Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Flash" Backs

I've been doing multiplication flashcards with the kids and had flashbacks of all the different things I've studied that way--multiplication, geometry, calculus, Latin, Greek, French, Euro and American art for orals, and now musical notes!!  I had to teach them a way of using the cards--testing yourself, making piles of correct and incorrect, repeating the ones you missed. Talk about deja vu.  Especially because I realize that I'm a bit rusty with my 8s!

Scotland Today

Thinking of everyone in Scotland (and really across the UK, since it affects you tremendously even if you don't get a vote) today and marveling how far we've come:  approximately 250 years ago, our ancestors had to go to war to declare independence from England and today it is being decided at an election booth. I can't help but think that's progress, whatever the result is.  I'm not personally vested either way--my paternal Scottish ancestors left the homeland not too long after Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded one of them--and can't even predict which way it will go.  Though, apparently in independence votes, 88% of the time the people opt in favor of it.  I guess we'll know tomorrow, even if the real changes will be awhile in coming.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hospice Help

With my dear aunt ill in the ICU again, Mama's grandfather in the end stages of his life in Bangkok, a friend's father possibly entering hospice soon, and my own hospice volunteer work starting up again after a summer hiatus, I've been thinking a lot about dying, death, and hospice recently.  I attended a fantastic training a few weeks ago based on the DVD entitled, Facing Your Fears:  Straight Talk about the Dying Process (from a book, Dying to Know by Tani Bathi.)  The video, some of which is excerpted on YouTube (tbathi's chanel), is a very straightforward, sensitive, and informative explanation of what caregivers can expect as their loved ones enter the final days and weeks of their lives.  If I could, I'd give a copy to all those who needed it.  Instead, here are my notes, with some alterations in order and a few additions, on death and dying for caregivers.


Signs to look for:
·         Sleep is so important, sacred even at this time.  Patients will sleep more, coming in and out of consciousness.  Sometimes they see or hear things that no one else in the room does.  These visions are often comforting.
·         Eating:  people’s bodies will not need much food at the end and patients lose their appetites.  It can be so hard to allow someone we care about to stop eating—but encouraging or cajoling them into eating can actually hurt them physically (constipation, even feeding just a cancerous tumor), so not feeding them can be a gift. 
·         Drinking:  Patients often don’t need a lot of liquid.  Natural dehydration actually helps the body by eliminating excess fluid that the heart has trouble dealing with.  Excess liquid can cause swelling in hands and feet and discomfort.  Signs of natural dehydration include eyelids won’t close all the way and ear lobes begin to droop.  Ice chips or wet swabs can help with dry lips, also lip balm.  *It is important to note  that patients don’t die because they aren’t fed or hydrated but because they are ill with something else; not eating and drinking is a symptom of dying, not its cause.
·         Other signs:
o   Breathing:  can become labored (Cheyne-Stokes breathing, with lots of time between breaths)—but it doesn’t hurt the patient; natural chemicals released by body can reduce pain and panic.  If there is some difficulty breathing, angle a fan at the side of patient’s face, which relaxes the facial muscles and helps ease breathing.  Also, if you breathe slowly that helps the patient.  Finally, so-called death rattle is loud and can bother listeners but again it doesn’t hurt or bother the patient.
o   Hands and feet can become cold or even mottled (like purple bruises); looks disturbing but isn’t bothering patient.  Often a sign that death is very near (days or even hours.)
o   Lazarus Syndrome—an unexplainable surge of increased energy and interaction near the very end; death often follows within hours or a day.

What you can do:
o   Talk, sing, pray—hearing is the last sense to go.  Tell family stories.  Say what you’ll remember most.  Sometimes it helps to give patient permission to go.  “I’ll love you, but I will be okay.  You can go.” 
o   Touch is important—brush hair, rub lotion, touch arms and hands, even crawl in bed—ill and elderly patients can be very isolated physically
o   Question to ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing today?”
o   Think of loved one’s energy as finite amount of money to spend each day, save it for what is most important—ill or elderly people’s pulse can be like that of a marathoner (normal is around 60 bpm; theirs can be 90-120+bpm; tire quickly, even just dressing)
o   Remember to take care of yourself:  eat, drink, sleep, get fresh air, take breaks.  You help the patient more when you help yourself.
o   Patients often have some control over the time of death—after a special date or visit, when everyone is nearby or when everyone is gone.  If your loved one dies when you are not in the room, it was probably their choice, to make it easier on themselves and on you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


My dear Aunt Sis is back in the ICU again.  We are sending love all the way down to her and the family in Texas.

What a Weekend!

Friday:  It was date night!  Beloved Babysitter stayed with the kiddos while Mama and I went out to a business party.  The air was cool and breezy; the sunset beautiful.  We didn't see any Northern Lights, though.  We ate a lot of wonderful food:  lobster sliders, eggplant sliders, baked potato pizza, clam pizza, cheese pizza, black beans and rice with guacamole and tortilla chips, mushroom and kale tacos, "dirty" chocolate ice cream, mint chocolate chip ice cream, churros with orange and chocolate sauce. A great evening.

Saturday:  After our usual morning of kung fu and ice skating, we spent the afternoon with one of Mama's friends from her last job, Miss N.  Miss N is moving back to Japan and this was a goodbye visit.  The kids loved talking to her--especially about her trips all over the world (I've never known someone so well traveled--Galapagos Island, Mexico, Canada, Iceland, Sweden, France, Germany, Italy (next month), Morocco, Egypt, Kenya, Nepal, India--and these are just the ones we talked about in passing!)--and eating the French pastries she brought.  The kids did their show-and-tell show, with piano playing, drawings, Nano blocks of Himeji Castle and Neuschwanstein (yes, she'd been to both.)  Sis even made her a Swedish apple pie.  It was a short, but very sweet visit.  And maybe the next time, we'll see her in Japan!!

That afternoon, Bud had a kung fu performance outside at a festival.  Just as the team took the stage, the skies opened up and it began to pour.  The kids performed for a bit, but it is too dangerous to jump and such on slippery grass; besides, the damp was ruining their silk uniforms.  Believe it or not, there were still people in the audience!  Bud was disappointed but brightened soon enough.  Especially after we went out for sushi!

Sunday:  It was our first morning of church at our new time of 11:15.  And we were still almost late!  But only because Ma and Gong stopped by early to bring us snacks they bought in Thailand (some seed cakes, some coconut chews, some tamarind candies.)  It was nice to see them after their month-long trip.  They brought other souvenirs, including a cat shirt for Mama and a bunny door hanging for Sis; I think Bud got some comic books.  I was at the grocery store buying fruit for the children's service at church and lunch makings for the week when they arrived.  About an hour or so later, we left for church.  It was fun to see friends and to begin to settle into the new church year, with a new interim minister whom I like.  After church, we went to the crafts store and then spent some of the afternoon making Sculpey food and then playing outside.  We had a great homemade vegetable soup and then the weekend came to a gentle end.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Told Me So

Oh, Lambeth, I should have heeded your warning about piano practice:  I have sprained my right pinky!  It had hurt a little before I had started taking piano, but my doctor thinks I hurt it with overzealous piano practice.  Yep, first a crochet injury, now a piano injury!  It's not awful, but I'm resting it, taped to my ring finger.  So, not much crochet, typing, fingerspelling, or, of course, piano, for ten days or so.

Obviously, though, I can make do.

Besides, I have to keep practicing my "Jingle Bells."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

After-School Snack Attack

We've never been that consistent about snacks after school.  Sometimes the kids are hungry when they get home; sometimes, playing is more important.  And sometimes, dinner is only about an hour away.  So, I'm not one of those people with an organized snack routine.  We have stuff in the house that they can snack on, but that's about it.

Today, though, we made something a little more exciting:  personal bags of microwave air-popped popcorn!  A brown paper lunch bag, 3-4 tablespoons of popcorn.  That's it.  Snack.  One for each of us.  With the built-in entertainment of watching the bag expand and listening to the corn pop.



Paper-Bag Popcorn
brown paper lunch bag
3-4 tablespoons popcorn
salt, seasonings, cooking spray optional

Spoon popcorn into bag and seal by folding tightly and even crimping sides (do NOT tape or staple!)  Place in microwave and use popcorn setting, or approximately 2 1/2 minutes.  The popcorn is done when there are a few seconds between pops.  Remove from microwave, pour into bowl, spritz with cooking spray if desired (so seasonings stick), and season.

Mommy Hungry

More Piano Pride

I played a song on the piano today with notes played on different hands at the same time!!!  For me, this is the ultimate accomplishment, even if it were only "Jingle Bells" with a few simple chords, played very slowly and haltingly the first time through.  But it was one of my main aims for taking lessons and I'm on the right path.

Christmas carols, here I come!