Archive for August, 2008

Six Months

I just realized that today marks six months since I woke up from the coma. Huh.

I still get to the top of a flight of stairs and am impressed with myself. I wonder when that will get old?

I’ve been finding lately that I’ve been getting these sudden flashbacks (for lack of a better word) to when I was in the hospital, in the ICU particularly. I wake up and remember waking up in the hospital at night and being unable to reach the bell for the nurse, then lying there helpless and desperately thirsty, with a cup of water right there, only I haven’t the strength to pick it up. And waiting and waiting for a nurse to come in. Or I’ll get in the shower and remember the first time I showered in the ICU, how I was unable to reach my own head to shampoo, and how exhausted I was afterward. Or I’ll be cutting my toenails and get this memory of how I would snag the bottom of my pyjama pants with a hand while I sat up in bed, and pull my leg up towards my body to stretch my muscles, determined to have enough flexibility to cut my own toenails by the time they needed cutting (I succeeded  – thank goodness toenails grow slowly).

It’s like I can’t shake the memories of my own helplessness. It’s the control freak’s worst nightmare, really.

Lately, I’ve been having lots of people tell me how good I look, how healthy.  “So, you’re all better now, right?” they ask. Nope, I tell them, but I’m getting there. There are a surprising number of people who seem oddly vested in me being ‘all better,’ and respond to this by saying, “But you’re pretty much all better, right?” 

Truth is, I still wear out easily, although I am not resting as much as I was. I can now open jar tops that the children can not. I have a hernia and my colostomy is acting up, and even if I cannot have the colostomy reversed, I’ll need surgery to fix it and the hernia. All is not well and I have many ups and downs. I wonder why so many people keep saying so forcefully, “But you’re fine now, right?” Maybe that’s how a happy ending is supposed to go. Girl wakes up from coma and then her health problems kinda drag on isn’t nearly as inspiring as Girl wakes up from coma and 6 months later is back to her old self (which, frankly, wasn’t that great either, but we won’t go there now).  

The worst thing what we have taken to calling “coma brain.” I have forgotten stuff and continue to forget stuff. The kids will say, “Remember when we went to S’s house for dinner and Boo didn’t want to eat, etc..” and I’ll have no memory of it. I’ve taken to telling Boo, “I don’t remember that, although I’m sure it happened,” because she sometimes takes my forgetting as a denial that it happened.

I had trouble adding 2.5 + 2 + 1.5 this morning. Lots of trouble. It took me three tries. Mostly I have the sense of humour to blow something like this off, although obviously it can be very frustrating. I’m assuming it’ll improve with time, that it is the lingering effects of all the sedatives they poured into my body and it will fade. I try not to think of the brain cells that may have permanently gotten fried.

Mostly, I’m grateful that it’s only things like 2.5 + 2 + 1.5 that I have trouble with, and that I seem to still remember all the important stuff. And that I can still walk the dog and take the kids to get school supplies. I’m tremendously grateful that my children don’t seem any worse for wear from their ordeal. Boo will still cheerfully tell me about things that happened while I was in the coma. Asher still claims that his last birthday was his best one, “You know, except for the part where you were in the coma, Mom. Because even my teacher gave me a cool present and she never gives anyone presents.” (I said to him, “Wow, imagine what sort of cool gifts you could have gotten if I’d died!” He said, “Yeah! Oh wait, it probably wouldn’t have been worth it.”) Maya has matured tremendously and her anxiety has leveled off somewhat, which I suspect has something to do with facing one of her worst fears and getting through it.

And those stairs. I still can’t get over those stairs.

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We got the class lists for the kids today. They send them out to us ahead of time so we can all freak out before school starts, instead of after. Asher was the only one I was really concerned about, given his ‘issues,’ and he didn’t get the teacher I wanted, but got one who has been away and who Maya and her friend declared was wonderful, so I’m hopeful. I still emailed with a request to meet all his teachers soon.

Boo could survive pretty much anything so I wasn’t worried, but I was still happy to see she got the teacher Maya had for grade one, whom I loved and not the one Asher had, who told us the reason he was having trouble in school was that we didn’t read to him enough and he was just going to be the kind of kid who always had to work extra hard (code for kinda dumb) and that we shouldn’t have him tested, and who was completely wrong.

Maya’s friends are all in the other class. She is very sad. I am very stressed out. And so it begins.

In honour of this, here’s my latest column:


I’m handing in this column a day late. That’s because the topic I chose is ‘going back to school.’ By the time you read this, the topic will be on everyone’s mind as September fast approaches, but as I am writing this, summer is barely half-way finished.

I decided on the topic some time ago, but every time I sat down to write it and contemplated my chosen topic, that muscle in my back that is right next to my left shoulder blade would start to tighten – it has already made itself into a nice little ball – and I’d decide to go weed my garden instead.

Of course, it didn’t occur to me to come up with a different topic. I just sailed down the river of denial until I suddenly realized that my deadline had come and gone, so now I’m writing on that topic, with the muscle in my back growing ever tighter.

I love summer. I love my garden, and the warmth (relative as it has been this summer), and s’mores, and no homework, school lunches, notes to teachers or homework. And did I mention the homework?

I hate the reminding, nagging and helping that goes along with homework. I hate when something goes wrong and my kid wails about how the teacher is going to yell at him or her. I hate my homework – sending in field trip money or toilet paper tubes or family photographs. And I hate realizing half way through the day that I’ve forgotten it again and hoping my son isn’t the only one whose mom forgot (this only happens to my son because my daughter is organized and reminds me of all these things, but my son is a disorganized disaster like his mom and between the two of us, it is hopeless).

I love the relaxation of the rules that comes with summer. Bedtimes are more casual, piano practicing is optional and reading is for fun.

Perhaps instead of calling the topic ‘back to school,’ I should call it ‘ode to summer.’ There, that’s better.

Every summer, we start out by going up to my in-laws’ cottage, which we refer to as going ‘up north.’ For the past two years, we’ve brought two of my nephews up as well. Good friends have the cottage across the road, so this summer we had a gang of six children between the ages of nine and 12, and three six-year-olds on top of that.

The children play at the beach, climb in the tree house, organize large games of poker, stay up late and fill in mad-libs games with swear words, laughing hysterically over their wit.

I love this time because this is when their childhoods most closely resemble how I remember mine (with the exception of the poker games) – relatively free of parental oversight.

Being relatively free of parental oversight then quickly moves into almost total anarchy for the next phase of summer: sleep-away camp. This was my son’s first year and he arrived back home grungy, tanned and full of happy stories. I was worried that the youngest would drive me crazy without her siblings to amuse her, but she reveled in it, repeating several times a day, “I LOVE being an only child.”

In another week, the eldest will be back and we will enter the final stage of summer, one I like to call “Camp Mom,” where I take the kids to museums and the water parks and then there’s the ever-fun school supply shopping. I like to save this until the end of summer for because after a couple of weeks of solid togetherness, with Dad only riding to the rescue in the evenings, school starts to look more appealing, both for the (“I’m booooorrrred”) children and me.

So I guess I love summer not only because I can let my children forage for their own lunches and stay up late watching old movies with me, but because by the end of it, I’ve managed to develop an appreciation for school again. I’ll never like the homework or making school lunches no one eats. But at least it takes all my kids away every day and gives them something to do while I get some peace and quiet.

Perhaps I should have called this topic ‘ode to my laziness.’ Whatever. At least my back doesn’t hurt so much now.

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I’ve been sulking because I couldn’t find my card reader and I had some great pictures on my camera. I couldn’t think of anything else to put on the blog but the pictures. Of course, now that I have the pictures downloaded, I can think of lots of other things to blog about.

I rejoined Weight watchers, for one. I want to be less fat for Maya’s bat mitzvah in April. And I just want to be less fat in general.

Asher’s digital camera broke and when we tried to have it fixed, they declared it not worth the trouble, which was what I suspected would happen. He wanted a new one, so I went online and found him the same make and similar model, but upgraded – more megs, longer zoom, etc. After tax and shipping, it cost him $122.02. Unbelievable. You can get a decent camera for an incredible price now. Anyway, he had $128.02 in his bank account, so he’s still up $6 and is a happy boy. We ordered it Wednesday and it arrived today. Which is why I can upload my pictures, to tell the truth, because I used th cord that came with his camera.

Here is Jasper, happy to be free.

I thought if anything would get that dopey dog to actually swim, it would be ducks. But he still wouldn’t go over his head. And the ducks knew it.

We saw a heron, too. I have other pictures closer up, but I like this because Jasper’s head is there. The heron left moments later. It wasn’t as trusting as the ducks.

Find the boy:

Feeding the ducks. The dog was initially outraged that the stale bagels were going to the ducks.

Maya, throwing fluffies.

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Raining, pouring

It’s been hot and humid all day, with a huge breeze. I love such weather and opened all the windows as widely as I could. I also did a lot of laundy, because it is perfect laundry-drying weather. The game is, though, to then get your laundry in before it starts to rain. Because a storm is inevitable.

It’s a cool storm. We went grocery shopping and when we left the store, to our right it was bright and clear. To our left the sky was deep, deep bluey gray. By the time we reached home, the wind had picked up more and the dark clouds were almost upon us. The kids helped me bring the groceries in, then we ran for the laundry, which we got in just in time. Yes, I win!

Now it is raining and hailing, with lots of thunder and lightening. I love thunderstorms. Unless, of course, I’m in a tiny tent beside a stream in Zion National Park, but that’s a whole nother story.

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J and I have been doing a lot of Olympic watching. I’m not much into watching sports normally, but I do like the Olympics.

I have to confess, though, that as I watched Michael Phelps win his gazillionth gold medal, I wondered what it would be like to watch the Olympics if you actually had athletes from your country winning things. Phelps is a bit of an unusual case, because I think he’s just so remarkable that people from all over the world have been rooting for him. But there are other events where we are watching and wondering who to root for – the American? Or maybe the Brit? How about that underdog Croatian?

I started staying that our motto should be “We’re number four!” after Mike Brown missed the bronze in the 200 meter breaststroke by 9/100ths of a second and then the shot put dude, Dylan Armstrong missed out on a bronze by one centimeter. J predicted that when we finally won something, it would be in a sport that, when mentioned, caused people to say, “Really? That’s an Olympic sport?” And sure enough, our first medal was in women’s wrestling.

But we don’t have to worry, because we have a winner right here in our own house. Boo returned from day camp on Friday and told me that they have a race called ‘run and scream,’ the point of which is to run as far as you can while screaming at the top of your lungs. When you run out of scream, you have to stop. Boo won twice and tied once. We are so proud. Not surprised, of course, but very, very proud.

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I was just downstairs doing laundry. I opened the box of Oxyclean and some of the powder flung up into my eyes. My first thought was that it was only a little bit and wouldn’t hurt. My second thought was: OW OW OW OW.

I charged out of the laundry room (in the basement), ran at full speed past the kids blobbed out in front of the TV and pounded upstairs to the kitchen. The children completely ignored me. Good thing I didn’t have to rely on them to phone 911 or something.

In the kitchen, I turned the water on, took the spray nozzle and pointed it straight up at my face. A few moments of that and the pain subsided to the point that I could think a bit more clearly, and I instead grabbed a glass and filled it from the tap. I let the stream keep running into the glass and blinked my eye in the overflow, thereby saving myself a major kitchen clean-up. Now my eye aches, but I can still see, so I am assuming no permanent damage. I had no idea before now that an eye could ache, though.

After I’d finished washing my eye out, I grabbed a towel and dried my head. As I was doing so, Asher came upstairs, took in my wet face and hair and my one red eyeball and said, “When’s dinner?”


So, having finished helping the kids with all their little soapstone projects, I got back to mine. One was a fairly big peice of Chinese soapstone, which is much lighter and softer than the other stuff I’ve worked with. It makes for easy carving. This is what I made:

I have a hard time photgraphing soapstone. My camera doesn’t like focusing on it. This is the only clear shot I got. I managed one picture when Jasper got up and lay down right where I was photographing, so I put the whale on him to demonstrate the way I intend the whale to be displayed:

That’s because it only has one side, really. The shape of the piece screamed ‘whale’ at me (although my kids are quick to point out that I see whales in pretty much every irregular piece of stone I see), but didn’t have enough stone on one side to make a full flipper. I solved this problem by carving it so that it rests on its side instead.

I also made this wee piece on the weekend. The battery died before I could get a decent shot. It is, for those who can’t tell, a whale. Variety is the spice of life, they say.


Downloading the whale pictures, I realized I’d forgotten the pictures I took at camp when we picked Asher up. Here he is in his cabin:

Most of the buildings have murals on them, painted by the kids. Maya told me about a mural her group was planning, and when I asked her where they were going to paint it, she said, “We haven’t decided yet. We’ll find an empty wall.” I actually found this quite charming, as well as the tire flower pots at the bottom of the shot.

Here’s a dragonfly who hung out on my hand for the longest time, until Boo spotted me and whined, “I want a dragonfly on my hand. It’s not faaaiiir.” There were dragonflies everywhere and Maya told me it was because they had a ‘dragonfly dump’ a few days earlier. She said a plane flew over and let go of a zillion dragonflies over the lake and now they are everywhere, obligingly eating the mosquitos. I wonder where they get the dragonflies from? Anyway, it sure was pretty, seeing them everywhere.

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So Boo was still in daycamp this week, even though Asher was already home. It was pottery camp. She was very keen on it. I kind of figured that was a third child thing – happily going off to camp – but I had dinner with a friend who told me her third hates going to camp. He’s shy. So I guess it is just Boo being Boo.

I tried to talk Asher into a week of daycamp, since all his friends are gone to camps and I was afraid he’d be bored, but he adamantly refused, telling me that after the experience of sleep-away camp, day camp wouldn’t cut it. I wasn’t too worried, though, because he’s pretty good at amusing himself and we’ve always been able to just hang out.

We rented the Indiana Jones series and have been blobbing out in front of the TV. Actually, he’s been blobbing out; I was organizing the kids’ toys and folding laundry. I am incapable of just watching TV. I must normally also do one of the following: fold laundry, knit, write in my jounal (not good for very action-oriented shows), polish soapstone or brush the dog.

He’s also into cooking and has gotten some good play time in with his cousins, who are also not in camp.

I have several friends who have only boys and who wished for a girl. I wanted a girl too, when I was first pregnant. I can’t even quite remember why, but I think it had something to do with wanting someone like me. I don’t know why I thought gender would be the determining factor in producing that someone, especially as I am not that girly.

So of course, the one child most like me is Asher, who likes futzing around and science and gardening and action movies. For example, I told him we were going out soon to run a couple errands, something he’s excited about because he has a plan to buy bubble gum. But I wasn’t ready to go right away. I want to finish this, get dressed, eat something. His darling sisters would have nagged me to death by now under the same circumstances. He’s found an old balloon-animal balloon and has figured out how to blow it back up despite the big hole in it.

I love showing him movies I loved as a kid, like the Indiana Jones series. I wonder if he’s ready for Aliens, or if that’d just mean he’ll never sleep again.

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I took Jasper for a walk yesterday and had a chat with the owner of a bouncy retriever/sheepdog mix while Jasper played with the dog. We commented on how nice the weather was and I then said, “Coming out now was a good idea because it is supposed to rain later.” We both then had a good laugh because we realized that ‘supposed to rain later’ has been the forecast for every single day this summer so far.

We then went out to visit friends at their small hobby farm. They have a little girl, T, who is coming up on two years old and is exactly half the size Boo is. Boo is not only our youngest child and the youngest of all the cousins, but the smallest kid in her class last year. I’m used to thinking of her as little. Suddenly, she looked large and dirty and sweaty. She wasn’t actually dirty. She is just tanned and covered in scratches and healing wounds. Anyone with more than one child will know exactly what I mean when I describe this sudden transformation, because when you have child #2, it happens to child #1 the moment you see your eldest after the birth. Your sweet little kid is suddenly a huge, scabby lummox. But Boo never had a younger sibling and most of our friends are post-baby too. And usually when we see these friends, the older kids are around to provide perspective. This time, it was just the two of them.

I found T utterly charming and delicious and adorable and it was all I could do to resist scooping her up and squishing her. She’s so busy that she can barely tolerate her own parents doing that, much less me, so I did resist. I love that age, when everything is so interesting and they are figuring out language. I think that is my favourite age. I guess it is all down hill now …


Speaking of large, dirty and scabby, we picked Asher up from camp today. Because it is his first year, he only goes for half a session. It was nice, getting to pick him up, because I got to see Maya and also look around the camp, which I only saw years ago when J dragged me there for some reason.

I was surprised, when we went into Asher’s cabin, to find him packed and announcing he’d lost nothing. Asher loses stuff between his bedroom and the bathroom (as do I), so I found this difficult to believe. But I poked around the cabin, rooted through the lost and found and generally kept my eyes peeled and found nothing of his. When we got home and I began to unpack his duffle bag, I realized that this miracle had less to do with any remarkable transformation on Asher’s part and more to do with the fact that he appears to have simply worn pretty much the same thing every day, leaving the rest of his clothes untouched in the bag. He claims this isn’t so, that he simply folded his clothes again, but those of you who have ever had nine-year-old boys can see the absurdity of this story.

He did confess to having only showered twice and unpacking his toiletry bag revealed that those showers did not involve soap or shampoo. So I put him in the tub this evening for a good soak and then scrubbed him. I felt like I was reclaiming him from the wild and reasserting my momminess.

Maya, on the other hand, was fresh as a daisy when we saw her, because she’s been showering daily. And brushing her teeth. What is it about girls that they civilize so much more quickly than boys? Her cabin was crammed with girls and yet they each had their stuff piled on separate shelves and nothing on the floor. A visit to her cousin’s cabin was made difficult by the fact that there was no floor to walk on – it was carpeted with abandoned clothing. Both cousins were shirtless during our visit and since it wasn’t particularly hot or sunny, I suspect they were simply unable to find a shirt to wear.

The boy came home with a new toy to play with – his uncle had sent a guitar to camp for Asher with the cousins. Up at the cottage, Asher became obsessed with my BIL’s little guitar. Here is a photo of him from our vacation, having fallen asleep playing it. Note the pick still in hand. His new one is a cool red.

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