Monday, May 28, 2012

Maybe One Day, Someday...

Things for my mom have grown progressively more difficult. Because of the movement of cancer cells to her brain, her oncologist was ready to end treatments when we saw him a couple of weeks ago. He even submitted us for a hospice referral, and I began interviewing agencies as we waited to see him. During the appointment where he planned to tell Mom that treatment was over, he conceded to another couple of chemo rounds because there was no clear evidence of tumor growth on the scans of her lungs. No shrinkage per se, but no growth. Even with a movement to the brain, he couldn't definitively say if her lung cancer had reached the point of being chemo-resistant, so two more treatments were permitted.

Mom immediately began infusion therapy, and while she managed the chemo well, she had the injection to increase her immunity and was nearly immediately bedridden. She couldn't stay awake for more than an hour or two, she couldn't speak intelligibly. She was totally out of commission from Saturday until Tuesday when we did an in-home hospice interview. She improved a bit over the next couple of days, and was able to visit with Bub, Gracie, and my aunt who was in town from Kansas. On Friday, though, she was sick again -- this time with a bug she picked up somewhere -- and was again completely wiped out.

By the weekend, she was no longer walking well and she'd grown increasingly more confused, and by Sunday night, her brain was misfiring again as it had done in November when she reacted negatively to brain radiation. We debated another run to the ER, but she was safe in her home and not hallucinating or trying to harm herself, so I opted to wait until morning to call the oncologist directly instead of spending hours and hours doing a history workup with a doctor entirely unfamiliar with her care. The next morning, after some debate with the oncology nurse about what we were experiencing, she was admitted to the hospital for testing and observation. In the end, it was determined that some medications were interacting, causing her blood pressure to drop to 87/59.

Tuesday, I was given the rundown of another new medication schedule, and Mom was released to go home. Since, she's been struggling physically, mentally, and emotionally. She's growing weary of all of this. She doesn't want to be sick. She's beginning to feel the weight of knowing she won't escape this, not without a miracle. She's losing her freedom. She feels she's become a burden to everyone.

As I think about all she's gone through, all she's going through, all we're all going through, I feel so sad. I personally don't have a problem with death, nor does she, but I would hate to lose my independence along the way. Watching her lose hers a bit at a time -- that's the hardest part to all of this for me.

Because of this loss of independence, she'll be moving in with us in a few weeks. The whole idea is very hard for all of us. Mom and I don't typically cohabitate. I moved away from home just after my eighteenth birthday, and other than a brief time James and I rented a room from her just after we married, we've lived apart for all these years. Sharing a home is just not something either of us ever wanted to do. Throughout the course of her illness, we've invited her to move in a number of times, but for all kinds of reasons, she wanted to stay where she was. A change in circumstances, though, forced her to devise a new plan, and after considering all of her options (even a state-run nursing home), she's coming here. She's worried about being a burden to me, and while she won't be that at all, frankly I am concerned about how it will all work out. I could use a few sun-stopped-in-the-sky Joshua-type miracles to get it all done right now, even before she moves in. Still, I know her coming to live here is God's plan for for our family, and I'm moving forward completely aware that while I have no special skills and am already totally sapped of strength, "when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). I'm counting on God to provide what we need to get through each day in a way that brings Him glory.

Regarding relocation preparation, we spent the weekend taking things from our garage (holiday decorations, clothes the littlest little ladies have yet to grow into, etc.) to a storage unit in order to make room for my mom. Today, I spent a few hours at her house boxing up and moving over some of her belongings. Some of her things will go into the storage unit, some things will come to our house. We have a limited amount of room, but we believe having many of her possessions under our roof will make her feel more settled here -- more like this is her home, too. Not just somewhere she's crashing.

But then there's that -- all these unimaginable aspects of her decline, all kinds of situations or possibilities that make this not-so-great experience even worse. This sorting and packing is a pretty awful part of an already challenging losing-freedom-and-independence process. When you've surrounded yourself with the same belongings for years and years, trying to decide what to squeeze into a small space, deciding what's really necessary for everyday living, is strenuous. As we emptied china hutches today, Mom told me she'd already gone through her closet to sort clothes for donation. She got rid of nearly all of her winter clothes because living to see another winter is very improbable. She doesn't need three coats anymore because even though one is dressy and one is causal and one is just cute, she'll probably be too dead to wear them. How is that knowledge not all-consuming?! How can one finite human mind be aware of a ticking clock and not just shut down? I don't know -- it's all just so much to bear.

I don't have any deep explanation for any of this -- we're simply trying to get by. We're in "survival mode," as they say. We're putting one foot in front of the other, getting from one meal to the next (if I remember to thaw something out, that is), moving from one appointment to another appointment, one treatment to another treatment, feeling thankful for the moments we have to spend together, even if they are strange and stressful. Maybe one day, someday, this will all make some kind of sense.

"But he said to me,
'My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.'
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ’s sake,
I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,
in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong."

-- 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hello, Summer!

My sweet big kids have finished their fifth grade year, and both are officially "middle schoolers." I really have no idea where the time has gone. They completed the last of the computer work for their math curriculum this morning bringing the school year to an official close. After finalizing the gradebook, I dished out ice cream sundaes to celebrate. We then had a homeschool awards ceremony where I hummed "Pomp and Circumstance" while the kiddos (still in their pajamas) received homemade certificates decorated with stickers by their toddler sister. It was such good fun, and now our much needed break ensues.

Homemade Homeschool Awards

We are, however, not planning to take the entire summer off. We're going to try our hand at a bit of year-round schooling. The kiddos and I are going to work on the Bible Bee Summer Program. I've been struggling to teach scripture memory, so I'm super excited about this program. I've heard good things about Bible Bee as a whole, and I hope the program helps us all. The fun summer events planned for us are a real bonus. (Summer registration is open for only a few more days -- sign up now if you're interested.)

In addition to working on the Bible Bee, the kids will continue taking in-home piano lessons through most of the summer. They're also ready to begin working on the French and Spanish language programs we ordered from Bilingual Books at the Arlington Homeschool Book Fair. By the time the Texas heat is too much to bear (early July), I think we'll be back in full swing. My mom will be moving in with us by June 23rd, and the three littlest ladies are still on a fairly regular nap rotation, which means we will spend much of our summer right here at home. We might as well be productive, right? Plus, when extra math lessons are assigned at each "I'm bored," I think the kids will be quick to entertain themselves.

We took a last minute trip to Disneyworld last month, so we're not planning any travel this summer. Despite not having travel plans and working ahead on school, we'll still have a fun summer. We have season passes at Six Flags over Texas, so we'll spend a few days in Arlington. We'll also participate in some reading programs following the Mensa for Kids book list. We'll go to the lake and to the park. We'll do some craft projects. We'll ride bikes and take some long walks. We'll visit the neighborhood pool.

What are your summer plans? Anything exciting?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Double-Digit Gracie Girl

Gracie turned ten last week, and my friend Randi, party planner extraordinaire, stepped in during this very overwhelming season of life to help make her birthday super fun. Gracie wanted a rainbow-themed birthday party, and she had been scouring Pinterest for ideas. Randi incorporated all of Gracie's favorite ideas, and Gracie and her little girlfriends had a blast at her colorful celebration. In addition to enjoying fun decorations and eating yummy rainbow-themed snacks, the girls made gumball bracelets and visited painting stations for rainbow-themed manicures. They then played a hands-free game wiggling cookies from their foreheads into their mouths while Gracie's birthday music playlist played in the background. It was a simple and inexpensive party, but my girl had so much fun and felt so special. Thanks, Mrs. Randi!

A Rainbow-Themed Birthday Party...

for one sweet ten-year-old!

Happy Birthday, Gracie!

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