Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Several times a week, a situation arises in which I say to my husband “Here – hold my bag for a sec.” This is usually followed by an over exaggerated grunt as his arm jerks toward the ground, led by the heft of the sack. I am then asked the usual two questions: “What the heck do you have in here – bricks?” and “Is all of this necessary?”
The answer to first question – STUFF. The answer to the second – a huffy YES.
Lately, though, I’ve noticed that my shoulders appear just the faintest touch uneven and my biceps seem a bit overdeveloped. And there’s something else. My “baby” is three and a half and I am still lugging around a diaper bag. An ugly diaper bag. A $19.99 on clearance at Target diaper bag. But the storage on this thing! Two bottle pockets. Two small exterior pockets. One large exterior pocket. Two zippered compartments! Three interior pockets. It’s positively cavernous. And…AND – it has special buckle straps so the bag can be attached to a stroller handle or shopping cart in a snap. Hands free shopping!
But here’s the thing. In just a few days, I will be turning the number that comes after 39. I’ve decided to ring it in with a new handbag. One that doesn’t come from the luggage department. A fresh start. A graduation of sorts. No more baby bag.
It’s not that easy. Ever since I began the search (over a month ago), I repeatedly land on purses that look identical to my current diaper bag. Some of them may even be advertised as “carryall/baby bag”. I realize it’s going to be a monumental struggle to downsize. You’re familiar with Hoarders, no? My episode would be called “Hoarder…on the go”.
So I’ve asked myself: Just what the heck DO I have in there and is it really necessary? Well, let’s officially take inventory.
(Insert me dumping out the contents of my bag)
And now...I bring you (drumroll, please) ...the heck that is in there:
• A pack of travel baby wipes
• Extra t-shirt for the 3 year old (Lexie)
• Insect repellent towelette
• Socks for Lexie
• 3 tampons (2 super, 1 regular)
• 2 allergy pills
• A tube of Neosporin
• 2 Advil
• 2 acetominophen suppositories (kids dose)
• Travel pack of Dramamine
• Baggie of assorted Lifesavers hard candy
• 2 barf bags (unused)
• 1 asthma inhaler
• 3 bandages (assorted sizes)
• 1 prescription anti-nausea pill
• 3 crayons
• 1 Disney Princess ring (Ariel)
• 1 Ariel doll
• 1 My Little Pony figure with hairbrush
• Make up bag (lip balm, 3 lipsticks, lipstick case, pot rouge)
• Digital camera
• Bag of almonds
• Trail mix
• Nilla wafers
• Hand lotion
• 2 packets Splenda
• 2 Epi-pens (Lexie)
• 1 Epi-pen (me)
• 4 Halls cough drops (honey lemon)
• A purse pack of Kleenex
• 1 barrette
• 2 hair clips
• 3 hair elastics
• Purell (travel size)
• Sunblock stick (spf 50)
• 1 toothpick (unused)
• Pack of gum (Orbit peppermint)
• Extra lip balm (Lexie)
• Cell phone
• Car keys
• Handtowel (In case the barf bag can’t be reached in time)
• 1 stray piece of popcorn (Orville Redenbacher touch of butter)
• Sippy cup (Lexie)
• 2 water bottles (1 16 oz, 1 half pint)
10 photos of the kids
4 business cards
2 missing kid info cards
Blood donor card
Emergency contact card
19 shoppers rewards cards
“I Love You” note from my 10 year old
8 insurance cards (medical, dental, prescription)
Starbucks gift card ($1.10 balance)
$200 cash (I won a bet)
Total Weight: Nine and a half pounds. Give or take.
It’s a heck of a lot. And it’s all necessary. Except for the piece of popcorn. I managed to throw that away without the need for a hoarding counselor or panic attack, thank you.
Monday, September 13, 2010
One of our local supermarkets has an ongoing kid’s program in place called “Eat a Rainbow Everyday”. This “rainbow” refers to the variety of fruits and veggies that should be incorporated into our children’s daily diet. It does NOT include FD&C Red 40, Brilliant Blue or Tartrazine.
Unfortunately, artificial food colorings have made their way into our daily lives – sometimes in places we wouldn’t expect. If you take a stroll through the supermarket and look at the items that are specifically marketed toward children, you’ll see a lot of scary options such as: Cotton Candy yogurt, Rockin’ Red oatmeal, and blue raspberry juice blast. Sometimes I wonder if kids even know that blue raspberry is not even a real fruit. Okay, so it is actually – but unless you live in a remote part of Montana, chances are you have never seen one.
Numerous studies have been done on the effects of artificial colors on children’s health and behavior. The results are a bit alarming. Artificial food coloring has been linked to: allergies, asthma, attention deficit disorders, and even cancer. In fact, some countries have even banned certain common colorings that the US continues to use.
Take a look through your pantry and read all the labels. You may be surprised. Now – take a look through your medicine cabinet. Artificial colors can be found in vitamins, pain relievers, cough medicines, toothpaste, fluoride rinses, and even allergy medications.
And how’s this for ironic – studies strongly suggest that food coloring (especially certain greens, reds, and yellows) are connected to an increase in ADHD symptoms. And what color do you think many ADHD medications are? Exactly. Sometimes I wonder if the folks making Skittles (taste the rainbow) are in cahoots with the Ritalin people. A win-win situation for them, no?
What can you do as a parent? Continue to read food labels carefully. Just because something isn’t obviously colored doesn’t mean it’s free of dyes. This is a great resource on the subject http://www.cspinet.org/fooddyes/
It’s not always realistic to eliminate artificial colors from our diets entirely, but knowing what you are dealing with is a good start. Encourage your kids to eat the right kind of rainbow. There are so many options out there these days and many companies are recognizing the desire to steer toward more natural choices, without having to visit specialty food shops and paying double. Just keep reading those labels.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
You know that show about that redneck guy named Earl? You know how he learns about the idea of karmic retribution and he makes that list of all the wrongs that he sets out to right? If, in fact, karmic retribution is real and true, my advice to you would be this: Do not roll your eyes at the "no peanuts allowed" sign. Ever. Here's why.
In September of 2004, my older child began his pre-school experience. As we entered the class for the first time, I saw the sign on the door. "This is a peanut-free classroom". And I rolled my eyes. At that point in time, my finicky son pretty much existed on peanut butter sandwiches alone (crusts cut off, please). So after a year of plain crackers for lunch, I was hopeful the following school year would involve peanuts.
September of 2005 - I had my fingers crossed as we entered the new classroom and there was that pesky sign again! And again. And again... And each time, I rolled my eyes. Sometimes, I even let out an exasperated sigh.
Fast forward to the arrival of our second child. Sometime around her 18th month, we decided to introduce her to Daddy's other girl - Little Debbie. A Nutty Bar, to be exact. Our daughter eagerly accepted the peanut buttery wafer and held it in her mouth for a moment. One short moment. Then she whined a bit and refunded the offering. Huh. "Maybe it's the texture", I offered. "Peanut butter is a bit pasty, you know". We gave her a single piece of peanut butter crunch cereal. Same reaction. Huh. Nutter Butter cookie? Out it went. Double huh. We figured she just wasn't ready for such a sophisticated foodstuff. Perhaps it's an acquired taste.
A few months down the road, we revisited the nutty experiment. A Reeses piece, a peanut butter chip, and a peanut butter granola bite. No, no and no. She just wasn't having it. It was then that I wondered about a peanut allergy, although she hadn't reacted with any of the things I associated with peanut allergies. No rash, vomiting, or anaphylactic shock. I wanted to believe she just didn't care for peanut butter the way our older child didn't care for brussel sprouts.
So on my daughter's first day of pre-school, when the teacher asked us to list any food or drug allergies, I wrote "Possibly peanut. Not sure though. Maybe not. But maybe yes. SO...just in case - maybe no peanuts?" And up went that sign. And yes - I caught a couple of eyerolls. Karmic retribution, indeed.
NOTE: Shortly after beginning pre-school, my daughter had food allergy testing and was found to be severely allergic to peanuts. This is a very scary situation and it's wise to take the following precautions:
1) Alert any caretakers, classmates and their parents, friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, and school staff about the allergy.
2) Carry an epi-pen at all times - or two, since it can sometimes take two doses to treat an attack.
3) Have an extra pair of epi-pens for school, day care, Grandma's house, etc...
4) Have your child wear a medical bracelet (or badge, sticker, temporary tattoo) http://www.allergicchild.com/allergy_related_products.htm
5) Read labels very very carefully.
6) Carry your own snacks and do not allow your child to swap or share snacks.
7) Talk to the child about their allergy. Of course, you don't want to overdo it. My daughter is hesitant to eat donuts because it has the word "nut" in it. But maybe this is a good thing.
8) Have your child re-tested periodically to see if there is any change. Some children do outgrow peanut allergies.
9) Read all about it. I found this to be one of the best websites on the topic. http://www.foodallergy.org/
10) Be careful when dining out. Many ethnic foods regularly use peanut ingredients without it being obvious.
11) Watch out for cross contamination - both in foods and on surfaces. People think I am OCD because I carry an obscene amount of purell and wet wipes to use in eating establishments.
11) Ignore people who roll their eyes about it. They'll get theirs. Totally kidding! I don't really believe my daughter has peanut allergies due to karmic retribution. I just try to use humor to soften things a bit. No hate mail, please.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
On a lovely afternoon, six years ago, I found myself in the check out line at a local housewares store with my then three year old son. Only one lane was open. We were next and there were at least four people waiting behind us. As we approached the cashier, my son asked me a question that, to this day, causes me to break out in a cold sweat. "Is that a man or a woman?"
I should also mention that my son had not yet grasped the concept of the elusive "indoor voice".
I glanced at the cashier. Oh my. He? She? I desperately looked for clues. Close cropped hair, no make up, no jewelery, flannel shirt, no obvious protrusions. I did, at that point, what I'd like to believe any parent would do. I offered him a handful of goldfish crackers and a few gummy bears for good measure. The snacks were refused.
"MOMMY!! IS THAT A MAN OR A WOMAN?!?!"
Oh my God - could he BE any louder? It was suddenly very quiet in the store. The pressure was on. Think think think. What would MacGyver do? An idea came to me! I scanned the cashier's torso praying there would be a name tag and praying even harder that it would not say "Pat" or "Chris". And there it was - "Jennifer". Hallelujah!
I calmly looked at my child, sitting in the shopping cart, awaiting my answer. "Silly goose. It's a woman, of course! Her name is Jennifer - can you say 'hello' to her?" Crisis averted! I am supermom! Jennifer rang us up and we were good to go. We had barely begun to walk away when the next question came. "But how come she looks like a man?"
Sometimes, you just have to keep moving and not look back.
Kids are curious. I've seen that statement written in countless books and magazines. But they didn't really mention HOW curious. No one really tells you that, on average, pre-schoolers ask one thousand five hundred sixty-three questions per day - give or take a few hundred. And that maybe, you might have the answer to two of them - max. Also - preschoolers are not shy about where and when they hit you with these inquiries. The really tough questions seem to come at the most inopportune moments; almost always in public and in the presence of complete strangers who seem to lean in a little closer and dare you to come up with an answer. And it's not like the SATs. If you don't know, you really shouldn't attempt to guess.
If you are a person who is easily flustered and hates to be put on the spot, you may want to avoid the following places during your offspring's childhood: waiting rooms, retail stores, public transportation, and elevators. And probably church and the library.
Many of the questions that kids ask in the early days are pretty standard fare - so if you are a first time parent and your child has now formed sentences that other people can actually understand, be prepared for something like this:
1) How come that person is so fat?
2) How did the baby get in there and how will it get out?
3) What does gay mean?
4) Where is heaven and do dead people watch me poop?
5) What is that Kotex stuff?
6) Is Santa (or the Tooth Fairy or The Easter Bunny) real?
7) How come some parents don't live in the same house?
8) If you have to be married to have a baby, how come Billy's sister is having one? She's only 16!
9) Why do I have to be nice to someone if I don't like them?
10) What does *$#@ mean?
When you are caught off guard and don't have an immediate answer, it's best to go with one of these:
1) That is a very good question. How about some candy?
2) Let's look it up on the internet later.
3) Ask your father.
4) I'll tell you when you're older.
and my all time favorite:
I recently found this book in the bargain section at the book store and have found it to be quite helpful: http://www.amazon.com/Handy-Answer-Book-Kids-Parents/dp/1578591104. However, I made the mistake of not reading ALL the questions before handing it over to my 9 year old. Thanks to this book, my son knows why adults grow hair in certain places and how exactly flatulence is formed. On the other hand, two questions I don't have to worry about answering.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about her son. He was having some behavioral problems in the classroom and she suspected he had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). She mentioned this to the pediatrician at their next visit and walked away from the doctor’s office with a prescription for a stimulant. Just.like.that. Okay, that? Is a problem. A big one. For so many reasons.
First of all, there are a good number of medical conditions that mimic ADHD, some of which can be conclusively diagnosed via lab and other tests. Conditions such as: diabetes, thyroid disorders, lead poisoning, anemia, vision disorders, hearing disorders, and many others. When a child is suspected of having ADHD, all possibilities should be checked out. Not only is it dangerous to medicate a child without ruling out other conditions, it’s frankly, irresponsible. Parents must be strong advocates for their children and need to spend a good deal of time educating themselves.
After ruling out other medical disorders, there are a series of tests that can help figure out whether or not a child (or adult) has ADHD. The process is called Psycho-Educational testing and should be conducted by a doctor who is experienced. It makes all the difference. This testing may consist of teacher and parent questionnaires, IQ testing, various tests to measure memory function, attention, focus, and other tests that measure how the child learns.
The process which a family can go through to arrive at a diagnosis of ADHD can take months – perhaps even a year. Usually, when we suspect something is not right with our children, we want to know as soon as possible so we can begin treatment. The road to ADHD diagnosis is different and certainly one that you don’t want to speed through. If you suspect your child may have the condition, start by talking to the pediatrician about it. If a prescription is offered that same day, it’s time to see a different pediatrician.
Also, please know that medication is not the only choice and really shouldn’t be the first line of action to take. Treatments such as behavior modification, individual or family therapy, and social skills groups can be very helpful. As can dietary changes and supplements.
There is so much to learn about ADHD, it can be overwhelming. These are some good places to start:
There are countless books about ADHD for parents and educators, but it’s slim pickin' for kids. Here are a couple of good ones:
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Relax! Many people have done this before you. Everything will be fine. If you do mess up, don’t worry – studies show kids are extremely resilient and it’s much harder to ruin them than previously thought.
Even though you may have read every baby book in print, nothing can prepare you for how you will feel when you see your baby for the first time. In the first few weeks, you will experience something similar to multiple personality disorder with a touch of bi-polar thrown in. The highs are high, the lows are low and you will feel every emotion known to man at any given moment. Parenthood is the most joyful, terrifying, depressing, rewarding, exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, most natural thing in the world. In a nutshell.
- If you are eating spaghetti while holding your newborn, cover their head with a burp cloth. Ditto for soup.
- It’s inevitable that you will be rocking your baby to sleep, when you are struck with an urgent need to pee. The baby is just about asleep, but not quite which means if you try to put her down now – crying will probably be involved. You’ve had a long day and the idea of a crying spell does not appeal to you. What do you do? That’s a personal choice.
- When you have a napping baby, all the usual sounds of the day seem to be louder, more menacing, and somehow - intentional. There’s nothing you can do to stop the ambulances and barking dogs of the world. A white noise machine definitely helps.
- Your baby’s favorite time to poop will be:
a) Just as you are headed out the door.
b) Just as you have dressed your baby in tights and a fancy dress.
c) Just as you place her in the tub.
d) Just as you are drying her off
e) While on mass transit with no changing table in sight
f) All of the above.
Take a good guess.
- Babies can sense tension in their caregiver. They react negatively. Let’s say baby is having an evening crying spell and nothing you do seems to help. Just forget about the migraine inducing shrieks and do your best to go to your happy place. If that doesn't work, put the baby down in her crib and scream into a pillow for a few minutes.
- Baby poop can be projectile and quite explosive. They don’t tell you that in baby books. Defensive diaper changing is recommended, as is an apron. Also – newborns seem to like to make wee wee the moment after you take off the dirty diaper, but BEFORE you have the clean one in position. Having at least five changing pad covers on hand is ideal.
- Babies don’t really require warmed bottles. If you do use formula, use the powdered kind. Get a small Brita type pitcher and keep your filtered water at room temperature. When away from home, pre-fill your baby bottles with water and have coordinating pre-measured amounts of formula on hand. All you have to do is pour and shake.
- Always carry more diapers and wipes than you think you will need. Plus a couple changes of clothes for baby. It’s always better to be over-prepared. You might want a shirt for yourself while you’re at it.
- Trim baby’s nails while she’s sleeping. If you are afraid of taking off a chunk of skin, just use a baby emery board instead. Or beg the other parent to do it.
- It’s true what they say – if you are tired (and you will be), nap when the baby is napping. Sure it’s tempting to catch up on other things, but when the baby gets up well rested and you are about to drop from fatigue, no one wins. I learned this the hard way.
- Try to get out of the house each day – even if it’s for a five minute walk around the block. If possible, leave baby at home. Not alone, though. A few years ago, I read a story about a Mom who had run out of formula. The baby was asleep and was young enough that she wasn’t going anywhere. Mom decided to duck across the street for the formula. She expected to be back within 5 minutes. Well, she had a fender bender in the parking lot and it took a while longer. She told the police officer on the scene she had to get home because she had left her baby alone. Apparently, leaving the baby home alone is frowned upon. She was escorted home, by the kind police officer, when she discovered she had locked herself out of the house. True story. No – it wasn’t me.
- Immediately after becoming a parent, the world looks a bit different. Even your familiar surroundings seem strange for a while. It’s unsettling, but normal.
- Don’t drink hot beverages while carrying your baby. Especially if you are clumsy. If you must, at least use a travel mug with lid. You may have never spilled your morning coffee before, but why take a chance?
- Accept help. Even if it’s from someone you don’t like. As long as they know what they’re doing, don’t let pride or personal feelings stand in the way.
- People who give your child toys that have more than 10 pieces, or musical toys without an “off” button are not true friends.
- You know you are a parent when you:
a) start calling your partner “Mommy” or “Daddy” in public.
b) excuse yourself from a meeting to “go potty”.
c) know every make and model of stroller ever made
d) know where to locate restrooms and elevators in every department store.
e) sway and rock, even when not holding the baby.
- Dining out hint – stick with loud casual restaurants and save the upscale dining for occasions when you have a babysitter. It’s not you, it’s me. I don’t want to get all gussied up and go to a fine dining establishment, only to find myself seated next to a crying baby. I can get that at home, thank you.
- After you have a baby, you will miss the little things. Things like: eating a meal in a seated position, going to the bathroom with the door closed, a toy-free abode, and setting your own sleep/wake patterns. Don’t worry! Little by little, the universe returns these things to your life, and you will appreciate them like never before.
- Speaking of sleep/wake patterns…you will discover some new things in the early months. Things like: what t.v. programs are on at 3:47am, what exact time the newspaper is delivered, and what the rising sun looks like 8 days in a row. Although it may seem like the rest of the world is sleeping and you’re not, take comfort in the fact that across town – many other parents are in the same boat. Eventually, you will meet them and they will become your play group buddies.
- Always check your feet before you leave the house. Make sure you are wearing shoes and the left one matches the right. Sleep deprivation does funny things to you.
- Always make sure you have enough diapers in the house to get you through at least a week. Almost nothing sucks more than realizing at bedtime that you have just used your last one. Stash an “emergency” diaper or two around the house. It’s like a finding a $20 in your pocket, provided you remember where you stashed them.
- Accept the fact that you will take your baby girl out for a stroll – she will be wearing a frilly dress, bows in her hair, and full make-up. Someone will still ask you if it’s a boy or a girl.
- That same someone will also ask you when you are due. This is usually the same day you vow to stop wearing your maternity clothes post-partum.
- Familiarize yourself with all moving parts of your nursing bra before you actually need to wear it. Same goes for the Baby Bjorn.
- Never allow your baby to catch a glimpse of Barney. For reasons unknown to me, they will love him, but his voice will make you want to punch someone.
- If you feel like you are experiencing the baby blues, don’t watch the evening news. Or any of the SAW movies. Stick with comedies and reality TV. Project Runway got me through many a night.
- And finally – don’t worry about being perfect and doing everything right. Do what feels right for you and your child and ignore the Joneses. There is a new parenting trend evolving and it doesn’t involve any “whisperers”. People are going back to basics and trusting their instincts. Enjoy your baby as much as possible, as often as possible. Next thing you know, you are having a heck of a time sorting laundry because the “baby” is now wearing adult sizes. SIGH.
NOTE: Please understand that I am not a professional baby expert. In fact, my toddler doesn't sleep in her own bed and is not yet potty trained, and YET - I feel perfectly comfortable doling out advice, thank you.
Monday, January 4, 2010
I don’t know about you, but when I think of food allergies, I think: Anaphylactic shock. Epi-Pen. Hives. My son never experienced any of those symptoms. As such, I never suspected he was allergic to any foods.
I knew he had seasonal and environmental allergies. A skin prick test revealed that he was highly allergic to trees, some grasses, cats, and horses. He spent nine months out of the year sniffling and sneezing. When his allergist suggested following up the skin prick test with a RAST food sensitivity test, I wondered if that was really necessary. The doctor explained that often, environmental allergies and food allergies go hand in hand. High level tree allergies can be related to foods that grow on trees, for example. There are different schools of thought on whether the skin prick test or RAST is more accurate in measuring allergic reaction, but we went with the RAST test, which is a simple blood draw. One needle, one prick. The results showed that my son had sensitivity to TEN foods. Ten foods that were a regular part of his daily diet. Foods such as: Wheat, corn, rice, peanuts, soy, apple, banana, tomato, potato, and citrus. Great. Now what?
Next came the elimination diet, which works like this: For a period of two weeks, ALL foods that have shown positive allergic reaction are eliminated. In a daily journal, you note any symptoms, change in symptoms, lack of symptoms, etc. After the two week period, you add one food at a time back into the diet. Ideally you eat as much of the food as you can stomach, to really challenge yourself. You do this for a period of two weeks with each food. If you notice a definite reaction, you eliminate the food and note if the symptoms are alleviated. If so, you can assume you are allergic to that food and move on to challenging yourself with the next item. It is quite possible to have false positives with allergy testing, so the elimination diet is necessary in order to confirm or deny.
Included in the detailed elimination diet instructions was a list of what to eliminate for each allergen. Sounds easy enough, right? For some foods, it is pretty simple. He’s allergic to bananas, so…no bananas. Not as easy as you would imagine for other items. Luckily my son is not allergic to meat and dairy, but here’s where it gets interesting. Yogurt. Sounds safe, right? I spent a great deal of time reading labels in preparation for the elimination and guess what? Most yogurts contain fruit pectin. Pectin often comes from apples. Apples are on the “do not eat” list, so…no yogurt. Ham is another example. Pre-packaged deli ham contains citric acid. Citric acid comes from…? You guessed it – citrus.
What added an additional challenge to this task was the fact my son was a finicky eater. Sure, he wasn’t allergic to fish, chicken, or beef, but would he eat fish or chicken without breading? No. Would he eat a burger without the bun? No, of course not. He’s also not allergic to veggies, but let’s not go there.
Some common signs of food sensitivity that you may not be aware of are: nasal congestion, irritation of the throat, headache, stomachache, nausea, diarrhea, red ears, eczema, etc. These are also common signs of seasonal allergies. This elimination period was really quite challenging and many of the results were unclear. Here’s what we concluded. There didn’t seem to be any food in particular that caused a strong reaction. It did seem, however, that a combination of foods sparked an onset of symptoms. Not every time, though.
Presently, my son does not have any food restrictions. I have noted when he reacts to certain foods, but it’s so inconsistent. One day, a glass of lemonade sparks a throat clearing marathon. The next day, he can guzzle a gallon of it and…nothing. Frustrating? You bet. Confusing? Is it ever! While I feel a bit of a let down that we weren’t able to close the book on the food allergy issue, I do feel satisfied that we’ve taken steps in the right direction and we’ll keep trying until we find our answers. Do I feel guilty about the years I unknowingly fed my son foods he was sensitive to? Sure, but Maya Angelou says it best – “you did then what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better”.
*NOTE: At a follow up appointment with my son’s allergist recently, we decided to re-test him for food allergies, since two years have passed. This time, the skin prick test will be used. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Here are some links to resources on food allergies: