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.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

I hate fruit flies. Dom hates the smell of vinegar and we don't have lots of surfaces where i can put a jar of it and not have it knocked over. nothing worse than having a jar full of smelly vinegar and dead fruit flies spill all over your counter.

A parody can also be of a particular work. A parody specifically of The Canterbury Tales and not just Chaucer in general.

I just remembered. A few years ago I read a memoir by a woman who was a neuroscientist whose mother had Alzheimers. It was interesting because she'd also just become a mom herself and she weaves in the discoveries of motherhood, the decline of her own mother, her understanding of the baby's neurological development and the corresponding neurological decline of her mother. If you're interested I could find it and send it to you.

I think your homeschooling plans sound reasonable. I think mine sound reasonable too, but I can never work everything in even so. Such is the chaos of real life with toddlers.

I'm fascinated by the contrasts between Nat and Thomas. I'm still trying to figure out my boys, they are so overshadowed by Bella and Sophie sometimes I think I hardly see them at all. But maybe that's just midnight pessimism speaking.

Everyone seems to be teaching cooking. I want to, but Bella is not the easiest student. I think I'm going to wait until I can teach Bella, Sophie, and Ben all at once. Because when they are older I'll trust Sophie and Ben more than Bella. They won't be so distractable. I hate to say it, but I spend much of my time biding my time until Sophie and Ben are old enough to be responsible. I know Bella will get there eventually, but I also see that she's going to be on a slower timetable for a lot of things. Her attention wanders so much.

I dont' think it's selfish to be overwhlemed by your parents' decline. And by grief and the weight of all those decisions and responsibilities. Not selfish at all. Just human. With limits to what you can bear.

I wish I could come over and help out, even just meet up for a playdate. Sending hugs and prayers your way.

lissla lissar said...

I also hate fruit flies. I get a little obsessive about them. If Dom hates vinegar, I've found that wine works nicely. Cheap wine, obviously. I have three traps with a chardonnay/chenin mix on the counter and they're filling up with flies.

I read a really annoying but informative novel about Alzheimer's last year, called Still Alice, about a Harvard scientist in a pretty bad marriage who has dementia. The author was at great pains to make their life look deeply intellectual and luxe, but it came off as full of broken or damaged relationships and catty. Still was informative, though.

I haven't actually STARTED with Nat yet, although I trust him to put shredded cheese on nachos and put them in the microwave. I guess that's the first step. It must be hard for Bella with Sophie being so much more academic and better at focus.

I think none of my children are really overshadowed- they all have these big and distinct personalities. If anyone puts the rest in the shade it would be Nat, because he's so strong-willed, high energy, and so deeply into whatever he's into at the moment. Thomas gets his share of attention by being the cuddly affectionate emotionally aware one. It's hard to remember not to treat him like a teddy bear or a koala or something. And the girls get tons of attention because they're twins and very cute, but Miriam so far has the stronger personality- she has amazing intense focus and she's reserved but you can FEEL her concentrating on tasks. Elizabeth is a clown and a people person and very affectionate, and they both have great senses of humour- Miriam's a wry and ironic little person already.

I know intellectually it's reasonable to be overwhelmed, I'm just playing stupid mind games with myself. I do the same thing when I get sick- I second-guess myself and ask whether I'm just being lazy or if I'm actually sick, until I get to the point where I collapse. I just wish I had a useful stress reaction like cleaning everything instead of wanting to lie in a dark room being left alone, because I've noticed that's an invitation for all the children to jump on me.

lissla lissar said...

And thank you for the cyber-hugs and the continuing prayers. Very much.

Judith Cooke said...

Oh Kyra, sending cyber hugs too, and looking forward to connecting for real this week! We come home tomorrow....
And my usual fruitfly trap is a piece of banana in a jar with plastic wrap over top, holes poked in it....and I just discovered accidentally that smoothie left out also works well!

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I think Sophie and Bella actually balance each other quite well. Sophie is much better at the 3 Rs and focus on written work; but Bella far outpaces Sophie with her knowledge of history, science, etc. Bella has a keen memory and that makes up for an awful lot with the lack of reading and writing. So far I think Bella is aware that Sophie is reading better than she is, but I don't think she feels overshadowed. She's just as happy staring at pictures of animals or at the creatures themselves. She can identify most plants and animals she meets in our yard and if she can't then she knows how to look them up. She recalls details of books we read more than a year ago. Sophie on the other hand doesn't have that thirst for knowledge and hunger for information. She's quite content to just roll along her merry way. I think Bella has the heart of a scholar while Sophie is.... I don't know a people person?

lissla lissar said...

Sophie and Thomas would get along splendidly, I think. And Nat and Bella, if Nat didn't bowl her over with enthusiasm.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I think Bella can handle enthusiasm pretty well.

lissla lissar said...

Great. Then all we need is for a visit to happen. You and Theresa could bring them here for a road trip? Except you just survived a road trip.