Saturday, August 18, 2012

Going to the doctor

A strange week, this was. I don’t get sick much, and I don’t go to the doctor unless I have to. Over the years, we’ve met some alright doctors, even one or two really good ones, but we’ve also been treated by several doctors that proved quite incompetent. I therefore tend to approach any healthcare taker with great distrust, and only consult one if I really can’t diagnose or remedy a health-related problem by myself.

Like this week: I had some out-of-the-ordinary problems early this week that didn’t seem to resolve on their own, and that I figured required technical analysis, so I made an appointment with a family doctor at the clinic on Thursday, early afternoon. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any of the equipment needed to analyze my initial complaint, so she sent me over to the ER. I figured this was all right – some blood work, analysis, etc. and I would be home in time to make dinner – right? This is where it all went downhill. After three different doctors and one nurse checked my blood pressure probably six times, they decided I had to be admitted and put on an IV with blood-pressure lowering medication. “An IV?! But I just wanted you to check something.” I felt helpless. In the past, I’ve had issued with blood pressure, but whenever I met an actual cardiologist, I was always advised that the best course of treatment was diet control, weight loss, exercise and life style adjustments. Now suddenly all these ER doctors want to put me on medication, starting with an IV-injection? Add to this, that Lebanon isn’t exactly known for promoting natural health care, but rather has one of the most invasive and aggressive approaches. Was this a symptom of such an approach? Were they overreacting?

I could have gone home, I guess, but the doctors were quite convincing, and practically scared me into staying, telling me I would have a seizure if I left the hospital untreated. So, after eight hours of laying on a bed in the ER with an IV in my arm, and many, many blood pressure controls later, I was allowed to go home, equipped with a prescription, and not sure what to make of anything.

This whole incident took up three whole days of this week – three, THREE, days that I was supposed to spend on getting us all set up for the new school year. (Actually four days, if you count the next day, which I had to spend delegating and performing cleaning assignments in an attempt to sort out the complete disaster that resulted from my four guys spending half a day in the house without me. How do they do it?!) So, instead of ‘school preparations+beach+work=productive week’, I got ‘a bunch of wasted time+beach+work=not so productive week’, and worst of all, no inspiring, pretty pictures, or exciting blog posts to share about the start of our new school year.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. At least I got to go to the beach though, right? J

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Daybook - Saturday, 11 August, 2012

Outside my window…

Sunny, hot and quiet. I imagine most people are at home, getting ready to celebrate Eid El Fitr tonight, which marks the end of Ramadan. After a few days of swimming and sun, I am taking a break from the beach today, trying to get some projects finished inside (where we have the A/C running, full blast).

I am wearing…

My red shorts, which I am so happy to be able to fit into – I bought them before we moved to Cairo, but this is the first summer since then that they actually fit me. I am also wearing my black&white checkered blouse, which is way too big, since I bought it one year ago, when I was at my biggest. The two don’t match, and I wouldn’t leave the house like this, but for today, it’s a good outfit.

I am listening to…

The kids got the Duplos poured out all over the living room floor and are playing all kinds of creative, imaginary games. Hearing the 3-year old alter his voice to act different characters is totally cracking me up!

Towards an education…

I would like to start school back up in two or three weeks, but we won’t have any of our new material. In fact, we will not have our new books until the Husband comes back from the US – on 18 September. Although it may sound like it, it’s not bad planning – there’s nothing we can do about it: I can’t buy our books here, or order our school material to Lebanon, and even if I could, I will not have the money to order anything until the end of this month anyways. So what do we do during this time, as not to waste these precious first weeks of school? This is what I am thinking about right now.

Around the house…

The school room is coming together nicely, although I still have to go in for the final push and organize all the little things, like art supplies, materials, manipulatives, etc. I should probably decorate the walls too, although putting anything up on the walls is always a big challenge here. The bookshelf in the living room is almost done as well – it has over the past weeks slowly gone from a chaotic dumping ground to looking like an actual bookshelf. Even if we don’t have any new books for our school start, at least our house will be set up and ready!

From the kitchen…

Salads! Lots and lots of summer salads. A family favorite lately has been this salad, which is very colorful and popular especially among the younger members of this family.

Figuring out how to improve my blog

As you might or might not have noticed, I’ve added a new widget to my blog: the “You might also like” feature at the end of each blog post. I always enjoy it when I read other blogs, and thought it might be nice to add.

I quickly realized it doesn’t work very well for my blog though, since I’ve neglected to use labels for my blogposts. The so called related articles hence don’t turn out to be very related at all. I will work on this, promise.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Grocery shopping organized

Yesterday was shopping day: our dreaded, loathed-but necessary, bi-weekly grocery run. Yes, bi-weekly. We have developed a system where one single trip to the grocery store provides three meals/day plus snacks for at least two weeks.

Some of you might ask: Why?

Nobody in our family likes to shop: not for groceries, not for clothes. We don’t get any pleasure out of picking out cereal or choosing the kind of pasta we will have with our ragu. It’s not fun, and I always get stressed out by how much everything costs. Then there’s dealing with the 4-5 men who pack our groceries and expect tips, and worst of all, the taxi situation. Because we don’t have a car, we have to take a taxi to the store, have the driver wait, and then take us back. As you might or might not know, I’ve had bad experience with taxi drivers here in Beirut, and I just don’t like having to deal with taxis - period.

So, how is it possible? How do we go two weeks without entering a grocery store?

First of all, since there’s no way fresh produce would last two weeks, we do pick up fresh vegetables and fruit from Osama’s produce stand a couple of times during the course of the two weeks. He’s right off campus, very friendly, cheap, and has great fruit, herbs and veggies. So there’s that. Everything else though – and I mean everything: meats, grains, cleaning products, personal hygiene, dairy, etc. – is purchased during that one grocery run.

All it takes is a little planning, and I’ve decided that the time this takes is SO worth not having to go to the store more than twice/month. I start with a master list of all meals that will be cooked or prepared over the next two weeks: 14 breakfasts, 14 lunches and 14 dinners. Everybody in the family has to suggest at least one lunch and one dinner each. I also use a list that I have of some of our regular, favorite meals, cookbooks, internet sites, and I write down all the meals on one list, and the ingredients required on another list. To reduce the spread of ingredients needed, we limit meal choices to one or two cuisines – usually one/week. If we plan one Italian meal, for example, we might as well plan several, since often many of the ingredients are similar, e.g. parmesan cheese, flat leaved parsley, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar. This reduced the amount of ingredients needed for the two weeks and hence the cost, significantly. In addition to the groceries, I also walk around the house to figure out if there’s anything else needed, e.g. laundry detergent, soap, light bulbs, toiletpaper, batteries, and write that down.

When I have a list of everything that is needed, I divide it into three: one list for the boys, one for the Husband, and one for myself. At the store, everyone takes off with their own cart – the boys together – and we all meet up at the cash register when everything on our lists has been gathered. This usually takes a little less than one hour, and costs around $400.

The boys always do a great job, and they get to pick out a treat as a reward for their work. Several times their friends have asked why they can’t just stay home while we – the adults - go to the store, and they’re always shocked to hear that the boys don’t just come along, but that it’s something we rely on them to do. (Actually, most of their friends are shocked that the boys have chores that they have to do at all.)

I love coming home with all the groceries, knowing we don’t have to do it again for a while. The first 10 days after a grocery run are the best: the meal choices seem infinite, and there’s a lot of fun food to cook. When we start getting down to only a couple of boring choices though, we might order out one night (which not only spices things up but extends our two weeks with an entire meal/a day), but eventually, we run out of food entirely, and the process has to start over again.

Today though, freezer, fridge and pantries are stocked. So. What’s for dinner?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Welcome home!

Prof. Husband came home yesterday from his week-long conference trip to Scotland with interesting stories and ideas. Getting accepted for a conference and presenting a paper is a good thing in itself, but what I like the most about academic conferences is the inspiration they generate: not just ideas for more papers, but excitement about the field, academia in general, and more thorough insights into other people’s work and thought. My husband also gets to spend time with old and new friends, which is good, since he doesn’t exactly have a rich social life here in Beirut.

It was cold, he said, and it rained a lot. It was expensive too. But he had some really nice meals and brought me back a beer that is to die for: Innis & Gunn, rhum finish. Most of all I enjoy hearing about the people he met though, their lives, stories and families, and of course the ideas that the adventure has produced.

Getting back from St. Andrew’s to Beirut is a bit of an ordeal, involving two buses, a longer train ride and two flights, but his trip went very well – until he got to the Rafik Hariri airport in Beirut. Just before Prof. Husband’s plane landed, the relatives ofthe pilgrims that were taken in Syria decided to block off the road to theairport, preventing any traffic from leaving or entering the airport. So when my husband had got his bag and came out to look for the taxi driver we had arranged, there was nobody there to meet him. There was no information anywhere that would indicate that something was going on, so he decided to wait for a while. After quite some time, he ran into a friend who had just come from Turkey with a friend. They learned, upon calling a relative that was supposed to pick them up, about the chaos outside, and after some conferencing, decided to leave the airport on foot and make it out to the road where their ride was waiting. Zigzaging through blocking vehicles and burning tires, the party of three made it out safely, and my husband’s friends were very kind to take him home.

I was getting a bit worried, yes – he’s usually home within an hour after his plane lands, and now it had been almost three! - when he finally walked through the door I was very happy to have him home.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

In pursuit of the perfect Science curriculum

I’ve been starting to think about next school year, making a list of materials that we will need, and how or where we are going to be able to get it. I will have a 4th grader and a 6th grader, and one very active pre-schooler to keep busy. Alongside continuing studies in Math, English, Latin and French, we will move forward in History to cover ca. 400AD – the Renaissance and all that it entails, including the development of the church, geographic discoveries, scientific advancements, etc. I have to admit that the Dark Ages was my least favorite time period to study during our last round (four years ago), and I’ve therefore decided to make an extra effort this academic year to spice up our studies.

We will also go all in when it comes to Science, although I have yet to create the curriculum for this upcoming year.

The idea that we have been following all along our home-schooling time suggests you divide Science into four blocks, following the history curriculum, so that you study one part of the subject every year. The first year of the cycle, which involves the study of Ancient times, offers a science focus on Life Sciences, since people during this time were discovering their own body and the living things around them. Then during the Middle Ages, scientists turned their eyes to the sky, discovering planets (Astronomy), and inwards, exploring our earth and all that it entails (Geology). The Early Modern period offer insights into more detailed studies of matter (Chemistry), and finally the Modern period, during year four of the cycle, focuses on modern science; Physics and Technology.

Last year we threw out this division however, deciding that it was too slow; our oldest student needed some physics to go along with his math, and really, since Chemistry is so much fun, why only do it every four years? Also, after you’ve studied the body and cells, you want to turn to atoms, and after your study of rocks and minerals, the periodic table actually seems interesting, but if you wait two years to go there, a lot of knowledge will have disappeared and you can no longer make the connections that would help you remember in the first place. So, we decided that the boys would learn about all four areas of science each year, in quarter sections. We created a great curriculum and had it all planned out.

it turns out however, that when you are used to such in-depth studies at a slow but thorough pace, as we have been pursuing over the past few years, shifting gears to go four times faster is difficult. We only ended up sufficiently covering Life Sciences and Astronomy & Geology, leaving most of Chemistry and Physics hanging. A fair share of this was made up for during our trip to Italy though, where we visited a lot of science museums and talked about the discoveries of the great Italian scientists during and after the Renaissance. There are still a few holes that need to be filled out though, however at this point I’m not sure exactly what or where.

So, it’s a bit of a mess, really. 

Do we try to pick up where we were and cover Chemistry and Physics only this year? This would be absolutely contrary to any plan we ever had regarding the structure of our Science curriculum. We can’t start over completely though with Life Sciences again, because what if we never get past Geology again? I’m thinking we will attempt a quarter session division again this year, but start with Chemistry and Physics, and then try to be stricter with our time. 

What does your science curriculum look like?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Aesop inspired

The older boys had a really good time at their sleep-over and came home with a little basket filled with fresh figs right off the tree. They were bubbling about all that they had seen and experienced, and one of the things they were most excited about was the fruit trees and berry bushes, and being able to go out in the morning and pick fresh fruit for breakfast. It made me wish that we could give them that life: live in a house that has a big yard with lots of fruits, berries and vegetables, trees with swings and a large lawn for sports and proximity to nature, mountains, lakes and rivers. One day.

In the meantime, I am very happy with what we have here: a nice apartment and the sea just across the street. Isn’t it beautiful? (See photo in prior post.)

When work is done...

My perfect view!