You know that piece of furniture in your kitchen, the one with the round or sometimes square flat surface? How many times do you eat at it with all family members present and accounted for?
I’ll fess up: Now that my family is in transition, it’s boiled down to the weekends.
In American culture, the days where families gather at the table to eat dinner on a nightly basis are going the way of Saturday mail delivery.
Eating on the fly, wherever and whenever, has become the norm, right? We eat walking, driving, or even standing up at elevated tables because we didn’t get a table with seats at the mall food court.
We can go on and on in school about nutrition, but often our kids are rushed through their meals at their lunch period, that’s if they HAVE a lunch period. My high school daughter eats lunch in class nearly every day. She can’t fit in lunch because of her electives.
The proof in the pudding (a food substance I would highly implore be eaten at a table) is a conversation I had with a bunch of my 7th Grade Hebrew school students as we prepared to study the Birkat Hamazon. This is a long Hebrew blessing known as Grace after meals, but it actually translates to: the blessing of nourishment.
I think that hundreds of years ago, those wise rabbis who constructed this prayer were onto something: eating together and then SINGING together at a table gives us nourishment that goes way beyond the physical.
Before we got into the nitty-gritty of the Hebrew vocabulary of the prayer, I asked a general question that can be asked to any kid regardless of their faith:
How often do you eat together as a family?
The general response was, “not much.”
“Everyone has sports so people eat at different times whenever.”
“My mom doesn’t make dinner so i just grab something from the fridge and eat it in my room.”
“My dad works late so we eat without him lots of the time.”
I listened to these honest yet sad confessions just one week after hearing a recent report on National Public Radio of the demise of family time around the table.
On a positive side, because of Jewish camping, some of my students were quite familiar with the Birkat Hamazon. And in the summer, they do sit and eat meals with others and then sing this prayer together, complete with all the campy hand motions. Thank you camp!
And even if we ARE around the table, we often bring some kind of electronic device with us to further distract ourselves from the people in our lives who really count.
As Passover and Easter approach, who will be around your table?
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.
Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve stayed up past 7 p.m.
Unlike in previous years, where February was our sick month, someone one way or the other in my house was sick from December 31 all the way through January 28.
It started with New Year’s Eve.
My daughter was coughing and sneezing. Then her head ached. I could not find the working thermometer (that expensive Braun ear thermometer I purchased when the kids were babies fell into an open toilet bowl and as a result was thrown away years ago), but with my keen sensory skills, I would say she had about 101.
She knew that her planned sleep-over invitees would not be happening, but please can everyone just come over and she would stay upstairs?
After all, New Year’s Eve 2012 put the close on the last full year we would spend in this house. Everything from now on would be the last, including our last New Year’s Eve get together with our local Rochester friends.
But with flu in the house, I completely understood why everyone stayed away.
All the champagne, cheese, chips, dips, and finger food appetizers (including Mac & Cheese balls! I mean, can anything sound more tempting than Mac & Cheese balls??) I purchased for a small New Year’s get together would have to wait for another time.
My daughter’s flu-like symptoms lasted into the first week of school. As soon as she was better and returned, it was my oldest son who missed a week of school with a sore throat, a seal-like cough, and a headache that wouldn’t quit.
Finally, my youngest was the next victim of the flu and was out for nearly a week. A high fever and a bad cough were the symptoms of his misery.
I have to admit that he DID briefly return to school one evening, thanks to the magic of Advil, to perform in his chorus concert.
The show must go on, right? And again, it is one of his first and last concerts in our current hometown.
Next, it was my turn.
I often encourage my children to take turns in sharing things. This was a turn I would rather have been left out of.
My flu symptoms – both occasions, were sandwiched with the mother of all sinus infections.
I had completely lost my sense of smell for about a week. Do you know how much pleasure the human being gets from their sense of smell?
The aroma of coffee, of fresh herbs, steaming soup, freshly baked bread, lavender-scented candles and vanilla scented body lotion completely evaded me.
A whole head of garlic? In desperation, I cut one in half and inhaled.
NOTHING was getting through my schnozzola. Nothing.
I suspect that even if I had to change a diaper, I would be spared the stench.
“Inhale some red pepper flakes!” My son dared me. ”It will be painful, but it WILL clear you right out!”
I turned down his dare. I may have been desperate, but I’m not a 14-year-old boy.
When my fever went away, and thanks to some more OTC drugs, 100 cups of tea, and my new favorite toy (a Homedics humidifier) my sinuses cleared and I was feeling better.
But the tiredness and the cough only lifted completely in the last 48 hours.
After a month of being sick (and mind you, I know the flu is NOTHING in the face of other serious illnesses,) there is the blessing of
People’s first response when you are sick is always “Feel better!”
So, if you are sick with this year’s miserable flu, and you are reading this, I sincerely wish that you feel better.
You will get better soon. When your head is congested and you can’t even smell the strongest head of raw garlic, know that soon you WILL FEEL BETTER!
Not tomorrow, but soon you, will be better.
Better in the way that you can stay up past 6:30.
Better in the way where you can return to work with renewed energy and without the guilt of knowing you are infecting your co-workers.
Better in the way that you can return to exercising and actually feel energized and not exhausted.
But in the meantime, I leave you this song from The Hostile Hospital, a book in the kids cult classic books, Book the Eighth in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket:
Any time I get a call from the school nurse,I know it’s not good. I’ve gotten calls about broken arms and feet. Pink Eye and broken eyeglasses. But perhaps the scariest call was one I got just last week.
The school nurse at the school where my youngest child attends called with the news that a tick had been removed from his neck.
As my head reeled from the news, the nurse said that the good news was that it was not embedded, they got the whole thing out, and the tick in question was waiting for me to take to the pediatrician’s office.
Well, thank goodness for small favors.
I answered the nurse’s questions.
No, we don’t have a pet.
No, we have not been wading through any fields with high grasses. So, where on earth could my son have picked up a tick??
When I arrived at school shortly after the dismissal buses left, the circle of teachers hanging about outside the nurse’s office chattering about things like “Lyme Disease” and “they’re running rampant this year” were not comforting words to encounter at all.
“Emm, hello? I’m the mom with the kid with the tick,” I said, trying to drop the hint that the teachers should watch what they have to say lest an extremely freaked out neurotic parent happened to be in the hallway.
Once in the nurse’s office, I found my son happy and not freaked out at all but seemingly fascinated at the tiny parasite that had tried to suck his blood. The tick was safely contained within a prescription medicine bottle. The child was actually concerned for the tick’s well-being. Was he lonely or hungry in there? Would he run out of oxygen? Apparently, my son was under the impression he had acquired a new pet.
According to an article in yesterday’s Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, tick season will come on earlier this year and be more severe than in recent years because of the warmer weather. And, as the earth heats up, more severe than normal tick seasons will unfortunately become the norm.
Tips to avoid ticks include:
- Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts when walking in wooded and grassy areas. (The only thing is, my child got a tick simply by being out on the school playground).
- Use an insect repellent with DEET
- Those with long hair should tie it back when hiking or gardening.
- After spending time outdoors, thoroughly check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks.
- Stay on trails when you hike. If you leave the path, wear long pants tucked into your socks.
- If you find ticks, remove them immediately. Pinch the tick near its mouth and pull it out slowly in a continuous motion. Don’t twist the tick because doing so may leave mouth partsembedded in the skin
The good news for my son and for those of us living up north:
My son’s tick friend was a common Dog Tick or Wood Tick. These ticks do not carry Lyme’s Disease.
Deer Ticks, the Lyme’s Disease carrying variety, are less common in Northern areas like Western New York and there are very few cases of Lyme’s Disease.
So, enjoy the outdoors this spring and summer, but if someone (like my son’s classmate) says there is a small bug on you, don’t take it for granted. Let’s be safe out there!
I am sure you know the drill: Wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before eating and preparing food. Use hand sanitizer when getting to a sink is not convenient. Opt for the elbow shake or an air kiss. But there comes to a point in the winter, especially February, where if you haven’t gotten sick yet, you are just plain lucky.
Sometimes, the best way to stay healthy and build up that immune system is not to lock yourself away until spring thaw but to dance straight into the fire. In other words, you can spend a lot of time with preschoolers, like I do.
Entering the preschool classroom in February is like entering the lion cub’s den of viruses. The rhino virus comes to play with the blocks while his friends influenza and roto hang out by the toy kitchen. Streptococcus and the dreaded Conjunctivitis like to frolic in the water table.
I guess I’ve developed a sense of humour along with the immune system. Because thinking back to when I was a young parent, the germful world was a very fearful place.
I remember being so worried of my children catching something when my kids were in preschool.
“Did you hear?” I asked another mom one day during a Yoga class that was scheduled during preschool hours. ”The stomach bug is going around in class. What if my daughter gets sick?” As luck had it, I, the novice and neurotic first-time mommy, presented this question to a veteran mother-of-three mommy. I was feeling a bit guilty because despite this worry, I still dropped Jolie off because I wanted to go to my Yoga class.
“Don’t worry,” said veteran mommy in the middle of practicing Triangle pose. “They get sick. They get better. That’s why they have immune systems.”
This was probably some of the best advice a new mom could get. And as my kids get bigger, they get sick less often, but February is always the time they get sick. One February break, when my kids were in preschool, I cancelled nearly every playdate we made. The week was spent watching movies and reading books between doses of Advil for fever reduction and ice pops for hydration.
One year, my lucky husband was away in California for a conference just in time for the rest of us to get the dreaded stomach bug. I spent a wild Saturday night dragging sheets from my son’s bunk beds into the snow so I can hose them off.
I probably should NOT say this, but these episodes of illnesses seem to grow more seldom as my kids get older. So preschool parents, hang in there!
But if you are a younger family, this is the time of the year where a preschooler’s immune system gets the most rigorous of workouts. Unfortunately, that little 3-year-old may also take their whole family down with them. Siblings get sick. Parents have to reshuffle work commitments.
This is why I proclaim February as Sickie Month.
It is Sickie Month because it is the time in school when we see the most absences. I hear it in the lingering coughs when sick kids come back.
I see a sick day coming when the boy who usually roars like a tiger with his preschool pals loses his roar. I see a sick day coming when the girl who usually bubbles and twinkles with all the enthusiasm and glee of a little girl loses her twinkle. I’ve sat with kids as they shiver with fever and wait for their caregivers to pick them up. Now that I’m a veteran mom of three, my maternal instincts know that a dose of ibuprofen will make the child feel right as rain, though I know my school policy makes me as a teacher unable to administer any medicine.
If you have any doubts why it is necessary to have a February break, just ask a preschool teacher.