Monday, March 25, 2013

It really takes your breath away...

My daughter, in her amazing ability to keep me on my toes, has decided to develop asthma.

She did this on purpose just to irritate me.  Thirteen year old girls are known for testing their mother's love and mothers are known for loving their little girls no matter what.  I just wish she had chosen a battle over wearing make up or long dangle earrings rather than causing the medical community to collectively shrug their shoulders.

The little girl has always had issues with her sinuses and ear infections.  It took many years to get the doctors to agree to allergy shots.  Then the diagnosis of asthma was conferred upon her within a year of being treated by the allergist.  Her symptoms picked the absolute worst time to really flare up; mere weeks before she was scheduled to be on a bus, half a continent away, for her eighth grade class trip to Washington, DC.

On average, I was called to the school two or three days a week in the time leading up to that trip.  I would take her directly to her allergist, she would receive treatment, and I would take her back to school and return back to work.  One Saturday night we spent in the emergency room.

It started to become apparent that some of the asthma issue was anxiety.  I said, "well of course!"  She is upset that she can't catch her breath and she never knows when she is going to feel like she can't breathe.  It can't be anything to do with me, right?

I was sure that it had nothing to do with every conversation with my daughter starting to be like this:

Me:   How do you feel?

J:   Fine.

Me:   Are you sure?  How do you feel in your chest?  Is it tight?  Are you breathing deep?  When was the last time you had to use your rescue inhaler?  Are you sure?  Did you breathe it in deep enough?

J:   (silent)

Me:   Why don't you JUST RELAX AND BREATHE?

So, clearly we had a problem.  I needed to take care of my baby.  I needed to go "mama bear."

I signed us up for yoga.

Obviously, I was in full mommy melt down because I had convinced myself that yoga will teach her to breathe through an asthma attack.

Just like Lamaze helped me breathe through labor.

Yoga was and still is awesome.  We really enjoy our mother-daughter time together.  Just like when I asked her if I looked as silly as I thought I did doing some of the poses.  She replied, "you look sillier."

That one took me a minute.

She made it through DC.  Well, she made it until the last day.  I did get that one phone call with the teacher on the other end in that tone of voice that is trying to stay calm but really is not at all calm.  "Your daughter has been quite the trooper but now we have to decide if we should take her to the hospital or not."

Now I can't breathe.  Even with all of my extensive yoga AND Lamaze classes; I still can't breathe.

Yes, if you think she needs to go to the hospital please take her to the hospital.  I am in Florida.  You are in Washington, DC.  I can't see her.  Is her response to your questioning a snort of derision?  If she can still do that then she is fine.  If she is slumped over on a bench and not participating with the group then maybe she needs something else. 

The awesome teachers were able to get her breathing under control and she was absolutely fine and is absolutely fine.  She didn't need hospitalization and I am so grateful to God that she was able to have a great trip until that last day.  Even then her happy attitude didn't let her get upset.  She is not one to dwell on the negative and she is usually able to find the bright side.  Some days I think that I learn more from the kids then I can teach them!  Both her and her brother are always able to find that bright spot, the good times, and be happy about those.  They have a wonderful spirit that I am so blessed to have in my life.

I am truly honored and privileged to be their mom.  I thank God that He is allowing me to be on this journey with these kids.

Inhale... exhale... inhale... exhale...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I have noticed that, as my husband and I live out our American Dream with our 2.5 children in our suburban cookie cutter home, I do not have the time to keep said home as clean and organized as I would like it to be.  I often cannot find what I need and I really hate that I feel like I am always cleaning something and the place is still a wreck.  When I am on the “interwebs” (as the kids call it) I see that there are quite a few articles on this exact subject and I believed myself to be in good company.

I became obsessed with the website known as “Pinterest.”  This electronic corkboard of ideas on which a person can waste entire weekend became something on which I began to pin my hopes for a well-run home.  I pinned every pin I could pin on my carefully crafted boards that held the promise of a clean and organized home.

And then I started to actually read what the pins were telling me to do.

Remember, these ideas are being touted as groundbreaking and revolutionary.  The brain trusts who have orchestrated this advice have orchestrated the phenomenal photo shoots of the room and products which have caught my attention and have made me want to pin this in the first place.  I want this room.  I want this organized linen closet with well-behaved fitted sheets.  I want this clean sink.  Suddenly, I want to live in a tree house and an RV… at the same time.  I want to have inspirational quotes stenciled on the walls of my tree house and I will create partitions within my RV using pallets that I “reclaimed” from the dumpsters behind Home Depot.

Wait.  Didn’t I just want some tips on how to bring order to my already existing, boring, land level, no-wheel-having, sheet rock walled house?

I dive in.

Clicking on a gorgeous shot of a shiny kitchen sink and counter, which promises to end clutter, I read that I should run the dishwasher at night and then unload it the following morning while I “wait for my coffee to perk.” 


Other than my mom, who is a double platinum level homemaker, does anyone wait for their dishwasher to stop running at night to unload it that night?  Also, when did dirty dishes become “clutter?”  Dirty dishes are dirty dishes.  They are to be dealt with by the 2.5 children who live with us.
P.S. My husband makes a cup of coffee for me every morning in my Keurig and brings it to me before I can even THINK about getting out of bed.  There is no perk before perking let alone doing anything while waiting for coffee to perk.

I click on another gorgeous shot of a shiny kitchen counter, this one has beautiful flowers in a vase and some artfully arranged doo-dads (this is NOT to be confused with clutter) next to a roll of crisp white paper towels.  This pin suggests that I keep paper towels “readily available” so that, as spills happen, they are wiped up immediately and not left until they become sticky and/or a stain.  Again, not a double platinum level homemaker, however, if I spill something I will usually wipe it up.  As a matter of fact, even my husband will sometimes wipe it up.

Who is walking away from a spill on a counter so it can become a sticky mess?  Ok.  Other than the 2.5 children in my house; who spills something and then actually has the conversation in their head that releases them from all responsibility and allows them to go on with their day without so much as another thought as to the drying, staining, and sticky blob that is becoming one with the counter?

This is not to say that I have never walked away from a mess.  I have walked away from many a mess.  I have walked away from a mess when I had already cleaned up the same mess four times in the same afternoon.  I have walked away from a mess when I had already very carefully explained to one or all of our 2.5 children exactly how it needed to be handled. 

I almost always walk away from any mess in the garage.

I have walked away from a mess when I was too sick to deal with it.  I have slumped away from a mess when my joints ached and my mystery illness that the doctors don’t know how to handle has beaten me down.  I have glared at that mess while it chuckled back at me.  I make the effort to clean the toilets.  Call me old fashioned, but I believe that the bathroom my kids use should be a little cleaner than the gas station at the corner.

I don’t need a pin of another chore chart, either.  The 2.5 kids do chores.  That’s the chart.  Maybe it isn’t fair but that is a great primer for the Real World.  I have yet to find a responsibility chart anywhere that I have worked where everything is doled out evenly.  Gold stars aren’t handed out, either.  I know because I have asked.
When something needs to be done I look around and grab a kid.  If a kid isn’t within arm’s reach, I start calling out names.  In the beginning my husband and I tried to be “fair” and keep to a “schedule” but that became tedious and ridiculous in a hurry, especially when you are nurturing little teamsters.

Sample Conversation during the time period known as Being Fair:

Me:         It is your turn to do dishes and your brother needs to sweep the floor.

J:             Did I not do the dishes this morning?

A:         When you say, “sweep the floor,” do you mean the kitchen floor as well?  When I did dishes last week you made me sweep the floor in the kitchen and said that was part of cleaning the kitchen.  I should not have to sweep the kitchen.

J:          I am not doing the dishes since I did them this morning.  You can have fun sweeping the floor in the kitchen after you do those dishes.

Me:      Hello?  Am I not the parent?  When did I lose control of this situation?

When did we lose control?  We lost control when it appeared to the children that this was open for negotiations when really all we had done was attempt to make the situation appear “fair” and outline the expected outcome. 

Sample Conversation during the time period known as Now:

Me:                                     You there.  Did you eat a meal just now?

One of the 2.5:                    Yes.

Me:                                      Excellent, clean up the kitchen.

Me:                                    Other one over there.  Have you been walking all over these floors?

Another one of the 2.5:      Yes.

Me:                                     Fantastic, here is a broom.

Why do I keep looking at Pinterest?  I love it.  I collect decorating ideas.  I collect humorous pictures and inspirational quotes.  I collect all of the wondrous and amazing things that baking soda and vinegar are reported to do.  I even still collect ideas for organizing and cleaning my cookie cutter suburban home.

You never know when you could just stumble on the perfect pin.

Friday, June 29, 2012

As parents we quickly learn that some of the most important milestones happen at night

As parents we quickly learn that some of the most important milestones happen at night. The first night after your baby is born, the first night home from the hospital, the first time they sleep through the night, and the first time they sleep past 5:00 a.m. Other nighttime adventures such as staying dry all night during potty training and sleepwalking sneak in just when the unsuspecting parent thinks they are home-free.

 I recently discovered another milestone; the backyard camping trip.

 My children decided, around 8:30 last night that they wanted to inaugurate their Daddy-Bryan’s new one-man tent. My husband was thrilled. He said the kids needed to do “kid things” in the backyard and I that needed to relax. Oh is that right? My daughter’s wrist is in a cast from time she spent in a backyard doing “kid things” last week. Also, she is violently allergic to the grass that was knee-high in the backyard. My son will still occasionally sleepwalk and he usually hates the Great Outdoors strictly on principle. What if he, by some miracle, was able to work the zipper on the tent-flap and get out? He could trip over the landscaping stones or wander into the part of the yard which has been taken over by poison ivy. I didn’t think he could open one of the gates and get out but anything is possible to a Mommy in full panic mode.

 I won’t even state the obvious; these two can’t share a living room without fighting. My daughter has actually gotten angry because her little brother was “breathing her air.” They were now proposing to share a one-man tent for an entire night… in the backyard… where Mommy can’t hear your whispered threats.

All of this raced through my head faster than Vin Diesel with a load of contraband across the border. I listened as my daughter and husband playfully teased each other about the value of actually reading the directions before putting up the tent. I had a glimmer of hope when I suggested they could put up the tent in the living room. But then my husband asked the question that ended all indoor versus outdoor camping debate; “Do you want me to put on the top or leave it just mesh so you can see the stars?” Both of the kids have had a fascination with the night sky since they were toddlers; my daughter because she wants to be an astronaut and my son because of the Star Wars Trilogy. That was it. They were backyard bound.

To follow is a timeline of the first backyard camping trip:

9:00 pm:          Tent is set up in the backyard. The Thermacell lantern and Off fan are activated. Sleeping bags, lantern, books, Nintendo 3DS, and two children are in the tent.

9:05 pm:          Dog is sent back into the house.

9:10 pm:          I panic as it is determined that my daughter’s cell phone does not have a charged battery. The tent’s location is close enough to the house for the cordless phone to work so it is sent into the tent with the children.

9:12 pm:          Daddy-Bryan calls the cordless phone to make sure the lines of communication are open and functional. I stand at the French doors watching the children in the tent. The children see me and wave while making faces.

9:20 pm:          The little brother comes into the house. He said that the older sister suggested that he may want a bottle of water during the night. The little brother is also getting the older sister a bottle of water, since he is already getting one for himself. Bryan and I admire this move on the older sister’s part and decide that she will make a very good wife one day.

9:35 pm:          I go into backyard to check on the children. The four steps from the patio to the tent are very painful on my bare feet as I manage to find EVERY pinecone on the ground but these are the sacrifices mothers must make for their children. Leaning over the mesh of the tent I whisper, “Why did you turn off your lantern? So you can see the stars better?” My daughter whispers back, “You are blocking my view.” Feeling full of love, I lurch the four steps back to the patio, fussing about pinecones, eventually making it into the house to report that the children are “doing fine.”

9:35-9:45 pm: I watch the children from the living room without wanting to admit that I am actually watching the children. Mother and children are now locked in a silent battle of wills. I am determined that the children will eventually come to their senses and come into the house to go to sleep and children are going to prove that they can spend an entire night OUTSIDE in a tent. Their Daddy-Bryan is incredibly happy that they are interested in something that isn’t a videogame or a science experiment but knows better than to say this to me.

9:55 pm:          Exhaustion is starting to take its toll on me and I announce that I will go to bed. I lurch back out to the tent to “tuck in” the children and say bedtime prayers through the mesh then Quasimodo my way back to the house. My husband, absolutely jubilant, opens the blinds in our room so the tent can be visually monitored.

10:10 pm:        The little brother is observed in a tormented struggle with the tent’s zipper followed by a sprint into the house. He loudly announces that he needs a bathroom as he blows through. It seems that a bear may poop in the woods but little boys do not. I admire that he is wearing shoes to avoid the pain of the pinecones. It is this kind of wilderness know-how that may allow him to actually make it the entire night in the backyard. I feel a little better about actually lying down and closing my eyes.

10:30 pm:        My daughter comes into our room. She is very congested. She announces that she will sleep on the couch in the living room because her nose is “a little runny.” She says that the little brother will remain in the tent. It is important to note here that I did NOT say anything close to “I told you so.” It should also be noted that I just let my daughter go to sleep without a full inspection or a call to urgent care. I settled down to rest, very smug in the knowledge that her little brother would soon feel that he had proven his point and would also come inside. Maybe I could get some sleep tonight after all. My husband quietly said that the boy was on a mission to prove that he is now a man and he will stay out all night. He then put a glass of ice water on my night stand and said something about my daughter learning everything she knew from me or something like that. I’m not sure. I just thought that he might have wanted a glass of ice water before he went to bed. I really was thinking about him.

11:00 pm:        The boy is STILL out in the tent reading. This cannot go on much longer.

Midnight:        HE HAS TURNED OFF HIS LANTERN! WHAT IS HE DOING? Is he actually trying to make me think he is going to go to sleep, in that tent, in the backyard, all alone? I am so sleepy. I cannot stay awake anymore. Here’s hoping that no random packs of wild dogs pick tonight to start roaming our neighborhood in this very developed and populated part of town.

4:ish am:         I snap wide awake. “Where is my child? Is he still in the tent? Yes, and he just kind of moved. That means he is still breathing.” I fall back asleep.

6:00 am:          In a kind of half-awake stupor I suddenly think about the black widow spider that was found in the backyard twelve years ago. Was it actually a black widow spider or did we decide it was something else? I can’t remember. No time for that now. Convinced he has been bitten and is suffering all alone in the tent, I run through the house. When I get to the porch I throw on the lights and run out to the tent…in bare feet… never even feeling a single pinecone.

A small boy blinks up at me through the mesh of the tent and smiles. He is absolutely perfect.

“Good morning, son.”

“G’mornin’, mommy.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too, mommy.” He pulls the sleeping bag over his head and goes back to sleep. I stagger back to the house. Without an adrenaline rush I notice that there are a lot of frigging pinecones on the ground that hurt my bare feet.

7:30 am:          My son comes into my room to report that he has “cleaned out the tent and brought everything inside.” Gone is the glimpse of the little boy from earlier this morning; he is again the miniature man I see more and more often these days. He doesn’t even comment on last night’s adventure.

This one snuck up on me. The full impact of what last night meant to my son didn’t hit home until later in the day. To me, it was an anxiety ridden sleepless night like so many I have had in my years as a mom. To him, he was indeed proving that he was no longer my baby boy but a young man who was fully capable of spending an entire night yards away from home. He is an amazing person and I am incredibly proud he is my son.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Conversations with a Middle School Kid

My daughter has always been very certain about two things; what she wants and the fact that her mother is an idiot.  These two firmly held convictions have fostered an unbreakable bond between us; a bond which cannot be broken.  Mainly because she knows that she is dependent upon her favorite idiot.

This school year has been filled with debates on whether or not my children need to actually attend school when a child has decided that he or she doesn’t “need” to.  Don’t misunderstand me, they enjoy school and make excellent grades.  They are both very smart.  They have even been labeled as “gifted” by school administrators and several tests.  This doesn’t help my cause when it comes to school attendance. 

I had the following conversation with my daughter, who is in middle school, while we were in the throes of end of year finals:

J:          I don’t need to go to school next Tuesday.

M:        Ummm, are they closing up shop early?  I kind of thought you were having two finals that day.

J:          Funny story.  We had the final in civics today.  I didn’t know about it but it is ok because I was wearing my medal from yesterday and it is a lucky medal now.  So I think I did ok.  It was easy.  So since I exempted out of my Earth & Space Science final I don’t need to be at school at all next Tuesday.

M:        How could you not know when you were having a final?  Did you do ok?

J:          I guess he told us yesterday when we were at the Duke thing.  And I was absent.

M:        That’s why it is important to go to school.  Except for when you are accepting scholastic awards from a university.

J:          So can I skip on Tuesday?  There is going to be a sub and we are watching a movie or something for extra credit.

M:        No.  You go to school. 

J:          (Whining) I don’t WANT to go.  I don’t HAVE to go.  I can’t even USE the extra credit.  I already have an A in the class. 

M:        I’m thinking you need to go.  I don’t understand what is happening right now.  No final during finals and you are watching a movie?

J:          (Heavy sigh, rolling of eyes, and using Regis Philbin hands) I.  DON’T.  WANT.  TO.  GO.  I.  DON’T.  NEED.  TO.  GO.

M:        I tell you what.  You bring to me, IN WRITING, something that states you don’t “need” to go to your final exam in civics and I will let you stay home.  Your science teacher sent something home, right?

J:          Ok then.

It should have made me nervous that she not only dropped it but dropped it and smiled.

I had forgotten all about this exchange until I received an email the following day.  Below is the actual email I received.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent… teacher.

Subject: Julia next Tuesday

We are watching “A Bug’s Life” and answering economic and government related questions for extra credit on the final exam. Julia requires no extra credit. She requested that I let you know that she does not necessarily need to be present in my class next Tuesday.
Mr. Patient Teacher

She requested?

Mr. Patient Teacher is the school’s gifted and talented coordinator and has known my daughter for two years.  He is, himself, a gifted and talented teacher who knows how to reach his students and gain their respect.  He is totally awesome.  He is e-mailing a copy of the worksheet to me in order for my little sunshine to complete it while she watches our very own copy of “A Bug’s Life.”
She will have the “A-est” A that ever graced a report card.

The little girl did great.  She was somewhat surprised when I said that Mr. Patient Teacher would e-mail the worksheet to me for her to work on at home.  When I spoke to her that afternoon, she said that she had finished studying for her Algebra final and she had finished watching “A Bug’s Life” and had already e-mailed the worksheet to Mr. Patient Teacher.  I asked her about studying for another final and she replied, “Ummm, I kind of want to take a break from the thinking thing.”

Me, too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Under Attack

Yesterday afternoon I was attacked during what is usually a very peaceful walk to my office from my parking garage.
I felt something land on my neck so I brushed at it with my hand.  It landed in my cleavage.  And then it stung me.  I looked down and saw a bug of some sort.  I am pretty sure it was a spider.  I’m thinking Brown Recluse.   Oh yeah, squirmies in my bra.  By now I was standing at the corner waiting for the light to change so I could cross the busiest street in the downtown area.  I was talking on my cell phone and had to grab my own breast in an attempt to stop the beast from a) continuing to sting me, and b) from getting to third base. 
I am certain I looked the epitome of today’s business woman.  I was all dressed up in a cute skirt and blouse; wearing heels that make one sympathize with Chinese women who were victims of foot-binding, and talking on my cell phone.  People driving by (and there were plenty during the lunch rush on the busiest street in the downtown area) were probably thinking, “Wow.  Now there is a woman who has it together.  She is probably balancing career and motherhood without any difficulties or self-doubt.  Why, she even has a reusable grocery bag over her shoulder!  She is eating healthy food at work, saving money for her family’s household budget, and saving the environment all at the same time.  Wait.  Did she just grab her own breast?  What the heck?  What kind of mother grabs her own breast at the busiest street corner in town during the lunch rush?”
A mother who is under attack, that’s who.  The little monster had stung me near my heart and was moving further south!
The light finally changed and I lurched across the street in, what I am sure was, a calm and dignified manner.  I could feel little squirmies all over my belly so I fanned my blouse in an attempt to shake it out.  I hoped that I looked like someone who was balancing career and motherhood without any difficulties or self-doubt and, whew, it was making me hot!
The final count was four.  Four angry red marks on me.  Why yes, I did have “After Bite” in my purse.  It was right next to the antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer.  As I treated the bites I day-dreamed about the super powers I would have in the morning.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Once you are a mother you are always a mother.

I cannot stop telling my almost thirteen year old to look both ways before she crosses the street.  I cannot stop telling my ten year old to make sure he stands in front of the "potty long enough to make sure" he is really and truly all done.  I always tell the kids to wear a jacket, "because I am cold."

I almost had myself convinced that this was a smother issue and I needed to just let the kids grow up and, gasp, maybe even back off a little.  That was until my grandmother called my father before he visited her in January.  She told him that the weather was cold and he needed to pack warm clothes.

HA!  My dad is a GRANDFATHER and his MOM is still telling him how cold it is outside.  My dad has two Bachelor's, a Master's, and a Ph.D.  He is a freakin' scientist and his mom told him it was cold outside and to pack warm clothes.

I wonder if, when my dad was visiting them and he went to the bathroom, she told him to make sure he was in the potty long enough to make sure he was really done.

And don't forget to wash your hands.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Black Hole

Our dear mouse, Galaxy, has gone on to a better place. 
We are very sad by our loss but realize that it was his time. He died in his sleep, an old man, who served the lab at the middle school well by fathering TWO litters for the genetic studies project. There will be grave side services this evening with light refreshments and refusal to do homework to follow. Services will be at the new cemetery in the side yard. The backyard cemetery was closed due to constant vandalism from the dog.