Today was the end of the second session of swim lessons for the kids. There won't be any more swim lessons this year for us. They went for 4 weeks, 4 times a week.
Rico started at level one and is now in level 3. He showed amazing progress in just those few weeks.
Marielle found out today that she is now level 4!! This is a great leap! It's the hardest level up, because you go from beginning swimmer to intermediate. She says it scares her to be level 4, but it doesn't scare me...I've seen her in the water and she's doing great.
At level 1 and 2 they introduce the crawl and backstroke. At level 3, they learn side breathing on the crawl and the start of the butterfly and breast stroke.
Marielle is like a fish in the water. She loves it, she can't get enough of it. For the past 2 summers, she's taken swim lessons and now she thinks she can swim like Michael Phelps. Now, don't get me wrong, she's doing quite well but just not as well as she thinks she is doing.
Rico, on the other hand, has never been really fond of the water. We enrolled him in swim lessons 2 years ago....he hung on the side of the pool, wouldn't let go and cried in a very loud voice, "I'm gonna DIE!!!" Ok, so I gave him a bye. But, I told him that when he was 6, he had to take lessons.
I really feel that swimming is a life skill. It's too important a skill not to know how to do. Especially out here in California, where there are pools and beaches.
So, this summer he started lessons. Right off the bat, I could see that he was doing everything they asked him. The first day, after class, when I complimented him on this, he said, "Mom, I have to do what the teacher tells me". Ah, yes, I forgot about this. Rico is a stickler for following teacher's instructions. He saw the swim instructor as another teacher and did what he was told to do. He's surprisingly good. He went from level 1 to level 2 in 2 weeks and is doing really well mastering the timing of the crawl.
If he keeps up this pace, he might just catch his sister in swimming abilities.
The other morning, the kids were at it. You know those mornings...one or the other running to me..."He pushed me", "She has my toy", "He shoved me". Well, I had had it. I was up to here with all that. I gave them both a warning, play together nice or don't play at all. If they couldn't play nice, then they'd each go to their own room to play.
Not 5 minutes later, Marielle comes in and before she can say anything, I jump on her, "I told you that you 2 had to play nice, really, can't you play nice for 5 minutes?". She holds out her hand and says, "Rico lost another tooth! He pulled it out himself!"
Now I felt one inch big and said, "Wow, great!"
He's now lost 8 teeth, 4 of them in the last 6 weeks or so. His top baby teeth are outta there! He does have one of his front top teeth coming in now.
But, I have to say, I outdid myself as tooth fairy. I decided to do something new.....I wrote a note (on the computer) from the tooth fairy. It said that although the tooth is lovely, she had more than enough teeth at the moment and he could keep this one. Then I added the money, some "fairy dust" (glitter) and put the envelope back under Rico's pillow.
He was thrilled and amazed in the morning....imagine getting money, a note and getting to keep your tooth!
When we bought our house, six years ago, there was a plum tree at the end of the yard. It gave up some plums and they were good plums, too. Plums that you don't often see in supermarkets around here...they type with purple skin and red meat.
Well, this tree was at least 20 years old and hadn't been trimmed in a long time, so come winter, I had Ralph cut it back. We cut it back pretty severely, but it needed it. The next year, we got some plums, not a huge amount, but it was growing back in, filling in with new shoots for all the trimming we'd done.
But the following year, oh, that year, we had a bonanza of plums! We ate our fill, gave bags and bags away and still had more. It's been like that ever since. This year, once again, we have a bumper crop. Our one plum tree has produced hundreds of plums!
Now, our tree is 100% organic. I feed it nothing.....nothing! I just gets water and sunshine, that's it. We never use pesticides of any kind in the back yard, not with kids and dogs and cats hanging out there, we couldn't even think about it.
I already invited one neighbor to come and take as much as he wanted and he took about 25 lbs with him. What to do with all these plums???
Well, since we'd just canned a few months ago, I called up my friend, Ruth, and asked her if she were interested in doing another canning session. Luckily, she was. We canned some awesome plum jam. It looks so pretty, because the meat of the fruit is red, it has that really purple plum look to it:
Since we just canned not that long ago, we had a routine down pat and it went really well. We were able to can 2 batches in 4 hours.
I love the idea, that, come winter, I'll have a little bit of summer around to taste!
So, Ralph got a job! That's the upside, the downside is that it is in West Virginia. So, he's off again, he started today. The kids were sad to see him go, but they are so used to Daddy being gone when he's working, they think that's the norm.
One of these days, he'll have a job where he can actually come home from work every night and the kids will think that's strange!
We had a fun 4th of July....running in the sprinklers, making floats, watching fireworks (illegal) in the night sky around our house. Really, there is no reason to go anywhere to watch fireworks, there were at least 4 illegal shows going on around us. The only problem was which way to look at any given time. These were high in the sky professional type fireworks.
After about an hour or so, the kids actually were getting scared, the booming was getting to them, so in we came and they snuggled up in my room and fell asleep.
Often, stories get forwarded to me, stories about cancer kids, cancer survivors. We virtually know lots of parents of kids who have cancer. Most of the stories are nice, interesting. Every now and then, one just touches my heart. Here is one that touched my heart. It's a speech given by a mom of a child with cancer. She's talking about how us, "cancer moms", moms of kids with cancer, are quiet heroes. I don't consider myself a hero. I did what I had to do. Any mom, of any child who has been diagnosed with cancer, does exactly that...what they have to do to make their child's life as "good" as possible, while they fight the disease.
I never thought that we'd keep on fighting, though, long after Marielle was cancer free...but I've learned that it's the norm. Many kids suffer life long effects from the chemotherapy. But it's a trade off you make willingly....it's not a good trade off, but what can you do? Your options are your child's life or possible long term effects. So you choose what you must choose.
This story is real. The good, the bad, the ugly. But most of all the hope that lives on. And Hope does live on.... warning have your tissues ready.
Well, I'm 7 weeks out now and I have to tell you that the recovery has been much slower than I expected. I really felt that I'd be back to 100% in less time than they say is needed for recovery. Boy, was I wrong! I am getting stronger every day, but still am nowhere near 100%. I walk every day, strengthening my legs, but boy do I tire easily!
That said, I have made some "field trips" over the last week. Ralph said, 'I could see the cabin fever burning in your eyes". It was true. I was so tired of being at home. So, I went to Home Depot to the garden dept. last weekend. True, I didn't stay long, I knew what I wanted, but I did go and even stood in line at the check out! (Standing for any length of time is still tough.)
I went out to dinner on Thursday night (first time out at a restaurant since the surgery) and last night went for girl's bingo night at a friend's house. So, I finally am working back into having a life!
I saw the surgeon today. They took x-rays and it was very cool to see the x-ray of my hip. I feel so bionic now!
He is pleased with my progress. All restrictions are lifted, though he did give advice on what would not be smart to do (certain flexing to the outside of the hip).
Up until now, post op, I've had to sleep on my back with a wedge between my legs. This was hard! It meant I couldn't move around in my sleep and I'd wake up with a really stiff back. I actually had numbness in the non-op leg because L-3 was getting pinched from the way I was sleeping. Well, tonight I get to lie on my side again!!!! Yippeeeeee!!!
I'll start doing pool therapy next week, which will really help. We've had a lot of rainy days and I'm very cautious (scared of falling) walking outdoors in the rain. I did walk 100 yards the other day when it was sunny (that's the whole length of a football field) without stopping. I thought that was pretty cool.
The biggest thing now is getting strength and stamina back. One thing that he mentioned is that when you have arthritis, you baby that leg and so the muscles atrophy (and he said you'd be surprised how quickly they do). So now, I am back to walking normally and have to get those muscles back in shape.
Overall, I was very happy with my progress and he was, too. Just got to get to work now on getting strong again.
To be able to walk longer distances without the walker.
For some real spring weather. I need to get my garden in. I can't remember the last time I didn't have my garden planted before my birthday. (This wish goes hand in hand with wishing for some normal spring weather, not this wet, cold stuff we've been having.)
That Ralph will find a real job...a permanent, full time job with benefits.
Well, I'm moving right along with my recovery. I went to the kids school yesterday. Rico had an IEP meeting. I wanted to go to show that, no matter what, when it's my child's education that is involved, I would be there.
It was nice to see the school staff. The meeting went well. Rico has his IEP for speech only, so it was just a matter of talking about goals and setting them up for the next year. By the way, his speech has improved tremendously. When he first went into speech, a little over 3 years ago, he could only say 18 out of 88 sounds tested. Now he only needs work with a few sounds.
I did pay the price for all the walking, though. I had to walk from the car to the office to sign in, then down 2 halls to get to the meeting. Later in the day I was wiped out, and slept for a good 3 hours.
So, on March 4th, I had hip replacement surgery on my left hip. That's a little over 2 weeks ago now.
I was in the hospital for 6 days, mostly because they couldn't get their act together to get me transferred to a Skilled Nursing Facility. I should have transferred on Monday, but the hospital sent all the records to the wrong insurance company and didn't realize it until Tuesday, at which point they had to start from scratch. I just got tired of it and Wed morning I decided I was going home...enough of hospitals or any type of facility.
The docs said I had to walk 50 feet and do stairs. Heck I would have jumped if that's what it took. So I did my walking and my stairs, got the ok and came home.
Coming home, I didn't have a lot of energy, strength or stamina. It was hard just to get around the house the first few days. But day by day, I found myself becoming stronger and getting my stamina back.
Overall, I think the recovery is going well. I was outside yesterday (14 days post op) walking with the walker in front of the house. I'm up almost all day now and just feel better every day.
I'm really glad I did the surgery. The hip pain is 100% gone, now I just have the pain related to healing and that's much less than the pain I had before.
We took off Wednesday, after school let out and headed down to southern California... The kids played hookie on Thursday and Friday and we visited "the happiest place on earth". It was a blast! The weather was great on Thursday and Friday. They were predicting a "major storm" for Saturday.
Saturday, it rained for about 5 minutes, kind of a downpour and then was dry for 4 hours....that's a major storm??? The great news was...no lines! The rain kept people away and you could come off a ride and go right back on. Even the "Fastpass" was turned off on all the rides...why fastpass when you can go right on?
We had a great time and drove back yesterday...now back to the real world.
We had a meeting to update Marielle's 504 this week. I think it went pretty well. The school psychologist began so upbeat, "Marielle has improved in all areas, isn't that great?!. Yes, she did improve, but her improvement was much less than her peers. She has fallen from "low average" to "below average". I knew this would happen, I could see it happening, but they won't give services until a child is really far behind. It's very frustrating.
Now, let me say, that I've been working with Marielle at home every day over the last 4 months. This kid works. I mean she works so hard, so much harder than a "normal" kid. Her processing speed is very slow. That means it takes her brain longer to figure out things, then make the plan to write it on the paper, then actually execute what she is going to do...write it down.
To give you an idea....Rico gets a packet of homework for the week. He can complete the entire week's homework in the time it takes Marielle to do one day of homework and that's reduced homework because that was already in place on her last 504.
I have to be very supportive and patient or she will become frustrated with herself.
The good news is that she is more confident and has stopped saying things like "I'm stupid" and "I'm dumb". That's a huge step forward.
Her teacher made the comment that she would not have fallen behind her peers, had she done the homework like them. I mustered all the politeness I could and said, "Marielle is doing an hour of homework a day. She spends 40 minutes doing math and spelling and another 20 minutes reading to me. That's already too much for a second grader, I will not add more burden to her". I think the teacher was taken aback. Good. She really does not realize the homework burden Marielle is carrying.
Ralph and I have talked about getting tutor but honestly, this kid would burn out so quick, adding more home work to the mix. So we'll wait until summer and have her tutored over the summer.
Anyway, back to the meeting. They wanted to put her in Headsprout, a computer learning session. The kids sit at the computer and what's on the computer for 45 minutes. It's a 1 adult to 10 children ratio. I said absolutely not. First off, I've volunteered in Rico's class and know how it goes. It's great for Rico, he loves to read and he sits and read and reads and reads. But for the kids who aren't into reading, well, they look around, get up, talk to other kids, etc. When I volunteered, one of the things I did was constantly say, "Turn around and read your screen, please", "Sit down and read, please".
In a situation like this, Marielle would sit and look at the screen, do nothing and at the end of 45 minutes, have gotten nothing out of it. See, she's not disruptive. She just sits and looks like she's doing her work. Then, when you ask her to turn in her paper, she's done 2 math problems in a half an hour. She won't ask for help, she doesn't look around or get up, she just sits quietly and does nothing. In Headsprout, she'd just get overlooked.
So I asked them what alternatives were available. There is another program called "Early Success" where the ratio is 2 to 1 and they use this specific reading program. It was decided that Marielle would participate 4 days a week, 30 minutes a day. The other good thing about this is that Marielle will be in her classroom for their regular reading session. (With Headsprout, she would have been pulled out at the time the regular classroom reading would occur.) So she'll get a double dose of reading.
I think this is really important, because part of her math problems stem from the fact that they are doing word problems...can't read the words, can't get the answer correctly.
We also put into place accommodations for Marielle for the state tests that are coming up. She will be tested in a small group, may have as many breaks as she needs or asks for, she will have extended time for taking tests and will have repetition of directions.
All in all, I think it was a good meeting. I still don't think that the team realizes that Marielle is sweet, gets along, doesn't disrupt the class, but often sits confused and does nothing. Her teacher did say that she noticed this happening...but what is being done so that this doesn't happen??? Nothing. Marielle won't ask for help, she needs to be prodded. She's shy by nature, add to that the slow processing speed and by the time she realizes she needs help, things have moved on and there is a big, blank void.
It's very frustrating. I wish I had the skills to help her but I don't. We are doing all we can do at home, with reading, math, talking about tricks with math, etc. but it's so hard to see her falling behind still.
Ralph called this afternoon. He has been laid off. No reason given. His contract was at will, so they can let him go for no reason.
The good news is he'll be coming home. The bad news is that he's unemployed.....again.
He called back later and told me there was a ferry leaving tomorrow and he'll be on it. It will get him to Prince Rupert, Canada on Friday night. Looks like he'll be home next Wednesday, maybe....might be Thursday, depending on driving conditions (snow and ice) and how long it takes.
I was shocked. Of course, it always happens when you are frazzled already. We had tight schedule...Rico and I got a haircut then we came home and the kids showered. They were just out of the shower when he called. We had a PTA meeting and I was trying to get homework done and dinner going when he called. I didn't say anything to the kids but my mind was spinning.
Our biggest concern is insurance. We actually did continue our COBRA, even though the new insurance was supposed to be effective Jan 1st. The company kept blowing Ralph off and I just had this gut feeling and so paid the premium, thank God. But we are almost out of coverage. I told Ralph that I wondered if they fired him because of the insurance. We had a 3 month wait and were supposed to be effective Jan 1. But they are a really small company, around 30 employees and with the history of a child with cancer, I knew that their premiums would take a big hit. I told Ralph that I wonder if they got the notice that their premiums would skyrocket and so just decided to terminate him. I told him that when he went in to get his final paycheck tomorrow, ask for the insurance card and see what they say. My money is on them saying that the paperwork didn't get in or something like that and that the insurance never went into effect. Want to make a bet on it?
The kids, of course, were over the moon happy. I waited until we were on my bed, snuggling in before bedtime and asked them, "If you had one wish, what would you wish for?" Both answered that they wanted Daddy home for good, not just for a visit. Then I said, "Well, your wish is about to become true!" They were jumping up and down with happiness.
I've decided that everything happens for a reason and there must be some reason here....so I'll hold on and trust in the future...that it will be a good future for us.
We drove Ralph off to the airport today...he flew back to work in Alaska. The kids cried all the way home from the airport. I don't blame them, the visit seemed to go by so quickly. I did the best thing I could think of to get their mind off daddy...broke out the chocolate!
Stay at home mom, doing her best, day to day, raising 2 kids, with a husband who is working 2500 miles away. I like to save money and want to share my tips with you, along with a bit of our daily life.