Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A litany of adjustments

Update, Thursday morning: I just thought of two more, and have added numbers 5 and 6 below.

Now that we've gotten over the shock of Tonya being unable to do most of her mommy-jobs, we've started figuring out how to cope. This is important, because it looks as though she'll have a couple of weeks where she'll be at home with the kids all to herself before this cast comes off. This week I'm with her; next week her parents will be with her; after that, she's mostly on her own (although we have received promises from church friends that she'll get lots of visits during the period; this will be very helpful).

As part of coping, we have come up with several of what in the software industry we call "work-arounds"--where one hasn't fixed the underlying problem, but has figured out a way of side-stepping the problem, allowing one to get work done while deferring an ultimate solution to some future time. (In the software industry, the hope is that the problem eventually goes away without your ever having to solve it--say, through getting a new computer or retiring the old one, or upgrading to a version of the flawed system that doesn't have the problem, so that you never actually have to do the work of figuring out what's wrong. Of course, that won't work in our case.)

So, here are a couple of work-arounds that we've come up with:

1. Tonya carries a book-bag with straps with her everywhere she goes. If she needs to carry anything smaller than a breadbox, she stuffs it in the bag, slings it over her shoulder, grabs her crutches, and hobbles on. This allows her to do a lot of the little jobs that mommies just find themselves having to do.

2. We've put up a portable crib in the family room, and we keep the diaper bag next to it. This portable crib has a "bassinet attachment", where the baby rests just below the top of the crib, about two and a half feet off the floor, making it much easier to lift him up and put him down. So when he needs a nap, if we can get him to sleep in the portable crib (a big if), Daddy can go off and do those strange and wonderful things that daddies do (in the present case mostly involving concrete and paving stones), and Mommy can tend to Happy Boy as necessary; she doesn't have to carry him all the way back down the hallway to the nursery to do diaper changes and so forth. This will work for as long as Happy Boy doesn't try to start crawling over the edge (which at the rate he's going, will happen any day now. There's been plenty of joking that there's a race on between Happy Boy and Mommy as to which one will be the one to walk first).

3. Mommy has discovered the joys of chairs with wheels on them! She doesn't actually have to use her crutches to get around, she can just get on the computer chair and go wheeeeeee! across the room. (Carefully, of course; you do that too much on carpet, and you're likely to tip.) Better still, you can do this while carrying a baby! So if the baby is playing in the living room and needs a diaper change, mommy can sit in the computer chair, scoot over to where he's playing, scoop him up, scoot through the kitchen into the family room (how exciting, when you're only seven months old!) and over to where the portable crib and changing area are waiting for him. Nifty, huh?

4. We've more or less decided that until Tonya gets more mobility about her, we're not so much Classical Homeschoolers as we are Unschoolers. For those of you not versed in the lore of homeschooling, unschooling is the idea that a child can learn all or most of what he or she needs to know with little or no formal schooling, so long as that child is raised in an intellectually and morally stimulating environment. (For those of you who are versed in the lore of homeschooling, you recognize what I just said as meaning that we're just not going to worry much about "doing school" for the next month or so.) Tonya and I have discussed the ideas behind unschooling at some length; and while we don't consider ourselves radical enough to try it out on our own three little guinea pigs, we seriously don't think one will stunt the intellectual development of his or her children if one decides to skip a month or so of school now and again. After all, our four-year old is reading fairly fluently and is already designing people-launching devices, so she's hardly in danger of falling behind her peers. (I mean, kids aren't normally expected to design people-launchers until what, second grade?)

5. Hard to believe, we had been using a fair number of non-dishwasher-safe dishes, cookware, utensils, etc. I got really sick of having to do all these dishes when we have a perfectly good dishwasher. So, we've been switching away from things that have to be hand-washed. It doesn't save a whole lot of time, but every little bit counts when you're as naturally lazy as I am.

6. Ever emptied and washed out a cloth diaper while balancing on one foot? Well, neither have we, and we're not going to start. We've switched to all-disposable for the duration of our little odyssey.

So we're starting to get a handle on things. Still, it's a challenge. So I'm going to pass along a challenge to my legion of readers (and I know you're out there, since I've received 452 hits in the last 2.5 weeks, and no more than a third of those were me trying to see how many hits I've gotten):

Can you think of any additional work-arounds that my wife could use? And just for kicks, let's say that they don't have to be serious; you could describe Wallace and Gromit-like schemes for automating the process of feeding our kids, for example. After all, humor is a very effective form of medicine, too.

I eagerly await your comments.

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