Dr. Evilton and His Evil Math Problems

You know we’ve never been normal homeschoolers, and that applies to how we typically do math, too.  Ever since the first kids were little, we’ve done math through fun activities, real-world applications and lots of wacky word problems.

Daryl has always been particularly fond of doing strange math challenges in the car while we’re driving.  Since we live in the middle of nowhere, that leads to lots of time in the car and it’s a perfect opportunity to create a little math fun with our captive audience.

I’ve posted about our “mad math” challenges before and I put some of them in my homeschooling column once (reposted now at the Magical Homeschool site).  Only my husband would make up math problems involving kidnapping Minnesota Vikings and figuring out how many could fit in grandma’s swimming pool.

It’s nice to know that some things don’t ever change.  We took the little ones to the science museum in Sioux Falls earlier this week, and on the drive Daryl started asking Alex all kinds of math questions involving yet another mad scientist (Dr. Evilton) and all of the jobs he wanted Alex to do for him as his henchman.

There were genetically engineered animals with extra body parts, hover cars of various weights and with various materials needed, budgets to figure out for evil inventions, energy sources with different needs, and so on. If Alex was taking a long time to answer, Daryl would caution him, “Careful, Dr. Evilton is coming closer to your desk with his henchman-whacking stick!”.

Alex did a remarkable job with even really complicated problems, and Dr. Evilton rewarded him with the promise of a cookie on his desk each day next week.  When Alex asked if they’d be gluten-free since he’s allergic, Daryl said that one would be.  But he wouldn’t know which one, because he is evil, after all.

That’s what you get when you work for evil scientists…..

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Putting One Foot In Front of the Other

There are some times in life that are just magical.  Things seem to have all clicked into place.  The world seems full of possibilities and I wonder often how I got to be so lucky.

This doesn’t happen to be one of those times.

To be honest, things have been difficult.  For quite some time.  I have been doing my best to put one foot in front of the other and just get through it, but that doesn’t make for much inspiration for blog posting (or much of anything else).

The past couple of years have been hard.  I lost my job as a columnist when Examiner.com went down.  I really enjoyed that job as I got to write about all the things I loved and was passionate about (homeschooling, sustainable living and attachment parenting).  I got hired at a new site and made good money but only if I mass produced content that I found soul-draining.  Yes, I occasionally wrote about topics I was passionate about, but those tended to tank and get me stern messages from management, so I found myself writing about celebrity baby names and seedy news stories.  I decided to quit and try to make it as a Kindle/CreateSpace author even though I knew that would be a drastic cut in pay and we already live on next to nothing.  I don’t regret that (life is too short to sell yourself out for a paycheck) but it has meant no more frugal Florida vacations and some really serious belt tightening on top of what was already an extremely thrifty life.

Then in the fall of last year, our beloved dog, Layla died.  We all still miss her.  Then on New Year’s, my grandmother died.  We had seen it coming and had made the trip to Ohio three times that year to try to take care of her and get time with her, but it was still a very sad loss for all of us.

Then in the spring of this year, three of my friends died.  One was my dear friend “Savage,” an ex-cop who was a close friend of mine from years ago (he even walked me down the aisle when Daryl and I married 21 years ago).  One was a really wonderful homeschool mama friend who was one of the best people I’ve ever known.  And one was an old friend here in town.

And then Victoria’s pseudo-tumors hit.  Things are still pretty dire there, despite lots of visits to the Mayo.  I am not just worried about the pseudo-tumors themselves and the pain and issues they bring, but also about finding the underlying illness that is probably causing them and about the massive doses of steroids the doctors have her on to manage them and the toll those are taking on my poor daughter’s body. Toria has been through so much already — the cancer, the sepsis, emergency surgeries and baffling illnesses.  At 19, she has had three surgeries and all of them have been above the neck. She is handling this so well but nobody should have to go through this.

There have also been lots of other little catastrophes and sadnesses.  Daryl is recovering from major shoulder surgery and has been in pretty severe pain and quite limited in what he could do for the past two months.  Someone stole things from our van that was parked in our driveway this week.  Victoria and Gabe are in their new house but have no heat (in Minnesota December).  Fiona wants far more of me than there is right now and would prefer twenty times more homeschooling than she is currently getting, which leads to great guilt on my part.  Alex, at 10, has hit his first existential crisis and cried for an hour at me the other day about things that were making him sad and about not wanting to leave his childhood.  And the teenagers — well, parenting teenagers has never been a joyful and worry-free time in this house.

And those are just the things I can make public.  There is a lot more that has been keeping my insides full of rocks and waking me up in the night. (Not to mention what’s been going on in the country and the world, which has been a pretty endless string of awful.)

So I have been sad.  Just sort of bone-crushingly sad for a pretty long time.  I keep trying to turn things around for all of us and start the day fresh and make some magic, but more often than not I have just been trying to put one foot in front of the other.

I keep thinking about a blog post I made 6 years ago when I said I was too tired to talk about cancer anymore and then unloaded here.  I guess twice a decade I need to just call everything out for the train wreck it currently is and then put one foot in front of the other again.

So that’s things here.

As always, I am brainstorming ways to turn everything around and make us all happy today.  And also just to keep going.  It will get better.

As one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Jason Isbell, sang, “Last year was a son of a bitch for nearly everyone we know.”

“Hope The High Road”  (Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit)

I used to think that this was my town
What a stupid thing to think
I hear you’re fighting off a breakdown
I myself am on the brink

I used to want to be a real man
I don’t know what that even means
Now I just want you in my arms again
And we can search each other’s dreams

I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
Uninspired
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again

I heard enough of the white man’s blues
I’ve sang enough about myself
So if you’re looking for some bad news
You can find it somewhere else

Last year was a son of a bitch
For nearly everyone we know
But I ain’t fighting with you down in a ditch
I’ll meet you up here on the road

I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
Uninspired
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again
To a world you want to live in

We’ll ride the ship down
Dumping buckets overboard
There can’t be more of them than us
There can’t be more

I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
Uninspired
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again
To a world you want to live in
To a world you want to live in

Here’s to better days.  And I promise to blog something fun next time.  🙂

 

 

Holidays, Health and Houses

Happy Holidays!  Hard to believe it’s December already.  I guess that’s a good thing, as it means we’re that much closer to spring.  😉  I’ve never been much of a fan of Minnesota winters, though with global warming they’re not what they used to be.

Such a lot is going on here!  Where to start….

I can’t post the usual “fun ways we’ve learned and played lately” because a lot of it hasn’t been fun in the least, so here is just a bit of what’s been going on in our little corner of the world.

Victoria has been dealing with yet another medical crisis.  As her grandma put it last week, “Things just always happen to her, don’t they?”.  First cancer, then sepsis, then a long series of strange ailments.  Then, during the week of History Fest in October, one eye swelled up.  It went down over the next couple of days and then the other eye swelled up.  And up and up.

She went to a local doctor who had no idea what it was and put her on a 5 day course of both antibiotics and steroids.  It turns out that was a particularly terrible guess to make, as short term steroid doses like that tend to make things much worse, which they did.  Her eye swelled to a terrifying size and we rushed her to a specialist in Mankato.  She was diagnosed with an orbital pseudo-tumor (basically a swelling of the eye that causes pain and symptoms like a brain tumor but is not cancerous and not a true tumor that can spread) and put on high dose steroids for a longer time to see if it would control it.

To make a long story short, it didn’t help enough, things got worse, and she ended up at the Mayo Clinic.  Her doctor there did surgery a few weeks ago and performed a biopsy of the area behind her eye.

The biopsy revealed that the swelling is granulomatis and it could be related to any of a number of diseases or it could be idiopathic (just a random thing with no cause, which we highly doubt since she has had so many other strange things going on for the past few years).  She has been seeing various specialists at the Mayo and going for tests.

It has been very painful for her and pretty terrifying. In addition to the pain and vision problems caused by the pseudo-tumors (which are now affecting both eyes, though worse in one), the high dose steroids are causing all the standard weight gain and medical issues, so she is also stressed about that.  The doctors are trying to wean her down off the steroids slowly since every time they lower the dose her eye swells to an alarming size but they can’t leave her on them.  For now she is just tapering down and letting her eyes swell (and I have started giving her supplemental herbs and such to help, which seem to be helping when the steroids aren’t).

There’s much more, but I have to make supper and still wanted to update quickly about the good things going on for Toria right now.  Firstly, her boyfriend Gabe proposed to her during the solar eclipse in August and secondly….  they have a house!

To say that it’s a fixer-upper is quite the understatement, but it’s a house!

We have been searching for months for a house nearby that would be cheap enough that we could afford to buy it outright.  We bought our own house for $2,000 cash 25 years ago and living mortgage-free is one of the reasons that we’ve been able to live on so little all of these years.  Our town is so small that homes are inexpensive but we needed a REALLY cheap house to be able to afford it.

House after house fell through, but this one house that we had called about for months finally opened up and we bought it this week for $4,000 (yes, really!).  I have money invested in a retirement account from my mother’s death that I have set to deposit a small amount of money into my bank account every 6 months to help pay expenses.  There is not a lot left in it but I was able to withdraw the money to buy the house outright and they will pay me $200 a month rent until it’s paid back, at which point I’ll transfer the deed into their names.  Or, if they decide to move to a larger house, a nicer house, or another city, the payments will just count as rent and we’ll keep the house for one of the next kids coming along who can use it as they start out.  🙂

The house is teeny tiny and in really rough shape, but it has good bones, so to speak.  The roof is solid, it has a fairly new furnace and it’s on two lots.  We are already talking gardens and fruit trees.  You know our family!

If you want to read more about the house or Toria’s health situation, I created a WeCare fundraiser to help them fix up the house and I’ve been posting pictures and updates there.

Hopefully they’ll have power turned on next week and things will start turning around on the health front and more.

I’ll post more about the rest of us soon!  I miss yapping here and really do want to start posting regularly again.  But for now, I have three children at home tonight who think food is a really good idea.  🙂