Having a healthy future

As parents, we all wish things for our children, usually things we don’t have or have had to work very hard to earn.

Lately, as I struggle with health issues related to being overweight (the old trick knees and arthritis-riddled feet), I find myself hoping that my daughters will continue their healthy habits and never land themselves in this situation.

As a child, we were raised on meat and potatoes. Mainly red meat, marbled nicely with fat for flavor, fat that relatives would gnaw on to extract even more flavor. There was always a stack of white bread and a tub of butter on the table, and dessert that included cakes, pies, puddings or other sweets. We washed it down with whole milk or sugary drinks.

Now, granted, we were hooligans who spent as much time as possible outside, running, peddling our bikes or Big Wheels, playing street hockey or monkey in the middle, building forts, and playing manhunt in the dwindling sunlight. We also played organized sports – I swam and played softball, my brothers ran track and played baseball and basketball. But, what I discovered once my frenetic childhood activity stopped and my poor eating habits did not, pounds started packing on.Woman-exercising-in-her-f-008

Now middle-aged, I’m feeling the pains of this lifestyle and the years of denial that followed. I see my daughters making healthier food choices than I did at their age, mainly because I’m more educated now and provide those options at home. I see them running, dancing, practicing yoga and playing soccer for fun and exercise. I marked one’s progress during a 30-day plank challenge (e-gads).

And I hope. I hope these are life-long habits that are being forged. I hope that when they’re doing the food shopping, they will continue to buy healthy meats, more veggies and fruits, and brown rice. I hope they will treat themselves periodically but will understand that a commitment to their bodies is vital.

At the same time, I’ve harnessed their enthusiasm to help me on my journey. One walks the track with me – running one lap alone and then walking one with me. The other shares “fun facts” about food that once annoyed me because they were never positive. Now I listen and learn. Together, we also plan our splurges. At the holidays, we made cookies like we’ve done for years, although we introduced a few healthier ones and gave more away. That way, temptation was fleeting and we were able to keep a beloved tradition alive.

Life is a learning process, but as a parent, I hope that some of my mistakes can help my children live better, healthier and happier lives. Some people hope their children will be better situated financially. I just hope mine avoid battling middle-aged hormones and a lifetime of bad habits to be healthy.

Snow baby

I don’t know if it’s my age, my physical location in New England, my arthritic knees that twinge every time the atmospheric pressure changes, or my menopausal crankiness at everything that is troublesome these days, but I am beyond tired with winter. The thought of another storm looming tomorrow is just about sending me shrieking to the airport for a flight to anywhere warm.

Now, I’m a New England native – a Swamp Yankee if you will – and I went to school at Syracuse University, which was recently dubbed the second snowiest campus in the country. I’ve weathered the great Blizzard of 78, gone to school for entire months of wintry womanJune and battled blinding squalls on the quadrangle on my way to classes (Syracuse never canceled classes in my four years there). Whiteout conditions? I can drive in them. Slippery hills in cars not heavy enough to make it to the top without swerving perpendicular to the curbings? Been there and developed Plan B maps to get around that. Struggling with fashion and winter gear? I know how to rock a pair of LL Bean boots with cute socks and can assemble the cutest scarf-hat-mitten combos to match every coat. I even started the trend of safety glasses on the quad to actually be able to walk head up with the snow pelting your face and not be blinded in the process.

The only thing that was more fun than swiping trays from the dining hall to cruise down the hills near my dormitory was zipping out of the protection of the heated parking garage in my 1982 lemon yellow Chevette, hitting the snowy roads and doing donuts halfway down the street with squealing friends riding shotgun.

And in those two paragraphs lie the problems I have with winter these days – I know how to survive in it (and look cute!) but I don’t want to any more; and that’s because it’s not as much fun any more. Sure, I still am the first one to lob a snowball while the family is out shoveling. And despite the fact that my kids are 16 and 20, we’ll make snowmen and snow angels, although it’s usually early in the season when the snow is still novel and pretty, when the thought of a white Christmas still tweaks the romantic in me. But that’s temporary fun as compared with the longer-lasting drudgery of brushing off the car and shoveling, often doing both more than once in the same day. tropical

Not to mention that I have developed a terrible fear of ice. I’ve fallen down stairs, on sidewalks and getting out of the car. Now I feel like an old lady, tip-toeing along to get to my destination, eyes downcast at the shiny expanse. I grip railings and go through so much ice melt at home that my husband swears the grass will grow white come spring.

I’m so very ready for spring, for this omnipresent threat of ice, snow and sleet to be dissolved with warmer temperatures. I’d go visit friends in the south in the meantime, but they’re ice-locked themselves. I need friends on a tropical island. Anyone available?


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Deja vu, times three

Having a baby can be very stressful. Having triplets? More stress? Watching your babies spend the first 12 weeks of their lives in a neonatal intensive care unit? Life altering. See what one mom has to say in a letter to Dr. Betty Vohr, director of Women & Infants’ Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic.

Thank you for taking Ethan, Jake, Annie and I on the tour of the NICU today! The new NICU is absolutely beautiful! What a difference it must make for every family to have their own private room when they have a baby (or babies) born requiring NICU care. Not only is it so aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but the peaceful quiet that fills the hallways and rooms must give a comforting assurance to the families who have babies there.

I have always wanted to show my children the place that they spent the first three months of their lives, their first home really. We have told them many stories over the years about the amazing doctors and nurses that cared for them during their 12 week stay in the NICU during the summer of 1993. The “miracle workers” is what I have called the doctors and nurses each time I tell Ethan, Jake and Annie about their stay in the NICU.

It was wonderful today to see so many of the “miracle workers” who cared for Ethan, Jake and Annie in ttriplets2he NICU 20 years ago, and literally saved their lives. I got so emotional today when I saw the nurses who cared for my babies. It was heartwarming to see how well they remembered us and how emotional they got when they saw Ethan, Jake and Annie. I know that Ethan, Jake and Annie were looking forward to the tour today, but they had no idea that they were going to be so emotionally moved. Today’s tour of the NICU had such a positive impact on them, and I am sure their appreciation for the care they received there deepened tremendously.

Mark and I have felt a deep connection with the NICU ever since the summer of 1993 when we spent three months in the old NICU at Women & Infants Hospital. We will always feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the extraordinary care that Ethan, Jake and Annie received there 20 years ago. Thank you for your encouragement and support that you have always given to us over the past 20 years. It has meant the world to us! Bringing Ethan, Jake and Annie to your Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic for five years after they were discharged was reassuring and helpful to us. I am so thrilled to hear about the medical advances that have been made since my babies were born.

We all were very happy that we had the opportunity to see the gorgeous new NICU today! We were all incredibly moved to see the nurses who cared for Ethan, Jake and Annie! It is always such a pleasure to see you too! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule today!

Ethan, Jake and Annie were born on May 24, 1993 at 28 weeks. Ethan weighed 2 lbs 14 oz, Jake weighed 2 lbs 3 oz, and Annie weighed 1 lb 11 oz.

Today, Ethan is majoring in kinesiology at URI and will go to grad school to be a physicians assistant. He is a licensed EMT and is going to volunteer in a medical clinic in Honduras during spring break this year. Jake is majoring in oboe performance and music composition at Ithaca College. Annie is majoring in elementary education and psychology at URI. They are all in their junior year of college.

We are so proud of them and we know that their achievements and success would not be possible without the tremendous care they received in the NICU at Women & Infants Hospital!

The Power of One

I’ve often wondered what impact one person can really have. My husband and I are always telling our kids that they can “make a difference,” but that’s because we know as responsible, loving parents trying to raise our children to become responsible, loving adults, that’s what we’re supposed to tell them.

But do I truly believe that? The answer is yes.

Last week, I heard two different people talk about “the power of one” – in two very different ways.

First, I was at my son’s high school open house. The principal – who is incredible, and responsible, and inspirational – was speaking to a standing room only auditorium filled with parents. He said that when he adMake-a-Differencedresses the 1600+ students in the school, he talks about the importance of respect – to themselves, to each other, to their school, to their community. He then held up one finger and said, “I tell them, it only takes one of you to destroy the reputation of this school.” Pretty powerful, impactful, pointed words for teenagers.

It made me think – if one person can damage a reputation, then surely one person can positively impact a reputation, right?

Later that week, I was meeting with a colleague, and we were talking about the “the power of one” in health care. We had a great discussion about the incredible impact of a smile, a touch, a caring word, especially in the health care setting. And we agreed that sometimes it takes just one person to turn a bad or mediocre experience around. It takes sincerity, it takes honesty. It takes just one.

I talked with my family about both of these discussions over dinner. And again we told them that they can make a difference. And I believe we all can, and we all will. Because it takes just one.

A piece of me

We’ve had our family vacation this year – a nice trip to Lake Erie in Ohio with all the boating and racing roller-coasters the area could provide. Now it’s time for my staycation week and it seems that everyone in the house wants a piece of me.

It’s flattering to a degree. I have teenagers and the fact that they’ll be seen in public with me is a wonder, never mind the fact that they would be seeking my company in a one on one situation for an extended period of time and – I feel the need to mention it again – in public.

But, with just a few hours here and there around their work schedules and that of my husband, it’s a challenge. Who wants to do what, who will not do that, who needs school clothes, who does not but doesn’t want to be left out? There’s logistics as well, since one is working daily from 11 am to 2 pm, and the other is working daily from 2 to 5 pm. The latter does not have a driver’s license either.

Lastly, what about me time? It’s my staycation, my break in the daily work grind, after all. I say that even as I fear I gave up my making_plansright to think those selfish thoughts when I got pregnant 20 years ago!

Staring down my days off, I scheduled my husband on the one day he managed to have off during my week. After coordinating meals and rides for the other two, we jaunted off for time alone that felt downright indulgent even though we spent mere pennies.

I scheduled a back to school shopping session with my youngest, my friend and her daughter that would pack some bargain hunting at the outlets and dinner in after my daughter’s daily work schedule. And, I made plans with my older daughter to see a scary movie we both want - but need supportive companionship – to see.

Feeling heady with my scheduling skills, I still must dodge the threatened invasion of the older daughter onto the shopping trip, and my fears that I’ll get to the end of the week feeling more frazzled than rejuvenated. It’s nice to feel so wanted, so I have to ask – is it wrong to need to be alone after it all?

She’s my mother…

Lately there has been a commercial on tv that couldn’t ring more true for me: “She’s my mother. I’m her little girl. And now that she’s growing older it’s my job to help care for her, but it’s still her time to live…and my time to just be her daughter again. How can we get back to that?…

Every time I see my mother’s number displayed on my phone, my stomach does at least two flips. Sometimes I answer, and other times I let it go with the risk I’m disregarding an emergency call. Every phone call is a carnival that takes me on a full spectrum of emotional roller coaster rides. One day she’s crying, begging me to help her understand why her caregiver isn’t there only to phoneremind her that she was with her earlier and will drop by a little later to prepare her for the night. Sometimes the caregiver is on the phone updating me on mom’s state of mind, her routine, or a doctor visit. other times mom is asking me about a topic that I’m not always willing to talk about some days—money—especially when I have to repeat myself and explain how much it costs to keep her in her home. I am her power of attorney and handle all of her financial and health care issues, but that doesn’t mean I discuss all of my decisions with her, as concepts tend to bog her mind. She doesn’t give me a heads up when she coerces a caregiver to drive her to the bank and make a hefty withdrawal for groceries or a trip to the salon, and this causes me to freak out first, but once I’ve calmed down, I hone my game. I have become the quick volley to her crafty backhands. She’s always been a very independent woman, but now that she’s homebound much of the time due to her inability to walk independently, coupled with her failing memory, it still doesn’t stop her from putting me into a tailspin trying to keep up with her. I’m always worrying how I am going to keep her in her home for one more month, and she relies on the caregiver for maintenance, some company, and her link to the outside world. She’s never been a thrifty woman, and she’s never been transparent either. I’ve never been so on top of my own life as much as I have to be with hers. I miss the calls when we would talk about how we are doing, our plans for the weekend, what’s for dinner, and nothing more. Now it’s the segues from “how are you doing” to “what am i going to do about…” that are really lacking.

However, there are those times when she needs to talk about how she’s feeling over a situation and actually wants my advice on how to deal with it. When the hysterics—tears flowing, crazed threats—have subsided, when logic and memory are rather sharp, then an equal playing field is established between us both, and a successful conversation ensues. Sometimes I have to be careful and not say, “yes mom, that person is right, you are losing your memory.” instead I say the words that may bounce off of the truth, but still leaves her with that shred of dignity or autonomy that she still clings to regardless of what others think or what she relies on caregivers to do.

But all that said and with all the chaos going on in my life trying to make ends meet, however frayed and dysfunctional, many times I just want to wander into my mommy’s arms, with my tattered snoopy doll in hand dragging the floor, and find solace…

[sound of needle scraping the vinyl]

So I make light of that commercial and revise it…juuuust a little: “She’s my mother. I’m her stressed-out, almost 50-year-old daughter. And now that I’m growing older, it’s my job to find a shred of sanity, but it’s still her time to drain me of that…and my time to wonder why the hell am I not looking like the toned, 25-pound-lighter 40-year-old I used to be. how can I get back to that?”