The Travails of Travel

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Visiting Salt Lake City means I get to see Waffles, my daughter’s pug.

This past weekend, it dawned on me why I hate to travel. It all began with a too early flight from Palm Springs to Salt Lake City. When I have to get up earlier than normal, I tend to wake up every hour to check the clock. So, by the time I got to the airport, I was already tired and wondered how I’d make it through the day.

Online when I checked in 24 hours before our flight, Delta told us we’d get our seat assignments at the gate. Well, my husband got a seat, but they wouldn’t give me one. I’d been “bumped.” They said I could “volunteer” to give my seat up but I refused. My only hope was that someone wouldn’t show up or would volunteer to give up their seat on the overbooked fight. I was asked to sign a waiver that said I had refused to volunteer and I was giving up any compensation if I didn’t get on the flight.

At the last minute, someone took a $600 voucher to travel to Ontario and take a later flight, so I did get on the plane. It was a stressful way to start a long day, however! Since I had purchased our tickets more than seven weeks earlier, I wondered why I was the one to get bumped? A woman working at the gate said I must be “non-rev.” I found out non-rev is someone who didn’t pay for their ticket and they’re flying on a friends or family free ticket. That was NOT me. I paid full price.

The weekend was so much fun and I wrote all the wonderful details about it here.

 

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Utah with my girl.

But then the problems began on the trip home when we returned the car to an offsite car rental place, Fox, which we have raved about for the past three years. We’ve never experienced anything but the best service from them. But, on Sunday night they had one employee to check in returns and check out cars to lines of waiting people. We all seemed to pull into the Fox lot at once and we all needed to get to the airport, pronto!

We had to wait and were about 10th in line returning our car and missed a shuttle driving back and forth to the airport. They had two shuttles parked in the lot, but apparently only one driver on duty. So, I was stressed again and anxious if we’d make our flight while waiting for the shuttle to return from the airport.

 

At the airport, finally, I was pleased that we were pre-check. I sailed through the short line and noticed Bill wasn’t behind me. They wouldn’t let him through, and unbeknownst to him, his driver’s license had expired. After a full body search—and I mean FULL—the TSA agents went through his suitcase and laptop. Then they ran strip tests to determine that there weren’t any bomb-making ingredients on him or his stuff.

Bill kept telling me to get to the plane and that he’d be fine. I refused to leave him in Salt Lake City without knowing what was going to happen to him.

Together, we made it to our gate where our flight’s boarding thankfully was delayed by 30 minutes. We made it on the plane and the plane pulled away from the gate. Then we sat and sat and sat. The pilot made an announcement that an outside sensor wasn’t working and we’d be waiting until a further decision was made. Bill and I burst out laughing. What else could we do? The plane made it’s way back to the gate and we sat some more.

Thirty minutes later we were escorted off the plane to another gate. This time the plane was working and we made it home.

I love visiting family and friends, but I do not like to travel. What experiences have you had with travel that you’d like to share?

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I love these two. It was worth the headache of travel.

 

 

5 Tips for Parents to Reign In Smartphone Use

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Life before smartphones.

With all the evidence that more and more kids are suffering from anxiety and depression and with suicide rates skyrocketing, there is research that says smartphones may be making these trends worse. In a Time article by Markam Heid, “We Need to Talk About Kids and Smartphones” he shares these horrifying figures:

“Between 2010 and 2016, the number of adolescents who experienced at least one major depressive episode leapt by 60%, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 2016 survey of 17,000 kids found that about 13% of them had a major depressive episode, compared to 8% of the kids surveyed in 2010. Suicide deaths among people age 10 to 19 have also risen sharply, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young women are suffering most; a CDC report released earlier this year showed suicide among teen girls has reached 40-year highs. All this followed a period during the late-1990s and early 2000s when rates of adolescent depression and suicide mostly held steady or declined.”

In another article, “Is Your Kid Hooked on Smartphones? 5 Tips for Parents” Heid gives some great advice for parents who are concerned with their kids’ smartphone use. Here’s the abbreviated version. You can read his article in its entirety here.

ONE
Keep devices out of kids’ bedrooms. There is already strong data linking bedroom screen time with a variety of risks—particularly sleep loss, says David Hill, director of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Communication and Media.

TWO
Set up online firewalls and data cutoffs.
Most devices and Internet providers offer parenting tools that restrict access to illicit content and curb data use, and there are apps that do so as well.

THREE
Create a device contract. “This is something you create with your child that details rules around their device use,” says Yalda Uhls, an assistant adjunct professor at UCLA and author of Media Moms and Digital Dads. These rules could include no smartphones at the dinner table, or no more than an hour of social media use after school.

FOUR
Model healthy device behaviors. Just as kids struggle to stay off their phones, so do parents. “We’re all, even adults, drawn to devices,” says UPenn’s Jensen. And if you’re a phone junkie yourself, you can’t expect your kids to be any different, she says.

FIVE
Consider old-school flip phones for your kids, or a smartphone without a data plan (and therefore no Internet access). This may seem like overkill for some parents—especially those of older teens. But unconnected phones still allow teens to call or text with parents and friends, says Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen.

I think the best thing to do is put down firm guidelines and don’t give in. I was strict with my kids about when they got their first cell phones and I bought them at Target as pay-as you-go phones. It wasn’t until my son’s high school graduation that he got an iPhone. My daughter got one a little sooner because they were much more common, but not until age 16.

Today, I’m the one addicted to my phone. I’m always reading stories, looking at Twitter, checking out FB, etc. My daughter gets so mad at me when we’re together and asks me to put the phone down. “I”m here with you now!” she’ll remind me. I worry a lot about the kids who are in the iGen with peer pressure following them wherever they are. Getting the smartphones and computers out of their bedrooms at night is a smart idea. Making a weekend or week to unplug as a family is a plan, too. It’s such a different world, isn’t it, from when we grew up?

What rules do you have for your kid’s smartphone use?

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Me not on my iPhone–being in the moment with my daughter.

 

The Roller Coaster Ride of Parenting

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My son and swim team friends years ago.

We were leaving tomorrow for my son’s college graduation. I’m packed and I was on my way to swim practice when he texted me. He said he has a bunch of papers that are due on Monday and he doesn’t have time for graduation activities.

It’s been a tough quarter for him with prolonged illness—weeks and weeks of getting sick and staying sick.

The announcements are out. The celebratory dinner was set, grandpa’s hotel room booked. We have friends and family coming in for the graduation ceremony. But, one thing will be missing. My son.

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The day we moved my son into his dorm room at UCSB.

He’s planning on graduating, mind you. But, he doesn’t have time to celebrate and attend the activities. Seriously, why did his college schedule the ceremony the weekend before finals and when papers are due? I don’t know the answer to this. 

On my daughter’s side, we spent the weekend at her target meet to qualify for Olympic Trials. She swam well, made it to finals, but didn’t achieve the cuts she was looking for. She’s been so close, but in all honesty, it’s too bad she tripped and sprained her ankle last summer, chasing a bus. My point is that it’s hard to make a cut at a last ditch meet. There’s too much pressure and it might have been easier to make it during last year’s long course season.

Do I love my children any less? No, I do not. In fact, I’d say they are truly growing up and experiencing the difficulties of adulthood. Disappointments do occur. Things do not always go as planned. It’s how we react and handle ourselves that will determine success or failure. I don’t want them to give up on their dreams.

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Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

Three Tips for Studying for Finals

images-1My daughter, who is a freshman in college, is facing a lot of stress. It’s finals week coming up, plus she’s getting ready to move out of her dorm into a house with new roommates. Add to these stressors the fact that she’s gotten sick with a sinus infection and is struggling physically. That’s a lot to handle in one short week.

I offered to visit and be there for her. I don’t know what I would do for her, but somehow my presence might make some of this go away? She said she can handle it on her own.

imgresMy advice to her was to focus on her school work. Get lots of rest. Don’t get caught up in anxiety and drama.

Part of her stress is facing four finals to study for at once. It seems overwhelming. I gave her the following three tips to break it down and make it easier—after all, “how do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.images

1. Block out time. Make a calendar, mark off the time for classes, meals, and swimming. Then you’ll get a clear picture of your available study time.

2. Take frequent breaks. Schedule your study time in half-hour to hour blocks. Drink plenty of water during your breaks.imgres-1

3. Write by hand. Don’t type up notes. I found through my years of studying there is a direct connection between handwriting to the brain. This is anecdotal, but I could always remember things better when I wrote notes as opposed to staring at and reading, or typing them. I would take out a notebook, or note cards, and hand write everything I needed to know. It sticks in your brain.images-2

I hope my tips help her, and that she makes it through the finals week in one piece. 

What tips do you have for finals week?

How Sleep Affects Your Student’s GPA and Other Tips for Academic Success

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My daughter swimming with club teammates during break at the home pool.

My youngest child came home for one week of Christmas break. I’m sad to say, she left already for two weeks of intense swim training at school. She’s a freshman and when she was home, it felt like she had never been away. It was such a great feeling to have her go to morning practice, come back and lounge in her room watching Netflix. I think I was shocked that she had to leave again!

My son, who’s in his fourth year — notice I don’t say senior year — came home for a few days. Left to return to his part-time job. And will be back to celebrate New Year’s with us.

In the meantime, I received a letter from my daughter’s University — The Center for Student Wellness — with interesting information for parents of children of all ages.

They said in the letter that they’ve found on their campus 5 issues that affect academics:

  1. Stress
  2. Anxiety
  3. Work
  4. Sleep
  5. Cold/flu/sore throat

imgresThe letter went on to explain that while sleep is fourth on the list, sleep affects everything else on the list. I’m not quite sure how they distinguish “stress” from “anxiety”  because they seem to go hand in hand.

However, they state that lack of sleep can be mistaken for stress. It can lead to anxiety. It can make your student more susceptible to getting sick. They suggest 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Then your child will be in a better mood. Plus, they will score higher on tests and have a higher GPA!

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As the parent of a swimmer, my daughter gets her sleep. She has had no problem falling asleep. Ever. My son, on the other hand, can’t fall asleep. He stays up until the wee hours, and then we cannot wake him up in the morning. 

My tip for getting enough sleep is simple: Swim!

Here are the tips from the University of Utah:

  1. Go to bed around the same time every night, and wake up around the same time each morning.
  2. Have a quiet, dark space to sleep in that is not too hot or cold.
  3. Be sure to remove distractions like televisions, iPods, computers, and tablets from bedrooms. Beds shouldn’t be used for activities like reading, watching movies, or listening to music.
  4. Begin powering down lights and electronics about an hour before bed.
  5. Avoid large meals, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol right before bed.
  6. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes a day.
  7. Engage in regular physical activity.

BINGO! There is it. Number seven. If you have a child in athletics — particularly swimming — your child will sleep. Maybe that’s why they say that swimmers have the highest GPAs of all sports? Even though they get up at the crack of dawn for practice–they’ve had a full night’s sleep.

My kids during break.

My kids during break.

I Couldn’t Wait for the Kids to Come Home

imagesI was looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend so much! I couldn’t wait to have both my kids home, together. I cleaned their rooms, washed their sheets, polished their furniture.

I shopped for turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all the trimmings. I baked a pumpkin pie. I was so excited and the days dragged until the day before Thanksgiving finally arrived. First, my son came in at ten at night. He looked great! I fell asleep before the midnight flight that carried my daughter.

Thanksgiving day was a blast. I cooked a delicious dinner. We had grandpa over and after we ate, we laughed and talked as we walked around the neighborhood. My kids were in a great mood, and I loved being with them.IMG_2814

But, by Friday, I found myself constantly picking and cleaning up after them. I carried dishes and glasses from the kids’ bedrooms into the kitchen. The sink always had dishes stacked in it, no matter how often I loaded the dishwasher. My once lonely washing machine had a constant load.

I got tired. Wow! This taking care of family is a lot harder than I had remembered.

images-4My kids were busy. Not with me. My son had tons of reading and a paper to write. My daughter had homework to do also, but she was off every minute to visit friends.

My husband and I sat together, alone in the house.

I kind of felt like the cat. Olive is my daughter’s kitty. Olive was so excited to have her person home, she went on a wild spree of hunting, bringing in birds to my daughter’s bedroom. She even left her a bird in her suitcase. When Olive wasn’t hunting she was glued to my daughter’s side — when my daughter was home.

The weekend ended, the kids left. I sighed. My first Thanksgiving after three months of an empty nest was not what I expected. I am thankful for my family. But, I learned that it’s also nice to not have the day-to-day responsibility of cleaning and caring for kids.

And once again, Olive is content to hang out with me.IMG_6037

I wrote you a letter….

Twice this year… It’s happened. We knew a friend was sick. One was 92 years old. The other was 57.

We wanted to tell them how much their friendship meant to us. But when they got sick, they didn’t want to see anyone. You have to respect that.

“I’ll call and talk to him on the phone,” my husband said about our 57-year-old friend. He never reached him by phone. 

Yesterday, we heard from his family that he was in hospice. My husband said, “I’ll write him a letter. I’ll tell him how much his friendship meant.” He immediately sat down and wrote it. The last time we wrote a letter like this was to our 92-year-old friend. Family members told us it arrived in the mail the day she died. She never had the opportunity to read it.

My husband ran this letter over to the family’s house. Literally. The brother said thank you. The brother thought it would make him feel good to read it. But, he said, he’s not seeing anyone outside of family.

My husband and I went for a walk. We walked and talked about our friend. This life thing is so fragile. We take it for granted sometimes. When I was 21 years old, I walked across a street and got hit by a truck. It made me realize how uncertain life is. A car almost hit us when we crossed the street last night. I screamed out loud. I can’t help it. It’s residue from my encounter with the pick up truck.

Life goes on. You get married, raise kids, drive kids to swim practice, sit on PTA boards, help with homework and have your own work to do. Pretty soon you can forget how fragile life is.

The end of the story. We finished our walk and returned to our house. The letter my husband wrote to his friend was stuck in our gate, unopened. It could only mean one thing.

Make sure you tell the ones you love — I love you while you have the chance.