Reflections on my first trip since COVID

I was uneasy about traveling. My daughter got me a plane ticket for Seattle so I could celebrate Mother’s Day with my 89-year-old mom, who hasn’t been out of her assisted living facility for more than a year. In concept this was a lovely idea and I was so touched that my daughter would think of such a thing.

View from Lake Sammamish boat launch.
View from a park at Lake Sammamish in Washington.

In reality, I was anxious about going to the airport, being in a crowd, getting a rental car and driving on the freeway. You see, I have extreme anxiety driving on freeways and bridges — I avoid them at all costs. Seattle to the East Side is all freeways and bridges. I was dreading it. When I lived in Palm Springs, I didn’t have to drive the freeway at all. I think I got out of practice. I saw a therapist and she told me to practice. She wanted me to get on the freeway and drive to the next exit one day, go a couple more the next. I did the one exit with sweaty palms and sweat pouring down my back. My legs were shaking and I could barely manage the accelerator or brake. That was it for me. There’s been no reason to drive the freeways since.

Back to Seattle, I asked my college best friend to pick me up at the airport and I’d get a rental car closer to my mom’s home. She agreed, because that’s the kind of friend she is. But, I soon found out that I had rented a nonrefundable car at Seatac, the airport. So, I faced my fears and strangely enough, I drove without a hitch. This happens to me whenever I get back home to where I grew up. It’s as though a different part of my brain wakes up and takes over. Also, the drivers in the Seattle area are an entirely different breed than California or Arizona drivers. You put on your turn signal and nobody steps on the gas to cut you off. In fact, they slow down and wave you over!

Ivar's Seafood Bar for Mother's Day chowder and crab cocktails.
Mom at our Mother’s Day Lunch at Ivar’s. We had Dungeness crab cocktails and clam chowder. It was delicious and we went there because all the fancier places were booked.

The other thing that was a show stopper on my trip was my mom! It’s as though she’s getting younger, more fit, and more alert. This COVID year seems to have the reverse effect on her than the general population. I was sitting in her room on my first visit and the activity director knocked on the door and asked if we wanted to join the croquet game. She said, “YES!” This is totally contrary to her usual behavior. Normally, I have to beg her to get out of her recliner and out of her room. I was quite shocked. We are big croquet players in our family, and my mom brags that she is practically a professional. She made her way with her walker outdoors to the croquet court and she played the entire game. I had to help her to each shot, where she slowly got her feet in the right position. She was so engaged and excited to play.

Me and Mom selfie
Mom enjoyed taking a selfie with me.

Each day, I took Mom out. We went for beautiful drives along Lake Sammamish, out to eat and my Aunt Linda joined us after her drive up from Portland, Ore. Here are some of the photos of our highlights of food and scenery:

Lake Sammamish hike
My dear friend told me about a trail that followed Lake Sammamish from my hotel.
Bald eagle in tree along Lake Sammamish
I saw a bald eagle in the trees along one of my walks. It’s kind of fuzzy because I zoomed in.
Flying port a potty
Puts new meaning into the word “Porta-potty.”
Dungeness Towers at the Coho Cafe
My Mom and I had Dungeness Crab Towers for Lunch at the Coho Cafe. My Aunt had fish and chips.
steamed clams with bacon and peppers
I picked up clams at Pike Place Market. My best friend’s husband prepared them with garlic, onions, bell peppers and smoky bacon. He also made crusty garlic bread to dip in the clam nectar.
Mt. Rainier view from plane
Mt. Rainier as I flew out of Seattle. It was a spectacular day driving to the airport with views of the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Rainier.
Farewell Seattle. Good-bye Mom, Aunt Linda and Cindy and Mike. I hope to see you all again soon. It was truly a magical trip.

Sights from Pike Place Market

First thing this morning I rushed to see my mom. I called her last night to remind her I was here. The parking lot of her retirement community was cordoned off with yellow tape to force everyone to drive to the front entrance. I parked and got soaked in the pouring rain to get my temperature check for my one-hour appointment. Then I was instructed on how to drive around the complex to get to my mom’s assisted living building. They had installed barriers so nobody can access the community without first checking in at the main entrance.

View of rhododendrons out my mom’s window.

Mom was so excited to see me, but didn’t understand the one-hour rule. I told her it’s because they only allow two visitors in at once, and they want to make sure everyone has a turn. I explained that I’d be coming back each day to spend the hour with her and we could leave and go for a drive to anywhere she wants to go. Today was pouring down rain and cold. She wasn’t interested in going outside. She didn’t sound enthusiastic about the idea for tomorrow, either, but we’ll see. She looked good and it felt wonderful to be with her in person after missing her since before COVID. We were all worried about her because her home is located a few miles from the one in Kirkland, Wash. that had all the deaths early on. They had an outbreak in Mom’s home, too, but she stayed healthy through the entire year.

It’s very strange to have only one hour with her, but I’m here for several days.

Puget Sound view from the market
View of the Puget Sound from Pike Place Market when the rain stopped.

Pike Place Market is one of my favorite places to visit in Seattle. I’m thankful for the chance to go today. And for my friendship with my dear friend I met in college. It’s a treasure to have a friend you can trust, count on and share your deepest secrets. We may not talk to each other for a year or see each other for several, but once together, it’s like we’re still in our 20s and no time has passed at all.

Here are a few photos from Pike Place Market today — a day of rain, sunshine, hail and friendship:

selfies with masks
We decided to do a COVID selfie to remember this year.

La Panier Bakery, Pike Place Market
La Panier Bakery, now in its 38th year.

More photos:

Public Market sign at PIke Place
Red Snapper surrounded by salmon
Dungeness crabs at Pike Place
I have a painting of my favorite food that from 35 years ago of this fishmonger’s unique display of Dungeness crabs. My friend gave it to me when I left Seattle for Palm Springs.
Flowers at Pike Place Market

The look in her eyes when I said good-bye

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Downtown Seattle on a sunny day.

Little did I know that that would be the last time I’d see Mom before the COVID lockdown. My daughter and I were visiting my mom in her assisted living home on a trip to Seattle in March two years ago today. Mom and I share March birthdays and I try to make it a point to be with her. But last year in March they had COVID breakouts in a facility a few miles from her and then it spread to her assisted living home.

The good news is she never got it. She’s healthy and got both her shots. But I miss her. I’m hoping someday this year I’ll get to spend time with her in person.

Here’s what I wrote about my trip to visit mom in March 2019:

I will never forget the look in my mom’s eyes when I said goodbye. After lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant, we sat around a table in the lobby playing a card game our family played when I was a child, Demon.

It was fun and we all laughed as we got more and more competitive. They teamed up against me, as they tried to defeat me–but didn’t of course. My daughter slowed down her speed to make the game more fun for us old folks, because seriously she could beat us handily at anything involving speed and reaction time.

After that, we walked mom back to her room, got her settled in and said good-bye. My mom stared at me, sitting in her comfy chair, like her heart was breaking. Her big hazel eyes filled with water and I fought my own tears. I felt like I was deserting her.

My daughter asked if she wanted the TV on, and she said, “No, I’m fine.” As we closed the door, I peaked in and saw my mom sitting on her chair with her head dropped, staring at nothing.

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My mom was surprised to learn I had a camera in my phone. She enjoyed the selfie.

The good news is I came the next day, and the next. Each day she looked happier and her spark returned. She has a witty sense of humor and kept me laughing. By the time I said my final good-bye, she looked so much better. I think she’s terribly lonely and I need to visit more often.

And to think I was going to visit her more often — and then no visits at all….

If you live away from your elderly family members, how do you feel when you say good-bye?

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Nothing better than a mother daughter trip.

What’s Your Favorite Comfort Food?

oxtail soup

My mom’s recipe of oxtail soup. This is the batch I made for Christmas 2019.

With all the crazy stuff going on, I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. We have a divided country and no matter what side you’re on, you’re probably feeling unsettled, angry and distraught.

Add that to months of being locked down due to a global pandemic, this has been a strange time indeed. Then this year we sold our home of 28 years and packed up and left within 30 days to a new state. So much upheaval in my life. So what makes me feel good? Reading beach novels by Elin Hilderbrand in the sunny backyard, watching quail, walking, hiking, having my cat jump into my lap, praying and yes — thinking about cooking comfort food.

Here are two of my all-time favorite comfort foods:

I used to make chicken and dumplings from the recipe on the Bisquick box. My mom cooked it when I was a child and I’m sure besides the warm broth, tender chicken and butter melting off the dumplings, that’s why it’s a favorite. I haven’t made it in years though because my kids got tired of it — and my husband thought the dumplings were gross. But, I think it might be time to give it a whirl.

old fashioned chicken and dumplings

Photo from the chicken and dumpling recipe at Stay at Home Chef

Click here for the Bisquick chicken and dumplings recipe brought to you by Betty Crocker. Here’s another great recipe for old fashioned chicken and dumplings from scratch with more detail by The Stay at Home Chef.

Another one of my favorite comfort foods is oxtail soup. That’s another thing my mom cooked when I was young. It took me years to not turn up my nose at oxtails. I couldn’t get my mind around them as a kid. My husband told his friends that he married me because of my oxtail soup. “If she can cook something so delicious out of that — I had to marry her.”

oxtail soup cooking

Browning the oxtails first is one of the keys. Also, letting the soup cool and removing the fat is essential.

My kids didn’t like oxtail soup when they were young, either. But now that they’re young adults they love it. It’s also become quite trendy in restaurants. Maybe that helped. Christmas 2019, I had to order a mass amount of oxtails at several grocery stores. We were hosting the kids and my son’s girlfriend’s family of seven siblings and mom — many of them are hungry athletes. I cooked several large pots of my oxtail soup so it would be ready when they arrived. It was all gone before the night was through.

My oxtail soup recipe is not written down and takes a feel based on experience. Here’s my attempt:

Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Brown the oxtails in oil and place them on a platter with paper towels to absorb fat. Place them in large pot with lots of garlic and broth. Simmer for several hours, adding water or broth to cover, and take off the heat before they are tender. Put in the fridge and leave overnight. The fat will rise to the top and harden, making it easy to remove with a spoon the next day.

Add vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, or whatever you like and simmer until the oxtails and vegetables are tender.

The feel part comes in to not overcook or undercook the oxtails so they are tender and start to fall off the bone.

family portrait outside

Our Christmas crew from 2018 and 2019.

My daughter had a class in college where they were asked to share their comfort foods. I was surprised when she told me her comfort food was take-out machaca from Las Casuelas the Original! Not my home cooking!

What are your favorite comfort foods and do you cook them yourself or order from restaurants? Would you share recipes?

Why moms lose sleep over adult kids

blond brother and sister with yellow lab

My kids with Angus more than 10 years ago.

When they were young and I worried about other things.

I read a fascinating story that said “Study Confirms That Parents Still Lose Sleep Worrying About Their Adult Children.” I am definitely on of those parents who loses sleep and I know my dear friend Gabby, who shared this story on Facebook is one, also.

Even before our children are born, we worry about them. We’re relieved when we count the 10 fingers and 10 toes in the hospital, but we still worry. We’re relieved when they do well on their tests in school and make the team, but we still worry. We worry about safety, about their grades, about what they’ll do for a career, about who they’ll one day marry or if they’ll get married at all. The list of things to worry about feels endless.

We hope that our worries will ease as our children get older, but it turns out that’s not the case.

Brother and sister staring at eachother

A photo from last year.

Can you relate to this as a parent, too? On my current list of worries is the bad air quality from California fires, my kids driving through the Cyclone Bomb weather, which is a rare event with high winds, rain and even snow, plus their general safety living in the Bay Area. I worry that they are secure in their careers and find their work satisfying and are able to make a living.

Here’s more from the story about parents who worry about adult kids:

A recent study conducted by Amber J. Seidel of Pennsylvania State University confirms what many parents already know – you never stop worrying about your children. Her study went on to show that parents actually lose sleep worrying about their adult children.

Parents, it looks like we’ll be worrying forever. If your children are already adults, you may already know that to be true.

In Seidel’s study, 186 heterosexual married couples with adult children were surveyed. On a scale of 1 to 8, they were asked how much assistance they offer their children. Assistance could include financial, emotional or even chatting on the phone. Choosing 1 meant daily assistance and interaction where 8 was only once a year.

The parents were also asked to choose from 1 to 5 regarding stress. In this case, choosing 1 meant no stress, and 5 meant the maximum amount of stress.

The third thing these parents tracked was how much sleep they got at night. Moms got an average of 6.66 hours and dads got slightly more with an average of 6.69 hours.

The results were not the same for moms and dads. For moms, it didn’t matter if they were the ones offering assistance or if their husbands were the ones offering assistance; moms were stressed out and sleeping less either way.

Dads showed a lack of sleep and more stress only when they were the ones offering assistance to their adult children. If their wife offered assistance, it didn’t affect them. This either means that dads are not affected in the same way as moms or that the wives weren’t telling their husbands about the assistance causing the dads to be stress free due to lack of knowledge about the situation.

I found it interesting that the dads didn’t lose sleep if their wives were the ones offering support. Or, like the article said, maybe they weren’t aware of what was going on. But the moms lost sleep regardless who was the main person offering support to their kids.

Do you worry about your children too, regardless of their age? What do you worry about most?

brother and sister back to back with pug

A recent photo in our back yard with Waffles the pug.

My kids are learning how to adult and I worry more.

90’s moms used gut instinct

blond toddler in his car seat

My son in the 90’s when he’d fall asleep in his carseat listening to classical music.

What do you think about parenthood in the 1990’s? Was it much different than today? I saw an article that piqued my interest because it talked about 90’s moms and how it was an easier time to be a mom. My kids were born in the 90s, so I am a 90’s mom (and a 00’s, 10’s and 20’s mom, too.) The writer Stephanie Sullivan explained how she got caught up on Pinterest reading posts of parenting advice and each one made her more insecure. The article is called Parenting in today’s society is exhausting, so let’s be more like ’90s moms in the Omaha World-Herald. Read the full article here.

Here’s an excerpt:

Does anyone wish they could go back to a simpler time of parenting? Like the ’90s? (I chose this era since I’m a by-product of being raised in the ’90s and I think I turned out okay. You can ask my husband for confirmation on that one.) Sure, ’90s mothers were still concerned with raising confident, kind and respectful children, but they didn’t have the option of searching for solutions on Pinterest or turning to strangers on Facebook. They just did it and probably questioned themselves much less in the process.

They used this thing called their gut, and when they were struggling with something, they turned to family and friends for opinions and advice. Above all, they trusted they were making the right decision for their child because no one made them think otherwise.

While social media can be a huge advantage to raising children these days — finding support groups, play dates, birthday party ideas, etc. — I fear it’s only increased our anxiety and made us question if we’re equipped to handle this parenting gig at all.

I often think I was lucky — and my kids too — that I didn’t have Instagram or Facebook when they were infants. I took tons of pictures of them with an old fashioned camera that used film. I had to physically walk the finished roll down to our local photo lab and get prints made. I know I would have over-posted about my kids because I did when they were in middle school and high school. I wrote about the downside of posting too many photos of our kids here.

I think it would have been hard to be inundated with my friends’ photos of their kids, see birthday parties my children weren’t invited to and getting so much unsolicited advice. Yes, it might have made parenting more difficult than in the 90’s before social media and internet. Although I know I made bad decisions as a parent, said things I wish I could take back and didn’t let my kids fail — I trusted my gut.

happy baby in the tub

My happy baby standing up at the edge of the tub.

What are your thoughts of how parenting has changed in due to social media?

What are the worst sports-parenting mistakes?

kat medals

I was listening to a webinar from “Growing Champions for Life” sports parenting expert David Benzel and he went through a list of nine of the worst sports parenting mistakes. It was during a talk about whether to push our kids in sports–or not.

Who is David Benzel? He’s a former sports parent himself, whose kids were athletic, loved their sports and made it to the pros—as he says—in spite of him. He felt like kids were coached in sports, but felt he was sorely lacking in knowledge about being a sports parent. He said that he and his wife changed throughout the years and now he coaches sports parents in many different sports including gymnasts, tennis, baseball and swimming.

I discovered Benzel on USA Swimming and have read his book from Chump to Champ, plus I have several copies of his little booklet “5 Powerful Strategies for Sport Parent Success” lying around the house in case I need a refresher.

I too changed through the years as I learned from my swim mom mistakes. I continued to grow as a parent, and looking back there are many things I’d never dream of doing today that I thought were perfectly normal years ago.

The list of 9 awful things sports parents do that Benzel presented was from the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. 

Here’s the list:

ONE
Exhibit an outcome orientation.

TWO
Are critical, negative and overbearing.

THREE
Apply pressure to win or perform.

FOUR
Make sports too serious.

FIVE
Are over-involved and controlling.

SIX
Compare child to other athletes.

SEVEN
Distract child during competitions.

EIGHT
Restrict player’s social life.

NINE
Too much sports talk.

Between me and my hubby, I think we’ve got this list covered. We’ve been guilty of every single one on the list.

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Junior Olympics for my daughter.

How many on this list have you done? What are things you’ve done in the past as a parent that you wouldn’t do now?