Friday, August 29, 2008

Gearing Up

We're heading out to Indiana today to visit my parents. Public schools started on Tuesday, so we officially did as well. This will be the first of our weekly visits to my parents while the kids have "school" to do.

This fall will test my ability to balance the needs of my children with the needs of my parents in ways I cannot even fathom. I'm not sure what it will even look like. On the plate for today is a lot of computer work - their math, science and vocabulary web curricula. I'm hoping to put one on my Mom's computer and one on my Dad's laptop. Only the laptop has sound, however, which is essential for vocabulary and science. Our own laptop died a fiery death over the summer. Other than that, they have a lot of reading. And then maybe we'll go to the beach, although I suspect the waves will again be too high for swimming.

And I need to brace myself for my father's current thinking over the proposed move to New Mexico, his current worries about his health and progress, his worries over my mother's health. I don't ever remember having such long conversations one on one with my father, he's always been remote. It has been a great adjustment to me to have him trust me with administrative things involving his care, and to purposefully sit and talk together.

I also need to brace myself for my mother's potential anger and confusion over our being there. She called yesterday because she didn't know how to order my father's food. We had all discussed this on Monday and the order was placed to receive the food today. She's forgotten and probably called at the request of one of the aides while my father was napping. She was angry I had done it already. It must be difficult to have responsibility taken from you, although I sense some relief from her as well.

Each visit is surrounded by two days of insomnia. One for the preparation, one for the return. It's better than sleeping there, however. Then I just lie awake all night listening for my father to get up and hoping he won't fall.

The kids have been troopers through this all. When I am exasperated over my mother's inability to remember something said a minute ago, Middle says "Remember, that's just the way her brain works, Mommy." When I need to spend time talking to my Dad or helping my Mom, Large and Medium take care of Small, entertaining him without being asked. They are likely learning enough just by experiencing their grandparents' decline and don't need me to schedule out things for them to do while we are there. That's the Life Learning part of our family.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Brain Games

Watching my mother's onward march towards complete, debilitating dementia is a horrifying experience. It's painful to see what she is going through, more painful to know how much worse it's going to get, beyond any pain scale to know that it will kill her. It's also a little terrifying to think of the implications on my own future. Dementia is not always inherited, but there are no good treatments or cures.

So, I did what any reasonable person would do, I bought a book. It's a book of daily math exercises called Train Your Brain, written by the same guy who founded the Kumon workbooks for kids. I took the pre-tests yesterday, that was a little unnerving. Then I did Day 1. 100 simple arithmetic problems, nothing greater than the number 20, no division, multiplying single digits only. It took me 2 minutes and 54 seconds. It took Mark less than a minute. I'm not even on the chart for good brain functioning according to the book! Today I shaved an entire second off my time, so that made me feel better.

Before my father was hospitalized at the end of June, his Parkinson's was progressing and he was suffering greatly from malnutrition and dehydration. Failure to thrive was the code on the ambulance sheets. At one point he told my sister that we should feel free to have both he and my mother undergo cognitive testing if we felt there was a need. That morning he had failed to easily divide in his head 24,836 by 127. I can't even remember what 7 times 6 is and he is worried about dividing five digits by three. Of course, now that he has regular hydration and calories through his tube, his brain is functioning just fine. Mine will never function as well and I'm nearly 40 years behind him.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just my imagination

I read in the paper today that inflation is running at 5 or 6 percent for the year. So, it wasn't just my imagination running away with me? It really is a vast right wing conspiracy to keep us living right on the edge, paycheck to paycheck?

July was a three paycheck month for us. We were looking forward to catching up with the emergency fund. We keep robbing Peter (emergency fund) to pay Paul (checking account) when the G.M. (giant mortgage) is due. We were going to give some more to Peter to accommodate the new driveway we've been putting our neighbors off from doing for three years running, prepare for Christmas and for my parent's imminent relocation, so I can visit them in their waning. That didn't so much happen.

Instead, July's three paycheck month left us gasping for air in August as the checking account dwindled almost to zero before the paycheck hit. The instantly, POOF, the paycheck was gone to pay for the G.M. We have dance class to pay for next week - a bargain at 5 hours a week, 8 weeks and only $400. We get a generous discount for multiple classes, and this is the only paid activity we have. Everything else is going to center around Girl Scouts and Roots&Shoots. Those are both low cost activities. I'm going to have to call the dance teacher and tell her we want to register but are worried about the check. Or we'll have to rob Peter again. Poor Peter doesn't have much left to give.

Gas prices, food prices, everything has gone up. We're not buying packaged foods and rarely eat out. We're reduced to rice and canned chicken (allergic to beans) dinners and eggs once a week (although Small is allergic to eggs and gets lunch meat instead). Pasta another night. Gone are the days of a nice leg of lamb for our Uncle Bill.

And we make a good salary! It makes me wonder how lower income folks manage. Credit, likely. When Large overloaded the washing machine last week and burned out the motor, I was looking at 7 months of laundromat experiences. The machine will run medium loads now, so it just means more frequent laundry until the bonus comes (March) and we can replace it. Hopefully the rest of the summer will remain cool and we wont have to fix that leak in the AC that's projected to cost $1500. But honestly, it all makes me reconsider the 2 gallons of gas it costs me to get to Girl Scouts and back each week.

Somehow I feel better knowing it's not my individual fault. I haven't misbudgeted or misspent - although I did buy several frivolous $3 t-shirts off the clearance rack at Target. It's the economy, stupid.

Friday, August 8, 2008

No cable, no cry

We don't get cable, so I don't have really strong opinions about this guy. But I see him yelling on the TV at the health club occasionally and am aware of him.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Stupid Parent Tricks

I took Medium to the beach the other day. Large and Small were beached out from the day before and chose to stay at my parent's house. I keep telling these kids that they are lucky to have grandparents who live on the beach. At least we have a nice place to go and time to swim when we are there helping out. Didn't have my camera, so this is an old picture.

We went to the more private of the private beaches in their community. The one where you can't usually see another soul. This beach has a more gradual drop off than the other beach and the waves didn't seem as high as they had been the week before. Medium loves being pushed ashore by the waves, jumping them and swimming through them. I remember doing the same things on the same beach as a child. All this led me to the decision that she could go beyond the drop off, but not above her waist in the water, which would be too far out for me to help her. She wasn't' all that interested in getting deeper, the waves were up to her neck when they crashed in. She just likes to be a foot or so offshore, splashing in.

I pointed out a helicopter up the beach from us - is that east or north? The lake confuses me there, as a Chicagoan the lake is always east. In Indiana, all that changes. I thought it had been painted to look like Nemo. As it slowly made its way down the coast, I saw it was just a coast guard helicopter. Then we saw an Indiana DNR helicopter, patrolling farther off shore. In all, we saw three helicopters going slowly back and forth. After we had been there about an hour, we saw a man on a dune buggy, slowly driving along. I don't think I had ever seen a dune buggy kind of thing on this beach, but again, no alarms were raised. Medium was playing in the sand, the dune buggy went way down the other direction - south or west, practically to the steel mill.

About half an hour later, he drove back and stopped his buggy. Medium was in the water, playing. He said "I guess you know about rip currents." Yes, I do, but the waves didn't seem as bad today. Have there been rip currents spotted? I had spent time researching rip currents after someone drowned a few weeks ago and felt confident I could spot one. Yes, was the answer. Oh. And there are so many patrols today - three helicopters and you driving on the beach. He was wearing a state park uniform. "Yes, we're looking for a body. A drowning off Porter Beach."

Chills. Serious hair standing on end kind of chills all over my body. I stood up to get us going. Porter Beach is likely less than a mile up the end of this private beach, it's another private beach adjoining the State Park. The state park beach was closed to swimming because of rip currents. There are no warning systems for private beaches.

So, a new rule for our family. If we can see waves from the kitchen window, we call the state park before heading to the beach. If that beach is closed for swimming, we don't swim. We aren't a real rule oriented kind of family, but this one seems necessary.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Love That Library

Swiped right from the homepage of my fabulous library! The banner looks much better there than here.

In the midst of the chaos my life has become recently, I read through the 1300 page Rainbow Resource Center catalog. I keep this catalog all year and look things us as they become necessary. I picked out 13 things I wanted to read before buying and went to my library's website. From the online card catalog I was able to order most of the items myself. For the remainder, I sent an email to my inter library loan librarian for help. Most of these things are now on their way to me. It's a miracle of both modern technology and the dedication of a concerned librarian that the patron gets what she needs. I don't understand homeschoolers who never use the library. How on earth do they survive?

While Rainbow Resources includes long item descriptions and reviews, I find that actually holding the item and reading through it is the best way to determine if my kids will respond to it, find it interesting or just balk at it each time I pull it out. Now it will be like Christmas when I go to the library and pick up the items waiting for me!

I may be losing my father to Parkinson' and my mother - more rapidly, I fear - to dementia, may have lost 2 years worth of data and my laptop to a lightening strike, but I sill have the everyday life celebrations that bring happiness and peace. My library is one of them. My kids and family, my fabulous friends who let me talk for hours on end, my knitting and my new found ability to be more efficient in my daily tasks are all celebrations for me when I get home. When I'm at my parents' house, it's more difficult to see the forest through the trees, it's only trees there.

Life is good.