which we have sitting in the garage but I’m not sure I know how to put on), and I can’t grill worth beans. Thankfully, Papa Bear had just wrapped up his call, and was free to do the grilling. He’d also already gotten the gift, wrapped it himself, and dropped it off at the party, so he was looking pretty heroic by this time. Since S had run out of paper cups, I brought back a handful of plastic kids’ restaurant cups from our kitchen, and reported the good news.

A blessedly short time later (T-Bear was now pretty late in getting fed, and was starting to feel it), Papa Bear made his entrance with the platter of meat, and we started feeding everyone. Not enough ketchup, so Papa Bear runs back home for more ketchup and relish. I managed to get T-Bear served up, we slipped into the powder room for a quick test and dose, then down to eating. Ooops, but where was the pasta salad I brought, I asked S. He’d put it in the freezer because his fridge was too full of other stuff.

So, everyone had lunch. S cut and served the cake with a fork, which apparently did not impair the flavor in any way. I gave T-Bear another dose to cover the cake. Gifts were opened, just in time for the first guest to leave. The remaining guest and I cleaned up as best we could, giving one another humoring looks over the state of this poor bachelor’s kitchen. The carpet cleaning guy showed up and started cleaning the carpets. I got a call from G, who was wrapping things up at the park and wanting to drop some stuff off for us, which reminded me that MIL was due at our house any moment (she was already there, wondering why the house was empty and the garage door was open).

Overall, I think we made a good impression on our new neighbor. He was, I’m pretty sure, grateful for the help, and I’m glad he let us help. The kids had fun. I met a nice lady whose name I don’t remember. It was time for me to sit in my comfy chair, put my feet up, and have a little glass of wine.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Education a la Ben

When Benjamin Franklin was young, his father took him around town to observe various tradesmen at their work, to learn about the various trades and see if any of them appealed to Ben. We often end up getting the same kinds of “lessons” here at home when we call in tradesmen. Kids (boys especially) seem to like watching people do their work, especially when they are working with their hands. This morning, two guys came to repair our garage door, and they had two “helpers” (Brother Bear and Angel Bear) observing, questioning, and chatting the entire time. They were surprised when Brother Bear said “Is this how it works…” and proceeded to describe the mechanics of the opener correctly, with no previous explanation from the pros.

I always appreciate adults who don’t mind sharing what they’re doing with our kids. I try to convey to the boys the importance of not interfering with people when they’re working, but they seem to just NEED to be involved in whatever is going on, whether it’s a garage door repair or the local tree guys delivering and stacking fire wood or the power company coming out to replace a blown transformer after a lightening strike (that was really cool). It’s kind of a shame there aren’t more opportunities for kids to observe adults in their daily work, because it gives them a sense of how the world, or at least our local society, works and continues to roll along even when we’re not aware of the work going into it. It gives them an opportunity to figure out how things work by talking directly to the people who do it every day. And, it gives them the opportunity to engage with adults. Real adults in the real world.

This, for me, is one of the many hearts of homeschooling. Having the kids engaged and fluent in the Real World from day one. Being part of what’s going on every day, rather than waiting until they graduate before they start the process of being a member of society. Seeing first hand, and possibly even lending a hand, in the stuff of keeping things on track and working, rather than reading about it in a textbook, or not learning about it at all. Garnering the confidence to reach out to adults on an equal footing, offering assistance and conversation in exchange for transfer of knowledge, and never being shy about approaching an “expert” to learn from and exchange ideas with on any subject which may peak their interest. Thank you, Education Goddess, for allowing us the privilege of home schooling.

Now, here comes my shameless plug. I was so pleased with the service we received, with the manners and willingness of the technicians to include the boys in their work, that I have to give full marks to Advance Overhead Door Company (phone 770-962-5600). And a special, great, big “thank you” to brothers Mack and Joe (who work for dad). Our boys adore you, and especially Joe’s very cool, glow-in-the-dark Batman tattoo. You guys are the best!

Ain’t life rich? And, sometimes you don’t even have to leave home to partake.