Enduring is rough

So, I have been having something of a rough few days. 

My husband did fix my truck this weekend, that was great, and he managed to do it for a reasonable amount. My stepson let me use his car for the three days I needed to shuttle my teenager to and from band camp. I was able to get some errands run and some good purchases made. My stockpile of soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, diapers, and other personal care stuff is growing. 

I’ve just been absolutely sick as a dog since Friday.

The funny thing is that I have no idea what’s going on with me. I don’t have a fever. I don’t have any cold symptoms or gastrointestinal ills. I’m just utterly wiped out by a fatigue unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I’ve been sleeping and sleeping and resting and sleeping, but I still feel like someone rolled over me with a steam roller. Uck.

I’ve got some lymph nodes swollen, a mildly sore throat, and some weird pains– including a patch on my leg that hurts whenever it’s touched by anything. So, barring a miraculous recovery before 9am, I’ll be calling my doctor for an office visit. The big worry for me, of course, would be some kind of thyroid problem. I was supposed to have my thyroid removed in October of 2013, except I got pregnant in September. That sort of put the kabosh on surgery for a while. 

The doctors told me that, once you have cysts in your thyroid, they NEVER EVER go away. Which is maybe reasonable, but I have a sneaking suspicion that mine shrunk during pregnancy. I can swallow again– and swallowing was a fraught and dangerous exercise there for a while because I had three huge cysts pushing on my esophagus. But now I can eat and drink just fine. Either way, I’m going to ask for another sonogram to see what my thyroid is doing. And I’m sure the doc will want to run some blood tests to figure out this latest quirk in my ongoing attempt to figure out What is Wrong With Marti.

(I know, the answer to that is practically infinite.)

It’s been hard. And the baby has been doing poorly, with bad congestion and two episodes of poor breathing. And my adult children are driving me insane. I swear, they get exponentially more exasperating after 16. Maybe because I was essentially an adult on my own at that age– it’s frustrating when they expect me to do things for them instead of them doing things for themselves. I know that being alive to be ABLE to help them is what I’ve been praying for all these years. But that doesn’t mean I like being their chauffeur or their housemaid or their lackey, either.

But I’ve wisened up SOME over the course of the years, and I know that my frustration is MY problem. I need to conform myself to Christ, to be loving and calm and understanding. But also stern when I have to be. The only issue is when it’s my pride and impatience and ego speaking and when it’s my love and morals and ethics and values speaking. If I could shut up those first three voices, we’d all be a lot better off.

I must endure, even though I am weary and sore and dreadfully afraid. And I am afraid– failure is always right there waiting for me. I just pray that I can get things right . . . and that it isn’t catastrophic when I’m wrong.


Unfinished business

So I’ve been tracking what books I’ve read on Goodreads for several years now. I don’t usually count cookbooks or decorating books, and I almost never add in the many picture books that I read to the boys. Mostly I stick to listing the novels and adult nonfiction that I read.

I’ve managed to read more than 50 books a year now for three years running– 79 in 2012, 114 in 2013. I’m up to 62 books so far this year, although I’m falling behind on my goal of 120. Having a baby put a definite crimp in my style. 

The problem I’ve discovered, however, is that I have also managed to rack up an impressive number of books that I’ve begun reading and never finished. I’ve got 62 books on my “currently reading” list. Oops. 

Some of them I had to return to the library too soon, some of them irritated me beyond reason and got tossed in a corner, and many of them just didn’t hold my interest with other, more delightful books in the room. 

I’m determined, however, to clean that list up. So I’ve decided that I’m not going to go pick up any more “new” books for the stack until I’ve cleaned out my “currently reading” list. I may just delete some of them, the ones that were truly terrible, but the books that simply got overlooked and ignored need to be re-assessed and I need to decide if I’m going to finish them or abandon them for good.

It just looks like carelessness that I haven’t finished reading so many of my choices. I’d like to be able to whittle it down to just the books that I have out from the library on any given week and not a long sad list of my failures. 

So that’s my project for the next few months– attack that list. Deal with the books on it. Find the enjoyable ones and finally let go of the rest. It’s not the entirety of life, of course, but a side project I can pursue while everything else goes on. Some of those books ARE good books, I just couldn’t get into them at the time for whatever reason. It’s not a smear on a great book that you tried to read it at the wrong time. I don’t want to leave that mess sitting there, so it’s time to fix it.

Wish me luck.


The Long War

You could say that all of life is in a war with entropy. Things break, living organisms die, the sun is slowly dying, and ice cream always melts too fast. 

We had a lovely example of that fact this week. Remember how I said my summer had been boring? Well, my Suburban decided that entropy would win this week and burnt up my 4×4 transfer case. My son was stranded at the high school and I was stranded with the truck for over an hour each, we had to tow it home behind our little Malibu (complete with more entropy in the way of snapping ropes!), and my lovely truck is now up on jacks until we can scrape together the parts to fix it.

Yeah, that wasn’t boring or anything. Thankfully my stepson is loaning me his car for the week and our oldest daughter is loaning us some extra cash for parts. Entropy is expensive.

My biggest battle, however, is usually with my autistic daughter, Indy.

You see, she’s severely autistic. And she’s got her own ideas about how things SHOULD be. And when things aren’t like she thinks they should be, she gets upset. Nervous. Frantic. Sometimes to the point of freaking out in aggressive displays of rage, sometimes to the point of hysterical crying. You have to feel sorry for her, because for HER, the need to control her universe is overwhelming. Change is more than unsettling, it’s horrible for her. I understand– I’ve battled anxiety since childhood. She simply MUST order her universe in a way that makes sense to her.

The problem is, what she thinks is Right, Proper, Appropriate, and Perfect is . . . pretty screwy.

She thinks dishes should be dirty. To the point where she will take clean dishes down, stack dirty dishes between them, and replace all of them in the cabinet. She’ll seed a dishwasher full of clean dishes with strategically-placed dirty ones. She’ll take dirty plates out of the dishwasher and return them to the china cabinet. You don’t even want to imagine what the silverware looks like after she’s been mixing in dirty spoons and knives and forks.

Books, dvds, and cds all belong in special places. If they don’t belong in Any Bag that Has a Zipper, they usually belong on the floor. In certain spots. Usually in someone else’s bedroom or in a much-travelled pathway, like the route from the dining room to the kitchen. Quite often, about three feet away from my bedroom dresser, right where her father walks when he gets out of bed. Or possibly stashed inside our medicine chest. One Harry Potter book belongs on the banister rail near the bongo drums. A baby’s FIsher Price moving gears toy, sans gears, belongs right inside her sister’s doorway. 

The pantry is a particularly bad sore spot– she has certain places for every food item, and insists that the Windex and bird seed and Mean Green all belong on the food shelves. The Nesquik has to teeter in constant danger of falling off the middle shelf. The apples belong on the floor, apparently. EVerything must be mixed up with no sorting into “soups” and “tomato products” and “pastas” and “cereals.” 

Some of her personal rules are simply irritating– her habit of moving one of our water storage bottles just six inches out from the wall, say. Not all three of them, just the third. Don’t ask me why. And it probably won’t kill anyone that she insists the sunflower-painted biscotti jar has to be on the right side of the stove, not the left (which is where I like it.) 

Some of her rules are actively dangerous, like her placing things next to the top of the stairs, or throwing all the shoes off the shoe rack, right next to the bottom of the stairs and the front door. She decided the springs off the broken trampoline belonged in our neighbor’s yard and accidentally conked his daughter on the head with one. Everything belongs over the back fence, apparently, so this is a fairly common risk we’re running. We’ve given up on keeping sports equipment outside, or gardening tools. We kind of hope she’ll throw the dog over next and save us the trouble of rehoming him . . . ahem. Anyway.

Some of her rules of order are just personally offensive to me. I don’t want $8 worth of chocolate powder to get spilled all through the laundry room when someone inevitably knocks it off the darn shelf. I hate having to dig behind the ice cream cones and the olive oil and the egg noodles to find a can of beans. And here’s the bad part– whenever I clean things up, pick things up, sort things, or throw away things, she is unable to stop herself from undoing it.

It’s infuriating at times. She’ll take empty bottles out of the garbage can and replace them on shelves. She’ll throw clean laundry back on the floor in piles. She immediately returns everything in the pantry back to its “ideal” location– HER ideal location– within minutes of me sorting everything. She’ll take rotten FOOD out of the garbage can and put it back into the refrigerator. Because, you know, that cream cheese belongs on that shelf, even if it is black and gray and green with various mounds of mold.

Sometimes, I have to let her win. She’ll get too upset, or I’ll just simply be too tired or too injured to battle her entropy. Sometimes it’s just easier to let it go, let her insist that the Better Homes and Gardens from last month belongs on the floor next to the couch. Sure, it’s a pain to step around things and find Robert Munsch books and Disney dvds next to the Immodium and Tums, but it’s far far easier than putting them back, over and over, pointlessly it seems.

But I don’t want to live in chaos and entropy all the time. I want to be able to find the tomato paste without a five minute hunt. I want to walk down the hall and not worry I’ll slip on our 1st grade religious education book, which she thinks belongs at the top of the stairs. I’d freaking LOVE not to have to open my purse before every trip and remove the inevitable bottle of hydrogen peroxide that she stashes inside every day.

So I keep battling against the mess. I know I can’t win. But I have to fight the good fight. It may please her, somewhere in her mysterious little heart, to strip the sheets and pillowcase off her bed and then wipe her food-covered hands on the mattress and pillow, but there are certain standards one must uphold, if only to keep the adult protective services from thinking we’re TRYING to make her live in squalor.

This is the long war, and every day finds us fighting the same battles, over and over. 

I don’t know which of us is more irritated by the other. I know she’s more stubborn than I am, simply because the war is a huge part of her day. I have to cram time for it in between a million other things. She has all day to reorder the house.

Neither one of us is winning, I suspect. Tonight she became very upset because she’d somehow misplaced her “Stuart Little” dvd. It’s so scratched that it barely plays, mostly due to her tossing it down on surfaces not ideal for dvd preservation. But she really wanted that movie. She’s been playing it on a loop all week. She simply could not go to bed without that dvd.

My oldest son and daughter helped me look around for it, to no avail. Finally, around 1am, I remembered that my 5 year old had picked up the dvds and games from the gameroom floor– sure enough, the disc had fallen to the bottom shelf, upside down. 

Indy was ecstatic when I gave it to her and ran off to her room with a fairly cheerful thank-you. I went to take a bath and feed the baby. An hour later, I went to check on her, figuing she’d be asleep listening to the menu over and over.

She wasn’t asleep– I could hear her echolalia through the door. And the sound of . . . Cartoon Network? Yep. Commercials for the nighttime shows, which I largely hate.

Stuart Little was sitting on the couch table. Exactly where she wanted it.



Summer’s almost gone

I told myself at the beginning of the summer that just enduring it would be “enough.”

It’s hard, even so, to see the school year approaching without feeling disappointed in our pretty boring summer.

Well, it was exciting at times, but not in good ways. The excitement was mainly terror at the baby’s episodes of apnea, his horrible congestion, and various permutations of “sick and unhappy” that he went through. Then both of his “younger older” brothers got a ridiculously bad virus and each spent a week living on the game room couch, sipping Gatorade and 7up and occasionally choking down Tylenol or Advil to quell the nonstop 101-102 fevers. 

That’s not the kind of excitement I personally crave, thank you.

We were able to wrestle a few nice moments out of the general malaise, but this will definitely not go down in history as our best summer. But, hey, we made it. Only four days left of band camp, my older daughter has the next four days off, school shopping is halfway done . ..  we’ve got this.

And fall is coming. Autumn with the blissful blessed relief of those cold fronts that howl down from the cold north and, for a day or two, turn Texas into something astonishingly beautiful and wild. We won’t see real relief from the heat until Halloween, but we’ll have a few days here and there that will promise that summer is not, actually, 12 months of the year here. Only 8 or so.

I’m excited about the upcoming school year. Our second grade religious education books arrived today. The phonics book and history book arrived last week. We’re still working through the 1st grade math book, so we won’t worry about affording Saxon 2 quite yet. I’m looking forward to September, when I can renew our yearly membership at our local zoo and start taking the boys there for our weekly trips. When the blistering heat starts fading and we can go make tours of the local state parks on the weekends, hiking and camping and exploring. When my autistic daughter is back in school fulltime and actually sleeps at night and isn’t home wreaking havoc all day. 

It’s going to be great. Probably filled with chaos and anxiety and stress and everything that usually accompanies us on this journey, but still great.

Bring it on.


I hate to admit it, but I need new glasses.

I really need bifocals, but that’s not going to happen. It’s too horrifying to admit that my eyes have aged along with the rest of me. But they have. . . I can’t see anything up close with my glasses on, and I can barely see distant things, either. My computer is now sporting “large” icons and text, and I silently berate people who use teeny tiny fonts for their webpages. What, is your information a secret? 

It’s annoying, because I can’t actually visit one of the bigger eyeglass shops in town (with a bigger selection of frames) as we’re boycotting them for having crappy doctors. Seriously crappy– I kept telling the main doctor and his aide for two hours that my son had a lazy eye, that my husband and daughter both have the same condition, and that he needed to have his vision evaluated due to that, only to have the doctor declaim that he didn’t see anything wrong, snap at my son for not being able to see the visual illusions on the cards, and finally snarl, at the end of the 2 hour visit, “Well he has a lazy eye. Make him do some exercises. He’ll be fine.”

The other doctor in the practice refused to believe that I was allergic to contact lenses, fitted me for a pair that caused immediate swelling and redness and pain in both eyes, and then charged me an extra $200 for the fitting because they’d already ran my insurance through as a glasses-only fitting. sigh. I still can’t wear those new lenses. It’s not just a case of dry eye, either. Dry eye doesn’t get better briefly when you glut yourself on Claritin and Benadryl, only to have your eyes puff up and turn beet red as soon as the medicine wears off. 

This is the quality of medical care one expects from the 1800s, maybe, but not 2013. So, yeah, we won’t be visiting them again.

So I need a new vision doctor, and I need new glasses, and I certainly DON’T need the new contact lenses that turn me into a bleary itchy runny-eyed mess. 

I’ll have to make the leap and find a new doctor to visit. Our doctor before all this was indicted for Medicare fraud, so he went out of business pretty quickly after that. Shame, he had a nice practice and friendly assistants. 

Getting new glasses is just one of the things I need to do for myself. My clothes wardrobe is pretty much destroyed by age and abuse– haven’t really bought myself very much besides loose t-shirts since 2010. Four years of abuse isn’t kind to leggings and dresses and such– I really don’t have anything left that’s suitable for church. Time to restock and re-imagine what I want to dress like.

Time to lose some weight, too, now that the baby is born and I’m almost past the 12 weeks it takes to get your stroke risk and heart attack risk back to normal afterwards. My blood pressure still has bad days but they’re getting less frequent. I think I can start exercising again. 

Everything will have to be re-imagined, really. How I live, how I dress, what I eat, how much I exercise, what hours I sleep, and what I do with my free time. I’m forty. Time is running out for me to do all the things I’ve dreamed of doing. 

But first, new glasses. And, a splurge that I haven’t had in decades, a pair of sunglasses, too. Prescription ones, of course, since I can’t see squat without them and the world would be a much less safe place if I tried to drive without my glasses. Cat eyes, maybe? Something in tortoiseshell? How dark can we go with those shades?

The possibilities are open before me.



Education, both ways

I’ve been homeschooling various of my children for a long long time. 

I guess you could say that from the moment I became a mom, twenty four or so years ago, I’ve been educating the kids one way or another. And I’ve been learning a lot myself– maybe not as much as I should have, but I have been learning. 

Lately, I have been learning that I still have a lot to learn.

I love the planning part of homeschooling– choosing books, hunting them down, finding the best deal, coming up with a curriculum, designing a schedule. It’s in the execution of the plan where things start to fall apart– so much of the time, I’m just overwhelmed by life. I’ve spent a lot of time ill or juggling a newborn or trying to cope with very little sleep. I haven’t always gotten through the books or forced us to plod through the curriculum. Some of the books remain on the shelves, as pristine as the day they came in the mail.

The half-hearted schooling that we barely scraped through last year has, oddly enough, proved to be a blessing in disguise. Instead of a forced march through phonics, the boys had time to play, to goof off, and, in their own time, to come to realize that words and numbers are IMPORTANT. You see, it’s hard to play video games if you can’t read. People spell words over your head to keep you from understanding what they’re saying. Signs and books and watches are a foreign land and you’re shut out of the knowledge that they possess.

The boys learned firsthand that knowledge is power, and they didn’t much like it that they didn’t have this power for themselves.

So the Ninja skipped past our infrequent phonics worksheets and taught himself to read. The Tank gathered up a handful of letters for himself and started figuring out numbers. Each of them decided that they wanted to learn and went out to find out for themselves how things worked.

It’s made them more patient and more interested in learning than their older brothers ever were. I wish I’d had the leisure and ability back them to just let the boys develop at their own pace instead of pushing them into public school. I did the best that I could at the time, but they bear the scars of my mistakes.

I’m learning, too, that the things we do are taken to heart by our children even when we think they’re not making an impression. The Tank is hard to read books to– he wanders off, he starts playing with toys, he gets bored, he whines. It makes it sometimes feel like it’s not worth it. Yesterday, though, we were picking up groceries, just he and I, and as we walked out through the parking lot he told me (out of nowhere): “I love you, Mom. You’re really good at reading books. I like stories.”

I’d read to him that afternoon, in a rare moment, because I realized that I was losing my temper with the boys while trying to clean their room. I was getting increasingly frustrated with their glacially slow progress in putting away the contents of the costume box, and I was just about to scream at them both. I had a moment of inspiration, though. Instead of yelling at them about the capes and masks and bead necklaces, I picked up a library book (Emma’s Lamb, by KIm Lewis), sat down on the bottom bunk of their bed, and just read them a story. 

It calmed me down enough that I was able to plow through the rest of the cleaning without any shouting. And I guess it lodged in the Tank’s mind, even though he wandered away and didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the cute book. 

I still have a lot to learn about parenting and homeschooling and everything else. But I learned yesterday that keeping my temper has many more rewards than just sparing me a sore throat.

Humbling. But important.




Why UNattended Childbirth advocates scare me

In the summer of 1998, you may have thought I was a great candidate for a “natural” birth. Maybe even an unattended one, although maybe not out in the woods. I hate bugs.

I’d had two spontaneous vaginal deliveries, both of them at 42 weeks, of large babies– one 9lbs and the other one 8lbs 15oz.  I was 41 weeks along with a healthy pregnancy and 5 cm dilated, 80% effaced. My baby had “dropped” a month before, and each week my OB was frankly disbelieving that I hadn’t gone into labor yet. I was 24 years old. My blood pressure was perfect, I’d gained a moderate amount of weight, and I was active and kept busy chasing around my 5 year old and 3 year old daughters.

I opted, at 41 weeks, to be induced. My 3 year old daughter had recently been diagnosed with autism and I was frankly exhausted. She slept about 2 hours a night, which meant I only slept two hours a night, too. It was summer in Texas, and I felt like I was walking around with a bowling ball on my perineum. I was sure that I’d go into labor within another week, and I’d strenuously fought against being induced with my previous two post-dates pregnancies, but I was too tired to deal with another week. My doctor suggested simply breaking my water and letting my body figure out the rest. After all, I was so dilated already, it surely wouldn’t take long. My first labor had only taken eight hours and my second labor was over and done in only four.

So I went into the nice comfortable labor and delivery ward, very modern and cozy, and my doctor broke my water. And then I walked around the halls for an hour, hoping that my mild contractions would turn into something real. They petered out, however, and by 7am I wasn’t contracting at all. So they gave me a very small dose of Pitocin. Within an hour, they shut off the Pit because my body had remembered what it was supposed to do and I was in labor for real.

My labor was reasonably quick after that– 3 hours later I was ready to push. I pushed three times and the baby’s head emerged– just like my second daughter had done.

And then the baby’s shoulders got stuck.

There are moments of true terror in life– this was one of those moments. The doctor and the nurses leapt into action, hauling me into the positions to dislodge a shoulder dystocia, one of the nurses leaping up on my belly, the doctor manipulating the baby’s head this way and that. The atmosphere was suddenly deathly serious.

After a few minutes, probably no more than five or six, each of which seemed nightmarishly long, they finally wrestled my son out of his deadlock with my pelvis. They handed me my healthy, blessedly alive 9lb 5oz newborn son and sewed up a minor tear that only took two stitches to close. We went home the next day, happy and alive.

If I’d been at home, unattended, I can only imagine what would have happened. My son would likely have died. I’d have had a real possibility of death myself. There were no signs such as “turtling” of the baby’s head– he was so low in my pelvis that he was practically out already by the time it came to push. He wasn’t significantly larger than my other babies had been and was, in fact, a week “younger” than they’d been. I was able to get up and move around during labor, I didn’t just lay flat on my back. There was no warning that this was going to happen.

That’s why I get shivers down my spine when women say they want an unattended birth or a birth attended only by their spouse or mother or doula. You just don’t know. Intuition only takes you so far. And blind luck isn’t on your side . . . just play poker for a while and see.

Responsible midwives are a different story. Birthing centers are a different story. But the story of a woman giving birth alone in the freaking woods is a horror story in the making.

Don’t forget the hard-won advances we’ve made and the women who died from the lack of trained and educated assistance. There are still women dying in this world simply from the lack of proper medical care– either because there isn’t any in their region or they can’t afford it. How silly would it be to add to their numbers simply because one was convinced that “nature” knows best. Nature is red in tooth and claw, lest we forget.