Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nature or Nurture?

I sneeze in threes...almost always. Atchoo, Atchoo, (pause) Atchoo! Every time I sneeze, I count them...and I'm shocked any time I only sneeze twice. My children both sneeze in threes, too. The first time I noticed it for each of them, I laughed, because I find it interesting how some strange traits are just...hard wired. There are things we do from the moment that we are born that last our whole lives through. Micah and my niece both suck their thumbs the same exact way, and both of them pull on their ears when they are tired. My mom always says they will probably do that for their entire lives. Is that genetics at play, too?

In her later years, my grandmother used to confuse the remote and the telephone. My mother labeled the two for her to help out, but it rarely made any difference. Most nights, my grandmother would call up and say, "The remote isn't working again." My mother would say, "Mom, you need to take the remote, point it at the tv, and press 2-4-enter." My grandmother would respond and say, "Okay, hold on...." and suddenly we would hear beeping noises. My grandmother generally took the phone, pointed it at the tv, punched in the numbers, then returned the phone to her ear to tell my mother it had not worked. My mother would then explain "Mom, that was the telephone. You need to use the remote. It has a label on it that says remote. Never mind, I'm coming over." To this day, every time Micah picks up the remote and holds it to his ear, or tries to turn on the television with the phone, I smile and think of my grandmother. Irony, or wiring?

I often wonder how much of personality and traits are hard-wired versus acquired through our environment. Maya and Micah are both genuinely happy children - both have been smiley from their early weeks. Micah's stubborn streak appeared quite early in his babyhood, and every day it grows stronger and stronger (DH and I always joke that we cannot imagine how he could ever have a stubborn streak...since he could not possibly have gotten that from us). I wonder how much of what they are experiencing now is shaping who they will become as adults. Will all of Maya's time spent in a hospital setting rub off in some manner and help determine who she is, or will all the times I leave Micah behind alter him in some way?

Since having children, I often feel like I'm becoming my mother. I catch myself doing and saying things I remember my mother saying and doing. Sometimes, I swear I hear my mother, and as I turn to search for her, I realize it is me talking, and that my mother is coming out of my mouth. I've noticed something similar happening with my mother...each day, I see my Grammy more and more in my mother. It started slowly...a sentence here and there, a gesture of the hand, the way she reaches for something. Some days, I can hear it in her voice, or the way she takes a Kleenex and tucks it under the arm of her shirt. It makes me wonder - is this just our environment shaping us, or are we hard-wired to become our parents? As I grow older, will I eventually become my grandmother, too?

We had another early start to the day today - Micah woke up at 7:15 yelling "Mommy! Elmo, please! Abby? Animal!" I always laugh at his morning "shout outs." Speaking of hard-wired, I think Micah must have been hard-wired to love Elmo. It is the obsession that never ends (although apparently, he has room in his obsession for Abby, now, too). Micah's room is decorated in a jungle theme...his crib has elephants, lions, monkeys and giraffes all around the edges. I think he now wakes up and starts pointing to the first things he sees...animals. I often find him sitting and talking to his animals in the mornings, while hugging and kissing his blue dog blanket.

Since Maya was still asleep this morning, I brought Micah straight downstairs. Micah insisted on helping himself to breakfast (cereal) and a sippy cup. Micah then began to lobby for me to put Sesame Street on tv - he dug up the remote, handed it to me and said "Mommy, Elmo, please." I told Micah we would watch Elmo later. Micah paused for a moment, then turned to me and said "Mommy, Abby, please." I laughed, and told Micah to wait. He began to speak louder: "Elmo, Abby, please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Elmo. I need. I need Elmo. Please." It was too much cuteness, so I did what every good mother does when she is exhausted, trying to keep a two year old quiet, and hoping for another hour before the second child joins the frackas...I put on Sesame Street and made Micah say "thank you."

DH and Maya joined us about an hour later. We worked on getting Micah to eat more food, we finished watching Sesame Street together, and we played with some toys. By 11:00, we were all dressed and ready to go - DH left for services with Micah, and Maya and I left shortly thereafter to go up to the nursing home.

I spent most of the car ride on the telephone - thankfully with a sleeping baby (for a change). My mom called me during the drive - she wanted to know whether she had to be transported to the hospital today. I told my mother that today was Saturday, and she did not have to go to the hospital today or tomorrow. For a moment, I flashed back to conversations I had with my grandmother...listening to her complain about how the phone doesn't work well and trying to remember what day of the week it was and what the plans were for the day. My mother's memory is actually very good, but she is quite confused about the day and time. Mom was thrilled - she is really starting to hate the daily transports during the week. She only has 12 sessions of radiation left - so 12 more transports.

I also told her that my brother, SIL and the girls should be there any moment, that I was about 15-20 minutes behind them, and that my father was another 45 minutes to an hour behind me. I told her that she had other visitors coming up in the afternoon, and she said she was looking forward to seeing everyone.

During the ride, my father and I also had a...discussion. Well, as much as I can ever have a discussion with my father. I have been extremely frustrated with him lately, and I told him that I need him to talk to me and help me with the planning for our living situation in the next few weeks. I think this is just one of those things my father is having a hard time processing. He doesn't want to think about living anywhere else other than the home he has lived in for the last 39 years. He is comfortable there - his stuff is there. And he and my mother have lived there together for almost all of their married lives. They raised my brother and me in that house. I think we all hate the idea that we have to change the status quo. This is going to be a drastic change for all of us, and I think we are all worried about how it is going to work. It is going to be hard for us all to live in a house together and to get along and not step on each others' toes. I'm worried about having to become the housekeeper that picks up after everyone all the time. My mother is worried about whether we can take care of her and if it will be too hard on us.

All I know is that the only way for us to bring my mother home is for all of us to do it together, along with some hired caretakers. I am certain that my mother will be less lonely if she can be around all of us during the days and in the evenings. I'm certain that we will all feel better about coming and going and resuming our normal schedule when there are more of us around to make her feel safe. And I'm certain that the only way I can spend the maximum amount of time with both my mother and my children is if we are all in one place. I just know that for whatever time my mother has left, we can make it better by being together.

When I arrived at the nursing home, my brother, SIL and the girls were already there. We all sat around talking, and I had a chance to spend some time with the girls. Since Peyton always likes to wake Maya up, I told her that the baby was sleeping, asked her not to touch the baby, and parked the stroller in the hallway. Five minutes later, the baby was crying, Paige was yelling "Peyton woke Maya" and Peyton was grinning from ear to ear as she told me "I poked Maya and she woked up. Can I hold her now?" Peyton is lucky she is cute! SIL did me a huge favor and held Maya for a bit. Then, my mother needed the nurse, so SIL, my brother and the girls said goodbye and we all stepped out to watch the fish in the aquarium in the dining area.

While we were there, two of my mom's friends showed up for their visit. My brother and SIL stayed for a few minutes longer to chat, then they left for a birthday party. Peyton was shrieking and crying as they left...much to our amusement. The drama of being 3!! My brother told her to stop doing something, which started the big rolling crocodile tears.

We all then went down to visit my mother. She seemed to be in good spirits today. Unfortunately, the room was extremely hot - I guess the nursing home shut off the air conditioning this week (because of the cold weather) and now that the warm weather returned, we were roasting! My mom's friends brought my mother some muffins (she had one for her afternoon snack), and we all chatted for a while.

My mother was supposed to go to physical therapy around 2:00, but they seemed to be running late. My mother was getting nervous about not being ready in time, so she asked for the nurse again to get her ready for PT, and she said goodbye to her friends. As they were leaving, my father arrived, and we all chatted in the hallway for a bit. My father and I returned to my mother's room and we talked. My father told me that my mother did not want to live in a house with all of us together, so I thought I should get to the bottom of the situation with all of us together in one room, hearing the same things at the same time. I asked my mom if that is how she felt, and she immediately told us she never said that. She said she is worried about how we will manage it together, and she is concerned that she will be a burden on us, but she said she would like for all of us to live together.

PT showed up several hours late...right at 4:00 as the next wave of friends, DH and Micah all arrived. DH had taken Micah to an air show before coming up, and apparently, Micah had a great time climbing on planes. I love how the therapist seemed annoyed that we were interfering with her PT time when everyone stopped to say hello...instead of realizing that we had scheduled visitors to arrive during a non-PT time and she was the one running late! My mom did well in PT again - she is working as hard as she can, and it does seem like she is making progress. Unfortunately, the head therapist has put lift restrictions on my mom and will not change them until she believes my mother can do more independently. It is frustrating, because the therapists orders are interfering with the doctor's orders. I would think the doctor's orders should trump, right?

During the afternoon, my mother was complaining of a headache again. I knew immediately that they must not have given her the steroids at the correct time. I checked with her nurse, and once again, someone had crossed out the recommended times and was putting 13 hours between her nighttime steroid and her morning steroid. The pill is to be given three times a day - which should imply every 8 hours, right? They just cannot get the hang of that. It is one thing to stretch her to 10 or even 11 hours at night, but we've already told them that 13 hours is way too long. I get so annoyed that these mistakes keep happening.

We had a nice visit with everyone, but I do wish they could have spent more time with my mother. We spent a large part of the time waiting for my mother in the patient dining room. Marisa and I created our own little nursing corner as we fed our babies and chatted about pumping. It was great to spend a little time with everyone, especially the kids. Micah discovered a computer and a printer while we were lounging, and he was having fun banging on the keyboard. He also discovered the "print demo page" button on the printer, and must have printed out about a hundred pages before DH took the DVD player out of the car and distracted him with Elmo. Micah was not in such a nice mood - he shoved one of the babies (a 6 month old) a few times. I think the first time she thought Micah was flirting because she smiled at him, and the second time she cried. For good measure, Micah shoved the 2 1/2 year old a few times, too, and we had to force him to allow her to watch Elmo with him. Please tell me the shoving phase will pass and I'll be able to trust him again?

After an hour or so, some of the guests started to leave. The rest of us stayed to visit with my mother a while longer. Once again, the kitchen sent up the wrong food for my mother. I do not understand how they manage to get the food wrong for EVERY meal. It is like they don't even try. They've been getting the food wrong for my mother's roommate, too. We actually checked it initially to see if perhaps they were just switching their platters, but it appears they are just dropping random things on each of the food plates. Luckily, my mother's company had stopped to get her a corned beef sandwich, and she ate that instead, along with a piece of birthday cake from the party my mother's friends had attended just before their visit.

Around 6:00, we all started to leave. My father decided to go out to dinner with everyone, but first they made a detour to visit two other friends. The husband has also been going through chemotherapy and radiation (I believe he started just a few days after my mother's brain surgery - I last saw him the day before his first treatment), and just a few days ago, he completed his radiation course and rang the bell!! We are thrilled for him, and I hear he is doing well.

Since DH and I drove in separate cars, I decided to take the opportunity to send both children home with DH...and enjoy a ride home without a screaming baby. What a wonderful change that was! I made a few phone calls (a family friend's mother is not feeling well again, and I wanted to call and get an update). We were thinking of her all day today, and we hope she feels better soon.

We made it home by 7:30, and we ate some dinner. We spent a bit of time playing with the kids before putting them to bed. DH and I relaxed in front of the television for the evening, finally catching up a bit on the DVR. Overall, it was another good day. My mother called around 10:45 tell me good morning. She told me she just took her pills and was waiting for breakfast. I told her that it was 10:45 at night, so she probably just took her last nighttime pill (I'm guessing they actually gave her the steroid at the correct time tonight) and it was time to go to bed. She said okay and then told me she was confused about the time because it felt like morning. I told her that we had spoken only 3 hours before, so she probably just took a nap and was woken up for her bedtime medications. I told her that it probably felt like she had slept a lot longer than 3 hours. She again repeated she was dressed and waiting for her breakfast, and I told her she would have a long wait. She laughed about her confusion, told me she was never going to get it right, and then told me she could wait for breakfast if she wanted. I told her to go right ahead, but she still had another 9 hours to go. Something in our exchange had me smiling as I recalled similar exchanges with my grandmother. It was kind of was my mother, and definitely her sense of humor, but for just a moment, I could touch on a different moment in time with my grandmother. I wonder if one day, I'll be having a similar conversation with Maya and suddenly feel like I'm touching on the same moment...but this time with the roles reversed. I guess I'll never know if it is in the wiring.

My mother has no PT scheduled for tomorrow (of course, every time we announce that, they schedule something). So, she is open to visitors any time, and would definitely welcome the company tomorrow. I think we are going to try and get her up into the wheelchair around lunchtime and keep her up all afternoon. We'll see how that works out. To my knowledge, we only have 1 visitor planning to come in the afternoon. My mother's mornings are often the quietest - I will not be able to get up there until at least 1:00 tomorrow because Micah has swim class, and I don't think my brother will be able to make it over. I think my father is planning to get there by lunch time, but I'm not certain.

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