Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The things a four year old wonders...

Today Abraham came up to me while I was finishing up in the bathroom, and noticed one tiny, but very blue spider vein on my belly. 

“Why do you have a blue mark on your belly, mama?” 

I told him it was from carrying the baby in my tummy. He looked shocked and asked, 

“The baby drew that mark with a marker?!” 

which made me chuckle. I explained that the baby doesn’t have any markers on my belly. Then I told him that babies can’t really use markers for a while, even after they come out of the belly, since first, they can’t hold anything, and then second, once they can control their hands, they put everything in their mouths. I told him how William got a hold of one of daddy’s red ink pens once when he was 1, and how he put it in his mouth and walked around with red ink all over his face for days. Abraham though about this for a while, looked at me, and then suggested, 

“Maybe when the baby comes out of your tummy, there’s another baby inside the baby?”

…eh, OK…?

Homeschooling challenges during a high risk pregnancy

I’m still here! Everything is fine, though I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by all that is going on right now.

The boys’ schoolwork is, considering the circumstances, going quite well at the moment. They seem to understand when the situation requires them to work independently, and have stepped up to be the big, responsible boys I always wondered if never doubted they are. When they do their own individual work without me having to “police them,” we all enjoy our common subjects so much more: our session where we work on history, science, Latin, art and logic have become the highlights of the week – the time we all sit down together and read, learn, create, think. Everyone’s day, in fact, is so much more pleasant when the work is done well, and the boys have picked up on this.

Still there are days when we get nothing done, of course, and it’s easy for the boys to fall into a lazy pace, where they – instead of work hard when I’m at a doctor’s appointment – take advantage of the fact that I’m not home and spend the morning playing around. Prof. Husband tries to apply his authority, but often he has to work or he’s at the appointment with me. These are the times that I feel guilty and think, “if they were students at ACS they wouldn’t miss a moment of education because of me,” or, “maybe it’s just not possible to be your children’s educator AND mother.” I know this isn’t true, of course. What they learn those mornings – what they are learning from all this - might not be written in their math book, or even biology book (although some of this is), but I know that every day they learn something useful that they will benefit from one day.

And believe me; we are making a learning experience out of this. The boys are not just learning about the facts surrounding conception and birth, but everything that it entails as well, including scientific research, insurance- and paperwork, cultural differences, etc.

I usually cringe when I see one of these (see image), but the other day it made me smile, because I know that our boys will graduate from high school one day, having learned all of this, along with the Pythagorean theorems, the historical facts surrounding Pythagoras, and the etymology of those words.

Oh, and the boys just watched me finish our tax return, so that's covered, I guess.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Orange blossoms - Is it spring?

I was walking home from my MRI today, trying not to worry, when I noticed that the sun was bright and warm, and the buds on the orange trees are about to burst open and unleash spring all around us. It made me a little anxious, since I’ve had in my mind all along that this baby will be born in the spring. If the orange trees are about to bloom, this means that spring is imminent and… that this baby is going to be born? A moment while I panic.

As you might have figured out by now, it’s not so much having the baby with us that scares me (I can’t wait to have little quartus here and for it all to be over!), but everything that surrounds the birth. I don’t like having a c-section (Duh! Imagine that!) because it’s risky and uncomfortable – actually, it hurts so much at every stage, that I have no idea how I ever got through it, ever. I’m worried that there are going to be complications, and I’m worried that the paperwork that follows the birth – insurance and birth certificates, passport, etc. - will be even more painful than the actual physical recovery (I think we both know this is a justified and valid fear).

At the same time, the orange trees smell so nice, I can't help but welcome spring. Thank you, oh Lord, for these our gifts...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hard Rock Cafe

Last night Prof. Husband and I went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We had just arrived at the Hard Rock cafe, and the waiter asked me what I would like to order.

"I’d like a 'Groupie Grind', please."
"But mam, it has no alcohol in it."
"Eh, no. I don’t want any alcohol in my drink."
"OK." [puzzled look] "Would you like something else?"
"Yes, may I have the nachos please?"
"Of course. Would you like the half portion? The full portion is big... to share."
"No, I’ll take the full one, please."

Although it’s quite amazing at this point (I’m more belly than anything), clearly, the guy didn’t see my belly and didn’t realize I was pregnant. Or he wouldn’t have wondered why I didn’t order alcohol, and he certainly wouldn’t have suggested I couldn’t eat a full portion of nachos by myself!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Health insurance paperwork rant

You might recall that I find the paperwork surrounding health care here a little annoying. Well, my latest two experiences have been quite disheartening, to say the least. 

A couple of weeks ago I went in for my regular one-hour pregnancy glucose tolerance test. My doctor had circled the test on a sheet of paper that I took to the health insurance office, where they entered the test into a computer and gave me a blue paper that I took to the actual laboratory. All according to procedure, right? Only it turns out that the circle my doctor had made might have been touching another test, apart from the one I was supposed to have, but instead of checking the actual notes on the front of the paper or even double checking with my doctor, the health insurance clerk (as it turns out) had indolently just made a guess, and by doing so chosen the wrong test to issue the blue paper for. So when I showed up at the laboratory, the following conversation took place,

“Woman, you have fasted?” (It’s not entirely uncommon to be called, “Woman!” here – I’m thinking it’s a language thing.)
“No, I’m not supposed to fast. It’s a one hour test.”
“No, your doctor say you MUST fast. Is a three hour test.”
“No, my doctor told me it’s a one hour test and that I didn’t have to fast.”
“No, you MUST FAST. Your doctor say.”

This went on for a while, until I encouraged the poor lab assistant to call my doctor, which quickly settled the matter without further problems. I don’t know how they sorted out the blue paper mix up, but I never had to go back to the health insurance office for this.

Today I was going in for my MRI. I got my blue paper at the health insurance office two weeks ago, and this time, I thought, there was no room for a mix up – there was a clear circle around MRI with Pelvis written clearly right next to it. After I got my blue paper I took it to radiology where the receptionist, based on my paper work, gave me an appointment. I was all set, I thought. 

Silly me.

When I showed up for my appointment at radiology today, it turns out I didn’t have an appointment for an MRI. Again, the health insurance office clerk had given me a blue paper with a completely different test on it (some kind of special ultrasound). Then when I had gone to make my appointment for the MRI - even though I mentioned "MRI" several times in our conversation - the receptionist had only looked at the blue paper from the health insurance office, and given me an appointment for the special ultrasound.

After spending what seemed like forever canceling a procedure I had never requested, and making a new appointment for the MRI, I had to go back to the insurance office to get my blue papers sorted. The office clerk’s boss inevitably got involved, and the clerk in trouble. Rightfully so, I think.

I will never leave the insurance office with a blue paper again without checking it twice, because at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if I show up for the birth, and my paper says, "Kidney removal," or "Euthanasia." Sigh. I’m so glad I’m not actually sick. Imagine!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My sweet Valentine

I was brushing my hair out in the bathroom yesterday, getting ready to take Abraham to a Valentine’s Day party in the playground, when he came in, looked at me with a smile, and said, “Mama, you look FANTASTIC!” I almost teared up. He had just spent a good portion of the morning making a Valentine’s card for his little friend Isabella. When he was done, he admired his work, and commented, “I love making this Valentine’s card.”

He has been such a sweet boy lately, often verbalizing his feelings of happiness and love. He often hugs my belly and says, “I love my baby,” or “I love you, mama!” and then adds, “…and I love my boys and my daddy.” Every morning when he wakes up, he looks out the window and declares, “It’s a sunny day,” (even when it’s raining) and often he adds, “we are going to have a good day today, mama.”

He makes us all feel happy and loved, so today, when he asked if maybe we could go to the candy store and buy a candy necklace (he has been asking for this on and off for a week now), there was no turning him down.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras

In Sweden we call this day "Fat Tuesday" and this is what we eat (I baked them just for the occasion): SEMLA.

It's a sweet bread filled with a soft marzipan paste and whipped cream. Most people would eat them in a bowl with warm milk. I prefer them dry.

Ready for lent.

Naming the baby

We don’t have a name for the baby. The only name we ever agreed on and had decided on in advance was August. We didn’t know we were having a boy, but that was the name we had picked out. William was a random, moments before delivery pick (we actually also had a girl’s name picked out at that time, since we didn’t know it was another boy) and Abraham – although it was a given and a name we had thought about for a while – wasn’t decided on until the doctor put a scalpel to my abdomen.

The boys have a few ideas for this baby, and as usual, Prof. Husband has suggested a name that I would not pick in a million years, and I like a name that Prof. Husband doesn’t. It’s very difficult this time around, since I feel we already used up all the extra good, potential names for the boys’ middle names.

We all keep asking Abraham what he thinks the baby’s name should be, but he insists, “I don’t know the baby’s name is. We have to wait until he comes out of mama’s tummy. Then we’ll know his name is.” Attempts to explain that the baby doesn’t come with a name are so far futile. He comes out a boy, with a specific hair color and eye color, so why would he not also have a name?

So I guess we wait. In the meantime, I’m hoping for a bit of ‘divine intervention’: maybe the new pope will choose a name that we would like to name our baby?

Monday, February 11, 2013

The origin of the food that we eat

This is crazy:

1. Grocery stores in Sweden sell frozen lasagna that has been delivered by the Swedish company Findus.

2. Findus has ordered the frozen products from the French manufacturer Comigel.

3. Comigel has hired the company Tavola in Luxembourg for the actual production of the lasagna.

4. Comigel has bought the meat from the French company Spanghero.

5. Spanghero in turn has bought the meat from butchers in Romania.

Apparently, the Swedish company Findus, which continuously tests its own food, recently discovered that their 100% beef lasagna contains between 60-80% horse meat. They are now facing a law suit, and will in turn be filing a law suit against Comigel, which in turn will file a law suit… You get it.

I think the last time I bought a frozen meal was sometime before August was born, back in 2001, although we do buy processed food, such as hot dogs (and once I bought frozen fish sticks from Findus, just because I got excited about seeing a Swedish product in a store in Lebanon - I wonder if they had horse meat in them?). I have no idea where this food originates (here, it’s all just marked “Imported for you” as in “from the promised land”) – where does Oscar Meyer get his hot dog meat? – and actually, I’m not sure I want to know the path of the products that are used in the production process. 

I do know the origin of most of what we eat though, since it’s mainly vegetables, fruit and meat produced locally. I guess that’s the upside of living in a small, fairly isolated (import and trade wise) country or region: we live just an hour or two away from where our food is grown. This is noticeable in that fruit goes bad much faster here, since it has not been sprayed with preservatives. Speaking of which, I had better go have another banana before they all start turning brown.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Daybook - Sunday, 10 February, 2013

Outside my window...

I was chatting with my friend in the Boston area yesterday, and she told me they were literally snowed in, as in, they couldn’t get their front door open. Sitting here, I close my eyes, imagine that, and then I open them again. Outside my window it is sunny, warm (over 70°F), Sunday calm with not as many cars and happy families strolling along the blue Mediterranean sea. What a contrast.

I am wearing...

My regular pink striped H&M maternity t-shirt and my Motherhood maternity jeans. I've completely given up on finding maternity wear here, and will just rotate the same few outfits that I have until I'm done. It's getting really, terribly boring, but what can I do?

I am thankful for...

...the fact that, under the circumstances, I am physically doing really well. Although I can’t wait for the day it is safe for this baby to come out, I am cherishing these days-weeks of calm, expectation and preparation.

On my mind...

You mean apart from what is going on in my body? My pregnancy brain is on a mission: to prepare our family for the birth. This involves so much more than buying diapers (check!) and washing baby clothes (check!): school work, organization, planning, paperwork (taxes, passports, VISA, tickets, etc.), stocking up… As things to do pop into my head I transfer them to a list in my calendar. Then I try to get something done every day. Although we still have six weeks, technically, I prefer to have everything done sooner rather than later. Partially because you never know, right? But also because I know I will run out of energy, and I would like to spend some time on Lent and everything that it entails.

Towards an education...

We have almost reached the renaissance in our history studies, which is the goal of this semester. The boys just finished their special projects on Hildegard von Bingen, the Black Death, and the crusades, and this week we will study Asia during medieval times. August just finished the Canterbury tales and Ivanhoe this weekend (William is almost done with his abridged version), both boys are reading the stories of Shakespeare, and we’re continuing with Thomas Aquinas, which triggers some very interesting discussions around the dinner table. Despite some difficult days last week, I’m quite happy with the way things are going.

From the kitchen...

Every cabinet is full of food and drinks, the fridge is well stocked, as is the freezer. We went to the store this weekend, and there are well over a dozen meals to choose from. Today we went through an entire water melon, had spinach salad, and then roast chicken with broccoli, potatoes, gravy, and cranberries. Tomorrow we will have something that involves leftover roast chicken and potatoes – probably potato salad – along with more fresh spinach salad (I got two pounds for a dollar).

Around the house...

I’m enjoying our tidy house this evening, which has been cleaned up for a busy week: laundry has been put away, toys, books, electronics – everything is in its place. The kitchen is clean. I even managed to clean out and sort our dumping ground for everything of any importance bookshelf at some point last week so it looks nice and tidy. Don’t worry though – by 11 am tomorrow morning our house will be a mess again.

Some plans for the week...

Apart from all our regular work and activities, we have the three day marathon of Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and Valentine’s Day lined up this week, with the special meals, special activities and events that these days entail. On Friday I am going in for my placenta accreta MRI and then we are celebrating a friend’s birthday. There’s another social event planned for the coming weekend. Maybe I can get some work in too?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Not a good fit

It’s Friday; thank goodness, just in time. I had a couple of rough days this week, where I found myself yelling, which is a sign that I’m a bit stressed. There was just a little too much this week of school, activities, chores, kids with attitudes, laundry piles, iPods, constant cooking and cleaning, puke, my husband's deadlines and classes, popcorn on the carpet, toys and taking care of everyone’s needs.

Last night at dinner when one of my family members refused to eat the mashed potatoes I had made because they had carrots in them, and pulled away his plate as I was putting a spoonful on it, resulting in a mess, I got very upset. You see, here’s the deal: 

1/ We’re at the end of our groceries supply, which means coming up with complete, healthy meals takes a bit of extra planning, time and effort. We didn’t even have enough potatoes to go with the frozen fish I found in the back of the freezer, so I thought I was being extra crafty, adding carrots to the mash. 

2/ I’ve done a lot of work this week, as in ‘work for money,’ on top of teaching and the work I do at home, and for lots of reasons it was really difficult this week to combine everything. 

3/ My body is constantly telling me to slow down or even stop, which makes me worried that it’s not going to last another six weeks, which in turn brings on all kinds of other worries about the baby, the birth, etc. I’m not usually a worrier, so the worry bothers me.

So, I yelled at everyone. I yelled about my efforts to provide everyone with clean clothes, an education, nutritious food, and a clean, safe place to live, and I yelled about how I am used to not receiving any appreciation, but how it takes me a LOT of extra effort to do all these things right now, and the I yelled that I would really like it, if everyone just stopped complaining and asking me for more.

I guess you can say I kind of threw a fit.

The sad thing is though, it wasn’t even a very good fit. Usually I make sure my fits are impressive, to guarantee their effectiveness in bringing on change. A perfect fit does not involve feelings and the actual words used are not memorable: it brings on change. If I throw a good fit about towels on the floor after showers, everyone remembers the fit after their next shower and hangs up their towel. Yesterday’s fit however, was more like a tired, emotional rant and I don’t think it actually made a difference. It wasn’t specific enough. It was a general “Everything is too much” capitulation to exhaustion - my little crowd of men however, who I know WANT to help out and do better, need specifics: directions, detailed commands, itemized lists and assigned tasks. 

I will work on this over the weekend. Plus rest. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wrong class, guys!

I wonder if other homeschooling parents have this same problem: a younger sibling's work always seems more interesting than your own, especially if the younger sibling is doing preschool/kindergarten work, which involves a lot of manipulatives and coloring.

Right after I took this picture I had to disperse the crowd by yelling, "Guys, this is Kindergarten class! Get back to your own work!"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hurray! Our little Karl-Abraham is four!

Four years ago exactly, I went with my husband, August, William and my mother to the maternity hospital Al Nada on Al Manyal island in the center of Cairo to have a baby.
It was a pretty awful experience – a c-section where a lot of things went wrong – and I remember thinking that I could never, ever go through something like that again. Yeah. Ha, right?

But boy, was it worth it. Every single painful minute. Because we had a boy who has brought us all so much joy and love that words cannot describe it, and he makes the world a wonderful place.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Really, I don't know how I do it

Well, well, well, what do you know? I miraculously finished my job today, even though my screen was 2/3 covered by an (almost) four-year old seeking my attention the entire time. How good are you at getting serious work done while a little boy is holding up a string in your face, asking you over and over again to “turn it into a unicorn?” Have someone do that to you while you try to look up a complicated term in a medical dictionary. It's hard, and I rock at it. I can puzzle, create amazing LEGO constructions, find magic, read stories and serve snacks while translating “Congenital ocular anomaly.” I wonder if my employer would pay me extra if he knew the circumstances under which I do my work. Is there an award?

Anyways, here we are. Done. And there is not vomit anywhere that needs to be wiped up (as far as I know), there are sheets on the beds, everyone has been fed, and the kids are clothed and alive.

OK, they are wearing weird clothes because the laundry never got sorted, but – technically – you know, they are not naked.

The kitchen is still a mess though, and go figure; my hair still smells like vomit and I’m more exhausted than ever. But I think I have deserved a break, and will shower and clean the kitchen and house in the morning. 

A book and sleep, here I come.

Sunday, pukey Sunday

Remember that job I accepted on Friday? I didn’t really work on it yesterday because I had several errands that I needed to run, some chores that I couldn’t put off, and a couple of other things to get out of the way, and “besides,” I thought, “I have all of Sunday to work. And if I can’t get it all done in one day, I can still work a bit on Monday.”


I spent most of last night cleaning up puke – 1 am, 2 am, and 5 am vomits are the worst - and fetching my (almost) four year old water and clean clothes. It seems that Abraham’s cold isn’t really just a little cold, but some kind of flu. This morning he got up- really, really hungry and thirsty - and downed a big cup of milk, which he immediately proceeded to throw up all over the dining room table. Then he wanted popcorn. I made him some toast and told him that if he could keep it down, he could have some popcorn later. After two pieces of toast he had a big drink of water, and then two slices of bacon. After cleaning him up and feeding him I started on the laundry generated throughout the night and sat down with this cup of tea.

Status report:
  • I’m exhausted.
  • It’s only 10:30 am.
  • I have a messy kitchen, beds with no sheets, and a little boy on the couch grasping a bucket while asking for popcorn.
  • The older boys haven’t had breakfast yet.
  • Will I ever make it to Mass again?
  • It’s Sunday indeed, and I need to start on my work.
  • I can’t get my brain to wake up.
  • I just looked in my calendar and realized why I decided to finish my work this weekend: beginning of next week is crazy!
  • This baby will not stop moving and kicking!
  • Prof. Husband has a deadline and is in his own world. He will act on command, but is not much help beyond that.
  • My hair smells like vomit.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Our homeschool day in the life (with an -almost- 4-, 9- and 11 year old)

Jamie Martin over at Simple Homeschool is inviting fellow homeschoolers to share their day today, and since I enjoyed reading about other homeschooling families' days so much, I decided to create such a post myself. 

I am usually very organized when it comes to the boys’ school work, with detailed curricula, date and day planners, schedules and to-do lists. Our regular schedule looks like this:

Breakfast, chores and special reading in the early morning, followed by Math, English, French and Latin. Then lunch and reading (or sometimes an educational movie), and History or Science in the afternoon (except Fridays, which is our wrap-up-day). The boys play with friends outside between 3:30-5:30 pm, then practice their instruments, we have dinner, and then they have either sports activities or music lessons, or both. They finish off the day with more chores, and 1-2 hours of reading in bed. On Friday evenings and during weekends we do arts, more sports and special history or science projects.

Most days lately though, if you were to spend the day with us, with our schedule in hand, you would be - at best - a little confused. Subjects and time is all out of whack! It seems that four out of five days each week over the past months have entailed something extra; a doctor’s visit, meetings, special errands, trips, etc. Not only is this a bit disruptive and kind of exhausting, but because it seems like we never get everything done, I feel guilty (“If they were going to school they would be studying hard right now instead of laying puzzles and reading stories to the (almost) four-year old while I’m at my prenatal appointment.”) and stressed (“What if the baby is born and they haven’t finished their Latin program?! At this rate, they will not finish their Math program by the time we leave for the US this summer!”).

However, every time I’ve reviewed the boys’ work and tracked their progress this year, I’ve found that they are right on schedule. I really don’t know how this is possible, but it seems that sometime between Taekwondo tests, concerts, visits, special dinners, ski-trips, and ultrasounds, the boys have managed to keep up with their work.

Today was a more normal Friday than usual. The only distraction was a sick (almost) four-year old, which I’m sure all of you know means more attention and care.

8 am – My alarm goes off. On any other day I would be up already, but I’m always extra sleepy towards the end of the week, and especially now since the baby wakes me up at night, wiggling and jumping around in my belly. I stay in bed for a while with Abraham who is sleeping between me and my husband.

8:30 am The boys do chores, read and have breakfast. I set Abraham up with breakfast, and then I have breakfast while I respond to e-mails and work a bit.

9:30 am I set our sick Abraham up with a movie, a blanket and a drink on the couch. The big boys do their English (grammar, spelling, writing) and Saxon Math – I help my fourth grader since he has a special lesson today (an “Investigation”). When they are done they go over their Latin and then sit down with their Rosetta Stone language programs in their rooms. I finish my work for the morning, clean up around the house, put a laundry in, chat with my husband who then goes off to teach, and make lunch together with Abraham.

12:30 pm Lunch and a short reading session

1 pm Since Friday is our wrap-up-day (the afternoon is for completing history, science or English projects, or anything else that didn’t get finished during the week) and the boys still have to do their weekly science assignment, they sit down with this. I give Abraham a peppermint bath and sit down to work. After science is done, the boys practice their instruments and play with Abraham for a while, before going out to play with friends. Usually I would take Abraham out now, to play with his friends,  or we would do a baking project, but since he’s sick, we stay in and play puzzles and magnets.

4:30 pm Prof. Husband comes home from teaching and meetings and we prepare dinner together. Abraham plays a game on the iPad and has a snack. The bath seems to have cleared out his airways a bit. While dinner is cooking I finish and send in my work for the day. I accept a new job, due Monday. It will require about 5 hours of work, which I can do over the weekend. I also go over the work that the boys did this week and arrange their books in the school room.

6 pm Dinner – the entire family sits down to dinner together and we like to linger. Courtney discusses the science project with the boys. Then everyone helps with the clean-up.

6:45 pm We all sit down in the living room with books, music and electronics (iPods and iPad), and Prof. Husband watches TV for a while. I check my social media, read the news and reach for a book.

7 pm Prof. Husband sits down to work and I think about finishing the laundry, but decide I’m too tired and swollen and stay with my feet up on the couch instead, reading. On any other night I would be directing the boys to their activities or attend choir/a social event, but we try not to schedule anything on Friday evenings, and it’s the only day of the week where we don’t have any sports/music/or other activities scheduled. After a while, the boys and I watch a movie together.

9 pm The boys all brush their teeth, put on pajamas, and lay down in their beds to read. I help Abraham get ready for bed, and then August reads to Abraham for about 40 min. Then I lay down with him and he falls asleep while I read.

10 pm The older boys fall asleep. If I haven’t fallen asleep while laying down with Abraham, I spend some time with my husband before going to bed. Since today is Friday, we watch a new episode of Grey’s Anatomy together.