Saturday, May 18, 2013


Note: This is another example of Blogger Scheduler not working. I have already gone to visit my mom and come back.  
Dealing with, addressing, trying to find solutions for Dylan's issues consumes me and weighs on me. Couple that with financial troubles and it's almost difficult for me to get through my work day.

And then there was more.

For a few years now my mom has been battling bone cancer. It's odd to say, but up to now, it's actually gone well. Bone cancer is incurable, from what I understand, but she's gone through most of it really well.

You hear horror stories about chemotherapy, but the reality is that although it made her a little tired, she never lost a single strand of hair. She continued going out daily for coffee and meals. For a while, it almost became just an annoying part of life, like weekly allergy shots.

It got a little tougher when she started having breathing trouble. Mom smoked for fifty years, so breathing issues were not entirely unexpected (at least by me; it somehow came as a surprise to her). The doctors said that the chemo probably exacerbated the problem and brought it to the surface, but didn't directly cause it.

At first, having to be on oxygen freaked her out way more than the chemotherapy ever did. She went into the hospital twice due more to the anxiety over it than anything else. After a while, however, she acclimated and actually the problems lessened. She didn't have to be on oxygen all the time and she got a little different system that was more manageble. She entered another phase of managing her cancer seemingly well, although she did have to curtail shopping (her greatest love) because her breath didn't have the stamina.

Then her ankles started to swell. She's actually had this problem for a long, long time, thanks to high blood pressure, but from what I understand, it was much, much worse. Steroids helped for a while, but they don't like you to be on them forever. She ended up having a nurse come in to wrap them. It became difficult for her to get around, but not impossible.

Even that became more manageable. But then she got tired. Really really REALLY tired. My mom has always been one to get out of the house every single day. She has a whole slew of coffee clatch regulars she would meet with and go out to dinner with. But she was finding that she couldn't do it. Worse, she didn't even want to.

She feared the worst. And apparently the worst was true.

I don't know all the details. For starters, my mom is the one of the most independent people you will ever meet. She's also one of the least questioning people - meaning she will take in what doctors tell her without asking a lot of questions.

What seems clear is that the cancer that was held steady for so long is spreading. And the chemotherapy is no longer helping. She thinks it's now in her lungs, courtesy of a persistent cough. The doctors have told her there is nothing more they can do for her and to get her affairs in order.

I do not even know how to react to all this.

I'm 1,500 miles away from her. What can I possibly do?  How can I possibly be there for her when she needs me?

I feel like a failure as a daughter, even as I know that I would probably make all the same decisions over again.

Dylan and I will fly up there next week to be with her. She doesn't have a lot of energy, but we are planning to see the new Star Trek movie. My mom was an original Trekkie and is still a huge fan. I'll also try to help start the mon-u-mental task of going through her stuff. She is a bit of a hoarder.

I don't know how to tell her all the things I should, especially with emotional, reactive Dylan right there with me. I don't know how to say final things or even how to deal with the fact that a year from now I might be celebrating Mother's Day without my mother.

I'm sad, stunned, and empty. My mom is not the Leave it Beaver or Brady Bunch mom, but she's mine and I don't want to lose her. I want to go back in time and take those cigarettes out of her hand. I want to get her out and walk with her and force her to be healthy and eat right. But just as she couldn't change my decisions, I know I could never have changed hers.

How have you dealt with the loss of a parent? How do you prepare? How do you ever get over it?

 (c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What aren't we seeing

Evidently, there's something not quite right with scheduling blogs on Blogger. This was supposed to post on 5/15. Apologies for the delay!

It's been a rough spring. We started 2013 with a SAT team meeting that earned Dylan direct intervention (RTI) but only in math. By the end of third quarter, it was obvious that intervention had helped (his math grade went from an F to a C) but he was still failing science and social studies. His reading and language grades were adequate to good, but that didn't really help him since the school wouldn't provide remediation for his failing subjects, only language/reading.

His teacher, seeing the writing on the wall, suggested that we accept the fact that he will fail fifth grade and focus exclusively on math and not worry about science or social studies. Although I could totally see her point, I just couldn't agree with demonstrating to him that it was okay to let those subjects go. I wanted him to try.

Grades aren't final, but it looks like he will fail science for the third quarter in a row, while he will squeak by with a D in social studies. Stunningly, he will fail reading.

I wish I could say that the school is falling all over themselves to figure out what's going on and questioning why a child who has always passed reading is suddenly failing. But as usual, the school is rather relaxed in their approach. They have sent me a notice about a 2 week summer program in math, language, and reading, but they can't really tell me much about the program, especially how it will be different from Sept. - May instruction.

A few months ago, I applied for Dylan's admission to a local private school that strives to have a balanced mix of struggling learners, "regular" students, and gifted students in each class. Struggling learners are given the opportunity to work in very small groups in the subjects that they have trouble with. They also offer art at every grade level, science lab every week, and loads of interesting clubs. It sounded ideal for Dylan.

It also came with a big price tag but I took the plunge and applied for financial aid. After all, I was able to go to a pricey Seven Sisters college thanks to heavy financial aid. We aren't in such a different position than my mom was when I went to college.

A few weeks ago, Dylan spent the day there to test out his fit for the school. I know he had mixed feelings, but he was definitely open to the idea. He sees first-hand how he struggles and really does want to do well in school. That said, he has good friends where he is, so his emotions were conflicted, understandably so.

I got the call on Friday: Dylan was not accepted to the school. When I asked why, I was told that the teachers reported that Dylan seemed sad and didn't seem like he wanted to be there. Although that would seem like a good-enough reason why he shouldn't be there, the fact is I'm willing to bet his current teachers would report the exact same thing.

The fact is that he does seem sad a lot of the time. He doesn't interact with his class. He does shut down. And it's getting worse.

I was really angry last week when I realized that he had just filled in random multiple choice answers on a take-home test. Now that I have cooled off, I've started thinking about how his academic life has taken such a downward spiral.  School seems to be practically painful for him. I don't doubt that he has ADHD, but I feel as though we are missing something. We know he has anxiety, but is that the real root of his problems? Is his anxiety really so much worse than we realized? Is it paralyzing him?

In July, Dylan will go to SOAR Camp for a 3-week academic/challenge course. He's excited about it and I'm hopeful. Maybe this is just what he needs - to be around kids like him and to be challenged, independently, to show who he is. Not to the other kids, but to himself. He needs to believe in himself; to believe he CAN. Because I know he can, and I want him to be able to show it to everyone else, especially the non-believers at his school.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Retrofit Update

After my "week oneish" update, I'm sure you thought there'd be a week two update, or at least a month oneish update. Yeah, I did, too.

But it's been a bit of a rough spring. I'll get into that in some future posts that I'm writing today and scheduling to appear later in the week. Right now, let me tell you about what it has been like to be on #Retrofit.

For starters, I have to again give props to Pragmatic Mom. It was from her fabulous blog that I earned the opportunity to try #Retrofit. #Retrofit is an online and Skype-based program that gives you access to tools, technology, and real people to help you get control of your life. That's right, I didn't say that it helps you lose weight. Although it never quite says it this way, it's obvious that the underlying philosophy of #Retrofit is to help you manage your life so that food is neither the center of it nor the "go to" in times of trouble.

You get in-person access to three professionals. (It was actually four when I first started the program, but they have changed things up a bit.) Going along with you on this journey is a life coach who acts as your in-person program manager, a dietician who helps you work through your food choices, and an exercise physiologist who helps you incorporate more activity into your day.

You are also provided with lots of tools. For instance, I have a FitBit pedometer/accelerometer that now goes with me everywhere, tracking my steps, how active I am, even how many stairways I climb. It's pretty amazing what it can tell! I also weigh in on a scale they provided to me and it logs my weight online. I track all of my food and exercises on the #Retrofit timeline. Or I dietician is now having me photolog my food choices on a different site - Since the beginning, I've also been sent a heart monitor and some exercise tubes.

It seemed really easy at first. It didn't seem that different from my normal way of eating. But unless you do something different, you get the same results you always got, right? So the scale wasn't moving much at all. And I was getting discouraged.

My team was supportive and gentle, but showed me that even though I wasn't gorging on Ben and Jerry's every day, maybe I wasn't being as careful as I ought to be. I admit I hate the idea of trying to be perfect because my life is faaaaaar from perfect! It was obvious, though, that I had to be more careful. So I almost completely cut wine out of my weekdays. I got real careful about taking a bite of Dylan's meal here, a taste of what I was making there.

I also focused more on getting steps. This was harder in some ways because I really do have very little "fat" in my day to borrow from. At work, I'm sitting in a chair all day in front of a computer. It's not an active job. My exercise physiologist suggested I try to walk around the building a couple of times and add four flights of stairs. I thought the walk around would be easy and the stairs hard. Turns out it was the reverse. Getting out of the building seems to be a major commitment, but I've started getting some flights in every time I use the restroom.

S l o w l y  it's been working. I've lost about nine pounds and I hope to make it ten before I go to my college reunion next weekend. I am beginning to learn how to live my life differently. When faced with a buffet of menu choices, I try to think about which ones are lowest in calories and, importantly, which ones are balanced choices? If I have to attend the PTO meeting or run an errand, I try to walk there. It's making a difference, without being so radical that it's not maintainable.

Best of all, I have some pants that feel slightly loose! Not I-have-to-buy-a-new-pair-today-before-someone-laughs-at-me loose, but loose enough to feel great when I put them on.

In a way, I'm glad I haven't been giving you weekly updates. You might've become discouraged and not had much faith in the program. You might not have stuck around to see the beginnings of my success!

Think you might be interested in trying it? It is a commitment, but sometimes a commitment is the only way you will get the job done. If you want to give it a try, visit this link. #Retrofit will know that I referred you and that I appreciate the help they have given me so far.

Try it! All you have to lose is weight. And all you have to gain is YOU.

(C) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013