New Year

Jan. 3rd, 2013 12:35 am
juthwara: (Chu)
I had an upbeat post planned yesterday, about my plans for the new year and the things I thought we could pretty realistically get accomplished. And instead, my mother is in the ER tonight with a bowel obstruction (her oh-so-useful doctor this morning phoned in a medication for gas. When I have more time, I have a doozy of a rant about the various stories of my mother's medical care make me suspect that people see an elderly woman in a wheelchair and don't try as hard as they might otherwise). Her aide is with her; I am not because I am James's main food source, and a baby in the ER is not a good idea. If it had been something that could have been resolved in an evening, I wouldn't have been needed. Since she's being admitted, we will go over tomorrow morning once she's in a hospital room, away from the ER germs. This all makes perfect sense and does absolutely nothing to assuage my crippling guilt, but the fact remains, a baby in the ER is a bad idea, so here I am.

So now I'm looking at two different years: the one where my mother remains relatively stable and I keep on with my plans, and the other one, where she isn't and I need to figure out how to manage our family while possibly having to be in Michigan often. I'm rapidly starting to think that planning for crisis management is going to have to be the way to go, although I will do my best to not live as if we're in crisis mode when we're at home in Philadelphia. Non-crisis mode involves things like more exercise ([livejournal.com profile] longstrider recently got a hefty raise that we're deeply unhappy about (that's another doozy of a post all on its own), which mean we should be able to afford joining the Y), keeping up with our improved cooking habits, continuing to be more involved at church and keeping a better school schedule. Crisis mode preparations, on the other hand, involve making sure bills can get paid and the house kept together if I'm not there, coming up with child care plans, and quite probably looking for a school for Katherine. We haven't been accomplishing more than the minimum since James was born, and the "She's in first grade, it doesn't matter so much if we don't get a lot done this year" starts to wear thin as it stretches throughout second grade as well. I had plans for getting lot more done starting next week. But now I'm not sure if we're getting home next week. I think she needs a teacher less distracted and stressed than I am, and we need to be able to continue her education throughout any upheaval. I was commenting last month that we need some sort of groovy experimental school that gives her a lot of autonomy and fun projects, but is still academically rigorous. We'll see if that's possible.
juthwara: (Chu)
Last week was...quite a week, all right. I got a sinus infection (with bonus exciting lump that confused the doctor, who threw antibiotics at it!), Mr. Blinky the laptop with the exciting fainting screen finally turned up its toes and died, and then I got the call that my mother was in the hospital, had probably had a mild heart attack recently and (best of all!), probably hasn't been getting enough oxygen for a while. So when I finally saw the news on Friday, I was just done. I had no more grace for dealing with any more crap life might care to throw my way.

Now of course, life's crap isn't so bad considering that I can still hug all of my still-breathing children, but knowing that doesn't reduce the stress much. But this week has been a bit better. My sinuses are feeling better (although the lump hasn't entirely gone away, so I suppose I should trundle myself back to the doctor at some point). Although I'm pretty sure Mr. Blinky's graphics card is kaput given that we can't even get it to display to an external monitor, I was able to restore the achingly slow older laptop to a new speedy glory with a squeaky clean hard drive.

My mother is home from the hospital, but on oxygen. She was treated for several days for congestive heart failure, getting a bunch of fluid taken off of her heart. She's okay, for the moment.

I was never that worried, this time around. My stress was more that this is the third hospitalization in 8 months, and while congestive heart failure is something one can live with for a long time, hers is clearly not under control. It's about what this means for the future, and how much more future there might be, and what sort of decisions we might have to make. When I was talking to Lisa, her main aide, she said that she thought my mother has been slipping mentally, which is something I had been noticing as well. It will be worth seeing how much she improves now that she's getting enough oxygen, but it still presents a new set of issues to worry about. Somehow I hadn't worried about her not being able to handle her own affairs, since both of her parents were sharp as a tack until the end. What do I do if that's not the case anymore? I can't fly out to Michigan frequently enough to handle things. Moving her out here is something I only want to do as an absolute last resort, since the loss of her entire social life and everything familiar, not to mention Lisa, is something that would drastically reduce her quality of life.

To make everything more difficult, she's lost her voice, so it's very hard to talk to her over the phone. And since she has a hard time typing, she normally uses voice-controlled software, which means we can't really e-mail or chat online either.

Sigh. Things are okay again for the moment. We'll focus on that, and on the fact that we'll be there in a little over a week.
juthwara: (Chu)
Well! That was certainly a week and a half. No really, it's been an eventful week and a half. Although properly, it started two and a half weeks ago when I got a call from my mother on Thursday telling me she had been in the hospital since Monday.

!!!

I was in the middle of the grocery store, and while I called her back later, her phone kept cutting out, so I wasn't able to gather much more than that she had gone in for heart tests and they had decided to keep her for several days. She got out of the hospital the next day though, and seemed healthy enough to drive out to see us a week later for James's baptism.

So last weekend, my mother, her intrepid aide and my brother drove out to visit us and my aunt and uncle drove down from Connecticut as well. We don't get to see my aunt and uncle nearly enough given that we only live three hours away (thank you, weekend jobs), so we passed a lovely weekend catching up with everyone.

James was baptized on Sunday, wearing the traditional familial christening dress, now 106 years old. He was an absolute doll, allowing the minister to walk him through the congregation, smiling beatifically the entire time. He really is such a lovely, happy baby. If you're going to have a surprise third baby, I highly recommend having one like him.

My mother and brother stayed until Wednesday, so we got more of a chance to visit. And Doug and I went out to dinner alone with my mother so we could discuss various things about her health. On the whole, given that it was a conversation that largely revolved around what you could call end-of-life housekeeping, it was pretty good all things considered. It was established that yes indeed, we DID want to be called when she was in the hospital, preferably before she had been there three days. And my mother was even the one who brought it up, although my brother and I had gone in planning to talk to her about it. My mother had significant issues with her parents telling her about health crises - she learned about her mother's first heart attack through a letter written two weeks after the fact - so she's always felt pretty strongly about this sort of thing. Which is why it's been so surprising to me that this is the second time this year I haven't learned she was in the hospital until she had been there several days. We discussed making sure Doug and I both have all of the power of attorney we need (I have financial, but I'm not sure if I have health) and discussed other such cheerful topics as whether the insurance company would want any of her medical equipment back or if we needed to dispose of it. Not cheerful conversation, but necessary and good to have.

As it turns out, she was in the hospital because she's had a heart murmur her entire life, and they were doing a heart catheterization to establish what kind it is, but couldn't because there was too much pressure in her heart from fluid in her heart and lungs. So they admitted her for a few days to get rid of it and established that the heart murmur isn't a bit deal, so we only need to worry about that pesky congestive heart failure. She's not sure what her prognosis is, but as she said, it's never enjoyable to receive a diagnosis with the word "failure" in it.

Sigh. I don't feel ready for this yet. It feels like when you're dealing with a person in their late 80s or 90s who have a significant health crisis that really knocks them down and then have a series of little things for the next few years until the final big thing hits. So far this year, Mom has been in the hospital twice for her heart, once for a UTI that got out of hand and then got C. diff. Only she's only 74. It's too early for end-of-life conversations and accelerating loss of health.

So: family - good! Congestive heart failure - bad! Baptized child - cute! It was a long week but I guess that pretty much sums it up.
juthwara: (tired)
Ten years ago last Thursday, I was in our new house, still surrounded by boxes and half-done home improvements, when I got a phone call in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday. It was one of my mother's best friends, telling me that my parents had gotten in a car accident driving home from South Dakota.

Five years ago tonight, I got a phone call from my mother telling me my father had died. The end of July has historically not been kind to my family.

There's a psychologist with a weekly program on our local NPR station who's quadriplegic after a highway accident where a wheel came off of a semi and came through his windshield. He says the last thing he saw was a big black thing coming out of the sky onto him. As a psychologist, he said he's found that most people have a moment like that, where something huge comes out of the sky and changes life forever. By my mother's accident, we had been getting a steady rain of tires between dying grandparents, health problems and my father's diagnosis. But the accident was the really life changing, derailing event. I went from your typical young adult in my mid-twenties who didn't have to worry about much more than myself and my husband to giving up plans for a second Master's degree so I could take care of my parents. I don't think I have to explain what it was like to lose a beloved father to a terrible disease.

And yet, five and ten years later, life has gone on. My mother lives her life with the help of aides, and has traveled all over the world. I hate how condescending much of the language people use surrounding disability, so I recoil from adjectives like "heroic" or "inspiring," but I do admire her adventurousness and her willingness to travel despite the difficulties. Similarly, I go through my days pretty normally and spent today dealing with one kid getting over sickness, another starting to get sick and a lack of water from the water main break last night (it sent water shooting over the top of three story houses - pretty cool).

I'm not sure exactly what my point is here, except that I miss my father and I worry about my mother. Disaster rains down on us and somehow we keep limping along.

Saying good night

I miss you Dad. I wish you could have met your grandsons. They both look like you.
juthwara: (Default)
We're all going along with life at the moment, in the general round of work/school/come home/go to sleep/get up and do it all again. I felt a little badly this morning when K was so surprised that neither [livejournal.com profile] longstrider nor I was going to work today. It will be nice this summer to have both of us home all weekend to provide a little more continuity and relaxation in our schedule([livejournal.com profile] longstrider's library doesn't have Saturday hours in the summer and I'll be on maternity leave), although I suspect the tiny detail of having a newborn will cramp our style more than weekend work hours ever could.

We had a pleasant day today. [livejournal.com profile] longstrider's uncle is in town for a conference, so he came to spend the afternoon with us today. We all went to a local park and fed bread to the geese and their adorable goslings, then watched K happily run around in the sunshine. Then we came home and I set K up with warm water and lots of bubbles in the sink so she could wash her rubber duckies (mind you, the reason the duckies were being washed was that they had mold in them after spending a winter in the garage with the insufficiently washed-out wading pool, and when I told her she couldn't play with them yet because they needed to be washed, I meant with bleach. Ah well, as long as she wasn't sucking water out of them, they weren't that hazardous). I left K happily quacking at her flock of biohazard ducks while I had a nice long conversation with my mother. Quiet and pleasant all around.

We are all healthy for the moment, although I am studiously ignoring a suspiciously sore throat and drippy nose in the hopes that the Christian Scientist approach of keeping my thoughts on higher plains will do more for preventing disease than anything else we've tried (mostly cursing and complaining a lot, which I guess is the approach of keeping our thoughts on lower planes).

I am still thoroughly bitten by a swarm of sewing bugs. Hopefully this week I can get some pictures up to show the mildly insane scope of it all.
juthwara: (Default)
* We have achieved pee in the toilet! On K's part that is. [livejournal.com profile] longstrider and I both have quite good aim in that regard, thank you. And she sat on the toilet completely of her own volition, and would have completely forgotten about the chocolate if I hadn't decided that success deserved a reward and gave it to her. I think I'll try putting her in a dress tomorrow or Thursday and try going bottomless for the afternoon.

More tedious updates on my child's bladder as events warrant.

* My mother put a downpayment on a condo last week. Eesh - we went from "thinking about it but it's probably a ways off" to "downpayment" awfully quickly. But she can afford the condo and the house at the same time and I'm sure it will be easier to get work done on the house if she's not living in it.

The condo isn't finished yet, which is a big advantage because she'll be able to get it customized for her needs. All of the units are accessible, but she'll be able to get things like an accessible shower and a bathroom sink and counters that she can get her chair under. She's thinking about a move date some time in June. My brother and I are starting to make plans to go up after Acen in May to help get the rest of our stuff out and take other things she might be giving away.

There are a hundred logical reasons why this is a good idea, which I keep telling myself. Because I can't deny that losing my chldhood home less than a year after losing my father doesn't sting a bit. Like I said before, I'm a grownup, so I'll support her in this. But it's still a bit emotional.

* The dressmaking has been going gangbusters. Each one takes about 20 minutes, making it just possibly the most addictive sewing project ever. I've branched out a bit - instead of using t-shirts for the entire dress, I'm using a toddler t-shirt for the top and went to the fabric store for some cute cotton prints for the skirt. Cute cotton prints are cheap to begin with and you only need half a yard for a skirt for a toddler. So now K has a fishy dress, a dragonfly dress and a dinosaur dress. I'm particularly pleased with how the dinosaur dress turned out. I found a nice shirt with embroidered dinosaurs at Target and then lucked into a dinosaur print for the skirt that matched the dinosaurs on the skirt remarkably well. Approximately twenty minutes and four seams later:
Dino dress! )
juthwara: (Default)
I got K a book the other night which has a two-piece jigsaw puzzle on each page. She's been ready for puzzles more complicated than one piece for a while, but it seems like most puzzles seem to leap from one piece directly up to eight, and I don't think she's quite ready for that (although she's doing incredibly well with shape matching these days, so she might be up to it). So this book seemed like a nice intermediate step.

It's a big hit. She'll go through and pull out all the pieces, and then pick up a piece, open the book and say, "Does it go here? Noooooo. Here? YES!"

And then you hear the thud of her parents dying of cute.

*****

I talked to my mother the other night and learned two things:

1. My cousin is getting married in Colorado this July, so she suggested that my brother and I go out with her. It's blowing my mind a bit, that the cousin who was a tiny baby at our family reunion in 1984 is getting married. Isn't she still a baby?

I'm looking forward to seeing that side of the family. I haven't seen most of them since, lordy, 2001. I'll get to see my favorite great aunt, Aunt Doris, who is just about the nicest great-aunt ever. She's 90 and still going strong. I'm looking forward to introducing K to her.

Part of why we're all going out is so we can spread Dad's ashes. He spent part of his growing up years in Colorado and he's always loved the mountains there. My uncle will be able to join us as well if we do it there. He said that he should be able to find us a back road to some out of the way place where we can scatter the ashes without running afoul of the law. The thought of going someplace like Estes Park is nice, but we don't want some friendly ranger wandering up to find out what we're doing.

"Oh, just spreading human remains, sir!"
"Yes, this is my husband. We're throwing him off a cliff."

2. My mother is contemplating buying a condo. It makes sense. One person doesn't really need a five bedroom house, especially since she can't get into half of it. She wouldn't have to worry about hiring people to plow in the winter and take care of the yard in the summer.

I can't say it's not a wrench to think about losing my childhood home, though. And the thought of shoveling out that basement - ai-yi-yi. Pardon me while I curl up in the fetal position here for a while. Thank goodness my brother and I have been progressively working over the years to chip away at Stuff Mountain when we're home for the holidays.

I'd like to pout about this, but it turns out I'm too mature to demand that my mother stay in a house that's too big for her just for my sake. Adulthood is inconvenient sometimes.

*****

I have to say this very quietly, in case K hears me and decides to never sleep again in a fit of toddler contrariness: bedtime hasn't been too bad for the past several days. Friday, K fell asleep early, woke up around ten and stayed awake for a while, but was clearly sleepy and content to stay in bed until she drifted back off on her own. Last night, she played quietly in her room after I put her down and was asleep by 9:30, then proceeded to sleep until nearly 9 this morning. Tonight, well, she was still awake when I went upstairs 20 minutes ago. But she's quiet and in her room. I really can't ask for anything more.

Do I dare hope that the nighttime chaos is coming to an end? Or have I just cursed us to seven more years of bad sleep?

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juthwara

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