Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My failure as a mother

I have to admit I am a bad mother and hoping I do not get thrown out of the secret society that moms share when I confess to what I have done.

No, no, nothing about them being sick, although I am worried that Annabel is running a fever tonight. No, it is something even more important than that.

What, you might ask? Well I will explain.

I do believe it is the mother's responsibility and right to embarrass their children and I failed.

If you have girls, you know that at some point, you begin to hear more stories that include boys' names in them. And you begin to hear the same names on a regular basis. Having been a girl back in the old days myself, I can also tell you that generally this means an interest in the boy whose name you hear most often. Not love, more like infatuation and you just can't help yourself telling "funny" stories about them.

Both girls are in the same grade and since they started in 6th grade, most of this fairly small class have been together. So while it is not unusual to hear about students who are parts of team projects, you do notice when the same name comes up rather often and/or the tone of voice used in telling the story is different.

So here is where I failed.

The other afternoon after school, one daughter hurried out to meet me in the carpool lane. While we were sitting there waiting on the others, two of these boys that I hear about often, walked in front of the car.

You should always go with your first impulse, which for me, was to honk and wave.

I hate to admit, I did not. I made the mistake of saying that was what I was going to do and I believe a record might have been set as to the reaction speed for blocking the pad for the horn before my hand could even reach it.

You see, I failed. A perfect opportunity to do the perfect embarrassment and I wasted it.

Hopefully I will get a second chance.

Aaaccchhhoo, part 2, the rest of the story

Sometimes when I am writing I get a little sidetracked and miss the point of my story, so today I am going to do a Paul Harvey imitation and tell the rest of the story.
With Grace sick, I've realized I have felt a great deal of stress. Of course I was worried because she did not feel well but I also realized that it felt like more than that.
I am a horrible caretaker. I recognize this weakness and have told my parents that if they ever need a caretaker, I hope I will be able to afford to pay someone to do it. But when my kids get sick, I try to overcome this. But I already knew this about myself and did not think that was really it either.
Sunday I jokingly told Annabel that I was afraid that the teachers at the Chinese school would think I wasn't a good Chinese mother because I let them get sick.
BAM! That's when I realized the source of the stress - I feel like I have failed my kids when they get sick! AND that I might be perceived as a bad mother.
Yes, I can be rational and know that none of this is true, but I can't help but think, "what could I have done to help avoid Grace getting the flu?". Sure, she went out without a coat one day that it was cold, went to bed with wet hair, did not eat her fruit, none of which caused her to get the flu, I know, but was there something else, something I missed? They had their flu shots and I was trying to be diligent, yet I failed because the end result was she got sick.
AND if that's not enough, I have really stressed because I felt like some were raising an eyebrow in suspicion of my mothering skills when I told them that she was sick. I was quick to point out that we had gotten the flu shot in December as my defense! I was prepared! Or at least I tried to be. I want to ask them, "What else could I have done? Was it not enough garlic? Should I have insisted on more water? Do YOU hold the key to detering this illness?". OK, I haven't done that, but I have wondered and they probably aren't thinking anything other than, yuck, the flu.
This brings me to another thought. There has been a story in the news lately about a horrible situation in which a young boy ran ahead of his mother and was hit by a car and killed. I cannot imagine the pain that mother is going through, how many times she has replayed the event, stopping at each frame to see how she could have prevented it, yet each time she has to play it through to the same ending, no matter how much she wished it could change.
Being a mom is hard. I don't think there is another job that requires as much due diligence 24/7, because there is always the risk of that one second where things can go terribly wrong.
I know I have it much easier as a mom than most. My girls are extremely self-sufficient. I don't have toddlers who rely on me for all their daily needs. My girls have good judgement, usually, so I don't have to second guess each of their decisions. I can go on and on as to why my job is easier, but when they get sick, maybe we are all more similar than different, regardless of their age and ability. Sometimes it is hard to be the mom.
It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

Monday, January 28, 2013


One day, many years ago, I had an work day filled with meetings that took place just down the hall from my office. I noticed around lunch that my throat was sore and as the afternoon progressed, I began to feel worse, but wrote it off to a cold/sinus thing/nothing major. By the end of the last meeting, I felt the only way I could get back to my office was to crawl as the pain was so intense, my brain felt so fried, and I was so exhausted I did not have the strength to go on. When I got to my office, I began to feel a sense of delirium and began frantically looking for my purse, because, I knew, if I could just get home, I would be ok. About this time my friend, Denise called to see what my plans were. I explained that there was something seriously wrong with me, to the point that I could not even find my purse in my small office.

Since our field was working with the disabled, she felt qualified to come provide assistance by diagnosing my ailment and send me to the pharmacy after she helped me find my purse. By the time she arrived, I must have looked like I was in quite a state, because she immediately diagnosed that I needed help. Since we could not find my purse and could not get into my house or car, she took me to ER. Even though she had two small children needing her at home, she did not dump me off there, but phoned my parents, and stayed till they arrived. I only know these details because she told me later. I was convinced I was about to pass, and it just could not happen soon enough as I wanted the misery to end.

The diagnosis? The flu.

Even with having endured sinus surgery, brain surgery, and multiple eye surgeries, I had never felt as badly as I felt that night. I remember trying to explain it must be something much worse, but the doctor was correct and sent me home. Only with no house or car keys, my parents took me home, Dad broke into my house, and after getting prescriptions filled, began the process of getting new keys and the window replaced that was broken to obtain access to my house. I know all of this only because they told me because all I did was fall into my bed and woke up several days later.

At my next job, my boss announced in the summer that we would be giving flu shots. I don't know if that was the first time I knew about a shot to prevent the flu, but he warned they were a difficult sale as most people refused to get the shot. I did a ton of research and was shocked at what I learned on the high incidence of death as a result of the flu! Because of this and my own experience, I embraced the events, joined immunization coalitions, educated others,, and I began to do whatever it took to get people to get the flu shot, even rewarding them if they would just get it!

So when I became a mom and the option of having my child immunized against the flu came up, I was quick to sign up.

For the last eight years we managed to avoid the flu.

This year, when the immunization coalitions started sending ominous messages about a really bad flu season, I got my girls in line to get there shots and then breathed a sigh of relief that we would be missed. Except, we weren't. This year has been different from all the other years. Everywhere you go you hear coughing, sneezing, blowing their noses. It made you wish you could either wear a bubble to protect you or else spray shots of Lysol everywhere you go. Everyone has someone in their family who is sick or knows someone who is. Even after having the shot, people are still getting sick. I upped our defense and made everyone eat 2 oranges a day in addition to vegetables and other fruits, as well as vitamins. First my Dad got it. Then my Mom. Then my great niece got it before she could get the booster for babies.

I held my breath sure that it would pass us, but last Wednesday, when Grace told me her skin hurt and her throat was sore, I had a sinking feeling. There aren't a lot of things that can affect your whole body that even your skin hurts, accompanied by a fever. Someone who had been through it sent me a message to get her to the doctor. I am so glad I listened to their advice and hated to but I dragged her to the doctor where it was confirmed, she did have the flu.  Tamiflu was prescribed, along with bedrest, liquids, and time.

Time. I have to say that is the hardest part. She still hasn't been able to go back to school and some symptoms seem even worse than they did last week.

One of the big differences in the flu season this year is the ability to see what is going on in other families via Facebook. I keep seeing the desperate messages posted by moms regarding their children's illnesses, then their own, and you just have to feel for them. But it does help to know you aren't alone.

Here's hoping you can escape and keep your family well too!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Oh my!

OK, I did survive our first driving lessons. I don't think I had thought it through enough before I let them get behind the wheel.

I was just sure that I would be the organized kind of mother that would have Annabel at the DMV the day she turned 15 and she would sit for her exam and get her learner's permit, making her the primary driver for the whole school year. I did not factor in changing me to an organized mother and here we are, almost 7 months later, no closer to a license, so when Grace mentioned ALL her friends were now learning to drive, and knowing she will turn 15 in just over 2 months, I knew I had to get started.

I told them after church that I would let them try out driving, but did not say a specific time. After lunch, I had to have my Sunday afternoon nap, which they are usually very agreeable to, but 30 minutes later, I knew they were anxious to get started when I heard first one, and then the other, come to my door, glance in, and check to see if I was awake. No rest for the wicked?

They were surprised that I made them take separate turns, but just starting out, I knew they did not need a critic in the backseat who had no more experience than they did.

As we began, I tried to remember all the checklists and rules that I learned, but my drivers training was a really LONG time ago! I mean a long time. I spent more time trying to explain how to adjust the seat than how to actually drive.

As soon as we began to roll, I still was trying to remember about how far back you start braking when you come to a stop sign and before I knew it, we were in the middle of the intersection! The next stop sign, we stopped half a block before the intersection. I think we still need to work on that. We only had two speeds, too fast and too slow.

The next one got in the car and she did not bother to stop at any stop signs until the middle of the street, which was actually when she would speed up! We had a really close call with a telephone pole and ended with only a bumped mirror. The curbs continued to haunt us and we finally just ran up on one.

Today was a holiday, but I had to work, and before I got home I had already received a text asking if we were driving again. It's really hard to turn them down, regardless of how I feel, so we started out toward the grocery store. I meant to have her pull over before we got onto the 3 lane street, with the sun in your eyes, and considerably more traffic than we had the day before, but the word stop still seems to be foreign. We merged into the traffic, but could not seem to stay in just one lane and we were approaching a complicated intersection with even more cars, when I suggested taking a left turn onto a side street so I could drive. Oh my! We stopped in the middle of the street, just past where we needed to turn and the traffic was coming quickly. I think I might have sounded a little more anxious and explained we had to turn sharply and quickly to get out of the way!

On the way home, I suggested that I would get us away from the store, off the 3 lane street, and the other could take over. With the half block to the intersection where we needed to turn, our speed varied from about 5 to 65! Or at least it felt like it. We maneuvered the turn when a loud dinging began to sound and soon realized that in the excitement, the driver had not put on her seat belt! Lesson number one: put on your seat belt!

We got through the other turns, although the idea of turning into your lane is still a difficult concept and moving to your side, after passing a parked car needs considerably more practice. All of a sudden we were at our house and the choice was to quickly change drivers so I could pull into our driveway, or proceed. It had to be tried sometime, so with some false starts, we pulled into the driveway aiming directly at a tree in the middle of the neighbor's yard!

My plan was to save the money that drivers training would cost. I am beginning to rethink this plan. Our deductible is $500 and the cost of the drivers training is about the same. I'm pretty sure that would be the best money I could spend!

Stay tuned! If you are on Facebook, we will post so you will know when to get off the street!

20 Timeless Ways to say "Thank you"

20 Timeless Ways to Say 'Thank You'

Gratitude is a greatly under-used emotion.
Sometime around mid-November, we take it out, dust it off, put it on display and admire it for a while. Then, come January, we promptly shove it back on the shelf for another ten months.
Outside of those precious few weeks at the end of the year, when the holiday season slows things down a bit, we often don't have the time or energy to dedicate to doling out "thank yous," and fostering feelings of gratitude.
But, there's a host of research-backed benefits of being grateful for the people that help make our day-to-day lives a bit easier.
Studies have shown that people who keep gratitude journals—regularly recording the things they are thankful for—are physically, psychologically and socially better off than those who don't attend to feelings of appreciation.
They are more alert, get better sleep, have lower blood pressure (by as much as 10-15 percent), are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors (i.e. eating right, exercising regularly) and have stronger interpersonal relationships.
Here are 20 timeless ways to say thank you to the important people in your life:
  1. With your love: Saying, "I love you," is sometimes all the thanks a person needs.
  2. With your ears: Listening is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated gifts you can give. Lend a listening ear to friends, family and fellow caregivers and they will know how much you appreciate their love and support.
  3. With a donation: Does the recipient of your gratitude have a cause they hold close to their heart? Instead of getting them a gift card, consider making a donation in their name to their favorite charity.
  4. With a picture: Don't worry if your word-smithing abilities aren't on par with Shakespeare, pictures can often convey what words cannot. Find a photo that expresses your feelings of gratitude and send it with a simple thank you note.
  5. With a trophy: Who doesn't love an award? To show your appreciation for someone who's taken good care of you or your loved one, make a personalized plaque with a clever title: "World's Greatest Dentist," or "Number One Nurse."
  6. With a hug: Let's face it, we could all use one.
  7. With sincerity: A cardinal rule of thanking someone is to do so with genuine sincerity. It's better to say nothing at all, than to provide a person with a luke-warm, "Thanks."
  8. With personality: When communicating your appreciation with a gift, make sure it's tailored to the recipient's individual preferences and interests. Want to express your gratitude to a music lover? Make them a mix CD or give them a subscription to an online music site, such as Pandora or Spotify.
  9. With a party: Throwing a super-shindig is one way to show the social butterfly in your life how much you appreciate them. Perhaps it's a friend who occasionally coes to your home to watch your mom while you run errands, or just take a much-needed break from caregiving. Extra bonus points for composing a Toastmasters-caliber speech about their contributions and saying it in front of family and friends.
  10. With a referral: Did your loved one's hair dresser give them a get new do? Ask him or her for extra business cards to hand out to family and friends. From dentists to dieticians, many people who provide a professional service live off of referrals from satisfied customers.
  11. With a note: Receiving a hand-written thank you note provides a welcome reprieve from boisterous e-cards and impersonal form letters.
  12. With cake: Food is one of the few things all human beings share a common love for. Offering your appreciation in the form of a culinary creation is really a two-for-one gift of time and a tasty, tangible item. Give your loved one's in-home caregivers little loaves of banana bread, or chocolate chip muffins that they can take home to their families. You can make baked gifts more personal by whipping up the recipient's favorite dish.
  13. With your deeds: Actions are well-known for carrying more clout than words. After saying "thank you," to someone who's done you a service, honor their efforts by mimicking their good deed with one of your own, directed at someone else who needs help.
  14. With your time: Spending quality time with a friend or loved one indicates that you value the gift of their relationship. It doesn't have to be anything big—an impromptu movie night or trip to the mall with a friend you don't see very often can help keep your relationship going strong.
  15. With an endorsement: Publically praising someone who performs a service for you is a great way to say thank you. Give the surgeon who just gave your loved one a flawless hip replacement a five-star review on the Internet; write a note to the manager of your local grocery store about the friendly check-out clerk who helped you when you were loaded down with groceries and had to get dad out of his wheelchair and into the car.
  16. With a smile: Sometimes a simple smile is all you need to say "thanks."
  17. With your patience: Everyone has their good and bad days. Keeping your cool when a friend or family member is being frustrating demonstrates your love and commitment to preserving the relationship.
  18. With the unexpected: Don't be afraid to get creative when demonstrating your thanks.
  19. With your help: Does your sister need someone to watch her kids for a few hours while she runs errands? Could a culinarily-challenged caregiver in your support group use a few home-cooked meals? Offering to help someone who's stressed is a wonderful way to express your gratitude.
  20. With inclusivity: Take care to never overlook the 'little guy'—when dispensing gifts of gratitude. The nurses and CNAs who help your loved one with daily tasks in the nursing home probably don't get enough thanks—after all, the seniors they care for are often unable (or unwilling) to express their appreciation. A short note, accompanied by a $5 gift card to Starbucks can let the staff know how much you and your loved one value their assistance.

It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It has been a long time

I realize it has been an extraordinarily long time since I took the time to write a post. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas must surely pass faster than any other time in the year, at least if you are the one making the preparations for the holidays. I know for children it is the slowest.
For my girls, I am pretty sure the anticipation today is almost as bad as Christmas eve - I have promised them their first driving lesson.
Time does pass quickly, but not quickly enough for them. If I am able, and still in sound mind, I will update later on the experience.