Monthly Archives: October 2011

Empty Nest Syndrome

So this is what Empty Nest Syndrome must feel like.  Jacob has been gone for three nights and finally – FINALLY – gets home this afternoon.  We’ve never gone more than 24 hours without speaking to one another.  Even on the rare night when we’re apart, we always call to talk about the day and say goodnight.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not one of those moms who is glued to my child’s side 24:7.  You can often hear me say something like, “Shoo!  Go play!  I’m reading the paper!”  I have no problem leaving him home by himself for several hours at a time.  In short – totally not a helicopter parent.  But this long stretch with no contact at all is really terrible.  I’m walking through the rest of my life feeling like something major is WRONG.  Oh, yes – one of my children is AWOL.  That must be it.

So I’ve taken the afternoon off so that I can be there when the bus pulls in.  I will try not to cry.  Hopefully he won’t be too embarrassed by his blubbering mother to let me give him a good, long hug.


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Memory Monday

A day late.

So my oldest left town yesterday to go on the annual fifth grade field trip.  They go for four days and three nights to a camp about an hour away, and spend their time doing team-building exercises, working on science experiments, and exploring nature.  It sounds great.  But it was hard to see him go.  He’s never been away from us this long.  And it’s really AWAY – there is no contact.  I can’t call up and chat before bed.  Well, I probably could, but I don’t want the poor kid to be laughed at because of his high-strung mother.

This trip has reminded me of the class trip I went on in the seventh grade.  We did a school exchange program with a small town in California’s central valley called Coalinga.  It’s a farming town, about as different from Berkeley as you can get.  My best friend, Jane, and I stayed with a girl whose name was Alma.  She and her family were immigrant farm workers.  Their house had burned down several years before, and the only thing that had survived was a photo album that someone had grabbed as they were running out of the house.  They were poor.  Their house was tiny.  All three of us slept together in a twin bed.  We had Kraft macaroni and cheese for dinner.  Alma and her family were so nice – we were fast friends.  Most of the other kids in our class stayed with kids on the other side of the tracks.  They had guest rooms and game rooms and swimming pools.  They had fun, but I think Jane and I were lucky to meet Alma and her family.  We stayed in touch for several years – I wonder where she is now?

Anyway, the reason I was thinking about this trip is that I was thinking I’m so glad that they’re doing this in the fifth grade and not the seventh grade.  Seventh graders get into trouble.  The hormones are starting to rage, some kids are starting to experiment with drugs and alcohol.  In the fifth grade, the most trouble they’re going to get into is someone’s going to try to smuggle in an iPod or something.  I remember on the bus on the way back from Coalinga, we were playing truth or dare in the back of the bus.  Every time a teacher would look back, we’d all shut up and stare out the window and look bored, and then we’d go right back to it. Anyway, I kissed Chris Larson.  It was a dare.  My first kiss was a dare.  I was so grossed out (no offense, Chris!) that when I got home I actually washed my mouth out with soap.  You’d think I would have just thoroughly brushed my teeth, but I guess that wasn’t going to be good enough!

So – Jake comes back on Thursday.  I’m expecting him to be very dirty and very tired.  And wearing a big smile.  And I’m pretty sure he won’t have kissed anyone on a dare.


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Dinosaur Footprints

How have we lived here for so long and never managed to make it to see the dinosaur footprints?  About 10 minutes away from here, right on the banks of the Connecticut River, there are actual, fossilized dinosaur footprints.  We’ve heard about them, but it took a visit from my college roomie and her 3 year old, dinosaur obsessed cutie-pie to actually get us there.

I’m not sure quite what I was expecting, but it certainly isn’t what we saw.  Which was REAL DINOSAUR FOOTPRINTS!

Can’t see it?  Try this one:

Unfortunately, I don’t have anything in the shot for scale, but my hand fits nicely inside that footprint.  So, we were walking exactly where dinosaurs – large dinosaurs – walked millions of years ago.

A short hike downhill and over the railroad tracks leads to the Connecticut River, where we stopped to hop around on the rocks and otherwise enjoy the unseasonably beautiful, warm weather.

The kids made footprints of their own in some muddy areas – maybe millions of years from now they will become fossilized, and human-obsessed giant cockroaches will visit.  “Look mom!  It’s an actual human footprint!  Can you believe it??”

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Budding Writers

One of the things I love about our local elementary school is the emphasis they place on writing.  They probably do it at every school nowadays, but I don’t remember being allowed to write anything creative until the 7th grade.  I remember a lot of worksheets and times tables from elementary school, and that’s about it.  Anyway, at Jake and Lydia’s preschool, they spend a lot of time writing.  We went to the school’s open house last week, and every kid in Jake’s class had a poem on display.  They had read a famous poem (Jake couldn’t tell me by who!) about being “from” somewhere.  Their assignment was to write a poem about where they are from.  Here is Jake’s:

It’s probably because I know Jake so well, and I know exactly what the imagery in his poem means to him, but I had to hold the tears back when I read his poem.  I still get weepy reading it.  Just the fact that this amazing boy thought about his life, and the places that have shaped it, and could put it into such beautiful words… I’m verklempt.

Miss Lydia is also a budding writer.  She’s been so proud of herself as she reads more and more words, and she’s writing every chance she can get.  Here is her latest work:

I’ll translate:

Once upon a time, there was a pony.  Her name was Uni. [I’m thinking that’s short for unicorn.]  She was 5.  She got lost.  She found her home.  The end.

Quite the illustrator, too, isn’t she?


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Field Trip!

I love audiology.  Every day, I go to work, and I get to have fun.  I get to meet people and connect with them.  I do hearing tests, I help people select appropriate hearing aids, I fit and program them.  One of my favorite kinds of appointments is what we call the “HAP”.  That’s a “Hearing Aid Problem.”  It could be that someone’s hearing aid needs cleaning, or a tubing change, or maybe they are having feedback, or maybe their aid isn’t working anymore and they don’t know why.

Twice this past week, I’ve had to play detective in order to solve a hearing aid problem.  In the first case, I had a man come in complaining that sometimes he hears the ocean in his right hearing aid.

“Do you ever hear it when you’re not wearing your hearing aids?”


“Do you ever hear it in your left hearing aid?”


“Is it there all the time, or does it come and go?”

“It comes and goes.”

“Is it happening now?”


Drat.  If it were happening now, I could listen to it and see what it sounded like.  I realized that his hearing aids were under warranty, so I thought it was worth sending it in to the company.  There was probably something wrong with the amplifier.  I selected and programmed a loaner hearing aid for him – we have a few that we can set up for people when their own aid has to go in for repair.  I set it exactly like his hearing aid was set, and sent him on his way.

I was about to take my next patient, when he comes back in, pointing to the right loaner aid.

“It’s the ocean!”

He said it started happening as soon as he got outside.  I called out, “Field trip!” grabbed my listening scope and we headed outside.  I listened first to the loaner aid.  It sounded a little odd, like there was too much low frequency gain for his loss.  Then I asked to listen to the other one.  BIG difference.  When I listened to them together, the right hearing aid was clearly giving him too much gain in the low frequencies.  So we trundled back inside, I hooked up his hearing aid, decreased the low frequency gain, and voila – problem solved.

The next day, I had a lady come in with a very old hearing aid.  Maybe 9 years old.  She said that since the last time she had had it cleaned, she had been hearing a very odd noise when she was riding in the car.  It was so odd and loud, that she had to take her hearing aid out in the car.  She couldn’t even wear it.  I asked her if anyone else complained of a strange sound in the car, and she said no.  I asked if it happened in other people’s cars, and she said no.  I asked if it happened ONLY in the car, and she said yes.  So I said, “Um, can I sit in your car?”

So off we went.  I climbed into the front seat, put the hearing aid on my listening scope, and signaled to her husband to start the engine.  Lo and behold, an extremely obnoxious screech came out of the hearing aid.   I whipped the scope out of my ears, and sat quietly for a moment.  There was a very, very, very faint hum coming from the engine.  I could barely hear it.  I put the scope back in my ears.  Aaiiieeeee!  It’s that faint hum magnified a million times!

I left them in the car, saying, “Um, I think I know what the problem is – I’ll be right back.”  I quickly hooked up her hearing aid, adjusted the compression settings so that very soft sounds would not be amplified as much, and then brought it back out to her.  She put it on, the husband started the engine.  Voila.  Problem solved.  She was so happy she told me she was going to bring me chocolate the next time she comes in!

Working with hearing aids is kind of like being a detective.  You have to be a good listener, and sometimes you have to be willing to sit quietly with an old couple in their car.

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