Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Banishing the Big Bad Wolf

Today I threw away this little backpack. It might not seem like anything special, and considered as a financial investment, it certainly isn't. This bag was a "free gift" that came with a subscription to one of those children's magazines, like Highlights or Ladybug. It wasn't something I purchased with care, or a gift from a loved one, yet when I threw away this bag today, I almost shed a sentimental tear.

This is the bag that held Zaya's nebulizer for the last nine years. It fit perfectly, with the machine in the main pocket and the various attachments and medications in those pouches on the sides. It was never used for anything else, and it performed its function admirably, for all its ignoble beginnings.

Zaya was nine months old when he had his first asthma attack, and I think I can honestly say it was one of the scariest moments of motherhood. I went in to find him in his crib, coughing strangely and wheezing hard. I called the doctor on his home phone, and he could hear Zaya in the background. "Take him the emergency room. Now." We drove the 15 miles into town, and my little baby received his first breathing treatments from nice nurses who assured us that this was very common, and not really a big deal.

They were right. It was (is) very common, and not really a big deal, but for many years after that, we dragged our own personal nebulizer around with us on trips, to family events, and eventually to his school room when the asthma would be likely to flare up. He always took his treatments so well and calmly, and I was very thankful for the technology that allowed us to at least do something, even if, occasionally, it wasn't as effective as I might have wished.

It's been several years now since we've needed the nebulizer. He's old enough to use an inhaler if he feels the need, but he hasn't even needed that for a blessedly long time. (Several months!) I think Zaya may be one of those children who actually "outgrow" their asthma, or at least the worst of the attacks.

I realize that asthma, in the grand scheme of things, is nothing serious. There are mothers out there at this very moment who are watching their children suffer in ways that I can only imagine. I pray for them, and would give them all a big hug if I could. But asthma was our family's little glimpse into that world, and throwing away that bag brought back a lot of memories.

There were other trips to the ER, before we had figured out how to recognize the early signs of an attack and what medicines to keep on hand. There were months when we used the nebulizer every single day, and I would turn around and go back to the house for it if I realized it wasn't in the car. Life moves on; my children grow and change. But I don't think I will ever stop listening to them breathe at night, and sigh with relief when everything sounds clear and peaceful.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

In Memoriam

This morning we rejoice because Granny, my husband's maternal grandmother, is no longer feeling pain, and she is in the arms of her savior. She will be missed by those of us who loved her, but we can still feel the joy of knowing that she no longer suffers.

I will always choose to remember Granny from the times that we spent at her house when my kids were little. We walked the block to her place at least once a week, and often more, and my little ones would play with toys that were older than their grandmother, watching out the door in case Papa came home from the farm.

Zaya would put on Papa's hats, and Granny always brought him a mirror so that he could see his own reflection and make sure everything was settled to his satisfaction. She never tired of this service, and I often sat in amazement that the two of them could enjoy the same game every week.

Granny was just that compassionate. She invested all her attention in her visitors and loved to know that the little ones were happy.  Both of my kids spent their very first Sunday on the earth at Granny's house, as their tired Mama could rest and watch the local church service on the cable TV while my mother-in-law, Granny's daughter, held them and soothed their tears with much more efficiency than I ever could.

It's been many years since Granny recognized me or the kids. We were relatively new
additions to the family, and so were some of the first to leave when her memory started to decline with the advance of years. I know in my heart, though, that she loved us, and never for a moment did she refuse the hugs and kisses and smiles of the children when they came to visit. I don't think they would ever have realized that she didn't remember if we adults hadn't brought it up.

I look forward to seeing Granny again someday, and she and I will both laugh about the times we spent together, helping the kids to build with blocks, teaching them not to eat marbles, and letting them put on Papa's big hats.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On With the Show!

Yesterday was one of those unexpected school days that can only happen at home. I had made lesson plans, carefully lining up our learning for the day -  Bible, math, English, spelling, history, etc. - and we got as far as Bible and history. After our history chapter for the day, the kids decided that they wanted to write plays.

Of course it would've been too easy for everyone involved if they had chosen the same subject matter and collaborated. Instead we have two completely separate plays, taking place on two completely separate continents, with only the general time period being similar, but in no way relevant.

Mim wanted her play to be about Catherine the Great, and I don't think anyone should be surprised, at least not anyone who knows her, that she chose an empress as her subject matter, considering that each child was going to star in their own production. Zaya, on the other hand, wanted to write about Eli Whitney and the cotton gin. He is playing the part of a slave named Nicodemu. (The name came from a book about children from around the world. Don't blame me.)

This means costumes, props, and make-up for the court of a Russian noble and the hut of a slave in the South. It also means taking apart my house to find things that are "just right" for each part. Mim still has what looks like a geologist's lab set up in the hall bathroom as she experiments to find the exact sandstone that, when mixed with water and made into a paste, will color Zaya's face and hands for his role as an African slave. (It's just a thing she does. Don't ask. Usually it's make-up or war paint)

 Mim's entire production was written and performed in one day, while Zaya's will be performed later in the week. For one thing, I can only take so much, but it also turns out that it takes a while to build a fake cotton gin and write a full play. Yesterday we got so far as to unroll all the paper towels and scatter broken toothpicks on the floor because we needed the inside tube for the roller and the insufficiently strong toothpicks for the teeth. Pictures of the finished product will be forthcoming, assuming we all survive.

Mim's play was a great success, despite her brother's annoying tendency to jump out of character at the least provocation. It's hard to blame him, though, since his character, Peter (Ulrich)  III, was a drunken lout who dies at the end of the play to the joy of all involved. Mim even roped our neighbor kids into helping and playing their own parts.

I don't see the production hitting Broadway, but it had a good local run, and the audience (Daddy) was most appreciative. He was less appreciative of the state of the house after a full day, and I do mean a full day, of scrounging around for props and other accoutrement of the theater.

It's all learning though, right? No seriously, tell me it's all learning, because if it isn't I just let my children destroy my house, my sanity, and my lesson plans for nothing. I figure I can at least count it for history and writing. I haven't seen my children willingly write that much, in one day, in their lives.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, Aunt Hazel!

My mother's family has had the honor, over the last few years, to get to know a new sister. Aunt Hazel, who grew up in the Philippines, married my Uncle Tom, and then was finally able to arrive in the U.S. in December of 2007.

We didn't really know her very well at the time, but we knew Uncle Tom loved her very much and so were excited to welcome her into the family. Over the years she has become an important member or our crazy little clan, and we love her dearly.

She might be a little quiet when there are so many of us together during the holidays, but her smile speaks volumes, and I know she makes my Uncle very happy. And let's be honest, anyone in a room with so many members of the P family is bound to be a little intimidated by the shear impossibility of getting a word in edgewise.

Today I was reminded of how precious she is to us, and to her family back in the Phillippines as well, by a video they made for her where they all gave birthday greetings and then sang for her. They didn't dwell on their separation, but instead sang a praise song and talked about how much they loved her. They made a huge sacrifice when they let their daughter, cousin, sister, friend leave them for the wild unknowns of west Texas. They love and miss her very much, but their love is the truest kind: unselfish and based on the love of Christ.

Hazel has now made herself an integral part of her workplace, her family, and her new country as she completed her citizenship in 2012. She is an inspiration to those of us who take our easy lives for granted. I hope that I will someday be able to say that my own love for others bears half the power of that of Hazel and her family.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pi in the Sky

We celebrated Pi Day in style this year. Grandma Lilibeth gave the kids Pi shirts specifically for the occasion. You probably can't tell from the picture, but the pie image is made up of many tiny digits of Pi.  Here they are with Grandma. Aren't they stylish?



We did a day of Pi-related school work and activities.They learned what Pi was, got certificates for memorizing it to a certain amount of digits, drew some pictures, then went to Walmart and each chose a Pi, I mean pie, for us to share with our guests this weekend. (Mim chose coconut cream and Zay wanted Dutch apple, if you must know.)

Coincidentally, it was also Albert Einstein's birthday. Zaya is wearing his Einstein pin from the Science Museum trip last fall. We had fun with it all, and the day felt like a little break from normal routine, which is always welcome.


Whether or not they'll remember anything about what we did remains to be seen, but it can't possibly have hurt. Maybe someday they'll be able to find the volume of a sphere that little bit easier.


Friday, February 28, 2014

When Life Gives You Rubber Gloves

If you were to walk into my kitchen right now, you would see a big red bowl on the table. You might think that I am in the middle of baking something, which has been known to happen. You would be wrong. If you investigate further, you would see that the bowl is partially filled with water, in which floats a blue rubber medical glove.

You would be forgiven for being very concerned about the sanity or health of my family. I cannot speak to the former, but we are all healthy. No, the reason for the bowl and accoutrements is that Mim occasionally likes to pretend she is milking a cow. ...yeah...

She fills the glove with water, carefully pokes tiny holes in the ends of the fingers, and proceeds to "milk the cow" back into the bowl. I blame all the field trips to "city farms" over the years. She demonstrated her technique this morning, explaining carefully how this worked and was very realistic. My daughter has never actually milked a cow, of course. This is all theory.

I don't know why this was suddenly the activity for the morning, but I let it happen. Personally I'm just glad that she hasn't thought of using real milk instead of water.

Maybe she's got a great career in the dairy industry someday. A mom can dream.

Dad to the Rescue

My best homeschooling decision this year has been to beg, trick and encourage my husband to take over the science class for the second semester.

Last fall we began doing a joint chemistry class with friends who also do school at home. I "taught" the class to the best of my ability, and I think we learned...something. Or I hope so. After Christmas, the plan was to switch to physics, since I think grade school level children can still have a "well-trained mind" without a year on each.

As I started looking through all my physics books, though, I became more and more stressed. Unlike chemistry, I never took physics in high school, and math is not my strong suit. Enter "Super-Dad!" also known as Art. He saw the growing panic in my eyes and offered to take the class for the semester.

It meets once a week at our house, and the kids are actually getting to ask questions and learn from someone who not only took physics in high school, but also has a degree in mechanical engineering. I feel much better about that.

They've talked about Isaac Newton, built marshmallow/spaghetti structures, flown paper airplanes, played with magnets and lasers...and presumably Art didn't have to write himself notes to remember what the definitions of their vocabulary words were.

Yes, there is some guilt in asking my long-suffering spouse to teach a class after he's worked all day, but the relief and joy is strong enough that the guilt has been mostly smothered.
I now get at least one hour a week to hide away in another part of the house while education happens. It's a great feeling.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

I Dual-Wield Kleenex

Last night and this morning we had a snowstorm. Our country church is a fair drive for almost all the parishioners, so the services were canceled and we had our own cozy church service here at home instead. I wouldn't want to switch to a permanent family church format, but it made for a lovely, peaceful morning- with our own unique twist.

I played the piano while we sang a few songs, then Mim had a Sunday school class. Art read a passage from the Bible and Zaya said our prayer. Mim's class involved a craft-time that she had prepared.



As usual, Daddy was a bit of an overachiever. I don't think the Bible ever specifies that angels like a little dual-wielding, but maybe he knows something I don't. Also, Zaya chose to take the phrase "make a star ornament" literally. This one (green) is complete with spots, flares and other stellar phenomena.

Art and the kids are planning to go outside to play, despite a high of 14F today and strong winds. I am planning to stay inside, because I am sane. If the house were on fire, I would leave. There isn't much else that would pry me out right now.

I do plan to help the kids make some snow ice cream later when they bring a bowl in, so I will come into contact with the stuff at some point during the day. However my snow ice cream will not include raw eggs. I know, why don't I live a little? I'm sure that handing out Kleenex and doing all the laundry and clean-up required to support this expedition will provide enough excitement for the day.

I have to confess, this is my idea of a great way to spend a snowy Sunday. If you come over this afternoon, you will find me here, by the fire, probably reading a book. This girl knows how to party.