Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What to Say

Some friends have asked me to post about how to help, what to say, or what not to say, when a loved one or friend has cancer.  Honestly I don't have all the answers.  The truth is if it is someone you know, and who knows and trusts you, you can probably speak from your heart, and all will be well.

Most of us don't speak from our heart though.  That feels too vulnerable.  We say what we think we should say, or we don't think at all and say the first thing that comes to our mind.  Ouch.   I've done that, and to any and all I've hurt, I apologize.  Like so many, I meant well, I just didn't know what to do.  As I hope to be forgiven for my gaffs, I try to forgive others for theirs.  There's only been a few mean spirited things said/done to me.  Most folks mean well and I'm just extra sensitive when I'm low.  I try to remember that and just let it flow past me.

But, for those who want to read on, I recommend these posts from City Girl, who's BTDT.

Helping a Loved One During a Health Crisis
You Look Great (or not)
Cancer Buddy vs Cancer Bully
Video Cancer Buddy vs Cancer Bully

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's a Not so Bad

I thought I'd catch you all up on the math drama.  Although, it's not actually that dramatic.  What I posted was a moment, a slice, of our homeschooling life - a not perfect slice.  I think those are perhaps more valuable than the Christmas Letter posts that talk about how wonderful everything is.  Don't get me wrong, I love having those days.  But reading about them nonstop can make me feel inadequate, so I tend to post nearly as often about the not-so-perfect days, just so you know you're not alone.  :-)   You're welcome.

It all sorted itself out in time.  We put the work aside for that day and came back to it later.  With more rest, and a change of attitude, Bit Boy regained his memory and not only finished his work, but had some nice insights about it.  I realized that we need more review.  While he has a good theoretical understanding of what he's done, he hasn't practiced enough for it to become second nature.

Actually this has been an ongoing theme in my kids learning math.  They're very good at mental math and math concepts.  They're not so good at showing their work and other "drudgery".   While they were young I let them off the hook with regards to doing much written work.  They're getting older though, so now it's time to face the music.  As Lego Kid is learning, some problems are too big to hold in your head.  With Bit-Boy prepping for college now, being able to show his work has become much more important.  I'm realizing that they both need practice not only with showing their work, but with the resilience and skills needed to face a tough problem, break it down into it's parts, be willing to make mistakes and come back to try again. This is good for all of us to practice, yes?

Also, many friends have called or emailed to let me know that at 14, many boys seem to loose their minds.  Their focus shifts, their hormones rage, and they are working hard to separate even while they still need the love and support of their parents and family.  I'm trying to remember that as my teen turns into a push-me-pull-you.

I have found that in parenting, and homeschooling, there are times when we just hit a wall.  It can be with behavior, skills, academics, just about anything.  That wall can seem insurmountable in the moment.  It can be infuriating.  I often feel like the child is putting up this wall just to Piss.Me.Off.  and it worked.

But really?  It's just as frustrating to the child as it is to the parent.  Sometimes to the child it's even frightening, they have so much less control and experience than adults, they don't realize that this too shall pass.

I'm trying to get better at seeing those moments as an opportunity to explore what's really happening and to model how we deal with challenges and conflict.  I'm not always succeeding, but I'm still trying.  I'm also telling myself that that in itself is good modeling.:-)

Saturday, September 8, 2012


My oldest appears to have brain damage.  Two days ago he knew x^1/2= sq.rt x, and now he doesn't.  He knew this months ago - what's up with that?

(sorry, I need to figure out how to do math equations when blogging - suggestions anyone?)

Also, he will come to me with a blank sheet of paper saying "I need help with my math"  before he has looked at his problems, or even dated his paper.  He gets mad when I tell him that he should at least copy the original problem before he comes to me for help.

This morning he came to me to ask for help doing the review (REVIEW!) problems at the end of a chapter that in itself is supposed to be review.  I was asking what I thought was a simple rhetorical question to talk him through the solution.
His answer?  "I don't know"
Another simple question from me. 
Not even pausing to think a moment, "I don't know". 
Really?  OK.  "Have you read the chapter?"

My final response was "Go re-read the chapter.  Find a similar problem.  Work through it.  Try the original problem again.  Come to me if you still don't understand."

I am finally empathizing with all those irritating people who tell me "I could never do that" when they learn we homeschool.  Usually I just smile and say, "It's not for everyone" when what I really mean is "If you wanted to homeschool you could, but it's fine that you don't want to."  Yes.  I'm that awful and pompous, but hopefully only in my head.

It's kind of like when I had only one child.  He was a sweet quiet child.  He had a mellow temperament and made friends easily.  He never bit anyone (but me), didn't pick fights, didn't scratch his privates in public, you know... he appeared to be a near perfect child.   I thought to myself, "If everyone parented like me, they too could have a child as lovely as this."  (To all those who had to stand next to me when I was thinking these pretentious thoughts, I'm sorry.  Really, really, sorry)

Then I had a second child.  Oh. My. God.  From the beginning this child was different.  He was colicky.  He was intense.  He was not mellow.  He was not easy. He hit and bit and cried - a lot.  Nothing I did changed his temperament.  I learned something I would have never known had I had only one child.  My first child was easy.  My second child was not.  It was that simple.

Now they've both grown.  My second child is 11.  He is still intense, and the most intorverted person I know (and that's saying something).  He is also sweet, kind, and sensitive.  He is empathetic and insightful enough that, to the gullible, he seems psychic.  He is now almost an "easy" child.

My oldest is 14.  He is moody, withdrawn, and not all that interested in pleasing anyone who isn't a teen.  Little I do pleases him.  My existence is, honestly, an embarrassment.  There are so many things wrong with his life right now.  He is furious that we would take family holidays but not spend $300 to buy him a program he wants.  (We have given him the option of working for pay to get it, but that's not appealing apparently.)  His brothers breath near him.  Right now, he's not an easy child, and I need bonus points for letting him live some days.

Sometimes you have an easy child, sometimes you don't.  Sometimes homeschooling is easy, sometimes it isn't.  It's that simple. 

Also - we've created a new acronym - SYW. 
Show Your Work.
I say this everyday.  Everyday.  But does he do it?
No...sigh.. no he doesn't.  "I don't need to, the answer is obvious."
 Riiight... how did you get the wrong answer then? 

See me not strangling him?  Good on me.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Steamboat delivers again.

Yesterday we toured the Tread of the Pioneers Museum, checked out the local Farmer's Market, ate at the Steamboat Smokehouse, and swam at the rec center.  The Tread of the Pioneers Museum is in a cool old Victorian house that is (mostly) decorated in period.  It has a lot of Steamboat history in it's rooms.  We had fun doing their scavenger hunt, and checking out all the old tools, instruments, and memorabilia.  Even though there was much complaining before we went, as we left all (voluntarily!) said they enjoyed it.  Lunch at the Smokehouse wasn't as big a hit with the kids as it was with Firelord and me, but that might have had something to do with the pretzels-as-big-astheir-heads they ate in the morning at the farmer's market.  The rec center was fun but, given the summer heat, the hot springs were almost too warm.  Almost.

Today we went to the Wild West Air Fest and splurged on a helicopter ride for the family.  It was a frivolous expense, but also totally worth it.  None of us have never ridden in a helicopter before, not even Firelord who has his pilots license.  The weather was perfect and it was fun seeing all the planes.

Now we are waiting for pizza delivery while Hot Dog and Lego Kid watch college football (BYU vs Washington State).  Sigh... how did I get kids that like to watch sports?

All in all, despite the sad news from home, it's been a very enjoyable little holiday. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hope is arrogance on display

We all want to know "why?"  Sometimes it's "why me?" Sometimes the question is "how?", or "why now?"

And, more often than we like, the answer is "I don't know", or "no reason", or "it's just the way it is".

And that's hard.  It's really hard.  How can we accept that there's not necessarily rhyme or reason to the crazy shit that happens?  How do we live with the suffering and death and heart rendering sorrow that in time come to afflict us all?

I think that's why humans invented religion.  I had a friend who liked to tell me that we all had a hole in us, a God Hole.  That we all had a need to answer those questions, and that need was our God Hole begging to be filled.  I agree.  As humans we can see beyond the now.  We remember  our pasts and share our memories with people who aren't even born yet.  We can envision the future.  We have the arrogance to believe we can change the future.  We have the ability to imagine that things are not yet, and then make them happen.  We know that things can be different than how they are. That's our God Hole, our imagination begging to understand and control.  My friend was a Pentecostal, and I'm pretty sure she didn't mean for me to interpret her the way I did.  And in my vast imagination, I can see us both being right.

Tonight my heart is heavy.  I just learned from our house sitter that one of our foster kittens is very sick, probably dying.  What happened?  I don't know.   We are away in Steamboat, taking advantage of the Labor Day weekend and the fact that I'm only 1 week into radiation and not as sick as I'm going to get.  These 4 foster kittens are only 4 weeks old.  They are the cutest sweetest little cuddles of fur we've had in a while.  I'm heart broken that one is so ill, and keep coming back to all the the things I might have done wrong.  Did I miss some symptom?  We hadn't had them long at all.  The rescue knew that we were leaving and that the house sitter would be caring for them, but perhaps I should have refused to have them while we were gone.  I know our house sitter is excellent with animals, but she shouldn't have to take on this responsibility.  She's tenderhearted and has her own sorrows.  I'm so sorry to have added any burdens to her already full load.

It's not really just about the little kitten is it?  That innocent little fur ball represents every child that's ever been hurt, every person that has suffered, and all the hideous ugly horrors that the living must daily face.  I know that.  I know it's about my cancer, the abuse I suffered as a child, the sorrow I hold in my heart for my own children watching me be ill.  I know it's about the suffering and illness my mother has suffered, and my brother in law, and my aunts.  I know it's personal, for each of us.  We all have our wounds, scars, and sorrows.  It's just that kind of a world.

How arrogant am I?  That I think I can affect any of this?  I am human.  My God Hole sees other possibilities than pain, sorrow and suffering.  My God Hole knows, not only that this will not last, but that better things are possible.  So I keep going.  I look for fun and joy.  I take my hugs when they come.  I drink a glass of wine, and enjoy the taste fresh fruit.  I play with my children.  I rescue little fluff balls. 

I'm that arrogant.

Update 9/2/12:

The kitten died.  Our house sitter rushed it to the rescue late last night, where the vet met her, but there was nothing that could be done.    The vet gave the house sitter some medicine for the other kitties, because one of them had a fever and was listless. (She also gave the feverish one extra sub-q fluids.)  This morning the house sitter texted that the 3 remaining kittens were doing well.  Sometimes there's nothing you can do, but sometimes there is. 

I'm grateful to have such an awesome house/pet sitter, that she would care so much and get herself and 4 kittens to the vet late at night.  I'm impressed with Dr. Gloria from the Fort Collins Cat Rescue, that she would give up a Sat. night to try to save the life of 8 oz. of fluff.  Having dealt with her before, I'm not surprised, just continuously in awe of her dedication and abilities.  That's one arrogant, hopeful, woman.