Wednesday, December 4, 2013


"We're still here?!"

As Christmas approaches, this is the question Mark and I have been asking ourselves.  The answer, obviously, is 'yes' - and it's one that gives us mixed feelings. Back in the spring, when we tentatively put together a time frame for leaving for Papua New Guinea, we planned to celebrate Levi's second birthday (which falls in the last week of November) in PNG. Honestly, this was a somewhat arbitrary date, since we made the decision in part because we celebrated Anna's second birthday while we were visiting the hospital back in 2001 and thought it would be fun to do the same for Levi - but it gave us something to aim for.

As we raised our support during the summer and fall, we realised that from a financial standpoint we were still on track to move by the end of November. God has truly amazed us during the fundraising process, and it's been both humbling and encouraging to see the group of people He has drawn around us to support us through funding, prayer or both. We are fully funded!

However, our visa paperwork has been a somewhat different story. And based on previous missions experience (both our own and that of friends and family living in developing countries), this hasn't come as a huge surprise to us ... but certainly brings us days of frustration! After initial hold-ups surrounding Mark's medical license were cleared, it looked as though adjusting our plans to move in the first two weeks of December may be realistic. As I write this on December 4th, without visas and therefore also without plane tickets, we are sensing this departure timeframe, too, sliding by us unmet...

It is a mixed blessing, though, and there are things we're very thankful for even in the delay. We had some really precious time with family and friends over Thanksgiving - some of our family doesn't live in Tulsa so the holidays gave us some extra time with them that we might not have had otherwise. Celebrating with family on Friday enabled us to also invite good friends over on the Thursday and get the chance to connect with them before leaving.
I have been able to get a few more weeks of OB care in with my doctor here, which has allowed us to see a reassuring formal ultrasound and gestational diabetes test while we still have access to those kinds of care.

My packing is able to happen in a more relaxed and methodical way with more time to spend on it, which I know will make unpacking much easier on the other end and hopefully reduces the chances that I leave any 'necessaries' behind!

And it looks like we have a winter storm headed our way, which is so far promising the kids an atypical couple inches of pre-Christmas snow before we move to a climate that definitely won't be affording us any snow days!

As we are in this final stage of waiting before we leave, we are trying to be patient and just enjoy this time of stillness that God has given us before all of the travel and uprooting begin (although stillness may not actually be a very accurate descriptor, as I think about all the 'last' things we are trying to do and people we want to see, ha!).
We would love for you to join us in praying that there aren't any unnecessary delays and that all of our paperwork would be processed in God's timing for us - thank you so much for standing with us in this time. We'll keep sending out updates as things change!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We have a reader!

It's been a couple months since my last post, and I have lots that I could write about (and want to!). But it's past bed-time and last night included only about 3 consecutive hours of sleep, so I'm keeping it short and sweet :)

We have an exciting new development on the homeschool front. In my last post I mentioned a phonics book that I was going to start next semester, in order to deliberately move towards reading. However, I decided to go ahead and start introducing those concepts now since Anna seemed ready for that. She has been writing words for several months, some from memory and others with spelling help, and even makes up some short phrases here and there. So I pulled out my phonics book and yesterday we got started. And boy was she ready to go!

We started by defining vowels. Then we learned that although each vowel has multiple was of being pronounced, we would be starting with each of their short sounds. Starting with A for Anna :)

I made these little laminated letter cards the night before, and within about 2 minutes she was making up three-letter words with a short A in the middle and reading them on the first try:

We started with -at words, and changed out the first letter to create about a half dozen different rhyming words.  I made it into a little game, so we each had a pile of letter cards and took turns trading out starting letters, and then Anna would read the new words we created.

So far we've covered the short A and E sounds this week; my plan is to spend the rest of this week consolidating those letters and then move onto the other vowels next week. I used different coloured card stock for vowels and consonants, but she seems to have a good grasp on which is which by paying attention to what her mouth is doing when she says the letter. (The definition I used for vowels included that when saying their sounds, your tongue doesn't contact any part of the inside of your mouth, which is not the case for consonants.)

Obviously, since I'm blogging about this, I am so excited to watch her learn to read! I think because I love reading so much, I'm excited to see that she gets it; the concept of reading is one that clicks for her, and she is excited about it too. (Her anticipated application of her new-found skill was that soon she'd be able to read Frog and Toad to Levi :) )

So, we have a little reader. And school is still going well overall, plus it was pretty sweet to be able to pack up our books, spend a month in England and come home without having missed a day of school. I am pretty sold on this homeschooling idea - at least at Kindergarten level :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Our first week

I intended to write about our first week of homeschooling before starting our second, but we just moved out of our house and my weekend didn't have enough sanity in it to include blogging :)

Yes, we started school the week before moving house, and in the middle of the chaos of boxes and packing and lists and Goodwill trips, we had a great week! I am so excited that our journey into school at home started well.
I am also glad that the length of our school days has ranged (so far) between an hour and a half, and 45 minutes on our quickest day. It just feels so ... manageable! I know this time will increase as she gets older (if we're still homeschooling by then), but for this season that is a really good time frame.
We start our school day around 9, and pray before doing anything else. This is mostly for my own benefit since I am trying to manage a toddler while I help Anna with her school work, but hopefully is also instilling a good habit in her too! We start out with our Bible verses that we're working on memorising during the year, and then switch to her 'workbook' classes. She uses a book for math and handwriting, and since those require more of her concentration than the rest of her work, we start with those when she is fresh and eager to learn :) Levi usually sits with us at the table and colours on a piece of paper (Mark's idea on our first day, and it's become a fun habit that hopefully will last! Every single day Levi asks me to draw airplanes, helicopters and eyeballs for him to scribble on...). When she's finished with her math and handwriting exercises, we go sit on the couch and read her books together. We're reading the Mother Goose book of nursery rhymes, Uncle Wiggly's Story Book and Eric Carle's Animals Animals, and also the Berenstein Bears' Science book. We don't read all of them every day, except for her science book.
And then we're done! Oh, and we don't do school on Fridays :)

I am planning on adding in a phonics book next semester (we're not doing any specific work on reading right now, although she's picking up a lot outside of 'school time' anyway), and I have some books on music, art and world cultures that we'll incorporate during the year too.

I'm trying to include fun activities that supplement the ideas we're learning, especially in her science book. We started with seasons, which obviously she knows very well by now, but we're incorporating some new ideas too. Winter was the season we studied last week, so we compared cold water from the tap with ice water to learn about different degrees of 'coldness'. We also saw that even though cold tap water felt cold, it was still warmer than the ice so it made the ice melt - and then became much colder itself as the ice cubes became smaller.

So, we are having fun! I'm praying that it lasts, and that this is something good for our relationship. She is definitely a quality time girl, and I'm wondering whether the focused time we spend together might be one of the benefits of homeschooling. We'll see!

Monday, September 9, 2013

We are almost back to school

Almost ... because until this afternoon I was still waiting on a math syllabus to arrive. And, honestly, I'm ok with a little delay :)  Since deciding to homeschool Anna through her Pre-K year (and probably beyond), I have cycled through many different thoughts, plans, and feelings regarding this decision. 

For the most part, I am so excited to be the one who gets to teach her.  I get to watch her grasp ideas, grow in her understanding of God's world and how she fits into it, grapple with challenging concepts (and hopefully master her frustrations without too much agony!) ...  and this looks to me like a huge privilege.

I'm also a little anxious, though.  In recent weeks, her behaviour has become more challenging. I've started to see some anger and defiance, especially when I ask her to do something that goes against her will.  I know that I've had it pretty easy with her until now, and even her 'difficult' times could be a lot worse!!  My anxiety comes from the fact that I don't want our more intensive time together during her schooling to become a place where we butt heads.  I know I need to be responsive to her needs and abilities rather than simply getting through my plan for the morning, and I also know that adding a structured time specifically dedicated to learning is going to add some element of a 'teacher' role to my mothering.  I want to get the balance right and respond to her well ... to know when to push her and when enough is enough ... and I want her to love learning!

So, because this is our first year homeschooling, and because she's not even in Kindergarten yet - come on, people, how rigorous does this really need to be?! - we are going to focus on enjoying our school year together, and if we get through the whole curriculum by the summer that's great.  If not?  Then we will have had a good year, learned a bunch of stuff, and be ready for the break! 

As far as the details of what we'll be doing, here is an outline of our curriculum:

  • Language Arts syllabus from Sonlight
  • Singapore Math
  • Exploring God's World (Sonlight syllabus) for a simple intro to world cultures, geography, science; also using some of this for Bible verse memorisation & daily Bible stories
  • Other stuff - I've picked out books either from the Charlotte Mason book list or just books I've found on Amazon that introduce her to musical instruments and concepts of art

Before everyone falls apart at the idea of doing all of that every day, we're not :)  My goal is to do some form of reading/ phonics, handwriting practice and math every day, and also our Bible story and verse.  The rest of it will happen if we are still interested in learning after all that.  (I did initially plan out our year, week by week, to try to make sure we would cover everything in the syllabi I bought, but then realised that that was just too much.  We would have been reading at least half a dozen books every day even before getting to any actual 'work'.)

I plan on doing school Monday through Thursday, probably for an hour or two in the mornings depending on how Anna's concentration is doing.  And how her little brother is doing!  Ha.  My plan for Levi is actually to include him as much as he wants to be included, in what we're doing.  He LOVES to play with Anna and mimic whatever she is doing. 

So while he's not going to be able to follow much of what she is capable of learning, I do want to have activities for him to do with us if he wants to.  He's also pretty good at entertaining himself by reading books or chasing balls around the house or playing with a tub of water, and I think he would like playing with Anna's math manipulatives when we're not using them. 

(As an aside, he has started recognising letters from Anna's little scrabble set recently!  He can identify O, N, A and E pretty reliably.  It has not even crossed my mind to start working with him on the alphabet yet, so I have no idea where he learned those things.)

So, one more week and then we'll be starting.  Our math stuff did arrive this afternoon, so we don't really HAVE to wait another week ... but the thought of starting school on not a Monday sends a wave of discomfort through my OCD self.   I am excited, and praying that God grants me the wisdom, grace and patience to steward this little girl's mind and heart and learning well.   And, somehow, still fit in things like cooking and laundry and showers too  :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

My inner toddler

My day yesterday got the better of me.

An early-morning phone call started the day off long before I was ready for it.

An uncharacteristically emotional preschool drop-off in which BOTH kids fell apart when we said goodbye, left me with a nagging sense of concern over Anna's well-being at school. My already-tired self didn't get through the (long) list of housework that waited for me when Levi and I got home. The lawn guys didn't arrive on schedule, which threw off my schedule for the day. We picked Anna up after lunch and I learned from her teacher that there is bullying going on in her class (of four-year-olds!). I spent the entire two hours of my nap-time solitude on the phone taking care of various things in our lives that are not running smoothly. When the lawn guys finally arrived, I didn't have cash and had to squeeze in an ATM run in addition to the post office run that was barely going to fit before closing time, to send off my passport renewal (attempt number two to renew; I love Canada with all my heart, but why make photo requirements so stringent that it's nigh on impossible to meet them outside of Canada?). Traffic, fast food for dinner, a dirty diaper and dirty restroom with no changing table, an eternity spent driving around the same busy intersection looking for a store that apparently went out of business in the last week, a loud and unhappy toddler in the back of the car who throws his paci away when he gets upset (read: vicious circle!) ...

I finally lost it. Loud, out-of-control, temper-tantrum lost it.

I'll spare you the grisly details; suffice it to say that it's a good thing we were all buckled into separate seats in the car! After seeing the shocked look in Anna's eyes, I immediately pulled over and apologised. To her eternal credit, she smiled at me, told me it was ok, and continued with whatever she'd been saying before my tirade of verbal warfare at the world in general.

We finally got through our evening of running around and made it to the ice cream store for the promised post-errands treat. (Drive-through only, mind you - we were taking Dada an ice cream at work and squeezing in an extra unload/ reload of kids didn't sound appealing at that point in the day!)

As we walked down the hallway to Mark's clinic, the unthinkable happened. Anna's ice cream cone - her specially selected chocolate waffle cone with chocolate ice cream - toppled out of the to-go box and landed upside down on the floor. Not 15 feet away from Mark's door.

My brain exploded. And Levi broke into inconsolable screams that echoed through the not-quite-deserted hallway, causing every person there to look in our direction.

And Anna? Well, after my rushed assurances that she could share my ice cream with me, she calmly agreed and proceeded to model flawless self-control as she sat on the nearby bench while her little brother screamed bloody murder and her mama ran frantically into the restroom for paper towels (and, let's be honest, one second of alone time in a quiet room!).


Earlier in the morning, I read this blog post on the concept of control versus self control. The author writes,

"These two things – control and self-control – stand at opposite ends of the maturity spectrum.
The toddler was a live-action reel of a fierce effort to control his mother.  And he was a spectacle of immaturity.

The mom was a breathtaking portrait of impeccable self-control. And she was the epitome of maturity.

Toddlers brim with the impulse to control (even as they bungle the execution). A 3-year-old will resort to wild-eyed tantrums, incessant whining, ear-piercing screams, coy manipulation, and flat-out demand to try to get their way: to control their parent, or sibling, or playmate, or the situation at hand.

But as the toddler’s attempts to control things escalate, his ability to control himself deteriorates. His need to be in control makes him more and more out-of-control. The results are not pretty."

Wow.  "As his attempts to control things escalate, his ability to control himself deteriorates." Yes, that would be me yesterday. And so many other yesterdays, and probably a good number of tomorrows too. 

There is hope, though! Hope, and the author's gentle admonition that in every desire to control the people or situations around me lies God's offer to me of self control, through the power of His Spirit in me. I don't think it's a coincidence that of the nine fruits of the Spirit, four specifically address this hard-to-master issue. Peace. Patience. Gentleness. Self-control.  Almost as though God knew this would be something we needed multiple 'helps' with if we were ever to conquer the inner raging toddler.  As I take a breath, send up a panicked prayer for help, and reluctantly choose to let His Spirit control me rather than trying to control what I cannot, the promise is that He will finish the work He began in me and will not give me more than I can bear.  And that there is grace and forgiveness (from my perfect Parent and my preschooler who has a better handle on this than I do some of the time..!), and mercies that are new every morning.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Post-op days 3, 4 & 5

Back down to normal font size :)

Day 3:

Today was nothing like yesterday, thankfully! I didn't have that overwhelmed feeling/ gushing tears that made my eyelids slam shut involuntarily ... my vision is back to what it was the first day after surgery. Some blurriness, pretty hazy, but I can tell that my distance vision is about as clear and in focus as close-up. Occasionally my eyes have been a little watery, but nothing on the scale of things yesterday. I hardly had to use any artificial tears yesterday because I was making plenty of my own, but today I'm back to using them about every hour. Still no pain. I'm looking forward to my post-op appointment tomorrow - I think I'm making progress, but it'll be nice to see what the Dr says.

Day 4:

I woke up with pretty dry eyes from the bandage contact lenses ... had to use artificial tears as soon as I got up. It feels just like when I would leave my contacts in for too long - but definitely not as bad as when I every slept in them accidentally.
I had my follow-up post-op appointment today, and he was really surprised at how fast I've been healing. My epithelium has already completely regenerated! From reading other blogs on PRK recovery, I didn't expect to be there till the end of the first week. Dr Clary said this is an easier and faster recovery than is typical, but that's what several people have been praying for, so I'm not extremely surprised :) He also said that I'm unlikely to have much more pain/ discomfort in the recovery process; what you have on that second/third day pretty well indicates how the rest of the recovery will be.
My vision on day 1 was 20:80 (R) and 20:125 (L) - today it had improved to 20:40 (R) and 20:70 (L). I'm getting there..! He is leaving the bandage contacts in until my next appointment at the end of the week, because it can cause discomfort to take them out and he wants my corneas to have as long as possible to 'smoothen out' before taking the lenses out and having my eyelids blinking back and forth against my corneas. I was a little disappointed that they're staying in for the rest of the week because they're starting to feel dry ... but the drops help a lot, so I guess I'll make it. And I'm not light sensitive any more, so that helps too.
I asked about driving - he said yes at first, and then backed out and said wait another day or two and if I feel up to it then go ahead. We went out for dinner tonight (Mark drove!) and I could read the menu without having to bring it up to my face - sweet :) Fine print is still giving me trouble, but I can read the computer monitor pretty easily without enlarging the font size.

Day 5:

I had to get up a couple times last night for the kids, and both times I had to squeeze drops in under my eyelids before I could even open my eyes to go see what the kids needed. But once I'd put a couple rounds of drops in this morning, my eyes stopped feeling irritated. I can definitely tell that my vision has improved this morning over what it was last night. I have a persistent 'haze' though, which Dr Clary said was from the build-up on the contact lenses. The blurriness and double vision is steadily improving, but everything looks just a little 'misty'. Like looking out of the car windscreen when it needs de-fogging.
I realised after going out for dinner last night that I don't have any significant halos or 'starbursts' encroaching on my night vision. I've read that this can be a problem for a while, but I didn't notice anything different from before surgery. (Which actually means - I had very slight halos around lights at night before, and still have them. I'm assuming this is normal night vision!)
So all in all ... almost a week out, and my only post-operative issue is dry eyes, with almost perfect vision already. I am counting my blessings!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Post-op days 1 & 2

(Note - sorry for the huge font size and likely typos!) :)

Day 1:

No pain at all! And hardly any light sensitivity either. Went in for my one-day post-op appointment and my vision (through the pinprick shield) was 20:20 in my right eye (with some concentration, but still!) … not nearly as clear in my left eye, but I'm still excited! Dr Clary said to expect the peak of my discomfort to be about this time tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes. My vision is blurry and definitely not as good as with my contacts or glasses before surgery, but I can see well enough to function around the house. I would feel comfortable driving a short distance on familiar streets, although I'm not planning on trying :) I did notice a decrease in my visual acuity towards the end of the day. Also, my vision was at its clearest immediately after putting in any of my eye drops. Since I had read this on several blogs, it was not anything unexpected.

Day 2:

DIFFERENT STORY! Still no pain, but when I woke up this morning I felt as though I'd been chopping onions all night. My eyes felt swollen and were gushing with tears, and it was all I could do to crack one lid open at a time just enough to see a tiny slit of the outside world. I am VERY light sensitive and have been wearing my dark glasses all day. Both the watery eyes and sensitiity have improved as the day has gone by, but by mid afternoon I can still not stand to have the sunglasses off. (I'm not looking at the monitor as I type, the white of the keyboard is as much as I want right now!) Vision is more blurry than yesterday, and I'm having some double vision when I look at something involving a conrast between light and dark. Again, vision is best right after putting in any of my eyedrops, and then falls back to blurry after a few minutes. I tried to take a nap, couldn't sleep, but after getting up I noticed a significant regression back to how I felt this morning. So I don't know whether the discomfort is related to the bandage contacts getting gummed to my eyelids, or hust the healing process in general. It is still not painful, just anooying :)

Addendum: by the afternoon I was able to keep my eyes open pretty much all the time (rather than this morning, when I had to pry my lids open just to do my eyedrop regimen), but by bed time I was back to my morning state of being. I took a Tylenol 3 before going to bed, and it definitely helped with the burning that had begun to develop.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

PRK - surgery day

Well, today was the day my vision changed for the rest of my life! This morning I went to the eye laser center for my PRK. I was orogingally hoping to have LASIK, but my corneas were found to be too thin for that procedure. (In LASIK, a small flap is cut in the surface of the cornea, and the laser then has access to the part of the cornea that needs to be reshaped. In PRK, a chemical is used to cause an abrasion on the surface of the cornea, the surface cells are scraped away and that opens up the part of the cornea that gets lasered.)

When I arrived at the center and was taken back to the pre-op area, I was given my first round of eye drops - numbing medicine, an antibiotic and a steroid drop. And my Ativan :) I had a fairly lengthy wait between receiving my first set of drops and actually going in for my surgery, so I was glad that the first thing they did after laying me on the table was give m more numbing drops - pretty sure that first batch had worn off!

My Ativan is definitely still in my system even at the end of the day, so my memory of the procedure is already a little hazy. But this is what I remember:
He did my right eye first. I was told to focus on a blinking red light above me for the whole precedure. After a round of more drops, the speculum to prevent my eyelids from blinking was inserted. As far as I remember, the next thing was a set of drops that softened the epithelial layer of my cornea so they could be scraped away. All I felt during any of this was sometimes light pressure. Never any pain, which remained true for the rest of the day. After the Dr fisihed scraping away the surface of the cornea, a cold rinse was used to clear off any residual medication and/or cells. Then the laser was brought over my face, and when it turned on for my 38-second adjustment it made a loud clicking sound for as long as it was working. When it was done, the Dr wiped a medicine over my eyes for 30 seconds, then a think gel drop was put in and then the badage contact lens. Then some kind of darkened shield was placed over my eye area.

The laser was moved over to the left side of my face ... lather, rinse repeat :)

When I was finished, my right shield was taken off and the Dr leaned over to ask how I felt. And I could see his eyes - completely in focus! For the rest of today, I have been able to see at a level between what I could see with and without my contacts/glasses. Pretty much everything is blurry, even something as close as the typing on this monitor, but I can see a LOT more detail at distance than before. Where I used to see darker blurs against the white of our walls, I can now see individual areas of colour and even some shapes. I don't have any double vision so far, just blurring.
Honestly, the worst of my problems right now are the fact that I shoveled the driveway yesterday so Mark could get back in so now I'm aching, and the ativan they gave me for anxiety during the procedure made me so nauseous that I've thrown up twice since getting home. I'm sticking to my very involved regimen of eye drops, and I plan to update this for daily prgoress reports. Mostly for my own ability to track how my vision impreoves, I realise not everyone else is fascinated by this experience :)

Also, as a disclaimer: I can't exactly read what I'm typing here, so I'm assuming it's riddled with typos, sorry! Hopefully that will improve as my sight refines :)