Jonathan’s Upcoming Surgery

Jonathan is officially scheduled for his surgery. This is something for which  many of our friends and family members have been praying with us since December. We finally figured out the root of his eye issues, so we’re excited to see how things go with this surgery.

We feel so encouraged about this operation. The ophthalmologist is going to make a small incision in the layer of tissue around his eye and then she’ll cut out a small segment of his muscle there. He had a major concussion from rugby while he was in college. This damaged one of the nerves that feeds directly to one of his eye muscles. Over time, that muscle grew weaker and since eye muscles work in pairs, the weakening in his muscle began to cause his eye to turn as the healthy muscle pulled stronger in the opposite direction. So the surgeon is going to remove a section of the stronger muscle in order to balance the muscles to work more smoothly together.

The surgery itself is a much less risky surgery than the previous doctor’s suggestion. Jonathan had seen a neurologist who said he had a malformation in his brain and that he would need brain surgery to fix it. Fortunately the good sense of the neurosurgeons won out and neither of the doctors the neurologist tried to refer him to would accept him as a patient– they both said he didn’t have the malformation after reviewing his MRI. Regardless of how we got to this point, we feel so blessed that the surgery he now requires is so much more minimal than the aforementioned brain surgery!

We also feel fortunate because we have qualified for an assistance program through the state of Colorado. We don’t qualify for medicaid, but there is a program for people who don’t qualify for medicaid but still have lower income. This program will allow us to pay the same total amount for both our surgeries (including my D&C back in November) that we would have spend on just the anesthesiologist bills alone.

Please keep our family in your prayers this week as we prepare for Jonathan’s surgery on Friday. My parents are helping out with childcare so I can go be at the hospital and support Jonathan through his recovery. The doctor said he can expect to be able to go back to work on Monday, with slight accommodation for his sensitivity to light and healing tissues. We are praying that the first surgery will be enough to make a significant difference in his vision so he does not have to have a follow-up surgery.  Also, please pray that Jonathan doesn’t have a terrible reaction to the anesthesia. He’s been known to vomit profusely after prior surgeries; we don’t want any of that!

I’ll update when the surgery is complete!

Cinderella is Crazy and my Cat is, Too.

You guys. Yesterday, I was sitting here in the living room, enjoying the first rays of dawn while typing my post, when suddenly my cat, Riley, came flying into the house. He had been out in the garage with Jonathan. I thought nothing of it as the cat is a bit off his rocker and he gets spurts of energy which send him sprinting up and down the stairs and meowing like a maniac several times a day. But then Jonathan came bounding in from the garage, too, and said, “Riley has a mouse!”

I don’t know what made him do it. Riley clamped that disgusting little rodent in his razor sharp teeth and brought it into my house. Into my house. INTO MY HOUSE! Cinderella would have been thrilled. She would have pulled out her miniature wardrobe and talked lovingly and calmly to this little former-field-dweller and been oh-so-exhilarated to have made a new friend. Not I. I did what any sane human being would do- I panicked.

I yanked my feet up and told Jonathan he better stop that mouse from coming anywhere near me. I cowered in my chair like Malcolm hiding from T-Rex in Jurassic Park. I had pictures of Riley tossing that little flea-ridden disease factory in the air and hitting me with it. As soon as the mouse got free and scurried behind a bookcase, I made a dash for the kitchen and jumped up on the counters so I could be safe. Rodents are scary, man.

Jonathan carefully moved the bookcase so Riley could get to the mouse, but Riley is apparently the worst mouser in the world, and he let it run… into the kitchen. You guys, I really couldn’t win. Of course the mouse scampered along under the cabinets, flashing his beady eyes and chomping his giant rodent teeth at me until he got to the dishwasher… then he disappeared. I was freaking out, imagining all the dish-washing Jonathan was going to have to do (NO WAY was I going to be touching those dishes after a nasty nasty pesty fuzzball had run across them and probably pooped and left every disease in the world all over them). Jonathan pulled out the dishwasher to reveal a gaping hole behind the cabinets. Great.

Fortunately the hole was a dummy and it did not lead to Narnia. The mouse was trapped and Jonathan was able to scoop it out of there with a broom. (Note to self: buy new broom.) Of course, Riley the WonderCat was absolutely uninterested in finding/hunting/killing the mouse by this point, so he just casually observed as Jonathan stepped on it!!!!!!! (Note to self: buy Jonathan new shoes!) Then Jonathan got the mouse contained in a jar and took it outside. I told him to just throw it way far out in the field across the street… but no. He insisted that Riley come out there to finish the job.

Riley, Mr. Unreliable, did not have any intentions of finishing that job. He was all like, “Oh man you guys, I brought you a fun mousie to play with and all you wanna do is take it out of the house and kill it? I’m having no part in this.” And he walked away. Seriously, my un-catliest-cat-ever WALKED AWAY from a mouse. So Jonathan had to dispose of that horrible little squeaking germ ball and that. is. that.

Thank goodness for Jonathan. Without him I would be petrified on the counters, ripping my hair out for fear the mouse would want to come steal it and use it for a nest for its disgusting little disease-ridden offspring. I’m totally sane, but that Cinderella chick- she’s crazy.

Longest Bike Ride Ever and other Small Golden Adventures

This time of life is so perfect. I love having little children in spring. We’ve been cooped up a lot in the winter and now we’re headed outside for hours of golden sunshine every day. We don’t even need heavy coats any longer– just a light jacket will do. The garden is sending out its first shoots and sprouts and the daffodils will blooming soon. The children are full of wonder and a sense of adventure as they while away the daylight in the backyard, creating new games and trying new ideas. Everything is bright and soft and fresh during this time of year.

Yesterday was a fun day all around. We stayed home because Hula Girl is still recovering from her cold and I hate it when other parents bring their kids in public to share their germs with everyone else. Practice what you preach, right?!

Anyway, after preschool was over yesterday, Little Man and Hula Girl went outside for a few minutes. They had so much fun in the backyard. I don’t even know what all they were doing, but it involved a lot of filling up the little wagon with dirt and moving it to another location, then dumping the dirt out of the bed over and over again. They never dug up the same place or moved dirt to the same place, so I’m pretty sure the goal was just to dig up and move the dirt. When I finished with my inside chores, I went out with them and we loaded up for a walk/bike ride. Hula Girl rode her bike and I pulled Little Man in the wagon with his bike and helmet. Hula Girl decided she wanted to go down to her friend G’s house. (G is a little girl in Hula Girl’s dance class.) Although G lives quite close to us when we ride in the car, walking and riding bikes is another matter altogether– G’s house is a mile away. But Hula Girl was determined we should go, so she pumped her little legs and rode all the way there. She was rewarded when G was home and the two of them got to say hi. I talked with G’s mom for a while and then it was time to head home for lunch. The walk home was uphill the entire way. There were several times when I pulled a wagon AND a bike. But Hula Girl did most of it on her own. She was so tired at bedtime last night!

In the afternoon the kids wanted to go out and play with our neighbors across the street. We discovered their mom was letting the kids finish their nap in their car seats (what mom hasn’t done that a million times?!) and so Hula Girl and Little Man jumped on their trampoline instead. When the kids woke up, their mom let the kiddos go over to the barn with her, where she let Hula Girl collect their chicken’s egg and hold the rabbits. Then Jonathan came home and we brought the kids back to our house to play and work with Daddy in the backyard.

For some reason, Little Man was awake until 9:00 last night. I just keep thinking of when Hula Girl was his age and she had nights where she’d stay awake long into the night singing and talking to herself in her crib. I know it’s totally normal, but when I’m so exhausted that I feel like I could go to sleep an hour before he actually falls asleep, it makes me feel old. 🙂

I had taken a week off running while I was battling strep, so when I got back on the treadmill yesterday, it was a humbling experience. I ran my three miles and then collapsed. I took a shower and then sat on the couch reading my Bible until it was time to get Hula Girl up from her rest time. When she got up, she started working on her Perler bead creations and I fell asleep on the couch! I jumped awake and she said, “Oh, hi, Mommy. I was trying to be quiet so I didn’t wake you.” Ugh. This time change has been a hard one for me!

The kids and I are going to be joining my parents in the mountains for skiing on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. This will be Little Man’s first time, and we’re not even sure he’ll want to ski. He hasn’t been very enthusiastic about being outside in colder weather…ever…so he and I might spend a few days hanging out in the ski lodge and going out to sled every now and then. But Hula Girl has been before and I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll be zipping down the blues by midmorning.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a great new episode of “Riley vs the Mouse”– an all-new, true story that just unfolded in our home while I was writing this post. Ugh.

DST Routine for “Home Days”

I’m better! Now we just need to get Hula Girl back on her feet, and then the family will be healthy again.

Jonathan really can’t get sick now; he has surgery coming up on the 20th. We don’t want that to get pushed back any since we’ve already had enough trouble just trying to figure out what is actually wrong with him! Please keep him in your prayers. We are hoping for equal strength for both of his eye muscles so they work properly together!

This weekend one of my girls from Sunday school, who has been missing for a while, came back! It was so nice to see her. She is growing up so much. She will be in high school next year. She came in with some heavy questions regarding homosexuality and whether or not some sins “rank” higher than others. I got to see a perfect example of how some well-meaning Christian teachers can scare some kids away from the faith. This poor girl was thinking that just because some of her friends are self-identified as gay or lesbian or bisexual or whatever, they won’t get to go to Heaven. Period. Case closed. It was a joy, therefore, to be able to explain to her that while the Bible calls out homosexuality as a sin, it’s a sin like any other sin– a sin that can be forgiven, a sin that can be overcome. I could see this was something that has been tickling her brain for a while and she wasn’t sure how to address it. On the one hand, she doesn’t want to leave the faith of her childhood, but on the other hand, she can’t see how these people, whom she loves, would be excluded from Heaven forever based on a sin; she’s smart enough to know we ALL sin and deserve eternal condemnation. She just couldn’t get her mind around why her friends’ sin was somehow worse than her own. It is amazing to watch young women wrestle with issues like this in their faith. It doesn’t happen every week, but when they do have hard questions and I’m there to supply biblical answers, I am SO glad they have the gumption to even ask! That can be scary!

Now that we’ve had the spring time change, I’ve developed a new sort of routine for our days. Most of the building blocks were already in place, but I just wanted to solidify what we do. It’s so easy to get into a rhythm, but I wanted to make sure the rhythm is highly beneficial for my family so we can play, learn, grow, and be at rest well together. Here’s our “home day” routine (times are approximate):

  • 7:30 up, breakfast (here we do a one-a-day toddler devotional and listen to our memory verse)
  • 8:00 brush teeth, get dressed, do chores (Hula Girl makes her bed and does the breakfast dishes; Little Man helps me with laundry and feeds the cat)
  • 8:15 Hula Girl has preschool; Little Man has roomtime
  • 9:00 reading time (SSR for the first few minutes and then I read out loud)
  • 9:45 outside play time (kids go out back while I clean up the kitchen and living room, then we go for a walk) or play room time (if the weather is bad)
  • 11:15 inside play time/bath time (kids get baths every 3-4 days or so)
  • 12:00 lunch
  • 1:00 Hula Girl works on handicrafts while Little Man begins his nap
  • 1:30 Hula Girl has rest time (she naps some days, if she is tired enough) and I work on chores or exercising or dinner prep or relaxing
  • 3:00 Hula Girl gets up and we read together while Little Man finishes his nap
  • 3:30 Little Man gets up and they have a snack while I read to them
  • 4:00 outside play time or play room time
  • 5:00 Hula Girl stays outside or in the play room; Little Man helps make dinner
  • 5:30 Jonathan comes home and the kids get Daddy time while I finish making dinner
  • 6:00 dinner
  • 6:45 Mommy and Daddy “couch time” and then family time
  • 7:30 bedtime

Obviously, we adjust based on the day’s activities. On Mondays, we go swimming at the Y instead of doing morning playtime at home. On Wednesdays, Hula Girl has dance class so we skip preschool and outside playtime. We also get groceries on Wednesdays. Thursdays are storytime days so we go there after preschool. Outside playtime happens at the park next to the library when storytime is over. And Sundays… well, Sundays are a day of rest. So, we give the schedule a rest! Church in the morning, then naps and meals as normal… otherwise, we do whatever we feel like doing.

Speaking of doing whatever we feel like doing on Sundays… yesterday, Jonathan and the kids built a brooder box for our chickies! It’s just a wooden box with a frame above it to support the heat lamp. The kids got to paint the box and everything! They had a ball. 4 weeks to chickens!

The Crazy Life

I’m still sick. It’s really bumming me out. But oh well.

This week has been a good one for me and kids. On Wednesday we had Hula Girl’s dance class. It went so much better than the past few weeks because it snowed Wednesday morning and only four families braved the weather. The four girls in class were four of the ones who do quite well, so they got to do extra steps and learn new choreography! Hula Girl was excited about that for sure. She was mostly excited that her closest dance friend was also there. 🙂

Thursday was a bit of a full day for us. We went grocery shopping in the morning, which was new for us. I usually shop on Saturday mornings, but I don’t like having to be away from my family on weekends. So we tried Thursday morning and we liked it. I think we’ll start going grocery shopping on Wednesdays after dance from now on– dance is 3/4 of the way to the grocery store anyway. And the kids are finally old enough to behave decently well through two stores. It takes a lot of setting explicit expectations detailing consequences for poor behavior beforehand. My expectations:  1. Keep a hand on the shopping cart at all times, and 2. Only ask for something one time. If they remove a hand, they will ride in the cart the rest of the way. If they ask more than once for an item, they will not ride the mechanical horse at the end. If the behaviors continue after consequences have been given, we will leave our cart, go home, and come back for the groceries tomorrow. No one wants to shop two days in a row. We had a good time on Thursday.

That afternoon, we went to the Y to swim. Hula Girl is an awesome swimmer and Little Man loves to have me guide him all around while he “swims” after the balls he tosses. They had such a fun time at the pool! Hula Girl even asked a little girl to swim with her in the pirate pool and the two played hide and seek for about 30 minutes. Cute!

Today we hung out at home. I like to plan “home days” at least 4 days per week. Today we ate breakfast, got dressed, brushed teeth, and cleaned the kitchen. Then Little Man had some roomtime so Hula Girl and I could catch up on some preschool. She worked through a couple of place value worksheets and sketched her bean plants in her nature study sketchbook while I planned out next week’s activities. Then she got out her “Dick and Jane” book and read a few stories to me. After preschool, we did SSR together and then I read to the kids for half an hour. Then I kicked them out into the backyard to play while I started reading a book on raising chickens. Next up was lunch, which Little Man helped prepare, then naps, and then Jonathan came home. All in all, it was a good smooth day and the kids had plenty of reading time, free play time, learning time, and family time. Balance. That is why I like home days.

Tonight I plan to read my chicken book and work on my lesson for Sunday school. Woohoo– living the crazy life over here, folks!

My Little Dancers

My parents graciously came over and cared for the kidlets today. They had a fun day at Storytime, Chick-Fil-A, and at home. They read a “million billion books” and played with Play-Doh. Of course, Little Man was stoked to eat ice cream at CFA. Win-win.

While they were gone, I alternated between light housekeeping chores and resting. I vacuumed the house, did a load of laundry, Lysoled the heck outta this house, and opened the windows to the balmy 34-degree breeze to air out my sick germs.

I was excited to learn that I can take my sewing machine (a wonderful gift from Jonathan’s aunt) to a very long-standing local sewing machine shop to have it serviced. My dad is taking it for me next Monday, since he’s working right near the shop that day and I’ll pick it up the following week when we go for Jonathan’s pre-op appointment with the ophthalmologist. I can’t wait to get it back; I have missed sewing!

I also had a great talk with Hula Girl’s dance teacher, Miss K. Hula Girl joined a new dance studio this January because she really wanted to learn to tap. Since they had never seen her dance before, she was automatically grouped in with the other preschoolers. This has been a good thing but also a challenge. Positively, it has allowed her the opportunity to be what  Miss K called the “big fish” in that she is much older than the other girls (some just turned three in November; she will be five in June) and has much more dance experience. She has not had to worry about keeping up while she has navigated the social stuff. I let Miss K know her approach to engaging Hula Girl in the class was wonderful, too– she never cajoled Hula Girl to try to get her to join in. Instead, she offered one casual invitation and then ignored Hula Girl until she joined on her own. It worked like a charm. Hula Girl loves Miss K.

On the negative side, Hula Girl is BORED. The girls know choreography for exactly four eight-counts and it’s been two whole months. Some of the younger classmates just can’t pick up the choreography and Miss K is working so hard, but it’s like dragging wet donkeys through a murky quagmire. She is literally picking up their feet and moving them for the girls, but the little punkins just can’t seem to replicate the motions on their own. Poor things! Needless to say, Hula Girl came home last week discouraged as she said, “Mommy, I thought we were going to learn new parts today!” I encouraged her to just be patient and trust that her teacher will prepare her for the performance in May.

Anyway, I called her teacher to find out what will happen next session. Miss K told me she plans to assign Hula Girl to a class of students closer to Hula Girl’s age. This might mean Hula Girl will have less experience with tap than the other girls will have, but Miss K expressed full confidence that Hula Girl will be just fine and will catch up in no time.

Another topic we discussed is the topic of Little Man. Previously, when Hula Girl was having a rough time adjusting to dance class, Miss K allowed Little Man to dance with Hula Girl for one class session. Miss K told me today that after that session, she talked to the owner of the studio about him because she has never met a two-year-old who was capable of dancing so well or staying focused for the entire hour! She is amazed by him every week as he does what she asks the girls in the class to do (over by me; unfortunately, he is not allowed to dance with Hula Girl anymore) and she let me know she thinks we must be doing something good at home because both our kids are so focused and well-behaved. That was so nice to hear! Miss K has been teaching dance for a long time, and she thinks that highly of my kiddos? Wow.

We discussed the idea of putting Little Man in a creative movement class and she also mentioned this summer’s dance camp in July. I am starting to see why families struggle financially to keep their kids involved in extra-curricular activities. It is expensive for a preschooler to dance! This is something Jonathan and I need to talk and pray about for sure!

Here’s hope that I’ll wake up with a healthy body tomorrow!! I’m ready to talk and not be exhausted again. Dance class is also tomorrow! All of us are excited; we love dance days. 🙂

A Collection of my Random Thoughts on Unschooling, Free Play, and Reading

Well, I have spent the last two days in bed. Being sick is not my forte. Alas! I have used my time wisely, though–  I have been doing a bit of research this morning on unschooling and I’m drawn to it for my Little Man.

Whereas Hula Girl has always been drawn to facts, memorization, and asking, “Why,” Little Man is much more likely to be interested in experimenting, observing, and asking, “How?” He is an independent person, and he thrives on problem solving. He is rarely interested in the things and activities I present to him, but he is annoyingly persistent when he wants me to join him in something he comes up with on his own. He is clever and creative, and he loves to figure things out. Hand the boy anything with buttons, screws, or wires, and he will be focused for a good long while.

I think all those qualities are excellent and necessary for a lifetime of unschooling. Unschooling flows naturally when one considers my main goal for my kiddos right now: to give them as much opportunity for free play as possible. Unschooling, like free play, allows children to ask questions and pursue the answers on their own. It allows them to use their imaginations. It gives them plenty of time to ponder and consider and daydream. You betcha I want my kids freely playing as much as possible. And unschooling seems like such a fit for Little Man.

I also want to focus on my kids’ social and emotional development, and some of the things I’ve come across this morning have reminded me what my goals in these areas need to be. Socially, I want to get the kids engaged with people around our neighborhood. I texted our across-the-street neighbor this morning. I asked if she would be willing to allow her son, who is just a year older than Hula Girl, to play outside with Hula Girl, relatively unsupervised, this summer. The kids will be five and six, and I told her I would like to set limits on how far the kids can roam. One positive is that we know (and like!) all the neighbors within those limits. I think this freedom to roam is good for children, and I’m excited that Hula Girl will have the opportunity to play and interact with neighbors without me being right there the whole time.

Another way I want to engage the neighbors socially is by having the kids help me bake goodies and share them. I plan to send the kids next door to the neighbors on either side of our house, who are both retired guys, with plates of cookies or baskets of muffins. I want to have them help me prepare for afternoon get-togethers with other moms and kids who will be invited over just because.

Regardless of our methods of schooling or the ways we spend our days, one activity will not cease: daily reading. Both children enjoy reading tremendously. Hula Girl can read simple stories on her own, but I think we will continue reading out loud to her untik she begs us to stop. 🙂 Little Man asks me to read him books at least seven times a day, and I do! I was thinking about how glad I am to have married Jonathan, as he is a guy who loves to read! Our kids see the example we set and reading is not ever a chore for them; rather, reading is a fun bonding experience and they get to learn about characters and topics they find interesting! I had a discussion with Jonathan’s aunt, who is a teacher, the other night. She has first graders and she said she can always tell which kids are frequently read to and which kids aren’t. The kids who are read to just have such an advantage over the kids who aren’t! I’m just glad we have created a home environment in which reading is normal, everyday, and fun!

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