Thoughts about back to school

We are exactly four weeks out from when I’m supposed to start back at school and five weeks until the kids’ official first day back. Assuming nothing changes. In a normal year I would be making plans, we would be checking school supply lists and back to school shopping, I’d be writing lesson plans and we would be trying to cram as much fun into the remaining few weeks. And by “fun” I mean relaxation! :)

This year is a big who knows! I’ve been reading the articles online, listening to the news, talking to my teacher colleagues, and trying to find the balance between relaxation and panic. Panic! Not even taking it account politics and racial tensions, back to school planning is overwhelming.

For my entire life as a parent, I have put the needs of my own kids first. I have done everything I could to make sure they are supported and cared for. I left a high paying job to be home with them. I got into teaching to be available after school and during the summers. I have worked very, very hard to make sure they are successful human beings. I don’t regret a single second of it, but now I wonder if my plans are backfiring. My kids did really well with remote learning. Eve is happier now that she has been in a long time! She was really struggling with middle school and since we switched to remote learning she has been so much more relaxed. She’s even wearing light gray clothes, instead of all black. :) Lex missed band class, but otherwise did really well with remote learning too. None of us are interested in wearing masks for 8 hrs a day. Lex has opted to continue remote karate and drum lessons so as not to have to wear a mask in those settings. If I didn’t have to go back to school, I’m 90% sure I’d keep them home in the fall. The other 10% is because I would actually let them have input if it was an option, but it’s not an option because I have to go back to school. I have to go back to school and be surrounded by small children who won’t be able to social distance and won’t wear masks effectively for a full school day.

We are lucky that our COVID-19 rates are very low in Vermont, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune. I have such mixed emotions about school. I understand that kids need to be in school so parents can work (that darn economy!) and that they miss seeing each other. I understand that some kids don’t have the family support at home to be successful with remote learning. I understand. I also know that school will NOT look like school as we know it. We will be wearing masks. We will be social distancing. We will have Plexiglas barriers and one-way hallways. When kids come back and want to hug their friends and teachers, we will have to say no. When they want to hold a friend’s hand. No. When they want to sit next to me for a story. No. When they are feeling sad and need a hug. No. No?

I know a lot of kids needs the structure and stability of school (and safety, unfortunately). I know a lot of families need the childcare that school provides. I also know that nothing will be the same when students walk in the door on the first day of school. Nothing can be the same. We will all do our best, but I hope it’s enough. And I hope my working with kids doesn’t bring the virus into our home.

Who knew teaching was such a high-risk job? Sheesh.

Nostalgia

I was walking Huxley the other day and got really nostalgic. Our neighborhood is lovely, but it’s so new and bare. Our old street was so established and all the trees were fully grown and all the flowers bloomed and so much history.  Our new place will get there, eventually. Now it’s bare. Eve wants a tree to climb. She wants trees for her hammock. Our house was so cozy and had a swing set. Eve was happy there and wore colorful clothes and had friends. I was smaller and cuter. Less gray. Less old.

We have a 3yr old on the street and one neighbor babysits three other little kids, so our street is often covered in chalk and littered with bikes and balls.  I miss my kids being that little.  Or even smaller than me! I miss doing craft projects with them and reading stories with them. I miss gardening together. The neighbor was wheeling his 3yr old around in a wheelbarrow yesterday and it reminded me of this day and others like it.

Also, Alan and I have been watching That 70’s Show again.  I LOVE that show. It’s so funny.  But also it’s a show we watched together when it first came out and it’s a show about teenagers falling in love and parents still very much in love. For as often as I literally laugh out loud, there are just as many awkward moments.

I realize, OF COURSE, that it wasn’t all peachy-keen “back in the day.” The house was too small, not right, leaky. The yard took a lot of work. Parenting was hard and marriage was hard. There are as many “goods” today as there were back then, they’re just different “goods.”  Goods that I sometimes miss.

Also, this…

Purple!

Purple everywhere!

I dyed my hair purple.  Eve has been wanting me to do it for awhile. I kept promising to to do it when my hair was sufficiently gray. We had an appointment scheduled in the “before time” but then COVID-19 hit and the world closed down.  We eventually got tired of waiting, so today we took matters into our own hands.

Eve did the front section of her hair too. Unfortunately (for her), her hair is so ark that it doesn’t show much. It looks cool though. She makes everything look cool!

Happy

Happy Sunday. We are officially on winter vacation this week and loving every moment of it. For the past few hours the kids and I have been reading on the couches, interrupted only by dog walks, cat throwup, and the occasional snacks and tea breaks. Poor Alan doesn’t have a week of vacation ahead of him and somehow our calmness has motivated him to work. He installed a cool power strip under the island counter and is now repairing the guest bath toilet that I didn’t even know needed repair.

The real point of this post though is that I had surgery again on Friday, to open up the subglottic stenosis in my trachea. Almost exactly a year from the last surgery. They call it a dilation procedure, not surgery, but it all seems the same to me. Early morning at the hospital, IV, general anesthesia for an hour, recovery, etc. It’s worth it though, because now I can breath again!

Don’t I look ready? :)

The doctors took good care of me and Alan was there to see me in and out. The nurse didn’t like the look of my veins (they never do) so she called in Wayne, the pro, who got it on the first try with no pain and minimal bruising. The anesthesiology team read my file from last time and I think they were working extra hard to make sure everything went well this time! I don’t even remember leaving the prep room or returning to the recovery room. The best part is, other than the open airway, of course, is that whatever the doctor did differently, my tongue isn’t numb this time! The other two times I ended up with one side of my tongue numb for about 10 days. It was a very weird sensation. This time, nothing! Yay! I did have to wear my glasses all afternoon because my eyes were super dry, which is not a problem I usually have, but fortunately I just got new glasses so wearing them wasn’t bad at all.  Also, I napped a lot. :)

Evening snuggle

Friday was also Valentine’s Day, which we don’t do much for around here. We never even got around to decorating this year. I left the kids a small display on the piano, but that was about it. Which was fine for all of us.

Yesterday we hung out some more, doing not much, reading, watching TV and a movie (most of which I slept through) and taking care of the neighbor’s dogs while they are off cruising in warmer climates! Eve has three pet sitting jobs this vacation. One every day for nine days, and the other two are just single days. She does love her pets!

I hope the rest of you had a nice Valentine’s Day, Friday, weekend, and week ahead! I’m reading a really scary book, so I have to finish it before bedtime tonight.  It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. :)

Leaving is hard…

… even if it’s just for two days.  I’m at a conference today and tomorrow.  I stopped by the front office at school on Wednesday afternoon to let the secretary know that I left the sub plan on my desk.  She said, “I don’t have any note of you being out.  I have no sub for you!”  Ack! I got approval from the boss and did all required paperwork!  Apparently he forgot to tell her.  She scrambled and found me a sub, and I felt bad, even though I did everything right.

I told Alan last night that he’d have to bring both kids to school because I was leaving early. He asked why I was leaving early, so I reminded him of the conference. I told both kids about it at night when I was putting them to bed, both seemed surprised. Holy moly, I’ve been talking about this for weeks! So much for my prepping.

This morning Eve work up late and in a total funk. She was crying and sad about everything. I felt bad both leaving her and leaving her for Alan to deal with. This evening she called to tell me the dog chewed up her shoe.  She only has one pair of shoes. :/

Sigh. The conference is going well at least.

Fun with paper circuits… or in this case, ribbon circuits!

The view’s not bad, if you like all that white stuff!! :)

Subglottic tracheal stenosis

I haven’t posted anything about my second trachea surgery here, that I can remember.  I thought I should though, just for posterity and future reference.  For the moment it’s over and done with.

Last spring I started experiencing shortness of breath and wheezing, like I had back in 2015/16.  Instead of going through the whole process of x-rays, cat scans, asthma treatments, etc, I just went back to the ENT who fixed the problem in the first place!  Actually, I went to my PCP first to get the needed referrals.  My official PCP, a different doctor than I saw during the first round of all this, thought maybe the problem was caused by reflux.  I told him I didn’t have reflux, just the occasional heartburn.  He explained reflux and I said, “Ooohhh, yes, I guess I do have that!”  He gave me the ENT referral, but also had my try Prilosec for two weeks.  Guess what? No heartburn — at all!  That was a nice two weeks.  Unfortunately the damage was already done.

I went back to the ENT in November and he did the scope again, finding that yes, once again the scar tissue had built up in my subglottic area (just below the larynx) and was causing the wheezing and breathing problems.  He said we should definitely do another surgery.  I said, ok, but I don’t want a third, so how can we prevent this in the future?!  He agreed that reflux is a likely cause and prescribed a longer duration anti-reflux med.

So I had the surgery again on February 8th.  I intentionally scheduled it for the week before vacation so I could have two weeks off.  I remembered that last time one week didn’t feel like enough (though when I went back and reread the post I realized I also went to a Lego League competition the day before going back to work, NOT the best idea!)  This time I had a quiet week at home (with the except of Eve home sick one day, snow day another day, follow up appointments another day, etc)  Then we went to Franklin over vacation so I was able to relax there too.  That’s what I do best in Franklin!  :)

I went back to work this week and I’m feeling pretty great.  I can totally breath again!  I can walk up stairs without feeling like I’m dying.  I don’t sound like Darth Vader anymore.  I got nice flowers and a get well card from my coworkers, so I sent out a thank you email and gave them all a quick overview of what’s going on.  Since then so many have come to talk to me about it!  People have said they thought I had asthma, or bronchitis, or emphysema!  Geesh!  I’m glad I cleared that up with everyone.

I’m currently taking reflux meds, but also changing my diet to reduce the reflux in the hopes that I don’t have to be on the meds forever.  Now we wait and see if the whole thing comes back again after a few years.  Fingers crossed it does not!

If you’re curious, here’s a good description of what’s going on.

Here’s a super detailed version of it with some gross pictures, and that article led me to another that might explain what I really have.  I’m posting this mostly for my own reference, in case it comes back again in two years.

Anyway, that’s my story for this evening.  It’s great to be able to climb stairs and read a full picture book without having to stop and catch my breath!

All about me

I had a nice visit with the allergist today.  Bright and early.  Well, not bright because thanks to day light savings time and winter, it’s damn dark these days!  And rainy. Anyway, where was I?  Right, at the allergist.  Getting poked and prodded.

They tested me for 38 different things and I only got two reactions!  Cats and dust.  Exactly what I was expecting.  Seems I’ve outgrown the tree allergy though, which is good.  She said both are very common and the size of my reactions means it’s highly unlikely that allergies are the cause of my breathing issues.  (Holy moly, I was just looking for a post about my last surgery and came across this one about allergy testing two years ago. I’d completely forgotten about it!  I guess I wasn’t allergic to trees two years ago either. Totally forgot! Also, glad they did it on my arms this time!)

Yesterday I went back to visit the ENT surgeon who did my throat surgery two years ago. He did the same yucky scope again and said that there is definitely blockage.  Again!  In fact, he showed me the hole at the top of my trachea and said it should actually be 3-4 times larger than it is!  I said, “would that explain..” and he said, “Yes! The wheezing and the breathing and everything.”  The real question though is “why?”  Why does this keep happening?  After further discussion, the going theory is acid reflux.  I did a little research and it all does fit together.  So the next step is to make a plan for reflux meds and schedule surgery — again.

Letting the grays grow

Soo… I decided I’m tired of coloring my hair and I’m going to let the grays grow out. I’m hoping I won’t look super old and awful when it’s all gray, but also I just don’t feel like paying the $$ and taking the time to keep coloring it. The roots always show before I get back to the salon, so I’m not really fooling anyone anyway. Alan is pretty excited about this. He said, “Finally we’ll be matchy matchy!” The kids thinks it’s cool, and Eve is hoping that when it’s all gray I’ll dye a streak bright purple. They are all kind to me.

I got two good laughs this week from kids who are apparently starting to notice. A fifth grader stopped mid-sentence and said, “You have some silver in your hair!” Then he quickly reassured me that it’s ok because it might just be the way the light is hitting my hair and it’s only on one side and besides his grandmother had gray hair and she died last summer when she was 100 years old. I barely got a word in before he was off again. Today Eve has a friend over and his little sister, who is in Pre-K, said “Oh Mrs. Johnson, you have gray hair!” I said yep! She said “oh” and turned to talk to her sister about something else.

I think I have to come up with a clever response to kid comments. Hmmmm…

A “day off”

Today is Martin Luther Jr. Day and a day off from school.  I have come to the conclusion that all weekends should be three-day weekends.  Saturday to get caught up and run errands, Sunday to relax and enjoy, and Monday to prepare for the upcoming week.  Especially those of us in careers that take a lot of “at home” work before we are actually ready to go to work!

This weekend I have written my lesson plans for the next three weeks, figured out how to use Do Ink (green screen software), set up Google Classrooms for six classes, prepped for tomorrow’s in-service day, came up with plans to teach Dash and Dot to my second graders, Lego WeDos to the third graders, and author studies for kindergarten and first grades.  I did a big grocery shopping, organized the pantry, helped both kids clean their rooms, and managed to eat healthy and stay “on plan” with Weight Watchers.  I EVEN managed to go to a yoga class and have brunch with a friend! I’m on fire!  I don’t even remember what I did on Saturday!  That was all just yesterday and today!

Seriously, all weekends should be three days.  Two days just isn’t long enough in the education world.  :)  Although…. maybe we need a rotating schedule because the kids don’t need three day weekends!

Exhausted (and rambling)

All of my blog post for the next year and a half are going to be about how exhausted we are around here. Eve was home sick today with an ear infection, I went to school sick (shh!) with a sore throat. I took us both to the urgent care center this afternoon to make sure it wasn’t strep. It’s not, so we will both be back at school tomorrow. Only 27 more days of school! The house plans are totally overwhelming. So many decisions to make and we can only hope that we’re making the right ones! I hope when it all comes together we aren’t like, “Ew, did we really chose that color?” (you can replace “color” with cabinets, counters, fixtures, lights, siding, roofing, trim, flooring, etc!) We have a buyer who made an offer that was way lower than we were expecting. Two realtor confirmed the price though, so we are going with that buyer. The buyer’s agent is also our seller’s agent (they worked for the buyer first), so I hope that isn’t detrimental in the long run. I hope taking the low offer, also the first offer, is better than waiting and listing the place and hoping for a better offer. I’ll never know, of course, cause you can’t know what’s down the path not taken, but I hope we’re making the right choices. Lex went to bed in tears tonight because he is exhausted from his musical rehearsals. The show opens on Thursday and runs through Saturday, so it will be all over soon. Just a few more late practices, then a few very late nights, then he can rest. He’s falling behind on homework and struggling to stay positive. He isn’t thrilled with the job he has on the stage crew (not much to do), but knows that if he sticks with it there will more interesting things to do next year. That’s hard to remember sometimes though. Eve also has a play coming up. She’s be performing on Northern Stage. So cool! (I’m probably repeating myself here but I’m too lazy to reread my previous posts, so sorry, not sorry.) She is struggling with girl friend issues and growing up and all the fun things that go along with that. We all just need a good, long nap! For days! I’m trying to get my financial aid sorted out before my two courses start next week. I also recently found out that my health insurance is so much better and so much more affordable than the miserable plan we have through Alan’s job, so we are in the process of switching that over. Like I said – exhausted! You can probably stop reading the blog now because I’ll probably just post this same nonsense over and over for the next 18 months. On the plus side, I got a new phone. I just went to find a cute kid picture (or even dog or cat picture!) to wrap up this post in style, but all the pictures on my phone are of snap circuits and school kids! Oy! Maybe another time. I need to put myself to bed now before I continue to eat everything I can get my hands on, despite my sore throat. Good night.

Surgery update

Hey all, I think this blog is losing steam.  That makes me sad, but also not surprised with the influx of social media and group chats; plus my kids are getting bigger and less interested in having their private lives on public record; and that whole working thing that takes up a lot of my time these days!

I am gloriously home this week, relaxing on the couch and watching too much tv.  They call it “resting,” not something I’m generally good at! :)  Actually, this week we’re calling it “healing” and something that is very needed, mentally and physically!

Third paragraph and third time sitting down to write this.  Sigh.  Things are going well.  I’m healing.  My throat is feeling less sore and I haven’t taken an pain reliever since 1pm this afternoon.  :)  On Tuesday the ENT surgeon did a “quick procedure” (only 74 minutes fully sedated!) to remove some scar tissue from my trachea in an attempt to open up that airway and help me breath a little easier.  I’ve been dealing with this for awhile now and tried several different asthma meds first, with minimal success.

I’ve been on so many meds (pain relieves, antibiotics, stereoids, and the usual vitamins and stuff I take every day), that I haven’t really been able to tell if the surgery made any improvement.  Also, it’s not too hard to breath when you’re just sitting on the couch all day, not moving!  :)

This afternoon I took Arlo for a walk down the street and it was colder than cold so we walked at a very brisk pace!  It was not a long walk, but I found myself noticing on the way back that my breathing was up slightly, but in a natural “I’m walking fast in the cold,” sort of way, not the “I’m having trouble catching my breath,” sort of way that it has been for the past year or more.  I’m going to tentatively say the surgery was useful and worth it (the forced recovery time was definitely worth it as I’ve been running on stressed out fumes for awhile now!)

Yesterday I made it out for a few errands and lunch with a friend.  I was exhausted by the end and my throat was sore.  Today felt like “back to real life” with karate and Lego League practice requiring me to be up and out the door early.  Tomorrow is the Lego League competition and it will be a LONG, LOUD day!  I’m going to bring extra pain reliever, just in case!  Monday is a full day of school, and I’m already looking forward to Tuesday and Wednesday, my quieter days in the library!

Ok, outta here for now!  Lots to prep for tomorrow and we have to be out the door bright and early!