Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend Concussion

Memorial Day weekend started out nicely for our family. On Friday late afternoon, I headed off to the much-anticipated homeschooling conference at Belmont Abbey, having not been able to go to the local or national one last summer. I felt in hungry need of both encouragement from the speakers and seeing new materials from the vendors.

Two teeth lost in one week!
Meanwhile, Mary lost her second tooth in one week! Her daddy emailed me a joyful picture in the short half hour I got to stay at the conference.
Then my guardian angel must have tapped me on the shoulder because I was enjoying the beginning of the next speaker when I thought to reach into my purse and check my muted phone for messages: there were four texts and some missed phone calls from Chris.

Mary had fallen, she had a concussion, and I needed to come home.

I've always thought it would be Mary who causes our family to experience our first concussion, broken limb, stitches, and so forth, but this time she wasn't even doing anything Mary-Crazy. She was being a little heroine!

Two-year-old Joseph had climbed up on the deck railing, a short three feet above the dirt ground. Compared to the climbing, swinging, and leaping our children do around here, that one doesn't even make me bat an eyelash. Mary (6), being a mother hen, climbed up next to him to sit and provide some safety for him. From what I hear, Joseph began to fall backwards, so Mary intentionally braced him in her arms and fell with him, breaking his fall. Joseph came away scared but unscathed but Mary's head hit in just the wrong way and she came away with a concussion.

On the drive home, I called our doctor on call to find out whether Chris needed to take Mary and the other children to the Emergency Room or could he wait the forty-five minutes till I got home. The doctor was very calm, explained to me what concussions are, and advised we not rush in because the treatment for concussions is quiet rest at home with very little stimulation.

But he explained that a concussion can lead to a brain bleed, which is an emergency, how to watch for the signs, and that then we would rush in to the ER for medication and/or surgery.

Helpful instructions I wrote on our family white board

It was sad to see my active, vibrant Mary limp on the couch clutching her head in pain. But she was showing signs of normal concussion and not of a brain bleed, so we waited it out, despite my Mama's emotional (not rational) desire to take her to the hospital for a whole battery of tests, not caring about taking resources away from a more needy patient, driving up insurance costs generally, or how much money we would spend out of pocket.

Daddy bought her flowers, root beer, and cherries--her favorites!
Mary threw up voluminously once and we'd been told once was normal, but more than once meant a ticket to the ER. I thought things were headed downhill, but that was when Mary, a few hours post-smackeroonee, began to perk up, and would smile in her fatigue and chat with me.

That first night, I slept next to Mary and woke her throughout the night, per doctor's instructions, and she woke just fine.

I found it fascinating to be instructed that she had to refrain not just from obvious jostling activities like climbing, jumping, and swinging, but intellectual stimulation, such as any computer devices or screens, reading, schoolwork, or playing music. The doctor explained that the brain had to heal and could not do so while overstimulated with these activities.

Indeed, on Day 2, Mary's headache began to dissipate, sometimes disappearing, then resuming every time she walked up and down stairs, tried to read a page, or tried to watch television. Within a minute, she'd be clutching her head, telling me the headache had returned. It was like watching in real time how blood flow and activity of some physical kind occurs in the brain when we actually think.

She didn't want to eat for almost a day, then her appetite came back gradually. I'd be fascinated to know why a head bonk causes vomiting and loss of appetite, but they are common symptoms in the concussion list.

Napping on the windowsill
Poor bunchkin was also so tired. The girl who dropped her naps at 18 months without looking backward, the girl who stays up later than any of the children, she kept taking little naps, including one on our windowsill.

I finished reading aloud "Peter Pan"
and the lesser known, earlier work "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens"
God had Mary resting her brain and me resting my brain. Despite looking forward to the homeschool conference with a near desperation for being "filled up" and nurtured, despite feeling like I can't do this homeschooling thing without the rah-rah cheerleaders these conferences provide, God clearly had another lesson in mind for me this weekend. My brain did not get to be stimulated and filled with new information at the conference. Instead, my main job was to keep Mary quiet and entertained while Chris' main job was to keep the three active children out of our way.

Brother John reading aloud to his big sister
I felt it was poignant that Saturday was the first day in the 15 months Mary has been taking piano lessons that she didn't run to the piano to play (not once but probably half a dozen times): the house was quiet.

Apparently doing artwork doesn't exhaust the brain like reading does, as Mary was able to draw two pictures during her recovery.

On Day 3, Mary woke up proclaiming that the headache was gone! Immediately she tested whether she could read without pain (she could) and whether she could still play "Titanium Toccata" (which she could--you can see here a video of her practicing it last week). Still, by splitting Masses with Chris, we kept Mary home so she wouldn't be tempted to be too active.

Nonetheless, she didn't have any headache all day! At night, I tucked her into bed, where I left her reading aloud to her brother--with great animation and character voices--a children's version of The Odyssey. Our Mary is back!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Celebrating the End of School

Friday morning found us meeting up with a few pals at a wonderful local park to celebrate the end of the school year. Of course, I had to explain to our kids that our school year is not ending and, come Monday, we'll be right back at the books. We try to stick to it year round so we can take field trips, days off, and vacations whenever we need; this summer, we intend to take a longer break when I have the baby.

There were about four playgrounds designed for various age groups at this park, along with a splash pad, and a well-shaded eating area with at least ten picnic tables.

It was slightly chilly for the splash pad, so the kids dried off and continued romping on the playgrounds, as well as chasing bubbles and playing football. Then we enjoyed a robust potluck picnic followed by a whole selection of desserts.

I realize I captured no photos of Mary because she was too fast, darting here and there, and was "in the thick of things" with other kids every time I approached her with a camera. There's no slowing her down!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Parish School Field Day

On Thursday, Chris took John and Mary to participate in Field Day at our parish school, which had welcomed homeschoolers (grades K-5) again this year.

The children are in groups and travel among fifteen different activity stations plus one station that handed out popsicles. They really enjoy the day!

Meanwhile, I decided to set aside all the productive work I could get done if I stayed home and let the television babysit Margaret and Joseph, instead taking them to story time at the library. What fun!

Doing the open-close rhyme

Mama's pregnant belly has become a comforting pillow,
even out and about.

After three books and songs before, in between, and after, the story reader set out a bunch of wonderful, big, chunky preschooler toys. The most fabulous were these Lakeshore Learning Hear Myself Sound Phones: a big bag of red phones! I'm adding those to our Christmas/birthday wish list!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Margaret's First Eucharistic Adoration

When Chris goes to his weekly Eucharistic Adoration hour, he asks the children if anyone wants to go with him (he takes just one), or he invites a child particularly. With some regularity, the children want to go, which is a wonderful opportunity for teaching them, at the most basic, how to be quiet in a church. Later, they will learn how actually to pray and meditate.

Margaret officially signing in as a guest

This week was Margaret's first time at Adoration. She is only four, but Chris almost always has his hour to himself, so he was happy to risk taking her who might still be a chatterbox.

The report I received was that she looked at a holy book quietly to herself for about a half hour, sometimes whispering questions, which is just fabulous . . .

. . . and then she fell asleep on a kneeler, which is also fine!

We know full well that our children are initially lured to Adoration with Chris because they get some alone time with Daddy and often get to swing by a fast food joint for breakfast on the way home. That is okay with us! I remember going through a short stage when our firstborn was about three when we'd tell him we'd go buy a doughnut after Mass if he was good during church. And still our kids run to the parish office on Sundays to get a lollipop from the secretary, but, if they were naughty during Mass, we don't let them. Children aren't adults, nor are they monks and nuns. These are first steps at learning holy behavior.

And first steps are followed by second steps . . . just recently, our 8-year-old woke up, approached his dad, and requested to go to Adoration. Why, we asked? Because it was the feast day of one of his patron saints, so he wanted to go in honor of that. While there, he prayed his first Litany of the Saints by himself.

I say that that result was worth a few Chik-Fil-A breakfasts over the years!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Some Days Are Bedlam

I've completed what I'd consider four years of homeschooling now:

  • 4-year-old Pre-K (but structured with daily activities), with 2-year-old and newborn in tow
  • K, with 3-year-old and 1-year-old in tow
  • 1st and 4-year-old Pre-K, with 2-year-old and newborn in tow
  • 2nd, K, with 4-year-old and 2-year-old in tow

Though still a relative "newbie," I am coming to the conclusion that it is the tiny tots younger than Kindergarten that make Homeschooling the Early Years so difficult (in its own way) and so very loud.



I'm the woman who used to run my own editing business from home and made a game of how many days I could go without speaking to anyone, including on the phone, just working from home, not leaving the house for any reason. I really appreciate silence.

So, you can imagine how overstimulated I feel, how my brain goes berserk, on an unfortunately typical morning like Tuesday when

  • the 2-year-old was screaming hysterically and throwing a tantrum on the floor because I took away his loud, outdoor lawnmower toy after he kept bringing it into the school room, despite my warnings; and
  • the 4-year-old was weeping and wailing because she kept fighting with siblings and spitting at them, then refused to go to her room until I disciplined her for that fresh disobedience; and
  • the 6-year-old was shrieking at me defiance about what violin pieces she would or would not play for her upcoming recital;
  • and the 8-year-old was the only quiet one, but not because he was diligently doing his schoolwork.

Mama's increasing volume of voice, ending in sinful shouting, added to the bedlam.

Bedlam. Noun. A scene of uproar and confusion. The perfect definition.

Yes, we work on daily order and routine; yes, we work on discipline. There is only so much one can do because, even though the 6- and 8-year olds are most days quiet and orderly, nothing can make up for tots five and younger: they're unsupervised. I can only be in so many places at once: what classroom teacher could simultaneously teach second grade AND Kindergarten AND run a daycare center? That meditation puts it into perspective.

And, even if the tots five and under were supervised, they'd still be loud because KIDS THAT AGE ARE LOUD.

The only bright side I can find is that my children can really focus even amidst bedlam. It is quite hilarious to watch my 6- and 8-year-olds practice piano or violin and concentrate just perfectly with little tykes running around their legs, shooting fake finger guns, laughing, shouting, or throwing tantrums.

Surely this will help them some day on the SATs, right?

Monday, May 18, 2015

30-week Ultrasound

This weekend there was a concern about me and the wee baby--AND EVERYTHING IS FINE--so I ended up getting an ultrasound today at almost 31 weeks. As long as everything is a-okay, it is fun to get to have another glimpse of the baby!

Baby was very active and we watched as the baby, curled up in fetal position, kept tickling his or her own mouth with his or her toes. The baby latched on to the big toe and began sucking away, just like sucking a thumb or nursing! We could see the big toe going in and out of Baby's mouth (most visible in fourth picture below). Such cuteness!

Chris took the kids to a nearby farm to noodle around during my appointment.

Sunday Baseball

What a fun surprise on a Sunday! While Daddy and the kids were driving to Mass (Mama home not feeling well), they received a call from a dad and his sons inviting John to join them for a minor league baseball game after Mass. Why, yes, he would like to go!

Too young to be interested, but she enjoyed the snacks

Chris ended up tagging along and getting tickets for himself and the girls too, giving them some unexpected fun and me some extended quiet time at home.

Apparently this is a fairly new stadium downtown, framed in by high rise buildings.

Too much fun

Afterward, the gang found some park with a waterfall in it, so the girls came home happily soaking wet--of course!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Our First Swim Meet

Forewarning . . . this is a "grandparents' post," probably of interest only to close relatives!

The children finished up two months of swim lessons before they will take a break over the summer. The organization was wonderful at meeting the needs of homeschoolers with all ages meeting at the same time and a fantastic teacher-student ratio of about 1:3!

"It's too bright, Mama."

The homeschool group had a meet on Friday. Those in the youngest levels (like our John and Mary) did a demonstration, not a meet proper, and the older kids did a meet. Some of the skills they demonstrated are listed below.

Note that Mary was so disappointed that Mama did an operator error on my video camera during almost all her demonstrations, pushing 'stop' when I meant to push 'play' and pushing 'play' when I meant to push 'stop'! I have many video clips of the feet of my friend and I chatting in between demonstrations.

HsS Lower Levels:

(Distance will be 10 yds and races in forms of relays)

  • Bubble Jump Relay Race
  • Kick Board kicking relay
  • Noodle Horsey Race
  • Who can float on back longest



HsS Middle Levels:

(Distance will be 1⁄2 length in shallow water)

  • Bubble jump to a standing streamline position
  • Kick Board race with any kick
  • Back float kick
  • Freestyle race





Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cleaning a Child's Bedroom in Five Steps

I'm one of those moms who strongly prefers the children's bedrooms (okay, the whole house) to be neat and clean.

Over the years, I've heard plenty of different family situation and I'm no longer willing to stand on a soap box and say only mine is correct. I don't know what it is like to have a house full of teenagers. I don't know what it's like to have ten kids born a year apart. I don't know what it's like to have a husband absent most of the time, whether due to work, military, or abandonment. I don't know what it is like to be a mother who works outside the home. So much I don't know!

All I know what it's like is to be a homemaker mother to four kids so far, born about every two years, so, for the time being, I stick with teaching, "If you can't take care of your stuff, then you have too much stuff, a burden of which I will happily relieve you."

Around our home, children make their beds every morning. I remind the children to pick up general detritus several times per week when it's getting too bad for my standards. Clothing is supposed to be picked up nightly. And once per week, their rooms must be "vacuum ready" because what isn't picked up, I get to vacuum away or throw away. Personal items left about the house get confiscated into my "Mommy's Ransom Box" for which the children have to work extra chores to get them back.

Therefore, I was tickled to read a great article, "How to Teach your Child to Clean Any Bedroom in Ten Minutes (Without Using a Blowtorch)". The piece is highly instructive but humorous and lacking a patina of know-it-all attitude. (I need to take lessons in that style of writing!)

I have noticed that some adults have no idea how to pick up an area or room. Some people are completely overwhelmed, touching objects numerous times (instead of once), distracted innumerable times by each item picked up instead of sticking to the task at hand. I think some children are born with a more natural bent to organize and pick up, while others are decidedly not. So far, I can spot one of my children who isn't lazy but can't clean up a room without explicit instructions and constant supervision. Without training, that child will become an adult who can't clean a house either.

I don't have wonderful graphic skills, so made this simple sign using free clip art.

So, I distilled the above delightful article into a sign for the children's rooms. I felt that this teaching was worthy of taking an entire morning off of book work school, which really says something around here--but teaching just isn't effective in the cracks or in heated moments of frustration. Therefore, we sat down in a relaxed manner and talked through the five steps and extolled the concept that, if done right, this should take only about ten minutes. Yay!

Note that it has been several years since I've lowered my perfectionist tendencies: the first step required of mothers. One can't start requiring children's help with housework while maintaining an adult level of perfection. So, each children's bedroom has one toy box in it and it is okay that most toys are simply tossed in there. There are several specialty bins, but not over-many: one for Legos in the boys' room, one for play kitchen equipment and one for dollhouse furniture in the girls' room. Clothing put into drawers is not folded as neatly as I'd like and I now tolerate that--sometimes even when it's just stuffed in there! Beds do not have square nurse's corners, but the sheets and covers are smooth.

I've taped the Bedroom Cleaning Instructions on the interiors of the children's doors. The children who do better at cleaning anyway thought it was fun and completed the task in ten minutes. The child who really struggles in this area kept arguing about how one really can make up one's own order for cleaning a room that will work just as well--which is why we were still at it nearly an hour later. I felt like I was trying to teach a ping pong ball to stop pinging about crazily. Mama--who can't bend over with this big ol' pregnant belly--discovered that this child had been cleaning the bedroom lo these many weeks by stuffing all toys, clothes, shoes, and trash under the beds, so we had some "make up work" to get the job done.

However, I have hope for continued improvement in an already good system of keeping their rooms orderly. Lots of hope!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mothers' Day 2015

Love notes discovered in the wee dark hours of the morning

There is no charming picture of me with my children clustered around me on this Mothers' Day because as of Sunday, I'd been sick for four days with a nasty virus and had slept for two hours the night before.

From John (8)

My best gift was that I have a considerate husband who kept the children occupied downstairs--with much outdoor play and even taking them to Mass by himself--so I could stay in bed all day.

From Mary (6)

Mothers know that they almost never get a sick day but still have to take care of the family even when ill, so yesterday was a real blessing to me.

From Margaret (4)

I think I am past the worst of it and can parent from the couch and a bit from my feet today as Chris goes back to work.