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At the zoo!

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Making Memories

My “baby” just turned 7 this past weekend and it’s hitting me particularly hard (as I knew it would). I’ve been dreading this day. The last of my babies is growing up. I don’t want my babies to grow up – I want them to stay with me forever (well, maybe not forever).

When asked what she would like to do for her birthday, Audrey said, “I want to go to the Zoo!” Okay then! Off to the Zoo we went! The Stone Zoo http://www.zoonewengland.org/stonezoo is not too far and not too expensive. The yearly pass is a great deal too; it turns out to be a lot cheaper than two visits combined.

So, there we were, at the zoo, with our three children, now age 12, 9 and 7. On this day in particular, I was feeling nostalgic. I almost felt out of place with my older, well-behaved children (at the moment anyway). As we came across the “Dino Dig”, Audrey ran over and started digging with the lot of toddlers (all vying for a coveted shovel to dig for fake bones); our son was slinking around, looking for the monkeys (my favorite too); and our nine year old (being the ever-so-responsible big sister) was keeping an eye out for everyone. I stood there taking pictures of all of the animals like a weirdo (like I am ever going to look back and say, “Remember that monkey and awe, remember that snow leopard!”. Any-whoo, there I was, having just finished taking pictures of the napping Otter, observing the hubbub around me. Carriages were zipping around, you could hear anxious parents yelling stuff like, “Charlie come back here!”, and “Trevor, stop hitting your sister!” and that one mother yelling (very loudly I might add) “Ariel!” “Do you have to go potty?” Ah, I’m glad those days are over! But, quite honestly, I’m not sure that I am.

In that instant I thought to myself……that’s it; no more babies, no more diapers, no more sippy cups, kids in carriages (sitting on the bottom or top, wherever they’d fit), no more having to pack “a picnic” for every trip that we take. Honestly it’s a bit sad to come to the realization that my “babies” are growing up, and it’s happening fast. Our son is now 12; in 4 years he’ll be driving. Am I ready for this next stage in life? I am also poignantly reminded that I, too, am growing older each day. So, on this day we took our time, enjoyed our children, and let them be kids – even if only for a moment longer. We enjoyed the animals, and taking pictures of them (the weirdo that I am); we took our time. I’m sure my husband was thinking the same things; someday (in the not too distant future) our kids won’t want to spend a leisurely Saturday with their parents and siblings at the zoo.

Audrey played hooky from school today and she and I spent a special “birthday day” with my mother “Nona”, who completely spoiled us the whole day (as she always does every chance she gets). She took us shopping and treated us to a wonderful lunch at Kelly’s Roast Beef http://www.kellysroastbeef.com/. We ended our “special day” with an ice cream sundae. On the way home, Nona asked Audrey, “Did you have fun today Audrey?” ”Today, we made memories!”

In all the chaos of life, rushing here and rushing there, we often forget that every day we are truly making memories. I found this fitting quote that just happens to be the lyrics to an Reo Speedwagon song (really showing my age now). It’s called Live Every Moment: “Live every moment, love every day – ‘Cause before you know it your precious time slips away”.
at the zoo

monkey at the zoo

My life with Asthma

My sister, brother and I, circa 1975

My sister, brother and me (1975)

I have Asthma. “Exercise Induced”, “Allergy Induced”, aka “Chronic Bronchial Asthma” – it’s a lung disease no matter what you call it. As a child I was always sick. In 1973, at the age of four, I suffered my first asthma attack. My father, brother and I had just dropped off my mother and sister at a “Bluebirds” camping trip. I remember sitting in the back of the station wagon feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath (back then there were no seatbelt laws either). My father finally decided to bring me o to the hospital where I was admitted. God love the man, but he didn’t feel the need to call my mother – no sense in ruining everyone’s weekend, right?

I remember the hospital ward vividly; it was cold, dark and cavernous. My bed was the furthest from the door, and there were about five beds to my right. There was a plastic sheet covering my bed, with an oxygen tank humming loudly behind me. The abandoned dollhouse to my left and door next to it (leading to the roof) spooked me more than anything. Across the room there was a tiny TV (which was useless because I couldn’t see very well through the plastic anyway). One time, a nurse came and unzipped the “cover”, only to return five minutes later to zip it back up again (apparently to remedy her mistake). At one point, another girl joined me in the ward. She was in the bed to my far right. She had visitors and got a little cow toy that bent over to drink milk. I was jealous. I was home by the time my mother and sister got back you can be my mother was angry at my father for not telling her!

My sister and brother had Asthma, but not as severe as mine. My mother, doing anything she could do to help us, signed us up for “Asthma” classes. There, we went swimming (to strengthen our lungs) and were taught breathing techniques (where we learned to breathe through our diaphragm instead of the lungs).

My Asthma attacks would mostly occur during the middle of the night. First, my mother would try the old “fill the bathroom up with steam and see if that works” trick, which never worked (by the way). Then she’d take me to the ER where I was given a shot of Epinephrine. That helped me to breathe, but it left me shaking with muscles cramping that I’d have miss school the next day. In my early teens, I was put on the drug Theophylline. That one made me hyper and moody; even my handwriting became erratic. Then there was Tedral (which has since been taken off the market). I looked it up and it contains Theophylline, Ephedrine, and Phenobarbital. All it took was ¼ of a tablet crushed up in a spoonful of sugar and I was able to breathe, but it really did a number on my body, I was like total mush the next day.

Fast forward to today….Thankfully, only one of my three children has inherited the disease. I have witnessed first hand what medical research has accomplished in terms of understanding what causes asthma attacks and the medication and treatments that are now available for my daughter and me. We have a nebulizer (which is a like mini air compressor) that turns the liquid medication into a fine mist which is then breathed directly into the lungs (right where it is needed). I have learned that with Asthma, prevention is the key. Each day I give my daughter her nebulizer treatment containing Pulmicort (which is a corticosteroid). When she gets sick, it usually “goes right to her lungs” and she will start coughing and wheezing and then it’s time for me to “kick it up a notch” and add Albuteral to her nebulizer treatment.

I know that someday a cure for Asthma will be found, but in the meantime, if you would like more information, you can go to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) website at http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/asthma.aspx.

“Oh, That Kid!”

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My beautiful Simon

I’m sure everyone remembers their first pregnancy, everyone has such high hopes and I was no exception. Being a perfectionist, I made sure that my husband and I had taken all of the necessary classes. We had the newest baby equipment, and the nursery was thoughtfully designed, with matching wallpaper, sheets and coordinating lamps. My pregnancy was very easy; everyone commented on how I had that “glow” about me. I worked right up until the evening that my water broke. Labor was long, but I took advantage of any pain medication they offered (I’m no Martyr). Early the next morning, our sweet baby boy Simon was born. He was a beautiful baby; “an old soul” the nurses called him. He was their favorite. My husband and I were so thrilled; we were both walking on cloud nine and our time in the hospital was peaceful.

When it was time to leave the hospital, this new fear hit me, and has since never left. I now call that Parenthood. Now that our baby wasn’t tucked safely in my womb, he would be exposed to the dangers of the world and it was our job to keep him safe. We were all dressed and ready to go home when Simon started to cry. It was the first time my husband and I had heard him cry, so of course we became concerned and called the nurse. The nurse showed us again how to swaddle him tightly and simply stated, “Some babies are just like that”. I stuck my pinky in his mouth as we were being escorted out because I didn’t want anyone hearing him cry.

Those first few weeks were nothing short of hell. My husband would come home from work and find me exhausted, in the same position that he had left me in, holding Simon, trying to soothe him, not having anything to eat or drink all day. Many sleepless nights were to follow, trying the baby swing, the rocking chair, slower, faster, harder, softer; we even brought the vacuum out in hopes that the “white noise” from the vacuum would calm him. My desperate husband looked online, he joined parent discussions for me to try to get answers, we tried everything, but our poor Simon was not a happy baby. In fact, he took every rule in the “What to Expect Babies First Year” book and threw it right out the window.

On one particular day I was able to take a shower so we decided to take a trip to Babies R Us. I was so excited to finally be able to use the special room in the back where mother’s could feed, rock and even change their babies, with all of the comforts of home. Everything was going great, that is, until the crying started, and it didn’t stop. I was so devastated and embarrassed that I didn’t want to leave the room. My husband came in after a few minutes and impatiently stated, “You can’t stay in here all day”. Why not? I didn’t want to be the mother of “that kid”, you know, the screaming baby. “Oh that poor child”, they’d say and, “What is that horrible mother doing to him?” I just couldn’t do it; I wouldn’t! A good fifteen minutes passed with Simon still crying and me frantically trying to pacify him. Then my husband simply swooped up the baby carrier, left the room and proceeded to walk all the way to the front of the store. I came out of the room and stayed far behind, only to catch everyone (and I mean everyone) looking to see where that screaming baby was. Oh the horror!!

Then there was the time that I visited my 88 yr old Aunt Lib in the assisted living center. I sheepishly breastfed Simon in the corner, and he fell sound asleep and I thought to myself, “This is great, everything is going perfect!” And then it started (that ominous cry). It was hard for me to listen to, but especially painful for others because he really sounded like he was being tortured. A resident neighbor came to the door and my aunt yells out, “He’s C.O.L.I.C.K.Y!” I could have died right there, but I waited until I got into my car and then I started to cry. It’s comical looking back now, but here I was sobbing like a baby. I called the pediatricians office and the (not so nice) nurse stated, “What do you want us to do about it?” So we cried, both Simon and I, all the way home.

We all slept like babies that night.

Tucker

Tucker

Our Crazy puppy Tucker

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Seeing Things in a Different Light

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Chickadee

Dare I admit that I have been feeling a bit depressed lately?  There I said it!  The mundane chores of my life just aren’t doing it for me and this crappy, everlasting winter is bringing me down.  Did I mention that pile of laundry that consumes my thoughts?  I swear I saw it move the other day!  And tax time?  That money has come and gone.  I’m sure many of you can relate so just bear with me while I vent for the lot of us!

How do you lift your spirits in these moments of gloom?  I don’t have a clear-cut answer for that, but I would like to share something special that happened to me today.  I went to the gym this morning (ok, that’s not the special part, but it was an accomplishment just getting there).  Walking towards the gym, I saw crocuses – that was cool.  Stay with me…I proceeded in doing the usual elliptical machine and, about 30 minutes into it, I felt that indescribable feeling of serotonin kicking in – and that always feels great.

Then I spotted my friend, we’ll call him “Bob”.  Let me tell you a little bit about Bob.  He is an unpretentious fellow, I’m guessing in his 70’s, in great shape with pure white hair and a strip of mustache that is always neatly trimmed.  The ladies swoon over him.  He does the same cardio machine as I do so we have become friends.  He has children my age, and lost his dear wife just this past year.  The thing about Bob is that in the five years that I have been coming to this gym, he has always been there, not in a bad way, but in more of a comforting, inspiring sort of way. Seeing him arrive today made me happy.  See, my spirits were lifting already!

We chatted a bit and I mentioned that I had to work on my “blog” today and Bob said, “Write about your workout”.  I responded, “Maybe I should write about my 3ft pile of laundry” and then he said something that made me think (which he always does by the way), “That’s nickels and dimes stuff!”  He’s right, it’s always going to be there and it really doesn’t matter!  I told him that I was thinking about getting a job working nights but that I’m really not a night person.  On the other hand, when I’m around people, I feel energized.  He responded, “It energizes everybody to be around people!”  Such wisdom he possesses!  Hmm, maybe I could work at night.  He went on to clarify his point; that everyone always doubts themselves and gives themselves a reason why they could fail when they should just try it.  My workout was complete, Bob and I said our goodbyes and I headed home, somehow feeling lighter and more positive about it all.  I pulled into my driveway and noticed the same cute little chickadee sitting atop of a pine tree as it does every morning – such a simple, beautiful, comforting, everyday thing.

All those thoughts that were weighing on my mind, the weather, laundry, money, are really and truly “just nickels and dimes”.  Being surrounded by people and listening to the words of an older (and much wiser) person really lifted my spirits today and changed my perspective about things.  I feel like this was God’s way of saying exactly what I needed to hear today.

Thanks Bob!

Silver Linings

I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason.  We all go through some difficult periods in our lives and some of us seem to have better “luck” than others.  Life gets messy, but if you believe that every cloud does have a silver lining, it might just be the little things that pull you though those toughest of times.

It was 2006, the housing market was about to burst from unethical mortgage practices that had become the norm and my husband and I were about to make some really bad decisions.  We both had good paying jobs, we owned a home, had two children, a boy and a girl.  I decided to quit full-time work for a while to raise our kids, so our income was basically cut in half.  That’s when things got rocky.  After talking to a mortgage broker (someone who I trusted), we decided to do a reverse mortgage.  What happened after that is a bit of a whirlwind, but we then decided to sell our house, move out to Western MA (where we could buy a larger house for less money) and again, we worked with that same mortgage broker. I trusted her implicitly; stupid, stupid me!  When I expressed my concern over the fact that our mortgage would be at an uncomfortable, unaffordable rate, she told me, “Don’t worry, as soon as you get into the house, we’ll refinance you”; sounded reasonable, right?  We moved to our new home in the summer of 2006 and everything was great.

A couple of months later, I was feeling unusually tired so I made an appointment to see my new doctor and I was informed that I had diabetes type 1… seriously?  I was shell-shocked.  A few days later, I had the strangest feeling, and decided to take a pregnancy test and, you guessed it, positive.  So, instead of talking about my newly diagnosed disease, the doctor says to me, “Three’s a charm!”  “No, you don’t understand”, I said.  “I gave away ALL of our baby stuff when we moved!”  I thought about the bills (of course) and the fact that no one in their right mind was going to hire a pregnant lady.  Then I remembered our mortgage broker decided to give her a call.  “Oh, what happened to your credit?” she said, after I explained our predicament.  “Um, we bought a house?” I was taken back by her lack of sympathy.  We quickly realized that we were not going to be able to refinance and could not afford to keep our home.

Boy did life change that year.  We lost our house, had a baby, and moved again all in one year’s time – talk about stress, right!  It’s all a bit of a blur to me now, but the one thing that I do remember during that time was being determined to bake the best biscotti’s, baking one batch after the other and eating each batch as I went along.  Yeah, you heard right; don’t judge!  I also remember waking up every morning, picking up my Sophia (who is an early bird like me), going downstairs and sitting her on the counter and we counted together as I made my morning coffee, “one, two, three” scoops.  And then our little “angel” Audrey was born, or more like, “flew out like a bird” as the nurses called it.  I can still remember how Simon and Sophia’s faces looked as they met their new baby sister.  It was such a beautiful moment that it brought my mother to tears.

I learned a few things from that time:  First, don’t trust anyone that takes your money; second, it’s all relative; third, you would be amazed at how resourceful you can be if you put your mind to it and, yes, in case you were wondering, I make one darn good biscotti!  It doesn’t matter how much you have, it’s what you do with what you have, even if it means having to shop at the Salvation Army for clothing and going for walks instead of trips.  It’s so rewarding to find a bargain, or a cheaper solution to a design problem.  What truly matters is those little moments with the people that matter most.  And, oh yeah, big hugs – they’re free and they feel wonderful!  I am proud to tell other’s what I’ve been through, but my biggest achievement thus far is giving birth to three beautiful (and distinctly different) children!

The Spice Rack

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