Sunday, March 29, 2020

Well that was week 2...

What a difference a week can make! I can not even list all the life lessons I have either tried, failed at or learned in the past week.

Week two was so different from week one! The first week I wasn't sleeping from anxiety, the kids were on a tight schedule and I was preparing for the apocalypse ordering gluten free food online. Every parenting site and group repeated over and over, keep the kids on a schedule, it's so important.

And that is I did the first week! We had our day planned out like a military boot camp. I woke them early, they went to "school" online then followed by chores and pre-lunch outdoor time. They got dressed in new clothes every day, brushed their hair and showered. It was like nothing had changed from normal life, except we were stuck inside for most of the day.

By Friday I WAS EXHAUSTED! Not to mention, I wasn't able to get much work done at my full time job that pays the bills. I spend the entire week being the family police officer. The kids were also exhausted and couldn't wait for the weekend so the could "relax".

Over the weekend I began to stress about Monday and the cycle of our quarantined life. Monday came like a tornado through a box of matches.

We were a mess. The kids were stressed as much as I was just at the thought of facing another week like we had in week one. We were snapping at another and you could cut the negativity in the house with a knife.

I was coming apart at the seams and at that moment I had my daily call with my manager (who is also a mother) and she asked me how I was doing. I told her I was barely hanging on and she listened. She told me not to let work stress me out but to focus on my family. That was the most important thing at the moment.

Then she said something that would change everything for me: She said this whole thing with COVID-19 was a MARATHON! A marathon, so we needed to take it easy on ourselves so we can make it to the finish.

And that was what I needed to hear...

After that conversation, I gave not only myself but also my kids a break. By the end of the week, I was letting them sleep later, stay in their PJs as long as they wanted and who cares if they brushed their hair (as long as they brushed their teeth).

It was a stark contrast from week one, but it was a change that made all the difference for our family. I'm not only more positive and enjoying this time, but so are the kids. We see all the good things coming from this situation and the way people are taking care of each other.

This weekend they are relaxed and looking forward to each day again. We agreed that even though week two was great that we would have a "Loose" schedule in week three. And they will be paid "mama and papa dollars" for their chores (I've set up a little store in my bedroom where they can buy things with their earned dollars.)

So come on week three! We are ready!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Riding the waves

It comes in waves, like a storm surge or tsunami and then it' s over. It's quiet and I'm able to think again.

It's been happening all week. Anxiety.

Health, kids, food, schedule, homeschooling, work, mental health, cleaning the house, cooking, worry, worry, worry, worry...

It's been so overwhelming this week. I think things would be much easier if NL was on lock down. Then I wouldn't worry as much. Then I would know people are taking care of themselves and even more importantly taking care of those at risk. But if I look on the streets and in the shops, it scares me. It scares me also for my family. It scares me for my frail 89 year old neighbor downstairs. It scares me for my nephew half way across the world.

And my babies...I am so worried about my babies. I had quite a panic on Friday evening with my daughter. She was dry coughing and not feeling well all week, pretty much the same symptoms I had earlier. Then all of a sudden she had a headache and really didn't feel well. I felt the back of her neck and she was burning up.

But I had no working thermometer. I've searched to buy one for two weeks, but everywhere was sold out. I have an old digital one, but it doesn't work properly. When I took her temperature in the middle of the day it read 34,5 C.

There was no choice so I took her temperature again with the broken thermometer and it read 36,4 C.  I couldn't be sure if this meant her temperature was 2 degrees higher than what its was earlier in the day.

The only thing I could do was sleep beside her and check the back of her neck with  my hand during the night. Luckily, the fever broke the next day and now, two days later she feels a little better. I'm sure it's a cold but in these times my mind wanders down crazy paths.

Speaking of crazy paths my mind wanders down, every morning when I wake up, I lie in bed and assess how different parts of my body are feeling.

Is my chest hurting? How's my throat? Does my head ache? Am I feverish? Am I short of breath? I KNOW!! CRAZY!

I'm not in the high risk group, but after reading news coming out of the US, I'm worried more now than ever. Therefore, I've decided to stay off news sites for the time being. Don't get me wrong, I care what is going on, jI just care about my mental health more. Right now my priority is to take care of myself and my family.

Today the stormy sea in my head is a bit calmer. When I woke up this morning and the merry-go-round of thoughts came rushing in, I just let it pass through me. I decided today I would focus on gratitude. I was grateful the sun was shining. I was grateful I could get out of bed and grateful for the snoring I heard next door in my daughter's room.

So today it's gratitude and I will worry about tomorrow when I wake up tomorrow...And ride the waves the best I can...

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Camp Corona Day 2: I'm scared

Let me start off by saying, it's such a surreal time. But in a strange way, it's not. We've seen this type of scenario in numerous movies and we've heard the tales of SARS, MERS and Ebola.

But now it's here in our comfy little bubble and I will not lie, I am scared. I wasn't scared until last night. Just before bed I watched videos from people with the COVID-19 speaking on social media. To hear what how they described the disease and how it effects everyone in a different way.

I guess for the past month, the closer COVID-19 got to my tiny little bubble in Amsterdam the more I pushed the reality of it away, thinking to myself "well only elderly people get it" and "it will never come this far". I was in denial. Even though, thanks to my job in communications and writing about the virus, I knew the facts and latest information.

Then it all happened so fast. Thursday 12, March the prime minister comes on TV and says it's getting a little serious and people should work from home. And the hoarding began.

Even scarier than getting sick for me is the hoarding. My son and I are celiac, meaning there's not much choice of processed foods for us. We can't eat gluten and I am also allergic to soy. Leaving us with a healthy diet of fruits, veggies, gluten free meats and lots of other whole foods like beans and nuts.

But when I walked into not one but two supermarkets on Friday evening, there was NOTHING I could buy us to eat. The gluten free section was cleaned out. The rice and potatoes were gone. Fruits, veggies, meats and frozen foods as well. I began to panic. And I wondered how could people do this, don't they know better. I could have and probably should have hoarded the day before. But I didn't and now I was left with an empty basket. Luckily I had some rice at home and beans and the next day I went to a supermarket further away from the city and was able to buy food for several days. Thankfully people are hoarding less (except toilet paper).

I'm still stressed like hell about food in these times though.
I'm stressed about my health, since in the last 4 weeks I have had a stomach virus, the flu, and then the same stomach virus again.
I'm stressed about keeping my family sane and the kids busy.
I'm stressed about the continuation of my work, getting things done while homeschooling the kids.

BUT the biggest stress of all is my husband's job as a journalist. We had to make a decision as a family to support him even though it will put us in danger of getting infected. We set some strict guidelines in the house this morning to protect ourselves from him. We have to social distance even in our own home.

It's his job and we have to support him. Especially in these uncertain times. And we have to support another however we can...I think I need to call a friend now to talk about this and hopefully the anxiety will let up.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

When a helicopter mom stops

"It's time I set you free," I blurted out as I was driving my son to his cub scout meeting. He was sitting next to me and I could see the sideways glance  he often gives me when I suddenly break out in my best running man when I hear 80's music.

"It's time I let you go sweetheart, I trust you." He continued to look at me like I was some mad woman and I could tell he had no idea what I was about to say.

"Sweetie, it's time I trust you: Remember no drugs, don't put anything around your neck that can choke you, look both ways when you cross the street, don't talk to strangers, don't go home with strangers, adults don't need help, don't take candy from strangers, don't eat anything that you don't know what it is, don't get in a car with a stranger, don't play on construction sites, and don't play in the street, " this was all I could remember in one breathe. 

I was not sure why the realization had tidal waved me at that very moment, but I knew if I didn’t get it all out at once that my courage would disappear and I would go back to being a helicopter mama.

I heard him release a deep sigh and he placed his hand over mine as I was shifting gears.

"Mom, I won't, I remember everything, don't worry. I know how to be safe."

And just like that I became "mom".  One car drive and 10 years and I had graduated to the level of mom.

I became his mom and he became my little boy who was growing up and ready to take on the world. It was at that moment that I realized it wasn't him that I trusted. It was me.

Up until this point, I had lived in fear and dread. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to protect him from all the horrible things in the world and dreading the day he thought he didn’t need me anymore.

It wasn’t like I wanted him to be dependent on me forever, it was more like what do I do now. What was my role in this new phase of parenting? Where do I fit in his life?

And I knew in my heart the answer to this question.

I was letting go of the string that I held tight for so many years. The lifeline that connected us from the moment he was created.

I let go and now, I had the joy of watching him rise, higher and higher into the world. I knew he would never come back to me. I knew he was never mine to begin with, but it didn’t hurt any less.

I could have been sad, but I wasn't. I was excited and filled with so much love and I could hardly wait to see where the winds of life would take him. He would fly high and far, but there would never be more than a heartbeat of distance between us.

“You know, honey, I am always here if you need me.”

“I know mom, don’t worry, I’m only 10.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Far away from home and the hardest goodbye

I kept looking at the Christmas tree hoping that by some miracle I would feel that warm holiday feeling. It was the first week of January and I still had not given up hope. I wanted it to come. I wanted Christmas to feel as it did every year: cozy, fun, nostalgic.

But on Christmas Eve 2017 I lost my grandmother. The two weeks prior to her loss were filled with emotional ups and downs of her coming out of having a stroke. Along this ride was the struggle I faced going on inside of myself: whether or not to get on a plane and leave my children behind to tell her goodbye.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made in my life. I didn't know what I was suppose to do or what was best for me and my family. I struggled with the fact that I would never ever be able to see her again or to hug her tight one last time. I would deny myself a sense of closure if I didn't go, but on the other hand, I would miss my son's 10th birthday and my kids Christmas. They would forever remember that Christmas as a sad one, and my heart could not take that.

And I am sure my grandmother would not have wanted that either. I told myself, maybe even convinced myself, that she would want me to stay with my kids. So that was what I did: I slowly watched my grand mother die from thousands of miles away.

The two weeks leading up to her death were difficult and I became obsessed with being online, specifically Facebook messenger. Here my mom would give us family updates on her prognosis. And she would send photos and videos that I would analyze over and over just hoping she looked more responsive. Yet, she didn't and slowly I watched her die via social media.

Sounds strange and uncaring somehow, watching my grandmother die via Facebook messenger. But for me, it was a connection, it was the next best thing to being there, virtually. It provided me with the opportunity to be in both places at once: in Amsterdam, at home with my babies and at home in America with my family.

I will never forget the moment on Facebook messenger that my mom said my grandmother was slipping away. I was desperate to FaceTime and my mom said there was no time. She did the next best thing: she sent a video of my grandmother. It might sound horrible, morbid or cruel to some people, but for me, it was my way of being there with my grandmother, and she would have wanted it that way.

She was an avid Facebook user, especially after she was bed ridden in her final years. It was her connection to the outside world and what kept her sharp. I would always get a kick out of her posts and status updates. She would wish people happy birthday in her status or ask my mom a question via her status update. And since she never really figured out how to see posts from the family, my mom would tag her.

I always thought it was so cool that she learned how to use social media, but that was my grandmother, young at heart, always reading and learning and brave.

Matter of fact, one of the things my grandmother always told me was that even though her body was old, in her mind she was still a young girl, ready to learn and eager to experience the world. And this is how I will remember her.  And I will never regret my decision.

Friday, July 28, 2017

When a dentist mommy shames

A word of advice: Don't let your kids go to the dentist with a corn flake stuck between their teeth!

It happened to me this morning and guess what, I got mommy shamed. By my dentist. Who is a mother. Who has three young kids. Who also works full time. And it still happened.

For those of you who have never been mommy shamed let me tell you how it feels: frustrating, betrayed, lonely, angry. The list could go on. Bottom line: it sucks.

It all started when the dentist found a corn flake in my daughters back molar during her six-month check-up this morning. She pulled it out on the hook of her prodding tool and help it high in the air.

"Look at this, did you even brush your teeth this morning?" she asked my daughter. "Maybe you need to go to the dental hygienist to teach you how to brush your teeth."

Luckily, my daughter's teeth were otherwise perfect. I guess the corn flake threw the dentist for a loop because she never even mentioned my daughter 10cm overbite from sucking her thumb.

Then it was my son's turn in the check-up chair and guess what? She pulled out a ball of what she called plaque. "I see we have a family problem, so it's a good idea to go to the hygienist." No cavities, but you would never know by the way she reacted to the plaque.

And finally I was in the hot seat and that's when she cracked. She started stabbing my gums and scrapping my teeth until she collected another ball of plaque. "Yes, you all have to go to the hygienist and learn how to brush your teeth!" For her I think it was a personal slap in the face.

She then began lecturing me on how I need to take time to brush my kids teeth for them until they are at least 10! Ok, I know she is right, but let's get real: what parent has brushed their kid's teeth until they were 10? Twice a day.

I could feel that she was trying to make me ashamed. It wasn't really what she said, but how she said it.  It was her judgmental glare and the way she cut her eyes and held up the corn flake on her dental pitch fork.

The positive part of this experience is that I didn't feel a bit of ashamed at all and I didn't feel the need to defend myself. I was frustrated that she didn't show understanding and compassion to a full time working mother who loves her children and tries her best to take care of them. No one is the perfect parent. And then I was angry and felt betrayed. We are in the same club of parenting!

After I walked out of her office, I then felt a little sorry for her. I thought maybe she had a bad morning with her kids and felt frustrated or sad herself. Maybe she was too hard on herself and was projecting. Then I thought, you know what, that is her problem and I was not going to allow her to make it mine. I would stay kind and calm and just hope her day would go better.

And now I can laugh about it. I can laugh when I think about the golden corn flake being held high in the air and what it represented: the most beautiful imperfection of being a parent. I wouldn't change a thing!

Monday, July 10, 2017

A gift for my daughter

I could see her eyes watching me and soaking in my every move. I would watch her mimic my words, my mannerisms and even my way of thinking. She was my little shadow for so many years, silently learning how to face the world.

And I that is where I failed her. At the time, I didn't understand the importance of being her role model. Honestly, I didn't think twice about it, I actually didn't think of it at all. I just assumed that I was enough for her to learn how to thrive in the world, and I never expected for her to be my mirror.

To make a long story short, my eight year old daughter has been bullied on and off by various kids at school for the past two years. Mostly by little girls who see her kindness as a weak point and then they use it to either bully or manipulate her.

In the beginning, I was mad at the world. How could these little girls be so mean, I would ask myself over and over again. First it was a classmate, then it was someone in another class and then it was a little girl at after school...the list could go on, but I soon realized they all had one thing in common: my daughter.

Each time she would tell me what happened, I would watch her transform from the flower that was once her self-confidence shrivel and barely cling to life. She then learned to put on a brave face when telling me, but I recognized the sadness behind the smile.  And at once I could only see a life-long struggle she had ahead of herself in desperate search for self-love and confidence.

It was up to me to break the cycle. I tried everything I could to learn how to prevent this fate. I read books on teaching girls self-confidence, I said all the right things and I even pretended I was someone else in front of her, someone she could look up to.

But it was all in vane. And it was time I gave her the only gift I could give her, a true role model. Someone she could really learn from. Someone who I wanted my daughter to be like. Someone self-confident, smart, beautiful from the inside, and most importantly kind with a twist of sass: My sister!

My sister is a 26 year old ball of sass and sweetness rolled into one. "Don't mess with the Jess". That's her motto and trust me she means business. When I think of self-confidence, I can only see my little sister.  She is who I wanna be when I grow up! And someone I want my daughter to be like when she grows up.

So this weekend, when my daughter was crying from frustration from being bullied/manipulated by a "friend", I asked her, "What do you think Aunt Jessie would say to your friend". And that's how it started.

I told Charly to imagine Aunt Jessie speaking to the girl and I then watched Charly transform into a self -confident, witty little Jessie-twin I knew she could be. I watched her eyes sparkle as we talked about how Aunt Jessie would solve the problem.

I told her that the next time she gets in such a situation to remember: WWJD? What Would Jessie Do. We turned it into a game and spent the rest of the day repeating WWJD giving ourselves permission to be confident.

And that was my gift: my daughter now has a role model.