The kind of Mother’s Day post that should be read BEFORE the day

You may have noticed that I rarely—if ever—do guest posts. Not to mention: my Mothers’ Day posts have been unconventional, to say the least.

This year, I was (virtually) introduced to Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, who has written for us the kind of Mother’s Day post that should be read BEFORE the day so that you can ACT on it. And I suggest you do it in time for next Sunday, because any mother who recieves something like this will treasure it all her days.

(Krissy Dietrich Gallagher is a Cleveland mother of two boys, Braedan, 8 and Austin, 5 (who insist on being identified as 8 ½ and 5 ½). In July 2007, at the age of 10 months, Austin was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms tumor, a solid tumor cancer in both kidneys that occurs in a mere 20 children nationwide each year. The Gallaghers were thrust into a world of chemotherapy, hospital stays and four abdominal surgeries before Austin was declared cancer-free eight months later. But after one glorious year, the cancer was back. More chemo, radiation, overnights and enough surgeries to cost him his entire right kidney and half of his left. Today, Austin is a relatively healthy, extremely happy and remarkably normal five-year-old (ahem, 5 ½ year old) despite living with Stage 3 renal failure. He is one of five St. Baldrick’s Foundation 2012Ambassador Kids. The post below was adapted from one Krissy wrote for Mother’s Day 2010, when Austin was still in treatment, on her blog The Luckiest.)
Moms do things selflessly. We sacrifice our free time, our career goals, our neat homes and our hot bodies for the sake of our children. We sometimes do it begrudgingly, but we do it nonetheless. And we rarely get thanked for it, nor do we even expect to. But after watching this 2010 video from Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place and Lift, about the Thank You note that moms really want and deserve from their children on Mother’s Day, I couldn’t help but add a few of my own. Of course, I will keep doing all that I do whether I get thanked or not, as will we all, but it sure is nice to imagine….

krissy1Thank you, mom, for taking care of me day and night. For holding me and rocking me back to sleep at 3 o’clock in the morning when I’m woken by some stranger taking my blood pressure. Thank you for sleeping with me in my (very narrow) hospital bed even though it means you can’t roll over or you’ll get tangled in my IV lines. And thank you for learning very early on how to silence the IV pump machine when it beeps, usually just as soon as I’ve dozed off to sleep. Thank you for remembering all my medications and making sure I get just the right dose at just the right time of day, and for turning it into a game or a race so it somehow feels fun, like when you take a Tums right along with me before I eat my phosphorous-filled cheesy meals so we can be “Tums buddies.”

Thank you, mom, for always (or at least, often) packing the right lunch and snacks and books and toys to keep me fed and entertained through hour after hour and day after day in the hospital.  Thank you for never failing to flush my PICC line every eight hours, even when that eight-hour mark comes at midnight and you’ve just crawled into your warm cozy bed. And speaking of that bed, thank you for scooting over so I can squeeze in between you and dad when I feel scared in the night. Thank you for treating me like a regular kid and letting me climb the rock wall and fall down and get hurt even when my platelets are low and my legs are already covered with purple welts. Thank you for not letting me get away with everything just because I’m sick and for laying the foundation for my future because you fully expect me to have one.

Thank you, mom, for not forgetting about me, your healthy son. Thank you for making sure I always have fun play dates when you’re at Austin’s appointments and for giving me veto power over whose house I go to, no matter how desperate you are. Thank you for emailing my teacher at the last minute so I’m not too surprised by who’s picking me up from school on unexpectedly long hospital days. Thank you, mom, for waking up early to bake homemade bread for the Teacher Appreciation Brunch, even though you have a perfect excuse for not participating in any PTA events. Thank you for running back home to get my library book on library day so I can check out a new one. Thank you for patiently explaining to my kindergarten classmates how cancer is like a weed in a garden and then listening, also patiently, to their endless – and completely unrelated — stories about pulling weeds with their grandmas. Thank you for arranging for friends to secretly take me swimming all summer even though Austin can’t get his PICC line wet. And for sneaking yogurts into my lunchbox so I can eat them away from the watchful and (understandably) jealous eyes of my brother, who follows a ridiculously limited diet.  Oh, and speaking of jealous, thank you for listening with respect and not getting too mad when I whine and I say I’m jealous of him because he gets to ride a tricycle around the hospital hallways when I have to go home and go to bed. Thank you, mom, for letting me know that I matter too and for making sure I’m remembered and heard and loved.

krissy2And thank you to my mom for always managing to fit in a several-hour visit to the hospital every single day we’re there, no matter how busy you are. Thank you for canceling fancy overseas bike trips with dad so you can both be close by to support us. Thank you for shooing me away from eight-hour blood transfusions and sending me home to shower even if Austin is screaming in your arms as I leave. Thank you for reassuring me that he will be okay in my absence and for always telling me how okay he actually was when I get back. And thank you for valuing my daily workout as much as I do and making sure I have time to go for a run. Thank you for having Braedan sleep over and getting him off to school and making your home feel like his home. Thank you for loving every second you spend with Austin in your arms and for making it seem like I’m giving you a gift when you’re really doing me a favor.

Thank you, mom, for taking care of me when I’m sick.
And thank you, mom, for taking care of me when my brother is sick.
And thank you, my mom, for taking care of me when my son is sick.

Thank YOU, Krissy for the inspiration.

Owls, Dogs, and Hydrocodone

So there I was, checking FaceBook (true story), and I see an update from my friend who did our wedding photos (or more accurately, the photographer we hired for the wedding who has since become like family) that goes a little like this:

I was finishing a delightful walk at the beach with my wonderful friends visiting from France. [Her Rhodesian Ridgeback] was on leash. In the parking lot. A great dane leapt out of its owner’s car and came charging at me growling like a maniac. Kooper was on leash but jumped in front of me to protect me. The great dane kept trying to attack me. The two dogs went at it and I jumped on top of Kooper to control him and i think i broke my ankle. Its five times the normal size. Waiting for X-rays. The owners were too scared of their dog to intervene. Ranger had to grab the other dog. A nurse was there and jumped in and saw my ankle and ordered me straight to ER. They wanted me to take an ambulance but i cant afford that.

"And I usually have such a cute, delicate little ankle... The only part of me I'd ever describe as dainty! Ha! So much for that.... Booooooo. :("

So I immediately left her a message demanding to know her address so I could get her food and prescriptions and ask how the kids were getting home from school (just down the street from me), and warned her that I didn’t want to hear any macho cop bullshit, I was coming over. Oh, she used to be a cop, and a fireman, and I didn’t trust her for a second to stay put.

She (wisely) wrote back with her address and asked me to come get her insurance card and take her car to get her pain meds and gas because it was on fumes. No problem, I said, I’m on it.

I don’t think I’ve ever driven a minivan before. Weird.

At the pharmacy, I said I’m picking up for a friend, and here’s her insurance card, credit card, and here’s my ID, and the guy looks at me and says, “There’s an owl on your shirt.” I can see how this is going to go.

“Yeah, I’ve been trying to get rid of it all day. Look, she wasn’t sure if her insurance was on file..”

“What’s her address?” I told him. “I don’t have that. I’ve got her in a different town.”

“Oh. Well, she used to live there, but moved and is home alone with her kids now and I’m just trying to keep her from running errands with a broken ankle. Do you need to call her?”

“No, no, it’s ok. Huh. There’s a dog on your credit card.”

Here we go.

“Yep, that’s actually how she got hurt; there was a dog fight.”

“Dog fight? Now I’m thinking of football players.”

“No, she would never—she used to be a cop—” He’s openly staring now. “I’m going to stop talking.”

“Can you give me her date of birth?”

I could! I’d scrawled it on my hand before I left her house! So I peered at my hand, turned it a little, read him the date, and then realized how insane I looked while trying to pick up Hydrocodone. “Sorry, I’m a little hyper and mad at her for driving herself to and from the hospital. I took her car. My palm’s sweaty.”

“Is that a bird on your keychain?” I looked down and sure enough, there was a tiny pillow in the shape of a bird attached to her car keys.

“Apparently.”

“So let me get this straight: you’ve got an owl on your shirt, a dog on your card, and a bird on your keychain. I can’t wait to hear what’s on the car.” And then I realize he’s messing with me and is not letting me go until I’m completely discombobulated. He’s just mad he didn’t throw me with the owl crack. “Aha! You blushed.”

“Yes, thank you. You win. I blushed. Can I go now? Because I think we should stop talking.”

And then I couldn’t remember what kind of car she drove.

I stood in the parking lot counting aisles, remembering that I only jogged over one lane so it must be… I’m walking… omfg there’s a minivan with a Rhodesian Ridgeback sticker on the back. Bingo. Off to the gas station, where I poked and prodded at the gas panel but it wouldn’t open. There was no button. No lock. It just sat there. So I climbed back in the car and looked at all the buttons. There’s one for SONAR, but not for the gas cap.

I texted, “How do you open the frigging gas cap??” and waited for like five minutes with no response. I was leaning against the pump with one foot up on the door jamb, wondering what to do and wanting to kick something. And then I looked down. Right next to my foot was a shy little lever with a picture of a gas pump on it. Hallelujah.

Later, the updates were flying:

“You must have looked like quite the doofus…wandering around with pain meds in one hand, a puzzled look on your face and car keys in your other hand…. Bwahahaha!!!!”

“That’s when you press the little alarm button on the key fob and hope you are close enough for it to work.”

“I have empathy. Even more so because I have done that with my own car (doesn’t help that Toyota Sienna minivans are popular where I live).”

And dammit, it WAS a Sienna.

I still didn’t get out of going to Daphne’s science fair. I’d hoped that taking care of Pascale would stir up enough sympathy in my daughter to tell me it was ok not to drive for an hour through rush hour traffic in the rain, over the mountain, to her fair 45 miles away. After all, we’d been living and breathing this project for a while now and it wasn’t as if I didn’t know—”That’s ok, Mom, you can still make it. The fair goes for an hour and a half. You’ll get there for the last few minutes.”

And so I did.

Natasha, Ingrid, and cleaning out my desk

So I was cleaning out my desk this morning—no, really, true story—and I found a notebook full of writing prompts that belonged to one of the kids four years ago. Four years is an eternity when it comes to kids’ stories at this age, and let me tell you, it blew my mind that this stuff came out of the same too-cool head of the kid I dropped off at school this morning. And like SO MUCH ELSE in our life, it’s unprintable.

I’m gonna need to start selling Amway, because the ratio of stuff going on in our lives to stuff I am allowed to write about is the square root of nothing. It’s killing me. I’ve shifted focus to writing books, and the occasional inane Facebook update. Oh, look, I’m like a hundred million other people out there.

Back to the notebook. As I was flipping through the pages, a half-sheet fell out, with a poem. It was called “Unwritten.” Which is exactly my problem these days. (Months. Whatever.) The first and last stanzas were highlighted, and I know I didn’t do it so I offered a little prayer to the goddess of serendipity and decided to post those lines.

But THEN, I noticed that the author looked a bit like the singer whose song was playing as I pulled into the driveway after the school run. It’s called “You & I” and was part of our wedding playlist. I looked up the video for the song because it’s a happy song and if I do nothing else productive today I’m posting something happy. For Aunt Barbara’s sake, I CLEANED OUT MY DESK. I’m done for the week!

Ingrid. Natasha. Those aren’t real common names here, Rocky & Bullwinkle notwithstanding. I found a video of the first song—not a poem after all—right there on youfrickentube. So you get both.

“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined

I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you

open up the dirty window

Let the sun illuminate the words that you cannot find

Reaching for something in the distance

So close you can almost taste it

Release your inhibitions

P.S. In the back of that notebook? I’d written the original organizational outline of chapters for the book I’m currently finishing up. Wasn’t THAT helpful? I’ve been looking for that for AGES. Guess what that means, honey? When you return from Shanghai this weekend, the dining room table will be covered in sticky notes representing 42 chapters, so that I can rearrange and organize and optimise the order of ideas. And there isn’t a thing you can do about it because it’s the kind of crap you’ve been trying to get me to do forever. So, HA! (My work is always a little more fun if the chaos it creates also accomplishes your personal wish fulfillment because I know you won’t dare touch it.)

P.P.S. I sure hope there’s Chinese food tonight after your meetings.

P.P.P.S. For context, the last time he was in Shanghai, his team took him out to dinner on the last night. “It’s a great restaurant, no one knows about it!” So they got into a taxi and crawled through downtown traffic for 90 mintes to travel about seven blocks. They had been in meetings 12 hours that day and were exhausted, so as Guy stepped out of the car and looked up at the restaurant, he said, “I sure hope they serve Chinese.” The team didn’t get it but his British boss was doubled over.

Perfectly Mismatched

I can’t post the trailer I made for the kids, unfortunately, but here is the one I made for Steven as a surprise at our wedding!

Perfectly-Mismatched

If Mom Had Three Minutes or Three Hands

I bet you’re wondering what the heck this photo is. It looks like it could be something scraped off a doorknob, a keyboard, or the floor of a public bathroom, doesn’t it? Worry not, it’s a close up of a glass of champagne sitting on a very cool, opaque, lit-from-within, alabaster bedside table. Yep, I’m living the high life, at least until checkout on Sunday. Even Honeymoons have to end, am I right, Jenna?

bubbles

It was a lucky photo, because I planned to write about germs today. I’ve been asked to think about what I might do if I had three minutes totally to myself or three hands (presumably totally all to myself), and I sat for quite a while before I could come up with anything that could have a major impact in that amount of time. Three minutes is clearly not enough time to instill reflexive behavioral skills such as “Close the toilet lid before flushing!” when we’re still struggling with the more primitive “Flush!” skill.

It was even harder to imagine what I’d do with three hands, because people would stare, and tune out EVEN MORE while I tried to talk. The kids would never hear another word I said. Ever.

On the other (third?) hand, the kids and/or I land in the ER, urgent care, or plain ole doctor’s office sooo often (How often is that? So often that I have a Facebook album consisting entirely of photos of Waiting Room Floors. I started it only nine months ago and there are 18 photos in it already.), that I knew I had to focus on germs. And health. Mostly, keeping healthy and reducing contact with germs. Because germs bad. Health good. Me like health.

And I’m definitely all about public health. Just ask my stepdad, twice shortlisted for Surgeon General. Growing up with a pathologist in the house will put hair on your chest.

That’s why I’m always running around like a maniac when the kids walk in from school, yelling, “Everybody wash your hands and face with soap and water before homework!” And there’s always someone who tries to say they don’t have homework and then I have to throw in “before touching the remote!” But they’re almost always wrong, and no one is allowed to play video games or watch TV before EVERYONE’S homework is done, so you’d think they’d have figured that one out by now. Btw, if you have more than one kid, that’s a highly effective policy if you can enforce it. With five siblings staring that last straggler down, the peer pressure can be quite motivating.

The big message is always, “Clean your hands so no one gets sick.” Ok, mostly I’m yelling, “Wash up so I don’t get sick!” Of course, we all get sick, but we’d be LESS sick if we didn’t depend on kids’ self-assessment of cleanliness. They’d have to have a slug under a fingernail or hands caked in mud, front and back, before copping to dirty hands.

Just for giggles, I made a list of the preventable illnesses I have had in the past couple years:

  1. Flu (of course);
  2. Several colds;
  3. Swine Flu;
  4. Parvovirus B19 (also known as Fifth Disease, mild in children and severe to deadly in adults); and
  5. Two E. coli infections that ravaged my kidneys (I had to get extremely painful daily antibiotic shots for the first, and the second nearly killed me with fever just shy of 105.)

And let’s not forget the enterovirus that nearly killed my middle child, Dylan, when he was a week old. Dylan was born just a day or so after a Coxsackie exposure at Logan’s daycare. If he’d just stayed in the womb a bit longer, he’d have benefitted from my antibodies. Eight days later, he was in heart failure, and stopped breathing shortly after I brought him to the ER at the hospital where he was born. They didn’t have the level of care needed to treat him, so thank all that is good and crunchy that Stanford was just up the road and could send a critical care unit to collect him for what would be a seventeen-day stay in a Level III NICU. Long story short, he tried to die a new way every day: Supraventricular tachycardia (his heartbeat was over 300 beats per minute), acidosisarrhythmia (They kept the tiny paddles next to his bed in case they needed to use them on him again), and a few other fun wrenches viral myocarditis can throw into recovery. They kept him on a respirator and in an induced coma for most of his 17-day, $250,000 stay because being awake was too much of a strain on his heart. He came home with a mohawk from the cranial pic lines and had to be weaned from morphine addiction, very slowly, and over a long period of time. You haven’t lived until you’ve coaxed your kid through detox.

In short, I’m a little freaky about clean hands.

So, the best use of three spare minutes in our home would be to collect all handheld electronics—ipods, cell phones, TV remotes, game system remotes, and laptops, and give them a good wipedown with antibacterial wipes or with paper towels and a spray from the bleach disinfectant bottle I practically carry around in a holster. Have you FELT what collects on those things? Every time one of the kids hands me their ipod and asks me to enter my password so they can download an app, I do the flappy hand dance over the tactile experience of layers of pure bacteria and lord knows what else makes it so sticky and filmy. I don’t even want to KNOW what’s on there. Frankly, I don’t want to know why they don’t notice it in the first place. I could open my fingers and wave my palm around and it still wouldn’t fly out of my hand.

*More of the flappy hand dance*

Clearly, the fate of the world is in our hands. As parents, it’s up to us to walk that line between a healthy retention of “good bacteria” (Everyone’s gotta eat that pound of dirt before they’re 1 so they can build up immunities! Also, because it’s fun.), and going so clean-happy as to force bacteria to adapt and change to the point that they are antibiotic-resistant.

Let’s help each other, shall we? Share your personal tips for handling being a new mom and stories about what you do if you had three free minutes. Visit the If Mom Had Three Minutes tab on Clorox’s Facebook page. There’s a payoff: readers’ tips and stories will inspire a Clorox e-book called If Mom Had Three Minutes, and all contributors whose stories are chosen will have a credit in the book. You can be published! Take it from me, getting published is the A-Number-One road to fame, fortune, and roomfuls of cash that even the banks can’t handle.

Disclosure: This is a post sponsored by Clorox. Help stop the spread of germs with Clorox® disinfecting products