Monday, August 28, 2017

Update on Mom.

Mom has a dedicated PA taking care of her now since she has declined so much. The outlook isn't good, but that's what happens with this disease. We are past the point of playing music for an "awakening". We are past showing photos. We are past stuffed animals and face-timing. Eye contact is rare.

Her PA called Dad to give him an update on Thursday. Mom is declining rapidly. She is pocketing her food. Mom is a chipmunk. If that makes you smile at all. Mom is one of the Chipettes. She is having problems swallowing and likely already aspirating. She is losing weight, and her mood is flat. Soon eating will be too difficult. Most people familiar with dementia/Alzheimer's patients recommend AGAINST a feeding tube. What exactly, at this point, are you prolonging? Your selfish desire to see this person? The feeding tubes can become infected and agitate the person more than they already are. So at this point she will continue to lose weight and possibly aspirate, or pneumonia, or stroke...etc.

I'm guessing less than six months. It's probably much sooner than that. We know. We know it's coming. We know she is dying. But to have someone tell you it's closer is hard. I bawled. I wanted to drive up and brush her hair and feed her pudding and hug her. But she doesn't know me and I wouldn't be a comfort. She winces when you rub her head. She winces when she tries to swallow her favorite frozen frappuccino. And I have a job and kids and First Grade and well, responsibilities. Epitome of the sandwich generation right here. I feel like I'm failing both slices of bread.

I read an article recently about how you need to be there for people more after the funeral. I imagine that to be true. The pomp and circumstance is over and they are truly alone at that point. But with a disease like this you need people all the way through. It feels needy and selfish and horrible for saying, well yeah I need your support. Still. Year 5. Still need you. Hey, I'm still here, grieving. Hello? I hate it. It's an unfair burden to my loved ones to have to feel like they should support this marathon of grief. But it's not my fault. And it's not Mom's. And it is a MARATHON. Nancy Reagan called it the long goodbye and she couldn't be more correct. 

I'm sure my husband is sick of it. Updates turn me into a blubbering mess. I'm already a Pisces so I'm doubly screwed. People say I'm handling this with grace and courage and I don't think that is true. The only kudos I will give to myself is that I am telling the truth, and being authentic. And hopefully showing a REAL representation of what it is like to lose your Mother to Alzheimer's.

Monday, August 21, 2017

10 Things to Do Before Your Parents Get Sick

Photo via the talented and dear Kristen Lequire

1. Funeral Arrangements. 
This is a no-brainer but you wouldn't believe how many people don't ask this. We are somewhat creepy when it comes to this and talk about it all the time. Know the flowers they want, the specific hymns, where they want to be buried/cremated and sprinkled...etc. Specific color for church? I'm thinking of wearing Mom's favorite color, green, for hers. 

2. Play 20 questions. 
Ask them things you don't know. What is their favorite recipe? Hilarious stories from College? Best friend? Favorite drink and how in the hell did they learn to like Scotch? Stories from their travels pre kids.  If you google this there are tons of ideas. Here is one.

3. Ask them to tell stories about their grandparents or parents. 
My Grandmother Katharine Ford Braselman (Boylan) at Rockbrook Camp in the 30's. The short one. ;)

I wish I knew my Grandparents but they all died when I was a baby. We had lunch with a friend of the family a few years ago and she told me hysterical stories how my grandmother would have "Tacky Daiquiri Parties" when it would rain too much in the mountains. All her friends would come over and wear hats and drink all afternoon. And don't get me started on my grandfather. I was a third generation Rockbrook Girl following my grandmother pictured above and then my Aunt Kathleen.

4. Get a tad invasive and ask about life insurance, wills, etc.
While our parents' finances shouldn't be our business, make sure they are someone's business. Program the family's financial advisor/lawyer...etc in your phone. Or download their outlook info at work. I cannot stress the importance of an elder care lawyer if your family is dealing with an Alzheimer's or Dementia diagnosis. Ours was a lifesaver.

5. Order one of these books and have them record their voices. 
I waited too long to do this. Don't make my same mistake.

Under the Same Moon on Amazon $32.95

6. Get pictures and videos of them with your children.
I am so very thankful I invited my friend Kristen to come take pictures of my Mom with the kids while she was still able. I don't have many great videos but I do have this one below and I will cherish it forever. Amelie was barely a month and now she is almost three and can sing this along with me. I remember my parents coming home from a night out and singing this to me.

7. Find out what medications they are on and know your family medical history. 
When my Dad was admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery they came to me asking for his prescription list. This was when we noticed Mom wasn't herself because she couldn't name a single one. His list is LONG and I now have this stored in my phone so I know dosage/names/etc. 

8. Ask them to send your kids postcards or letters from their travels. 
I ordered this for both grandfathers for Father's Day to send to the kids. You can buy here. One of my favorite things my In-laws do is to send our kids postcards from all of their trips. We have probably hundreds from South America, Switzerland, and New Zealand. My kids don't get to see them too often but these notes let them know they are thinking of them.

9. Have them make a plan for their jewelry. 
We didn't have a real plan for Mom's (she didn't have a lot) but I know she would have loved to hand down a few things to Charlotte and Amelie.

10. Time and Attention.
Tell them how much they mean to you. Visit them more. This picture above is from when I drove up early on Mother's Day to surprise Mom. Go to Paper Source or Baggie Goose or that awesome Ace Hardware type place in Atlanta and buy a funny card. Buy a dirty card. Send anything. Snail mail is seriously the best and always will be. Call them. Print off a bunch of pictures of your kids and send it to them. Put your phone down when you  have a meal with them. Go on Amazon right now and send your Mom something. Anything. Send a Candle. Send a book. Forward this post to her and tell her you miss her. 

Does anybody have anything to add? I would love to hear your ideas and will add as they come in. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Little Girl's Clothes (AKA my 401K)

Amelie with her cousin Wilder wearing The Proper Peony

Two very dear grandmother friends asked me where I buy Amelie's clothes. The dirty truth is that I buy most of them from friends. I'm sure your city has a "Facebook Mom Page" where you post something like "Florence Eiseman jumper 2T $15" and someone comments, venmo or paypal's you and then they grab it off your porch. It's like drug dealing but way way  more satisfying. *I have never dealt drugs. I have been doing this for almost 3 years now. When Amelie was little I would load the kids up at 6am (my kids wake up early), give ford his iPad, Amelie a pacifier and drive all over this city doing my "porch pickups". I looked something like this:

I also shop off my friend's Instagram pages. I have become good friends with people I follow on Instagram who have kids exactly a year older (I'm looking at you Morgan) and now they sometimes just message me what they are getting ready to sell to let me have first dibs.

BST (Buy Sell Trade) boards on facebook are another favorite. BST boards and Instagram are Tinder for Moms that love clothing. I'm serious. If a Mom is posting clothes that line up size/season/taste for me I'm definitely swiping right. I literally have a group of girlfriends in Rock Hill that I met this way. Love you RH girls!

Social Media for kids shopping is AMAZING. Kids grow so fast and there are very few companies I will pay retail for. So my other favorite sources for kids clothes are these!

Hands down one of my favorites. I splurge on these once or twice a year and try to buy the rest off the "boards". This blue tulip dress will stay in Amelie's forever box and their holiday dresses are perfection.

I met Mollie when I offered to take pictures of her daughter's birthday party. Her brand is local to Charlotte! And I can never say no to a buffalo check.

Leda's beautiful clothes are exquisitely classic and perfect for dressing babies and kids. And somehow we are related! (isn't everyone from Louisiana cousins somehow?) Her Pima rompers are the perfect baby gift too!

Pixie Lily Holly Daygown

Little English
Another boutique favorite and this dress is a MUST have for this Fall. The shirt is attached!

And this...I mean stop it.

A jumper and bathing suit favorite in our house. I had to get the long sleeve style of this dress since Fuchs = Fox!

LaRoque Mini
One of a kind outfits from an adorable store in South Carolina!

I mean look at this dress for back to school!

Inlet Smocked Clothing Company
These ladies are out of Murrell's Inlet and  I'm kicking myself for not ordering this dress

Bella Bliss
Love their jumpers and they have a great boy selection as well. I think our little Swiss Amelie needs this outfit!

Instagram stores (for Florence Eiseman, Squiggles, Viva la Fete, etc)
One of the best ways to buy clothing is truly on Instagram. I know that sounds insane but I never go "shopping" anymore. Several stores even call each season to see if there is anything I need (which makes me feel insanely important). Carousel in Columbia is a favorite as well as MCall's, Shop Loozie Loo, Banbury Cross,  Spinout Kids, etc! Here are some of their Instagram pics:

And the little English Dress I fell in love with through McCall's IG

Instagram Brands: Cecil and Lou, Smockingbird

I never get to see my friend Abby so I always make sure I attend her S/G trunk show. Last year I purchased my favorite dress for Amelie, this Fox Dress. They have great pieces and aren't too expensive. When the kids were younger that have great brother/sister matches.

Play Clothes
Kids and school are tough on clothes. I don't send Amelie in anything that I love and Ford at this age only wears Under Armour. I don't know how they cornered the market for boys 5+ but his Adidas and Nike were just not good enough. I am very thankful I can find most of that used. A woman here in Charlotte even invited me over to dig through her bins and bins of UA. We are set for a few years. Companies I like for play clothes are

Hanna Andersson 
Beautiful bright play dresses and some of my favorite pajamas!

Dad, I think Amelie needs this. I mean....since you haven't taken me duck hunting yet.

Fauxden (Fake Boden on Amazon)

Old Navy/Gap/Target
Katie Quinn Organics Fox Dress at Target...why isn't this in a 3T!

If you are a local in Charlotte one of my favorite consignment stores is The Argyle Alligator. Casie Carpenter played on the Blondes vs Brunettes team to End Alz so I will support all of her business endeavors. Here are some items she has in the shop now!

 What are your favorite brands for little girls? Happy Shopping!
PS: Amelie is a 3T. Wink Wink

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Was a Stranger

I have held off writing about this day. It shocked me it came so quickly and I don't think I really have absorbed how it felt.

Our trip to Asheville for the Fourth of July was interrupted by a stomach bug so I made the trip by myself since I needed to bring Dad a load to take to the beach for us.

That Sunday Dad and I took BB coffee like we always do. She was parked in the main auditorium listening to the Sunday Gospel singers. I don't like visiting her in there because she gets distracted by other people she recognizes and wants to scoot over to them. 

I walked over to her first and she looked up and with a blank look in her eyes said "I love you". She says this to everyone so at first I figured she was being polite and not being loud. Her typical response is to start smiling, then laughing and then crying from happiness when she sees me.

We wheeled her over to the corner and she saw Dad and her eyes lit up. She didn't take her eyes off of him. It began to occur to me that she did not know I was Katharine, her daughter. Her daughter she carried for 9 months (early baby). That she had an emergency C-section with because placental abruption. Who told her all of her crazy teenage secrets. Who she drove to ballet and tap every Saturday morning for 8 years. Who she screamed "Smoke em Smoltz" during my serve at my tennis matches. Who she snuck into summer camp and brought pizza to. Who she went to Lilith Fair with and shared underage margaritas.  

She didn't know me.

She kept looking at Dad and listening to him and taking sips (through a straw) of her Starbucks. I looked at Dad and under my breath and said "She doesn't know". And he said of course she does! BB, this is your daughter, this is Katharine, your little girl.

Nothing. She turned her gaze back to him. 

It was like I wasn't there.

He tried again, hopelessly looking for a reaction. BB, this is Kat, she came to see you, your little girl. You are her Mommy....

She looked back at my face, then my necklace, and went back to looking at him. 

I held it together because I didn't want to upset her. She didn't even look in my direction the rest of our visit.

Once we passed the double doors into the waiting room I broke down into sobs. Dad just held me and cried along with me. 

I was gone to her.

For those of you that will say, "but she knows who you are in her heart." That is nice. It really is. And I know when she dies she will get her memories back and I will be her daughter again. 

But on this day, I was a stranger. And I cannot begin to describe how that felt.

I came home and Ford overheard me talking to Max about it. The next day in the car he started crying and said Mommy, if you get Alzheimer's will you forget me? I don't want you to forget me!

I was speechless and tried to reassure him I wouldn't get ALZ. But that is a lie. I cannot guarantee that. There is no cure, no prevention, only promises of exercise and a healthy diet to try to keep this monster at bay.

Please donate here so that future generations of sons and daughters do not have to be strangers to their parents.