Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Moon Kisses

Every once in a (long) while I come up with a brainwave that makes me stop, pat myself on the back and think, "Wow. I am Superstar Mom." (It doesn't last long.)

Before yesterday, the last big one I had was
Boychild's worry stone - a way to get him to go to school without the weeping and wailing we were experiencing on a daily basis. He carries it to this day.

Seems weeping and wailing is a big inspiration for me. Probably because when it goes on and on and on and on I start feeling a might desperate and my brain sends out little tendrils of panic in order to find something, anything, to make the crying stop.

This week's special on crying: a bobo on the finger.

Last Friday Girlchild was hanging with grandparents when she managed to find a tiny sharp spot where the seat of a step stool meets an uncovered leg. Dang short people - always finding things we tall folk can't see. Anyway, she knicked the inside of a finger right at the bend and drew blood. She cried and cried until Daddy got her a Barbie Band-Aid. Yay for Barbie and Daddy!

Every day since then this bobo has caused us nothing but grief. It is in a tricky spot and it looks quite sore. There have been HYSTERICS each night when Mama proposes we either remove the bandage completely (to expose it to air - because it had that soggy look to it) or at least put cream on it and a new bandage. Oh, and she refuses to get it wet, which is oh-so hygienic. Bath time had changed from a pleasant ritual signalling the opportunity to put the kids away - I mean - time to bond with babies through soothing baths and stories to an ear-grating, nerve-splitting experience fraught with Peril. (You know it's bad when "peril" is capitalized.)

So last night, just as I was getting to the point where I wanted to throw the banshee out with the bathwater, I came up with this gem: "You know, Girlchild, if we leave the Band-Aid off of your finger tonight, while you're sleeping the moon will sneak through your window and kiss your bobo and make it feel better."

She stops shrieking and looks interested.

"Oh, yes," I say. "The moonlight will come between the crack in your blind and kiss your bobo. But you have to be asleep, and you can't be crying because you will scare the Moon away."

"Okay," she says very quietly and seriously.

It was a miracle. We got the Band-Aid off (with a bit of a struggle), but after that she only whimpered a few times before bedtime. I reinforced the story when I tucked her in and, you know, I think the Moon did sneak in because today the bobo has finally scabbed over and there is very little complaining about it. Thank you, Moon!

So there you go. Gotta love the Moon Kisses. And hey - if you can use this story on your own little banshees, go for it!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Holding Out on Mama

Note to readers: This is a poop post. If you don't like poop, might I suggest this charming vignette instead?

I know a little who girl who probably would be none too pleased as a teenager to read about this topic, so I shall refrain from using her name. Let's just call her, um, Vernette.

So Vernette's a cute little thing. She's two and a half, going on 15. She's not gonna take no crap from nobody. In fact, these days she will have nothing to do with poop of any kind. She's got 'tood, man. I said 'tood, not turd.

As a baby and a younger toddler, Vernette, so I'm told, was always a good daily pooper, just as I'm sure we'd all like to be. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, caca fell out of favour. Vernette holds it in for days. And days. And days. And days.

Her parents pleaded and cajoled. They tried reasoning with her. They softened things up with nutritional alterations. Mineral oil. Suppositories. Bribes. Potty versus diaper versus wearing nothing. They pulled out all the stops, but couldn't pull the stopper.

What gives? "Why don't you want to let the poop out?" Vernette's mama asked the child after a session of foot stomping, sobbing and leg crossing (Vernette, not her mama).

"I'm going to poop when I'm a little older," Vernette said, nodding solemnly.

Oh, dear. Her mama wonders what she means by "a little older." In an hour or two? A couple of days? Six months from now when she's three?

What makes a child decide she just doesn't want to poop?

This is just one more of at least a thousand reasons why parents need that psychology degree.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Shopping with Imelda

Yes, indeed, it's a girl.

We went shopping today. In the city. It was a Big Family Outing.

For years I've been shopping for boys. Boy clothes, boy shoes, boy outerwear, boy toys. If not for Boychild, then for Boychild's friends. We're a bit lean on girls amid our immediate circle.

Then along came Girlchild, who opened up a whole dormant part of me that immediately overdosed on pink until the colour assaulted my eyes and made me feel a bit queasy. Still, there are lots of adorable girl things out there!

Today we needed to find a spring jacket for her majesty, as well as a pair of casual shoes that were not so blatantly her brother's hand-me-downs.

Well. We perused the racks of several stores and didn't have luck with the jackets at first - they were either too heavy or too big or too small or too butt ugly. We also looked at sunhats, and I asked for Girlchild's opinion on those, which she voiced quite readily in the negative. "No, I don't like it!"

Then it came time to try on shoes. This. Would. Not. Do. She had absolutely no desire to take off her shiny black Mary Janes to try on anything else. I don't know if she thought we were going to take away her pretty shoes forever or what, but both times we tried to do it she threw herself hysterically onto the floor (in two stores) and wailed dramatically, punching clenched fists in the grimy carpet with frustration and fury. Yeesh. Okay, you don't like the shoes, Imelda? So we eyeballed a pair, slapped them sole to sole with the shoes she was wearing and we'll just hope they'll be more appealing after a good night's sleep.

At our final destination we lucked upon a jacket (appropriately pinkish) and Girlchild spied a purple straw hat that was, apparently, Just Divine. None of those other hats with princesses and Tinkerbell and sparkles and flowers was quite right. This plain purple hat with just a hint of gold in the weave was worn proudly around the store and handed over to the cashier with a big smile.
On the way home in the van she brushed her new Fairy Princess Dora the Explorer's long brown hair, then gleefully attacked Boychild's new dinosaur with the hairbrush. There may be a tomboy in her yet.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hunter or Thief?

I've mentioned before I wear a lot of hats. The nature of this freelance beast means sometimes there's not much of nothing going on, but other times I'm busy as stink. When you throw in the 24/7 mommy gig it's enough to make not just one, but both eyes twitch. (What the heck is up with that twitchy-eye thing, anyway?)

Right now I have several deadlines converging at once. My brain is remarkably calm for someone who should be panicking. I think, actually, my neck and shoulders are taking the brunt of this as they are pretty much as hard as granite at the moment. Oh, and there's also the eye twitches. That must be some zany way of blowing off pent-up deadline angst.

Things will settle down again in a couple of weeks probably, but right now I wake up with a start every morning and my brain whirs loudly into an immediate spin. What is due today? What should I do first? Then what? Then what? Then what? And don't forget the whatsit.

First, I make a list. I'm a big-time list girl. I get distinct pleasure out of stroking things off of a list, even if it's just "do dishes" or "thaw meat for supper" or "make a list." Whatever works, I tell ya.

Then I spend a good chunk of time trying to figure out where I am going to find moments to do the work while still being Super Extra Wonderful Mom (SEWM). I can't decide whether I am a hunter of time or a stealer of it. I look for little gaps between activities and schedules and chores. I could mark papers while Girlchild naps and Boychild plays outside with Neighbourboy and while the laundry is in the washer and the meat is thawing on the counter. Multitasking time thief? Hunter of moments?

Pop Quiz. When your constipated daughter is wailing on your lap while you're sitting at your desk because she "doesn't want to let it out" and you, betwixt occasional murmurs of the "there, there" nature, decide now would be a fine time to check your e-mail, are you:

a) hunting for a reasonable moment to complete a task?
b) stealing an awkward moment to complete a task?

c) just a bad mom?


Maybe I'm actually a poacher - a hunter and a thief. That would explain the bad streak, maybe.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Star-struck and Spotlights

Boychild's school put on a very snazzy production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat this week, which has been one of my favourite musicals ever since my school did it when I was in Grade 6.

It was a Family Outing(TM), replete with snacks, extra diapers and some of the grandparents. Boychild had already seen it earlier in the week when the whole school was treated to a dress rehearsal, but he was quite excited to go again.

I know Joseph must be in his blood. When I was pregnant with him we saw a local community-choir production of it that was very good. I know most of the songs, too, so he got an earful in his amniotic world. We have multiple copies of the CD lying around the house, and I have been known to burst into song occasionally. I'm cute that way. Both Boychild and Girlchild sometimes listen to the CD when they are going to sleep at night.

Needless to say, we were keen to attend.

Boychild sat with rapt attention, mesmerized throughout the whole thing, oblivious to the distraction of other busy boys nearby.

And then there was Girlchild. She is the polar opposite of Boychild the Worrier. Before the show started she worked the room; going up to complete strangers and saying "hi," running after little girls so she could play with them (she is sooooo girl deprived), weaving in and out amongst kids' legs, wandering along the aisles grinning at people. Although we watched her like hawks, she probably couldn't have cared less about where her parents were.

When the singing started she beamed and went rigid with excitement. (We've really got to get this child out more.) She threw herself into the centre aisle, dancing, spinning and clapping. She was actually more attracted to the spotlight at the back than to the musical, stretching up in her pink Pooh rubber boots with eager fingers to catch the dusty light streaming just over her head. During the dance numbers she mirrored the moves. Then she started to run up and down the aisle, which I find annoying as heck. Groom-boy carted her off to the front of the gymnasium where she could dance and clap in a sheltered corner, thereby eliminating the chase element.

After the show Boychild kept staring at all the actors in their makeup as they mingled in the lobby. We headed back to the van and he kept asking about the boy who played Joseph. "But what's his name? I want to know his name." We pulled out the program and told him the name, but it seems Boychild really wanted to talk to him. Oh, and invite him over. (He's in Grade 8.) He was star-struck. So Groom-boy took him back into the school so he could meet Joseph and tell him what a good job he did. They shook hands. The star was very gracious. At home Boychild informed us we should invite him over on a Saturday or Sunday.

Um, yeah.

I'm still thinking Girlchild will be the Diva and Boychild will handle her affairs.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pop Quiz: Do Antibiotics Kill Bacteria?

Answer: This is a trick question. Yes, they do. Big time. But they kill bad ones and good ones.

I've been thinking about antibiotics a lot lately. Boychild was sick last week with a humdinger of a throat infection. "Humdinger," for those of you who don't know, means his throat and glands were so swollen he couldn't open his mouth properly and when he talked it sounded like he had a sock tied around his tongue.

His doctor is away, so Groom-boy took him up to the ER on Wednesday. (
I was too chicken.) This resulted in a prescription for another antibiotic - the third time since January. This particular drug seemed to make Boychild go mental, which was great fun for everyone at night. It was working on the throat, but he would wake up crying and writhing in pain from his gut and he was having bad dreams. He was very agitated. This happened one other time with a different antibiotic.

So by now I'm feeling like World's Worst Mother(TM). What am I doing wrong? Why is my kid
always getting throat infections? Is it something more than a susceptibility - something really serious? (Mama P assures me it probably isn't. Thanks, Mama P!)

Still, my Mommy Senses were jangling. Anxiety was running through me like an electrical current. I was starting to blurt out things to strangers, like "The dingos ate my baby!" It didn't help that Groom-boy and I were getting poor sleeps since Boychild was waking up hysterical periodically through the night every night for three nights.

Groom-boy and Boychild returned to the ER a few days later day to see about changing the prescription to one that didn't turn our child into a Psychobananahead. Dr. Personality was on, so I'm glad I was still too chicken (see above). It went better this time. He said to Groom-boy, "You and your wife should monitor when this agitation is taking place." (Well, at night when he's on crappy drugs. And when he feels sick. And when he's having nightmares about mean doctors. Oh, wait, that's me.)

That got me to thinkin', even more than I already was. My neighbour had mentioned that sometimes kids get stuck on a cycle of infections because of antibiotics. I already knew they should be avoided if possible (antibiotics, not the neighbours), that they were only useful for treating bacterial infections (such as strep throat) but not viruses, and I knew they wreak havoc on the digestive system, knocking out the good bacteria along with the bad (hence our supply of
probiotic yogurt).

Our doctor has been reassuring us that Boychild is not considered overprescribed and that in a year or two his immune system will be more mature and he should be able to fight these things better. It's too soon, he believes, to consider getting his tonsils out. Some doctors advise us to go ahead and start treating an infection with antibiotics even before it is confirmed as strep. Or they don't even do the test. Sometimes, they say, the test says it's not strep but it is. Don't worry about rheumatic fever, they say, because it's so rare as a complication from strep these days it's practically inconsequential.

Um, okay. Well, that clears things RIGHT up. So what's a mom to do?

Well, you've got to ask a lot of questions, for one thing, and decide on your comfort level in terms of treatment. And for heaven's sake, if you're in doubt, go to a doctor.

Something that seems to be happening is that if you take a sick child and his nasty-looking throat to a doctor, there's a good chance you'll get a prescription whether it's confirmed strep or not. I don't blame the doctors for this. I figure they think if they don't give a mama something for her baby she will either freak out on their faces or sue their butts later if something goes seriously awry as a result of there being no intervention. Either way, there could be injury to a body part, so better just give crazy mama the prescription. (By the way, I'm actually very mild-mannered/wishy washy when it comes to dealing with health-care people, so these scenarios are unlikely. Maybe my crazy hair scares them.)

So, either you suck it up and try letting the icky thing run its course without seeing a doctor and confirming a diagnosis or you do what I have been doing, you get it checked out. It never occurred to me to assume I would always get a prescription. I was not necessarily looking for one, just some direction.

I'm starting to wonder, though, if antibiotics are inadvertently compromising his system since we seem to be stuck in a rut of illness. Or maybe it has just been a bad winter.

In desperation - I mean in an effort to be proactive - I visited our local health-food store a few days ago to see if there was something I could give to Boychild that would help to restore his immune system. I had the most AMAZING discussion (see blurting to strangers, above) with one of the staff members, whose son went through the same thing as Boychild: an endless cycle of strep throat and antibiotics. She broke the cycle by cutting processed foods from his diet and supplementing with stuff to bolster his immune system. Her story sounded so much like mine I wanted to hug her. Her son also missed school and then was anxious about going back, and he complained about a sore tummy. Sound like anyone we know?

If they're feeling sick, they're going to feel
anxious, I figure. Eureka?

So now I am armed with some probiotics and supplements to administer once he is finished with this round of antibiotics. For the first time in weeks I feel like maybe I can do something to keep us away from the pharmacy. Not that there's anything wrong with the pharmacy...I'd just rather be playing in the backyard with the kids.

Wish me luck!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hold Your Babies

You may have noticed I'm a complainer.

I don't mean to be. I try not to be self-centred. I try to think before I speak, but I have come to the conclusion (although I'm probably delusional) that I'm a better writer.

Despite my tendency to complain, I know I'm not hard done by at all. I have a good life and I try to remember this, but I fall victim to these things called "emotions." We have them, so we might as well use them, right?

Boychild has another throat infection. His throat is bigger than I've ever seen it. When he talks he sounds as if he's got a sock tied around his tongue. He has missed a bunch of school again.

I did not feel like a good mother when, last night, as I was trying to finish some minor task I heard him whimpering and tossing in his sleep, so I sighed with impatience as I went to him for the third time in an hour. Yeah, like it's been so fun for him.

As I lay beside him, though, and rubbed his back and listened to his breathing change from raggedy sobs to a deeper, even sound, I let go of the things that were pulling me back to my desk and spent some time in the moment (it can be done!). I soaked up the softness of his skin and his handsome features and chocolate-brown eyes. I stroked his hair and thought about the moms and dads out there who have children who are really sick, terminally so. I shouldn't lose patience about a sore throat.

Today I received some news that drove this home - how fragile life is and how we really do need to count our blessings. A friend of mine who lives across the country - too far away to hug - lost her pregnancy at 39 weeks. Everything seemed fine, then suddenly it wasn't. She delivered a stillborn baby girl.

I had two early miscarriages between my first and second child and I thought my heart would break. I was a bundle of nerves when finally pregnant with Girlchild, and at one point went to the hospital when I thought she had been too quiet for too long. I don't know what I would have done if there hadn't been a heartbeat.

For my friend to have been so close to the end of this pregnancy, so much further along in knowing this baby...I can't even imagine the intensity of that pain. My heart goes out to D and her family.

So hold your babies close to your hearts, everyone, and be glad that you can.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It's Payback Time

In the tantrum department, we had it pretty good with Boychild. He didn't have "terrible twos." Groom-boy and I chewed our nails and waited in nervous anticipation, but they never arrived. The threes were mighty fine, too. There was a smattering of activity during the "Fearsome Fours" when there was a lot of testing of boundaries but, overall, Boychild has always been somewhat compliant and reasonable.

Enter Girlchild.

Compliant? Ha!

I can probably count on one hand - maybe two - the number of all-out temper tantrums Boychild ever had. They were so rare that when they happened Groom-boy and I would stand around and scratch our heads because we didn't really know what to do with him. We watched other parents struggle with kids having tantrums and had a vague notion that we were lucky, but mostly wondered what the other parents were doing wrong. That's because we were dumb. And a tad judgmental.

With Girlchild, I can count on one hand - maybe two - the number of all-out temper tantrums she has had TODAY. Okay, it's not quite that bad, but we can usually depend on at least one daily doozy.

We don't stand around and scratch with Girlchild. We have developed "strategies." Many of these are preventive: 1. to prevent her from having the tantrum in the first place and 2. to prevent our eardrums from bursting once one erupts. (Note to parents: Never confine yourself and a small, screaming child in a tiny powder room with the door closed.)

I am one helluva mean mother. I won't let her graze all day (although some days it's close). I won't let her go out in the winter without clothes on. Or even in the friggin' cold spring around here. I won't change the CD at bedtime more than three times. I won't let her wear the princess pajamas if they are covered in filth.

No wonder she falls to the floor, screaming and flailing.

Tonight, as she spent half of supper shrieking in her crib because, well, because some planet didn't align just so or something, I had a little brainwave. I dusted off one of my neglected baby books (not much time to read them when number two comes along) and turned to the tantrum section. I seriously remember skipping over these sections in the books. It just wasn't issue with Boychild.

Ahem. Yes, well. Might as well brush up for the exam because, evidently, we're in the throes of the Terrible Twos. Who woulda guessed that now WE are sometimes the parents dutifully carting a small pink screaming flailing blonde puff away from the scene.