Thursday, September 27, 2012

Connecting through Yoga

Yoga has been a passion of mine for a very long time. It all started in my teenhood with a purchase from Target. I bought a SHAPE magazine which had an article on yoga and a how-to for Salute to the Sun. After that I was hooked on this new thing they were calling yoga. I hadn't known of its existence because it wasn't something one normally did or knew about when growing up in the sticks, during the early nineties. 

I fell in love with it for a couple of reasons. I felt energized, strong, and calm in my body and mind. I didn't feel depleted or exhausted after a workout, I felt the opposite. Bending my body into poses was very cool and fun. I liked that all I needed was myself and some space on the floor. The Yoga mat and pants came later when I could afford them. I needed the books, tapes and practice first, then it was on.

When I became a mom, yoga was lost for awhile but as the kids got a bit older I found time for it again. There was guilt though, that mom guilt where you think you should be doing something else for someone else, anyone else except yourself. However, one day that guilt faded as my daughter showed up in the exercise room wearing a pair of her leggings with a tank top. She smiled at me and asked if she could do yoga too, if I would teach her. I had never thought to even try this, but I was thrilled thinking "hey this is it, I found our girl thing and I don't have to feel guilty, I'm not such a horrible mom." You see my boy Calvin has dominated much of my attention, the asthma is one huge aspect but he's also the baby, a chatterbox and wild. So, when she walked into that room all dressed in her makeshift yoga gear, I felt happy. Now we do yoga together. I can teach her how to be flexible, strong, energized and calm; not just for her body but for her mind as well. Something she can use for the rest of her life. Something I'll do right by her. 

As a parent, you're pretty much always looking at your flaws and wondering how you're damaging your child. I can't remember when I actually felt like a good mom. I often feel crummy about my mom skills because I could always do better. You get one shot with your kids, you don't get to retake the course and there are no manuals for it either. Sure people have ideas and they've written books or articles on how to raise your child but when you break it down, what works for one child may be harmful to the next. Every human being is different in some way or another. 

Our job as parents is to figure out who our child is, what they need from us and teach them in ways they'll actually learn. We have to get to know them, and complicating all this is life. Our day to day lives are filled with chaos. When I finally lay down for the night, my mind replays the day and most of it sucked. The days are consumed with the regular tasks of dishes, laundry, groceries, bills... but then it's also filled with cutting their ever growing fingernails, wiping butts, digging out a booger, bandaging a wound, changing pee sheets, cleaning the food off the floor and cursing as you step on a tiny toy soldier. How much good time do you actually get with your child every day? The answer is very little. There are small moments throughout the day I desperately grab for and try to hold onto them as long as I can. I do let the cleaning go more than I used to, because time doesn't stop and soon it's gone. I always give them an extra hug, several kisses on their soft cheeks, tell them they're my favorite people in the whole world. I tell them I love them so much that I can't even say how much it is, because it's just to much. But I still feel inadequate. 

Then I remind myself of this article a friend of mine shared on her Facebook page that brought clarity and contentment to my ever fretting mom brain. It was in the Huffington Post, called The 'Good Enough' Mother. If you're constantly feeling that inadequacy as a parent, this article will open your eyes and lift that suffocating weight off your chest. This weight I speak of, was especially heaviest for my daughter. Not only does she get put aside for her brother, she is also so much like me that we can clash and argue. Now I can breathe a sigh of relief and count on my time with her, connecting through Yoga. I've done something right, something good for her. Whatever it may be, find that connection with your child, no perfection allowed and good enough is all you have to be. A wise therapist once told me, "love them fiercely and be good enough, not perfect but good enough. 

This photo here, shows I'm doing just that. Look how happy my daughter is. These are the moments parents live for. They are few and far between but as long as there are some, then we're doing alright. We are good enough. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Five Little Pumpkins Craft

Art projects and/or crafts are fun. Decorating with them is even more fun, especially in the Fall. However, with a budget, it's not always easy so I came up with a five little pumpkins craft that is cheap, simple and fun. If you have children, they'll love this. It doesn't take long so they won't lose interest and what child doesn't love painting? Now, if you're a coffee drinker and you do in fact have children, then you should have all the things you'll need for this craft already in your home. 


Coffee Filters, Glass of Water, Paint Brush, Watercolor Paint, Green Thread, Scissors and Cotton Balls.


  1. Take a coffee filter and crumple it up, so it's all wrinkly. Then smooth it out into a big circle. 
  2. Use anywhere between one and five cotton balls. If you want a big pumpkin use five, a baby pumpkin use one. Place the cotton ball(s) in the middle of the coffee filter. Pull the sides of the coffee filter up and over the cotton balls, cinch together and twist. 
  3. Take your green thread and cut about a foot off. Use one end of the thread to securely tie the top of your pumpkin together. Leave enough coffee filter for the stem of your pumpkin. If you're making baby pumpkins, then you'll need to trim the excess but always leave enough for a nice stem on your pumpkin.
  4. Now comes the paint, the fun part. I love using watercolor on coffee filters because it only takes a tiny bit of water and paint to bleed throughout the paper giving it a really cool look. Don't use too much water though, or the cotton balls will get heavy and rip through the filter. 
  5. Once painted, hang to dry. With that long piece of green thread you cut, make a knotted loop at the other end, so you can hang them up. I have mine hanging from my chandelier in the dining room. Now you could opt to add goggly eyes or paint/marker on jack-o-lantern faces to your pumpkins. I didn't because I want to keep them up for Thanksgiving as well.

For my children, I have always tried to do a five little pumpkins theme because since they were babies I've sang them the song. My version may be a little different than some out there but it's close enough... 

There were five little pumpkins sitting on a gate. 

The first one said, "Oh my, it's getting late."

The second one said, "There are witches in the air!" 

The third one said, "Ah, we don't care."

The fourth one said, "Let's run, let's run!"

The fifth one said, "It's Halloween fun!"

And OOOOOOOOH went the wind, 

And OUT went the lights, 

And the five little pumpkins rolled right out of sight.

If you're serious about singing this to children, you gotta do it right and not hold anything back. Be sure to get very animated, like holding up five fingers, then one, two and so on... Sound scared when you say "There are witches in the air!" Shrug your shoulders when you say "Ah, we don't care." Pretend scared again and fake run with your arms like Jim Carrey does in Dumb and Dumber. Get excited because it's Halloween Fun! Clap your hands together loudly when you say "OUT" or be close to a light switch and turn the lights off. I think you get the point and you're probably thinking I'm a little lame, but it can be a really fun song. It's something I have loved since I was little and still makes me excited for Halloween. My kids seem to love it too. So, there you have it. Enjoy and have fun!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Monster Stirs

Another sleepless night. I've had more of these than I care to think about. It begins with one little cough and the monster stirs. 

I hear it. I hear that cough. My stomach turns, my heart stops and fear invades my mind. Calvin has a virus. The coughing fits began while he was trying to fall asleep last night. We started the cool mist humidifier and Vicks Vaporized his chest. Propped him up on pillows and hoped for the best... which at this stage in the game, is quite frankly, stupid. We've dealt with this monster for six years now. Hoping for an easy virus when your child has asthma is like hoping poop won't smell. In those six years, sure we've had some milder colds but none so mild as that of a normal child. 

Ariauna was angry this morning when she found out her brother would be staying home from school because he's sick. She knows what's coming and doesn't like it any more than the rest of us do. There will be no playing at the park after school for a couple of weeks, the fun times will be limited. She knows Calvin will get a lot of attention and herself very little. I get the question again, "why does he get sick all the time?" I explain it again, while trying to comfort her. I hate what this monster does to him, to her, to our family. 

We all know what an illness will do and we feebly hope it will take two weeks instead of three. I hope for four hours of sleep at a time instead of one or two. I hope for no steroids, no barfing, no pneumonia, no hospital. I beat myself up asking, how did this happen, what did we miss, what did we do wrong, what can we do better? How much it disrupts our life makes me angry. I want normal. I want fair. 

Most people are fooled by Calvin's appearance. He can seem so normal, healthy and just fine. But you don't know what goes on behind the scenes to make this happen. You are also unaware of what occurs when he does crash, when the monster is awakened because our family will disappear into our home for weeks on end. A so-called bubble is formed and we're very careful. We fight to get the monster stable. Once that's done, then we spend time giving his body a chance to recover before we throw him back in the cesspool of germs, or he's bound to catch another virus immediately. 

I have turned into someone I don't like. Panic, anger, sadness and frustration set in all too quickly. I have become the hand washing nazi and a germaphobe. If we're out and about, and I see someone with the sniffles, hear them cough or hear that they are ill with something, I feel the rage welling up inside me as I take Calvin and run.

Normal families are rarely bothered by an illness. Their normal child will get a virus, it will run it's course with minor symptoms and will not last for weeks on end. They think nothing of bringing their sniffling child anywhere and why should they. To them, it's a runny nose but to me it's a looming threat of pneumonia. Few can relate, even the closest of family has a hard time grasping the severity of something so small as a runny nose. Not even when I describe to them in detail just how awful an illness with Calvin can be. I don't think it's mentally possible for other people to fully understand until they themselves have a child struggling with asthma. We are all too often alone and isolated with this monster. 

Sometimes it gets the better of me and I foolishly wonder how different our life would be if my child had a set of normal lungs. Simple play dates, birthday parties, school, church, any kind of outing would be what it's supposed to be, normal and/or fun. Instead I look for potential hazards and curse a slip of an unwashed finger in the mouth. I have to keep strict rules, like no sharing drinks or food. Wash, wash and wash your hands. Keep your fingers away from your mucous membranes, the eyes, nose and mouth. Is it fair they should have to care so much about germs, about their mucous membranes?

I used to think that I had to be especially careful during flu season but during a recent visit with Calvin's Specialist it dawned on me there is no such thing. The Specialist was saying how we're not going to try wean him off any meds because flu season is upon us. I told him I don't believe in that anymore. I think it shocked him a little. I said it doesn't matter what time of year it is, if you check the charts Calvin has been sick with serious illnesses Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. The flu season (October-April) has not applied to my child. I also wanted to blurt out my lack of hope for ever weaning him to a lower dose of meds. Why? We've tried this many times, only to find that we can't. Dosages have only ever been increased. But I refrained from showing just how much faith I have lost in them (them being doctors). 

Asthma is a monster. We've had to adjust our lives around it and live with it. Taking every step we can to manage and control this unstable creature. We sedate it with medication, but every so often, the bad fairies (the germs) sneak in and wake the monster with powers of an ugly kind. So, our battle continues. We keep trying new things and do the best we can, hoping one day this monster will leave. Puberty is now the new age, in which the doctors think Calvin will outgrow this. It used to be age five, but that has passed us by. I long for the day I can think of "normal" as a gift to be cherished. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Bike Trail and Man Boobies

Over the weekend Brett and I decided it was time to try our kids on a longer bike ride. We packed a lunch, loaded up the bikes and drove to the local trails (it’s not safe or easy biking to the actual trails so please don’t judge us for driving there). The trails are really nice and mostly wooded. By that I mean, it's as close to the woods as you can get in the Chicagoland. We'd been wanting to take the kids for some time and finally took the chance. 

It started out fairly smooth and fun. Perfect weather and the Fall air smelled lovely. The woods were pretty. I liked the sound of the tires crunching the fallen leaves, and I liked how there were leaves swirling through the air falling on and around us as we rode down the trail. Brett had taken the lead, he usually does, while I prefer to be at the back of the pack ensuring my chicks are safely accounted for. Typical mom behavior. I was doing good but could feel my annoyance creeping up because the trails were busier than I expected. I’m not one for swarms of people particularly when I have to keep track of my kids.

These people on the trail were of all kinds and types. You've got the rollerbladers, whose legs are all over the place making it treacherous to pass them. Then we have the super athletic, get out of my way or die, kind of people. They whiz past you screaming, “left” or dinging their bells obnoxiously as if I’m not going to hear it, or maybe they’re just really excited to ring that special bell of theirs. Next you have us, parents taking their children out for a ride. Giving them some fresh air and exercise. Finally, you have the slow people, either elderly or the ones dreamily strollin’ along. Whether they are on foot or bike, it makes for jam ups. 

About five miles down, we stopped for a picnic on some fallen trees. Up to this point there really weren’t too many mishaps, but I began to unravel as we headed back. The populated trails were really starting to get to me. The kids were tired, especially Calvin’s little legs. Brett and Ariauna were leading our pack again and seemed completely oblivious that Calvin and I were having difficulty keeping up. 

Then we came upon this older gentleman barely pedaling followed by a younger guy keeping pace behind him and messing around with his iPhone or iPod. Bit of a traffic jam. Eventually, Ariauna and Brett saw an opportunity to pass and did so. Calvin and I tried to pass as well but couldn't as we were being passed by a couple who'd come up from behind us. Then when we finally get another chance, it takes Calvin forever because of course his legs are tired. Next thing I see this older man flying down the path coming right at us. However, I didn't completely panic because I figured we were still good as we were right on the yellow line giving this oncoming rider enough room to get past. BUT this jerk of a man who couldn’t be bothered to slow down in the slightest felt the need to screech at the top of his lungs, “STAY ON YOUR DAMN SIDE” followed by what sounded like angry moaning and growling. I wanted to scream at him, "I’ve got a kid with me jerkwad, have some consideration." If I had a large stick I would’ve knocked him off that bike. At least I fantasized about that afterward. Must he be going so bloody fast and would it have killed him to slow down for a child?

After the screeching, Brett and Ariauna finally noticed Calvin and I were a good distance  behind. This only made me angrier, to be unnoticed and left in the dust. Then it happened. I hit my wall. This is where I go into melt down mode, lose all positivity, just want to get my kids home and out of harms way. I get furious with pretty much everything around me. There were too many people, too much variation in their speed and they're on different equipment. My kid almost got ran over by a maniac and I could no longer tolerate the chaos. I hated all the people on the path. I could hear the cars, planes and trains. The scenic bike trail turned into a stupid attempt to bring nature into the city. Everything was turning sour and why did I ever think it was a good idea to bring the children here.

So, when I had thought all was lost, my sweet husband managed to fix my malfunction. If it weren’t for him I fear I’d become an anxious and cranky old hag. When he sees me fall apart he always finds a way to make me laugh, relax and take a deep breath. This time he said, “Hey how about that guy with the boobs. Those were some man boobies!” We had seen a couple of old men on the trail who were shirtless, and one guy in particular had these spectacular breasticles. Then we were laughing and things weren't so bad. 

It’s a challenge taking your children anywhere. They themselves can be difficult because they are in fact children. The world around them can be treacherous and perhaps the worst part of it all, can be me. If I feel their safety is in any way threatened I become an irrational, angry and crazed mama bear. Thankfully there's a papa bear who knows how to handle this mama.

As for the children, they learned a few things from all this... stay in your lane, listen for people coming up behind you. Pass only when you’re absolutely sure you can and do it quickly. Look out for that oncoming “I ride my bike super fast and wear a racing shirt” kind of person. They will run you over and possibly kill you, should you get in their way. And above all, mom will lose her cool if you give her reason to fear for your life. 

Then there's my lesson... Losen up, let go, calm down and laugh more often, especially when there are man boobies involved.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cup of Coffee for my Asthmatic Child

This morning I woke up to find that my six year old boy had gotten the coffee ready for us (him and me). He didn't fly solo though, he took instructions from his dad and followed them to a T. He measured and poured the water, scooped four tablespoons of grounds into the fresh filter and had it all ready so all I had to do was flip the switch when I came downstairs. My sweet boy hadn't done that yet because he wanted to wait for me. 

He started drinking coffee around age two. Calm yourself... It is only half a cup, once a day and has hazelnut or french vanilla liquid creamer added to it. How it all started, you ask? One morning way back when, he wanted a sip of what his mommy was drinking. I gave him some and he wanted more. While most people would have said "NO," I said "sure!" 

I had heard that coffee can be beneficial to anyone with asthma and that children under the age of twelve can experience an opposite effect to caffeine and Benadryl. How caffeine effects him is hard to say. I wouldn't say he is any more wild because of it. On the other hand, we have noticed that when we've given him Benadryl, which knocks me out cold, he becomes absurdly hyper. But that's a topic for another time. Anyway, you can see I had given the caffeine and coffee quite a bit of thought before he ever asked and I agreed. 

I did some further research on caffeine before I let coffee become our little ritual and as it turns out, coffee is indeed good for the airways. It can never replace a prescribed maintenance medication but it can give a little extra help for the lungs, especially when asthmatic symptoms flare-up. LIVESTRONG had a good article describing the beneficial effects of caffeine on asthmatics.

Now, Calvin was diagnosed with asthma at the tiny age of five months old and he has earned the status of “SEVERE” asthma on his medical file. There is nothing regular about his case and never has been. I knew in the early stages of his infancy there was something not quite right about his breathing. He would grunt a lot, choked on milk at almost every feeding and he wouldn’t take a pacifier or his thumb. He slept best at an incline on my chest or in his vibrating seat. He was constantly getting colds that would turn into pneumonia, turning into hospitalizations. Getting a doctor to listen was next to impossible, that is until he almost died from a bad case of pneumonia. 

Being a parent to a child with asthma is more than hard. The fact that I found something to make it a tiny bit easier is magic. I share a cup of coffee with my boy almost every morning. It's our special time, our thing, just my baby boy and me. It smells good, tastes good, it's warm and helps him without being an expensive-toxic-chemically-enhanced pill, a cumbersome breathing machine, or inhaler. In fact our favorite place to go together, our happy place, is Caribou Coffee. This isn't normal, I am fully aware of that. I would never dream of giving my healthy daughter coffee. However, our life has never been nor will ever be "normal" when asthma is star of the show. 

Ultimately, Calvin loves coffee and I know it benefits his condition. I will gladly supplement my child’s asthma regiment with coffee any day than have to use the rescue meds more frequently. Some people shake their head at me but I shake my head back. To these people I say... you don't know me or my child, or what we’ve gone through. You haven’t been there when harsher forms of treatment are used. When I’ve had to watch every limb of my child’s body shake. When I’ve had to try and tame the wild beast on an ADHD+PMS like roller-coaster, who used to be my sweet child. When I’ve held him helplessly in my arms and felt his heart pounding so fast it seemed as if it were going to explode. Then dealing with the aftermath of using a systemic steroid, seeing how it weakens the immune system so for months out he is sick with illness after illness. 

What I have described are the side effects of using rescue meds like Albuterol and Orapred (systemic steroid). Yes I use them when I have to and I’m grateful for them, BUT only when they are absolutely necessary. If I can get away with managing his asthma on a low dose of Flovent (an inhaled steroid maintenance medication), a dose of Singulair and some coffee, well then, I consider us lucky. 

If you take anything away from this post, it should be... When you have an asthmatic child, giving them a small cup of flavored coffee is a treat, as well as a treatment. People argue that caffeine is harmful to children. I argue that the drugs, the steroids in particular are of much greater harm than a little caffeine could ever be.