Long Summer

January 2, 2014

2013 Year in Review

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 10:53 am

This year started off with a bang – the kind of bang which leaves you picking up the pieces and wondering what to do next.  

The first week of January, my (adult) daughter had a bit of a breakdown and it was NOT pretty.  The final outcome was that my mom and I drove to a midway point between our houses (about 2.5 hours of driving for each of us) and I handed my daughter off to my mom.

Since then, my daughter and I have had light communication, but my mom keeps me informed of the general happenings in her life.  It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot better than living in a war zone, and she seems to be doing well.  So, over time, I’ve come to see it as all good.

So, you might recall that Feb of 2012, I had an injury to my knee.  I worked my way through 2 doctors, 4 images, a physical therapist and an acupuncturist, who finally recommended a third doctor, a surgeon.  He agreed to cut me open Feb of 2013 (almost exactly a year after the injury.)

The good news is that the surgeon was able to fix two problems.  First of all, he kept telling me, you know how when you drop an apple, it gets all brown and mushy?  And if you don’t want that to spread,  you need to scrape it out?  Well, that was my kneecap.  Ewww.  So he scraped it out.  But while he was in there, he also discovered that the synova was stuck up in the knee where it didn’t belong, and was getting pinched when I moved my knee.   So he also did  a partial synovectomy.

Recovery took much, MUCH longer than we had anticipated.  I managed to bruise my rib on one side and sprain my wrist on the other, leaving me unable to use crutches while still unable to walk.  My husband worked from home and drove the kids to their classes and did all the grocery shopping for three months?

6 months after surgery, in August, I could finally walk up AND down stairs, and take long walks to the park, and had only minimal pain.  After 18 months of limited mobility I was ECSTATIC . . . until the dumb dog ran straight in to my knee at close range, all 74 overweight pounds of him.  That put my recovery back about 3 months.

All of this put a big dent in school.  We did not accomplish much in the winter at all, and with the limited mobility, I had become quite the hermit.  We stayed home and focused hard on academics all spring.  I intended to start going to the river every day over the summer, and inviting all the homeschoolers we know  . . . but the river stayed at flood level all summer!  Instead, I introduced the boys to Doctor Who, with great success!  Raven even asked for his 10th birthday party to be doctor who themed.

We also tried to do a chemistry kit over the summer, but no one much liked it.  I had also put up chemistry posters, and found Raven making up stories about the periodic table poster.  I managed to explain the periodic table to Raven by also using the Bohr Model poster of the atom – he suddenly yelled “Why cant the chemistry experiments be this interesting?!”  Definitely a theoretical, not an experimental scientist.

So, this fall, things have been going well!  Woot!  No new crises, and everything has been smooth!  I always love that.  Hubby still hates his job, and is slowly looking for a new one.  And these last 2 weeks, hubby had off of work so we even got a few projects moving along!  All in all, a good upswing in the second half of the year and lets hope for a great 2014!

Academics summary and plan:

Both boys have continued in martial arts, despite me no longer participating.  Dh actually started attending the same school this fall, when the location moved closer to us.

Orion:  Last year’s chemistry program turned out to be a dud.  We made it most of the way through it, threw in some physics resources, and cut our losses by calling it ‘physical science’.   English, history and math all stayed steady as expected.


  • History is continuing as previously, he reads/writes essay about Zinn after we read similar timeframe in Hakim.  Zinn is a lot more dense in modern times, so that’s been keeping him busy.  When he’s done with that, we’ll either do politics (most likely) or more world religion
  • Math: He’s taking a self-paced MOOC aimed at helping kids pass the community college math entrance exams.  It is mostly review, but a review he really needed.  I’m hoping a very solid understanding of algebra will help him succeed in pre-calc at community college next year
  • English: He started off with a MOOC about LOTR, a great follow-up to last year’s English.  He is now working through the second half of Bravewriter Help for High School, which is about essays, and then will do a science research paper in the spring.  He’s also doing assigned fiction reading.
  • Science is primarily watching videos on advanced topics of biology and taking notes, with the intention to find a subject to do a research project on in the fall. He did take a MOOC on genetics, which was interesting and challenging.
  • Drivers Ed: he’s also taking a drivers ed online portion.  (My new years resolution is to get him in the car!)
  • We will be visiting local community colleges soon.  He has been doing his own assignments organization for the MOOCs, which I find very encouraging.  We are still not entirely sure what he’ll major in.


  • English: Raven’s spelling program, Logic of English, was AWESOME.  I am officially in love with a spelling curriculum!  Raven still frequently  throws on-the-floor crying tantrums over it, but in the end he will do the work and he is learning a lot.  Its even improved his reading. This is all we’ve been doing for English for a full calendar year, and we are almost done.  We will probably do some combination of Bravewriter, other lit studies, and maybe some Igniting your Writing
  • Science: Raven has continued with free reading science, but we may move on to LOF prealgebra/science combo books.
  • Math: Raven finished up the online math, some more murderous maths, and LOF decimals, but  Zaccaro scared Raven by introducing 2-variable algebra too quickly.  We ended up doing a review with Spectrum 6th Grade, which Raven is doing mostly independently.  We will move on to LOF prealgebra/science combos.  (and maybe the econ, I’m not sure)
  • History:  Almost done with Hakim, finally.  We watched several documentaries this fall – he didn’t like many of them.  Will move on to either Canadian history or world religion.
  • Programming: I bought a years access to a programming course to teach kids how to make minecraft mods.  We will probably start this when math and science combine in LOF

January 1, 2013

Year in Review: 2012

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 1:14 pm

Well, 2011 was celebrated as the year without crisis.  And celebrated with good reason, as that is certainly not my norm.  This year we are back to crisis mode.

First crisis happened in February.  The boys and I were testing for our blue belts (having already earned yellow, green and purple).  I slipped while attempting (for the 4th time) to break my board, and couldn’t get up.  At first the injury seemed relatively mild – no damage to muscles or tendons.  The tests were all clear: x-ray, MRI, bone scan and CT scan.  But 10 months out, I still can’t use my knee.

Well, the months of Feb and March went by in a haze of pain.  Come spring, I decided I needed to start getting up my walking stamina so I could do some field trips when I visited my mom in the summer.  Since we had been studying the revolutionary war, we wanted to take advantage of the historical sites near her home outside of Philadelphia.

First we visited the National Constitution Center.  There were reenactors, a play about the revolution, all sorts of displays, and statues of the signers standing around a recreation of the meeting room where they signed the constitution.  Unfortunately, the play was too loud, and Raven was begging to leave the whole time.  The only thing he liked was the plaque which showed how many US troops died in each war we’ve been in.  Little statistician.

Then we visited the Philadelphia science museum.  Sure, it has nothing to do with history, but it’s a HUGE hit with my kids!  Well, until Raven stuck his hand in the elevator door.  They were really sweet with him, though, at one point giving him a plastic glove full of ice!

Finally we visited Valley Forge.  Luckily you can drive around most of it, because it was in the upper 90s that day . . . still, it was a big hit.  There were historical story tellers who gave out stamps to put on a map – they were very funny, too!

Unfortunately, I developed tendonitis, from limping around so much.  The doc sent me to more PT for pain relief, but the PT still insisted he can’t help unless the damage is fixed first.  After my doc thanked me for ‘the intellectual challenge of trying to care for your knee’ I switched to a knee surgeon for another opinion.

At this point it looks like I dislocated the knee cap, bruised the bone of the knee cap and the top of the tibia.  And, the gift that keeps giving, damaged the ‘white’ cartilage that lines the inside of the kneecap – NOT the meniscus, but the lining of the kneecap itself.  The doc says if that IS the problem, he has a 75% chance of being able to fix it.  However, while there is swelling under the kneecap, he has a 10%  chance of making me worse without fixing anything.  So I’ve been resting to try to get the swelling down, but its not working.  I started acupuncture, but if 4 sessions don’t take down the swelling, I’m back at square one – my knee does not function.  I can stand, I can limp around, but I cannot bend the knee while putting any pressure on it.

For homeschool, over the summer we focused heavily on science.  We worked through a lab kit about light, did some Lego kits about pulleys and gears, hatched butterflies and learned a bit about insects, and did a study on the human body ending with the body exhibit at the science museum.  I was pleased how well it went, as it felt like we had been a bit too light on science.  Orion also continued with math and did Scratch programming, and Raven did a typing tutor.

As summer drew to a close, I approached homeschooling with the confidence of a veteran.  Even my husband commented that I finally seem to be on top of everything.

Orion’s Junior year:

  • English: literary lessons from Lord of the Rings, a full year study – very easy for me as its all planned out!
  • History: continue w US history as before, plus some Intelligo World Religions
  • Math: review algebra with LOF and then continue with Singapore, switching to Discovering Math level 3 (since our previous series had been discontinued) – both went very well!
  • Science: Chemistry Matters – ok, this is a bit of a PITA – I have to figure out daily lessons, find supplemental videos since we cant do the experiments, and still I make him look stuff up on google if there are things he doesn’t know – because some material is apparently only covered in the experiment book (which I actually bought . . and lost . . .)
  • Robotics – this was through First Lego League, and took up a lot more time and stress than expected.  Orion still does not like robotics, but he did pick up the programming very easily.
  • And some French which is going very badly

Raven (4th grade):

  • English: some Bravewriter-inspired freewriting, copy work, poetry and random supplemental books about language.  Spelling Power did not go so well, and we’ll be trying LoE in January.
  • History: continue w US History
  • Math: We started with Murderous Maths measurements, did a bit of long division and multi-digit multiplication review, plus some facts reviews, did a bit more of LoF decimals, and got side-tracked with Elements of Mathematics.
  • Science:  for now, Raven is just reading science books and doing a sentence of copy work each day – but he hates the copy work and I will drop that when we start LoE.
  • Legos: Raven is also doing FLL, coached by his dad.  It is . . . well, we’re not entirely sure its worth the trouble.  But we’ll follow through with the commitment.

This fall I went back to church choir.  At first, I even managed to drag Orion along with me, but he kept falling asleep!  So I ended up bringing the boys to the kids  . .well, I thought it was choir, but it was a mixed performance – some bells, some signing, and a little singing the first go-round.

Heron seemed to be doing well this year as well.  She finished up strong at the local Community College, and was accepted as a transfer in to VCU.  She also FINALLY got a job – in the copy center at the local Staples.  This was a good fit for her background in graphics, and also a reasonable place for her to find contacts for advertising, which was her chosen field.  Unfortunately they would not cut her hours below 30/week when school started.  She had a fibromyalgia flare and had to quit the job.

She was feeling sick all fall, and her mood started deteriorating too.  Then she went on a trip with some friends to NYC to go to a conference, but they drove overnight and went to the conference with no sleep, so she got REALLY sick.  About 2 weeks later, she ended up in the hospital in crisis.  She was kept 3 nights and let out with no plan.  She seems convinced living in my house is root of her problems.  She was threatening to quit school until my mom offered to pay her rent so she can move in to town.  She is barely speaking to me so I have no idea what is going on.  Except that my house is super tense.

Oh, and last but not least, the husband hates his job.  No, that’s not news, it’s almost always been the case since I’ve known him.  But he’s job hunting again, which always brings a bit of hope.

Lets hope for a calmer, happier, healthier year in 2013.

January 10, 2012

2011 Year In Review

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 2:13 pm
Tags: ,

2011 – WOW!  This has been the calmest year I’ve had in a LONG time! We did have some transitions, but I think this is the first year in over a decade with not a single real crisis.  It’s really weird.  But in a good way!

In January, hoping for some calm sailing, I put together a regular schedule for our homeschooling.  It takes some planning work, but results in more accomplished, less stress, and less chaos.

The biggest family transition was really my husbands.  By the end of January, we agreed that he would quit his hated job.  The second week of February he was ecstatic, but then he buckled down to the hard work.  While it was nice having an extra set of hands for homeschool help, we were all happy to have him employed again in May.

The next transition was my daughter’s.   After spending 7 mo living with her bf’s family in CA, she decided to move back home. We are getting along better than ever before.   Work was as hard to find here as it had been in CA, tho, and in the fall she returned full-time to the community college.  She was inducted in to the honor society, and is now in process applying to VCU for fall of 2012.

This year brought a few good field trips.  In the spring hubby was able to come with us to the National Museum of Natural History, a good followup to our fall evolution unit. In the summer, the kids and I visited my mom, including a wonderful trip to the Franklin Institute. In the fall the four of us visited the historical recreation of the original town of Henricus, which was how our county, Henrico, began 400 years ago.  This coordinated with our study of Jamestown.

The fall brought even more structure to our homeschool, with more outside activities than ever before. Orion, who had taken sax lessons over the summer, joined newly formed homeschool band and choir classes. I joined with 2 other families to create a grade school science coop. We continued with martial arts and the home school video game club, and added an ongoing D&D group.  Raven is reading more and more on his own, choosing to read to himself at bedtime instead of having dad read to him. Orion’s patience for board games has been a big growth. Hubby has renewed his interest in board games, which makes it good timing.

With the busier schedule, I’ve had to get much more organized with my cooking and menu planning. I’m in love with Paprika, a recipe app for my iPad  (a birthday present from my mother!).

Yes, this has been, for me, an amazing year. No crisis, no horrible news, no big adjustments. Just steady improvements! I hope this becomes the new normal around here!

January 1, 2011

2010 in review

Filed under: about — by dbmamaz @ 12:14 am

Much of this year, like last, was focused on family drama and my homeschooling adventures.

My daughter started off the year with a new therapist.  Heron and I both liked her, and I think she helped lower the conflict level between us.   She referred Heron to a new med doctor, who suggested a new med.  However, after a week, it became clear that Heron did not have a cold or a flu, but a whole new bad med reaction.  By march, Heron was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a permanent condition.  Heron had to withdraw from the community college classes, where she was doing so well, and was barely able to fulfill her obligations to earn her high school diploma. 

But don’t think Heron had cornered the drama market!  Orion was banned from having a PC on the network for the entire year, which put a big crimp in home school.  Orion’s tics came back with a vengeance this winter, as well as his anxiety. There were a few days his tics were so bad, he couldn’t hold his head still to read.  He was officially dx’d with Tourette’s by the end of the year, in addition to his previous atypical bipolar and pdd-nos.  He also managed to need stitches  . . . 20 minutes after his step-dad bought him some new woodworking chisels!  After that experience, he went back to his sewing hobby, buying himself a sewing machine with his birthday money . . .and making a LOT of sock creatures!

I had started a blog in the beginning of the year, and was very excited about it for a while, but basically stopped cold after Heron’s dx.  I failed to write about the wonderful Virginia Homeschoolers conference, or about our remarkable visit to the zoo (which involved a monkey stealing a gosling!), or about our summer road trip to Canada to see my in-laws. 

After increasing conflict with my mother and sister over where Heron should live, I put my strained relationship with them on hold.  Heron, of course, finally came up with a workable plan – her bf’s mom in CA agreed to let Heron move in there.  Heron moved out the day of her 18th birthday, September 5th.  I cried like crazy in the airport, and i miss her often, but I am very glad she is where she is. 

Over the summer we got a new dog – Charlie, an 8 yo black lab mix who had been at the rescue organization for 5 years.  As much as he loves me and Orion, he’s nervous around Raven and HATES my husband.  (Well, really, he’s afraid – of men, of balls, of stairs . . . ).  I also ALMOST joined a just-forming home school co-op, but that fell through.

Home school started with a bang – we signed up for a home school martial arts class for the whole family. I find the class incredibly exhausting, to the point where we sometimes have no school for the next day or two after a class, but all of us have earned our yellow belt, and both boys are doing really well.  I feel that, at my age, it’s really important to get in to shape.

Home schooling has not felt as smooth this year.  I scheduled a few field trips with some of my home school friends, and then found out that my best home-school buddy will be leaving the state as soon as he can sell his house.  I’ve been spending more time on Orion’s academic, and struggling hard with math – but making some progress.  But meanwhile, I feel like I”ve been neglecting Raven (and he agrees with me). 

So, I’m hoping the new year finds me able to really create a better home school routine for myself and the boys.  and hopefully my husband will find another job, one that doesn’t give him nightmares like this one does!

May 9, 2010

Today, I am mother

Filed under: family — by dbmamaz @ 10:49 am

This is my mother’s day post.

I actually wrote this about 6 years ago.  I got such great feedback, I even tried to get it published – but no, it’s still all mine.  I hope you like it


Today, I am mother.

Today, I wake early, bundling myself and the baby.  I make sure my son remembers his backpack, and push my daughter to hurry out the door, and then drive my husband to the commuter lot, because he forgot his glasses at work yesterday.  

Today, I nurse the fussy baby to sleep in the sling while checking my email. 

Today I struggle to squeeze shower, breakfast, lunch, and dishes in between the brief naps and moments of content play.

Today I spend hours nursing, comforting, babbling, playing with rattles and changing diapers.

Today I run to the store . . . is it shoes he’s outgrown?  Sweaters she’s lost?  My honey is out of shampoo?  Or just the eternal need to feed the fridge and the pantry?

Today I make cookies with the baby and get chocolate on the sling.

Today I bathe the baby and change his outfit several times, but wear my spit-stained sweater as a badge of motherhood.

Today I whip up a quick, delicious, nutritious meal.  I hold the baby and eat one-handed while listening to the stories their teachers told them today, or their friends, or their books.  I have them dressed for Tae Kwan Do and  I meet my husband at the door with his bag packed, making sure he greets the baby before he leaves again.

Today, while my family is working hard towards their next belts, I lay in bed, exhausted, with a crying, sleepless babe in my arms.  I put him back in the sling and pace my room, eyeing the unfolded laundry on the bed and listening to the  lullaby cd, a gift from my Canadian sister-in-law.  I dont understand a word, but mothering a baby to sleep is the same in every language.

Today, after 20 minutes of pacing, I finally lay a sleeping baby down, still wrapped in the sling.  Eventually I will find a chance to wash it.

Today, I am mother.  Some day I will again be loving wife and sexy partner.  Some day I will be valued employee and helpful coworker.  Some day I will be singing my favorite song in the car at the top of my lungs, feeling full of myself in my favorite outfit.

But today, I am mother.  Today my love for my family permeates every little task and makes it meaningful.  Today will live on in the hearts of my children, and some day I will wash the sling again for my grandchildren.  Today I am tired and overwhelmed and underpaid but well loved.  Today, and for the rest of my days, I am mother.

April 9, 2010

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world

Filed under: about,Blog — by dbmamaz @ 7:02 pm

Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings

These are two lines from the chorus of one of my favorite grateful dead songs, Eyes of the World. The lyrics of the song are poetic but vague, but I know what this song always made me feel. The music kept me moving, the song kept me singing, and the feeling in my heart, as I skipped and spun and belted out the words, was a joyful reminder.

“You are the eyes of the world.”  To me, this says that whatever we see and believe, becomes our reality. So be careful how you look at the world.  Your vision creates it.

“Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings.” That said to me, again, shift your awareness. Learn that you are beautiful . . .what is more beautiful than the song that the morning brings? (I was, after all, a morning person!)  This is a reminder that every time you wake up, there is a new, beautiful beginning

I have been feeling very down for the past month, which is why I havent blogged at all. I’ve been struggling to get anything done at all, and certainly putting meaningful words to (virtual) paper has been the last thing on my mind. When things go wrong, as they often do around here, I get stuck in a negative view of myself and my life and the world. The lowest points are where I curse myself for having had children, because I am an unworthy mother who is incapable of giving them what they truly need. I feel the weight of three lives on my shoulders, and I am sure I am failing them.

Wake up, discover that you are the song that the morning brings. If i can remember the beauty and magic in myself, in my life, I can get through this trial of parenting three kids, at least 2 of which are emotionally disabled. I need to stop living in the world where I compare myself (and my children) negatively to everything and everyone around me, and remember those days in my youth when i danced barefoot in the grass and sung to the sun and believed in happy endings. I need to find my joy.

and maybe even manage to write about something.

February 11, 2010

Serendipitous learning

Filed under: family,Learning moments — by dbmamaz @ 10:14 am

I must admit, I’ve been pretty excited about my blog .. . nay, even a tad obsessive. 

Well, a certain someone noticed . . . someone who has been resisting writing assignments.

Lo and behold, Orion has started a blog.  I try to assign him at least 30 minutes of free writing each week, and I wasnt asking to see it, but now I can spy on him!   Finally, some ‘not-pushing’ paid off 🙂

And he doesnt even know he’s learning!


(ok, disclaimer here, he seems to be repeating tidbits he’s overheard from me, out of context and without a thorough understanding of my meaning.  Please forgive his obvious naivetee.  )

February 10, 2010

Rythm of blogging, so far

Filed under: about,Blog — by dbmamaz @ 9:56 am

I understand that blogs often have a life cycle, where the author is new and excited and blogs a lot, and then their interest tapers off and the blog dies eventually. Well, I’m not there yet, but in my second month, I am starting to see a different rhythm . . . one which is, i suspect, common among but unique to women’s blogs. (ok, are most bloggers women, anyways?). I have about 5 days out of the month where I am NOT writing. 3 days of pms .. . come on, who wants to hear me complain bitterly about people breathing? 2 days of heavy bleeding where I can barely keep my head off the pillow and all spare energy goes towards keeping some semblance of school going, dinner on the table, and appointments kept. And since I’m only posting about every other day anyways, that could stretch out to almost a whole week without a post – it feels so frustrating! But it’s just another life lesson. I get to learn to accept myself as I am and allow the world to unfold as it will.

February 4, 2010

drifting to wake

Filed under: family — by dbmamaz @ 10:08 am

I know, this was supposed to be a home school blog, but once I started writing . . . please, excuse the digression . . .

drifting to wake

barking dog rouses me
gray dawn opens my eyes
heat pump roars at february morn.
Overheated, I’m ready to begin
shower, lesson plans, dinner prep.
My love, the night owl, says he’s awake.
Always cold in the morning,
his knee pins my legs,
his arm drapes across my back.
I pull the covers over his shoulder,
warm hand rests on cold skin,
and he is asleep again.
As with so many babies,
i lie still and listen to him
breathing slowly in my arms.
My racing thoughts slow
and i drift.

February 2, 2010

I go to school with my cat

Filed under: family — by dbmamaz @ 3:43 pm

Or, a boy and his cat. I couldn’t help it, they are just so cute together! Raven and, um, big cat. Yes, thats what we call him. Not to be confused with fat cat, his twin brother (who is not as affectionate with Raven)

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