On my birthday back in January, I shared with you a few things that I learned in 2016 – some hard truths about inclusion, the fact that big problems sometimes have simple solutions, I’m not a fan of most novels with contemporary settings, Sarah Kate won’t always see specialists, there’s no magic bullet to keep Nathan from wandering, and teaching is better than preaching. Since then I’ve learned a lot more, and today I want to share a few of those lessons with you.
1. The effects of chemotherapy and radiation can last a really long time.
I shared here before that my dad was in a really bad horse riding accident the day after Thanksgiving. What I haven’t shared is that when the doctors did a full body MRI to check his injuries, they found a spot on his brain, and he was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma (brain tumor). In mid-February he underwent surgery to remove it, then six weeks of a chemotherapy/radiation cocktail, followed by a month break, and now is taking chemo five days/month.
During the initial round of chemo and radiation he did great; it wasn’t until several weeks after he finished it that the fatigue and “chemo fog” (as the medical staff calls it) and other issues really set it. His most recent MRI showed “no evidence of measurable disease”, which is FANTASTIC news, but we’re still waiting for him to rebound from the treatment itself.
2. The right vinegar makes water taste amazing.
I’ve heard all of the great things that can come from drinking apple cider vinegar, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about coconut white balsamic vinegar, which I picked up on a whim at a local store in Mayberry a few weeks ago. I don’t like plain water so I’ve been doing the lemon slices thing for ages, but that’s all over now. A couple of drops in my water bottle is all it has taken to make me switch almost completely over to water from iced tea. They also carry peach and apple white balsamic, though I haven’t tried either of those yet.
3. P.E. doesn’t have to be awful.
In late July, we contacted Sarah Kate’s new school to discuss accommodations for P.E. this year. By law, all high school students have to have one year of P.E., but with permission from a doctor she could be exempted. We met with the P.E. coach before making a final decision, and based on that meeting, we decided to keep her in the class.
On the second day of school, she got in the car and said, “You have never heard me say this before, and you may never hear me say it again, but P.E. is my favorite class!” She wasn’t kidding. Two days per week they lift weights and the other two days they do conditioning which includes some strength and balance work and some cardio. It is the ideal scenario – she isn’t wasting time at school in a class unsuited for her, and it saves her time after school because she doesn’t have to carve out a block to do her own workout at home. She may end up taking P.E. as an elective later on when it isn’t required.
4. Nathan does things in his own time.
This lesson is not new, but it seems I have to relearn it periodically. Two summers ago, we put him in group swim lessons with the wonderful teacher who taught Sarah Kate and has worked with a number of children and adults with special needs over the years. He did what he was supposed to do, showed no fear, and made some progress, but he was nowhere near learning how to swim independently. Last summer, we contracted her for private lessons (using our very-generous neighbor couple’s pool). He did all the right things, but still no success, sinking to the bottom of the pool with his eyes open and a smile on his face. She told us to keep working with him, so we did and we continued to do so this summer. As the summer began winding down, I did a lot of sighing that once again he was not going to learn to swim. Then, out of the blue, four days before school started, HE GOT IT. Swim team 2018, here we come!
5. The Instant Pot is a life-changing piece of kitchen equipment.
My slow cooker developed a crack in the crock portion back in the spring and I decided to replace it with an Instant Pot based on the recommendations of a few friends. I tried the basics like hard cooked eggs, baked potatoes, etc., and tried a few of my old standby slow cooker recipes and was happy with it. When I started googling Instant Pot recipes, one of the sites that kept coming up was Once a Month Meals. Several of the recipes looked good, so I tried them, and the family loved them, but the even better part is a lot of them are “easy assembly” and freezable – and the best part is that with the Instant Pot YOU CAN COOK FROM FROZEN, EVEN WITH RAW MEAT.
In June, I selected several recipes, assembled them, and froze them, and we ate on them all month with minimal planning and shopping. I loved it so much I kept doing it in July and August, and am about to do it again for September. I also chose some recipes for the grill – for those nights, I still have to do some thawing, but Mr. Andi does the cooking. 😉 A few of our fave recipes include: Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili, Honey Bourbon Chicken, and Mongolian Beef. Never in a million years would I have expected to become a freezer cooking mom, yet here I am, and it’s all because of the Instant Pot.
6. I finally feel like a REAL Catholic.
Mr. Andi and I are both converts to Catholicism; I converted first and he followed a few years later. Despite the years of study and prayer that went into my decision to go through RCIA and the years that I’ve been part of the church since then, I always felt a little bit like a latecomer to the party – like all of the cradle Catholic families had an edge on me and I was always at risk of doing or saying something that would scream “evangelical roots!” It wasn’t that I thought people were judging me – I was judging myself.
In August, we went to a family conference sponsored by our archdiocese and in 24 short hours my outlook changed. Instead of sitting there feeling like a visitor, I looked around and saw families just like ours – families that strive to be faithful but don’t always succeed. I’d like to tell you that the fantastic speakers produced that shift in my mindset – and they were great! – but the truth is that just being there with other Catholic families is what made the difference.
Now it’s your turn – tell me what you learned this summer!
Linking up with Emily P. Freeman’s What We Learned series.
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