Category Archives: Family and Friends

The Day Kate Escaped from School

Escape from high school

I got a phone call today from the high school “attendance coordinator” (truant officer). Turns out Kate busted out of the big house, Hannah was her accomplice.

Rather than suffer through two study halls at the end of the day, Hannah gets out early about 3 days a week on “work release” (even that sounds like a prison term). Kate texted me around lunch to ask if she could come home with Hannah because she wasn’t feeling well. Due to whatever miscommunication, Kate just signed out and left with Hannah. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Mrs. C was at the window and turned her back for a minute and they walked out. Kate thought she had official permission, Hannah thought Kate had permission so that’s how it happened. Mrs. C was pretty exasperated when she called me. I told her it was just a miscommunication. I couldn’t resist telling Mrs. C that Kate ESCAPED! That lightened her up a bit. She’ll still probably stick it to Kate tomorrow somehow.

These homeschooled kids don’t know how to follow rules!” No, they just don’t know what the rules are.

On another note, it’s so funny that Hannah needs excuses (for illness and lateness) and permission from the school (to leave anytime she wants) now that she’s 18.

Being Home….for Teenagers

two girls chatting on a car

This is pretty much me and one of the girls every afternoon after school. PC: Greg Raines: Unsplash

I’m not sure why but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how it might be as important to be home with teenagers as it is with toddlers. I’ve always heard this but didn’t really believe or get it until now since I’m in it.

When I worked at a big firm before I had my own kids, I had a conversation with a partner whose wife had recently quit her demanding job in law (voluntarily) to stay home. He was shocked at how it changed his own lifestyle and made everything easier at work and at home-especially raising their two teenagers. He tried to explain but had a tough time articulating it himself. Maybe he was trying to avoid sounding too giddy about enjoying this traditional turn of events.

In my own family of 4 kids aged 13-18, it surprises me that some of the kids miss me if I’m not here when they get home from school (obviously I don’t homeschool anymore). They don’t whine about it, they just notice it followed by the “where r u?” text.  Also, they don’t usually need me to do anything for them, they just notice #where’smummy? #shemusthavebeenkidnapped #theresnothingtoeat!

Being home when the kids are here keeps me informed naturally and without much questioning about what’s going on with them. Sometimes, they spontaneously tell me about their day directly. More often, I just happen to be around when they’re talking to each other about things that go on at school (one benefit of having a bunch of kids in the same building).

Sure, sometimes these conversations expose my naivete when it comes to most things teen-agery but the kids just laugh and are pretty tolerant of my butting-in.

I also think the consistent contact keeps us in fairly regular communication about major and minor things. Do you have any idea how uncommunicative teenage boys are? Luke’s tolerance for long, administrative conversations is pretty low so it’s best to tic things off the “list of things to remember to talk to Luke about” as they come up which is easier because I’m almost always here when he is. He’s growing out of his curmudgeonliness but neither of us wants to schedule a summit to discuss mundane issues, basic needs or minor calendar matters. My generally-consistent presence at home keeps those at a minimum.

I’m sure the kids don’t tell me everything but they do share a lot with me.  I think it’s as much a function of habit as anything else. No question we chat about nonsense more than we talk about things that matter but I think the point is we’re in the habit of talking.

Before anyone takes this the wrong way (I’m acting like anyone reads my boring blog), I’m not suggesting that working parents don’t know or talk to their kids. I’m also not suggesting that I’m a better parent than anyone else because I don’t work outside the home. I’m just making an observation about my experience and something I appreciate about being home with teenagers.

These Kids!

Hannah Phillips media discusses creating a business out of nothing

I’m in NJ today with Luke. He’s playing in one of two last tennis tournaments of the year before he resumes his basketball career. He’s not giving up tennis just training less to have some fun with basketball (hopefully).

In my absence, Hannah presented a mini workshop at our local library.

For almost a year now, Hannah and I have both been fired up about legitimate alternatives to college and why high schools don’t help students explore them.

Hannah isn’t planning to go to college. Instead, she’s looking forward to focusing full-time on her media business. If she hits a wall because she doesn’t have a degree, then she’ll get one.

I’ll probably write about that whole decision and how people react to it a different time.

Today I wanted to write about how she co-presented a mini workshop at our local library last night for students and parents about things they can do to earn money.

I was originally supposed to present, too but had to take Luke instead. It sounds like she did a much better job than I would have.

 

Tennis, Family and Caregiving

 

This post will be boring to anyone but my mother but I feel like writing it so I don’t forget.

I turned 47 on Thursday. Hannah qualified for states for the 2nd year so I got to drive her to Hershey, PA for the tournament on that day. We were all together for the weekend, which was the best birthday gift ever.

Hannah’s a natural goal-setter and despite not training during the off-season (the kid got a little burned out on junior tournaments and clinics) she’s had a great high school tennis career. Let me brag here because she won’t do it herself. She is a 3x section champion and a 4x district qualifier. She qualified for states twice and was the district runner-up this year. I think her regular season record is 33-3 for her career.

Her goal this season was to win one more match at each tournament than the previous season. She did that in the district tournament by playing in the final and she exceeded that goal at the state tournament by finishing 4th!

Hannah Phillips Tennis States

 

My cousin was generous enough to stay with my aunt for two nights so my mom could come, too. Another gift. It meant a lot to Hannah that she was there.

I have incredible support from my closest family. I could never have offered to take care of my aunt in my home without it. It takes some extra planning and preparation to leave her for a couple of days-even in the best hands-but it all worked out.

Congratulations to Hannah. We’re all so proud of you!

 

Don’t Listen To Your Parents!

Niyi Sobo Imnotyou.com

Olaniyi Sobomehin from Imnotyou.com

 

You might be surprised that a middle-aged mother of 4 teenagers completely agrees with this advice by Niyi Sobo, former running back for the New Orleans Saints, who trains elite young athletes to dominate their sport.

Before you get all up in arms….of course, he doesn’t mean kids should disobey their parents or disregard their rules and values.

He’s suggesting that most people surrounding a young athlete trying to reach the highest level of his sport haven’t been there. Or worse, people-even coaches- inadvertently discourage and limit an athlete’s potential by being “honest” (“you’re not big, fast, strong, skilled, smart enough“).

Let’s face it, most coaches are barely qualified to coach a sport. Many programs rely on parent volunteers or choose a coach based on availability only. Others in travel programs know how to run a business but may not have the expertise to help a kid develop all the components required to compete at the highest level (conditioning, mental, emotional, logistical, strength, etc.)

When I told Mark (my husband and Luke’s tennis coach) that I agree with this, even as it relates to Luke’s goals for tennis, naturally he was offended because he misunderstood the statement.

Mark definitely has the expertise to train Luke technically and strategically to continue to improve his tennis game no matter how far he goes.

Even Mark had to admit that neither of us has navigated the path of national tennis tournaments to where it might lead Luke. Mark excelled in D-3 tennis but that’s not the same as D-1. Plus, the landscape has changed so much in the past 30 years, our experience in college recruiting, admissions, even visiting is hardly relevant. Moreover, while Mark emphasizes the importance of conditioning, nutrition, visualization, discipline and internal motivation to all of his students, none of those is his area of expertise.

So, what should we do? Mark will still coach Luke but we also have to keep an eye out for (or stalk) people who HAVE been there and hope that they’re willing to mentor Luke.

In addition to some one-on-one coaching, we’ll be checking out a course that Niyi Sobo’s creating to expose young athletes all over the world to his principals and method of goal-setting, discipline and visualization to get results. (I’m not training for anything, but I’m interested in learning this stuff, myself)

Other than that, I’ll just keep buying cereal, enjoy watching Luke play and make him mow the lawn every now and again.

 

Junior Tennis-Growing Up

junior-tennis-B16-L3-championship-zullinger

I had the opportunity to travel with Luke to a big tournament a few weeks ago. It was the USTA section championship for his age group. He won the singles and doubles titles, either of which would have been great. Coming home with both titles was beyond his expectations but not beyond what he knew he was capable of.

Interestingly, this tournament means more in terms of ranking and his future in tennis than placing third in the state high school tournament. But he definitely got more notoriety in the neighborhood and in the press for the high school tournament. Funny.

I love to watch Luke play anytime but it was especially enjoyable because he was so consistent and confident in this tournament. He was focused on each match and what he had to do. I noticed that nearly every opponent was frustrated that Luke was just making great shots. They would just say to themselves out loud “what am I supposed to do against that?!” Which was kind of fun.

As the boys are getting older, they actually give credit to great play rather than beating themselves up for not winning every point. That’s what I mean by the title of this post (“Junior Tennis-Growing Up”)

Luke played the final against one of his best friends who lives on the other side of the state. For all my complaints about the elitist nature and inaccessibility of junior tennis at this level, one thing I love about it is the good friends he’s making. Social media and texting keep them connected between tournaments.

His opponent has been mowing down the competition and winning most matches easily in the past few months (including placing second in the state high school tournament) so Luke was looking forward to a shot at him. He knew he had to play well with limited mistakes and he was able to do that.

Luke squeeked out the first set in a tie-breaker (9-7), was down 1-2 in the second when they had to stop for rain. Then came out guns-ablazing after the delay to win 6-3.

People ask if I get nervous and I really don’t. I’m so happy for him that he won the tournament but truly it was such a good match that either one of them could have walked away with the trophy and I would have been proud of both of them. As in, “thanks for the entertainment.”

I discovered that I would rather watch Luke play a harder opponent than one that he can beat easier who puts on a show (drama, questionable line calls, beats himself up after every mistake). Even if Luke’s winning handily, I never enjoy watching those kids play.

The other thing I don’t enjoy is watching kids tank and it happens in tennis more than almost every other sport except golf (Norman/Faldo anybody?). Even when it’s in Luke’s favor, ugh. Don’t like seeing it.

So, congratulations to Luke and Michael. I really mean it.

Full disclosure, Luke played in the B18 L3 the following weekend and did about as well as he expected. Actually, he would have liked to have won a competitive match against another friend (and arch nemesis since they were little) but I think he was pooped from the previous weekend.

How a Mammogram Made my Day…It’s not what you think.

How a mammogram made my day

Source: Abdulsalam Haykal on Flickr

I went to a mammogram appointment this week and had the sweetest experience…(NOT THE MAMMOGRAM). The fact that it was a mammogram is only important as it relates to what I noticed about a couple who came in at about the same time as I did.

An older couple parked at the same time as me and we ended up in the same office. The woman was using a walker but seemed too young to be using it. Also, she seemed pretty steady on her feet. Maybe early seventies. Her husband looked a little older. Both of them were smartly dressed. She moved so well with the walker that I was thinking maybe she was recovering from an accident.

They checked in (he did the talking) and the man directed his wife to a waiting room chair. He told her he would be waiting out in the lobby just outside the suite. She was fine with that. Before he left he quietly conferred with the receptionist and she assured him that she would “remind the technicians”. Within a minute or so, the man came back in and sat next to his wife and told her he decided he’d rather wait with her. “Thank you very much,” she said.

Next the man pulled out the magazine section of the paper and handed it to her because he thought she would enjoy it. “Thank you”, she replied to his thoughtful gesture.

In the next area where you change and wait again, (why it made sense to disclose that we were there for mammograms) the attendant showed the woman to a changing stall then quickly adjusted her strategy and said the technician would help her with the robe.

I could be wrong but my brief observation of this couple indicated that the woman suffered from some form of dementia and the husband was her caregiver, protector and advocate. He was so patient, sweet and thoughtful of her needs. The measures he took to inform the staff discreetly that she required extra assistance seemed so loving and tender as though his primary concern was preserving her dignity.

Not only was it touching, it made me think of Mark (my husband). He’s always as kind and gentle with me as the man was with his wife (though, often I don’t deserve it). Should I require care in our older years, I have no doubt that Mark will be as patient as the man was with his wife.

Thinking of that made me smile out loud.

 

 

Gift Guide For Seniors-Ladies Edition*

 

Gift guide for seniors who are no longer active #giftguide #seniors #ladies I’m painfully practical and would be the first to discourage anyone from giving stuff to people who don’t need it.

Since taking care of my aunt, however, I realize that she loves to receive cards, letters and gifts. I’m sure her joy is derived from being remembered more than the physical object. She’s been a giver all of her life.

So who am I to limit potential joy-especially at the holidays-for givers and receivers, alike? I think I have a pretty good perspective now and can offer some suggestions for gifts that are personal, economical AND practical.

Whether you’re loved one is independent, in assisted living or living with you or another relative, this list should give you some ideas for each situation.

1. Fleece Anything

Now that the temperature has dropped, fleece provides a measure of warmth and comfort no matter how old you are. I replaced the linens on my aunt’s bed with fleece sheets and a throw and she loves them.

She never knew such comfort existed and I’m insanely jealous every time she gets all cozied up in her bed. (My own fleece sheets need to be replaced).

Fluffy fleece socks are also a huge hit in my house.

Finally, you know how nursing homes are always SWELTERING? If my thermostat is set above 68°, I get too hot. This is a little too chilly for my aunt so a sweater and sometimes gloves, keep her comfortable. The gloves were my mom’s idea and I do feel a little guilty but I just can’t crank up the heat. If your loved one still lives at home, the cost of cranking the heat up could be an issue and the gloves might be a welcome comfort.

2. Easy-to-fix meal and a visit

If your loved one lives alone, proper nutrition and loneliness could be an issue. Recent studies suggest that the mortality risk from loneliness and decreased social interaction is comparable to that of smoking and twice as dangerous as obesity.

Malnutrition is a common problem among seniors. An estimated 60 percent of adults aged 65 years and older who visit an emergency room are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition and only 1 in 4 of those were previously diagnosed as malnourished.

One meal a week won’t cure the problem but dropping off 3-5 homemade, easy-to-prepare meals could make a big difference for both issues.

Multiple single-serving meals can be prepared and stored in containers, frozen or refrigerated with instructions for thawing or microwaving.

Committing to regular visits will allow you to monitor any sudden health, safety, mobility, environmental or cognitive issues that might need to be addressed with the person or family members.

3. Box of cards, stamps and personalized stationary

Although writing can be difficult as people age, many seniors love to keep in touch the old-fashioned way.

Providing a variety of cards for different occasions will minimize the need for excessive handwriting if it’s an issue but still allows a person to keep in touch with people they love and are thinking about.

A box could include addresses and dates to remember like birthdays, anniversaries and upcoming events like graduations.

If the person still has the ability to write more than a few lines and enjoys it, personalized stationary is a great gift.

4. Monthly Housecleaning Service

You can arrange this to coincide with a visit if the person is uncomfortable with strangers being in her home. You should always be sensitive to safety issues when arranging for any service providers.

If you don’t get a commercial cleaning service, you can ask around for referrals.

Most professionals will charge a little more for the initial cleaning (which can be a great gift, in itself) and then reduce the price for routine maintenance of the rooms/services that are most needed.

This is an ideal gift for anyone who has too much stuff unless it’s impossible to clean around. Then you should consider a visit from a professional organizer or purger.

5. Photo Gifts

Photo mugs and photo calendars make great gifts. My aunt drinks a cup of coffee every morning and she always pays extra attention to a mug with Kate’s baby face on it. I like the idea of the calendar because it’s consumable.

6. Classic Television Shows on DVD

We all know that nothing is on TV, yet it’s how most seniors pass the time. If operating a DVD player isn’t an issue for your loved one, consider a television classic like “Gunsmoke” (Is there anyone cooler than Marshall Matt Dillon?), “The Andy Griffith Show“, “The Beverly Hillbillies” or “Leave It To Beaver“, to name a few.

Maybe the person can handle something a little more dramatic, “Downton Abbey” is excellent and dramas like “The West Wing“, “L.A. Law“, “The Practice“, “Hill Street Blues” or “E.R.” are classics.

7. Lawn Care and/or Snow Removal

Whether provided by you, one of your children or a paid service provider, outside maintenance is a huge problem for many seniors who still live at home.

8. Single Serving Coffee Maker

I’m not a huge fan of the hassle and expense of individual serving cups but people love the convenience of those single serving brewing systems.

One of my aunt’s greatest pleasures in the morning is being able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee now that she doesn’t have to prepare and clean the pot. She just wasn’t able to manage it any longer when she was on her own.

Single serving type instant brewers involve less preparation and less clean-up than automatic drip coffee makers.

If you are going to gift this, make sure you also wrap up a healthy supply of coffee “cups”.

9. Rotating delivery of essentials

Admittedly, this is a weird one. One thing my aunt worried about when she lived on her own was running out of the things she used daily (paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, Efferdent, liquid soap, supplements and V-8, to name a few).

She kept a healthy supply of these things in the closets and called it her “larder”.

If you know a senior who also worries about running out of things and can physically manage a delivery (can get to the door and manage a package-my aunt wouldn’t have been able to handle a larger package), you can arrange for Amazon to deliver these type of things to them. If not, you can make a weekly or monthly run yourself for her necessities.

If you’re planning to use Amazon, it’s definitely worth getting the Amazon Prime membership (for either yourself or the person you’re buying for) since shipping will be free for most items and there are other benefits that go along with it.

10. Handwritten Cards and Notes

Letter writing is definitely a lost art but one that everyone I know appreciates. If you commit to writing a letter to your loved one-say, once a month, you might be surprised that it’s just as much a gift to you.

 

*Disclosure: This post is littered with affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of the links, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I appreciate it. Either way, I hope you got some good ideas from the post.

 

Teens and Caregiving Part Three

Sandwich generation #teens #caregiving #elderly #strategies

If you’re one of the millions of Americans with parents over 65 and children still at home, chances are you’ll likely be facing a decision about whether to provide care for your parent or another aging relative.

While most children are adaptable and will pitch in wherever they can, many kids are dealing with overwhelming stress from school, friends and other demands in their world.

What can you do if your child doesn’t agree with your desire or need to take on a primary caregiving role?

In spite of the added demands on your own time, your first priority is to your family. If you have a choice and a careful consideration of the situation points to another option (assisted living, nursing home or hiring care and service providers from an agency or the community) sometimes you’ll have to go with that. I’m not suggesting that you cater to a whiny or self-oriented young person but I do think you should carefully consider whether the decision will lead to irreparable harm to your family.

A number of factors could lead to a teen’s inability to cope with another person under the roof. Feelings of grief or loss of the family member who needs care is a possibility. If the person suffers from severe dementia or extreme health conditions. If the person is scared, mean or confused. A recent death in the family or other crisis from which the child must still recover or intense situations at school could be other reasons that your child might be unable to cope. Whatever the reason, it’s not productive to judge it but you should consider any such factors when weighing your decision.

Here are some suggestions to help a child who can’t or won’t cooperate if you’ve already taken on the responsibility.

1. Adhere to familiar routines as much as possible or create new ones

Predictability is extremely comforting to most young children. Some kids continue to rely on familiar schedules and knowing what’s next depending on their personality type.

Even if the routine will change, preparing everyone ahead of time should minimize the stress.

2. Carve out chunks of time to connect with your child

You’ll both appreciate your efforts to do so and you can create memories you might not have had otherwise.

3. Talk talk and talk some more

Communication can be difficult with teens but talking about what seems like an outside topic (your relative) can help form a habit. Don’t wait for your child to complain or break down. Be proactive about bringing up any subject and make it clear that resentments are normal and you won’t be angry with him for expressing frustrations with the situation or the person your caring for.

4. Point out some benefits of the new situation

It may be that having your loved one in your home is easier than trying to manage her care in a nursing home, for example.

In my case, my aunt lived 4 hours away and in the weeks leading up to the decision to bring her to my home, I had to travel there at least five times in as many weeks with my mom to take care of issues that were popping up. Including an extended stay over Easter without the kids. That situation wasn’t sustainable and was extremely disruptive to our family life but my mom wasn’t able to manage the responsibilities and decisions on her own (she’s also in her 70s).

5. Look forward to something fun and positive with your children.

Make a bucket list of things that you might like to do when things return to normal. If you don’t want to wait that long, enlist the help of family and friends to get to it soon. Time spent just dreaming about fun things will be productive.

6. Be vocal about your appreciation when your child shows kindness, compassion and helps in any way

Even if that help isn’t directed to the person your caring for, let your child know that you noticed and that it helped you.

7. Seek counseling if necessary.

Kids process things very differently than adults and other kids. If you observe drastic changes in behavior, you might need the help of a professional to give your child an objective listener and some tools to manage the new situation.

Some of these suggestions seem obvious but they’re easy to forget or put off when you’ve added a full-time job to your already-busy schedule.

I would love to hear some other strategies for helping to minimize the impact of caregiving on children.

This is part 3 in a series about caring for teens and a sick or elderly family member simultaneously. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.