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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ten minutes and Twelve dollars - A bargain for relaxation.

My nine-year old daughter has been asking for a "Momma - Isabella" day.  So last Saturday we agreed to take a trip to the mall.  I had a specific budget in mind for us to make sure we didn't go too crazy.  (It's been a long time since I've stepped into a mall.) We enjoyed breakfast together at Chick-fil-A then embarked on our journey.  Isabella had a plan to look at clothing at Crazy 8, hit the Bath and Body Works Shop, and check out the assortment of fragrances at the Macy's counter.  Anything else that looked interesting was also fair game.  Our trip would involve stopping for lunch at some point and end with browsing through Barnes and Noble.  I never anticipated that my greatest find of the day would come from a make shift "spa" set up in a nook next to the walk way.

As Isabella and I walked toward the Crazy 8 Clothing Shop, a gentleman invited us to have a "free sample" chair massage.  Well, I knew that this tactic was designed to encourage customers to book appointments for other spa treatments.  However, my aching back and tight neck muscles decided for me.  I agreed to the "sample" massage.  One word:  Awesome!  At the end of this 5 minute sample, I was shown a card indicating the prices for additional minutes.  Questions were not I did not speak the language of my masseuse and he did not speak English. I politely thanked the gentleman and told him I may return later.  Another gentleman who was rounding up future customers gave me a stern look and absolutely no smile. I'm sure he hoped I would purchase a spa treatment.

Well, Isabella and I continued with our trip.  She found two great t-shirts on sale ($2.99 and $4.99) that I agreed fit into our budget.  After our purchase, I told Isabella, "Let's go back to that chair massage area.  I'm going to go ahead and get the ten minute treatment."  Isabella looked at me as if I had three heads, but respectfully followed me back to the little nook where two other customers were already enjoying complete relaxation.  I handed the masseuse $12.00 and positioned myself in the massage chair.  What followed was the most amazing, yet sometimes exhausting, deep tissue massage.  I had knots and tight muscles that screamed defiantly and dared the masseuse to banish them forever.  They were "knotty" little buggers that held tight.  I willed them away. 

I worried that my time would be over too soon and I would be left uneven.  (O.K.  Here's a little OCD coming out.  But you know what I mean.) However no worries were necessary.  Ten minutes is a long time when your muscles are being worked out.  The massage was one of the most perfectly choreographed sessions I have ever encountered.   At the end of the message, the masseuse ran his hand down my spine and I felt every vertebra release.  I was stretched through gentle range of motion and I breathed contentedly. 

I thanked the masseuse and was astonished that I felt better already.  I knew I was aching and had knotted up muscles, but I didn't realize how much I needed to relax.  It was a physical reminder of how often moms avoid taking care of themselves.  Everyone needs to take time to enjoy a few moments of peace where the tension can melt away.  And for me it just happened to arrive in the form of a non-English speaking masseuse who was advertising his spa business in the midst of a busy mall.  I enjoyed every minute!

Take care of yourselves, and never be afraid to try something different.  Being fearless can have it's rewards!
And for goodness sakes, be kind to each other.  We're all struggling in some way, shape or form. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vacationing in the "ER"

Yesterday I received a call from my daughter Isabella's school nurse.  Bella had fallen off the jungle gym on the playground and had hurt her right arm.  (She is right handed.)  My otherwise active fourth grader waited for me in the clinic with a bag of ice on the injured limb.  The nurse reassured me that it was not swollen, but my daughter remained in a lot of pain.  Since it was so close to the end of the school day, I also asked that my first grade son be released from school so we could all leave together. 

I had already planned to drop off my four-year-old last night to stay with his Grandparents so I could take care of business matters today.  Thank goodness for my parents!  The last visit to the ER with Sebastien resulted in Momma almost getting admitted herself for stress related trauma.  It's hard for four-year-olds to wait in an ER.  Every piece of medical equipement has potential to become a climbing aparatus, slide, tumbling mat, and overall dangerous activity where Sebastien is concerned.  I did not relish the idea of adding him to the evening list of patients at the Children's Health Care of Atlanta clinic where he would surely run into something and become incapacitated.

We arrived at the clinic after safely depositing Sebie with his Granparents.  Actually, I had to follow my mother to the clinic located close to her home...yet not close enough for me to grasp the twists and turns for the short cut.  I tend to be a bit directionally challenged, especially under stressful circumstances.  When we arrived at the clinic, I was pleasantly surprised by the professional and caring attitude of each person we encountered.  Everyone introduced herself by name and explained what we could expect during our visit.  A dry erase board at the front desk informed us about the possible length of wait before we would be seen.  I was relieved that I followed my mother's advice to take my daughter to Children's Health Care of Atlanta.

Here's the funny part of this unexpected trip.  My six-year-old son, Nathan, insisted upon going with us even when I warned him of the wait time.  "Wouldn't you have more fun going to Grandma's and Grandpa's house to wait for us?  Dinner is almost ready there and you can play afterward."  I thought, "Maybe this is his way of being a concerned brother, and he wants to be there for his sister."  Well, maybe there was some smidgen of truth to my analysis.  However, I soon realized other motives were at work here.

As I sat at the financial intake worker's desk, I looked behind me to see my son and six to seven other children circled around two vending machines; one with sodas and the other with a lovely assortment of snacks a.k.a junk food with no redeeming nutritional qualities whatsoever.  They looked up at these machines as if they held the holy grail.  I am not exaggerating this time!  The amount of times my son looked at me longingly and begged for change equalled what happens right before Christmas and his birthday.  Even after we were ushered into our cubicle to wait for the doctor Nathan continued to speak about the vending machines and how impressive they were.

I admitted to my son that I remember feeling the same way when I was a child.  However, there was perfectly good, healthy food waiting for us at his Grandparents house as soon as we were released.  Isabella received medication for her pain and was rewarded with a popsicle to dull the nasty taste of the liquid.  Her brother was also given a popsicle, which endeared these wonderful nurses to me.  The potential for a meltdown could have been quite catastrophic given how much Nathan loves popsicles.  Isabella had several x-rays done.  Evaluations revealed no broken bones (Thank Goodness).  A splint was applied along with a sling and we were ready to go.

Upon checking out with front desk to settle our bill, I realized that even a trip to the ER be an adventure for children.  And when I handed over my card to pay for the trip, it was indeed like paying for a small vacation.  At least, that's how I'm going to look at it.  Thank You to Children's Health Care of Atlanta for treating us so well.  (And for giving this Momma a 48% discount for paying up front.) 

I'm sure this won't be the last visit to an ER, but for my part I would love to wait as long as possible to save up for our next trip.

Many blessing to all of you.  Please sign up to follow my blog and take care.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Remembering Isabella's Teacher d. 02/01/2011

My daughter Isabella was in third grade last year when her teacher unexpectedly passed away.  I was in the car driving to work when I received the call from the school principal.  Like everyone who received the call that day, I was in shock.  I barely made it to work to drop off my three-year-old at the school where I was a teacher.  Thankfully, my Director and colleagues were very understanding when I explained that I needed to be with my child when she and her classmates were informed of the news.  The counselors were present as the principal explained what happened to the children.  It was devastating to everyone.  I held my daughter and waited for it to sink in...her beloved teacher was gone forever.

I took my daughter home after the announcement was made as did most of the parents present.  I held her and let her cry as we talked about her teacher.  We went to the memorial service a few days later.  She met the teacher's family and I was especially moved when the mother gently took Isabella's hand and asked her how she was doing.  What a loving thing to do for my child even in the midst of her own grief!  Isabella had taken a single white rose with a light green ribbon (her teacher's favorite color) and an "Angel for Teachers" pin. She laid her memorial on a table next to other tributes amidst pictures of a vibrant, smiling "Shea."

This past weekend I found my child sobbing in her room.  She reminded me that it had been almost a year since her teacher died.  I told her I had been thinking about the same thing.  I gave her a big hug and reassured her that it's OK to cry, and it's OK to think about loved ones we miss who have passed away.  Both of us will forever remember that moment when Isabella's world and life experiences changed.  We cannot shield our children from realities of  life or death.  The best we can do is be there for them to reassure,give hugs,and let them know they can make it through all their challenges.

In honor of Isabella's teacher, known as Shea, I would like to share what was printed on the inside of her memorial service program.

The things Shea believed in:

There are 3 values: feel good, be good, and do good.
Truth is everlasting.
The trust that others place in you is grace.
Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.
Learn to be noble, courteous and committed.
Where there is love, there is no question.
Serve humanity so that people feel we are kind to them.
Happiness is nothing but total relaxation.
Whatever you are, you are. Be proud of it.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
May your mind learn to love with compassion.
Nature is a giver, a true friend, a sustainer.
The greatest tool you have is to listen.
The beauty of life is to experience yourself.
Learn to be noble, courteous, and committed.
When the mind is backed by will, miracles will happen .

Thank You, Ms. Shea, for making a difference in my daughter's life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Making Lists,Conversation Starters,& Creating Memories with Your Children

Writing is a wonderful way to connect with your children.  I found that my three enjoy comparing favorite activities, movies, and songs that I liked at their ages.  Here is one way to start your own list making activity.  You can design your own format.  It's never too late to start your own family journal project. 

List of Family Members
Child's Name:

Ask each one to list...
Favorite Outdoor Activities at age ____
Favorite Indoor Activities
Favorite Board Games
Favorite Songs
Favorite Movies
You can decide how you want to record these moments. 
1. A Family Journal or Binder where you can add pages.
2. Each child can have an Individual Journal .
3. Produce your own Video Journal.

Whatever your choice, have fun with this project.  Hopefully you enjoy the conversations that arise and create lasting memories with your children.  Lists are great because they can be short and simple.  Have a wonderful week everyone! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thoughts for Thursday - Writing with My Children

Writing has always been more than a way of communicating for me.  It's been as necessary as oxygen...breathing life into me when I needed to be revived.  As a child I remember making marks in one of my books even before I could write letters.  When I finally realized how letters were connected to words to make  sentences, I knew I was on to something excellent.  As I see my children learn to read and write and comprehend the nuances of language, I am reminded how important it is to encourage their appreciation for the written word. 

My children have had journals from the time they could hold a crayon.  I have saved most of these journals so I can see the progression of thoughts from pictures to letters to words.  I love that we can share this love of writing and reading.  It has become natural for them to pick up their journals or find whatever paper is available to write and draw.  This skill has provided an outlet for us to create dreams, make lists, draw fantastic creatures, and tell amazing stories.  We also write notes to each other when speaking becomes too dramatic for verbal expressions. 

There have been times when I have needed to send one or more of the children to their rooms to calm down.  It's not uncommon to find that a note has been slipped outside their door to let me know they have thought about their actions and are ready to talk.  Their notes have also told me when they are feeling sad, upset about something at school, or concerned about a situation.  I have also written notes back to them.  This technique gives everyone the chance to think through feelings and prepare to discuss whatever needs to be addressed. 

My goal for this year is to continue to put my own thoughts in writing and encourage my children to do the same.  Even list making counts!   My next post will include suggestions for how list making can become a fun creative writing activity.  It's simple, quick, and provides great story starter ideas!  I hope my children will enjoy the project too.

Have a wonderful weekend.  My next visit to the library will hopefully be on Monday. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New Year and a Great Time to Recommit to Writing!

Getting through the Holidays was a challenge.  It was greatly enhanced by the loving kindness of several individuals who proved to be the greatest of heroes to my children and to the entire family.  Our year in 2011 was pretty stressful, but no more than other individuals who were faced with similar circumstances.  We weathered frequent job changes, financial struggles, and a serious car accident that involved our vehicle getting totalled and me ending up with medical expenses and therapy to heal the damage.   Through it all I found great comfort as I read my Face Book page. (I know...I should have gone immediately to my Bible as well, but that came later.  See...good old fashioned Catholic confession at work here:)  Kind words were offered and I realized how much other friends and family members were dealing with in their own lives.

I am usually a fairly optimistic individual and rely on my faith to get me through hardships.  I have to admit that this time around it was especially trying and I found myself feeling angry and hopeless.  So I prayed harder... even when I didn't think it was possible to pray any more.  Right before Thanksgiving I received a call from my daughter's 4th grade teacher.  She informed me that our name had been selected to receive a Thanksgiving basket.  She explained that each year one student's family gave a basket to another family.  The teacher put each child's name in a hat and drew my daughter's name.  I nearly cried. 

The phone call came at a perfect time as I was becoming quite "creative" with my meal planning.  I arranged to pick up the gift.  It was a very humbling experience to enter the classroom that day.  I gave the teacher a hug and expressed my gratitude.  I returned home and unpacked the bounty of groceries.  An envelope was inside one of the bags of food.  I opened the envelope to find a wonderful Thanksgiving card from the family.  When I opened the card, a Publix (grocery store) gift card was inside.  I was overwhelmed with emotion at the thought of some one's generosity in our time of need.  I immediately sat down to write Thank You notes for the family and the teacher.  I gave them to my daughter to return the next day.

December brought concerns about how we would handle Christmas this year.  I knew that the children's grandparents would have gifts for them.  However, as each child recited their list of wishes,  I grew more and more anxious.  I was very honest with my children that things were financially tight, and that I could not guarantee much of their requests.  We talked about family togetherness and I promised that we would still keep our yearly tradition of making cut -out sugar cookies for Santa.  We discussed the true meaning of Christmas and how much fun they would have playing with their cousins at Grandma's and Grandpa's house.  I also held them and explained that I was looking forward to attending the Children's Christmas Eve Mass with them at our church.  They were amazingly understanding and immediately started thinking about what they could make for each other and other family members.

Let's face it...Kids are Kids and they looked forward to those shiny, wrapped presents under the tree and stockings filled with Dollar Tree Treasures.  They also hoped to offer something to each other and their family members.  Shortly after the Thanksgiving Break, my daughter came home and presented me with an envelope and a smile on her face.  I opened the envelope and read the enclosed letter.  My child had been selected to participate in the "Shop with a Hero" day.   I was asked to complete a "Wish List" that included their sizes, most urgent needs, and fun items if available.  When I sat down to check my son's homework folder, I discovered that he also had a letter.  Appreciation and relief enveloped me.

I listed the children's most urgent needs first.  They had grown since the beginning of school and were in need of pants, winter shirts, shoes, socks, and underwear.  My daughter also desperately needed a winter coat.   I explained the process of  how their shopping trip would mostly go toward clothing and maybe a fun item if possible.  They were overjoyed and very appreciative.  We returned the wish lists and excitedly waited for their shopping day.  The school counselors were excellent as they responded to my concerns regarding supervision of the children for the shopping day.  I received a letter notifying me that my children would be transported by a uniformed driver, accompanied by the counselors, and provided with supervision throughout the day.  A school counselor even called me the day of the trip to make sure I was aware of the activities and comfortable with the trip.  I assured her that I appreciated the call.

I picked the children up from school that day and was greeted by the counselors.  They helped load two huge bags of gifts into our vehicle.  I was amazed at the amount they allowed each child to select.  I gave hugs to each counselor and let them know how much the trip meant to our children and to our family.  It was a reward in itself when they commented on how well my children behaved.  The children excitedly reported to me on their adventure with the "Community Heroes"  assigned to help them select their presents.  All the way home they laughed and expressed their happiness at the attention, caring, and companionship they had experienced.  My heart swelled with joy.

My daughter shopped with two police officers (one female and one male) who guided her through Wal Mart as she selected the items on her list. My son shopped with a military service member.  Both were treated to Chick-fil-A breakfast and McDonald's for lunch.  To my surprise, they received everything on their list of wishes, including games and toys.  However, the children not only received "things" that day.  They received something far more valuable.  Hope had been restored.  The Community Heroes gave of themselves in ways where I could not, and for that I will be forever grateful.  My children will always have this very special Christmas memory, and I hope it will one day inspire them to do the same for others who are in our situation.  For my part, I too will return the blessings when our circumstances change...and I am certain that changes will happen by the grace of God.

Thank You to all of you readers who gave of yourselves this Christmas.  Whether through time, talents, or treasures, your impact on the lives you touched were positively affected.  You may not always see the results of your efforts, but rest assured the blessing were well received, and you are appreciated.  I am blessed to have wonderful family and friends, and hope everyone will have a wonderful, healthy, and safe New Year!