Thursday, May 14, 2015

"It is likely I will die
next to a pile of things I was meaning to read."
2015 Summer Reading Challenge

"It is likely I will die
next to a pile of things I was meaning to read."
-Lemony Snicket

SC is quite the reader these days, so attempting to come up with a summer challenge that will actually be a challenge for her hasn't been easy.  Most parents and organizations that have challenges do it to simply get kids reading, which really isn't a problem here.  However, we do want to continually encourage and reward her for the reader that she is.  After some thought and discussion, AC and I finally settled on a simple "cash for pages" method, because SC has been very interested these days in picking out and buying things on her own.

However, the challenge part comes into play with the final page goal, and there is a huge reward if she makes it.  The challenge for SC this summer will be to read 10,000 pages.  At a price of $.01 per page, that will earn her a total of $100 for the summer.  However, if she can get to that $100 mark, then her prize will be doubled.  Finally, AC decided that any book she writes a four sentence summary/review of (because that IS an area that she needs some extra practice), the earnings will automatically double as well.  So she has the opportunity to earn $300 all for herself this summer, if she is willing to put in the effort.

The challenge is running May 1 - August 15, which will give her some break time before her new school starts.  The rules we have come up with are that any first-time read counts, including comics and graphic novels, but only novels and chapter books will count as re-reads, and each book will only count once, mostly because it is too difficult to verify if she actually read 100% of a book on the fourth or fifth time through.  

So far she has just made it to the 10% mark of the challenge, though she has not written any summaries.  We told her that instead of waiting until the end of summer for any pay-outs, we would give her the prize along the way, after each $10/1,000 pages.

If she makes it to 10,000 pages by August 15, I have no idea how we will make next summer more of a challenge, or if this is one that we can do year after year.  As much as I read, 10,000 pages in just a few months would definitely be tough!

Monday, May 4, 2015

"In spite of everything I shall rise again ..."

"I felt my energy revive, and said to myself, 
In spite of everything I shall rise again: 
I will take up my pencil, 
which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, 
and I will go on with my drawing."
-Vincent Van Gogh, Letter #136 to Theo (1880)

The past four months have been complicated and difficult for our family.  At the beginning of January, we got news from AC's company that they would be looking into the cost of moving us to the UK for a year or two, and AC was instructed to begin handing off some of his responsibilities in the US, to travel a couple of weeks each month to the UK, and to direct his energy there.  

We were nervous about such a big change, but very excited.  As a family, we began to take steps to prepare ourselves for this large move.  AC and I modified our 10For10 trip #5 in February to include time in London for house hunting, and were able to add me onto a work trip in March using airline miles.  We began to research schools for SC, as we knew it might be easier for her to transition into a new culture if she is able to be around other people more, but we still wanted to find one that allowed her to continue being herself, and focused more on whole life learning.  We asked our good friends if they would be willing to live at our home and take care of our three cats, as they are a bit older, and we knew we would be living in a much smaller space.  

We also took our family dog, Rexy, to get a check-up at the vet, because we would be bringing him along.   He had been having breathing problems for a while (noisy breathing), which in the past we had been told was caused by a soft palate issue, and it would need a quick, cosmetic fix.  Our local veterinarian office had recently brought in a new doctor, and she was very worried when she looked at our pup.  She told us that his breathing issues were much more serious than we had been told, and she could see him turning blue as he got excited and breathed heavy.  She suspected that he had a bit of a collapsing trachea, which is apparently very common in small dog breeds, and ordered a fancy x-ray called a fluoroscope, that takes moving images.  The fluoroscope confirmed that his trachea is collapsing, and not just a bit.  It was collapsing to almost completely closed from the top of his neck, all the way down into his rib cage 2-3 inches.  

We were sent to a surgeon who has performed many successful fixes for this problem, but because of our dog's age (8 years old), the success rate would be much lower.  Also lowering the success rate was the fact that the surgeon would not be able to get to the part inside his rib cage to fix it.  However, after examining him and viewing the scan footage, she expressed deep concern that he would make it even the next few months without having a procedure done to attempt to alleviate his breathing issues.  We chose to have surgical rings inserted on the exterior of the trachea, because the long-term success rate of those seemed to be higher, rather than an interior stint, which would build up scar tissue over the course of a year, and either need to be re-done, or cause irreparable damage.  

The surgery went well, though the surgeon mentioned afterwards that things were much worse once she got inside, and she was shocked that he had lived with such a large area of his trachea collapsing for as long as he did.  We took him home, contained him so that he would not pull anything while running around, gave him all the medicines to help get him healed quickly, and just loved on him.  After two weeks of recovery, AC and I had to go out of town for our 10For10 #5 trip, to London and Paris.  We left our pup at a great boarding facility, and knew they would take as good care of him as if he were at home with us.

Unfortunately, the Sunday night before we were to come home, we were awakened by a call from the boarding facility that Rexy had stopped eating, and his behavior had changed dramatically.  They took him to the emergency vet (which is, luckily, attached to the surgery center), and he was having serious problems breathing.  After an x-ray, it was determined that one of the rings had cracked, and was causing tracheal collapse again.  However, because of the place he was in recovery, his body was not responding well to the level of sedation needed to fix or replace the ring.  He had a breathing tube in, but was only ok with the lightest level of sedation.  Each time the doctor attempted to take him deeper, his vitals would tank.  In the end, AC and I had to make the most difficult decision in our marriage to date, and from thousands of miles away.  After talking to multiple doctors, including the surgeon, the option to attempt to extend his life had too low of a success rate, and could have gone wrong in an extremely traumatic way for Rex.  AC and I have previously discussed quality-of-life issues, specifically with regard to ourselves/each other, and we decided we needed to make the most unselfish decision in this case, as we would if it were one of us struggling with life.  

When we returned home two days later, we had to go through the terrible process of explaining to SC what had happened.  She had known that there was a risk involved with the surgery, and that his healing and health were not guaranteed, but it is one thing to explain that possibility to her, and quite another to explain that the dog she has loved all of her almost seven years wouldn't be coming home.  I personally still struggle with little things every day, like hearing the dogs next door bark and him not reacting, or not hearing his collar jingle when I first come into the house.  The worst for me is not feeling his weight on the bed, especially when AC is gone on a business trip.  I never realized how much I counted on Rex to get me through the loneliness that comes with having a traveling spouse.  As cheesy as it is, for me Rexy defined the phrase "man's best friend."

Sadly, the bad news didn't end there.  Just before AC and I were to leave on our next trip to London, where we hoped to begin nailing down housing options, and even pay a deposit on the awesome Montessori school we had found for Sophia, AC had a meeting with his bosses, where they told him that after looking into the company's own policies, it was simply too expensive to send us over there.  After the struggles with the dog, specifically in an attempt to make sure he could come with us, the news that we would not be going to the UK at all was a devastating blow.  To top it off, we had already "paid" for my ticket (through miles), and had made arrangements for SC to stay with my parents for spring break while we were gone, and we didn't want to disappoint any of them.  The trip actually turned out excellently (and became 10For10 trip #6, but more on that in another post), but going into it, both AC and I were not in a happy place.

Things have turned around for us a bit.  Since we weren't going to be moving to the UK, that meant AC wasn't going to have to keep traveling there for weeks each month, and was able to revert back to his one or two days at a time trips within the US.  We cashed in more airline miles to take an impromptu family trip to Whistler, Canada, where AC and I took our honeymoon, and SC got to try skiing for the first time (10For10 trip #7).  It was a much needed true vacation for all of us.

We decided after finding that wonderful Montessori school in London to look around our area for one, because it has been a real struggle for us to keep up with the social needs of SC and get as much academic work done as we all would like.  We have had a hard time fitting in with many of the local groups, so we either spend a lot of time driving around and meeting various friends each day, or we sit at home, all alone, doing schoolwork until it is time to go to SC's different activities in the evening.  Luckily, we found one that will only take 30 minutes each morning to get to, and it seems just as good as the one we liked in London.  It also goes through eighth grade, so if all goes well, we won't have to change schools or figure some other option out until it is time for high school.

Finally, we decided to go forward with our pre-UK plan, to move a little bit east toward both AC's office and the airport.  Initially we were going to look to move this summer, but as we were watching the action on Zillow every weekend, we stumbled upon a new housing development less than three miles from my sister-in-law, closer to AC's office, but not so close that we wouldn't be able to reasonably get to SC's current activities that are near where we live now.  We were not planning to build new, mostly because the new developments available in the areas we were looking were way out of our price range, but then this new development popped up recently, and it is exactly what we were having trouble finding in an older home.  We are all very excited, though our finish date won't be until early 2016.

So, that is what has been happing with us these past few months.  Even though we will not be homeschooling in the near future, I will hopefully still find time to blog and share what has been going on with us as we continue on the journey toward the wisdom spoken of in Proverbs 2.
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