Archive | July, 2011

52 FEATS – NUMBER 30 (Getting My Affairs in Order)

29 Jul

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

UPDATE (Friday):

Well, I’m just about finished with getting everything in order:

1) My will is still good.  It’s not very old, and we haven’t changed our minds about who will get our kids when we die, or about who we want to take care of our estate (i.e., our giant mountain of bills).  So nothing to do there – it goes back into the safe.

2) I finished filling out an advance directive.  I printed out the one specific to Texas from the website www.caringinfo.org.  It was pretty complicated to read at times, but it basically boiled down to a few key points: who do you want to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself (my husband, with my parents as back-ups), do you want your body to be kept alive even if there’s no chance of you recovering (I don’t), and do you want to donate your organs (hell yes I do).  I just have to either get it notarized or have 2 witnesses sign it (one cannot be the person who will make the decisions about my health once I’m gone, nor can it be anyone affiliated with the doctor or hospital where I might be).  Then I’ll stash the original in my safe and send a copy to my parents.  It looks like that’s all there is to it.

3) I almost forgot – yes, I have a life insurance policy.  It’s not much, but I don’t want to spend any more money per month than I absolutely have to, so I’m not changing it.  It will be enough to pay for my cremation and memorial buffet, with some left over for lots of tissues, since I know all of you will miss me!

At least I know that if something happens to me, I can still have a say in what happens to my body and my children.  I suppose that’s the best that anyone can do.

ABOUT FEAT NUMBER 30:

What a week it’s been.  After fighting cancer for almost 4 years, a friend of mine passed away last Tuesday at the much-too-early age of 41.  On the same day, my great-aunt, who was 93, also died.  Hers was a very different story, of course – she was very old and had told everyone she was ready to go for the last few years.  But both people had one advantage over most of us: they had enough time and advance notice to get their affairs in order.  Wills, funeral details (down to the dress my great-aunt was buried in), bequeathments – everything was decided.

And then there’s the haunting story of Shannon Stone, who recently died from injuries he sustained when he fell over a railing while catching a ball at the Ballpark in Arlington.  I’m sure everyone knows about this story, so I won’t go into details about it.  Let’s just say it was a freak accident that demonstrates how little control anyone really has over their destiny.  You may be diagnosed with cancer and given 6 months to live, but what if you’re hit by a bus tomorrow?  What if the time you think you have – the time we all assume will be there – just doesn’t happen?

This week, I’m going to “get my affairs in order,” as the saying goes.  I have a will, but I haven’t reviewed it in quite a while.  I need to make sure everything is accurate and up-to-date, especially with regard to my children.

I also want to make sure my loved ones – and not just my husband – know what my wishes are in the event of my death.  (For the record: I’d like to donate every scrap of organs or tissue that anyone might be able to use, and cremate the rest.  Have a memorial service if you want, just make sure there’s a buffet.)

I’m also going to fill out an advance directive, also known as a living will.  In case you’ve never heard of one, here is the definition according to Wikipedia:

An advance health care directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, or advance decision, are instructions given by individuals specifying what actions should be taken for their health in the event that they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity, and appoints a person to make such decisions on their behalf.  A living will is one form of advance directive, leaving instructions for treatment.  Another form authorizes a specific type of power of attorney or health care proxy, where someone is appointed by the individual to make decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated.  People may also have a combination of both.  It is often encouraged that people complete both documents to provide the most comprehensive guidance regarding their care.

Apparently, you don’t need an attorney to draw up an advance directive – you can simply download one for your state from the internet, fill it out, and you’re good to go.  I’ll let you know how that goes once I do it this week.

Need help doing a will?  Don’t wait – and leave things to chance – just because you can’t afford an attorney.  There are websites (like http://www.legalzoom.com) where you can do a will on the cheap.  It’s better than not having one.

Hopefully none of us will need these documents any time soon, but we might breathe a little easier knowing we have them.  And if we can also make things easier for our families once we’re gone, that will be worth it.

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Creating Kindergarten Memories – for Mom

28 Jul


ACK – my first child is about to start kindergarten!  I’m completely freaking out, of course.  But the good news is, he’s so excited he can hardly stand it.  He’s constantly asking me to remind him when the first day is – he can’t wait!

Besides the obvious question of what to do with myself (and my tears) on his first day of school, I’ve been brainstorming about what I can do to make the first day of kindergarten really memorable for him.  Can’t get a special outfit – his school wears uniforms.  Can’t go out for a special breakfast – his school starts really early.  I guess I can just take lots of pictures and tell him I’m so excited for him!  Hopefully just walking into his new school with me, his dad, and his sister will be memorable enough.

My aunt does this really cute – and simple – thing each year.  On the first day of school, she takes a picture of her kids standing on the front porch of their house right before they leave in the morning.  Every year it’s the same setting, same picture – but you get to see from year to year how the kids are growing.

I would also like to create a memory notebook for Kindergarten (and for every year at school).  I don’t really want to buy a pre-made one – I just like the idea of having a simple 3-ring notebook where I can store his artwork and any other special items from the school year.  A friend of mine’s son was at an amazing preschool last year.  The teachers created a notebook for each child, commemorating his or her year.  The notebooks contained pictures, drawings, questionnaires – they were adorable!  I’ve been thinking of a few things to put in my son’s notebook on the first day of school that might be interesting to look back on at the end of the year:

a hand tracing

a photo (of him, of his teacher)

favorite books, tv shows, movies

favorite color

friends’ names

3 things he wants to learn during the school year

height/weight

handwriting sample

Any other suggestions?  Yes, I realize that this is mostly about creating memories for ME.  But I can’t help it – my brain is getting slower and my kids are growing faster!

Chew on This

27 Jul

Not too long ago, my husband and I took the children away for the weekend.  While family babysat the kids, my husband and I stole away for a jet ski ride on the lake.  As we were floating around, something caught our eye.

We moved in and upon closer inspection, observed two dead fish, forever connected.  One larger fish had attempted to ingest another fish that turned out to be too big.  The larger one had the other one in its mouth, belly up.  It had apparently choked while trying to eat the other fish.  It was the ultimate depiction of the old saying, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”  I immediately thought “Darwinism.”

Then my husband and I were both kicking ourselves for not having a camera.  We always have our phones, and yet this time, were left unable to show everyone what we had seen.  It would have been an epic picture for the fail blog (http://failblog.org/)!

Because I don’t believe in coincidences, I was left for days pondering the purpose of witnessing that display.  I meditated about it: nothing.  I talked about it: nothing.  I journaled about it: nothing.  Then one day when I was nursing the baby, BAM it hit me.  It was the perfect metaphor for what I’m trying to get away from in my life: taking on too much; always saying yes even when I want to say no; having a tendency to bite off more than I can chew.

My whole goal this year has been to simplify my life.  I got laid off.  I saw it as a blessing.  I cut down on activities for the kids.  I started meal planning.  I started clipping coupons.  I’ve cut back on my volunteer work.  I’m no longer the first one to offer to do something.  I have made a conscientious effort to be more active and playful with my children.  I meditate and practice reiki daily.  I started a garden and planted some fruit trees.  I started staying home more and spending less.  I started trying to live a more simple, sustainable life.

When I reflected honestly about my current life, I realized I still had room for improvement.  I was checking social networking sites all the time.  I was answering my cell phone anytime it rang; sending and receiving texts all the time.  I wasn’t always “present” with the people I love who were right in front of me.  I actually had a vision of what was to come.  I saw my girls sitting around the dinner table.  My life had slowed down considerably, and theirs had sped up.  While I wanted to have a quiet, peaceful dinner, they were wanting to text on their phones and were completely distracted.  I didn’t like seeing my kids like that and it occurred to me that what I am doing now is no different.  Kids emulate the behaviors they see.  When it comes to being present, I’m not always setting a good example.

I am still biting off more than I can chew.  Sometimes it takes an act of Nature to get us to realize what’s right in front of our faces.  I’m just grateful that I have the awareness to learn the lessons being presented.  I’m grateful for those small helpful reminders that put me back on the right path!

Kindergarten Readiness: Color Me Obsessed

26 Jul

Kindergarten starts in 23 days.  Not that I’m nervous—ha!  To assuage my anxiety, I’ve done a fair amount of reading on how best to prepare my 5-year-old son for full-time school.  Back in the dark ages when I was a kid, I stayed home with my mom until that fateful first day.  And then I only went mornings so I was home for lunch and naptime.  My teacher (the aptly named Mrs. Love) was more surrogate mother than demanding instructor.  It’s no wonder I loved school.

Fast forward to an era when Kindergartners log 35 hours a week in the classroom—and then have homework!  I knew I had a lot to learn about current expectations.

I came upon this tip sheet from National Kindergarten Preparedness, a resource site for parents and professionals.

Ten Steps Parents Need to Take to Prepare Preschoolers for Kindergarten Success

In order for children to be prepared for Kindergarten, children should be capable of the following skills:

Strong Communication Skills

Children need to be able to communicate their needs, verbally, in class and also follow the process in order to communicate, such as raising a hand and waiting to be called on.  Children will also have to share in small groups.

Ability to Listen

Children will need to be able to be quiet and listen to the teacher throughout most of the day.  If children have not learned to sit still and listen to directions, the child will have an adjustment period.

Follow Directions

From the time children are very young, they learn to follow basic directions, but once they reach their preschool years, they will need to be able to listen to several step directions and then follow the steps.  This is a skill that is easily practiced at home and during play.  Following directions will allow children to finish their work, learn the proper steps to doing an activity and how to order things.

Work with Peers

Most Kindergarten classes have time during the day when children will work in small groups or at stations.  As an example, there may be several reading groups in the class and small groups of children may work at the computer station or on a science activity together.  Kids will need to be able to take turns, speak to other children, and be patient.

Work Independently

Throughout the day, kids will need to work independently to get specific work done.  This will require children to listen, follow directions, and ask questions if they are not sure how to proceed.  They need to be able to write, practice tracing, cut/paste, or even use the computer on their own.

Fine-Motor Skills (pencil grip, cutting skills, picking up small items)

Children will begin using pencils in Kindergarten and will need to be able to cut with scissors, pick up small objects for counting, and begin writing every day in class.  The more practice a child has had cutting, holding a pencil, marker, or crayon, drawing, and picking up small objects, prior to beginning Kindergarten, the stronger his/her fine-motor skills will be for the increase in writing and fine-motor tasks they will be asked to do each day.

Basic counting

Although counting to 10 or 20 is not required to enter Kindergarten, knowing how to do some basic counting and manipulating of number objects will set a child up to begin the school year more prepared.  A child does not have to know a lot, but some very basic math concepts is a good starting place.

Basic Number and Letter Recognition

Children should be able to recognize all or most of their letters and numbers and write their name.  Those children that know their letters and numbers when they begin Kindergarten will be able to move onto reading much sooner than children that begin the year with no letter or number recognition.

Basic Life Skills (put on and take off jacket/backpack, zip jacket, put on gloves, hang up items)

Children who go to Kindergarten being able to put away and take on and off their jackets, hats, gloves, and backpacks will be more independent.  Also, if the majority of the class is able to do these basic things, the teacher will have to spend less time on getting kids started in the morning and ready to leave in the afternoon and be able to spend more time on valuable teaching opportunities.

Basic Computer Skills

Most classrooms have computers available for students to use.  Children are beginning to use computers even as toddlers, so children going to Kindergarten with basic mouse skills already have a beneficial skill that will set them up for school success.

For additional tips plus worksheets and more, visit www.NationalKindergartenReadiness.com.

Mighty Massage

21 Jul

July 17th-23rd is Everybody Deserves a Massage Week!  I don’t think I need to explain the benefits of massage to anyone reading this blog!  It’s rare that I have the time and money to receive a massage myself, but when I do, I cherish that time.  I dream about it beforehand, I get myself all psyched up about it, I relish it in the moment & even meditate if I can, and once it’s over, I daydream about going back again and try my best to make the effects last as long as possible!

In honor of Everybody Deserves a Massage Week, I wanted to blog about perhaps one of the best kept secrets in Arlington: Good Feet.  Good Feet is owned and operated by a family from China who specialize in reflexology.  It’s located on Matlock, south of I-20.

The ambiance is great.  It’s dimly lit, has soft music playing in the background, and there’s a big screen TV in front of the massage chairs.  The chairs are oversized stuffed leather with huge comfy arm rests.  The masseur prepares a warm water soak for your tootsies, then rubs in some oil, and gives a very relaxing deep tissue massage on the toes, feet, and legs.

The best part is- it’s only $30 for an entire hour of relaxation and massage!  You can add in a back/shoulder/neck massage for a few bucks more as well.  I loved it so much I bought a 90 minute package for my husband on the spot!

Where is your favorite place to get a massage?

That Bites! Pet Safety

20 Jul

A good friend’s son recently got a nasty bite on the hand from his Nana’s pooch, a typically well-behaved creature that weighs all of 9 lbs.  The bite required four stitches—and the nurse practitioner who stitched the kid up said he was lucky.

It makes you think.  My 5-year-old likes dogs.  We have a 16-lb. Shiba Inu (a puny relative of the Husky and Akita) who’s had her tail pulled, her ears tugged and been teased.  She’s nipped Chip a couple of times—and I can hardly say I blame her for it!  None of the bites has occurred in a vacuum; each can be traced to something my son’s done.

Then I read this story from UT Southwestern Medical Center, which includes Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.  And now I’m worried:

Dog bites occur more often than pet owners might realize.  An estimated 4.7 million people are bitten each year.  Children are the most common victims, and summer is the most common season for these incidents.

“It’s surprising how many times it occurs, and the majority of dog bites aren’t from strays,” says Dr. Ron Hoxworth, a plastic surgeon at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

He said dogs by nature remain territorial, especially when eating, and young children are both unpredictable in their actions and less able to protect themselves.

Children are often bitten on the face, which can result in severe lacerations, infection and permanent scarring.  In 2010, most of the nearly 33,000 reconstructive procedures from dog bites were performed on children.

Dr. Hoxworth recommends the following precautions:

• Watch your children carefully around dogs, even family pets.

• Make sure kids avoid getting close to a pet when it is eating.

• Keep children’s immunizations and pet vaccinations up to date.

• Don’t delay treatment if a bite occurs.  If severe bleeding results, take your child to a hospital emergency room immediately.

I am open to suggestions on how to approach pet safety—at home and out in the community!  It’s a discussion our household needs to have asap!

52 FEATS – NUMBER 29 (Limiting Screen Time)

18 Jul

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

I admit, ours is a household full of electronics.  We have 4 TVs with cable.  We have a 5th TV with a built-in DVD player mounted on the wall in our bathroom – yes, you read that right!  We have a Wii, a PS3, and an Xbox 360.  The kids have their own computer.  My son has his own Nintendo DS.  I have a laptop, my computer geek husband has a desktop computer (with multiple monitors) and a laptop.  Plus, we each own iPhones AND iPads.  SHEESH.

And yet, even with all that access to technology, we limit our kids’ screen time.  I’m sure all parents know that according to most research, TV is turning kids into obese, stupid people with social and behavioral problems.  So it almost seems like a no-brainer these days to NOT let kids veg out in front of the boob tube for too long.  My husband and I do allow our kids to watch TV or play on the computer, but we don’t leave it them all day long.  Nor is our son allowed to play his DS any time he wants.  Both kids have to ask for screen time, and we give it to them in (usually) small doses.  Sometimes we just say no.

Last week was a very rough week for me – I was floating around in a daze most of the time.  Turning on the TV or a video game was just about the only bit of parenting I could muster, and both my kids ended up almost as zombified as I was, from WAY too much screen time.  I felt guilty about it, especially because it was my daughter’s first time at a day camp and I had been really looking forward to some one-on-one time with my son.  (We did start a model truck, but we’ve got a LONG way to go to finish it!)

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours per day of screen time for kids – and none for kids under age 2.  I’m not necessarily shooting for NO screen time this week (the kids will wonder why they’re being punished!), but I am going to reign it in substantially.  When kids are watching TV, they’re missing out on so many other experiences and opportunities – not the least of which is figuring out how to entertain themselves if Mom is too busy to come up with an activity for every minute of the day.

So far today, we haven’t turned on anything with a screen, and no one has even noticed.  The kids are playing together in one of their bedrooms and I’m on my computer, uninterrupted.  Who needs TV?  This is paradise!

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