Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
That's not to say I think it's the right decision for everyone, or even every boy or every child with a summer birthday. The truth is, I am a little bit resentful of some of the opinions thrown our way over the past year-- everyone seems to have an opinion on this issue, whether they know my child or not. Most have been a simply annoying version of this: "Hold him back. He's a boy. They're all so immature." I would not argue the point of Ben's maturity, but I would argue against saying half of the human race is immature due to the presence of testicles. Other opinions, whether intentional or not, have hit closer to home, and have run through my head throughout this preschool year: suggestions that Ben is best held back because he's physically small-- as though size has something to do with readiness to learn; suggestions that Ben should wait a year to begin school to avoid comparison to other relatives and friends-- as though parents don't compare, anyway.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Going anywhere for the day with four children is a significant undertaking. Those who tell you otherwise are liars... or high on something. The museum was busy today, but not overly so, and I did NOT observe any other sixsomes, parents with four children. I was thinking about the reasons for this:
- It's expensive. I added up our costs for admission, and the difference between one-day tickets and a year-long season pass for our family was $13 (only $8 if I factor in the member parking rate.) That didn't include food-- we ate elsewhere and still spent plenty; or souvenirs-- we bought none.
- It's HARD. At one point, I lined up all four children in front of an exhibit to try to take a photo. As I stepped back, Madeline hoisted her rump up onto the guardrail and, in a moment, flipped backward, spun around and nearly cracked her skull on the concrete curb. I flung my camera over my shoulder and shoved the double stroller toward the wall before sauntering over to her and asking, "Are you kidding me?!" That response, I do not believe, is what was expected from the parents-of-one-child onlookers.
- It's a juggling act. To be fair, the subject matter and level of much of the Science Museum is above the youngest child, probably the youngest two. On the other hand, it's right in the Old Man's interests. That meant I spent much of the day counting noses and doling out snacks.
It was still all worth it to see the excitement on their faces... and the glimmers of recognition. They were LEARNING! It is such a cool place, and we will be back, because, hey, we bought that membership.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Thursday, May 24, 2012
We have seriously had enough. Apart from the floating landscaping lakeside and the flooded farmers' fields, all this rain is just plain wet... And depressing. I am pretty sure I could never live in London or Seattle or anyplace else known for lots of rain. Well, maybe Kauai.
I am taking my bright spots where I can get them:
Benjamin: "Mom, I'm not afraid of thunderstorms. Not at all. They are not scary because I know what lightning actually is. Do you know what it is, Mom?"
Mom: "What, Honey?"
Benjamin: "Whenever there's lightning, God is just taking a picture of me... So I smile."
Mom (thinking that's corny, but cute): "Awww, who told you that?"
Benjamin: "You did, Mom."
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
All those things happened... and, still, last evening was a unique experience.
It was Benjamin's first t-ball game.
You know Benjamin-- he's that smart, adorable, whiny, impulsive, wimpy, little boy who has been enough of a medical mystery to turn his mother's hair gray. Ben doesn't care to do too much except go to his grandparents' houses and torture his younger sister. He is used to being the tag-along in all of his big sisters' endeavors. Plus, I think, being physically smaller and slower-moving than most of the boys his age, he's never been one to sign up for team events. And, with a mother as un-athletic as me, Ben hasn't exactly been pushed to participate. However, this spring, Ben decided he wanted to play t-ball.
I cannot explain the overwhelming emotion of watching my little boy take the field. It affected me in such a way I could not even write about it last night. Am I being melodramatic? Of course. Still, there was a time when we were unsure whether this child would walk. We had darker moments, when one doctor suspected a terminal condition, another a rare and horrific genetic syndrome. The day Benjamin was diagnosed with two minor heart defects, you could not have convinced me there was such a thing as a "minor heart defect."
My son. On the ball field. 32 pounds of toothpick legs, sticky-out ears, braced ankles, and a grin from ear to ear, in a bright green (Go, Alligators!) jersey.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Monday, May 21, 2012
Some of the women in this book had previously belonged to a club that had gradually disintegrated. It is one of these former members who decided to get things going again and who hosted our first meeting. We have a very loose structure-- once a month meeting with wine and dessert; any book at all, chosen by the rotating host; basic discussion questions written by the host or culled from an Internet search, or provided by the publisher at the back of the book. We meet late in the evening on a weeknight, since most of us still have small children to tuck into bed, and it's no big deal if you can't make it. Low pressure. Lots of laughs.
For our first literary offering, the host chose a novel in a book club kit offered by our local public library. With this kit, she is able to check out a dozen copies of the book, along with an audio version, and some discussion questions and any additional materials. There are hundreds to choose from... She selected one that just "sounded good;" it was a wildly popular title 10 or 15 years ago, but she just never got around to reading it-- neither did I.
The book is "Breath, Eyes, Memory" by Edwidge Danticat. It was a shorter book, an easy read-- I plowed through it in just a few days. The book was interesting, offering cultural insight I would never have otherwise had (even though it is a novel.) And I marveled at the success of the book, as I read about the youth of its author. Hopefully, when our book club meets next month, I will have some things to say about it... but not too much!
In the meantime, I have now moved on to reading some of the other books recommended to me by other book club attendees. Turns out there's quite a lot I've been missing. Today, I cannot put down "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese. Then, I still have waiting "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford. I guess, a couple years ago, this tome swept the book club circuit, but I missed it. For the record, my mother (also not a book club joiner) loaned me her copy of this book... guess she knows what to read, too.
I am excited about this endeavor. I am looking forward to learning more about my friends, through their selections and through their opinions. It will be so nice to have a topic of discussion other than whose kid cursed out the bus driver or which school parents are splitting up. Books are one of those things I can't really discuss with my husband, who doesn't make much time for recreational reading, and who would have terribly different tastes from me if he did. I also don't really like to read the same things as my kids (although they are certainly as proficient at reading as their mother.) I am at the book-screening stage with the 10-year-old-who-thinks-she's-15. As for the eight-year-old, we are in a tug-of-war over me encouraging her to read more challenging books, up to her ability level. But, at least they're reading.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
I know when you think of busy times, probably the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's holiday stretch is the most hectic, but, when it really comes to plotting out the family calendar, spring is really out-of-control for us. Part of it is just the way things fall with our family, including the fact that we have LOTS of spring birthdays, but it's more than that:
school music program
With more going on, combined with longer days (more sunlight)-- hey, we're so busy we missed this evening's solar eclipse!-- bedtime battles grow, and then the busy-ness and exhaustion just pile on for the next day. I'm already dreading having to wake up the kids tomorrow when they're still sleeping and it's time to get ready for school.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Our oldest child is responsible and attentive and compassionate and caring. She will, someday soon, make an excellent babysitter. Before that can happen, however, I told Amanda she had to take the child care first aid course offered by our town hospital (she's not old enough for that one, yet) and this one-day community ed. class. So, this morning, as though it was a school day, we packed her bag with a lunch, a notebook and pencil, and a practice baby doll and sent her off to learn how to be a great babysitter.
The class was full, and most of the attendees were older than Amanda, as she barely met the minimum age requirement. She said she recognized a few of the other students from her school bus route, and had no trouble taking part in group discussions or making small talk during breaks. I am quite certain our Amanda kept the instructor on her toes, asking astute questions and commenting, commenting, commenting, because that's just how she rolls. After she got home, however, the student became the teacher. As I folded laundry and prepared supper, Amanda followed me around and quizzed me:
"Do you know how to do the Heimlich maneuver?"
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Now, no one would say I am "Miss Manners." I can be as rude and as ill-behaved as the next numskull. Still, for the most part, I believe I was raised with manners. I try to be equally gracious as a guest and as a host. I reply in a timely manner to invitations. I write thank-you notes-- or have the kids write thank-you notes-- not as often as I should, but certainly whenever a gift is received or opened not in the presence of the giver. In this time we live in, it seems few people do that anymore. Some are great at it, but they seem more "exceptions" than "rules." I have noted this year that one young teacher is particularly conscientious about thank-you notes. Once or twice, I have run into that teacher's mother, and I have considered complimenting the mom on the way she raised her daughter. I've resisted because I thought that might be creepy and ill-mannered.
At a recent physical exam, I stood up when my doctor entered the room. He got an odd look on his face and then smiled and gave me a hug. Later, he told me that most of his other patients had quit showing him that respect years ago. So, apparently, I am old-fashioned. But I do believe respect and mutual consideration for another person go a long way.
One of my friends has such ingrained manners, I don't know how else to describe her but "well bred." I enjoy inviting her to gatherings, because, even if she can't come, I know I will get a tender and timely reply. She says complimentary things about my children. She can express a differing opinion without being rude or brash. So simple. So lovely.
In the book, Clifford leads by example, not only saying "please" and "thank you," (which you would probably expect from a children's book on manners,) but he also arrives places on time; he shakes hands and/or kisses his hosts; he offers to help with clean-up; Clifford does not litter and even picks up after others. When Clifford goes visiting, he always calls ahead. Then, he knocks on the door before he enters. You don't even want to know how many of these basic rules of good manners have been violated at my home this week.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Sometimes, I do lay down with the kid or kids, if it seems like the smallest battle to fight. More often, I tell the child to lay down and try to go to sleep, and promise I will return to check on him/her. Typically, when I say "no," that child will request a replacement snuggler: "Ben come 'nuggle right next to by me?" To that, I usually respond, "We'll see" or "I'll ask him" or "Maybe, if you can lay down and be really still."
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Madeline poops her pants.
I declared her potty trained a month ago, and I am sticking to it. The girl knows when she has to go, generally takes her little tush to the toilet and does go, is capable of wiping and flushing and washing her hands, and even stays dry through naps and nighttime. She frequents public restrooms (want to talk about a REALLY YUCKY topic?!) Madeline adores her underpants (though often puts them on sideways.) She reveled in being the star of her potty party and still talks about it.
But, we are having this major issue with the doo-doo. About half the time, she does go to the bathroom on her own, and then is proud to announce her creation and invite others in to shower her with praise. Yet, the other half of the time, she will dance around, dance around, dance around and lead me on false alarm after false alarm until, all of a sudden, it's too late. Then she cries and tells me, "I sorry Mommy. I won't do it again. I WON'T!" Until she does it again.
Between the bathroom and the laundry room, I have gone through a full gallon of bleach. Plus, Madeline pooped her pants once for Grandpa R., once for Grandma P., and once for beloved babysitter Maria. I NEED those people to keep taking care of my kids... and I fear they are not going to return, because they don't want to risk dodging turd bombs.
So, what do I do?
OK, before you answer that, here is what I have tried:
1. forcing her to sit on the toilet
2. putting her back in diapers
3. praising her and rewarding her when she does go
4. feeding her tons of fruit and even small amounts of laxatives so she has no choice but to go
I asked the pediatrician, who was totally unconcerned and said this is "completely normal" at this age. None of my other children ever did this. And, while I cannot speak to our childhoods, I assure you neither Todd nor I walk around with posterior deposits. Yesterday, Madeline was coloring with markers and ended up with a big, brown smudge down her nose. I nearly lost it.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Friday, May 11, 2012
Today, at the girls' school, the student body and staff honored the life of Hayden Solien, the little boy who died this past winter, after being struck by a car at the school bus stop. This day would have been Hayden's eighth birthday.
This morning, Madeline Super-Glued her fingers together.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
I've harbored countless dessert-plate-sized bruises on my thighs from running into the same corner of the footboard of our bed, which has been in exactly the same place since we purchased it about 14 years ago. Walking in my own home, I have missed a step on the same familiar staircase and twisted a knee, sprained an ankle. My husband doesn't even look up anymore when I exclaim, "Ow!" My children laugh at me-- even the little one-- well, all but the oldest one who, sadly, has exhibited some klutz-like tendencies of her own, and I think fearfully sees her future in my clumsy ways.
The most typical and most obvious evidence of my lack of steadiness and grace is the broken toe. I am certain that I have broken each and every one of my ten tootsies on repeated occasions. Some injuries happened in dramatic fashion, like while downhill skiing or having a car back over my foot. More often, however, the little bones have broken in everyday ways-- by a can of soup or soda landing on my foot, or by running into a door jamb or a furniture leg.
Just a couple weeks ago, I took this shot of my baby toe and sent it to a friend in a plea for sympathy. I had run into the corner of our bedroom door jamb. It really hurt, and I may have even said a bad word. You can't really see how the rest of the toe turned greenish-yellow, but you can plainly make out the bruise along the fault line.
Monday, May 7, 2012
2nd: "You know what my friend and I are going to do at recess tomorrow? We are going to find someone who doesn't have anyone to play with and we are going to play with them."
4th: "Awww, that's a nice idea."
2nd: "I know. That's why we're going to do it-- because sometimes you see someone who's all alone, but you can be a friend to that person. Everyone needs a friend."
4th: "That's true, but you already have friends."
2nd: "I know, but I'm talking about the people who don't have friends."
4th: "I used to do that, too... try to be friends with everybody. But, then, I figured out that if someone was all alone, there was probably a reason for it, like: mean, naughty, or just doesn't want to play with anyone."
2nd: "Well, we aren't going to play with the mean ones."
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Benjamin: "I can't go to sleep. My penis hurts."
Dad: "Go back to your bed and go to sleep."
Benjamin: "I can't. My penis hurts. It really, really hurts."
Dad (looks at Mom): "What is he talking about?"
Mom (shrugs) : "He says his penis hurts."
Dad: "Let me see."
Benjamin (moves closer, jockeys pajama bottoms)
Dad: "Looks fine to me. I think it hurts because you're touching it too much."
Benjamin: "No, Dad. It really hurts!"
Madeline: "My penis hurts, too!"
Mom: "You don't have a penis."
Madeline (holding crotch): "But it hurts!"
Dad: "Madeline, go back to bed. You don't even have a penis. Ben, what would make your penis feel better? Want a Band-Aid? Want some lotion? Want some different pajamas?"
Ben: "No, none of those things would help. It hurts!"
Dad: "What would make your penis feel better?"
Ben: "Sleeping in here."
Dad: "How could sleeping in Mom and Dad's room make your penis stop hurting?"
Ben: "It only hurts in my room."
Friday, May 4, 2012
Elisabeth critiquing the flavor of a new kind of gum: "This does not taste like green apple. It tastes like sour apple. Really sour apple. Rotten apple. It doesn't even taste like apple at all. It tastes like disinfectant. NO, wait-- it tastes like INfectant!"
Thursday, May 3, 2012
That's not to say this everybody-knows-everybody lifestyle doesn't get me into trouble sometimes. Just ask my mom about the last time we ran into my priest at Target. Other times, running into someone I know changes the course of my day. That's not-- I repeat, NOT-- a bad thing, but it does give me pause.
While out running errands with the two little ones, I ran into a kind acquaintance, someone who used to work in a place my family frequents. Her family, a little over a year ago, met with some unpredictable, life-altering changes. She told me of these, I promised to pray and I wished her well. While this is a small town, and while we live near one another, I have not run into her again... until yesterday.
In this chance encounter, we exchanged pleasantries, discussed the weather, bemoaned changes in her former workplace, compared puppies. Then, she told me more about her family... and more... and more. I am not complaining. This was not one of those situations where I could not wait to break away. This IS one of those situations where I wanted to help, but it was clear there was nothing I could do.
Well, there is not much I can do... but I can pray. So can you.
Some days, the sun is shining and life is grand and we're much too busy for me to take the time to blog.
Some days, kids are sick, the house is messy and things are generally cruddy, but I don't want to blog about anything like that for fear of sounding whiny or ungrateful or incompetent.
Some days, I blog about those things, anyway.
Some days, I'm really ticked off and I write things I wish I hadn't written.
Some days, I'm exhausted and overwhelmed and I just want to go to bed, but I feel an obligation to blog, so I do.
Some days, the computer is so slow, I want to punch something.
Some days, I punch something.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
In all sincerity, everybody has something, and, so far, we've gotten really lucky that the "stuff" our kids have does not get in the way of what they want to do and how we all want to live. Still, like any concerned parent, I do sweat the small stuff. And I am agonizing over this strep thing.
I raise the issue knowing full well that is "opening a can of worms," as the cliche goes. EVERYONE has different opinions on this subject. I know for sure I don't know what's right. But, I figure if I keep talking about it, eventually someone will say something that will sink in and solve everything.
To recap: Up until February 2011, NO ONE in Krinkeland ever had strep throat. EVER. I figured we couldn't get it, wouldn't get it, just didn't get it. To my knowledge, neither Todd nor I has ever had strep, so it made sense to me that our kids wouldn't get it either. When other families were infected, often repeatedly, with strep bacteria, I thought to myself:
1. "Poor, unfortunate souls."
2. "Those kids must not be getting enough sleep/healthy food/hand sanitizer/love."
3. "Hmmm, maybe her house isn't as clean as she thinks it is."
4. "Must be defective genes."
Then, last winter, after a Saturday morning basketball game, Amanda and Elisabeth were both complaining so mightily that their throats hurt, I took them in to Urgent Care... and they both tested POSITIVE for strep. So, now we get strep. Amanda and Elisabeth both had it twice last winter. This spring, Amanda's had it once, Benjamin's had it once, and Libby has had it twice, as of today. Now, those might not sound like alarming statistics, because they are not.
The thing that is alarming to Mama Bear is this: Each and every time Elisabeth has contracted strep throat, her first course of antibiotics comes to an end and she is STILL POSITIVE. I was convinced this had something to do with her anatomy-- maybe she has extra nooks and crannies in which to harbor bacteria? I started getting really worried based on the anecdotal evidence of two friends, one child and one adult, who both contracted rheumatic fever from strep bacteria that had not been eradicated from their bodies.
Just last week, you will remember I took Libby to see a pediatric ENT. I chose this particular specialist on the criteria I use for choosing all my kids' doctors:
1. strong recommendations from smart friends who parent the way I do
2. laid-back, conservative approach
3. procedures done at Children's Hospital, where, in my very biased opinion, they are the best at caring for children (and also where my SIL works)
As previously mentioned, Dude was remarkably UNconcerned about the lovely Libby. He said he would be hard-pressed to make an argument for removing her adenoids, and really wouldn't even consider taking her tonsils. His criteria is: three strep infections in each of three consecutive years or FIVE in one year. The doctor also suggested the reason Libby was having trouble shaking the strep was because of previous long-term exposure to antibiotics due to bladder issues earlier in life. All this made sense. He told Libby she did NOT need her tonsils out, and we left. The sun was shining and everyone was happy.
Until this morning.
Elisabeth stood next to my side of the bed at 6 a.m., crying for ibuprofen because her throat hurt so badly. Still recovering from the virus that knocked me on my butt over the weekend, I told her she was fine and sent her back to bed. But, when it was time to dress for school, Libby was still whimpering and not doing much else. Since she was not running a fever, I told her to dress for school and we'd have the school nurse take a look when we arrived.
Do you know how much I love the school nurse? No, you cannot possibly know how much I love the school nurse. She is smart, sensible, cautious, firm and tender. She knows all the kids in that school and she loves all the kids in that school. I am not exaggerating. She is like Mother Teresa and Florence Nightingale and a conservative Eleanor Roosevelt and Oprah Winfrey before she started giving away cars and Princess Diana minus the whole Charles mess and the goodwill ambassador parts of Angelina Jolie all rolled into one. I am not exaggerating.
So, the school nurse took one look in Libby's throat and made a polite little exclamation before smiling and suggesting I take my daughter to the clinic for a throat culture. Naturally, she was right. Our regular pediatrician works a late schedule on Tuesdays, so we saw one of her partners, a guy a really like and to whom I sometimes consider defecting, except I really like the kids' pediatrician, too, and I think there's something to be said about a medical professional who has literally known and cared for the children from birth.
After the quick-strep test came back positive, this doctor and I started talking about Libby's symptoms, her history, and which antibiotic to try this time. He declared, "This girl needs her tonsils out!" I told him about our recent visit to the specialist, and he agreed philosophies have shifted away from being so aggressive with surgery. He also said the doctor we saw is excellent. BUT, he still second-guessed him and suggested I get another opinion.
So, that's where I am this afternoon-- sitting in bed with a mouth-breathing child next to me, reading her book and exhaling bacteria into the atmosphere. She swallowed her pill and she's savoring her juice. She can't go back to school until sometime tomorrow. As for the rest of it, I don't know what to do.
One of those nosy, pushy moms whose opinion I never ask for but I always seem to get cornered me on the way out of school this morning. It didn't take her long to gather a bit of information from me-- here I was walking OUT of school at the BEGINNING of the day with a uniformed child in tow. It doesn't take a Mensa member to figure out the kid must be sick. This mom would not let me go until she drilled home her point about getting those tonsils out and how it made all the difference in the world for her 85 children and how she couldn't imagine why I would continue to let my child suffer. I finally escaped by asking her to pray for us.
Then, I have this friend who is really nice, really compassionate and ridiculously intelligent (why is she friends with me?!) but she also has some really different ideas about life than I do. This is not to say her ideas are wrong... just out of my comfort zone. She and her husband own their own chiropractic practice, and also do a lot of treatment through a natural approach to wellness. Months ago, when I was seeking recommendations for an ENT (results outlined above) my friend offered, "I don't have any traditional medicine contacts for you, but would you consider letting me see your daughter to see how I can help?" I said, "I don't know. Let me think about it." The matter never came up again. (See what I mean about what a nice friend she is?)