Archive | March, 2009

Orange!

31 Mar

Orange, he says, is now his lucky color, his favorite color.

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JediBoy has worked hard at his karate classes, always paying attention in class & practicing all the time at home.  Because he takes classes at the YMCA instead of the dojo, he must attend a certain number of classes (I believe it is 20) before he can even be considered to move up a belt.  Of course he has to have his katas mastered too!  Counting today, there have been 24 classes since he got his yellow belt (on January 6th – classes meet twice a week) – and I know that he missed 3 of those… so getting his belt today means he’s doing very well and being promoted as fast as he’s able.

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I was so glad that I saved up my energy today & went with them to karate, so I could see his promotion. It did wear me out, though, as the Y is a 20 minute drive away, getting to the room involves climbing two gym-height flights of stairs, and watching the class means sitting on the floor for an hour!

My leg is sore but I am proud of my boy.

Un-CONVENTION-al Gifts

30 Mar

The kids were delighted when the postman rang the bell and delivered a big box o’ fun from Pappy and Nita today!  (I would have joined in their delight except that I’d gotten up early so PisecoDad could take me in for blood work before he had to work, and I had the kids settled in the nursery looking at books midmorning while I had just dozed off for a moment… but that’s poor timing on the part of the postal service and has no bearing on the actual box of joy.)

The box was full of things that Pappy and Nita had found for them at last week’s ACS meeting in Salt Lake.  The wonders ranged from the Lab Rat Playing Cards

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…to little cards from Wiley Books with green seed paper attached (soak the paper, plant it and grow forget-me-nots), to a small poster of the periodic table.  JediBoy was especially interested in this periodic table (though, goodness knows, we’ve had plenty around before today that didn’t interest him!) and we sat and pored over it together for a long time, talking about what elements are, how the table is organized, which elements he is already familiar with, states of matter, and so on.  Of course, we had to watch this too:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/DYW50F42ss8" width="425" height="350"/]

And a wonderful addition to our library: a book by Arthur Kornberg (Nobel winner for his work on DNA) called Germ Stories.  A picture book, with fanciful drawings by Adam Alaniz and photography by Roberto Kolter (who grew up in Guatemala).

A picture book of stories in rhyming verse, stories about germs, stories that a Nobel laureate used to tell his kids at bedtime.  We liked Clostridium Tetani:

This germ with many coats around / For years will slumber in the ground.
As a spore it can be boiled or frozen, / And it resists toxins while it’s a-dozin’.
Should chance allow the spore access / To a cozy place that’s free from stress,
The coats are shed.  When moist and fed / Clostridium emerges, grows, and spreads.
When barefoot Gili stepped on a nail, / Then began our sad spore tale.

The story goes on to tell about how poor Gili contracted tetanus and what the doctors did to cure him.  JediBoy particularly liked the photographs and the details about how many of that page’s germ would fit on the tip of a tack, a dime, the hole in your waffle, your nostril and so on.  Fun!

The box also had these…

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I was grateful for the box of diversions, which kept the three of us happily entertained for a good two hours today, mostly on the bed with my leg elevated!  The afternoon held more siesta time and a long game of Mythmatical Battles with JediBoy…  I feel like we’re ever-so-slowly inching back towards normal.  Once I get up enough stamina to drive the kids somewhere, stay a while, and drive home without my leg killing me, I’ll feel much more myself.  PisecoDad’s still doing all the driving for us.

Book Basket: Sounds… Series for Poetry Month

29 Mar

April is National Poetry Month.  PisecoSis is a poet as well as a teacher, and that makes studying poetry all the more personal and engaging for us, and we have plenty of books with poetry on our shelves and the new Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? poster is hanging up… in our bathroom.  (That’s one of those You know you’re a homeschooler when… things.)

I went to gather a book basket for the week, thinking I’d choose a few volumes of kids’ poetry, and I was overwhelmed by my options!  I do think we’ll read a little Shel Silverstein on Wednesday, since his poetry seems fitting for April Fools’ Day.  We will surely read lots of poetry from our two favorite volumes – A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children and Poetry Speaks to Children – throughout the month.

But the books that leapt off the shelf into my arms tonight are seven textbooks – yes, textbooks – that were put out in the 1960′s and 70′s by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.  They are the Sounds… series by Bill Martin Jr.

Bill Martin Jr. (1916-2004) had an incredible sense of how to make words captivating for kids.  He wrote the classic (and BabyGirl’s current favorite) Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? illustrated by his friend Eric Carle, and he worked on over 300 books for children over the span of 60 years.  His books were the first books I remember where the text was written in curls and swirls, upside down and with changing fonts and sizes.  They were so different, so fun and playful and interesting, and they made a huge impression on me all those years ago.

I think that having Bill Martin Jr. work on a series of language texts for kids was absolutely brilliant.  These are delightful collections of poetry, lyrics, stories, and pictures for storytelling.  The authors and illustrators are top notch, including Bill Martin Jr., Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak, Esphyr Slobodkina, Margaret Wise Brown, Carl Sandburg, Aliki, Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti, Ed Young, Edward Lear, Vachel Lindsay, Barbara Cooney, A.A. Milne, and more.

We own seven volumes: Sounds of Numbers, Sounds of Home, Sounds Around the Clock, Sounds I Remember, Sounds After Dark, Sounds of a Powwow, and JediBoy’s favorite Sounds in the Wind.

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I just can’t gush enough about how delightful these books are, and I think they are the perfect way to kick off National Poetry Month.  They embody a love of language and a playfulness that kids can relate to.  Poetry should not be inaccessible or intimidating: it should be as natural a part of our day as music, and these books understand that.

Here are a few scans to give you an idea of what’s inside.  You can click on the image for a larger view.

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For my used-book-procurers (Nita and Robin, I’m looking at you), if you ever see any of these books at a sale, snatch them up!  They are treasures that are hard to come by.

These are some of our favorite books and I’m already looking forward to singing, chanting and reading with the kids all week.

Finished Reading: The Zookeeper’s Wife

26 Mar

Besides the disturbing mention of blood clots, I found The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman to be as interesting and well-researched as many folks had told me, and the story drew me in and (except for p. 180) kept my mind off my current medical woes.

It’s the story of a family living in WWII Warsaw.  Before the war, Jan was the zookeeper of the Warsaw Zoo.  After the war set in, he and Antonina held a variety of different legitimate positions given to them by the occupying Germans, all the while using their empty, bombed-out zoo and its villa as a safe house for Jews escaping the Ghetto.  The amount of detail is fascinating, in large part due to journals that Antonina kept.

Besides providing an amazing safety net for at least 300 Jews over the course of the war, the family had an interesting villa life with their ever-changing Guests and an at-home zoo as well.  Photos are included of their son, young Rys, walking a badger in the garden and Jan cuddling with a lynx.  The animal stories are interspersed with the war & resistance stories and paint an amazing picture of a family who managed to thrive under incomprehensible conditions.

The Zookeeper’s Wife was part of my Spring Reading Thing 2009 challenge – PisecoDad picked it up at the library for me earlier this week.

Try Not To Injure Self

25 Mar

Another day.  The important thing is that although I continue to go to bed worried and scared, I continue to wake up.  And I wake up with gratitude.

A blood test.  My results were good, so I can go off the injections of Lovenox.  That’s a great big cheer – the twice-daily injections were painful & resulted in twice-daily nasty purple-green bruises, and I was running out of non-bruised sites to inject.  Now I’m just on pills of Coumadin, forever.

Lots of videos.  Today those included previewing Schoolhouse Rock: Earth, that’s school, right?  ::laughs::

The kids played outside in the sun and read books and ate cereal and put up with me being slow and needing to take two naps.

I try to keep laughing.  With my compression stockings, I received a solemn list of instructions.  These included things like checking my smoke detectors, because “Fires can be dangerous, especially when you are not able to run away.”  Uh, yeah.

This was almost as good as the instructions I got when checking out of the hospital ten years ago after my big bad PE.  Honest to god, the handwritten list included these words:

Try not to injure self.

Now, goodness, if only someone had told me that before!  The advice was so profound that even ten years later, whenever PisecoDad stubs his toe or I bang my knee on the table, the other one tsks quietly and says, “Try not to injure self!”

There’s No Escaping It

24 Mar

I had PisecoDad run to the library and pick up four or five books for me to read, several of which were on my Spring Reading Thing list.  I decided to start with the one I had heard the most positive comments about, The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.  It’s the true story of the zookeeper of the Warsaw Zoo during WWII; he and his wife sheltered Jews in the empty zoo.  It’s quite good so far.

But.  My turn-to-books-to-escape plan did not work out.

Page 180.  “Antonina’s range shrank even more because she was crippled by what sounds like phlebitis (she offers few clues), a painful infection in the leg veins … It’s hard to know if blood clots did form in her legs – from pregnancy, smoking, varicose veins, heredity? … But phlebitis can be dangerous; in its severest form, deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot travels to the heart or lungs, causing death.”

Ack!

The medical details are not precisely correct – a deep vein thrombosis is not defined by a clot traveling to the heart or lungs and does not always result in death, thankfully for me.  But still.  There’s no escaping it, is there, Universe?

checking in

23 Mar

Thanks for ALL the well-wishes.  If it weren’t that sitting with the laptop caused the stinkin’ clot in the first place, I would love to write back to each of you individually with my heartfelt thanks.  As it is, though, I’m trying to limit my computer time this week… so a big group hug will have to tide you over!  ::hugs::

I’m hanging in.  I had a PT/INR blood draw this morning (to check how the coumadin is working), a visit with my doctor, who is always amused by my bizarre medical condition, and a trip to the health care store to pick up prescription compression stockings (to help reduce swelling and keep my veins from getting, you know, veiny).  Lovely Paula kept the kids while we did the doctor & stocking trips, and BabyGirl especially did NOT want to leave her.  Ever.

I think PisecoDad will go back to work tomorrow, as I’m reasonably mobile (within the house, at least) and have several movies ripe for reviewing with the kids.  I’m mostly just tired, and achy, and not wanting to move around too much.  It seems that by going in when I did, I caught the clot before much damage was done.  I will have to be on coumadin for… well, forever, I guess, unless a better drug comes along.  So if you have any great recommendations for darling medic alert bracelets, let me know.

DVT

22 Mar

I’m home and resting comfortably.  I spent all of Friday night and a big chunk of Saturday in the ER being treated for a DVT – blood clot in my thigh.

When I was 22 and just married, newly moved to this area, I went on the Pill.  One of those scary side-effects they warn you about is pain in the leg due to blood clots.  I started having severe pain in my right calf.  Our health insurance hadn’t kicked in yet, so I first went to the clinic, where I expressed my fears, but the doctors there said I just had a muscle spasm – and they sent me home!  They even told me to massage the area, which turned out to be very, very bad advice.  The next day, which was Christmas Eve, the pain was much worse and I called PisecoDad in tears and had him come home from work to take me back to the clinic.  I hated the thought of “ruining” Christmas and almost didn’t go in, especially since we were having to pay out-of-pocket, but the pain was so bad that I finally relented.  A different set of doctors was there that day and they told me I needed to go to the ER immediately.  They were right.

I had a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and most likely the act of massaging it caused a piece to break off and travel to my lungs, becoming a PE (pulmonary embolism).  The ER doctors told me that if I had tried to tough it out and wait until after Christmas, it would have been fatal.

I was on crutches for months, since the clot had done a lot of damage.  I was on blood thinners (coumadin) for a year.  At the end of the year, we had some genetic blood testing done and I found out that I have a Factor V Leiden deficiency.  It means my blood clots more than normal.  My doctor (a godsend who happened to be the on-call doctor in the ER that Christmas) put me on a lifetime aspirin regimen and told me that if I ever had another clot, I would be on coumadin for life.

The Factor V played a big role in my pregnancy with JediBoy, too, since the hormones from pregnancy (and the Pill) make clotting more likely.  The day I found out I was pregnant, I started on twice-daily heparin shots, in the final weeks and days ramping up to three- and four-times daily.  I had lots of extra ultrasounds and non-stress tests to make sure there was not a clot in the placenta.  Fortunately, there was never a problem and JediBoy was perfectly healthy.

After giving birth, I continued on the heparin but also started in on coumadin, with the idea that once the coumadin had kicked in (it takes a while to build up in your system) I would wean off the injections of heparin.  Unfortunately, the double blood thinners combined with my post-partum bleeding and turned into a hemorrhage which put me in the hospital for a transfusion when JediBoy was just two weeks old.

All of those factors played a role in our decision to adopt BabyGirl when I couldn’t get pregnant rather than to pursue any fertility treatments.

Since then, I haven’t had any huge scares.  I’ve been on daily aspirin and perhaps twice before have had unexplained calf pain that took me into the ER for scans, which had all come back clear.  Better safe than sorry.

I spent a longer time than usual on Friday afternoon sitting in bed with the computer, after we’d gone out to run several errands, because PisecoDad was home to play with the kids.  When I got up around 7 pm, I felt a funny ache in my calf and immediately started to worry.  Sitting still for long periods of time can be a risk factor in clotting too.

I tried not to pay too much attention to my leg, hoping it would go away.  By midnight, though, it was still hurting and my mind was racing with what-ifs.  I couldn’t sleep.  I decided this was another case of better safe than sorry, and I drove myself into the ER, leaving PisecoDad and the kids home sleeping.

It was a long night.  An ER on a Friday night is always a busy place, and there were at least three trauma codes called  – all between 3 and 4 am.  I found myself waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  Eventually someone told me that policies had changed since my last scare, and the technician who could do dopplers of my veins was no longer on call overnight.  They did take me in for a CT scan of my lungs, which came back clear, but they couldn’t tell me anything about my legs.  By 7 am I was thinking I had made a mistake, a mountain of a molehill, and I just wanted to get back home to my family.

They gave me a preventative shot of Lovenox (a blood thinner like heparin) and let me go home with the understanding that I would schedule a doppler that day when the technician was able to come in.

Meanwhile, PisecoDad took JediBoy to a really cool bioscience expo for kids run by the university.  I was home with BabyGirl, thinking we’d spend the whole morning snoozing and watching movies in bed, since I hadn’t slept that night.

The hospital called at 9, though, saying the tech would be in at 10.  I took BabyGirl in and had the ultrasound done, then waited for the results.  I was certain that they would come back clear and was looking forward to getting home for a nap.  It was a huge shock when the nurse came out to sit beside me in the waiting room and deliver the bad news.

They advised me to return to the ER as a patient, and I jumped through endless bureaucratic hoops to get back into the system, telling a bevy of nurses and residents that I already had a diagnosis, and just needed to hear what to do about it.  One of the doctors on my case told me he would admit me, that I could not go home with this condition.  Another doctor told me that they’d like to have me recover at home, because I would have a better chance at mobility there than in the hospital.  Around and around it went, all the time with me hooked up to an IV of heparin and trying to keep BabyGirl entertained in the hospital.

Finally at 1:00 they made the final decision that I could go home.  PisecoDad and JediBoy arrived at about 1:30, just as I was signing my release papers and getting my at-home instructions.  They wanted to teach me how to give the Lovenox injections, but I told them that with nine months of practice I was pretty sure I remembered what to do.

So I’m home.  I’m tired and my leg gets fairly swollen when I move around, but I’m okay.  I’m not in severe pain and I don’t have to be on bedrest or use crutches.  PisecoDad will stay home tomorrow to take me in for a PT (blood test) and I will see my doctor at the end of the week.  Pappy and Nita, who are at a conference this week and headed to South Africa next week, have let me know that if my condition changes or I feel I need help with the kids, they will drop everything and be here, so I have a built-in backup if I need it, and just knowing that’s there is a relief.  Robin and Jared took the kids to a birthday party and then over to Leigh’s to play last night, and have offered to take them again today if we need them to, and Paula has offered help in whatever way she can.  It’s so different from 10 years ago when we didn’t know anyone in the area and felt alone and lost.

Even though we have such great support now, it’s still a very scary time.  Knowing that there’s a risk of PE, which could be fatal, keeps me awake worrying about my kids.   But it makes me treasure every moment all the more, and tell the kids that I love them until they roll their eyes and say I know, Mom.

In the hallway of the ER was a poster.

March is DVT awareness month.

Who Invented Bowling?

20 Mar

I spent my day doing three pleasant things: reading through other people’s book lists for the Spring Reading Thing, making welcome-home signs for Leigh & family – including spending an hour outside with the kids painting a banner, and explaining bowling to BabyGirl.

Cousin C. turns 2 tomorrow and is having a bowling party.  It has been a long time since we’ve been bowling (maybe September, for Noah’s party?) so I was explaining it to BabyGirl.  We watched several videos on Google of people bowling, and her hands-down favorite was this one:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-8819018310107028592" width="400" height="326"/]

She wanted to watch it over and over, and we would count the pins to be knocked down and CHEER! when the ball hit the pins.  She didn’t seem to notice that the dialogue was all in Japanese.  Later, we set up a little wooden bowling set in the hallway to practice.  Every time anyone went in or out the front door, she said, “Go bowling now?”

While we were talking about this, JediBoy asked, “Who invented bowling, anyway?”  According to Yahoo Answers, it was the ancient Egyptians – something that JediBoy thinks is super, super cool.  I decided not to search for a more verifiable answer, because this one pleased us so.

Spring Reading Thing 2009

19 Mar

Over at Callapidder Days there is a spring reading carnival going on.  Since I love to page through the links and see what other folks are reading, I decided this time around I would post my own reading list for the spring!

I thought for a while about what challenge to give myself.  I’ve been doing well with my New Year’s challenge (an informal 52 in 52 challenge for books that are new-to-me and not specifically kid-related) – I’ve read 15 books so far this year (see my sidebar for a current list).  But I’m apt to pick books because they were given to me or because I ran across them somewhere.  There are so many great books on my TBR list that I don’t own, and they tend to linger there.  In the winter we don’t go out to the library much, and in the summer we’ll be living away from the library for a few months, so spring seems like a great time to have a library challenge.

So my contribution to the Spring Reading Thing 2009 is to challenge myself to read at least six library books in the next 12 weeks!  Here are six from my TBR list that I know are owned by the two libraries closest to me (though I’ll probably have to put holds on a couple of them in order to snag them):

1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson.  Yes, I think I may be the last person to read this (unless Sara hasn’t read it yet!) but I’ve heard that this true story of a man working to build schools is very inspirational.   (Finished, and reviewed here.)

2. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.  Another true, sad, but inspirational memoir, I hear, this one about a boy who made it out of Sierra Leone.  (Finished, and reviewed here.)

3. The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman is the story of the director of the Warsaw Zoo – and his wife – who sheltered hundreds of Jews and Polish resisters in their cages and animal houses during WWII.  (Finished, and reviewed here.)

4. World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler.  This one is a post-apocalyptic novel  – how do we reconstruct society after a breakdown?  I’ve heard great things about it.

5. Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen. A novel about life, love and the circus – told in flashbacks by a man who worked with the elephants during the Great Depression.

6. The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. A light novel about a group of mothers who meet and form a writers’ group in the 1960′s.  This one is being released in paperback in May, so maybe my libraries will pick up extra copies then.  (Finished, and reviewed here.)

Of course I reserve the right to substitute if something else catches my eye at the library!  PisecoDad found me Hood by Stephen Lawhead – I read it and reviewed it here.  I also had him check out December by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop – I reviewed it here.  On Easter afternoon, I read the charming novella The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, and reviewed it here.  Even more spring reading: I read The Book Borrower, Handle With Care, The Noticer and The School of Essential Ingredients – two of which were from the library – and I briefly reviewed them all here.  Let me know if you decide to join in.  I love to read reading lists.