Monday, March 29, 2010

Making the Break

You know you have a problem when the very first thing you do in the morning is hit the power button. Even before you pee. It's really bad when you can't ignore the little red flashing light telling you a new email has arrived. And you know that when you have chronic pain in your thumb, you officially are an addict. I'm making the break. After several years of Black Berry addiction, I am finally cutting the cord.

Why? Well, I have had some concerns about the safety of cellphones in general that I've written about before (see it here). Apparently texting is safer, but I am a complete ninny when it comes to texting. So much so that we have the texting features shut off on our current phones. I'm also home most of the time, or I'm driving with kids in the car and we're talking or singing, so calling is out. I used to be a regular driving/calling nuisance, but after realizing that I was getting frustrated with other driver on the phone, and they were probably saying the same things about me, I cut talking while driving. Not to mention the whole Oprah pledge. So I've decreased my cell usage dramatically, and now we are barely using 30 minutes each month between Honey and I, when we have a plan that gives us like 400 or 500 minutes a month.

But the email is a whole other story. I've had a Blackberry at work for several years, and had a really hard time with feeling cut off from the world when I left work to raise the kids. Honey got me a new BB and I was complete again. But...I think the ability to see the emails coming in does a few things that I'm not a fan of. It distracts me from my actual life. And really, what is so important that I need to drop everything and tend to it immediately? I work at home as a mom. Yeah I co-lead the HMN chapter, and do some volunteer stuff, but there is nothing "emergency" about that. Seeing that the pics are up from this weeks preschool class, that there is a sale at Lands End or that someone posted on my Face Book wall takes me away from what I am currently doing. Sometimes an email on the BB makes me feel the need to check something, email back, or otherwise cut the current activity short. It feels like I am not in control of my time and I am at the whim of others.

After looking at how much we were spending each month on cell service, and comparing that to how much we use and need, it seems obvious that we should just do it. I have a computer and can check my email during the day or in the evening. Honey can't even use his phone during the day since he can't bring it into his office. So really, we are perfect candidates for prepaid phones. As long as I can stand the withdrawal.

Well, now comes the exercise of finding the best company and the best value, and the absolutely impossible task of finding a way to use one or two of the multitude of old cell phones we have laying around. It pains me to buy a new one, but all of the companies' phones only work with their network. We have two Verizon phones, but they are so old the representative said they couldn't use them and we'd have to buy new phones. At $50ish bucks a pop, that seems counterproductive. And our current phones can't be used with prepaid service (OK so clearly that's a racket).

We found an old Tracfone and have started the process of changing Honey's number to that one. I ended up buying a partially recycled phone from T-Mobile. So for about $30, we both have phones and are ready to activate them and add airtime. It will end up costing around $235 for the year for phones and minutes, which is about $750 less than what we would pay for a year of our current plans. The only drawback is that there is no service we have found that will let us keep the phone activated and only buy the minutes we think we will use. Judging by our current usage, we only need about 400 minutes for the year between the two of us. The least we can buy is about double that. Oh well, maybe I'll suck it up and learn to text!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Their Best Behavior

After hearing fairly frequently how well behaved our kids are, a few of my mommy buddies and I have had several discussions about this. Why are our kids perceived as "well behaved"? How are they different? How is what we do different? And how do our lifestyles impact our kids behavior? We came up with a few ideas.

To start with, we have great kids! Yeah. I'm biased, but they really are terrific little people. We respect their "peoplehood". Something I find different about some of the families I tend to hang out with is that the interactions parents are children have are truly respectful. We really talk with our kids and are curious about what they have to say. There is very little speaking down to a child or baby talking. Conversations are an even give and take. We give choices, we give information about what will happen in advance, we help the kids be prepared for situations and interactions. We listen. We nod. We look interested instead of looking at something else while we mindlessly say "um hm". We give them our time as well as time to do things themselves. I think this is really important. People have a constant chatter in their heads about the schedule for the day, and rather than sharing their thoughts, they just expect that when they say "go" the kids will follow. I think the routines of the day and the time allotted to them is imperative to having a calm child. Just sharing that "before we get in the car in 10 minutes, I'd like you to have your jacket and shoes on" can really make a difference. Allowing enough time so a toddler can do as much of the preparation for an activity helps them be more invested in the activity itself. We do so much directing and scheduling of kids these days that they really have very little opportunity to do things for themselves. I've heard so many times how so-and-so cant put on their own shoes or jacket or whatever, and it turns out they never get the chance because they are flying out the door and mom always does it for them because it is faster.

One really basic difference is food. One mom was saying yesterday that she was again complemented about the group of toddlers at her home for a party last weekend. She observed that there was no soda, cake, or candy. Hmmm. Just knowing how my own kids behavior changes with sugar and artificial colorings - heck, how I feel when I eat garbage - makes me sure this is key. The amount of "stuff" in kids food is really nauseating. Come to think of it, the fact that the culture believes there is "kid food" is just as bad. Check out any kids menu - grilled cheese, mac and cheese, hot dog, hamburger, pizza, chicken nuggets...we are being led like zombies to believe that they won't eat regular food. Peanut was dancing around this morning as she helped me with the garden talking about how she was going to eat all the vegetables we grow. I know the fact that we focus on organic, fresh, whole food helps her feel good and have the energy to play as well as the self regulation to deal with events that might shake up her routine.

Another huge difference is play. A mom I know said she had told another mom that they didn't sign up for any tot classes this session and they were really enjoying their time to play. The other mom looked at her like she had three heads. Even two year olds have packed schedules with classes, playdates and lessons. I always try to leave at least one day (and I prefer two) to just hang out. No schedule, no outings, just play. At our regular playgroup last week, the kids were doing what they usually do - running around and playing in the yard. We let them direct their own play and intervene if they are unable to work something out themselves or when it could get dangerous. The kids were playing in the leaves in the garden and found some plastic pots. One was the perfect size and shape to be a hat for the leader of a marching band. So we've got a dirty pot on one child's head (which got passed around so others could take a turn - on their own mind you) and leaves all over the back of another (mine) who had rolled around on the ground, and they are marching around the yard quite regally. I could have insisted that the pot go back in the garden or that Peanut dust herself off or no longer roll on the ground, but I didn't. Neither did the other moms. Kids get dirty and explore and they will get a bath later. I could have tried to explain that the pot was for plants, and thus thwart their creativity. Some may see they way we are parenting as too permissive, but I think it allows kids to be curious, to explore, learn and use their energy. Being relaxed about play and not insisting that play goes on in a particular way ensures that our kids know that when we do insist on something, we mean it.

I'm sure there are all kinds of other little (and big) things that make a big difference in how kids act. I know our kids are certainly not on their "best behavior" all the time - but really, who is? I'm not. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they've got every minute of every day. You really can't ask for more.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Magic Box

I'm not a huge fan of television. OK, so I might actually think is it the root of all evil...and getting worse. The commercials are horrifying, the product placement in shows is horrifying, the shows themselves are mostly horrifying. Before Honey moved in with me almost five years ago, I had several blissful years without any TV in my house. People would always ask how I did so much stuff - I worked full time, and had at least one part time gig at any given moment, had a dog that I walked (for real - at least a few miles) twice a day every day, did stained glass, made jewelery, sewed, gardened, read lots of books, had a decent social life, and did much of the work renovating my house. I always told them it was because I had no TV! Now that we do have one, I know that it is a mind waster, eye destroyer and time sucker. Don't get me wrong - there is a place for TV. A little mindless activity on a nice sick day when you really have no energy to do anything else is a good thing I think.

So the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children under the age of two watch ZERO Television. If you have never heard that, take a moment to wonder why. Is it a new statement? Nope - they have been saying that for over 10 years. Is it because no television station will air that news? Hmmm. Of the multiple studies done that have found correlations (careful - correlations are not the same as causation - don't put any words in my mouth here people!) between TV and obesity, aggression, autism, other health problems, and decreased learning, how many have been discussed on TV?

Anyway - When Peanut was really small, keeping the TV off was easy. We just did lots of other stuff and had a grand old time. As she got bigger, she saw some TV but not much. The viewing went up exponentially when I was pregnant (and tired and crabby) with Pumpkin, and then again when he was tiny and I was spending so much time tending to him. Now that we are in a routine, we keep the TV viewing to a minimum - it stays off until at least 4pm, and then she watches while I get dinner ready. When she was sick a few weeks ago, the TV was on all the time and she got addicted FAST. It was honestly like crack and the best ad for shutting the damn thing off that I could see. She had tantrums about watching and would just go into the family room and sit on the couch expecting me to turn it on. She had been able to play while viewing, but that has gone by the wayside too - she is now an instant zombie when I press the power button. After reading a little blurb in Mothering about an increase in aggression with TV viewing, we decided to shut it off.

Well, we were on week two of our no TV experiment. I say "were" because it was on this afternoon. I am sick with a crazy sinus/head cold, and Peanut whined "mommy mommy mommy mommy" for her entire nap time. Clearly, I am unable to parent effectively right now, and I called upon the magic box babysitter. She wanted to watch some dinosaur show she has seen before that seems a bit mature for her. We watched together and she told me several times that the dinosaurs did not scare her. She also told me that there are no dinosaurs in our yard. Nope. She also got upset when I changed the channel during the show. I explained that it was a commercial - we've had this conversation before - and I'd flip it back when the show was back on. I think this just goes to show that kids this little don't separate the marketing from the entertainment (who are we kidding, neither do the TV ad folks!) and they are dealing with comprehending reality and fiction. The commercial part of TV may be what bothers me the most. Someone is knowingly trying to prey on my 2 1/2 year old to get her to tell me she wants some doll or truck or whatever. And the toys they are trying to sell! Dolls that look like hookers, toys meant for ultimate destruction. It's just really shameful.

The first few days without the magic box were hard - lots of crying about watching something or another. For the most part, the TV is off until the kids are in bed, and often it never goes on at all. The past few days there has rarely been a request to watch. Of course, I want to keep it off because Pumpkin doesn't need to have that much television in his life - he's only 9 months old - and he is wherever his big sister is, so that means he is watching whatever she has on. So what's the big deal? Well, I know I get more done, have more fun, enjoy my family more, and have better playtime with my kids when the TV is off. Yeah, we use our DVR and watch a few shows - we are not total purists - Honey would never approve, and now I'd probably miss a show or two for w while. Here is a great resource about turn off the TV week - it has statistics and facts, and ideas about other things to do while you stash your tube. Looks like the next Turn Off Your TV week is coming up April 19th...Get ready!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wanted: One Camera Crew...

The language that comes out of this little girl is astonishing. Today, she said, "mouses are mice" very thoughtfully as she was working out the plural. She has the plurals of most normal words down, but some of the odd ones are a puzzle for her. I have no idea where she got the mouse - mice connection, but there it is. We were driving this morning to Hidden Pond, and stopped on the way to drop off some library books. After a big exclamation "there's my library!" she asked "are we going inside to drop off our books?". Once we were on our way, she began to ask about going inside the library again and I said that maybe Friday would be a good day to go. Peanut then says, "no, I have plans Friday." Really? So I asked what her plans were - she says "Aunt Brianne will come Friday. She will have dinner with us and read books." Yeah - she does have plans Friday. Who knew she had a little blackberry in her head?

After a fun filled morning watching the turtles and snakes, walking around the pond, and playing on the playground (completely independently even on the big slides for the first time!) I figured we'd have a nice nap. She talked to my mom on the phone, and had her second "real" phone conversation. She told her all about our morning with details about seeing "lots and lots of fish and tons and tons of turtles" and that she was "sad about the mice. Mouses are called mice. The mice went to another store.". After all that, well, she's still up there talking and chattering away. When I went up to remind her it was still naptime, she gave me the play by play of her afternoon. "When I finish my nap, I will put on my pants and shoes and my purple flower dress, and go outside to run and play." She is priceless.

My little dude decided yesterday to pull himself up on his little gym and use it like a walker. So I turned around to see him coming towards me! Holy cow. Between the two of them, it's just constant - I wish I had a recording of it all - now I see how John and Kate (well OK maybe just Kate) got to be OK with a camera crew around all the time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NOT the pink stuff

Peanut was really sick last week. She went from fine to crawling into bed at 9am on her own within 30 minutes. She said her neck hurt and I whisked her off to the doctor in an instant. No need to mess with meningitis - I don't care that we were in dress up clothes and jammies still! So the doc took a peek, and found that she had an ear infection. He said it wasn't bad, but gave us a prescription for amoxicillin anyway and sent us along on our merry way. I think I was so relieved that we were not looking at the fast downhill spiral of meningitis that I didn't even question him. He is my favorite of the four docs at the practice we go to, but honestly that is not saying much. At this visit, I was surprised to see him stop when he found something worth blaming her ailment on instead on continuing to be sure that was the root of it all. She refused to open her mouth and he did not press the issue.

So we left, prescription in hand on a Friday afternoon. Since it was an ear infection, and the most recent information indicates that most of these are viral and resolve on their own within a few days, we went home, laid on the couch and drank OJ, upped the probiotics, and ate lots of chicken soup. We tried some garlic oil drop in Peanuts ear, which seemed to help soothe her, but in a few days I could see her ear canal was big and puffy. Clearly, this was bacterial and nasty - I began the hunt for amoxicillin without dye.

So amoxicillin is bitter, and without some flavor it is apparently a bear to get down. Long ago when no one knew any better, I guess we just dealt with the taste in order to get well. Now that all medications are flavored and dyed in order to make them more palatable both to the tongue and to the eyes, it is next to impossible to find a pharmacy that does not include dye in their preparations. I spoke with 7 pharmacists before I found a place that didn't react like I was a total loon for seeking out a dye free version. After their initial "you're looking for what?", most of them did agree that red dye is a poor choice for children's medicine. Several pharmacists told me they would consider carrying a dye free version if I could find one for them. Two places said they had plain white chewable tablets that might work.

Think about it; lots of people have reactions to antibiotics. Lots of people have reactions to food dyes. Hmmmm. Maybe the dye is not the best thing to have in a medication?! Not only is amoxicillin usually red, it is typically red dye number 40 which is one of the worst. The CSPI has urged a ban on these dyes for some time now. I did find one place with red dye number 3, but kid has never been on antibiotics before - she has no clue that it "should be" pink or red, so why? Even some over the counter meds are now available in dye free versions.

I'll let others give you the research, but suffice it to say that none of us should settle for food, vitamins, or medication with dye. Besides, it has no purpose other than to make something look pretty. Really, if we need to dye it maybe we shouldn't be eating it anyway. Flavorings are a whole other story - our pharmacy added an oral suspension that made the amoxicillin taste neutral vs. bitter, but did not add any flavor per se.

So our first experience with antibiotics was a long drawn out ordeal, but once we did start the course, Peanut was much better within a few days. She took the unflavored undyed meds straight and was totally fine with the taste. We have had a heck of a time with LOTS of peeing while she has been on these, which I have been concerned enough about to visit the doctor again. We are one again up several times a night to pee, and the timing is directly related to when the last dose was. Anyway - if you are seeking a dye -free medication, visit a compounding pharmacy. Ours is the Centreville Medical Arts Pharmacy - hopefully, you wont need them, but if you do, they are great.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tiny Peanut

Peanut has her nickname because she is a tiny little thing. Like all toddlers, there are days she eats nonstop and days she barely has a crumb. When she hadn’t gained any weight in several months, I was concerned. Overall she is healthy, eats well over time, and certainly doesn’t look like she is starving. I want my children to eat well balanced, healthy, nutritious meals and snacks. I also want them to gain weight and grow. It’s tempting to go out and get whatever processed food she will eat and just let her chow in order to pack on some pounds, but that is clearly not the long term answer. Something I struggle with is that she is a snacker, and there are days she will snack nonstop (mainly food that I’m totally fine with her eating – not junk at all) and not eat her meals. She will open the fridge or pantry and look in saying she wants something to eat, but being unhappy about her choices.

On Monday, we stumbled upon a solution to our ongoing food problem. I had packed a lunch for preschool, and when we decided she was too sick to go, I brought her lunchbox downstairs with us to the playroom. We parked her on the couch and soon heard, “I want something to eat”. I excitedly said – “oh, let’s see what’s in your lunchbox!” and told her she could have anything that was in there. So she nibbled… and a little bit later “I want something to eat!”. I directed her back to the lunchbox. By the afternoon, she was happily saying – “hmmm, I wonder what is in here?” as she unzipped the box and pulled everything out. Although it was the same options all day, she could choose what and when she would eat, and I was happy to have her eat everything in there.

We’ve done this every day this week, and it has been fantastic. She had a small slice of pizza at 9:30 yesterday morning, and had to deal with the consequences of having no pizza for lunch later on. She had to choose from the many other healthy options in the box, and I just had to chill out about pizza in the morning. I can’t say it will make her put on weight, but it definitely eases the food issues we were having around here!

Happy birthday to Me!

My birthday was last week. I love birthdays and am not a big fan of stuff, so when Honey asked me what I wanted, I said “a day to sleep in and not worry about the kids being fed, changed, dressed…”. Considering all of our sleeping issues of late, and the fact that I wake at the drop of a hat and Honey is a bit less alert at 6am, this was a tall order. We decided that it would be easier if we chose a weekend day for my sleeping in, and planned for Sunday.

So I woke on my birthday morning, and Peanut said “mommy where’s your card?” right away. We went into the kitchen and there were cards for me! A sweet one from honey (with pictures of the soon to arrive garden beds and pea pole - yes, I am a gardening geek!) and a wonderful artistic one from the kids. Peanut was so pleased with “her card” and showed me where she had signed it. It actually looks kind of like letters, and Honey told me that as she was writing, she was saying the letters of her name. This struck me since we really don’t “do” letters – clearly, she still picks up on them. I said I was impressed that she wrote her name all by herself. She looked at me earnestly and said, “you can write your name by yourself tomorrow.” Yeah.

We went out for Japanese that night - a first for the kids, and an experiment for me. I have been avoiding soy since we discovered that it triggered some really awful reflux in Pumpkin early on. Peanut thoroughly enjoyed the experience - she had some little dumplings and edamame ("mommy, they are just like m-n-m's!") and the waitress made her a balloon dog. She tried an avocado roll, but had a tough time biting through the seaweed. Pumpkin slept through the first half of the meal, and when he woke, Peanut said "Oh Hi! We're having Japanese! Want some?". He ate some chicken, rice and some veggies with gusto. It seems that the soy was fine for us - Pumpkin and I had no ill effects, so it was a successful and delicious meal. Back at the house, Honey had a cake for me - not too sweet and very yummy!

As far as sleeping in, well... Peanut got sick, Honey's family came into town, my milk supply dropped and Pumpkin started waking every two hours again... Sigh. Someday!