Friday, July 31, 2015

Amazing

A little tidbit from The Incredibles.
Bob Parr: What are you waiting for?
Little Boy: I don't know, something amazing, I guess.
Bob Parr: Me too, kid. 
For those of you who write or who just like to think about life in general, ruminate on those words for a little while.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Learning Something

Early last week, I attended a makeup class. Yes, yes, I did. I ATTENDED A MAKEUP CLASS. When we had to go around and introduce ourselves to the class, indicating our level of makeup talent, I said, "Hi. My name is Christina. I wore lipstick to my wedding 15 years ago. And that's where I stand." I may have said "Chris" instead of "Christina," but I can't remember what I ate for lunch yesterday much less remember the exact words from over a week ago. Anyway, I digress...

So I'm sure you're wondering why I even bothered with a makeup class. After almost 42 years, I simply wanted to know what to do and how to do it right. Plus, I take the girls to Beth to get their eyebrows waxed from time to time, and she's so nice, I wanted to support her and her business. (I am not kidding when I tell you she didn't ask me to write that.)

The question is, did I learn anything?

Yes, yes, I did. I learned that applying makeup really is an art and that you need a different brush for different techniques. I learned that I have very dry eyelids. (I knew my skin was dry, but eyelids? Come on!) I learned that bronzer is your best friend, as you can use it in many, many ways (on your eyelids, on your cheeks). I learned that I still prefer bold lips. And most importantly, I learned this:

BROWS ARE SISTERS, NOT TWINS.

I have Nikki to thank for passing that little gem onto me, and for holding my hand. She went with me to the class, although everything Beth taught, Nikki already knew.

I should mention that I liked how my eye makeup looked when I left. I had even applied most of it (with A LOT of help from Nikki and Beth). The girls liked the makeup, too. Tim, however, looked at me like my body had been switched with an alien and uttered, "I like you better without makeup, Chrispea.)

Will I use the techniques in the future? Probably not so much. The cost of makeup and brushes seems a little off the charts. But the point was to learn something, and clearly, I succeeded in that arena.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nourishment

The list of the Mom-approved menu items is sparse. It includes:
Salami
White bread
Pepsi
Eggs
Frozen Waffles
Cucumbers
Lettuce
Hotdogs
Mushrooms
Pasta
Pizza
You'll notice that she's very short on fruits, vegetables, and water. And don't get me started on the quality of meat she must be ingesting. I know when I visited, I tried serving her grilled chicken, lean pork chops, and vegetarian dishes, all of which were met with disdain.

I don't pretend to understand what she's going through--how she likely sticks to the foods she's most comfortable with because she knows what to expect from them. I also don't understand, but wonder about, her ability to taste. If a brain is degenerating and said brain takes care of processing taste, then shouldn't her sense of taste change?

No sooner had I written the above statement than my sister posted an article on a person suffering from Alzheimer's whose taste in food has changed. The article is a part of a series on NPR called Inside Alzheimer's. I'd listened to the other installments of the series, earlier in the year, and I had hoped to let my father know about them. Sadly, along with so many other things this summer, telling him of the series got pushed to the wayside.

According to the subject of the article, Greg O'Brien, some of the food he now eats tastes like "rolled up newspaper." Other foods, like sweet corn and tomatoes, "taste like toilet paper." I wonder what my mom would say about corn or tomatoes. Last fall, she refused to eat black beans at my house, stating, "I've never liked black beans!" The woman I know as my mother loved black beans for many years. But apparently, the woman she is now, does not.

I remember being at the senior center with Mom in June on the day she had her evaluation with the clinician. Mom listed, verbally, her favorite foods and what she ate on a daily basis. The nurse practitioner, Anne, prodded mom for more information until I said, "According to what I've seen over the last several weeks, that's it. Those foods are what she eats and likes."

Anne's lips pursed in disapproval. "You're dehydrated, for sure. Look how little water you consume. And you don't get enough by way of fruits or vegetables, either, since you eat so few of those. Your brain needs water to work, you know."

Anne went on to describe all the ways one must nourish the brain in order for it to work properly. I understood everything the she said. I nodded my head in agreement. I looked at Mom, hoping that a third party could get through to her what I had tried to tell her many times. Because a dying brain, much like a normal one, cannot possibly work in the way it is supposed to when it's not nourished well. Yeah, my mother might have listened to the words then, but she didn't take them to heart.

So now, I have to wonder. Has her sense of taste been warped yet? Should I bring the subject up with Mom herself? Would she even admit that her tastes have changed, when admitting anything with respect to this disease takes a fortitude she doesn't possess?

But maybe I'm not giving Mom as much credit as she deserves. Maybe I should mention the interview and try to explain, again, why she should eat well, emphasizing that I have sympathy for what she might be going through. If I do so, will my words continue to fall on deaf ears?

I don't have an answer to that question but I suspect that even if I do try to speak to Mom about her diet, she'll continue down this path of malnourishment. And that rocky path will only make her brain function--what's left of it that is--worse. As with almost everything these days, we are at an impasse.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kitty Cuteness, VII

Sixteen days until the kids start school. Sixteen! So little time and so much to do. So I'm not writing today, I'm posting more kitty cuteness.








Monday, July 27, 2015

Cousin Fun

Last week, we had a visitor. Cousin A stayed for a week while FRN went on her honeymoon. (Hope you had a great time! I know you didn't get eaten by bears, and I have to say, I'm grateful that you didn't!) I wondered how the week would go: Would the kids get tired of one another? Would we find enough to do? Just how fatigued would I be at the end of the week?

Well, I have to say that having one more child isn't that much more work when you already have five. (Oops, I mean four. I have four kids and that one really big kid.) However, last night, I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. So that's saying something.

But I thought I'd share a bit of the fun we had last week. I'm glad the kids had the chance to experience some cousin time.

Tea time for Melina and A.

A helping make chocolatey chocolate chip cookies.

Melina helping make chocolatey chocolate chip cookies.

Zoe and Melina at the landing at Carillon.

Talia in the slide at Carillon.

Ava in the slide at Carillon.

Aaron on the path.

Sweet old-fashioned faces.

Not so sweet old-fashioned faces.

Making candy sushi.

At Cox Arboretum.

At the top of the tree tower.

Never let A drive the truck. She's got three casualties and a passenger trying to get out.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Reasons 151-160

151. Quiet time in the morning.
152. Lego creations that stem from the imagination and not a kit.
153. Word Porn.
154. The movement of a hummingbird's wings.
155. Email.
156. Fresh-baked cookies of any variety.
157. A letter from an old friend.
158. The rush of cold air that hits your body when you open the freezer door on a hot and humid day.
159. Good news.
160. Waking up to the feel of a kitty pressed against your legs and not wanting to move.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Finding Time

I haven't been talking much about writing because, as you can imagine, I haven't been writing. One parent with Alzheimer's, a dog with what we thought was cancer and wasn't (yoo-hoo!), four kids at home, some new kitties (that are crazy, by the way) and a house to deep clean. Yeah, not writing. Except for these lovely posts of mine.

And yet there are moments during the day when I stand at the kitchen sink, soaping up dishes, and I think to myself about my characters. I wonder how to make Philippa more interesting and whether or not Sadie should actually give in and kiss Andrew (maybe then an agent would want my story). I think about how the scene between Daniel and Vivian needs to pan out and whether or not I can write witty dialogue from a gay man's point of view. I get so invested in these characters as I try to make their stories come to life, that I absolutely cannot wait for the time when my own life will settle down a bit and my fingers can play with my computer keys.

The question is, when will I find that time? I'm not sure I ever will, but I'm starting my search in 3, 2, 1...


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Eye Opening Experience

Dear Dr. B,

I don't remember exactly when we found you, but we've gone to your office for quite a while now. And considering that five out of six of us currently wear glasses, I want you to know that the yacht you just put a down payment on? Yeah, we helped pay for that.

I'm just letting you know of my displeasure in the amount of time we had to wait, yet again, at your office. It seems that over the last year or so, we spend more time in the waiting room than we do actually seeing you. Several months ago, I waited almost a half hour past my appointment time. And today? Today we waited 47 minutes, at which point I walked up to the receptionist and told her that I'd reschedule for another day.

"You're the next to be called," she said.

It didn't matter, Dr. B. I'd been sitting in that waiting room for 47 minutes. I knew how many minutes passed between patients and I had no intention of waiting one hour or more past my appointment time to see you. Because you and I both know that the wait could possibly be that long.

Upon hearing me, another receptionist piped up, "Sorry we're running behind."

I don't know what I said to her in return--something polite of course--but her words infuriated me. I don't understand why someone, anyone, didn't let us know when we checked in that you were running so far behind. Had I known, I could have done one of many things. Like call the kids and tell them we were choosing to wait, and we'd be home later than I thought. Or ask if they could text me when I was second in line so I could go home and fold some laundry (we live five minutes away). In the 47 minutes I waited, I could have even headed across the street to buy school supplies--something I really need to do, and soon! You see, Dr. B, it's the little things. Little things like being kind to your patients and realizing that they have time tables, too.

What makes matters worse is that about 20 minutes into our wait, another woman checked in at the receptionist and asked if you were backed up. Do you know what the receptionist said to her? "We're a little behind, but not much."

Oh, honey, I wanted to say. They're so far behind they don't want to even tell you. I refrained from saying anything, but that's when I made up my mind. If they didn't take us by 3:30 p.m., we were going to leave.

At this point you might be wondering if I have plans to reschedule that appointment I canceled. All I can say is this: are you f^%&ing crazy? You think I have more time to waste on you? (Sorry. As you can tell, I'm still a little sore from yesterday's wait). To be honest, I don't think we will. I know of another doctor who I like just as much. Sure, she's farther away, but she has weekend hours (great for the kids) and runs mostly on time. I think that those two factors are good enough reasons to walk away from your office. I wish you well and hope you have enough patients to outfit that yacht exactly how you'd like.

Sincerely,
Christina

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pizza Time

Have you ever tried to make everyone happy with a pizza order? If the gang all likes one meat, or one vegetable, or just plain cheese, you have it made. Or, if you're making individual pizzas, life can be good. But if you have some picky people in your midst then, well, you might get frustrated. Such was my life the other night.

"What does everyone want on their pizzas?" I asked.

The kids were the easiest of the bunch. "Cheese!" said two of them. "Pepperoni or sausage!" said three more. (I realize that 2 + 3 = 5 and I only have 4 children, but we have a cousin visiting.)

FRN asked about bacon. "Can we do bacon? If we do that, A would eat that or the cheese pizza." (A is the visiting cousin.)

"Let me check." I walked into the room where the kids were sitting. "How about bacon?"

All kids nodded their heads, and one actually answered me. "That would probably be okay. But how about pepperoni, too?"

So we had plans for one cheese pizza (Tim, Melina, and I like cheese) and one half bacon/half pepperoni. Dad didn't seem to care one way or another, but said he'd eat pepperoni but that he likes cheese, too. Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast. When I went back to the study, I asked Mom what she wanted. "Mushrooms," she said. "I want mushrooms on my pizza."

I groaned inside. I like mushrooms. Tim likes mushrooms. No one else in the house at that time, which included seven other people, likes mushrooms. I looked at her.

"Mushrooms? Do you like anything else?"

"Nope. I want mushrooms."

I mused out loud. "They sell really big slices. Maybe we could buy you a couple of mushroom slices..." The look on her face stopped me. Apparently, that option was not a good solution. I needed to find another one.

"Well then, I'll order a medium mushroom, too. How's that?"

"Great."

But sadly, life does not always go as planned. Because the pizzas that came home were not a cheese, a half bacon/half pepperoni, and a mushroom. Instead of a medium mushroom pizza, we were given a plain cheese one. Which means that we only had cheese and meat pizzas. The horror, you know? I'm not kidding, either. The look on Mom's face stopped me again. How could she be so disgusted over a simple mistake? She's not even vegetarian.

"No mushrooms," she said. "I tell you, I'm tired of things like this happening. Can't they get an order right?"

"I'm sorry," I said, although I really wasn't. I had no hand in the lack of mushrooms on that pizza. "And I don't have any mushrooms for you to heat up and put on top."

"That's okay," she said. "They should have gotten the order right!"

As I busied myself getting napkins and plates, I wondered how the evening would proceed. Would she just eat the cheese pizza and complain about it? She hadn't let me know of any other alternatives to her list of approved toppings.

So imagine my surprise when she opened up the box of pepperoni and bacon pizza--the one that I bought mostly for the kids (and Grandpa)--and proceeded to take two slices. No asking. No thought to whether or not that specific pizza was for someone else.

I thought about saying something about the behavior, but in the end, I didn't. Because she no longer possesses the ability to think logically and use sound judgment all the time. It's a symptom of the disease--and I know this--but it's the one symptom I'm having the most trouble with because it makes her seem just plain selfish.

I fumed for a minute and grabbed Zoe and Aaron. I explained what happened, and suggested that they eat the cheese pizzas (they like cheese, but they prefer pepperoni) so that everyone would have enough to eat. Aaron said fine and walked away. Zoe, in her 13-year-old wisdom, wound her arms around my waist and held on tightly for more than a minute.

"It's okay, Mommy," she said.

And it is.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Shaving Day

What do the kids (and one cousin) do when Dad decides to shave and uses shaving cream to do so? Well participate in the fun, of course.




I'd have posted the picture with the shaving cream bikinis, but I didn't think it was quite appropriate for the internet.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Off the Wall

"I'm grateful my kid didn't make your blog," FRN texted me yesterday morning.

She had obviously read my Sunday post, where I spoke of being grateful. The incident she referred to was one that happened at my house on Friday afternoon. I had no intention of posting about said incident, until I received that text. I thought to myself, Well now...I must make sure her kid makes the blog. I'm just mean that way, I guess.

So here's the long and short of what really isn't much of an incident. Imagine this: FRN and her daughter, A, arrive. They lug their belongings into the house, and no more than 15 minutes later (okay, really, I don't know how long they were here, but it wasn't long), A decides to hang on our banister.

Hanging on the banister sounds like a great idea, except that our house was built in 1949, so that banister is pretty old. More importantly, I'm not sure the banister has ever been repaired or replaced. Which means it might very well have been a ticking time bomb of banisters. Because in the one hot second that followed A's attempt to dangle from the banister, the lower bracket snapped and the banister that used to be on the wall was now hanging off the wall.

You might be asking yourself how this exact scenario has never happened in a house with four children. That's a great question. The answer is that in our house we don't hang on the banister! And why not? Because we don't want the banister to fall off the wall.

Just to be upfront, the broken banister bracket didn't faze me in the least. I shrugged my shoulders and was grateful (yes, again) that A didn't get hurt. And Tim? He just removed both brackets and the banister itself so no one would get hurt. We'll be headed to Home Depot this week for a new bracket.

Moral of the story? Never tell me you're glad your kid didn't make the blog. And of course, don't hang on banisters.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Morning

Yesterday morning dawned hot and humid, right from the the outset. But being Saturday, I had to run. You see, my measly goal for the summer is to run two times a week for thirty minutes each. I cringe when I think of that goal and how just one summer ago, I was still running three times that long in one fell swoop. But the road to recovery has been longer than I anticipated, and at this point, I'll take what I can get. Which means being grateful for being able to run at least a half an hour at a time.

So I am grateful, and that's a great place to be on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

All Right or All Wrong?

Are you a half-full or a half-empty sort of person? Do you know? Do you care?

Over the last 15 years, I've turned myself around and now brim with more positivity than I ever thought possible. Of course, I have my moments, and I could always be more positive, but I try never to dwell on the negative, to tuck away the pessimism where the sun don't shine.

So it always amazes me when someone with a full and rich life can make a statement such as, "I never thought my life would crumble and be like this."

Don't think about what could have been or what might be. Consider the blessings you have: a home, a car, a family, food in the fridge, and money in the bank. Dwell on the fact that you are healthy and alive, and not lonely. Look at your life from the perspective of someone who has less, and I'm guessing you just might be able to walk away with a swing in your step.

If you can't, you're just doing the whole living thing all wrong.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Miles to Go

"She's like a dead woman inside," my dad said as he shook his head. "I don't know who she is anymore."

I stared at my dad, wondering what I should say. What I could say that might make him feel better. They'd traveled down, of their own accord, to visit us for a few days. In fact, Dad had called me himself. He asked me to make appointments at several senior living places in the area. He'd been uncharacteristically proactive, and now I knew why.

"It's only going to get worse, Dad. She's not going to get any better."

"Well, we're using those patches...those might help, right?"

He was talking about the Exelon patch, a transdermal medication that had been prescribed for mom. She hasn't been on them long, and while efficacy has been shown in mild, moderate, and severe cases of Alzheimer's disease, I hadn't done any research on the patch itself. I didn't have a clue how much more time it would give her, if any. Plus, she'd lived with a lifetime of depression and anxiety. Those two in and of themselves can wreak havoc on a brain. And now Alzheimer's?

Not one to dwell so much on the negative, I tried a different approach.

"Okay, Dad. I know it's getting tough at home. But you have to think of what is best for both of you. If you were both healthy, I'd say to stay in the house. But she's not healthy. And at some point, she will need memory care. Moving here will give you a great place to be, plus, you'll have me, Tim, and the kids. You need a break? You call us. We'll be there."

"I know, but..."

"And, we drive by that place all the time. At least four times a week because of Aaron's soccer practice."

Dad looked for a minute like he might be caving into the demands. Like he might say Yes, sign me up! We're moving down!

And then, Mom stepped into the room. "We're staying in our house. The doctor said we could for at least a year." Her tight lips and narrow gaze stripped any more words from Dad's mouth and shut the door on any progress I might have made.

I stood and walked from the room, shaking my own head, which only contained one thought: And miles to go before I sleep.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Celebrating Shadow

I spent the last two nights sleeping on the floor, keeping vigil over my buddy. I felt like a new momma again, waking at the littlest noise, checking to see if Shadow was still breathing. Night number one was hard: he had just come out of surgery and moved pretty well, but the anesthesia hadn't been completely metabolized and he panted for most of the night. In the dark hours of the morning, Shadow began to whimper. Nothing too horrifying, but enough to know that he was in pain. Only a constant hand on his head kept him completely calm. 

Last night, number two, was much easier. Shadow looked at me several times as the hours crept by--we were nose to nose--but he must have been resting as comfortably as he could. He didn't whimper. He didn't pant excessively. His breathing was steady and strong. He took his meds easily at 3:40 a.m.

We have to wait for the biopsy results to come back before we have a better idea of the outcome for Shadow. But using ultrasound to diagnose, the vet believes that Shadow has cancer, more specifically hemangiosarcoma of the spleen. (The mass that was taken out, along with the spleen, was the size of a tennis ball.) Golden retrievers are prone to this type of cancer, and while some of the masses that are taken out are benign, a larger percentage of them are not.

Thankfully, the vet didn't find any metastases on the chest x-ray. If she had, the most humane thing to do would have been to do say our goodbyes and send him on to the great backyard in the sky. The cancer not having metastasized means his prognosis is slightly better but the outlook isn't great. Even after surgery, he'll likely live less than a year.

How can that be? Don't we all think that our animals will be with us forever? Aren't animals supposed to be invincible? They're our friends, our families. Some of the most integral players in our lives, and we're expected to let them go so easily, aren't we?

I'm not ready to say goodbye now. I won't be ready in two weeks, or two months, or even six months. If we're lucky and Shadow lives for another nine months, I won't be ready for him to go then, either. But I'm grateful that we at least have some time to prepare ourselves for his loss and that we're able to make these last months of his as wonderful as (or even greater than) any that have come before.

It's time to celebrate Shadow. Feel free to come help us do so.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kitty Cuteness, VI

It's that day of the week again. Time for more of the cutest kitties on the block.

Clearly, I disturbed his nap.

Finally, back to resting.

Arnold fills this out pretty well now. It used to be that two kitties could fit on it.

Oops! This is not a kitty, but a canine cutie named Bruce.

Getting a little big to lounge in the stroller.

Not sure at all how Heathcliff finds this position remotely comfortable.

Benedict looking adorable.

This isn't a kitty, either. Rest up, Shadow!

Monday, July 13, 2015

I'm Sure

"Do you know what your father did?" she asked me, incredulity creeping into her voice over the phone.

"No, what? What did he do?" I wasn't sure what my father could have done. Two retired people who didn't go anywhere or do anything. Something completely and utterly outrageous? Maybe he bought a boat? Or booked a vacation?

"He sold my car!"

I snorted on the other end of the line, quiet enough for her not to hear me. "And do you know why he sold your car?" I asked her, as gently as I could. I wanted to yell into the receiver that she'd had this conversation many times over the last three weeks. But I knew yelling would do nothing except make me feel guilty.

"No, why?" she asked.

I decided to be blunt. "Because you can't drive your car anymore."

A pause, and then, "I can't?"

"No, you can't. And do you remember why you can't?"

"No."

I settled in for the explanation. "Remember the appointment we went to? The nurse practitioner said no more driving. And the appointment you just went to last week? You've been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. That means, no more driving."

I expected that she would come back with a rebuttal of sorts, denying that she'd ever been diagnosed with anything like Alzheimer's. I mean, how many years did she refute any evidence of memory loss? How often had she denied forgetting things? How many times had she gotten angry at me for pointing out any differences in her abilities? But this time was different.

"Okay, but I'm low. He said I'm low. You know?"

I knew what she meant. She'd been diagnosed on the low end of moderate Alzheimer's. That means that she has trouble expressing herself and cannot recall her address at times. She's not sure what day it is, and cannot remember all of the details of her personal history. She's not sure why she's seeing the doctors she's seeing, and clearly she doesn't remember all the facts presented to her at her last appointment. And yet, she remembers the word "low." She hangs onto those three letters with tight fists.

I know this is true: each time I've called since the diagnosis, that word "low" is what she returns to. Because being on the "low" end is her lifeline. It means she is not forgetting everything. It means she is not too far gone. It means that she's not quite there yet--there meaning the point where she needs to be in a facility that can help her. Because she's "low" as she says, she can stay for another year in her house, in her microcosm, in her comfort zone.

I wasn't entirely sure what to say to her that day. I simply replied, "Yes, I know." At that point, my dad must have returned for she said her goodbyes and in a second, my dad's voice boomed on the line. I told him what she told me.

"Of course I sold the car!" he said.

I realized, in that instant, that he had missed my point. Despite living with her, seeing the changes and how she behaves day in and day out, he's clearly not cognizant of what's going on and what's going to happen in the very near future. Or maybe now, he's in denial. I can't be sure.

The only thing I am sure of is that I'm bracing for the worst and hoping for the best. Just doing that is taking all the energy I have.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunscreen Blues

Dear MSD Consumer Care people,

I hope I'm addressing the right entity. To be quite frank, I cannot read the small letters at the bottom of the bottle of Coppertone Ultra Guard sunscreen because some of that sunscreen managed to make it into my left eye, and said eye has been watering for hours. So while I hope you are the right people, perhaps I should have addressed this letter directly to Coppertone Ultra Guard. No matter. I've mentioned you both here, so if you aren't the right people, do a girl who can't see a favor and send it along to the right people, will you?

Use at your own risk.
You might be wondering why I'm bothering to write this letter. Well, let me tell you a little story. Way back in 1998 (I know, right?), on a trip out to California, a friend of mine was eating a Big Mac in the back of  minivan we'd rented for the trip. We were driving along peacefully until he burst out that he'd gotten special sauce in his eye.
Use this at your own risk, too.
I have to tell you, when special sauce gets in one's eye, the sauce is no longer deemed special. My friend, who shall remain nameless, whined, and yelled, and carried on for so long, I always considered him a sissy. The other four of us laughed and shook in our seats while trying to be as sympathetic as possible. The friend didn't buy into our sympathy, and I don't blame him. Because we (I include myself in the group) actually held no sympathy for our friend with the stinging, watery eye. Until now, that is. Now, I have so much sympathy for what happened, I almost feel like I should track the friend down and apologize to him. Seventeen years later.

You see, it only took a little bit of special sauce to make my friend go mad with frustration, just like it only took a little bit of sunscreen in my left eye to make me do the same. No, I can't tell you how much sunscreen got in my eye. It's not like I held up the container and poured it directly into my eye. No, I put the sunscreen on my body, washed my hands, and then apparently, touched a part of my skin that had the lotion on it again. Because when I put my finger to my eye (I'm not even sure why I did this), in a few moments, the eye began to protest.

Being a very common sense sort of person, I thought to myself, Hey, I'll let my eye water it out, but I should go wash it, too. Also having a large amount of common sense, I then thought to myself, Hey, I'll check the container for instructions. Well, MSD Consumer Care People, this is what I found: When using this product, keep out of eyes. Rinse with water to remove.

I skeptically looked at those instructions. This was waterproof sunscreen in my eye, and water could potentially remove it? Even washing hands with soap doesn't take off all the sunscreen. Yet, I asked my friend to watch the kids for a moment and trekked off toward the restrooms. While there, I flushed my eye with as much water as I could. Cold water. Warm water. I even contemplated soapy water, thinking that maybe the sting from the soap would take away the sting from the sunscreen, but in the end, I didn't add soap (again, common sense won out). Instead, I blinked away as many tears as I could and I returned to my friend and the kids.

As I sat back down at our towels, my friend said, "Wow. You're eye is really red." Now my friend has great powers of observation (he's an excellent professor after all) but even in the bright light of the strong summer sun, it was clear that my poor eye had seen better days. I'm sure the other folks at the pool had questions about my eye. Several people looked at me, slightly alarmed, as I had passed them on the way back from the restroom. One nice lady in the restroom had even asked about my eye.

At that point, when my friend pointed out the severity of the redness, I told the kids I thought we should leave the pool. I needed to get the eye to a water station or something. Yes, I know what you're thinking. You're at a pool. Why didn't you just go dunk your head into the large pool of water that was in front of you. I didn't for two reasons: 1. The fresh tap water hadn't helped, and 2. I didn't think that subjecting an irritated eye to chlorine was the best option. (Goddamn that common sense. Where the hell does it get me? Oops...sorry. No warning about being less than family friendly.)

But I'm a mom and the kids weren't ready to leave. So I covered my eye with a tissue, letting the tears flow into the paper and wiping them up as quickly as they came. I suffered for the remainder of our time there and then drove home, carefully. But I have to say that I thought with the amount of watering my eye was doing, I'd have cleared the eye of all irritants. I mean, the bottle says to rinse with water. I'd done that and then some...fresh and salt water. What else could I do?

A shower. On the way home, I decided that I'd take a shower as soon as I made it home. And I did. I stood there, under the warmth of the shower head and tilted my head back. I let that water rain over my eyes for at least five minutes. I splashed the water into my eye. I dripped the water over my eye. I willed the water into my eye.

And after that shower, my eye still hurt. In fact, by that time, my vision was blurry and I contemplated calling poison control. (I'm not kidding). But again, I'm a mom and I had better things to do, like make sure that dinner gets started. So I closed my irritated eye, covered it with a kleenex so that I wouldn't be compelled to open it, and began to chop vegetables with a vengeance. After dinner, when the watering of the eye had slowed to a mere trickle, I sat down to write this.

I know this a long and drawn out story, but I had to write. You see, I have this habit of writing letters to people or companies who displease me. It's my way of venting a little. You'll probably never read this, and if you do, so be it. I'm but one customer in a sea of many. But honest to God. Before I go, I have to ask: What the hell do you put in that sunscreen to make it hurt so much? Do you know how many folks have told their kids to shake it off or suck it up when the kids are complaining about sunscreen in the eye? Do you? I've done it myself sometimes, thinking that my child was overreacting. I mean, how much can a little sunscreen do to a person? Well, apparently a whole hell of a lot.

So do me a favor. Before you bottle up any more of that offensive lotion, put a dab on your finger and stick it in your eye. If you don't find yourself with an eye up in arms, then go ahead and market the lotion. I'm betting you're too afraid to try that one, aren't you?

Thank you for your time.
Christina

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What's Your Style?

According to some very rudimentary research I just performed in 30 seconds, parenting can fall into styles. Of course I know this. I mean, how many times have I heard people talk about Attachment parenting? I'm guessing that might be a style. But according to someone named Diana Blumberg Baumrind (a clinical and developmental psychologist), three major styles of parenting exist. (Attachment parenting isn't one of them. Neither is Helicopter parenting.):

1. Authoritarian parenting
2. Permissive parenting
3. Authoritative parenting

If you're not sure what these styles encompass, let me explain (and by explain, I mean that I'll cut and paste what I found...it's faster that way):

Authoritarian parenting "emphasizes blind obedience, stern discipline, and controlling children through punishments--which may include the withdrawal of parental affection." Permissive parenting encompasses "emotional warmth and a reluctance to enforce rules." Authoritative parenting is "a more balanced approach in which parents expect kids to meet certain behavioral standards, but also encourage their children to think for themselves and to develop a sense of autonomy." (All quotes taken from this site.)

Eventually, researchers decided that (what I'll call) asshole parents also existed, and so they labeled a fourth parenting style. You know what sort of parent that is, the completely uninvolved one. Hence the parenting style known as Uninvolved parenting. While I doubt I have to define the style, I'll include the definition here for the sake of clarity: "Uninvolved parents are like permissive parents in their failure to enforce standards. But unlike permissive parents, uninvolved parents are not nurturing and warm. They provided kids with food and shelter, but not much else." Deadbeat dads and moms clearly fall into that category.

I've parented now for over 13 years, and I'm not sure I can identify with just one style. I'm also not convinced there are only four styles to choose from. But I can appreciate that parenting styles can fall into broad categories. However--and let me say that I'm no psychologist here--I think we need to make the titles of parenting styles easier to remember. (Uninvolved and permissive are pretty easy to remember, but I'm guessing that Authoritarian and Authoritative can get confusing.)

So I've taken it upon myself to label three new parenting styles, and they are:

1. The Christina
2. The Tara
3. The Gina

Yes, I've named these styles for my sisters and me.

Instead of simply defining these styles, I want you to walk with me, into your imagination for a moment. Imagine you're sitting at the table with your family, eating dinner. Your youngest prefers to eat with a fork that is clean. Of course the mere fact that she is eating causes the fork to collect food particles, and that can be a problem. She leans over and shows you the fork, which upon inspection, proves to have a minute (as in size of a gnat) piece of potato on it and the child wants to use the fork to eat her chicken. What a dilemma, you know? What do you do to help her?

If you use The Christina style of parenting you will, without a word, take her fork in your hands, grab a napkin, wipe the fork, and hand it back to her. You emphasize the action by completing it slowly, so she can learn what the proper response is. You also use your eyes to tell her (silently) that the next time, she'll know what to do. And because you're confident about your actions (and gentle in performing them), she will know.

But maybe you aren't that type of parent, and instead you follow The Tara approach. If that's the case, in a very loud and clear voice you say, "What do you want me to do with it?" You then proceed to eat your own dinner and know in your heart that the child will come up with some way to fix the fork herself. A minute later, you look over to find that yes, your child has figured out that by either wiping the fork with a napkin or by licking the fork, it is clean enough for her to move on to her chicken.

Not everyone is either so silent or so loud, and that's where we also have The Gina. In a very low and nurturing voice you say, "Oh sweetie. How can we fix this? What's the solution to the problem?" With this style, you put your own dinner to the side while you discuss all the options in front of her, from getting a new fork, to wiping the fork with a napkin, to licking the fork. You make sure your child is confident in her choice before moving back toward your own dinner.

I'm sure to get flack from my sisters about this post, but when I posited this theory to the kids, they all nodded their heads up and down in agreement. "Yes," they said. "That's exactly how you three parent." The outcome is really the same...it's the in between steps that differ.

And don't you think Christina, Tara, and Gina are easier to remember?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Seven Super Years

I'd like to say I have the time and inclination to write something eloquent today, but alas, I don't. I should, since today--July 10, 2015--marks Melina's 7th birthday. Seven! I can hardly believe we're already at that number. When the girls turned seven, Melina was a little over six months old. When Aaron turned seven, Melina was three and a half. I look at her now, at seven years old and think, Where did the time go? How did we get here already? And didn't we have a ball?

I'm not kidding when I make that last statement. As many of you know, life with Melina is literally, at times, a ball. As in a full-out formal gathering where we all dance. In tutus. Or ballgowns. Or tuxes or bathing suits. You name it, we've danced in it. But what I really meant is that the last seven years of raising Melina have been (for the most part) pleasant. Fun. Super even. And part of that is because Melina is difficult to describe in one word. I don't want to say that she is special--of course she is--because every one of my children is special (as are all of yours). But Melina lives and breathes a certain joy for life that I'm pretty sure I've spoken about before. If I try to come up with a list of words to describe her, this is what I'd include:

Creative.
Princess.
Honest.
Helpful.
Optimistic.
Compassionate.
Smart.
Superhero.
Beautiful.
Kind.
Significant.

But as I said, not a single one of those words would cover the complexity embodied by my youngest child. And when I look at her, I can't help but be bombarded by every one of those qualities. Every day of her life. So, instead of dwelling on the enigma that she is, I smile. I wonder at her generosity. I gawk at her self-contentment. I long to soak up whatever energy she's emitting that day. And I'm mesmerized that I could have had any hand in the creation of such a being.

Happy Birthday, little one.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Big Smiles

A rainy afternoon calls for peppermint tea, a chocolate chip muffin (I'm giving myself a break here), and Jurassic Park with the kids. Sometimes, life can't get any better.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Thank You, Facebook Friend

I've only been awake for 22 minutes, but already, I've learned something today...

Morning being my only silent time, I usually creep down the stairs, grab some cereal and coffee, and pull up my email and Facebook accounts. Thankfully, I had zero email messages that needed attention, so I quickly switched to see what was happening over at Facebook. Not a whole lot there (is there ever?), but I did have one notification. I clicked on the little blue globe, and noticed that an aquaintance had commented on my post.

Now, let me be very clear when I say that I don't know this person well. She seems lovely and kind and overall a great person, but I only know her from the kids' school. She sent a friend request back in May and I accepted it. But you know how my life has gone since then...I've been incommunicado for the most part and I haven't had much time to sit down and immerse myself in the Facebook lives of anyone.

So on Sunday, I realized that this person had gotten married on Saturday. I checked out her pictures, which were wonderful. The weather had been perfect, and she and her groom and the kids all looked fabulous. Apparently, I hadn't really noticed the lead-up to the event, but as I said, I also haven't been trolling Facebook that much. However, I couldn't let a momentous occasion such as marriage go without at least a small acknowledgment.

"I'm a little behind on FB these days." I wrote to her. "Congrats! You looked gorgeous. Happiness all around for you and Andy and your family!"

When I saw that she had commented, I thought I'd find a quick, "Thank you! The weather was perfect!"

But no. This is what I found instead. "Aww thank you so much Christina!! Good luck with new baby."

Yes, I learned that I had a new baby. WTH?!?

I glanced around the room, convinced I'd misplaced a fifth child. I even checked my Facebook profile to see if anything I had posted would have led her to believe that I had, indeed, a new baby in my life. No child in sight. No indications. (My best guess? She got me confused with someone else.)

I'm not writing this post to judge this person or complain that she should have known anything about me. She has no obligation to know me and my life, AND she apparently had been planning a wedding! Quite frankly (ahem, Tara and Gina) I'm not sure we could pick each other out of a lineup. I'm simply here telling you that she gave me one of the best laughs I've had in a long time that didn't have to do with the words demented, dementia, or f%^k. And that's the most anyone's been able to do for me for a very long time. So thank you, Facebook friend. Thank you.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Until Then

Hey! Remember me? I'm that friend who has pretty much dropped off the face of the earth lately. I've been inundated by familial obligations and for the most part, I've done nothing with anyone. I apologize, but if you can imagine yourself in my shoes, you can imagine you might do the same thing.

Anyway, I'm here to say thanks. Thank you to all of you who have texted, emailed, and called to say Hi, or What's up? or I'm here for you. All of your wishes are heartfelt and appreciated. And while I've said this before, I'll say it again: when I get stressed, I shut down. So while I don't mean to shut anyone out, I know I have.

Once I've caught up on life, I'll be sure to give you a call. Until then, carry on.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Good Luck to Me

I'm not the church-going type. I should be, but I haven't yet found a church of which I'm proud to say I'm a member. However, our neighborhood parish has a new pastor and associate pastor, so I thought I'd give them a try. Melina and I headed to the 8 a.m. service today, hoping for something good.

I won't bore you with details. Everything aligned for a peaceful and lovely service: wonderful singing (thank you, Karen), great lector (thanks, MM), perfect homily. It's probably a fluke that I chose today to go back to church. But as the universe is wont to do, it taught me a lesson.

For the psalm today was number 95: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

In the moment Karen started to sing the psalm, I realized exactly what I've been doing over the last few weeks with respect to my parents. I've been hardening my heart. And without going into anything else about the circumstances, I realize, once again, that I need to be more forgiving, compassionate, and loving.

There's a challenge if I ever saw one. Good luck to me.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Reasons 141-150

141. Bananas.
142. Pictures of kittens. (I'm sure this surprised no one.)
143. Circle pretzels.
144. Dancing to Something That I Want with Melina.
145. Lovely, arched eyebrows. (I do not have these, but the twins do.)
146. Aaron's hair right after he gets it cut with a #4 blade.
147. Vo5 Kiwi Lime shampoo.
148. Regrouping. (I know. I'm weird. But the process makes sense to Melina and me.)
149. Beyond the Trees. (I still really like that story. I wish someone else did.)
150. Hope.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rollercoaster

"I want to stay in our house," he says, tears perched on his lower lids. Up until this year, I'd never seen the man cry, but I've witnessed the act several times now. I don't like to see anyone cry, much less someone who never does. But I watch as a stray drop makes its way down his olive-skinned cheek. My hand itches to wipe the tear away, but he does so before I can.

I understand that he doesn't want to move from his house of 27 years. I understand that he wants to keep his wife wrapped up in her comfort zone. I understand how difficult any change can be much less something monumental like the change staring him in the face. But I don't think he understands that her good days will soon wane and that the number of bad days will increase. Her lucid moments are numbered, really, and someday, it won't just be that she forgets her address, or the name of her sister, or where she placed her purse. Someday, her brain will be unable to execute commands and her abilities to dress herself, use the toilet, even swallow or breathe, will be gone.

I try to make him see this from my point of view. From the point of view of my sisters and me. He listens with half an ear, nodding his head in assent and then shaking it, "No." He tells me one thing, my sister another thing, and my other sister a third thing. He's keeping us in a loop with no end and no beginning, one that spins us round and round and I'm not the only one getting dizzy.

"I want off the roller coaster," I want to say to him, with my own tears perched on my lower lids. But how can you say that to someone in your family?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

So Do I

We've had a very tiring few weeks around here. Melina has been going to bed too late and getting up too early. She's been a trooper, but the fatigue is wearing on her. She walks around like a zombie at times. Other times, she yawns incessantly. And her ability to be happy-happy-joy-joy all the time is, well, at an all-time low.

Last night, she attempted to round the kids up for dinner. (Melina does this sort of thing regularly. She is a rule follower, and when I say it's time for dinner, she makes sure that everyone does their job in setting the table and also that they come to the table to eat.) The girls had just come back from an overnight STEM camp and Aaron was showing them what he'd built on Minecraft. I had told the kids that dinner and a movie would be fine, but that they needed to choose the movie before dinner made it onto the table. Melina tried, oh how she tried, to get those kids moving. But they were slow to do anything that she said.

Finally, she shuffled into the kitchen with a long face.
Me: What's wrong? Are you tired?
Melina: Yes.
Me: You okay?
Melina: Yes. But I just realized something. Sometimes, when I'm tired, I start to lose my patience.
So do I, Melina. So do I.