Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Birthday Card Stock Up

Mom might not remember much about holidays, but the one thing she does remember is birthdays. Somehow, she can remember everyone's birthday and she always has a card ready for the birthday person weeks, sometimes even months, before their special day. I know it really brings a smile to our family member's faces when mom has a card for them on their birthdays.

Yesterday I had the fun job of taking mom to the Dollar Tree to stock up on her birthday cards FOR THE YEAR. When dad asked me if I would do it, I didn't think it was any big deal. I told him to tell her to be ready a little bit early (10:15) so we would have time to walk up there, since she is obsessed with walking wherever she wants to go.

I arrived at mom's house at 10:00 and she had barely gotten out of the shower. By the time she was ready to go it was 10:45 and we didn't really have time to walk up there and back, seeing how I have to get my son from Kindergarten at noon. But mom was insistent that she walk at least a portion of the way. So I let her walk up to the corner of the street, where she then got in my car and drove the rest of the way to the Dollar Tree.

Once at the Dollar Tree, mom went straight to the aisle of cards, her birthday/anniversary list in hand. She had her list categorized by each month, with each of her family member's names next to the month that their birthday fell in. On her list were kids, grandkids, one childhood friend, Cheryl, one niece, all of her brothers and sisters, some of their spouses, and most of my dad's siblings (and some of their spouses). There were a few people she forgot on the list, but I noticed those are the sisters-in-law that live farther away who we rarely see. At the top of the paper she wrote down a few names to remember for anniversaries: Joe and Natalie, Jeff and Starla, Cassandra and Jeff (don't ask me why she didn't list my sister or any of her other siblings). There were nearly 30 names in all on her list.

For the next 40 minutes, mom went from one aisle of cards to the next (the men's cards and anniversary cards were on the back side of the aisle rack with the women's and valentine's cards). She went from one side to the other, going down her list one-by-one (in order), looking for a card for each person in the various card sections. I bounced between attempting to help mom and confiscating toys that my two year old would pick up and try to open from the nearby toy aisle.

"George...who's George, who did I mean here, George..." mom mumbled, studying her list intently.

"Mom, George...he's dad's brother, your brother-in-law," I explained.

We went through this a few times throughout the trip as I tried really hard to keep patient and explain who each person was (all the while rangling a restless little boy). When she really got "stuck", I picked up a card for her. Of course, it couldn't be just any card. It had to have the word "sister" or "grandson" or "brother" written on the front of the card or else it was no good. But that was her only requirement. When we made our way to "June", mom immediately searched for the "grand-daughter" section of cards. Both myself and my two siblings each have a daughter born within 4 days of eachother in June! As soon as mom found the cards with the word "grand-daughter" written across the top, she counted out three cards, without reading anymore, and put them in her basket. She didn't open a single card up to read the inside. In fact, she picked up an anniversary card for one of the couples which was intended to be from one spouse to another. When she wasn't looking I switched it out for her, ha ha.

I thought card shopping would be a piece of cake. But nothing about dementia is a piece of cake! Aside from splitting my attention between my 2-year-old and 52-year-old, mom had absolutely no concept of the time. I mentioned earlier that I had a Kindergartener to pick up from school at noon. Mom was beginning to stress me out after 40 minutes of picking out cards. Twice, she stopped to count how many cards she had...all 30 of them. And then she had to compare that to the number of names she had written on her list. Meanwhile, I was looking at my clock and letting mom know that I had to leave very soon. I was afraid she'd never finish in time!

"Mom, we need to go. I have to get Cody from school; we need to get in line..." I said, getting the same response from mom as I would have expected to get from the wall.

No matter how many times I said it, mom simply couldn't comprehend (or seem to hear) me telling her that it was time to go. By the time I got her to the line, there were five people ahead of me. Another teller finally opened up another register, and the lady in front of me (who apparently caught on to my struggle) told me to go ahead of her. I was able to get mom home and over to the school just in the nick of time to get my son from school, but talk about cutting it close! I think I'm going to have to rethink taking her out shopping on Monday mornings!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mom’s Haircut Day

Today was mom’s long awaited haircut day. She’s been nagging me for weeks to take her in, not understanding that “that girl” Crystal (her hair stylist for the past 20+ years) has been on vacation. When I arrived at mom’s house this morning she greeted me at the door (I can’t even remember the last time that happened!!) and was eager to head out the door.

You know that old saying about kids, “you can dress them up but you can’t take them out?” Yeah. That was my mom today.

When we arrived at the salon, Crystal was finishing up on another client; a lady who was probably in her late 50’s. Crystal was curling the back of her short hair, flipping up the ends. It reminded me of the way mom used to style her hair, about 10-15 years ago. I loved that hairstyle on mom. Mom, however, was not impressed with this lady’s hair. As she sat, waiting in a chair behind Crystal, an amused grin spread across her face and she started shaking her head. She turned to me, still grinning and pointed to Crystal’s client, saying (in a very non-whispering voice),

“I don’t like her hair, no. That looks so weird, I don’t know why older women like to wear their like that too, I don’t think it looks so good.”

My eyes popped open wide and I quietly shook my head at mom and put my finger to my lips to signal her to quiet down. Mom wasn’t reading my cues. She got up from her seat and walked closer to where I was sitting.

“Even some women at church do their hair like that too but I don’t like that. I don’t think it looks so good…” she went on.

Crystal glanced over at me with a little smirk in the corners of her mouth. I prayed the woman in the chair didn’t hear but knew that was very unlikely. Hopefully she could sense something was a little “off” with my mom and didn’t have hurt feelings about it.

When it was mom’s turn in the chair, she instructed Crystal about how she liked her hair (no really long pieces in her eyes, she likes the back of her neck shaved, she doesn’t like any stray hairs sticking up, etc) and she made some of her usual small talk with Crystal. I’ve noticed over the past couple of months that mom has some short hairs sticking up on the center top of her head. I asked her once if she had tried cutting some of those wild hairs, to which she replied,

“I don’t cut my hair no. I go to that girl.”

I’ve been trying to solve the mystery of how mom’s hairs are so short on the top of her head. Another thought I came up with was that maybe she had gotten the blow dryer too close. Crystal noticed the hairs also and asked mom if she had tried cutting her hair. After getting her to understand the question, mom finally replied,

“I get hairs that stick up here too, yeah. I don’t like these hairs like this too, see?”

She held several strands of hair, maybe 10 or so, and held them up to demonstrate how she doesn’t like her hair sticking up, and then she pulled the clump out of her head. Mystery solved.

“Oh no, don’t pull your hairs out,” Crystal replied to mom. She tried to redirect mom and teach her not to pull out her hair. She worked patiently to show mom how to spray down the hairs on her head, by putting some spray on her hand and gently rubbing it across her hair, so that they wouldn’t stick up. It was very sweet that she was so patiently trying to help mom. Sadly, I think her efforts were in vain; mom is un-teachable.

While Crystal finished curling up mom’s hair, mom suddenly blurted out,

“Do you still get periods so severely? I still get them so severe even though my mom and my sister stopped having theirs in their 50’s but I don’t know why I get them so severe…”

On and on she went, talking about her period for the next 5 minutes. I was so embarrassed that I could only laugh. Crystal just chuckled and talked back with mom as if she were talking about the weather.

Finally, Crystal was done curling mom’s hair. She fluffed it up and it looked so cute; then she began spraying her hair. But mom could only see the one rogue hair atop that head of hers. She grabbed the bottle of hairspray from Crystal, held it one inch away from her hair and began plastering her hair with the spray.

“Let me show you, this is what I do, see? I do it like this so it stays down.”

Crystal’s eyes bulged just a little bit as she witnessed mom’s hair process (this was probably a hairstylists nightmare! ha ha) but all we could do was sit back and chuckle.

I told mom she looked pretty and tried to get a picture of her. Crystal got in beside her and urged her to take a picture with her. She doesn’t really understand the concept of pictures anymore; this was all I could get.


On another note…I think it’s time to get those “oops” cards out again!!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Helping Grandma

There are days that I lament about my kids not having a grandma in the way that I had a grandma, and there are days that I am grateful for the lessons that my children are learning in this journey. Not that I would ever intentionally choose this for them; I long for them to know my mom and for her to be a grandma to them. After my mom was diagnosed, I was determined that I would do my best to learn and to grow and make myself a better person despite going through this devastating challenge. I am determined to pass that attitude onto my children as well.

I am so proud of my little people. For all of the moments of frustration that I have with them, there are many sweet and tender moments as well. This week I was able to witness some of those moments as we took care of grandma. It’s not easy for kids to give up their playtime during school breaks to work (especially teenagers!). But I didn’t really give them an option, either. They know that Mondays are our days to help grandma.

I expected some moaning and groaning as we left to grandma’s Monday morning, but much to my great surprise, the kids (particularly the little kids) were happy and anxious to help out. They got right to work sweeping floors while the teenage girls cleaned up the kitchen and did some dusting. The little kids worked especially hard cleaning up the leaves that those lovely Santa Ana winds brought in. They never complained; in fact it was just the opposite. They were delighted to surprise grandpa with a clean yard and expressed that they felt really good about helping out and giving service.

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When grandma sprinted up the street to “Avon Lady’s” house, the kids knew right what to do. They chased after grandma and took her hand, walking (or jogging, rather) beside her the rest of the trip.

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I am thankful for these sweet children who are learning so many lessons of love, compassion, acceptance, service…Though they miss out on the ideal grandma experience, they are learning and growing in ways that they might not in another scenario.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Thank You


I’m a little late on this post. But I wanted to extend a sincere thank you to all of those who ordered from last month’s fundraiser. The English toffee was a huge success. I received over 30 pounds in orders and over $400 was raised. That’s a good start! This month we will be searching more diligently for a caregiver. It’s going to cost a pretty penny and I’m happy to be able to help my dad with whatever I can. So many of you have contributed and are helping us to make it possible to keep my mom at home. The English Toffee tastes amazing, but I know many of you ordered simply to be able to help and it means more than you know!

And thank you to my sister, Christina, for helping me make some of this toffee. Don’t be fooled by the picture…my brother only helped in taste testing. Ha ha. Thank you to my wonderful sister-in-law, Natalie, who grated all of the chocolate bars (for the last batches) for me, even though standing on her feet at 30 weeks pregnant wears her out. That is my least favorite part of making the toffee. I appreciated the help!


During the holiday season, I always like to stop and think about my blessings. Of course I do this all year round, but most especially at Christmas time. Though the journey is hard, we do have a lot to be thankful for. There are many people who give up their time to come over and “babysit” my mom. Others have taken it upon themselves to come over and mow my dad’s yard, do some light housekeeping or drop by meals now and then, just to make the burden a little bit lighter. You all know who you are. I am thankful for each one of you for helping to lighten our load. There’s no way I can ever repay your kindness, except to return this service to others along the road. Thank you all for everything you do.

And now…it’s time to think about my next fundraiser. I have something awesome in mind; I need to work out the details. It’s big, and I worry so much about failure. But one can never succeed without trying! Many people have contacted me asking me if they can help. I am always open to suggestions!

Thank you all again!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mom's New Reading Glasses

One thing dementia will teach you is how to have a sense of humor.

Mom gave us a pretty good laugh tonight at family dinner. As we gathered at my house and worked together preparing our meal, mom found her usual place at my computer to play her favorite games. She was quite disgruntled that her reading glasses were left behind at her house. She asked me if I had glasses for her. I've worn glasses since the first grade, but they are way too strong of a prescription to meet mom's basic reading-glasses need. I told her no and we all continued about our business. I ran upstairs for something and my husband came upstairs and told me I had to go back down and look at my mom.

And this is how I found her at the computer.

Yep. Mom is a problem solver. And when she has her mind set on something, she doesn't give up! She found my sunglasses and thought they were reading glasses. Nevermind the darkness inside my already dimly lit house. We were all cracking up at mom's new reading glasses. After a while, mom took them off, noting that they were "too strong" for her. Ha ha. Thanks for the laugh tonight, mom. We love you!