Wednesday, May 13, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- May 6, 2015

In honor of Mother’s Day, I offer up what every mother really needs. No, it’s not flowers or lunch at a restaurant.

In fact, my gift to mothers is nothing like a normal, warm and fuzzy gift because it is frightening. It deals with creepy, crawly things that only wish to feast on the blood of you and your children.  When they’re finished, they are thoughtful enough to leave behind the gift of a sometimes-debilitating sickness.

My gift is a reminder that May means more than Mother’s Day; it is also Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and around these parts, if you’re not aware of Lyme Disease and it’s symptoms, you might be putting your family in harm’s way.

While I’m not a doctor, I am a mother who’s had to deal with Lyme Disease. The symptoms you may have heard about--the bull’s-eye rash and joint pain--aren’t always present. They may even show themselves differently than you expect.

When my oldest son was four-years-old, he started limping. This limp wasn’t the  kind of limp that kids pretend to have in order to receive attention, even if he only limped off and on throughout the day. We asked him where it hurt, and he insisted it didn’t. We took him to the doctor, and she suspected Lyme Disease. Antibiotics took care of that limp, his only symptom.

Five years later, the next in line destined for Lyme was my second son. Gradually we noticed several symptoms in late May and early June. At first we wrote off his headaches to spring allergies. Then he just didn’t feel like doing schoolwork which he was normally eager to do. He said his brain felt foggy. At the time I wondered if he just wanted to be outside playing in the nice weather. His legs started to ache, sometimes his shin and sometimes his ankle. Probably just growing pains, right?

I started worrying more when he lost his normally-hearty appetite. Then one day he had a rash on his cheeks; it looked like somebody had slapped him on the face and left part of a handprint. The following day he woke up with a different rash all over his body--large rings that reminded me of ringworm without the raised-up scaliness. Although there was no center to the rings, this was the classic bull’s-eye rash.

Only a few weeks later, my oldest began his second bout with Lyme. We were at a family wedding, and he didn’t feel like eating the cake. His head was hurting, and he just wanted to lie down. A few hours later, he vomited once. The next day he felt horrible. His stomach was mostly better, but he was so tired and he had a fever. Once in a while, he dragged himself off of the couch and felt well enough to play whiffle ball, but mostly he just wanted to rest.

At this point, my husband and I wondered when the rest of the children would come down with this flu-like sickness. We were returning home the next day, and we hurried so we could better deal with the sickness that all the children would surely have.

The thing is, nobody else came down with it. My son improved, but sometimes he was tired or had a little headache or just didn’t feel like eating. About a week later, his cheeks looked like they’d been slapped, and the next day he had that rash of rings all over his body.

Luckily in all three instances, we seemed to catch the disease easily enough that one long (4-6 weeks) course of antibiotics took care of the problem.

You know, never once did we see a deer tick that carries the disease attached to our children, but it wasn’t because we didn’t look. The larger ticks are thick near us, so we were checking for them. We’d never even seen a tiny one until the drive to that family wedding. Just as we left, my son discovered the speck of a tick crawling on his leg. He captured it in a napkin and gave it to me. It was so small that it would have fit on a pinhead with room left over. I had to look closely to see that it wasn’t just a speck of dirt.

We still do checks for ticks, and we’ve even taken on the care of a noisy flock of guinea fowl to reduce the tick population around our home. Prevention is important.

But please learn more about Lyme Disease and it’s symptoms. Ask your doctor. Look online. I’ve known many who’ve suffered irreparable damage because of advanced Lyme undiagnosed for too long--chronic aches and pains, facial paralysis, and even vision loss.

Sometimes your loved one won’t present any of the “classic” symptoms. Sometimes he or she might have symptoms that seem like another illness or symptoms that occur only briefly or come and go.

If you know about Lyme Disease, you can help your doctor figure it out because the sickness can be difficult for even the best doctor to diagnose. Even tests sometimes show false negatives.

Please, for Mother’s Day, give yourself the gift of awareness of Lyme Disease, its many, many symptoms, and how to reduce your chances of getting it. When your family makes you breakfast in bed to honor Mom, you can share what you’ve learned with them-- between bites of waffles and bacon, of course.

Hearts, butterflies, motorcycles, gingerbread men, etc.

In addition to checking for ticks on Mother’s Day, our family tradition is making cookies with Mommy. This year we’ll be making sugar cookies and frosting them because we missed that at Christmas. Instead of the Santas and stockings, I’ll break out the non-holiday cookie cutters I never have a chance to use.

This recipe for sugar cookies is from my own mother (I changed it a little), and they are delicious! While they pair nicely with whatever frosting you like, I enjoy them best plain with a glass of milk.

Mom’s Soft Sugar Cookies

3 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream (Mom uses milk with a good bit of cider vinegar to equal 1/2 cup)

Sift flour, soda, baking powder, and salt. Combine butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla and cream with a hand mixer for 2 minutes. Add sour cream and 1/2 of flour mixture and mix with hand mixer for 1 minute. Just stir in remaining flour by hand.

Refrigerate this and it rolls better. Roll 1/4 inch thick. Cut out in desired shapes and bake about 5-8 minutes on a greased cookie sheet. Watch them closely; they get done quickly!

Beautifully decorated

**Note: This is the original I sent to the editor, but due to space issues and the fact that this column is way longer than normal, a bit here and there was cut. The editor did a great job of keeping all the important stuff (to me) in the column.

**This post was shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth for The Art of Home-Making Monday.


  1. So sorry to hear of the problems w/ lyme.. and so glad you shared your experience. It is so much more common... I never heard of Lyme when I was a kid and we traipsed all over the woods and fields at Grandma's house! We know several people w/ lymes and they suffer much. By the way, your cookies look great. :)

    1. Thank you. We have noticed a decrease in the number of ticks we find since we've had the guineas for a few years, but I find myself concerned every time the children complain of any little ache or pain . . . is it growing pains or Lyme?