Thursday, August 20, 2015

In Which We Have a Forced Time Off

Honestly, if it were up to me, we would  have started school already. Or at least we would be starting this coming Monday like everyone else around here. But perhaps the Lord knew we needed some time off because we simply can't start right now.

Normally we have laid aside some money for school expenses by now. I've always been able to order what I need by this point in the year. Perhaps because Dad was in the hospital the majority of the summer, perhaps because we've had some unexpected expenses (had to buy a new car), perhaps because our electric bill has been ridiculous.....but for whatever reason we can't order everything right now. Oh, and high school curriculum is expensive!

I did sell some old curriculum on eBay. It hadn't sold on any of the homeschool sites or groups I'm a part of so I was really glad it sold. However, after eBay and Paypal take their bite out--it won't be nearly as much as I could have earned selling straight to another homeschool mom! Oh well. I'm thankful for that money, which I should be getting soon. That will enable us to get started with some subjects.

Our fine arts co-op starts back in a week. Little Bit can't wait to get back to art class!

I'm stressed about it and not really all at the same time. I would like to have everything all ready to go and not stagger the subjects in one at a time throughout the fall, but at the same time I know we just can only handle so much.

Bee has been so sad about Grandpa. Little Bit has been too. But Little Bit is also getting bored now and asking what she can do. The cousins can't come anymore because my sister is back at work. (She's a teacher). So we just wander around here cleaning, organizing, rearranging, and taking it a little bit easy.

I admit I have laid in bed and thought about all the things that need to be bought: clothes for the girls, curriculum, a new lunch cooler, a backpack for Little Bit, new beds for Little Bit and Bee, some stuff for Sweetheart's room, etc. But I am also so thankful that we have paid our bills, had groceries, and are all here together. Sure, it would be really fun to just hop in the car and go get whatever we need without giving it a second thought, but relying on the Lord is a good place to be also. We need Him. We cannot do it all ourselves.

It forces you to think about what's important. And one thing that has been bouncing around in my head is how to make our school focus different. These are not new thoughts, but refined ones? Yes. I was really struggling to find a science curriculum for Sweetheart. Also geography. When it all came together I chose a Christian based biology curriculum and a geography curriculum that focuses on the geography in the Bible. Is there something more important I could focus on? No. I'm still dwelling on how we can study more Bible and worry less about "academics". Not that academics aren't important....it's just that I don't want grades and transcripts and credits to be all that we focus on. We only have 3 years of high school left with Sweetheart--and there is so much I want her to know about God's Word.
Book club starts next week too. Here is Little Bit last spring trying turkish delight at our Narnia book club meeting.
(She didn't care for it!)

So perhaps this forced time off is a good thing. It's giving us time to heal, de-stress from the summer, mull around important thoughts about how our homeschool year is going to look, and yes, get organized. Which is what I'm off to do now. We've rearranged our homeschool so many times that our "stuff" is everywhere. Time to get all the math stuff in one place, all the history stuff, etc.

Because all too soon, life is going to get really busy again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pro Tips from Brenda

When you make chicken chimichangas for your family for supper...


...put chicken in them. Vital ingredient, folks. 

That is all. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Real Reason for the Delay

One of the main reasons we are not starting school in early to mid August like we usually do, is that we have had a really hard summer. 

About the middle of June my dad started feeling really badly. He was getting off of steroids (which he was on to help keep his blood sugar up as his cancerous spots produced too much insulin. It started as a very rare cancer on the the tail of his pancreas 14 years ago. That was surgically removed but spots had moved to his liver and one on his lung--and they produced insulin willy nilly. The spots were so small he wasn't even being treated for them at the time.) Anyway, he said he felt just awful--awful and tired just like when he had been on chemo. 

One Sunday night my phone rang at 11:46 and it was my mom. Never a good thing to see on your phone. She said Daddy had fallen and was bleeding badly and she needed help getting him up. S got dressed and ran down the street to help. It seems Daddy's blood sugar had gotten low and he had passed out in the bathroom. That had happened 3-4 or possibly more other times before. This time he scraped his arm and hand up really badly. His skin is so thin it just really tore his arm up. And being on blood thinners didn't help. So S ended up taking Mom and Dad to the ER. He finally came on home around 6:00am to get ready for work. Dad called a few minutes later and said he was being released so I went to pick them up from the ER at 6:30am. Dad's arm and hand continued to bleed and seep through all the bandages that day and on Tuesday morning I took him to his primary care doctor. He hadn't been to this doctor in 12 years come to find out, in spite of being a patient there since the early 60s. All his needs had been taken care of at M.D. Anderson. I mean, he saw doctors all the time! Anyway, they couldn't believe the wound he had but they got it all cleaned up and the dressing changed. At the last minute the P.A. said he would like to get some blood work on Dad. He had very recently had blood work done with his cancer doctor, but we went by the lab and then home. 

About 30 minutes after we got home, the P.A. called me to tell me that Dad needed to go straight to the ER as his sodium levels in his blood were dangerously low. Also his potassium was low. He had already called Dad. Very critical levels are 110. Dad's was 111. No WONDER he had been feeling so crappy! So the girls and I loaded up and went down the street to get Mom and Dad, who were already packing for the hospital. The P.A. said it would take several days to bring up his sodium levels as it has to be done slowly so they were packing for a long(ish) stay. We dropped them off at the hospital at noon, a day and a half after he had fallen. 

Dad spent 9 days in the hospital. He developed (or possibly already had?) a blood infection during that time. Then he started to get pneumonia. He was transferred to a long term care facility and went straight to ICU. The girls and I had been to see him or at least Facetimed with him every single day he was in the hospital until he was moved. He ended up being in the long term care facility at least a month. During that time he got put on a ventilator. We didn't take the girls to see him during that time. I know he missed them. He was so, so sick. Then the day came when he got off the vent and things were really looking up! So I immediately took them. He smiled at them and held their hands. He tried to talk but couldn't yet. His voice was just a raspy whisper. Then he started to go downhill and got worse.

Even though we knew he was doing badly, it still came as a surprise when Mom called me at 4:00am to tell me he had passed away. She was there at the hospital alone with him, of course, when it happened. She had been at the hospital night and day for 5 1/2 weeks. My sisters and I all rushed to be with her. Later that morning when I got home, we gathered the girls and S told them what happened. 

We weren't really sure Bee would understand but half way through the conversation she clued in and asked, "So Grandpa is never coming home?" And then she just buried her face in her hands and cried. Oh poor baby just broke my heart. 

My mom and Dad at his 80th birthday a couple of years ago.


We all made it through the funeral planning, the funeral, the out-of-town trip to the trailer (without Grandpa--which was weird) to bury him...all of it. We made it through all of it. We've had my mom over to eat dinner most nights since. My Dad did all the cooking. My Dad did all the grocery shopping. We've taken Mom to do that too. The girls have spent most of their summer running back and forth to the hospital, riding along to take Grandma places, helping take care of things at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and not having a whole lot of fun. Although, since my sister was coming more often they did get to see a LOT of the cousins this summer. That was good. 

So we feel like we are just now (in August) getting a summer break. Sweetheart wasn't actually through with History or Math but I called it. We're done. So this is the first time we've had a break from school too. 

Bee has cried a lot. She's asked 10,000 questions. She tells me several times a day she misses Grandpa. Little Bit has had some anxiety and sadness that she says she doesn't know why but....and Sweetheart has seemingly handled it really well. But she's older. Anyway, we are all still healing and getting used to not having him around. Little Bit caught a fish the other night and I was snapping a picture the first thought I had was, "Wait until Grandpa sees this!" It's been a hard, hard summer. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Apparently We Are Collecting Diagnoses

Well. I was getting on here today to catch you up on Little Bit a uh...little bit. (Sorry). She's 11 1/2 and Facebook just showed me that 6 years ago it was her first day of Kindergarten and she looked like this:


This last year was 5th grade for her and we had quite a year with her too. In the past she has had problems with convergence insufficiency. If you don't know what that is, it's OK. I didn't either at first. It means when her eyes looked at something and each eye took a "picture" of that object, the two pictures didn't converge completely, causing her to see double. As you can guess, this doesn't help with reading. It causes headaches and lots of other problems. As her books got smaller and smaller font, it became more of a problem. We actually only found out what the deal was because my dad mentioned he saw double and Little Bit piped up with, "Me too!" 

News to us! Anyway, we did home therapy using a computer program in the spring of 4th grade and she graduated from that and all was well. 

We had a vision therapy party when she finished.
I had a lot of fun planning it!



Until it wasn't. She started having troubles with her eyes and daily headaches again this year. We went back to the same doctor's office, but a different doctor. He is an older gentleman and has seen his fair share of bad vision. He was truly amazed by how poor her convergence was. He had us come back many times and was genuinely concerned. He kept working with us until we got it back on track though. In the end she had to restart and completely re-do the computer program, in addition to adding reading glasses with prisms. But now she doesn't have daily headaches and can work without pain. 

Of course Tourette Syndrome lives on at our house. Sometimes it was hard to tell if her vision was causing frustration, or her tics. Either way it means I spend a lot of time working with her one on one and that is not good for Sweetheart, who gets off task when the wind blows. 

Towards the end of the year she was having real fits during work, especially math. Crying, screaming, carrying on. SO frustrated. I was hoping she just needed a break for the summer. But then a couple of days ago she had a similar fit while working on some Bible memory stuff for church. Oh dear. I'm not ready for next year if this is how it's going to be. So I posted some questions in some groups I'm in on Facebook and it all snowballed into me messaging our former preacher's wife, who is a dyslexia tutor. She sent me some videos and information and now I am sure, where before I was only suspicious, that we are dealing with dyslexia as well. Very sure. Which of course changes most of the curriculum choices I had already made for next year. And has sent me off on a flurry of research. 

Aww...matchy sisters...
We really didn't NEED another diagnosis. But it's OK. We've been dealing with it all along even when I wasn't sure. 

She is such an awesome kid. She and I did the grocery shopping on Sunday and I realized part-way through that I thoroughly enjoy spending time with her! She's funny and has good ideas and is very responsible. But school....oh school. I'm not ready for ya!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

9th Grade Was Not Our Favorite

That one time I blogged last year (ha!) I mentioned that I had taken Sweetheart to a doctor to be evaluated for ADD. I had done my homework and was sure this was the diagnosis. They agreed and in 20 minutes of meeting this doctor I had a prescription for hard core drugs for my kid. Easy peasy!


Sweetheart at the symphony this last year.
I went home and looked up the side effects and S and I chickened out. But her year was still limping along in a wounded sort of way. She wasn't making it. In spite of all the effort we were putting in, she wasn't making it--in school or other areas. Everything was lost all the time, she was beyond frustrated. She truly couldn't complete a school day in a....you know...school day. No way. And try setting up a "distraction free environment" when one sister is 2 and the other one has tics. Go ahead and try. Oh...but do it in 1500 sq. feet. 

In the spring an old friend came to visit with us and my parents up at my mom and dad's little country home. She mentioned that both she and her daughter were on medication for ADHD. She gave me a lot of insight into how her own brain worked and why she finally decided as an adult she needed medication. S and I talked about it some more and decided we needed to try medication. We needed to know we had tried everything to help our daughter. 

So we visited another clinic. The doctor agreed easily with the ADD consensus. He also listened to my concerns about stimulants. Sweetheart doesn't have an extra pound on her body and she eats all day long (I donated my metabolism to her at birth--wasn't that nice of me?). We really didn't want her on a medication that would take away her appetite. He agreed. Also, she's already pretty "picky"--picking at her lips, her face, her nails, all day long AND has a sister with Tourette Syndrome, so--he agreed stimulants would not be a good idea. 

But there is one medicine for ADD that is not a stimulant. Problem? Sweetheart couldn't swallow pills. So after a few weeks learning to do that, we began the medicine, which increases in strength gradually over the month. 

It did nothing. She might as well have kept swallowing those Tic Tacs we practiced on. 

Another visit to the clinic. Maybe they can increase the dosage? Maybe there is another one to try?
No and no. The next dosage up is for someone who weighs 150 pounds. And you can't split the pills. The other option is actually a medicine that lowers your blood pressure. Yikes. No thanks. 

So we closed the door on the medicine option. We tried. 

Now I have a huge list of ideas I pinned and looked up of things we can try to help her. As George Harrison said

Yes George. It's gonna take time and money. 


Sweetheart having a battle with Bee. She's such an awesome big sister. 
The list includes essential oils (which we've already tried topically)
a diffuser
a timer (got it already)
some supplements (need more research)
diet changes
full spectrum lighting
music (got one--want to add to the collection)
and exercise (got an exercise bike)

Anything you would add? Anyone else dealing with ADD/ADHD? I'm determined that ADD will not ruin 10th grade for us!

One last thing about Sweetheart: the year before last, she was diagnosed with Scheuermann's Kyphosis. She completed 6 months of physical therapy to help with that. It did help, but we have to keep having her do stretches and exercises to keep her back from getting worse. Probably her spine is set in place and she's nearly through growing, so they won't help forever, but will keep her muscles from getting tight again. She hasn't had any pain since starting PT so that's good. 
Before and after x-rays of Sweetheart's back. She said she thought she was standing up straight in the first one.
These are 6 months apart.

Well, that pretty much catches you up on the challenges Sweetheart has faced lately. She's a happy kid. She does a lot of things well. She's a great sister. I don't mean for this post to encompass who she is at all. Just sharing some parenting challenges we're facing with her. Just like anyone else.