Monday, March 25, 2013

Kick Off To Spring Break

This week my kids are off school for Spring Break. I hate to admit this, but I seriously thought about cancelling my Monday at mom's. I have 5 days to spend with the kids, and I want to make it count. After much thought, I realized that the best way to make it count would be to go to mom's house and take the kids with me...and put them to work! More than ever, I feel like it is SO important to be there for each other as a family. When one is in need, we need to be there to help ease the burden. All for one, one for all.

I was expecting a bit of a fit from the teenagers. I know they have other things they want to do with their time off other than go to grandma's house to work. Much to my pleasant surprise, they didn't complain at all! They seemed content to go over for a few hours and help out with some chores around the house. The little kids, however, weren't as easygoing. After some initial complaining, they finally got to work sweeping the floors, folding blankets, organizing the bookshelf, and making some piles of laundry. They lasted for about 15 steps! Sorry for the lousy pictures, I'm still learning how to use this new camera!!

Meanwhile, the "big" girls and I worked on some of my ongoing projects. Amber helped me organize the years of family vacation pictures into photo albums, Maurina helped reorganize the food pantry and cleaned out the aquarium (whose tenants have been relocated). I worked on cleaning the back room and am pretty darn proud of myself for my accomplishment: I was able to get all of the clutter off of the air hockey table!!! This was no small task (I even had to haul some stuff up to the attic) ;) I should have taken a "before" picture.

We spent all morning working on our cleaning/organization projects and left shortly before mom's naptime, because I knew she'd have a conniption fit if I stayed there with all 5 kids during her nap! I'm glad that I didn't give into the temptation to call my day off. It's hard to give up time to do something for other people, especially for kids. I'm hoping to lead by example and help them to recognize the good feelings that come by helping others. I would like to think that the girls felt good about the service they were able to give to their grandparents. We've even discussed (the big girls and I) about coming on Mondays during the summer to help with more projects (dad has a lot of organizing projects to tackle! Lol). I think it was the perfect way to kick off our Spring Break!!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mom's Reluctant Morning

The inevitable day has come. I have been waiting for this to happen.

In the middle of my volunteer time in my daughter's 2nd grade classroom this morning, I got a phone call from Teresa (mom's new caregiver).

"Your mom left a note on the door," she explained to me, reading the note.

In case you can't read it, mom wrote:

"Girls- Te + Ch" [Teresa and Christina...she can only remember the beginning sounds of their names]
"I am not here so I cant answer door so you should leave I wont be back until later about 11:00 or 11:30. Deana"

Right away I knew it was only a ploy to get Teresa to leave. She doesn't ever leave the house earlier than 10:30 (and if she does it is like pulling out teeth that aren't even loose yet). I knew she was locked away in her room. Teresa asked for the home number and told me she would try to call and see if she'd pick up the phone. I knew there was no chance of that happening, so after giving Teresa the number and hanging up, I texted my dad to see if he could call and get her to open the door. (All of this is happening while I'm trying to read one-on-one with a classmate of Aubrey's, mind you). Dad texted me back a few minutes later to inform me that mom was refusing to answer the door. She had just gotten out of the shower and didn't want anyone there until she was dressed and with her full face of make-up on (which would be about 10:30).

What choice did I have? I gave my apologies to Aubrey's teacher and drove the 5 minutes to my mom's house, where Teresa sat outside, waiting to be let in. Once inside, we went through our usual routine: me, knocking on mom's locked bedroom door as mom stood on the other side quiet as a mouse, unresponsive.

"Mom, I know you're in there. Dad told me he talked to you on the phone, I know you're home. Please answer me."

Finally an answer, "I'm naked. I only just have my pants on, I'm putting on my make-up." Reluctantly, she cracked her door open and warned me that I might see her boobs. I closed my eyes as I let myself in her room, turning my back towards her so as to not see her in the nude.

[On a total tangent, when I was growing up, I was always very shy but in contrast, my mom never cared about my sister or I seeing her naked. When we'd accidentally walk in on her after a shower or something, we would often get embarassed and she'd always say "oh please, I'm your mother".]

Mom held a shirt in front of her chest and went back to her counter to finish applying her make-up.

"Mom, you have to open the door when Teresa is ringing the doorbell. It is her job to be here," I tried explaining, knowing she would grasp little of what I was trying say.

"No, I already told your dad no. I don't want people in my house when I'm not out there. They always come so early before I'm even ready, they can't be here that early."

"10:00 isn't early mom. Maybe you can leave the door unlocked next time so she can let herself in," I suggested.

Mom got a little smirk on her face and suddenly dropped her shirt for a brief second. "See, my old boob," she snickered, obviously not listening to anything I just said.

"Mom. When Teresa comes, you need to let her in," I said, trying to keep a straight face and ignore her silliness. "She'll be okay until you're ready. She's here to help. She can do some dishes or something while you're getting ready." I repeated my words over and over, trying to get her to focus on what I was saying. She would interrupt me with random thoughts,

"It's so weird how my back here is so sweaty, see. And my body gets real wet, here, under here too," she said, lifting up her arms and grabbing at her armpits. Eventually, she replied with,

"No. I don't want people here in my house when I'm not there and then people will steal from me. Even though I told her the other day she's nice, but I don't want her here when I'm not out there."

We went back and forth for a few more minutes. I assured her that Teresa would not steal from her; she was there to help and it was her job which she would be fired from if she stole. Mom instructed me to go stay with her until she was ready. I eventually told mom I had to leave.

I walked back out to the kitchen, where Teresa was washing a few dishes. I kind of explained mom's "logic" behind her note and Teresa was very sympathetic and understanding to mom's feelings. We talked a few more minutes until mom finally came out, empty Slim Fast cup in hand to put in the sink (this is her routine when she comes out of her cave...I mean, room).

"Hi Deana," Teresa said cheerfully.

"Oh hi, sorry about my note but I was just in the shower and getting ready," mom said sheepishly.

"It's okay, you look so pretty today! Your make-up looks really pretty," Teresa said to mom.

After small talk was being made, I said my good-byes to mom and Teresa and left.

I knew this would eventually happen. The tricky part now is figuring out how to resolve this so that I don't have to leave in the middle of volunteering-or anything else for that matter!-to let in mom's caregivers.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Finding a Connection

A couple of months ago, I began thinking about activities that I could do with my mom that would be meaningful and even stimulating for her. I came upon a set of books geared towards people with Alzheimer's and Dementia.

The idea of these books is to provide activities for and improve communication with people who suffer from dementia. There are several different books to choose from, and I decided to give it a try and ordered the America book (as shown below).

I chose this book with the idea that looking at the pictures from landmarks of America would spark some memory in mom and create some dialogue for us aside from the everyday topics of medications and aches and pains. Mom always loved to travel and had visited many of the places that were pictured in the book, so I figured this would be a good choice.

Throughout each book, there are beautifully photographed pictures on one page and on the corresponding page there are interesting facts about the pictures, quotations, questions, etc. What I liked best about the book was that at the beginning of the book, there are guidelines to help you interact with the dementia person. They give helpful hints about communication, such as making eye contact when you talk, getting on their level, etc. They also give some great ideas on how to create dialogue by asking thought provoking questions and provide examples of such. I was very optimistic and enthusiastic about taking my new book over to mom and looking through it together.

"Mom, I got you something," I said, inviting her over to sit down next to me on the couch. After some coaxing to get her to sit next to me, I explained that I got a book for her that I'd like to look at together. I told her it had pictures of different places that she had visited and that I was excited to hear about her stories of those places. I opened it up to a page I knew she would remember.

"Do you remember when you went to New York and saw the Statue of Liberty?" I asked, pointing to the large statue of Lady Liberty.

Mom squinted her eyes and looked confused.

"No, I don't know about that."

As I continued to explain New York, reminding her about the trip they had taken several years ago, and talked about the Statue of Liberty, something finally sparked in mom.

"We went to New York, yeah. What good thing we got to see was that place, that religious place [Palmyra], and that airplane place where people were killing people too but it was closed down too," she said, referring to Ground Zero (their trip to New York was right after 911 took place). She talked of some memories of New York but when asked again if she recognized the statue she gave me a blank look and sort of shook her head.

I turned to the next page: The Grand Canyon. This was the first big family vacation I remember taking as a child-to the Grand Canyon and up through Zion and Utah. Mom did not recognized the picture on the page, but eventually after describing what and where the Grand Canyon was, she brought up memories of visiting there with her older brother as a child.

"I don't recall taking you to Arizona. Trying to remember where Arizona is. My brother took me as a kid, my brother Mike took me too and we took a fun thing too and that, that ani-animal place thing too, there's one in Utah too. Am I correct in saying animal?"

I struggled to understand exactly what she was talking about, but finally figured that she must be talking about a dinosaur park (there's a dinosaur museum in Utah that she talks about every so often, which she visited on a vacation with my sister's family). And she must have taken some sort of ride around the park on a train or something. (I'm sure my Uncle will help recall this memory in the comment section ;) I was a little sad that she couldn't remember taking her children here on vacation. It seems that the earliest memories are the ones she remembers the most clearly.

A few years ago, mom and dad went on another vacation to New York and visited Niagara Falls. My brother and his girlfriend at the time (now wife) met up with them and it was mom's first time meeting Natalie. It was a vacation that she absolutely loved and Niagara Falls was a place she had always wanted to go and see. I thought for sure she would remember the picture of the beautiful cascading waterfall.

"It says Canada," she said, reading the caption on the next page over. "I don't know about Canada."

Try as I might, mom could not recall Niagara Falls.

It was apparent, at this point, that mom's attention was dwindling. Between each page, she would try to change the subject to her doctor or her medication but each time, I tried to bring her back to focus. I was determined to talk about something else and maybe, just maybe, find some kind of connection with my mom again.

Turning to the page of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, mom says,

"Where is San Francisco?"

I explained to her that it was up north, near San Jose which was where we went EVERY SINGLE Easter of my childhood to visit my Aunt and cousins for the holiday. Eventually, mom remarks,

"Oh, I went many years ago, we went to a bridge thing too and that's when I could still be a driver. I'm still young enough to be a driver." And with that, mom became side tracked and went on her rant about driving.

I tried to reel her back in and showed her the picture of Mt. Rushmore, explaning the history behind it. Mom abruptly stood up, walked over to a box of tissues, wiping her nose, and said,

"Hmph. Wonder why my nose is bleeding so red." (On a side note, I did not see any red blood at all).

I tried again to bring her back over to finish looking at the book. But mom walked right past me as if I wasn't even there and walked out the front door, mumbling something about the mail being there. After a couple of minutes, she came back in sat down beside me to sort through her mail. She glanced over at me, and the book on my lap, gave me a glare and snapped,

"I don't care to look at that stuff." She got up and walked away to her computer.

I was a little bit disappointed that more of a connection and dialogue wasn't made with mom, especially because these books are geared towards people with dementia. However...there are a couple of things I realized during that session.

#1. However slight it was, mom DID remember some things and was able to (somewhat) communicate her memories.

#2. Mom's form of dementia is very different from Alzheimer's. It is, in fact, one of the rarest forms of dementia out there. I am sure these books are great for people with other forms of dementia, but with mom's form her semantic memory is affected. This type of memory is responsible for giving meanings to what symbols (visual) and words (auditory) represent. She is unable to identify memories of specific places simply by telling her the name of the place or showing her a picture. We have to dig a little deeper to reach those memories.

Perhaps taking a different approach would be helpful the next time around in showing her a book. Rather than making memories the focus, I will simply talk about the beauty of the pictures and try to get some dialogue on what she thinks or how she feels about it.

For my readers who have a loved one with dementia, you can find these books on Amazon. I am very curious to hear about others' experiences with these books. So if you do decide to order, let me know how it goes ;) I've attached the direct links here:

You can also visit the companies website directly:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Week 2 of Outside Help

Happy Monday everyone! I've been away for the past computer had a virus. Ugh! Finally got it all worked out.

Last week was mom's second week with a caregiver. She had Teresa come in on Wednesday and a new lady, I think her name was Christina, came in on Friday. I didn't meet Christina, it was kind of a last minute notification that they were sending someone out that morning. So my sister (also named Christina) met her that morning.

I was a little concerned that mom would not open the door for Teresa on Wednesday morning. So I called Teresa that morning to let her know that if mom did not answer she should give me a call and I would come over to let her in. I never received a call; I took that as a good sign that mom had opened the door.

I called mom later on in the day to see how it went with Teresa. After telling me, yet again, how she felt about having people over at her house with her ("I told your dad 'no' but he still said she had to come, I don't know why she needs to be here..."), mom finally perked up as she told me how "that girl" went for a walk with her.

"She really wanted to go for a walk too, but I don't know why she couldn't drive me so she walked with me to Kmart too and I got some of that really good laundry soap stuff too. And she says she visits other people too, that's her job, visiting people," she says, with amazement and awe in her voice.

I asked her some more questions about their visit and overall, mom seemed cheery about the whole experience.

"She helped with some of your dad's laundry too and wash a couple dishes too...she's a nice girl too..." mom continued.

Aside from the fact that mom just plain doesn't want anyone over there, she seems to do well while they are there. She gets aggravated when people are around, I think because she feels like she can't do her own thing (like run and hide in the office to play computer games, or nap in complete and utter peace and quiet), but I think deep down she likes having people there to visit with.

On Friday, I asked mom how she liked the new caregiver who came that day. Mom was elated to tell me that Christina let her make her her favorite sandwich: sliced turkey, American sliced cheese, sliced tomato, all layered on potato bread and smothered in mayo, mustard and submarine dressing. Mom always asks me I would like to have one her famous sandwiches because "it's so delicious and nutritious for my body." Well, mom was finally able to bond-this time with Christina-over their delicious sandwiches.

Today was my day to spend with mom. I've been trying to help my dad with some organization projects while I'm there, and mom is becoming increasingly resentful towards me for staying during her naptime. I feel like I'm pretty quiet, as are my boys (one naps and the other settles in with a movie during naptime), but if we are breathing then we are too loud for mom. She is fine during the rest of our visit, but the past couple of weeks (especially last week) she was very cranky with me when I left.

"I don't want you people here anymore! You don't support me and you're too noisy while I'm trying to sleep! You don't need to be here, no!"

I know better than to get offended; sometimes I question if I should really stay during her nap. But then I remind myself that I cannot give in to my toddler when he throws tantrums; it's no different for mom. Similarly, I sometimes wonder if we're jumping the gun and pushing a caregiver on her before there's a real need for it. But with the safety concerns we've had, I know that there's no better time to get started than the present. It helps relieve some stress and worry off my dad as well, both to have someone there to supervise mom as well as having people there to help with the housekeeping. She has been getting used to having people there, little by little, over the past several months. She may throw tantrums about it, but hopefully someday the tantrums will subside!

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Mother's Love

Nobody loves her children the way a mother does.

When a child wins a special award, or has exciting news to share, who is their biggest cheerleader? Mom.

When a child is hurt or sad, whose heart breaks the most with them? Mom.

Who is the person who loses sleep at night, either caring for a newborn baby or waiting up past curfew? Mom.

Who knows their strengths and weaknesses and loves them unconditionally; when a child is being bratty or naughy, who loves them despite it all?? Mom.

I've been reflecting on this a lot over the past couple of days. When my 7 year old rears her unpleasant attitude, stomping up the stairs while yelling snotty remarks and slamming her bedroom door, anyone else might say she's a brat. But I am her mom. I know her ins and outs. She might be a crank sometimes, but I also know she's a spunky, bright, compassionate, and loving little girl.

When my boys are coloring the toilet seats with my favorite lipstick, pulling the toilet paper off their rolls or smashing goldfish crackers in the carpet, some might call them troublemakers. But I am mom. I know that they are curious, imaginative and full of life!

When my teenagers argue with the rules or get attitude with me because I'm not giving into their wants, some may want to give them a good backhand! But I am mom. I know that they are exerting their independence and discovering who they are. And I love them still.

Nobody is more excited, happy, disappointed, worried, concerned, hopeful or full of love for my kids than I am.

Nobody can love her children the way a mother does.

For me, that one person who loved me most is now gone. Gone is my cheerleader, my confidant, my shoulder to cry on. I try no to dwell on it too much. I try to focus on the positive and remember my mom the way she was. I am fortunate to have a small group of close friends and a couple of Aunts who are there for me to vent to, cry to and share my joys with. One Aunt, in particular, calls me every week just to see how I'm doing. When she knows I'm having a bad week, she will send me cards or even gifts. I'm lucky to have that kind of support in my life.

Still, I miss my mom, particularly when life gets rough. February was a tragic month for me and for my family in general. I won't go into details of the events of the month, but it has been one of the most emotionally trying times requiring me to witness and do some of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It's times such as these that I miss my mom the most. She would've had just the right words to say. She would have been there to hug me and comfort me and hold my hand through everything-and not just for me, but for everyone.

And so, as I work through my grief and pain and disappointments in life, I miss my mom. I don't think that ache in my heart will ever go away. But I do also count the many blessings I have. I am lucky to have an extremely supportive husband, who encourages me and loves me despite all my weaknesses. I am lucky to have one of the most awesome dads on the face of this Earth. I am lucky to have great family members and friends who are there for me, to bring me dinners in those times of tragedies, to help with my kids, to lend a listening ear when I need it, to get me out for a girl's night when I need it most and to be excited with me when something good happens. And most of all, I am lucky to be a mom and to have these beautiful children to give my unconditional love to. I realize now more than ever how much I need to be there for them, especially when they feel they have nowhere else to turn.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our First Caregiver

Over the past several months I have been in contact with the Alzheimer's Association. I have only good things to say about them. In this difficult journey, they were one of the few people that we have come across that I have felt really care about our situation and are trying to help us find some relief to our dilemmas. I had called them several months ago about resources for support groups in my area. About a month later, a woman called me back just to check in and see if the resources they gave were helpful. As we talked more, the issue came up about our dilemma with a caregiver. We were having some concerns about mom being left alone all day long and the main issue with hiring a caregiver is the cost. After a couple months of working with us, including a home evaluation, it was determined that we are eligible to receive some assistance with a program they have for respite care. It's only for a couple of months (and then I suppose we'll have another evaluation to see if we can stay on the program) and it only offers 30 hours a month, but that is perfect for our needs at this time. As it is, I go over on Mondays, my Aunt and Uncle go over on Tuesdays, and another Aunt goes over on Thursdays. This leaves Wednesdays and Friday open for mom to cause trouble with nobody around ;)

Today was our first day with a caregiver. Teresa is scheduled to come for a few hours on Wednesdays-mostly to supervise and make sure mom is safe. She will also do some light cleaning and cooking if we need her to. My dad tried explaining the idea of a caregiver to mom. She, as expected, was very resistant.

"No, I don't need anyone over here, no. I don't know why you want anyone here, no. I'm fine, I don't need help."

Dad asked if I would be available to go over this morning to be there when the new caregiver arrived and help mom settle in to her new routine. I told him of course, I would be there.

I arrived to mom's house a little before 10:00 am to talk to mom and remind her what was going on for the day. As usual, when I got there mom was locked away in her room. I knocked on her bedroom door and she didn't respond. I put my ear to the door and heard the shower running, so I gave her a few minutes to finish getting cleaned up.

Just before 10:00 am, Teresa (the caregiver) rang the bell and she came inside the house as we made introductions. I liked her right away-and not just because she's Portuguese (turns out her mom has the same maiden name as mine...I knew it as soon as she pronounced our family name in the proper Portuguese language, which nobody has ever done before! We connected instantly ;)) Right away I could tell that she was a kind and caring person, as I was further able to see in her interaction with mom. After talking for a few minutes with Teresa and giving her some background on mom, I excused myself to go check on my mom. I walked down the hall and knocked on her door. No answer. I knocked several times and called her name loudly. Still no answer. After several minutes of this, I decided I should get the bedroom key and make sure that she was okay in there. I fumbled through a set of keys, trying each one until finally one key unlocked the door. I turned the knob and called mom's name as I went in, announcing my entry into her bedroom. I found her poking her head out of the wooden, sliding bathroom door, towel wrapped around her hair, as she stared at me.

"What? Don't come here, I'm naked. Do you want to see my weird, different body?" she said, emerging from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel.

"It's okay, I'm not looking mom," I said, turning my direction away from her so that she would know I was NOT interested in seeing her in the nude.

"I just wanted to let you know that someone is here to see you," I told her.

"Oh I wanted to show you something too..." Mom rushed over to her bathroom counter and pulled out 2 boxes of Revlon hair dye. She wanted to know if the 2 colors she picked out were okay; Friday is hair dyeing day because it has to be done exactly every 8 weeks. Despite my efforts to talk to her about Teresa, mom was focused only on the hair dye and wasn't hearing a word I had to say. Finally, after about 5 minutes of rambling, I was able to get her attention. She narrowed her eyes at me and her demeanor changed instantly when she figured out what I was trying to say.

"No, I already told your dad last night, no. I don't want anybody over here. I don't understand why he thinks I need someone here, no. Tell her no. No."

"Mom, she's already here, she's not leaving yet. She's not leaving until 1:00."

She continued to object, "No. I'm not even ready for anything, no. I have other things to do too," she argued, trying to make herself seem busy as she picked a few things up off her bed.

After a few minutes going back and forth, I finally told her,

"Mom, she is here now. Finish getting ready; do your hair and make-up and then come out and meet her and see what you think."

And with that, I walked out of her room and left her to finish readying herself. About 20 minutes later, I heard her footsteps coming down the hall. She practically glared at Teresa, as Teresa said "hi" in a friendly voice and introduced herself. She held out her hand to shake mom's as mom stood there; she did not return the handshake.

"I already told my husband I don't need anybody over here. I don't know why you're here, I don't want anyone here. I like to be by myself sometimes in the day too," she protested.

Without skipping a beat, Teresa said,

"Your hair looks so pretty. You look really nice, did you just finish your hair?"

Mom's frown quickly turned to a smile as she realized the compliment Teresa had given her.

"Oh, yeah. But I'm going to dye it on Friday," she said, glancing at herself in the mirror which hung right above the seat on the couch where Teresa sat.

The two talked for a few minutes; Teresa asking her some questions and mom talking about whatever subject was on her mind, mostly about how funny and weird she looks now and how she used to think she was "such a cuter young girl". We got up and followed mom into the kitchen and Teresa asked her if she could make her something to eat. I quickly filled Teresa in on her eating schedule-mom wouldn't be ready to eat until 12:00.

For the next hour, I stood by as Teresa and mom became familiar with one another. Mom talked about her usual topics; Teresa doesn't know any better (for now) and just listened with great interest. After Teresa complimented a picture of mom's parents, which was sitting atop an end table, mom took that as a cue and led Teresa down the hall to show her more pictures of her family. In no time, she was talking about her relatives who were Mormon pioneers. I was in the living room, but heard Teresa remark,

"My sister-in-law is Mormon."

Mom didn't seem to hear. I rushed over to her, knowing a friendship was about to be forged, and tried to redirect mom's attention to what Teresa had just said.

"Mom, did you hear what she said? She said her sister-in-law is Mormon." I repeated this a few times, standing directly in front of mom's face and making eye contact. She finally caught on to my words and became excited at what I said. A connection had been made!

"It's really such a really good religion and there's such really good people there too. It's one of the best religions too and I was wondering if you would ever wanna be baptized too?" she asked her at one point during the conversation. I stood by, shaking my head and laughing. Teresa was a great sport and did very well conversing with mom.

After about an hour, I could see that mom was settling in and starting to feel more comfortable with Teresa. I figured, at that point, that it would be okay for me leave. Teresa reassured me that they would be fine and mom seemed fine with me leaving as well. I told her I loved her and that I would see her later.

I called my mom later this afternoon, just as my dad had gotten home and asked mom about the day's events. I asked him how she felt about Teresa and he said that mom was quick to let him know that she doesn't need her there every week. She wants time to be alone and do her own thing (probably to play on the computer without someone looking over her shoulder) and she doesn't understand why she has to be there. I'm wondering how it went after I left (I suppose I'd have to call Teresa to find out the truth about that!) I envision my mom telling her that it's time for her to go because it's her naptime and not to bother coming back. Sorry mom, but I think Teresa's gonna be around for a while ;)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Happy Anniversary

As you many have read from my post last Thursday, my parents just celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary. My dad wrote a very heartfelt tribute for the occassion, found here, about their journey together over the years.

They celebrated their special day by going out to dinner. I'll give you one guess as to which restaurant they went to. For those avid followers of my blog, you've probably guessed by now: Outback Steakhouse (if you guessed Miguels you were close...but Outback is for a more celebratory occassion). Sadly, mom is having trouble remembering the name of her favorite restaurant these days. But dad knew where she'd want to go before she even asked him to "take me to that really good place I like, that one that has that meat."

A couple of days before their anniversary, I came home from dropping off kids at school to find a message on my machine.

"Oh, it's mom and I wanted you to take me to the Dollar Tree place cuz they have cards and things there too and I want to go for-to get a card for your dad."

When I heard the message, I knew I wouldn't be able to work on her timeline to take her (which would be at that very moment) so I put off calling her back. I figured I would call her later in the day when I was ready to go that direction to the grocery store. Mom beat me to the punch and called me again shortly after 3:00, just as I was getting ready to head out the door.

"Cassandra, did you get my message?? I really need to go to the Dollar Tree so please can you take me sometime?"

"As a matter of fact I am going out the door right now to the grocery store. I can pick you up now and take you," I responded (a couple of times).

Finally, she replied emphatically,

"What? You mean you can take me right now? Oh good! Let me just go put on my bra and I can go. Yeah. Oh good!"

I hung up the phone, laughing of course.

I drove the mile down the road to mom's house and as I pulled in the driveway, I could see her waiting for me on the couch, peering out the window in anticipation (this is our normal routine whenever I pick her up to go somewhere). She closed the blinds and came out the front door. As she practically skipped down the driveway, wind blowing her bangs back, she had a huge grin on her face, ear to ear. You would've thought I was taking her Disneyland.

"Oh I'm so glad you're able to take me dear, thank you so much for taking me. They have such really good cards at the Dollar Tree..." she talked my ear off for the next minute and a half that it took to arrive to the Dollar Tree, telling me about all the cards she needed to get and what a great price they were there.

She insisted that I drop her off and begin my shopping at the grocery store, located next door to the Dollar Tree. I am always a little hesistant about leaving her alone in a store; mostly because I'm afraid that she won't be able to communicate with others if needs be and that people will look at her strangely or treat her badly for her odd behavior. But since she was only going for the card, and I was right next door, I figured it would be okay.

In no time, I saw her briskly walking down the aisle of the grocery store where I was selecting my pasta for the evening's meal.

"See what I got? This one that says this, 'you're my husband and my best friend'", she said proudly, showing me the card she had selected.

"That one is perfect mom," I said.

We continued around the store, mom grabbing a bag of fritos for herself as I finished my shopping trip. For once, she wasn't rushing me or asking me when I was ready to go (okay...take that back, she did ask one time if I was almost done). But she seemed content to walk with me as I finished my chore.

On the drive home, she thanked for me taking her to the Dollar Tree and urged me not to say a word about it to my dad.

"I'm gonna surprise him with this too so I don't want him to know I got it so don't tell him that you took me, okay Dear?" she said with a childlike innocence that brought a tear to my eye. It was clear that this card for my dad meant a lot to her. And in her mind, it was going to mean a lot to my dad (and I'm sure it did...he's a simple guy to please!)

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful parents who have truly shown me what real love looks like. I hope they both had a lovely evening and that mom enjoyed her delicious dinner at Outback Steakhouse.