Soggy Summer

IMAG2498The one thing we have not lacked this summer is water! Each week it rains easily five out of seven days and sometimes seven out of seven.  We’ve had everything from refreshingly brief showers to torrential downpours, to severe thunderstorms.  State-wide rainfall for June was at 213 percent of normal, causing crop damage 0f over 480-million dollars. Everywhere you look the landscape is a lush verdant jungle. The zucchini and cucumber plants are running wild, sending shoots out of the garden to colonize the yard and if not picked quickly the squash reaches monster size! All in all that probably sounds nice to some, especially to our friends in California where brown is the color of the day, dried, cracked, parched brown.  IMAG2531

And I do appreciate having water in the cistern, being able to do laundry at home (at an average of 46 gallons per load we can put a dent in our 1,000 gallon cistern with just a few loads), and to shower when we want.  But the ground is super saturated, every step out of doors is like walking on a huge sponge – your feet sink down and water pools around them soaking your shoes. The clayey mud gloms on to everything and the driveway is a swamp – seriously there are small creatures – frogs or crayfish? – swimming in the tire tracks! The pasture is overrun with apparently unpalatable weeds and goat worms are flourishing. All the goats are looking a little run down – in addition to a higher worm load, they don’t like the rain and they aren’t getting in enough good grazing time. It’s hard to get all the outside chores done – I’m behind on building the new chicken coop and it’s looking like constructing a porch just won’t get done this summer.

It’s hot naturally, it is summer after all, and the combination of heat and wet are producing a bumper crop of mold, mildew, (which only exacerbate my son’s allergies), and bugs! The house is overrun with flies, fruit flies and ants washed out of their underground homes and the outdoors teems with gnats, mosquitos and lightning bugs (okay – I’m not complaining about the latter).

It’s too hot and wet to enjoy the outdoors and the kids are bored and uncomfortable. While I’ve enjoyed a couple brief breaks away from home at professional development workshops the kids have been stuck here for the most part, escaping only to go to work (and since my daughter works in a bakery that’s not much of an escape) or to visit friends. I never thought I’d say it but we are all looking forward to returning to school both for the engaging routines, social interactions and the air conditioning!

My son has a potential (surprise) opportunity to attend Camp Invention next week if I can raise part of the camp fee. We were told there were no scholarship funds available in June but on Friday I got an email saying there would be funds if we were interested (and could pay $150 of the $220 fee). If I can swing it he’ll have a week of fun building and inventing in an air conditioned building which should give him a break from his allergies as well.  Thanks to several supporters we are more than half way there!

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Facebook followers will know that on the evening of the very last day of school I answered the shouts of my son who called out that the rooster had killed one of the new chicks, took a misstep on the concrete bricks that substitute for stairs at the back door, rolled my right ankle and plunged to the ground, landing hard on my left elbow. It was a most inauspicious  start to summer vacation. The days that followed continued the same trajectory – downhill. The next day my ankle and foot were weirdly swollen giving my leg the appearance of a lopsided elephant appendage. And putting any weight on it caused considerable pain. My elbow turned a dark rainbow of somber colors, but more concerning was my inability to straighten my arm, confidently grasp or lift an object or make a twisting motion with my hand.  The walk-in clinic dutifully took my $25 copay, confirmed neither my ankle nor elbow was fractured and cheerfully prescribed rest, ice, compression and elevation.

I followed the regimen to the best of my ability but there were things to do –  schlep water, weed the garden, work on the new high security chicken coop meant to keep out the fearless and determined predator that was wreaking havoc on my flock, install goat fence, and the usual cleaning, cooking and chauffeuring kids around. So perhaps I did not rest as much as I should have. Nevertheless I did expect to be healed by now (2 weeks later).  My ankle is about 75% of normal but my elbow, forearm, wrist and hand are closer to 50% – still weak and painful. I guess this is all part of the ‘getting old isn’t for sissies’ even though I’m not as old as I feel.

A week after my misstep, I hobbled up the steps to the college dorm where my daughter was whisked off in one direction to register for the summer program and I and the other parents were ushered into another building to wait. The first step in disconnecting the umbilical cord, prying child from parent, sending them off on the path to freedom and responsibility. The kids took off with a spring in their steps and never a look back while many of the adults lingered and loitered until their child was gone from sight before turning towards the waiting area.  The promised breakfast and air conditioning were not as much as a draw as their retreating son or daughter.  Me, I needed coffee and a place to elevate my throbbing ankle so I didn’t linger. Helicopter parenting has never been a problem of mine.

Several hours later, all the paperwork completed, ID photos taken, meager possessions unpacked in the cell like dorm room, I bid my daughter goodbye and hobbled back down the steps and across the street to the parking lot.  I didn’t cry, she didn’t cry. Unlike some of the girls who shouted at their parents to leave already she didn’t have to push me out the door. I feel confident of my daughter’s level of self-sufficiency, resilience, and responsibility, and let’s face it, realistically I’m only 20-25 minutes away in case of a crisis.

When I left home at 17 to go to college I got on a plane and flew over 2,000 miles away. There was no email, texting or cell phones (a call was long distance – expensive) and mail took 3 days to get from home to school. I was also responsible and self-sufficient. Which isn’t to say it was always easy – in fact my first year in school was anything but easy and I’m sure (now) that my mom ached with every setback or stumbling block I encountered. I didn’t think that at the time I supposed – just reached out for support or comfort or a shoulder to cry on. I never really considered how she felt about my flinging myself from the nest and flying like a migratory bird to the other end of the country.

My nestling hasn’t gone so far and she’ll be back between summer and fall semesters for 3 weeks.  We email each other and I’m dropping by a care package this weekend (she says food is expensive and she’s trying to ration so naturally I’ll send fruit and cookies and her favorite tea).  She’s close, but she’s still gone.  She doesn’t have to check in now to let me know where she’s going and who she’s with. She doesn’t have to call if she will be late getting home. She’s not here asking advice, confiding thoughts, making silly puns, helping in the kitchen or with outside chores (where she had taken on a lot of the heavy lifting), borrowing the car and making me wait up until she (and it) get home safely.  I sometimes find myself thinking that I need to go pick her up, or turning to tell her something before I recall that she’s gone.

It’s been hot, terribly hot. The house collects and stores heat like an oven and the temperatures easily rise above 90 degrees inside most days. There are frequent thunderstorms, which combined with the heat, make it difficult to get a lot done outside and in the summer there’s always a lot to do outside.  My 14-year old got a job with a local baker who works out of his house out in the boonies so I spend a lot of time running her to and from work (some days she works 6 hours but other days it’s only 2 so I’ve barely gotten home before I need to turn around and go get her).  It’s good experience for her and money that will go towards various school expenses and clothing and I wasn’t able to find summer work myself so it’s time well spent. But between everything – injuries, heat, storms, losing my best helpers – I have a feeling this summer will be unproductive and uncomfortable.

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Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!

Now that we have medical insurance I’m slowly getting the kids caught up on various appointments.  I’m holding off on checkups for myself (haven’t had a physical or been to the dentist in 6 years) because the insurance has a high deductible and each visit results in a hefty bill at this point. It’s easy to get behind as we still live paycheck to paycheck for the most part.

My son, adopted at age 3 with a repaired heart defect, has the most medical issues and I am happy to say that he has had his overdue cardiology check up and while he has a leaky valve that is in a wait and check back stage he has been deemed well enough to go out for sports next year by the heart doctor.  His allergist (this month’s appointment) regrettably disagrees!  My poor little boy who has a serious needle phobia underwent a skin test on Wednesday that included 93 pokes and 6 larger needles. His arms were pockmarked and quickly erupted in numerous red itchy welts.IMAG2480

When the reading was over the diagnoses was severely allergic! To nearly everything, some more than others.  He’s mainly allergic to all tree, grass, and weed pollens, mold, and dust mites.  Secondarily he’s allergic to soy (! which seems to be in EVERYTHING), almonds, hazelnuts, white potatoes and paprika. Plus feathers and cockroaches and gerbils.

He now has daily allergy medicine – the generic zyrtek, and a nasal spray at the cost of $50/month and an epi pen- and the doctor recommended that we get AC as dust mites like warm humid environments and we could ditch the fans and keep the windows closed to keep out pollen.  Also a HEPA air purifier, a dehumidifier, protective covers for mattress and pillows and oh by the way consider allergy shots (3 a week at $30 plus the cost of the serum for the next 4 to 5 years).

All of this reminds me of a story I heard on NPR this week about why insured people are skipping care due to high costs.  We can’t afford to do everything the doctor suggested – especially not the shots at thousands of dollars a year but also not the AC (we have a whole house AC that came with the unit but need to pay to have it installed and then running it will raise the utility bills), the dehumidifier, the HEPA air purifier or the allergy vacuum.  I plunked down $76 for an epi-pen, and two prescriptions and bought a pillow protector.  We will try to avoid the foods we can – soy is turning out to be difficult but it’s clearly not a life threatening allergy as almost everything he loves (Asian food, top ramen, cup o noodles, the breakfast burritos he prefers to start the day, soups, even the meatballs he likes on his spaghetti) has soy in it and he’s eaten those things regularly. And there’s no more hugging the chickens! That’s the best we can do for now.

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