Thursday, July 24, 2014


Today I stay home, do laundry, entertain the children, and refuse to worry. We will stay home because sometime today Teksavvy is supposed to come and do something or other to the phone or possibly the internet. I am not sure, but I have instructions to stay put.

My parents were not keen on the retirement home we visited yesterday, but I refuse to spend today convulsed with anxiety. We have friends coming over for dinner and I have a quiet day planned, full of the girls in their new play kitchen and the boys running in the back yard. Oh, and trying to figure out what all the stuff in my fridge is. So, busy, but NOT FULL OF WORRY.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I would be more together this morning

If Elizabeth hadn't had two screaming tantrums at three and four a.m. respectively. And I would fear going outside less if it wasn't a high of 37C. By the time we get back from the farmers' market I am going to be dripping and cranky mama.

Tonight I am going to tell my parents that I have found a retirement home close to their house, and that I think they should move in in September. There are all sorts of things to worry about with this- if they'll say yes, how they'll adjust, if Mum will deteriorate more once she's there (the home only takes people who are somewhat able to manage) but if I can get them in a settled and relatively happy it will be a huge weight off my mind having them in a place where a lot of the chores are done and they have more community.

We've (Geoff and I, my aunt, our friend Jocelyn) also discussed moving into their house and paying rent to them to help defray the cost. I profoundly don't want to move- I love our neighbourhood and I love our house. Well, I mostly love our house, except for the terribly designed kitchen and creaky stairs. But if we lived there we could help them financially, and they would have freedom to come visit. So there are pluses, but the idea of leaving our home and moving back into my childhood home (which will need LOTS OF FIXING UP) makes my stomach drop a lot.

To compensate for stress I am re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring, which i haven't read in ten years. Ten years ago I had it all pretty much memorized and gave up on re-reading because I couldn't see the words on the page through my memories of previous reads. This time there are things I've forgotten, and it feels both familiar and new.

Yesterday Nat and I went to his clinic, and Geoff's stepmom came in and then took us out for lunch to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant, in the heart of Chinatown. It was a good clinic visit and a lovely lunch, and all along the street in Chinatown little old ladies and gentlemen had set up a box or a couple of crate and had bunches of mint or cilantro or purslane or amaranth to sell. I want to go back and get pictures. It was so cool. I used to hang out around there all the time, twenty years ago, and it's thrilling to introduce my children to the more interesting parts of our city.
Nat on art

Nat and giant sculpture at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Versus the mango shake

Exotic fruit brought home for the family!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Thomas definitely recognizes some letters and has been playing dumb. I need to sit with him for five minutes a day and guide him through some phonics on Starfall. He recognized a couple of words after he's seen them once or twice. Pattern exposure and computer time for the win!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: dementia and cleaning edition

1. There's a fruit fly infestation in the kitchen right now, which is gross. I should be cleaning it, but the house is quiet, with Nathaniel and Geoff over taking care of our neighbour's cats and three of the kids in bed. So I'm blogging as a way to process.

2. This morning we watched Weird Al's new video Foil and then the Walk Off the Earth version we're familiar with, and since we were off and running I tried to explain what a parody was and I didn't have a lot of success.

We followed it with the kids' favourite Les Mis parody, One Grain More:

For tomorrow, or when Nat gets back from cat visitation, a parody is an imitation of a style of a particular artist, usually with exaggeration for comic effect. So, fine.

3. Today was the first day without my mother-in-law (hi, Marjorie!). She was here for a week to help while I went to many appointments and tried to process what I should do about my parents. Mum had a geriatric psych appointment on Wednesday, I looked at a retirement home and a long term care facility yesterday, and I am reading The Thirty-Six Hour Day about caring for people with Alzheimer's and feeling pretty deep grief. It's hard to make myself do the necessary research because I am so sad about my mother's decline, and so swamped in small children and general demands. So it was marvelous having my mother-in-law here, and it was also marvelous having my step-mother-in-law go with me to the homes and show me what to look for. It's still so very hard to make decisions about what is best for them, because I am terrified of being wrong and hastening their decline, but I am also terrified of them staying home and becoming more and more anxious and isolated.

4. So I tried to take today mostly off, and did some homeschool planning. A little. I also announced to Nathaniel that as of August we're going to do up to half an hour of school a day. Last year it was about ten minutes a day plus the whole Education is an Atmosphere thing. I've been looking at Memoria Press (can't afford) and the Ambleside Online curriculum, and I think Nat is about at a late grade one/early grade two level, so that's what I'm going to plan for. We're going to have a spine of math and reading, maybe add copywork, and then continue with the myth reading, history, and sciences. It's all very loose but I have firm goals for the year that I'm going to visit over and over. I'm pretty confident, since last year we surpassed all the goals and it was pretty much the Worst Winter Ever.For Thomas, I'll see if he can start The Reading Lesson, but if he's not ready I won't push. He's asking about letters and can count to ten, so that's pretty good for four years.

5. Thomas continues to have a deep interior life of mostly planning picnics. He is the most hospitality-minded, physical, caring of our children. He wants to take care of people, and he is going to do it by force-feeding everyone and hugging them into submission. If Nat makes a Lego machine it's a destruct-inator. If Thomas makes a lego machine it's a sandwich-inator. It's so cute and they're so different.

6. I have promised to teach Nat to cook. I haven't told Geoff. Geoff is going to die of stress, but Nat likes making things, and I want him to be independent. He's six and a half and I trust him to use the microwave with supervision and to fetch and carry, so I think he can learn to prep vegetables to steam and set up the crock pot. I think this will be a big win after I've done some teaching.

7. This past week wasn't a bare minimum week because I had my mother-in-law. Right now I feel like I can just about cope with the minimum of food, outside time, video time, lego, drawing, and occasionally reading books aloud. Because trying to make decisions about how to deal with Mum's Alzheimer's and Dad's Parkinson's and agonizing about decisions and the change in relationship and everything makes me want to lie down in a dark room and not be bothered, and then it makes me feel selfish for wanting it. So I am praying and breathing and cuddling my toddlers and talking to Nat about weird physics and managing his blood sugar and breathing. And thinking about the inescapable reality of suffering.

Kids changing

I wish Miriam could pronounce Shrek. She can't say Shr. Or "Eh". So it comes out as a common expletive starting with F. A couple of days ago she said "Donkey Shrek", except not, and Geoff and Marjorie and I all died laughing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zoo trip

On Monday, Geoff's Mom (Marjorie) and our neighbour and his daughter and me and all the children went to the zoo. Whew. Marjorie drove the girls, and Kevin and I took the three older kids on the subway. It's an hour trip on transit and only forty minutes by car. Long. We had a fabulous time, there was only one meltdown (by Nat), and we saw thousands of animals and walked for three or four hours. Still lots to see, so another trip is being planned soon.
Kevin and girls at the entrance, ready to go

Nat, Madeleine, and macaques

Metal orangutan


Elizabeth wants to cuddle the tiger

No, Elizabeth

Mim versus rocks

Elizabeth versus rocks

Lunch plus peacock

Thomas and his Ummi


Penguin feeding time!

Thomas ascendent! A climbable zoo truck

Madeleine trying to organize the boys for a picture

The girls are fatter

Miriam has gained 900g and Elizabeth 1.5kg. This is good. They're still about the size of one-year-olds, though, so we keep on with the  all butter and cream and cheese diet for the forseeable future. Yay. More peanut butter on a spoon for everyone. The doctor asked how I kept the boys out of the girls' high-fat snacks, and I said blankly, "I don't." Then I thought about it for a moment and said, "All of my children are really skinny and the boys never ever stop moving. I am not even a little concerned about obesity."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The cavalry are here

Geff's mum got here on Friday, and my cousin (in from Vancouver) came over yesterday and announced that his only commitment is to go to the gym every other day, so put him to work, please. In the last few days we have bought, returned, bought, returned, and finally installed a TV for my parents, done two huge grocery runs, gotten lots of prepared food for Mum and Dad, organized the basement and decided to throw most of our stockpile of ugly broken furniture out (glory hallelujah!), and yesterday took all four children plus Nat's friend Madeleine and her dad to the zoo.

That was badly written. Okay, yesterday Geoff's mum Marjorie, Kevin, and I, took Kevin's daughter Madeleine and all four of our munchkins to the zoo. The zoo is an hour away by transit- Marjorie drove the girls. It was glorious. There were small meltdowns but the weather was perfect, not too hot, and we were there and trekking from ten-thirty till three. Thomas didn't try to hug any peacocks, we saw the penguins being fed, and I will remember forever Miriam sitting in front of a huge fish tank, in her stroller, opening her arms wide and saying, "I love ALL the fishies!". Elizabeth was apoplectic with excitement about the turtles.

Nat and Thomas and Madeleine were a pack, running about fifteen yards ahead at all times.

It was wonderful.

Today was going to be farmer's market, but the rain is pouring down, so we'll stay home this morning, and in the afternoon I take the girls to be weighed. Tomorrow is Mum's geriatric psych appointment, and we'll see if Geoff can drive them and if we can meet Tyson for lunch, to reintroduce him to my parents.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I will be polite about my children

And not call them less than worthwhile just because they're very very picky and annoying. Geoff is right. I will not call them less worthwhile for not eating anything, but I will continue to be very annoyed by them.

This week has been completely emotionally hideous, with Tuesday spent mostly crying and trying to fix things for my mother and with banking, and then with large numbers of chocolate eclairs and Sherlock.
This made things a little better
My parents are not doing better and I am basically a giant ball of stress and grieving. But in spite of this there have been lovely moments, with huge support and amazing things like Alicia and Richard and the kids driving in yesterday to bring dinner, play with children, and clean the whole ground floor while I followed Alicia around and told her how hideous my life is. There's some irony in that, because how can my life be hideous if we have friends like these?

In spite of the enormous amount of screen time and random play the kids have been doing, and the lack of reading because of me not being able to talk for a few days, we've had a large number of very short but good Teachable Moment things- gathering wild plants with Nat, talking with Nat and Thomas about the names of the days of the week and the Roman and Norse gods, reading some poetry aloud. Outside time. Lots of lego and some math and looking up how to draw transformers and what echnoderms are, again. Talking about yak butter tea. Weird stuff springboarded off life.

On Friday my MiL arrives to help with a thousand thousand chores and appointments and research, and on Saturday one of my cousins flies in to float from house to house for the summer and provide help with taking care of my parents and also to enjoy Toronto. And my mother, even in anger and confusion at knowing her mind is going, tells me that she will pray and try to be at peace with what God wants for her.

So I am grateful, and crying, again.

ETA: comments are very welcome if you can think of something to say.