Deliberate Motherhood is launching tomorrow, Alia is working hard running for a student council position at her middle school, and our fall family routine is in full swing. There's definitely a lot of craziness going on in the midst of all these activities, but in general, life is good.
I just wanted to take a moment to post my most recent photos and experiences from Long Beach. This blog has been a special place for me to share some of the really hard moments with my mom and her dementia, but I also want to be sure to share some of the happy ones.
This past Thursday was happy.
We started out with a walk to the local elementary school. While my boys played on the playground, my mom and I sat by the lunch benches and listened to music. I got the idea to play music from my dear friend Janine, who told me that it helped one of her extended family members. And it worked!
My mom liked tapping my iPhone, and with each new song, she would close her eyes and pretend like she was conducting the music. It was peaceful and beautiful. (This photo is from Alia.)
It happened to be my parents' 55th wedding anniversary that day, so although we didn't have anything fancy planned, we all gathered around the table for pizza, and then during dessert, Alia put two birthday candles in my parents' bowls of ice cream, and we sang "Happy Anniversary to You" to the tune of "Happy Birthday."
After the dishes were cleared, I thought it would be fun to take my mom out on another walk, but that "Happy Birthday" tune was still in her head, and somehow she was convinced it was my Dad's birthday. (It's really in December.)
"April, the children would be thrilled if we could go into the kitchen and sing Happy Birthday to your dad." she said.
"Oh, I think he's okay," I replied.
But she insisted that we sing, and so all of us gathered in the kitchen and tried not to laugh while we sang some birthday cheer to my smiling dad.
Mom sang her very best--adding in some harmony--and then she wanted to gather in the living room to sing some more. We sang three different birthday songs and had a great talk with my dad about his favorite birthday parties growing up. After all that, my mom was satisfied and agreed to another walk.
This time, we went over the bridge to the local library. It's a lovely place. You can't really tell by this photo, but directly out those windows is a gorgeous view of the bay. Doesn't that look like fun?
I spoke with the man at the desk, and he told me that even though I'm not a Long Beach resident, I can still get a library card there. (SO exciting!) This is going to be our new weekly stop.
My mom was a little bit confused, and she kept asking the man over and over again how she could also get a card. (Did she need her license? Would they let her come next week?) He wasn't sure why she was repeating herself so many times, so he turned to me for clarification.
I tapped the side of my head and mouthed the words, "She doesn't know."
With a kind smile, he then turned his full attention back to my mom and assured her that she could absolutely get a library card, and he couldn't wait to see her next week.
That meant a lot to me--seeing someone treat my mom so kindly, even when she acts a little out of the ordinary. We're going to be that library's best patrons.
Once we returned home, I helped my mom into her jammies while Spencer played in her wheelchair. (His favorite toy!)
Then I caught these photos with my phone when my mom was reading nursery rhymes to Alia. (That's a new tradition that keeps her focused on something pleasant.)
Alia recorded this 20-second video with her phone. (That's Ethan in the mirror.) I had to post it here so you can hear my mom's sweet voice. (The volume is really low, but this video shows so much love.)
Isn't she an angel?
Oh, I love her.
It was a special blessing to have such a wonderful visit, and I am still laughing about all the funny things she did.
For example, she helped take the grapes off their stems in preparation for dinner, and she was hilarious. She'd put some grapes into a bowl, dump them onto the table, wrap them in a towel, and then put them back into the bowl. Those grapes kept her totally occupied.
When we first sat down at the table to eat, the children were starting to snack on the food, and my mom said, "Nobody eat until we've had the prayer."
My children all placed their hands in their laps.
And then my mom immediately picked up her piece of pizza and took a bite.
Everyone looked at me, and we tried not to laugh too hard.
Later, when I offered to help her in the restroom, she said, "Oh no, I'll go alone. I'm just fine."
"No Mom, I'm your special helper!" I replied.
"Well," she said, a little embarrassed, "I've never had a daughter help me in the restroom!"
(My dad and I giggled about that. It only happens about five times a day.)
I feel like I'm slowly growing out of these "sad" phases. Of course my heart still hurts for her, but those hard times only make the sweet times more sweet.
Thanks so much for your support. I appreciate the messages of encouragement from my friends--and from the people who have never even met me. Thanks for sharing your advice and helping me know how to handle this challenge well.
You mean a lot to me.