Oh Bwunhilda you're so Wovwee

February 27, 2012 by Rieshy

Reading week: 9

All I know about opera I learned from Bugs Bunny.  Until recently.

Two weeks ago I read the Niebelungenlied.  It was written somewhere around 1200 and much of it was based on tales from the 5th and 6th centuries.  A supposedly sort of German Ilyiad.  Wagner used many of the main characters to write The Ring Cycle operas.

 The Ring of the Nibelung, translated by Andrew Porter and published by Norton and Company, is a great side-by-side German/English translation of all the operas that make up The Ring Cycle.  It was a quite enjoyable read.  I loved Wagner's Brunhilde but I wonder if the women in Wagner's life were bi-polar.

 I'm hankering to watch Bugs Bunny again- now that I know who he was pretending to be.  Alas, the U-tube links to "What's Opera, Doc," have been removed.

I did find free podcasts of the actual opera. Just google it- it's amazing how many recordings are out there. Because of how the the translation by Andrew Porter is organized it's really easy to read along with the opera.  I feel so cultured now.

Time to go watch an episode of Firefly.

Happy reading!


Discipline and Chronic Illness

February 25, 2012 by Rieshy

Warring Factors

All young children, well at least all my children, have been known to throw fits.  When a young child is prone to hypoglycemia how do you determine on the fly, and in real time how to deal with both the fit and possible treatment needs?

Most importantly how do you deal with misbehavior in a chronically ill child that does not:
  1.  emphasis their illness.
  2.  create an atmosphere in which illness becomes an excuse, or a manipulation point.
  3. put them at increased physical risk.
All while:
  1. maintaining an atmosphere of love and trust.
  2. keeping the home "fair" for healthy siblings.
  3. enabling the child to grow in their abilities to self-regulate along normal developmental lines.
A 6 year old arguing intractably with his younger brother over Lego property rights that escalates into screaming and crying can be a normal, albeit unpleasant, sibling squabble.  Or it can be the beginning of a medical emergency.

At my house I have to remind myself that an ill child has no more right to be abusive than a healthy child.  They may have more cause, but not more right.  I've been a parent for 20 years but dealing with my chronically ill youngest two children has required that I develop whole new skill-sets.  

What we have worked out at our house is this- when either of my affected children fall apart they are automatically sent to bed for a moment alone With 4 oz of milk.*  No exceptions.  

In this way, possible blood sugar issues are taken care of without fuss and without introducing the notion that they can't help their behavior.  Without suggestion that their older siblings have to coddle unreasonableness.  

If their metabolic system is indeed responsible for the majority of a fit, there is invariably a second fit about drinking the milk.  If you have not seen a person in hypoglycemic-induced irrationality it is hard to describe just how suddenly and extremely they can freak out.  It is as if you are suggesting that they drink poison.  Once I get milk or some sort of sugar into them, fit over.  They can then take some extra time in private to pull themselves together without being embarrassed in front of siblings.

If the fit was not due to a metabolic issue, but a behavioral or maturity issue, time alone to adjust and regroup is still valuable.  The action of drinking the milk creates a concrete time period in which the child has to stay segregated.  

Either way, poor behavior is not treated as acceptable.  But the framework within which this must take place is a framework of general obedience.   I have to keep my household running in a way that teaches self-discipline and self-control among all the inhabitants, including myself.  And most importantly I have to teach my children to obey me.  Tall order- one that I'm constantly working on and often failing at.

It's also quite an old-fashioned notion.  

But the instinct to obey must be knee-jerk enough in my affected sons that in the midst of a hypoglycemic fit the instinct to obey wars with the irrational fight-state.  Which gives added dimension to one of the 10 commandments:

"Obey your father and mother that your days may be long upon the land."

because it really is a matter of life and death.

*My children are not diabetic.  Their hypoglycemia is due to a different underlying metabolic disorder- see sidebar.  This is simply what works right now for our family.


Scientific Terms Clarified

February 21, 2012 by Rieshy

  Critical Mass can be defined as:
The minimum mass of fissionable material required to maintain a nuclear chain reaction.
The point at which the mass of dust and stashed dirty laundry (exceeding the combined weight of boys sharing a bedroom) causes a mothers head to achieve spontaneous combustion.

Spontaneous Combustion can be defined as:
Describing reported cases of the burning of a living human body without an apparent external source of ignition.
The time period in which wise children prepare coffee, give their mother chocolate, and look penitent- all while vacuuming afore mentioned bedroom.


Snake In A Barn

February 20, 2012 by Rieshy

My 4 year old has an odd habit of packing.  By packing I mean packing anything.  When he was two he would take his father's socks and pack them.

I would go outside and find a lonely single lumpy sock in the boys clubhouse or under the trees, or under the swingset.  Upon inspection the lumpy sock would be packed with important things like:
  1. Three duplos
  2. A bionicle head
  3. A kitchen spoon
  4. A crayon
  5. 50 cents
  6. My keys

No idea.  He leaves his father's socks alone now.  Now beware the random knapsacks and tote bags. Or random toys with handles.  I never know what I'll find.  Yesterday it was a knapsack with:
  1. A towel
  2. A flashlight
  3. A one foot long toy gripping tool
  4. The ubiquitous duplos
Last night it was a curiously heavy barn.

How to harness this mad skill?


Inconvenient Realities

February 18, 2012 by Rieshy
My Life Experiences Bemoaned in 17 Syllables

Reading and knitting 
are mutually exclusive activities.

Eating chocolate while on the elliptical machine 
is frowned upon.

Artistic children and clean closets do
 not co-exist peaceably.

One cannot write a paper 
while reading a fun mystery novel.

My spinning wheel is too large to pack 
in my son's hospital tote bag.

My whole family expects to eat.... 
every day.... several times.

Preparing taxes is as fun as
 fingernails run down a chalkboard.

Knitting one sock selfishly calls for 
knitting a matching second sock. 

Weaving requires brain power, brain power requires sleep, 
what's Sleep?!?

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Morphing Mammas

February 14, 2012 by Rieshy

A few nights ago I heard the thump, thump, thump of running feet.  My bed covers were carefully lifted and a small person quietly slipped onto my side of the bed.  Quietly, because my 4 year old has learned that if he gets into our bed too rambunctiously in the wee hours I usually wake up enough to hold his hand and walk him back to his own bed.

Staying under the radar has become quite an important life skill.

This time was different- his little body was trembling with fear.  No way would I have evicted him.  I lay still,  wondering what kind of monster had been in his dream.  His body slowly relaxed. I drifted off. Until...

Suddenly I was awoken again,  with the sensation of little fingers frantically patting all over my face.  I almost laughed outloud.  I knew exactly what he was checking for.

Is this really my mother- or has my nightmare monster tricked me and taken possession of my parent's bed?

Only after the boogieman check could we all go back to sleep.


Reading Week: 5

February 6, 2012 by Rieshy

Antique heros meet Jack Reacher.

First a realization.  Reading books off my ipad is not going to be successful for me.  Not only do my small children borrow it to listen to audible books at bedtime (my prime reading time) but I cannot seem to forget that it is a computer and not a book.

Normally when I read all life ceases to exist around me.  I wouldn't notice the proverbial bomb going off. This ability, I call it a superpower, has amazed and irked my husband for years.

When I read off my ipad I become ADD.  Three lines of rhymed verse and then I wonder, "Maybe I got an amazing email- I should check." 30 minutes and no email later I know the temperature in Hong Kong and all about the new controversy on the Well Trained Mind Forums, but I'm still just 3 line of rhymed verse in.

This week I was attempting to finish The Lay of the Nibelungs on my ipad.  When I finally threw in the towel on electronic reading I started looking at copies on Amazon.  The free ibook book I have was translated by George Henry Needler in the meter of the original.  This English version comes across as sing-song.  It makes me a little sea-sick.  The original German doesn't give me that feeling- but it's  too hard for me to read.

I've ordered a translation by Burton Raffel.  It seems to combine meter with readability.  We'll see.

I'm finishing up listening to No Way Out, by Lee Childs.  It's a Jack Reacher novel, but a bit unusual in that I'm far far into it, yet no one has died.  It's nice to have a hero with amazing skills and brains, who can effortlessly do what lesser men would quail at.  In Nibelung terms- a man of mickle might.

So Reacher =  Siefried, minus the bloody end.

Important note: By the number of times Reacher is described as standing head and shoulders above the New York crowds I think Tom Cruise is pretty much disqualified from the role.

Happy Reading!

Wagner's, The Ring, is next.  I've even found free podcasts of the opera.  Should be fun.

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A Thou-Shalt-Not Original

February 4, 2012 by Rieshy

Over the years my husband and I have vetoed or forbidden, certain ideas that crop up as predictably as developmental milestones with our children.  One after the other each child has had to have the rules of life gently explained.

Things like:

Thou may not spit at thy sibling no matter the provocation.

Thou may not pretendeth to drown at the pool.

Thou art not Hugh Jackman thus thou may not taketh all the table knives between fingers to role-playeth Wolverine.

By child numbered 6 and 7 we are mostly forbidding repeats. Until last night.  Last night was a new one.  Last night I had to write a rule I never even dreamed of.

My husband and I came home from a date and saw strange shadows in the little boy's window.  I went into their room ostensibly to kiss them goodnight but mostly to see what they had been up to.  Blankets were draped all over the room.  Okay, clubhouse building after bedtime.  Totally fine.

My 5 year old's eyes sparkled when I walked in the room.  "Mom look what we built!"


"Can I sleep in it?"

"The clubhouse?  Sure."

"No, I mean the hammock I built with ropes from the garage."  He climbed out onto the comforter I thought was merely draped between the tops of their two bunk beds and lay down.  He gently swung back and forth while on his back 5 feet off the ground. "See, it swings just like in The Voyage of The Dawn Treader."

Ropes from the garage.  My son was dangling between bunk beds on a hammock he (my 5 year old) had built with ropes from the garage.

In shock I left the room and got my husband.  Parenting joys such as these must be shared, plus I needed time to compose our newest family rule.

The building of hammocks is henceforth and for all time forbidden.


Sprung Spring

February 3, 2012 by Rieshy


Yesterday we had one of those curious February days of full sunshine, fresh breezes and warm weather.  My entire family was giddy.  Windows were raised, shorts donned, and school work done outside.

My husband roller-bladed with the Littles and I grilled hamburgers and fat potato-fries on the grill.  My 4 yo licked the ketchup from his plate.  We dipped strawberries in freshly whipped cream for dessert.

After dark we entered into family wide multi-national negotiations in order to pick out a movie to stay up late and watch together.  Believe me with a family of nine this is serious stuff.

I don't do well at planning holidays or birthdays.  It gives me stage fright, and I have a curiously frustrating habit of forgetting important dates.  A spring sprung on me?

That I can roll with.

Just not roller blades.


Chronic Illness and Stress

February 1, 2012 by Rieshy
Part One

Sometimes my days are more scattered than others.  Sometimes the scattering helps me collect my thoughts and gain perspective.

Last week my dryer broke and a part had to be ordered.  I'm blessed with the kind of friend that has two dryers in her laundry room and the generosity to invite me to pop over and dry my clothes at her house, coffee and cookies and lunch included.  I was almost glad my dryer broke.

As her dryers tumbled we chatted.  She had had an interesting conversation with a mutual friend about raising a child with a chronic, life-threatening illness.  This friend had been told by a psychologist that many moms start showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after years of care-taking.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?  The cynical, negative part of me immediately thought several things like-  gaaaa, they want a name for everything- don't they.  And even more negatively, POST?  There is no post with caring for a chronically ill family member.  Post is called death.

As we chatted some more I started to see the parallels.  The many parallels.

The strange thing is that seeing the parallels was not depressing for me.  Looking at the symptoms listed in the link revealed that both my husband and I showed many of the symptoms for a short time after our older affected son's first crisis and near death.

Looking at the list gave me a weird sort of peace; life is hard.  But, thanks to broken dryers and a good friend perspective is encouraging.

I found this song at Not Your Average Widow.  It makes me think of Matthew 11: 28-30.