You’re only as happy as your least happy child…

I got a call from my daughter today who was extremely upset. It tears at my heart. I don’t think our kids truly understand how our hearts hurt when they they are suffering. The call reminded me that I wrote about this years ago when my son was close to finishing his college years and was going through a rough time.

Now it’s my daughter’s turn. I hope I was helpful on the phone. I hope she gets through this period of her life where she’s facing hurdles. All I can do is listen. Hopefully, it’s enough that she knows I love her.

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My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

This is what I wrote five years ago:

“You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” I heard a friend say this recently. I do believe it’s true. When you see your kids happy, you’re happy, too. When they are smiling and proud of their accomplishments or in love, we feel thrilled for them.

On the flip side, when they’re struggling, we have an ache in our hearts.

My son had a horrific last week of college, but managed to get through it alive. I got several phone calls where he wasn’t sure if he’d make it. He had five papers to write, plus finals, and I doubt he slept much.

I kept telling him using a swim race analogy, “You’re under the flags. Keep going. You can do it.”

I also received relieved phone calls as each hurdle was overcome. Today, he’s coming home for a brief stop before he starts his new life. I’m a worrier and I’m wondering how is he sleeping? How is he going to drive a U-Haul trailer with his worldly possessions up to his new life? How will he survive on his own?

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The city pool where my kids swam club and I swim masters.

My daughter was home for a week and it was a pure joy for me. She got me out of bed at 4:50 a.m. and drove me to swim practice. I loved the beauty of the early morning and the shifting lights in the water as the sun rose. By the time we were done, I felt elated. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. and I felt like I had accomplished so much. I hope to continue on with the early morning practices, although I must admit I’m back to my noon routine today. At least I’m going. Right?

Besides swimming, we hiked at the Tram, went shopping, got pedicures, went out to lunch and hung out together. The constant activity was different than my normal quiet writing days.

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Hiking on Mt.San Jacinto, PS Tramway.

I love having my kids home. But, I’m proud they have their own lives and are ready to take on the world without me.

P.S. On the last morning, my daughter, husband and I took a walk. We noticed we had company. Olive the cat followed quietly a few feet behind us. We’d stop to look at her and she’d look the other way. Finally, we stopped several blocks away to admire an apricot standard poodle. Olive decided that was enough. She stopped for good. When we returned home, several miles later, Olive was nowhere to be found. I retraced our steps and called “Here kitty, kitty.” She leaped out of the bushes across the street from where we saw the poodle. She was terrified and confused. She wouldn’t let me touch her but after one pitiful “meow” she followed me. When she finally recognized our neighborhood, her tail went up and she jetted all the way to our house leaving me behind.

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Olive the cat.

What are your thoughts about “You’re only as happy as your least happy child?” Do you think it’s true? Have you experienced sadness because your child is upset or unhappy?

The dog days of summer….

I was curious what I was up to a year ago — during day 139 of the COVID shutdown. I was reading a Julia Cameron book called “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again” trying to find motivation. I’m feeling lackadaisical just like I did last summer. Maybe it’s the prospect of more COVID mandates, getting back to my routine after being gone for a week — or maybe it’s just August. The dog days of summer.

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Waffles in the car with me when my daughter ran into my son’s house to retrieve my sweater.

What are the dog days of summer? I found this on Wikipedia:

The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius (known colloquially as the “Dog Star”), which Hellenistic astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.

It is hot, humid, we’ve had thunder storms. I’m lethargic. I don’t have a fever, I don’t see any mad dogs and I’m not buying into the bad luck. But otherwise the phrase “dog days of summer” fits.

Okay. About that bad luck. My daughter just called me and said she fell in the dark on her stairs last night trying to get Waffles back in the house. She broke her foot. Now she’s on crutches and trying to get in for an MRI appointment without missing any work. This means she can’t exercise, walk Waffles and will be struggling for weeks to come. I feel like I should be up there to help her. I am thinking this is not good for her mental or physical health.

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Selfies with Waffles while he’s intent on watching my daughter outside the car.

Are you feeling the dog days of summer? What are you doing to stay motivated?

Highlights of My Berkeley Week

I spent the week in Berkeley taking care of my son post surgery and hanging out with my daughter and my son’s girlfriend. I thought I’d have lots of time to write. I had two projects I thought I would make a dent in. Turns out I forgot about them all together. Between driving to the store for dry ice, ice, sweet cherries and walking to a local restaurant for chicken congee, I was out of time.

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This caught my eye walking to my son’s apartment.

I assisted my daughter as she replaced my son’s kitchen faucet. Boy, was I impressed she knew how to do that! I helped with laundry, trash and dishes duties. Plus, I helped my son with his sling, ice machine and meds and kept him hydrated and fed.

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A poster of a NY Times write up at the entrance of the best Korean restaurant I’ve ever been to.

The weather was gorgeous. I stayed in a cute airbnb that was one mile and a pretty walk to and from my son’s. I was two blocks from the Gourmet Ghetto, which is a fabulous place to eat. I had kimchee pancakes for the first time and the best Korean food I’ve ever had at Pyeyong Changand the best Thai food at Daughter Thai, both in Oakland.

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The entrance to my airbnb.

Twice my son and I attempted to hike Indian Rock. The first time was too soon and he had been off pain meds for 36 hours. That was a painful walk back to his house for him — and me! We made it yesterday and the views were spectacular. But we thought wisely to skip the actual climb up the rock and instead opted for the viewpoint in the park on the ground.

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Inside Daughter Thai — gorgeous restaurant and delicious food.

Now I’m sitting in the airport, ready to board my flight home.

Here are some more of my photos from the week:

My son and his girlfriend at Indian Rock Park.
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View from Indian Rock Park of San Francisco.
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My daughter giving Waffles his morning treat at a coffee shop on our way to the airport.

Back to Mom duties

Flowers in Berkeley. My daughter took this photo.

I’m on day two of being a mom full time and it’s exhausting. Yesterday was surgery day. We (my son, his girlfriend and me) drove across the Bay Bridge to a UCSF orthopedic surgery center before 8 a.m. We got our son tucked into bed by 3 p.m. In between, my son’s girlfriend and I had a wonderful breakfast and walked around the hills of Mission Bay. Then we drove to Hayes Valley and walked around some more looking at cute shops, the Opera House, San Francisco Ballet and City Hall.

Another one of my daughter’s photos.

I’m loving the cool weather. I’m loving the scenery and spending time with my kids, his girlfriend and siblings.

More Berkeley flowers.

The tiring part was waiting for surgery and feeling relieved but exhausted once it was over and we knew it was a success. I’m staying in an airbnb a mile from my son’s apartment. I walk over carrying a handbag and my computer. I feel like a pack mule on the way back. Yesterday, I logged in more than 26,000 steps. Most of that was the walking around during surgery, but still.

The mom duties include filling the ice cooling machine that wraps my son’s shoulder. Helping him in and out of his sling, buying food. Handing him meds. Helping his girlfriend with dishes and laundry. She’s working as hard as I am. I wondering why it takes two grown women to take care of my son? It’s not really that hard, but just constant every 20 minutes or so. Way more than what I’m used to.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am SO THANKFUL my son wants me here. And that I get to help him! His girlfriend is so wonderful to be with, too. Plus, my daughter and I get to walk Waffles the pug and have time together, as well.

I’m posting pictures of some of the gorgeous flowers I’ve seen on my walks around Berkeley.

Berkeley flowers.

What is it with pugs?

Waffles the pug
Waffles last July on our Park City vacation.

My daughter called at 8 a.m. yesterday freaked out because Waffles the pug wouldn’t eat breakfast. If you know anything about pugs this is a serious sign something is wrong. I asked if she’d taken him for a walk and if he’d eaten some grass. She said, yes, he ate grass and threw up but he was still obviously in distress.

I asked if she was taking him to the vet. She said they were on the way to the emergency hospital.

It was a long day. They didn’t see Waffles until 2 p.m. My daughter missed work as a tutor which made me nervous. She’s been at this job less than a month. But what choice did she have?

That evening she called me crying hysterically. Oh no. They gave Waffles an ultrasound and found a mass in his small intestine. It wasn’t moving so they’d have to operate. They also told her it was risky because he’s a pug and they don’t always do well with anesthesia. They said he’d die without the surgery.

I haven’t been this worried since Friday getting driving through the hail storm. But this was worse. What would happen to my daughter if Waffles didn’t make it?

Waffles had surgery last night. The surgery was successful. The object was a piece of wood. What is it with pugs having to put everything in their mouths? They think anything on the ground is food. They are 100% motivated by food.

Last year when Waffles was with us during COVID shut down he ate half a package of pork chops that my husband put in the sun to defrost — styrofoam and plastic wrap included. He ate poisonous berries from the ficus tree and ended up in the ER. When my daughter was in college, he ate an adderall one of my daughter’s college friends had dropped on the floor. Another ER visit.

Waffles the pug
Waffles the pug

It’s not like he’s not well taken care of, but he is incorrigible. It literally takes one second for him to put something he shouldn’t into his mouth while you’re not looking. My daughter is blaming herself. I’ve told her it’s not her fault.

I’m relieved Waffles survived surgery. But now he’s having trouble with congestion with his flat nose. They want to keep him longer because they have to siphon out his nose every few minutes. I’m hoping for the best for Waffles and my daughter.

What happens if the emotional support animal doesn’t make it? That’s a question I’ve wrestled with overnight. My son told me this morning, “My view of dog ownership is setting yourself up for heartbreak in nine or so years.” He’s got a point.

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Baby Waffles

And I was so excited….

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Me and my daughter at Pike Place Market during a mother daughter trip before COVID.

Today I had an appointment for a pedicure. The first one since January 2020. I really didn’t miss them that much during lockdown. I wouldn’t have bothered. But, we’re going to be visiting friends soon at Lake Tahoe and hang out at their house on the deck with lake views. We may be out on their boat and swimming. My feet and toes will be exposed for the world to see.

Yesterday when I went grocery shopping, I noticed a nail salon a few doors down. I stopped in and made an appointment for today. I left the salon with a big smile on my face. A pedicure seemed luxurious. It was something I took for granted in my pre COVID life. My daughter and I would often go together. It was quality mother daughter time, sitting side by side, being pampered, chatting and readings books. I was looking forward to my appointment today.

Fast forward to today and I set an alarm on my iphone so I wouldn’t get busy and miss the appointment. While I was sitting in the pedicure chair, my daughter called. She was very upset and had gotten in a fight with her dad (my husband). I explained where I was and that I couldn’t talk, but I could listen. She was sobbing and I didn’t want to hang up on her. Then I got a text from my husband.

At the same time, my left big toe really hurt. It was painful at every touch and especially during the massage.

Needless to say it wasn’t the peaceful “me time” I had looked forward too. I had quite a lot to say to my husband when I got home. He’s the type that has to “win.” I told him he needs to work on listening to his daughter. He doesn’t need to give advice. He doesn’t need to tell her what to do. He just needs to be there, be quiet and let her talk. He did listen to me and finally agreed.

Then I looked down at my pretty bright pink toes. There’s something awfully wrong.

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My left big toe that hurt to the touch is swollen!

Next time I’ll skip the pedicure and try something else like reading a book on the sofa. I’ve noticed this toe hurting during my 10,000 steps each day and when I push off the walls swimming. Ugh.

What are your ideas of quality “me time?” I need some new ideas.

The Power of “Not Yet”

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Hanging out with my daughter in Deer Valley, UT.

My daughter shared a TED Talk with me yesterday about “The power of believing you can improve” by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. I’ve read Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” and am a fan.

In the seven-minute Ted Talk, Dweck explains the word “Yet.” At a high school in Chicago, if kids failed a class, instead of getting an “F” they got a grade of “Not Yet.” Instead of feeling like they were a failure and shutting down, they learned they could improve and they tried harder. Dweck explained, “Not yet opens up a path into the future that creates greater persistence.”

Dweck said people with growth mindsets are open to challenges, they learn from their mistakes and they can actually get smarter. In contrast, those with a fixed mindset are influenced by judgement of the moment. They are stuck in the tyranny of “now.” They tend to run from difficulties.

In studies, she offered tests that were above the children’s level of ability. The kids with a growth mindset were up to the challenge and excited, even when they did poorly. After failing the test, the fixed mindset kids said next time they would cheat or they looked for someone who did worse than they did.

My daughter thought I’d find this Ted Talk useful for writing a SwimSwam parenting tip. Dweck offered one gem to parents on how to raise kids with a growth mindset. She said to “Praise wisely.” Never compliment our children on their natural talent or intelligence. Instead, praise their effort, hard work, perseverance, etc. Don’t praise the outcome. Dweck called it “Process Praise.”

Every time our kids push out of their comfort zones to try something new and hard, the neurons in their brains form new and stronger connections. I think this is true for us older people, too. It’s important to stretch and do something new and challenging.

What have you done to push out of your routines and take on a new challenge? How did it make you feel afterwards?