Thursday, December 30, 2010

Parenting with SAD, Part 2: Treatment

Last week, I was late to the holiday party at my son’s daycare because I had to sit in front of a special therapy light before heading to the party. I debated skipping the afternoon session of light therapy so I could make it to the beginning of the party, but I had missed my afternoon session the day before and barely made it through the evening, falling asleep while putting my daughter to bed at 8:00. It’s better for my kids (as well as myself and my husband) if I am late to the party instead of missing a session of light.

Treatment for my Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that will truly work for me within the constraints of my life is critical to my health, my children’s well-being and Londo’s sanity. It has taken me years to figure out what the right treatment is for me, and unfortunately the constraints of my life seem to change every year since having kids. At least every year I learn something from the year prior, and each year I’m getting better and better at staying on top of my treatments.

Before I had children, I started doing light therapy sessions once I realized I had SAD. I bought a couple of special therapy lights, which are bright lights that mimic the sunlight minus the harmful (and tanning) UV rays. Light therapy sessions involve sitting in front of the light at a certain distance with eyes open so as to “receive” the light through the eyes, the only truly proven way that the light therapy works. So I don’t get a nice tan, I can’t just sleep through the light therapy session, and I can’t move around because I have to stay that certain distance. It’s bright, which makes it hard for me to do certain thing like watch TV and makes it very obvious to anyone nearby that it’s not a normal light. The amount of light therapy I need increases the later into the winter it gets. Also, since the light helps reset the body’s circadian rhythm/internal wake-sleep clock, people with SAD are supposed to do the light first thing in the morning, and certain people (me included) also need a shorter session in the afternoon for a late-day boost.

When it’s late winter, I need the most light therapy, which would end up being almost 2 hours in the morning and another hour in the afternoon. That is 3 hours a day sitting in front of this bright light. That was manageable before kids and when I had an office with a door I could shut at work.

But now? I don’t have 3 hours to spend sitting around, except when I’m at work—but I sit in a cubicle now and am not going to have a light bright enough to land airplanes shining in my eyes while people are walking around me. I am not going to wake up at 4:00 in the morning to make sure I get 2 hours of light therapy in before my toddler wakes up—I don’t get enough sleep as it is!

And even with 3 hours of light therapy a day, I would just barely get by. I was still exhausted all the time, and only slightly depressed, which at least was an improvement to being so depressed that I couldn’t get off the couch to take basic care of myself. The 3 hours of light therapy and a dawn simulator (my alarm clock that starts to light up gradually 30 minutes prior to the alarm going off) was just enough to get me out of bed, to work, and back home. Once home, maybe I’d eat a dinner and watch TV with Londo, or maybe I’d curl up on the couch and stare off into space until Londo made me eat something and go to bed. (I could go on about how bad it would get, but I don’t think I need to. If you’ve ever been depressed or if you remember the exhaustion you felt in the first trimester of pregnancy, you’ve got an idea of what I would go through.) Though the light therapy kept me from being unable to function, it just hasn’t been enough for me to truly feel like myself all year round.

Thank goodness for medication!

Going on Zoloft in the winters, combined with (shorter amounts of) light therapy, has made such a huge difference in my life. It was a hard decision for me to make, but once I did I wondered why I ever hesitated! What made me decide to try the medication was knowing I was going to be pregnant during the winter, and time for and effect from the light therapy was just not going to cut it.

This winter is my third on medication, and I can’t tell you what a difference it has made! I am able to care for myself, my children, my house, my husband, my pets without feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. I have good days and bad, good weeks and bad--but who doesn’t? Granted my bad weeks really suck, but that usually means that I’ve not kept on top of the medication or my light or or my vitamins (multivitamin, vitamin D supplements and fish oil) or getting enough sleep, all of which I have to be very cognizant of upping dose or time as needed.

I’ll be honest, I wish I didn’t have to spend any time in front of the therapy light. But I tried going with just medication as treatment this fall, and that did not work out so well. At least with the medication, I don’t have to spend as much time in front of my light.

And that’s the toughest part about treating SAD as a parent. The time it takes. My kids are still to young to be right in front of the light (this is my opinion, as I’ve not found any age-specific recommendations for safety), and if they are in the same room as me, they often want to see what I’m doing or I need to get up to figure out what they are into. It’s not the relaxing time I need to settle down in front of my light. And the time I spend in front of my light takes away from my time with the kids, either playing with them or getting them ready for pre-school/daycare, or it takes time away from sleep, of which I need more in the winter than in the summer with a minimum average of 8 hours a night. Making sure I get that sleep and the time for my light therapy in the morning takes away spending time with Londo in the evenings or having time to myself or watching TV shows or reading or blogging. Or it means that Londo has to take more night-shift duty with the kids, which gets hard on him.

SAD seems like it’s easy to treat: medication, light therapy, dawn simulator alarm, vitamins and supplements, getting enough sleep or whichever combination of these that works for a person. And exercising and eating right would totally help! But it really is a struggle and a trade-off for each treatment, especially with young kids in the house. There are side effects of medication. The light therapy takes time away from other things. The dawn simulator might wake my daughter who comes into bed with us every night, so I haven’t been using it. Missing dosages of vitamins or supplements causes immediate reactions. Getting enough good-quality sleep is something I dream of when I’m trying to sleep (see previous sentence about daughter in bed, plus night-wakings with toddler during teething episodes like last night).

Fortunately, I know that the trade-offs are worth it considering what going without treatment does to me. And as I said earlier, each year I’m able to learn more about how to stay on top of my treatments and how to better incorporate what I need to get through the winter within the constraints of my life with young children. I have high hopes that each year will continue to get better.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Question of the Week - Do You Believe in Magic

This is the first year that the Pumpkin really has any idea who Santa is. I wasn't sure I would play along with the whole Santa thing, but it just kind of happened.

The first year we had the Pumpkin, I had this big conversation with Londo about how I didn't think I'd want to do the "Santa thing." I felt like it was actively lying to our children to pretend that Santa really came to our house, left presents and ate cookies. Londo pointed out that it was a tradition in both our families and that he wanted to have presents from Santa for our kids.

At the time, the Pumpkin was still little, and I figured she'd never know. So I let it go, and we had presents from Santa. I justified it and the books about Santa in my mind as just stories, the way Frosty the Snowman is a story. It was just a passive omission that those characters weren't real.

But this year... Well, this year she knew who Santa was. This year was the deciding year for whether or not we played along with what I've decided to call "The Santa Game." And this year, as happens with many things in our lives, Londo and I flipped positions. Maybe we didn't change positions--it could be that I didn't fully understand his position, but I definitely flipped mine.

I knew that the bike she was getting and the ride-on excavator that the Pookie was getting were the Santa gifts--the big presents of the year that we write from Santa, as my parents did for me and my siblings into our adulthood. And I don't know, I just decided to go for it. Not realizing fully where Londo stood on the issue, I started talking to the Pumpkin about Santa and asking what she wanted him to bring her. We saw lots of Santa stories on her shows (she especially loved the Dora Christmas special, of course). I also started saying that we'd set out stocking and such for Santa.

In talking with the almost 4 year old, I made that step from passive omission to active deception. Apparently Londo was of the mindset this year that he didn't mind giving presents from Santa, but he didn't feel right about actively lying to the kids.

Whoops.

(The bigger issue that Londo has with the whole being good for Santa is the same one I do, which is we don't want to use Santa as a bribe/threat to get the kids to be good or they don't get their presents. First of all, it'd be an empty threat from us, because we are going to give them the gifts. Second, that's not the way we discipline, so it wouldn't be comfortable for us. Even before he said that to me, I'd already been careful about not making The Santa Game about bribes or threats. Instead, we've been talking about the importance of being nice and good to each other, especially around the holidays when people are doing nice things for us like getting us presents, baking with us and spending time with us.)

But the damage was done. I had started the ball rolling, and it wasn't going to stop. So Christmas Eve, the Pumpkin and I set out cookies and apple juice (cause he gets milk everywhere else) for Santa and an apple and bowl of water (her idea!) for the reindeer. We set out stockings and we talked about Santa coming that night. She was excited, and I have to admit how much joy I got out of doing those things. Those are the games of childhood, putting out treats for pretend people and animals, thinking about Santa coming with a big bag of gifts for all the kids, getting excited about stocking stuffers and big presents. And being the one to eat the cookies and set out a bike with a bow on it "from Santa"? It was neat to be the adult on that side of the ritual as well.

And so, here we are. We are doing The Santa Game at least on some level. We won't be super careful about hiding it from her, because Londo wants her to be able to figure it out and not feel like we tricked her. And her face and the Pookie's face when they saw the big presents from Santa and got to open their stockings and when she saw the cookies were gone and the apple had bites out of it? It was awesome!

So this week's Question of the Week is:

In what ways have you incorporated magic into your kids' lives?

Londo and I have yet to talk about The Tooth Fairy. Right now, she's just starting to understand pretend versus real, and I did agree with her when she said that Tinkerbell and fairies are pretend and I did tell her that ghosts aren't real. But I didn't enlighten her to the reality about mermaids, though, even when there was an opportunity. If she asks, I don't think I'll lie. But she didn't ask.

What about you? Do you have a Binky Fairy (I know @Cloud does!)? Do you do Santa? Any ghosts or goblins around for Halloween? Will there be leprechauns for St. Patrick's Day? Unicorns or wizards? What kind of magic exists in your house?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Parenting with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Part 1: Valid Concerns

Two days ago was the winter solstice: the day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere. That’s a problem for me, because I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Sunlight increases the production of serotonin (a happy brain endorphin) and decreases the production of melatonin (the brain chemical that makes you sleepy). The lack of sunlight in the winter causes me to go from tired to exhausted to depressed to severely depressed.

I’ll never forget when I first figured out that I had SAD 8 years ago. It was such a relief to finally know why I had recurring depression and to understand the cause of it! Not everyone who suffers with depression gets a definitive reason for it and the ability to give a scientific explanation about chemical reactions of the body to an outside source. I had those, and I was also able to look back on my life and put pieces in place that did not previously make sense. To think back to difficulties in my childhood and disparities between my personality and behavior in the winter versus summer and be able to understand what was going on in my life! Oh, it was priceless.

But as cathartic as it was to figure it out and make sense of things in my past, it was also a daunting diagnosis when thinking about the future. This is a recurring condition. I was going to go through the exhaustion/depression every. single. winter. It would affect my life every year. It wouldn’t just go away if I thought positively or exercised or drank more coffee. I would have to figure out treatments and follow through every fall through spring.

Even back then, I started to think ahead to life as a parent. It was a natural extension of my previous concern: How was I going to raise children when I would occasionally get depressed for no reason I could understand? Now that I understood the whens and whys of my depression and exhaustion, my concern about raising kids as a mother with recurring depression was still a valid concern. And back then, I didn’t even take into account how the SAD would affect my pregnancies and postpartum time.

When I first started looking into information about SAD, the treatments and any helpful advice about living with the disorder, I didn’t find much relating to being a parent with this disorder. In fact, the only thing I remember finding was that the therapy light was too bright for developing eyes, so infants and young children should not be around it. (I have since learned that young children are okay around it, so long as they aren’t staring at it.) I wasn’t too worried at the time, because we hadn’t even started on our long journey of trying to conceive.

But I had heard stories from people who had a parent who suffered with depression. I heard about mothers locking themselves in bathrooms to cry, meanwhile the kids think they did something to make their mom sad. Or of fathers who basically disappeared somewhere in the house in a dark room and didn’t interact or respond to their kids, who didn’t understand what was wrong with their dad. Most of all, I heard about how the depressed parent wouldn’t name what was wrong or talk about it, making the kids think that it was some big, dark, shameful secret.

Depression shouldn’t be a dark, shameful secret. It’s hard enough to deal with as it is, especially when it’s so hard to reach out for help while you are depressed. Depression should be understood as a medical condition that limits what a person can do. Depression should be treated and talked about and supported as a family, the way diabetes or some other medical disorder would be.

Even before I had kids, I was determined to be open about my SAD with my family and close friends, and definitely with my future kids. But how to do that? What is age appropriate to tell them? How will I find time for my light therapy with young children? How will I deal with the winter while the sleep deprivation that infants and young children bring? I had so many questions, and I still do, but no one to ask.

Every year since I was first pregnant, I’ve googled combinations of SAD and parenting to see if I could read anyone else’s experiences and/or tips. I haven’t really found any that go into the information I wanted or the depth I wanted. So after 4 winters as a parent, I’ve decided to write my own experiences. I apparently have a lot to write, so I’m going to do it in parts, including discussing the treatments that work for me as a parent, what it was like to go through pregnancy and the postpartum period, what it’s been like parenting young children through the winter, and my goals for the future as the kids get older.

Maybe these posts will help someone out there struggling with SAD as a parent. Maybe it will help my friends and family who don’t know what I go through understand what the winters are like in caramama’s casa. Definitely writing these posts will help me, since writing about things and putting it “out there” tends to be cathartic for me. And since it’s winter now, I am going to do all I can to help myself, which in turn helps my parenting and my kids.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Question of the Week - Holiday Moments

Two weekends ago, we pulled out the Christmas/holiday decorations. With the Pumpkin close to 4 years old and the Pookie 18 months, Londo and I were really excited to decorate with the kids this year. These are the ages where they can actually help and enjoy the decorating and be excited by all the of the neat decorations we have.

In fact, this year has been really special with the Pumpkin. She is learning Christmas songs, which is bringing the joy of Christmas music back to Londo (who spent too many winters in retail at a mall). She knows about Santa and Rudolph and Frosty. She knows about the menorah I set out to recognize Jesus's religion. And she was/is super excited about the lights and tree.

So this year, when I pulled out the boxes that contain the Christmas ornaments, my daughter had such a look of anticipation. As we pulled out the ornaments and set them out to decide which to put where, my daughter was delighted by each discovery. As she helped me hang the ornaments on just the right branches, my daughter felt a part of Christmas traditions.

I thought back to the Christmases of my past, when my mom would pull out the special boxes of ornaments. I remembered how excited I would be to see all the ornaments: the delicate ones, the handmade ones, the sentimental ones, the silly ones. I thought about the ritual of pulling out the boxes, opening them and ohhhing and ahhhing over each item with my mom and sister and brother and dad.

Those moments. Those are the treasures of the holidays. The ornaments and the navity scene and the advent calendar and the holiday cookies and candies--they are made special not just because of the holiday, but because they are put out only once a year with loving hands and ritualized behavoir.

Those are the moments that my daughter will start remembering from this age on. Those are the moments that my son is able to start participating in from this age on. Those are the moments I look forward to sharing with my family, just as I remember fondly from when I was growing up.

This week's Question of the Week is:
What holiday moments do you remember fondly and/or enjoy sharing with your kids?

I have spent years looking for a nativity scene that reminds me of my mom's, and this year I found one that was similar, looks generally safe for kid use and was on a fantastic sale! I am looking forward to setting that up with my kids and spending time playing with it, as I did with my mom's set when I was young.

What about you? What moments make the holidays special for you and your family? What are your kids able to participate in and enjoy now? Any special memories you want to share?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Clumsy Toddling

A few months ago, the Pookie walked up to Londo with his little toddling steps, looked at him, roared like a lion and then... fell down. This is pretty typical for my little boy.

For months now, my son has really loved walking around everywhere. He loves to climb and run and do that arms-thrown-up-legs-going-from-bent-to-strait-not-really-jumping jump and try to keep up with his sister. He didn't start crawling or walking as early as his sister did, but he's definitely within the range of normal. And once he did start moving, he didn't want to stop.

The problem is, well, he is clumsy. It's also probably in the range of normal for a toddler, but Londo and I just aren't sure. In addition to being early with her gross motor skills, the Pumpkin also had natural balance and, I don't know, the opposite of being clumsy. And when she did fall, she would just laugh, get back up and keep going. She rarely actually got hurt, and we think she must have naturally braced herself with her hands and moved her body to absorb the falls better. Or something.

The Pookie, well he is a different person than his sister. He will be running or even walking and then fall down. Even when there is nothing to trip over or cause him to fall down that we can see. And he inevitably ends up with a cut or bruise, usually on his face. Right now, he has a big bruise between his eyes from sliding off the rocking glider and a cut on top of that bruise from falling somewhere else. Even though he was on his stomach on the glider and I thought he would be perfectly fine, he slid right off and banged his face on the wooden legs. And started crying his little heart out. The next day, he fell on something else and that black and blue bruise split into a cut.

It kills us when we are right. there. with him! Watching him, trying to ensure he is safe. And then... BAM! He's down, face first, crying and bleeding. I don't know if most toddlers are this clumsy. I don't know if this is a normal part of the learning curve. I don't know if it's something he'll grow out of or if he'll always be a little clumsy.

Luckily, he is getting better and better controlling his body. He's really stable now when he walks, he's getting much better at climbing, and he's tripping over less things. He still falls a bit and gets bruises and cuts (see earlier incident from glider and who-knows-what-else). But we are getting better and better and being okay with it. It's just part of who he is.

Sometimes, it's even funny. Like when we watch both kids run across the room. The Pumpkin takes off fast... the Pookie takes off right behind her... the Pumpkin makes it halfway across the room... the Pookie goes down with a THUMP! Londo and I just shake our heads and chuckle. I mean, what can you do? We keep looking at each other saying, at least he's adorable. Even with the bumps and bruises.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Question of the Week - Childhood Cartoons

It's amazing how much better one feels when one is on the correct dosage of medicine (and light therapy), plus a weekend of sleep and rest. I was having a tough week, but I'm doing better now. Hopefully I can get back into the bloggy swing of things.

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People on Facebook have been changing their profile pics to cartoon characters from when they were kids. I'm not going to get into urban legends about why this trend started or what changing your profile picture will do or won't do. I personally just thought it was a fun way to remember the cartoons from our childhoods. I especially enjoyed seeing who picked which cartoon. (I'm not alone in my love of Jem!)

Man, I loved cartoons when I was a kid. I was really into the action cartoons, although I also loved me some girlie girl cartoons as well. I wished that everyone had changed their profile pic, because there weren't nearly enough of my favorites represented. So I though this week's Question of the Week should be:

What were some of your favorite cartoons when you were a kid?

My absolute favorite was probably Voltron. In fact, I had changed my profile pic to be Princess Allura. A princess wearing pink and kicking butt with the boys? She was awesome. Along those lines, I also LOVED She-Ra, Jem, and Wonder Woman from Super Friends. I was also a big fan of G.I. Joe (Scarlet, Duke and Snake Eyes were my favs), Spiderman and Friends, Batman, He-Man and Thundercats. In the more tame areas, I liked Shirt Tails, The Warner Brothers (with Yakko, Wakko and Dot), Tail Spin and Smurfs (who didn't like the Smurfs?).

I told you I watched and liked a lot of cartoons! I have more, but I'm going to leave it off there.

What about you? What did you wake up for on Saturday mornings? What did you hurry home for after school? Did you go for the adventurous or the humorous cartoons?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holidays Are Really Becoming Enjoyable

Before I start my blathering about Thanksgiving, I want to send out a congratulations to Jac. on her new baby girl! Welcome to the world, little one!

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As I said previously, Thanksgiving was lovely. Truly, it was.

The Pumpkin was fully recovered from her surgery, and spent her Wednesday off from school at my mom’s “helping” her cook and decorate. When I called my mom in the afternoon and asked if the Pumpkin was truly helping or hindering, she laughed and said, “Both!” I know how that goes, and in fact I got to experience it once again on Thanksgiving when we baked together.

Because of my love of and skill for baking, I bring a pie for family holidays. Londo makes the best mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes I’ve ever had (except possibly tied with his mom’s mashed potatoes), so I insist encourage him to make that for our holidays. I let Londo have the kitchen first, and it worked out that the Pookie needed an early nap so I was able to bake with the Pumpkin while he napped and Londo was done hogging using the kitchen.

The Pumpkin is getting better and better about waiting to “help” until I’ve got things set up and waiting for my instructions before touching things. Generally. What we got into an “argument” about was that she kept trying to eat the pie dough before I had rolled it. I told her she could have some of what was left after I rolled the crusts so we would be sure to have enough for the pie, but she kept sneaking pieces. Not so sneakily. I got frustrated enough that I got her down from the chair she was standing on and told her she couldn’t help anymore. After that, she listened. Mostly.

I tried a new recipe for the pie filling, which is very similar to the way I usually make my apple pies. It was delicious! And overall, it was enjoyable to bake with my little girl. It was really nice to be able to announce to the extended family that the Pumpkin and I made the pie together!

We went to my parents’ house for the family gathering and dinner. I am so fortunate that my sister and brother and their families live right around us, as do members of my extended family. Holidays and gatherings at my parents’ house is full of family, friends, great food, good conversations and lots of love and laughter.

For the last few years, though, there has been an added element to our holidays. Make that elementS plural. The Young Kids. First my sister’s daughter, who turns 5 (FIVE!) in February, then my brother’s twins who turn 5 (FIVE!) in May, then my daughter (four in March), my son (18 months in December) and my sister’s son (1 last September). Plus my brother’s oldest, who will be SIXTEEN in December!!!

The Young Kids bring with them chaos, more laughter, yelling, crying, more love, clinginess, playfulness, toys, cuteness, and did I mention the chaos?

But this year… this year… the chaos wasn’t as chaotic? The yelling wasn’t as loud? My daughter is capable of playing on her own more, and my baby toddler is not as clingy to me. The cousins and my daughter are fine going off to play or hanging out in the family room with toys or sitting around the appetizers on counter stools. My sister’s son actually took a nap during the commotion in the kids room upstairs. And my son? He spent the whole time happily toddling around, mostly pushing cars in the doll stroller, going around and around the circuit of my parent’s main floor. Only twice did I “lose” him, and only once was he into something he shouldn’t have been.

When Londo realized I was looking for him (for a second time), he joined in the search and found him coming up the stairs from the basement. Um, whoops. We didn’t know he could go DOWN stairs! We still think he shouldn’t be doing that alone. And from now on I’ll watch him more carefully when he’s near the stairs at my parent’s house. Probably. (Londo, if you are reading this, I totally will! I only put probably for comedic effect!) (If you aren’t Londo, than I really did mean probably. But don’t tell him that. Heh.)

There was some yelling and I did have to search out my nieces at one point and herd them back into the kitchen/family room area. And there certainly was commotion. But it was the wonderful kind of commotion that you (or at least I) expect and even want from a family gathering.

For the actual dinner, we set up the pre-schoolers at the kitchen table, calling it The Kids’ Table, while we adults went into the dinning room for dinner (with my toddler with us in a high chair—my sister’s boy was still napping). I have such fond memories of the kids’ table at the family gatherings at my grandmother’s house, that I was excited for my kids to start that tradition. My sister, BIL, brother and SIL were an easy sell. Although it didn’t last too long, it was a great first attempt at having a separate kids’ table. I can’t wait until we can set the toddlers up at the kids table with the pre-schoolers. I think they will have so much fun.

It’s just amazing to watch my kids and my siblings’ kids grow up and become more and more capable and more interesting. From my daughter running into the family room when we first arrived yelling “Hello, everybody!” to my nieces playing on their own to my son and sister’s son following after their older boy cousin to the kids eating at The Kids’ Table.

It was a lovely Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Question of the Week - First Movies

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving. We certainly did. We (okay, I) also packed it full of Things To Do, which included a number of firsts for the kids. The Pumpkin's first? Seeing a movie in a theater!

Londo and I agreed that the Pumpkin was now old enough to probably sit through a movie in the theater and handle the experience. So the Pumpkin and I joined my sister and brother and their 4 year olds (and my brother's teen!) in seeing the movie Tangled!

The Pumpkin is in this phase where all sorts of things "scare" her, even things that aren't really scary. Knowing the Disney formula, I warned her on the way to the theater that there would be scary parts, but it would also be funny and adventurous. I reminded her about how a part that seemed scary in the Tinkerbell movie we watched recently wasn't really scary (spoiler alert: the cat just wanted to play, not to hurt the fairies). We talked about that a little, and I also told her that if she wanted to leave the theater because it was scary or any other reason, we could do that. At any time, we could take a break from the movie or just go home, if she wanted.

The minute we sat down and the previews and commercials (URG!) started, she was enthralled! The screen was so big, the sound was surrounding, the popcorn was delicious! She got right into the theater experience.

The movie itself was really good. Kids and adults laughed so much, and we all really enjoyed the adventure. There were certainly a few scary parts, and when a few scary things happened in a row, the Pumpkin told me that she wanted to take a break from the movie. She had already moved to my lap during an earlier scary part, and I had offered her a break just a minute before she said that she needed one.

No problem. I carried her just outside the theater and held her and talked about what was scary, why it was scary, what was really happening that we couldn't see yet, and what was going to happen. I even asked if she wanted to hear how it ended, and told her when she said yes. I explained that we had to get through the scary parts to see the happy ending (it's a Disney movie, so that's not a spoiler).

Once she'd calmed down (and I heard the movie settling down to a calmer part), she was ready to go back in. She finished the movie and really seemed to enjoy it. I know I did.

To be honest, this was actually our best case scenario. I'm very proud of my girl for sitting through the whole movie, remembering the movie theater etiquette, taking a break when she needed it, going back in after she calmed down, and enjoying the movie as a whole. I was ready for all sorts of other outcomes, and I'm really thrilled that we only left the theater once, and then went back in!

This week's question of the week is:

What movie was your kid's first in the theater? Or what was your first?

I'm not sure if it was my first movie in a theater, but the first one I remember going to see was Mary Poppins. My mom and aunt took me, my sister, my brother and my two cousins to see it. I loved it so much, my mom asked me at the end if I wanted to see it again. I totally did! My mom stayed with me through the next showing--this was back when they would let you just stay through it again if you asked nicely. It's still one of my favorite movies, and I just watched the first 30 minutes with my daughter at home this past weekend.

What about you and your kids? Have they seen a movie in the theater yet? Which movie? How did it go? Do you remember your first movie theater experience? Are you planning on seeing any soon?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Question of the Week - Thanksgiving Dishes

Well, people, things have been busy round here. Very busy. The Pumpkin is recovering from her surgery and doing better now. The Pookie is in a clingy-and-only-mama-will-do phase (is it a phase if it's all the time since birth?). Work is crazy busy. Thanksgiving is tomorrow. And I'd like to spend a little time with my husband. Unfortunatly, that means that the 3 posts I'm in the middle of writing, including the one about the Pumpkin's surgery, are simply not getting finished.

Even though I don't have a chance to finish those, I at least want to hear from my bloggy friends! Considering tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the US, this week's question of the week is:

What is your favorite dish at Thanksgiving/family holiday dinners?

Since I know not everyone is in the US and celebrating Thanksgiving, I thought I'd make the question more general. Feel free to answer about any holiday you'd like, or multiple holidays.

My favorite dishes are the pies. Of course. I have a crazy sweet tooth, and I especially love pies and pastries. I make a delicious apple pie and pecan pie, and I'll be making the apple pie for Thanksgiving and likely for Christmas too. I've stopped making the pecan pie because of the concern of pecans having cross-contamination with peanuts, but at least I can enjoy eating them when others make them!

I also love the cranberry relish my mom makes for every holiday dinner, which I also make some years especially for the holidays we have at my inlaws, since they'd never had it before but really enjoy it when I make it. And I LOVE my husband's mashed sweet potatoes! They are even better than his regular mashed potatoes! I insist he make them for the holidays we are at my parents, because I just can't get enough of them!

How about you? What is your favorite holiday dish to eat and/or make? What do you look forward to every year? Who makes the best mashed potatoes in your family? Who's planning to pig out on turkey and stuffing tomorrow like I am? Just save room for pie!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Question of the Week - Taking My Mind Off Surgery

Tomorrow morning is the Pumpkin's adenoid removal surgery. I am (understandably) nervous about the whole thing, as is Londo. I hear that the adenoid removal surgery by itself is usually pretty easy and kids recover very quickly. But as Londo pointed out last night, we can never expect anything to be easy or even typical with our daughter. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst, I always say.

I took her to a pre-op physical with her pediatrician yesterday, and even though she has a cough and a bit of a cold, they gave her the go-ahead. The appointment was not with our regular doctor, but I did pass by our regular doctor in the hall and told why were were there and that her surgery is on Wednesday. Our doctor looked at me and said, (I quote) "Good. I really think this is a good idea and the right thing to do for her." She really thinks it will help the Pumpkin's breathing and generally improve her quality of life, possibly even her quality of sleep. That helped a lot to hear, especially from the doctor who knows (and doesn't judge) everything about my daughter.

I have to be honest though, I'm not counting on anything. My hope for this surgery is that she doesn't get as many ear infections through this cold/flu season. She had 5 ear infections and multiple additional times that fluid was backed up in her ears though not infected. The ENT said that her ears look fine and she doesn't need tubes. We think the adenoids being enlarged might be causing the fluid backups and subsequent infections.

So that's my hope. And that's enough of a reason to get this surgery done. In an ideal world, it will help her breath better and sleep better, but I am pretty resigned to life with a poor sleeper.

Anyway, I'm trying not to dwell on it too much. In fact, this week's question of the week is simply designed to try and take my mind off the upcoming surgery...

Got anything good to share?

I'll start by saying that Londo introduced me to Cee Lo Green's F@#% You, aka Forget You, song and video last night. Not only that, but then he showed me this video clip from Glee. I loved it, so I am sharing it with you. You're welcome. Also, I have no idea why I'm not watching that show, except that it's on at a bad time for me and my DVR.

What about you? Got a good story? Funny website? Awesome video? Please share something with me to help take my mind off my worries! TIA!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting What He Wants Without Words

The Pookie is almost 17 months old. He has really great receptive language skills. He obviously understands a great deal, and he generally knows what the words are that we are saying to him. His own verbalizing, however, is not as advanced as his receptive skills. He does have quite a few words, but his pronounciation leaves a lot to be desired.

For example, instead of "mama," he says "nahnah." I'll take it, of course, cause at least he's saying something intending to be mama. But he does not pronounce Ms when he should. He also says "ick" instead of "milk," but he accompanies it with the sign for milk, which he does for some other words, too. He's makes specific noises and is learning the signs for cracker, cereal, water, more and all done. Actually, he has the words "all done" down pat.

For many other words or to convey meaning, he indicates with gestures and noises which we try to figure out. He gets frustrated, and that frustration comes out in ways I'm sure you all know. He gets mad and yells, he fusses and whines, and he throws things and has tantrums when thwarted or unable to get what he wants. In other words, he's a toddler with limited verbal skills.

Yesterday morning, the boy was up at 5:00. I tried to get him to go back to sleep, but it was no use. I let him play in his room for a while, but he kept fussing. Finally, at about 6:30 I brought him downstairs to feed the dog and just be somewhere else where he hopefully wouldn't wake up his sister and dad.

He was very happy to be downstairs. He helped me feed the dog and let her out, and then I went to get him milk. In fact, he asked for milk by name, though not sign. "Ick! Ick!" he said, pointing to the fridge. "Yes, yes. I'm getting your milk," I told him.

But when I handed him his sippy cup of milk, he yelled, "NO!" and slammed it down. "But little guy, that's what you asked for," I reminded him. But still, no. He didn't want the sippy cup. I decide to try him with water, which is sometimes what he wants instead of milk. Nope, no water. He again says milk and points to the fridge. I try to hand him his sippy cup, but that's still not what he wants.

He went to the cabinet with the kids' stuff. Oh, have I mentioned that he can totally undo all the baby-proofing on the cabinets? Yeah, that's fun. So he opens the baby-proofed cabinet and takes out a kid spoon. He walks back to the table. I think, well, maybe he's hungry. I try to put him in his highchair, but he freaks out.

Okay, no highchair. That's not new. Lately, he's started climbing in the real chairs around the table and wanting to be there unstead of the highchair. Over the weekend, we pulled out the Pumpkin's old booster seat for him to use at the table, and he's liked that a lot. Which of course means he rarely wants to be in the highchair, although he still sometimes tries to climb in it to indicate that he's hungry.

Even in my half-awake daze, I realize that he seems to want something specific. I start to piece it all together. He got a spoon and wants milk from the fridge. He is by the table but doesn't want to get in his highchair. It's morning and he's been up for quite a while, and he didn't eat much for dinner the night before. I think he must be hungry, and he usually has cereal in the morning. He doesn't usually remember the sign for cereal and I've never heard him say the word cereal, at least in a way I've understood.

So I ask him, "Do you want cereal?" He makes babbles that are not in disagreement. I go to the kids' cabinet and pull out a kid bowl. He looks excited by this development. I put the bowl on the table. I pull out Life and Cheerios and offer both to him. He quickly moves straight for the Life cereal.

I put that and the spoon on the table and help him climb into the booster seat at the table. He picks up the spoon and points to his bowl, making "ooo ooo" noises. I pour in the cereal, and he's obviously happy. He says "ick ick!" and I pour in the milk.

Delighted, he happily starts digging in to his cereal with both spoon and hand, as he does these days. He's sitting where he wants, eating exactly what he wants, eating the way he wants. Oh yes, he's a happy boy now!

Although he can get across what he wants without having the words, it would have been much easier and quicker if he did have the words. Someday, he will. For now, we'll keep trying to figure it out in other ways and teach him more signs.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Question of the Week - Joining the Circus

I just finished the book Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. I LOVED it. It's been a while since I found a book this engaging, this enjoyable from cover to cover. It was well written and well researched, with interesting characters and a good plot. Best of all? It was all about the circus!

There is just something about the circus. Something dreamy, something magical. Even knowing that some of it is pure illusion, there is still a lot of hard work and the feats that people and animals can do is just amazing.

Londo's never been to the actual circus. When we were in grad school in Georgia, the circus was coming to town. I really wanted to take him, but he said he wanted to wait and go his first time with his own kids. That was so sweet that I didn't push it, even though I would have really enjoyed going to the circus. (A few years later, we did go to a Cirque du Soleil show, and though absolutely amazing, it's not the same as an actual circus.)

So I've been waiting... until we had kids... until the kids were old enough... still waiting, but the time is getting closer.

In fact, just yesterday, the Pumpkin was pretending that we were in a circus. She put the booster seat on the ground and stood on it like she was the ring master, and she called out to me and the Pookie, "Okay guys! We are in the circus. We are going to do tricks. Mommy, you go first!"

So I did some jumps and then bowed while she clapped. Then she did some silly dance, and we clapped. Then we got the Pookie to stomp his foot, which he does when someone says "stomp." He stomps one foot while saying, "stomp stomp stomp." And we clapped for him. It was great fun. But not nearly as much fun as we'll have after they've seen their first real circus! I can't wait to see what tricks they pretend to do then!

This week's question of the week is:

If you were in the circus and could do anything, what act/trick would you want to do?

Although I love the idea of doing an act with animals, I have always wished that I could be a trapeze artist. All that swinging and flying around from bar to bar. Flipping in the air and getting caught (hopefully!) and swung again. It sounds thrilling! I have heard that there is a camp or something that you can take somewhere where you can learn to swing on a trapeze. Maybe someday I can at least do that.

What about you? What would your circus act be? Did you ever dream of running off to join the circus? Did you ever threaten to send the kids (or pets) to the circus? I've done both, although not the latter actually to the kids. Yet. Heh.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Halloween with Peanut Allergies Wrap-Up

We had a wonderful Halloween at Casa Di caramama! The neighborhood party had pizza and juice, and the trick-or-treating was great fun afterwards. Though we carried the epipen around, we didn't need to use it!

I even dressed up at a fairy to go with my daughter's unicorn costume and my son's dragon (/dinosaur) costume, although I put a jacket and pants on, with the wings on the outside of the jacket. It got pretty cold that night.

At first, I brought the Pookie up to the houses with the Pumpkin, but after a half dozen houses, the Pookie sat in the wagon while Londo pulled him around. He was very happy just watching all that was going on. Such is his personality. At 7:00, Londo took him home and put him to bed while I continued around with the Pumpkin.

She had a blast! She loved going up to houses and saying trick-or-treat. She loved the decorations and the costumes and talking with the kids and adults at each house. We held hands between just about every house, and I went up to every door with her.

At first, she would say, "Trick or treat!" and I would then pipe up with, "Something without peanuts, please." But I quickly realized that the people opening the doors were focused on the kids, so it took them a minute to process what I was saying. I also realized that my daughter is really fantastic about her allergy, and she could just ask them herself. So she amended what she was saying to:

"Trick or treat! No peanuts, please!"

I still smile when I think of her saying that. It was truly adorable, in addition to easing my worries and making me proud! And it really made each adult and/or kid handing out candy pay attention and think about what they had in their buckets.

There were only 2 or 3 houses that didn't have any candy without peanuts, and one of those houses gave her a juice box instead. The Pumpkin was fine even at those houses. We said, "That's okay. Thanks anyway!" And at least one said that they hadn't thought about peanut allergies and would be sure to get some peanut-free candy next year. Look at that! We educated others while having fun!

We let the Pumpkin take candy that didn't have peanuts in it, even if they were made in a facility that also has peanuts. (And yes, at this point we know where they are manufactured and how safe pretty much all of the candies are.) She isn't eating those candies, but she's trading them in for the safe candy I already bought.

She and I stayed out pretty late for her, walking all around the neighborhood. We got home just after her lights-out time, quickly got her ready for bed, let her watch 10 minutes of TV to unwind (and it's part of her normal bedtime routine), and when I took her to her bed, she fell asleep within 2 minutes! A personal best record, for her.

So Halloween was a success on many levels. The most important being that the kids were safe and had a lot of fun! I hope everyone out there had as much fun as we did!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Allergic Reaction, But From What?

Sunday morning was Londo's turn to sleep in. I had a great morning with the kids and fixed them a breakfast of eggs and toast. In fact, I thought I was doing awesome because I staved off a tantrum over the toast with some quick thinking.

The Pumpkin had requested regular toast with jelly, so I fixed it just the way she likes it and put some homemade strawberry jelly from my MIL on top. After a couple bites, all of a sudden the Pumpkin said she wanted toast with just butter. She was about to freak out about it (ah, Three-And-A-Half, you don't make things easy), when I offered to give her the cinnamon raisin toast with butter I was just fixing for myself. Well, that would do nicely! And tantrum averted!

At the end of breakfast, I saw a couple red spots on my daughter's face. The Pumpkin has sensitive skin, so she is always getting odd bumps and spots of eczema and the recent impetigo and whatever else. So I looked at it as I wiped her off and thought I'd keep my eye on them.

Within 10 or 15 minutes, the spots looked bigger, redder, worse. I called her over from playing and examined them again. That's when I noticed a more blister-like appearance. Like a lightbulb came on, I realized they were hives. It must have been an allergic reaction, and the only thing she is allergic to (that we know of) is peanuts.

I wasn't sure how to react. I kept my eye on it for another 5 or 10 minutes. During that time, I proceeded to go through everything she ate or touched that morning. She's had eggs for years, cooked the same way, with salt and pepper, and it's never been a problem. The regular bread is the same one I make her sandwiches on every day with no problems. The jelly? The one that she said she wanted and then pushed away after two bites? Hmmm. Was that the same jelly that we've had before finding out about her peanut allergy? Was that the same jelly I used to use for PBJs? I have no idea. While it didn't seem likely, I couldn't rule it out entirely. What else had she touched? Just the same toys she'd been playing with since yesterday.

What on earth could have caused the hives? Where were the peanuts hiding? How could she have come into contact and/or ingested peanuts?

The hives started to look like they were fading. I realized I needed to wake up Londo. I wanted to be sure he saw what I saw before they were gone (we debated for a year over our perceptions of what happened when the Pumpkin first tried a little bit of peanut butter). And I needed my co-parent to talk through what happened and what we should do.

Londo and I started talking through what it could have been and what we should do (and I should have done). He threw out the jelly, just in case it had been contaminated. But he also pointed out that we just brought a bunch of unsafe candy into the house from the the trunk-or-treat the kids did at the Pookie's daycare. Although we didn't have any candy with actual peanuts in it(aside from plain M&Ms), there were candies manufactured in places that also have peanuts and there were a couple from a bowl that also had packaged peanut butter cups.

But she had been playing with all that stuff the day before with no reaction. And that morning, she hadn't gone near any of it! In fact, I had put all the candy up in a cabinet so she wouldn't ask for candy for breakfast (like she had the day before). Could it really have been from touching something like a counter that had touched some candy that was made in a place that also had peanuts? And then when she ate breakfast, she got some little remnant in her mouth? Really?

She was fine, and the hives went away after an hour or so, definitely within two hours. She didn't need the epipen, but it occurred to me after the fact that I should have at the very least given her benedryl as soon as I realized they were hives. I don't know about giving her the epipen, and I think I need to talk to the allergist. If her reaction was just hives, I don't want to freak her out by stabbing her in the leg with a needle. She was breathing fine and didn't say her throat felt funny, even when I asked. But I should have given her the benedryl. And woken Londo sooner.

This experience has freaked us out a bit.

On the bright side, her reaction was minor. A couple of hives? That's not bad. If that's her reaction to being exposed to peanuts, maybe we don't have to worry as much as we have been.

However, what we've learned about peanut allergies is that it's basically russian roulette with reactions. With one additional exposure, she could have an anaphylactic reaction. It doesn't necessarily have to be progressively worse reactions over many exposures. So, we still need to be hyper-vigilant.

And on the really-freaking-me-out side, even though it was a minor reaction, her exposure to peanuts must have been a really really tiny exposure through some cross-contamination because nothing she ate or was around had actual peanuts in it. We haven't had any peanuts or peanut products in our house in over 6 months. There are very few things in the house that are even made in facilities that also have peanuts, and those aren't things that she eats or even goes near.

We've been careful. So careful! And still, she somehow was exposed to something that caused the hives. Some tiny, unseen bit of a peanut. Some unaccounted for cross-contamination in my own house! My house that is supposed to be a safe haven for her!

This is making Londo and me really worried about the upcoming trick-or-treating. I thought we had a good plan in place, but now I don't know what to think. All I know for sure is that we will be extra vigilant and carry her epipen with us where ever we go. There's no telling what her next reaction will be... or what will cause the reaction.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Last Night

It's his teeth.
Again.
The hard, sharp, white edges
pushing through
soft, sensitive, pink gums.
This painful
process seems flawed in design.

The molars are the worst. They
push through,
recede,
push through again,
recede again,
before finally coming out for good.

His sleep is disturbed.
He can't settle
himself. His cries escalate, disturbing
our sleep. We take turns
going to him
because he is uncomfortable lying down.

I walk with him in my arms more steps
than I care
to count. I pace the floor for longer
than I want to track. Is
he asleep enough now? Or should I continue
another minute,
two minutes, five minutes?

I try putting him down. I rub
his back when
he stirs, settling him back
down. I ease up the crib rail.
He stays asleep.
I tiptoe across the room, avoiding

the creaky spots in the floor.
He stays asleep.
I carefully turn the door knob.
It clicks loudly.
He wakes crying, reaching for me.
I sigh and return to him.
Again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Question of the Week - Halloween Fun

Halloween is my favorite holiday, and since having kids of my own, it's gotten even more fun for me. I don't yet have the time or energy or belief in the consistency of 3.5 year old choice to make costumes for the kids myself, but I do plan on that in the future. For now, we've bought costumes, Londo has put out the outdoor decorations, I've ordered peanut-free candy which has arrived, and we've already done one set of trick-or-treating!

This past Friday, the Pookie's daycare had "trunk or treat" in which a bunch of parents decorated the trunks of their cars, lined them up in the parking lot and handed out candy to the kids who went around trunk-or-treating. The daycare is a nut-free school, so we felt relatively safe letting the Pumpkin go trunk-or-treating with her brother (although not all parents were thorough about the no nuts, included one parent having Reese's Peanutbutter Cups in their bag of candy to hand out! URG!). And the daycare/school didn't mind at all, especially since that is where the Pumpkin went over the summer, so all the teachers and administrative types know her.

I informed Londo that I had signed us up to be one of the cars at trunk or treat and that we were using his car, since his interior is black. Besides, he's the one who does, oh, 90% of all the holiday decorating at our house (that pesky Seasonal Affective Disorder continuously gets in the way of my energy to decorate). Luckily, I long ago infected him with my love of Halloween, and he was on board.

He did a totally awesome job decorating the trunk of our car with all sorts of spooky-but-not-scary Halloween decor, including layering the bottom with orange and black balloons, which all the kids loved. He also played our Halloween playlist through the car speakers, which was a nice touch.

Our kids had so much fun walking around from car to car looking at all the decorations and taking the candy and putting it into their pumpkin buckets. My daughter was a unicorn, and my son was a dragon (although it was a dinosaur costume, it was close enough to call him a dragon). Londo mostly stayed at the car and handed out safe candy. I got to walk hand in hand with my unicorn and dragon and help them pick out the candy, making sure we got lots that Mommy and Daddy like. Heh heh.

I thought the trunk or treat was such a neat idea! We hadn't heard of it before, so it was new and fun for us on my favorite holiday. And this week's question of the week is:

What kind of fun activities do you or your kids' daycares/schools do for Halloween or the Fall season?

My daughter's school doesn't have them dress up for Halloween. But instead, this Friday her after-school care class is doing a Silly Hat Parade! This is another neat idea I hadn't heard of before and can totally get into.

Yesterday, the Pumpkin and I had over a friend and her mom, and we made silly hats out of paper bags. I'd seen the idea before, and then found this website with simple directions. I got some paper grocery bags, pulled out the arts and crafts, including sponge paint and hot glue gun, and we made some awesome hats! I'll try to post pictures soon.

Not only did we have fun making the crafts (my daughter LOVES arts and crafts projects), but she has a beautiful hat to wear on Friday. And for once, I'm not scrambling last minute to get her ready for something at school! I may get the hang of this parenting thing before the kids are completely grown up!

What about you guys? Whacha doing for Halloween or the Fall or as silly artsy projects? Anything good going on at your kids' schools or daycare? Are you planning any good Halloween kids parties in the neighborhood? What's your Halloween fun this year?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our First Parent-Teacher Conference

We had our first Parent-Teacher Conference the other day. This to me is a sign that the Montessori school is a real pre-school, not just a daycare pre-school, like the Pumpkin's earlier pre-schools were. No, this was a real appointment on a day she had off from school where we sat down with her teachers (in very little chairs) and discussed how she is doing.

And the first thing that her main teacher said was, and I quote, "She's not having as many meltdowns anymore."

Greeeeaaaaaaaat!!!! I believe that Londo and I both put our hands to our heads. We didn't know there were meltdowns at school. Certainly, there's been plenty at home, but you know kids. They don't really talk about what happens at school.

Apparently, she'll get upset about something (mostly minor things, it sounds like), start crying and saying that so-and-so "hurt her feelings." The teachers noted that they don't usually hear that verbalized from 3 year olds. I explained that we'd been working on it with her to combat some mean phrases she picked up at that first school, phrases like, "you're not my friend" and "you're a baby." I also explained that she'd always been verbally and physically advanced, but that she was emotionally very much still three and a half. They assured us that those mean phrases were not tolerated at this school, and that they were working with the Pumpkin to not get too upset over the little things.

But other than that, she's doing great. She likes to watch the teachers give lessons, especially to the older kids for the materials that she's not quite ready for. Then she wants to use those materials, but the teachers explain that she first needs to master the materials leading up to the older ones. That's the Montessori way. They said that she accepts that and moves on to other things.

The teachers and Londo and I talked a bit about how we can't force this child to do things, since that makes her just dig in her heels even more. Her main teacher said that she generally tells her that when she's ready, let her know, and the Pumpkin does. I've used that tactic before with success myself.

She likes the language materials, the puzzles, the steps and blocks, the life skills materials. She is interested and engaged. She is independant and able to roll out her mat and do her work on her own. She is picking up on a lot of the skills the first time she uses the material (SUPERGENIUS!) (You know I had to say it!). The teachers will be sure she moves along at a pace that will keep her interested without overwhelming her.

On a few occassions when I walked the Pumpkin down to her room before class started, I would go into the classroom and talk with the teacher a bit. When I did, I would watch as my daughter quickly went from clinging to me outside the classroom to hurrying off to a table or shelf where she immediately started doing or watching some activity. There was no looking back, no tears, no meltdowns, no running around and getting into trouble.

This is a good school for her. We like the teachers (mostly*), we love the Montessori method. We thought it would be a good fit for her, and we are glad to hear that it is so far.

*There is one that we aren't in synch with, but that's not one of the Pumpkin's main teachers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Question of the Week - What Are You Drinking?

A couple months ago, I was annoyed at my husband. I don't even remember why now, other than it really wasn't a big deal. I'll be honest, I was PMSing and stressed about work and the kids had been sick (again!). I was doing dishes while he was putting the Pumpkin to bed, and I was thinking about some little thing that Londo did, getting more and more annoyed over what was virtually nothing (I mean, I literally don't even remember what it was now).

A glass and a half of wine later, I realized I was getting pissy over nothing. The mellow from the wine had kicked in, and I started to let it go. Instead, I started thinking about what a great dad and husband and worker and man he is. There he was, putting our daughter to bed after a difficult evening for all of us. I was cleaning dishes from the dinner he had made the family, drinking the wine he had picked up for me from the store. None of us are perfect, and he has a lot going on lately.

I also started thinking about a phrase he uses during some of our difficult times: I need you to cut me some slack. Written like that, it looks abrupt. But he never says it rudely. He actually says it or asks very nicely, and he often says that we should cut each other slack when we've got a lot going on.

So there I am, finishing up my second glass of Chianti, doing the last of the dishes, thinking to myself, "Yeah. I'm going to cut him some slack."

This could be a post about how we should all cut each other slack, or about how we should appreciate the good things our partners and others do for us, or about letting the little things go so that we don't stress out about everything, or about how we should all support each other especially during difficult times.

But it's not.

This post is about how I enjoy a nice glass (or two) of wine in the evenings, about how it helps me relax and enjoy things a little more. Some nights I don't have anything to drink, some nights I have a glass with dinner, and some nights I have a couple glasses after the kids go to bed. But since I've stopped nursing and I'm not pregnant, I have started to have wine more regularly to help de-stress. And I'm glad I am, for my sake, my husband's sake and my kids' sake! ;-)

This week's question of the week is:

What's your drink of choice?

Lately, my drink of choice is either Chianti or Chardonnay. My favorite mixed drink is vodka tonic, which happens to be my dad's drink also. My favorite drink for the beach is Captain and Coke. My favorite non-alcoholic relaxing drink is herbal tea. And my favorite morning drink is coffee!

What about you? What do you like to drink? Do you have different drinks for different occasions? Have you got a good way to mellow out at the end of a stressful day? Does it involve alcohol, like mine?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Individuality and Clothes

They called me tacky turtle.

I was a fourth grader, and they were fifth graders. It would happen in the lunch room, since our lunch tables were next to each other. Either my clothes didn't match or they were too loud or too patterned or too... I don't know... different, I guess.

When I read a recent post by Her Bad Mother, it all came back to me. Just like her daughter, I didn't care what was in style or what would be normal or what would be considered matching by typical standards. Instead, just like her daughter, I wore what I felt like wearing that day based on my own desires.

No, the clothes didn't always match. They were probably even tacky. It was the 80s, after all. I have this picture of me at that age wearing splatter-paint paints in primary colors, a jaguar sweatshirt, a florescent pink belt and a pastel pink satin jacket. It totally didn't match. But those were all of my favorite things at the time, and I wanted to wear them all at once.

So, they called me tacky turtle. It was a stupid name, but it hurt. In fact, it hurt for many years. It was only a year or two ago that I could say or write the name without wanting to cry. Tacky turtle. There, I can write it now. I can even say it outloud. Tacky Turtle. That's what they called me.

I don't know if it was considered bullying at the time, or if it would be considered that now. I've always just said that I was picked on about how I dressed, I was teased about what I wore. It hurt, and it affected me deeply. More deeply than I showed to them, I'm sure. I'm pretty sure I didn't cry, at least in front of them. I think I just tried not to react at all. Whatever I did, I think it worked because it didn't last long. The teasing, that is. The emotional affects lasted a very long time.

In the following two or three years, I started dressing in black more and more. I doubted myself and my fashion sense. My mom says that my sister started dressing in basic black at that time, and perhaps I was picking it up from her, though her style was always pretty preppy and mine was not. But I also remember thinking that everything goes with black, so I'd wear that. I couldn't mismatch or look tacky in black. So I wore more and more black, blending in with those around me during those difficult middle school years.

By the time I reached high school, we had moved and I was in a new school with all new people. I don't know what it was that motivated me specifically, but I decided I was not going to simply wear black and blend in anymore. I was going to figure out what was fashion and, more importantly, what was my style. I wanted to feel confident in what I wore, but not simply mimic what everyone else was wearing. I didn't want to dress preppy like my sister or in clothes my mom picked out for me. I wanted to wear things I thought were fun and cute and ME, but in a way that was fashionable and not "tacky."

I got a subscription to Vogue magazine and I started paying attention to high fashion. The clothes in Vogue and on the runway were not anything I could actually wear. That's not the point of high fashion. The point is set style trends that can be toned down in regular wear. It was the early 90s now, and the age of the supermodels was in full force. Fashion was diverse and interesting to me. And I decided to try it all.

In high school, I wore the grunge style, with ripped jeans and flannel shirts. I wore hippy clothes, with long flowy skirts and an anklet of bells. I wore preppy clothes, with white buttondown shirts and khaki pants. I wore the hip-hop style, with body suits and baggy jeans. I wore what I wanted to wear, with a confidence that gave me the ability to pull off just about anything and with complete disregard to what anyone else thought about my clothes. I went to college with the same diversity of style and the same confidence to pull it all off.

Instead of being a tacky turtle in high school and college, I was known for being stylish with cute and fun clothes. I was also known for not caring what others thought about what I wore. When my good friend in college joked to me about my baggy black and white stripped "prison" pants, I laughed and said that I loved them. When my roommate was surprised that I put fake dreadlocks I put in my hair, I made her take a picture of the temporary style so I would always remember it. When I would go to my sorority parties, I paired my chunky heels and a lime green cardigan with my little black dress. When I came back from studying abroad in Italy, I wowwed Londo in black leather pants with a fitted t-shirt the night I met him.

Over the many years since I was called tacky turtle, I've occasionally thought, "Why did my mom let me out of the house in those clothes?" Every time I've had that thought, I immediately dismissed it for two reasons:
1. Even at that age, I would very stubbornly insist on wearing what I wanted to wear.
2. She let me explore what I liked no matter what others might have thought, and it's because of that support that I was able to later develop my own style.

I must admit, I have mostly tamed down my natural inclinations ever since fourth grade. I realize that if left to my own devices, I would probably wear some really gaudy outfits. I LOVE animal print, bright colors, big patterns, fake fur, four-inch heels and anything sparkly. But I've learned how to match patterns and how to pair loud items with plainer items, like putting my animal print shoes with my brown suit or a bright blouse with a black blazer.

As a mother, I care a lot about how my kids look, including their clothes. I find myself explaining to my daughter what colors and styles match, and I do try to encourage her to pick clothes that generally go together. But I'm not going to get into a big fight over what she wears. As long as the clothes are age appropriate and weather appropriate, she can pick out what she wants. Most of the clothes in her closet are ones I picked out and bought for her, but I'm trying to encourage her to pick out her own clothes in the stores. I also try to buy fun clothes that I think she will like, especially items with monkeys on them, since she's my monkey girl.

Right now, the Pumpkin only vaguely cares about what she wears. I usually pick something out, and either she agrees to wear it or not. If she doesn't want to wear the first outfit, I tell her to pick out what she wants to wear, as long as it's appropriate and still fits. Just this morning, she refused the cute patterned shirt I picked, and instead picked out a bright blue shirt.

I want my kids to develop their own sense of style. I want them to have fun with clothes and shoes and accessories. Though I don't want them to go through the teasing and self-consciousness I went through, I also don't want to limit them or impose conformity on them. I especially don't want them to try to impose conformity on others. I want them to not only thrive in their own individuality, but to I want them to support and stick up for others who are eccentric or outside the norm.

What this world needs is less judgement and more individuality. From fifth graders to the parents who insist that their children and all children must wear clothing that blends in. The leaders in fashion have always pushed the boundries of what is normal and even okay to wear. And as I learned in high school, it's the high fashion that trickles down into everyday wear, turning what was once unacceptable into the style of the day.

Maybe my daughter or son will push the boundries. Maybe they won't care at all about fashion. Maybe they will be teased for how they dress. Maybe their style will be admired and copied. I just hope that they wear what they want and that they don't tease others for doing the same.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spending My Time

I am totally out of my normal rhythm, so you'll have to excuse me if I'm not keeping up with the blogosphere. There are good reasons, and not-so-good reasons.

First, this weekend I went away with one of my BFFs and my cousin's college-age daughter to my cousin's house at a nearby lake. My BFF and I left husbands and kids behind for a girls' weekend! It was fantabulous! We stayed up late talking or playing games, we slept in late in the mornings, we ate out for every meal, we saw Life As We Know It and got ice cream, we sat outside on the deck reading in the sun on a beautiful fall day, and we generally did whatever we wanted!

I came back Sunday night, immediately picked up my daughter and Mom and aunt, and drove up to my brother's house for my mom's birthday dinner. The Pookie had a stuffy nose, so Londo stayed home with him. I had a great time, especially since the Pumpkin and her cousins that are around her age all ran off into the basement to play BY THEMSELVES! It's a good age.

Although we had a bit of a rough night that night, Monday was another good day. Both my husband and I were working from home that day (my office was closed for Columbus Day), but the kids' schools were open. So I dropped them off in the morning and went back home.

It was a beautiful day, so it didn't take much for Londo to convince me to pick up some food and go on a picnic. We had such a lovely time that we decided not to head back to the house right away to go back to work. Instead, we hiked around a park for a while, enjoying the weather and each other's company.

This was much needed for us, this reconnection. We had been short with each other lately, with so much stressors going on in our lives. It's too easy to take out the stress and frustration on the ones we are closest to, though we try so hard not to. An afternoon outside exploring and being together was just what we needed. And it helped to get us in the right spirits for what we had to deal with the next day.

You see, Sunday night I had noticed a little red bump on the Pumpkin's bottom. It's not unusual for her to get irritation bumps, since she has such sensitive skin. And on Sunday night, we had to borrow a pair of underwear from my niece due to a pee pee accident. I figured that her skin was just irritated by a different kind of detergent.

But then on Monday night, we noticed there were more bumps as she got into the bath with her brother. They looked odd, but I wasn't yet worried. I was only slightly worried the next morning when I noticed even more bumps, and that some looked like whiteheads. As I got her ready for the day, I saw a couple small bumps on her ribs and thighs. I was puzzled, but continued with our morning.

In fact, I didn't truly worry until I was getting the Pookie out of his highchair (about to get his shoes on and go out the door with both kids) and I noticed some small bumps on his leg. That's when I called a halt to the morning. It was one thing for my daughter to be getting a weird rash on her sensitive skin, but it's another to see the same rash on the other child. That quite clearly indicates that it can spread, which means no going to school.

I'd been hearing about bed bugs a lot lately, so I immediately start to panic that it was bed bugs and we'd have to sanitize the entire house! (It's not bed bugs.) I called the nurse at my doctors. I answer her questions, including the fact that the spots don't seem to be ichy to either kid. She doesn't think it's chicken pox, but now I start to worry that it's chicken pox. (It's not chicken pox. And no, neither kid has had that vaccine yet, although they will soon.) The nurse asks if I want to bring the kids in. And yes, I very much do want to bring them in!

It's impetigo. As soon as the doctor looks at it, she said right off that it's impetigo, from either a staph or strep infection. But just on the skin -- skin infection. Neither kid has a fever or sore throat, so that's good at least. We just apply a topical antibiotic three times a day until it clears up and cover with long pants and long sleeves.

I never thought I'd be so glad that my kids have a staph or strep infection! But what a relief that it's not bed bugs or chicken pox or some other worse skin disease. We still are keeping the Pumpkin home, because it apparently often spreads in pre-schoolers via the toilet, which explains the bumps on her bottom that were in the horseshoe shape of a toilet seat. My guess is she picked it up at school, but it could have been anywhere. I don't even know where she used the bathroom over the weekend, and I'm not going to bother to try to figure it out. Though I did clean our bathrooms from top to bottom.

So I stayed home with the kids yesterday, and I quite enjoyed playing with them all day. It's been like I had a double weekend, with plenty of time to enjoy myself (weekend away), my BFF (weekend away), my family (Sunday night), my husband (Monday) and my kids (Tuesday). But now, I have SO MUCH WORK TO DO and need to spend time at work. Oh well. It's almost the weekend again!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sometimes She Confuses Me (Shorts)

Lately my daughter has been talking about "biting snakes" which I assume are snakes that bite, as opposed to those that don't. Generally, she talks about being scared of biting snakes and look out because there are biting snakes over there (with the crocodilles and giants who invade our house, apparently). And then the other morning, she shared this nugget of information:

Pumpkin: Biting snakes are scared of ghosts. Biting ghosts.
After a short pause, while I stood there a bit confused, but hadn't said anything...
Pumpkin: Biting ghosts are the same as regular ghosts except they are not regular. They are biting ghosts.

Glad we got that all cleared up!

------------------------

The other morning in the car, we had the following conversation:
Pumpkin: Do you want to hear a song about the highway?
caramama: I really do.
Pumpkin: Highway, highway. Every day is the highway.
Highway, highway. Every day is the highway.*
Pumpkin stops singing and asks me: Do you want to hear a song about the low way**?
caramama: Definitely.
Pumpkin: But I'm not done with the song about the highway!
caramama, trying not to laugh: Okay. Then let's hear the rest of the highway song.
Pumpkin continues to sing all sorts of "lyrics" about not rolling windows down on the highway because it's too windy and goodness knows what else.

I didn't do was ask her why she would offer up a different song when she wanted to sing more of the first song. I didn't bother to go there, because I suspect the answer would have confused me just as much.

*She totally made this song up. She makes up a lot of songs, and she's getting really good at it.

**For like a year now she's been distinguishing roads by whether they are highways or "low ways" such as neighborhood roads. We think it's so cute that we keep calling them that too.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The ENT Specialist's Recommendation

A few weeks ago, I brought the Pumpkin to an appointment with an ENT specialist recommended by our pediatrician. After the multiple ear infections last winter/spring (five total) plus the regularity of liquid build up in her ears when she had any sort of cold, the pediatrician thought it would be a good idea to get her ears checked out by a specialist. Knowing that we tend on the side of less medical intervention, she recommended a specialist she said was generally conservative in his recommendations.

I put off making the appointment, as I tend to do. The Pumpkin's ears weren't bothering her this summer, so I just wasn't thinking about it or worried about it. But then, we started having sleep issues again. And then I read a blog post about tonsils and adenoids that got me thinking: Maybe there is more to the ear infections and even sleep issues. Maybe there is some underlying health reason for both, in addition to my girl's personality making it difficult for her to go to sleep and sleep well.

After just a little bit of research on adenoids and a phone call with the pediatrician, I made the appointment with the ENT. I knew going in that she wasn't having any ear issues, but I was going to see if he said anything about her adenoids. And if he didn't bring it up, I was going to.

The Pumpkin did great for her appointment. The doctor was an older man who was really good with kids, and even had Spiderman cuff links and a Mickey Mouse watch, both of which my daughter loved. He asked some general questions related to her health, ears and sleep.

Here was the conversation as he was checking her out:

ENT Doc: Does she breath through her mouth at night?
caramama: Yes.
ENT Doc: Does she ever snore?
caramama: Yeah. That's actually how we know for sure she's fallen asleep at night. She starts snoring gently.
ENT Doc: Does she come in your room at night?
caramama: Oh yeah.
ENT Doc: Often?
caramama: Oh yeah.

We talked a bit about the ear infections and how the liquid buildup could have been because the adenoids are blocking the normal drainage... or something like that.

Sure enough, her ears looked fine but her adenoids were enlarged. My mother's instinct was right on!

Then, I discussed with the generally conservative doctor whether or not she should have surgery. Here's how that conversation went:

ENT Doc: Well, next time she's asleep, go into her room and check on her. See if she is breathing through her mouth, snoring, and tossing and turning a lot.
caramama: Doctor, I can tell you now. She does all of those things. She sleeps with us enough for me to know for sure.
ENT Doc: So her sleep is regularly disrupted? Does she seem tired during the day?
caramama: She's never slept well, and she does have signs that she is sleep deprived (this was part of what I discussed on the phone with our pediatrician). She has trouble focusing, she gets fussy, and she gets that wildness that kids get when they are over-tired. I mean she gets those things more than I've seen in other kids her age.
ENT Doc: It sounds to me like the enlarged adenoids are affecting her quality of life.
caramama: Probably our whole household's quality of life!
We both chuckled.
ENT Doc: When the quality of life is being affected, especially to this degree, I do recommend surgery.

So, that's where we are. The ENT doctor recommends surgery for my 3.5 year old's enlarged adenoids. Luckily her tonsils are fine, so it would just be to remove the adenoids. Londo and I talked it over, and we think we should have it done. We discussed it again with our pediatrician, and she agrees that we should do it. There doesn't appear to be any negative consequences of having the adenoids removed (aside from dealing with the surgery itself), and it could greatly improve her sleep and quality of life.

Now, I just have to stop sitting on this referral and make the appointment for the surgery. I know I need to, and I should do it sooner rather than later. But I'm finding it really hard to make the call for surgery, aside from my normal procrastination of making appointments. Cause, you know, it's surgery. For my 3.5 year old. My firstborn. My little girl.

This is the part of being a parent that sucks. Having to do the hard stuff when it's probably best for the child. Sigh...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Question of the Week - At the Zoo

The rainy, cloudy skies cleared Saturday morning, making it a lovely day for an outdoor activity. It was sunny and warm, but not hot. A perfect day to go to the zoo! We packed up a day bag, put the double stroller in the car, and headed down into the city and to the zoo.

Since the Pumpkin was born, we've been to the DC zoo quite a few times. However, each time it has been hectic at one point or another. Either we leave late after a baby's morning nap and then don't have much time there in the afternoon, or we have to leave early for an afternoon nap. Because of the time crunch, we usually hit a few key spots and then go. This time, with one child who doesn't nap and the other who has napped in a stroller, we thought things might be different, though we were ready to be flexible.

We got there a little before 11:00 and saw the lions and tigers lying around looking beautiful. Then, we stopped in the restaurant for lunch. After lunch, we decided to stroll all the way to the top of the zoo (the DC zoo is on a big hill, and we usually park at the bottom). After all, neither Londo nor I could remember the last time we saw the animals at the top of the hill other than the Bird House. We usually were busy hitting other spots in our targeted visits.

By the time we got to the top of the hill, the Pookie had fallen asleep in the stroller. I got the Pumpkin out so we could walk around and see the cheetah and zebras, while Londo continued to stroller the napping Pookie. And then we continued down the path to so many other animals!

What a blast we had! The Pumpkin walked or rode on my back in a piggy-back ride. We took the time to visit houses that we had passed by in the past and to go down smaller paths to see animals like the giant anteater or the gibbons. Once the Pookie woke up (after about 45 minutes!), the Pumpkin went back in the double stroller with him, they had a snack, and we continued down the path all the way to the bottom to visit Amazonia, a house I'd never even been to before!

It was a beautiful day, and we all had so much fun. What a difference it is to be able to spend a leisurely, full day at the zoo seeing whatever we want. Not only did we get to see our favorite animals, but we got to see many others that we normally don't get the opportunity to see.

This week's question of the week is:

What is your favorite animal at the zoo? Or what is your kids' favorite animal(s)?

My favorite is the tiger, so we always make a point to walk around the great cats' habitat. My second favorite is the elephant, and we usually see them out in their yard, too.

My daughter says her favorite is the monkey, although at the DC zoo we see the orangutans, gorillas and gibbons, all of which she loves to see. We especially love to see the baby gorilla, Kibibi, with her mommy. She says her second favorite is the zebra, and we saw three of those at the zoo.

I think my son's favorite was the gibbon, since he kept pointing to the gibbon hanging and swinging at the top of the net over their yard, babbling excitedly at us and the gibbon. I think he would have liked the elephants, but he was sleeping when we saw them. Oh, he did also get really excited about the gorillas, sitting up and widening his eyes when he saw the first one in the yard.

What about you and your kids? What are you favorite animals at the zoo? Do you get to go much? Are you at a point where you can enjoy a whole day out there or anywhere?

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Solo Parenting Journey

I previously wrote that I was doing the solo parenting thing a bit lately. I knew I'd be doing it more and could handle it. But in the second week of being the sole parent, I realized I was going to be taking both kids down to visit my inlaws BY MYSELF! We would meet Londo down there, but the 7 hour trip (5.5 without-kids trip) would be me, a 3 year old and a 1 year old. That was when I really started to feel overwhelmed, both by the solo parenting and by the idea of taking the car trip with the kids on my own.

So I did what any parenting blogger in my position would do: I reached out to another blogger who would have some good advice. In this case, I knew that Kristen wrote a column called The Sometimes Single Mom, so I tweeted her and asked if she had any posts she'd recommend in particular for what I was going through already and any for taking a solo trip with kids.

Not only did Kristen give me links to a few posts to help me in the solo parenting in general, but she even wrote up a post just to answer my question about taking a solo parenting trip! Isn't she awesome? And have I mentioned that I love the internet, especially this online community of parenting bloggers and commenters?

And now, I will share with you all how I did the 7 hour car trip on a holiday weekend with two kids by myself. Feel free to pat me on the back any time you'd like. ;-)

Because we were going down for Labor Day weekend, a major travel holiday at least in my area, I took off Friday and planned to leave early in the morning. Really early. So early that I packed up almost everything the night before and staged it all by the front door so I could load it all in the car first thing in the morning.

Here's what I packed:
  • my bag of clothes
  • my bag of toiletries (last minute items packed in the morning)
  • the kids' bag of clothes
  • the kids' bag of toiletries (toothbrushes, medicines, etc.)
  • a box of diapers and wipes
  • the kiddie potty (for emergencies on the car trip)
  • bag with crib sheets and blankets for the Pookie
  • bag of toys and books for the Pumpkin (she helped me pick them out and pack them)
  • bag of toys and books for the Pookie
  • car bag of quiet toys for the Pumpkin (I packed this as a surprise, and it included a doodle pad, a sticker book and a couple action figures) (the Pookie already has some car toys in the car)
  • my diaper bag
  • a bag with clothes for the day and the kids' toiletries bag (for our breakfast stop)
  • a bag of food for our destination (foods we are sure are peanut-free and made in peanut-free facilities)
  • a bag of food for the car (snack foods for the kids and me)
  • a cooler with cups of milk and baby yogurt
  • the double stroller

    It was a lot of stuff. There was a point in my life when I traveled light (like when I backpacked around Europe). That point is over. I know travel with kids and need to be prepared.

    You may not realize what is missing from that list. The DVD player. That is because it was in Londo's car at our destination. So I had to make the trip without the DVD player to help me through. Luckily, I do have a bunch of kids CDs in my car.

    So almost all the bags are packed and by the front door. I stayed up until 11:30 getting it all packed. I woke up with my alarm at 4:30, quickly got myself ready for the day, fed and let out the dog, packed all the last minute items (my toiletries and the cooler) and then I packed up the car. I finished packing the car, put the dog in her crate (my mom was picking her up later that morning to stay at her house while we were gone), and went up to get the kids by 5:00.

    I had prepped the Pumpkin the day before. She knew it was going to be a "super silly morning!" and what was going to happen, and in what order. First, I got up the very sleepy Pumpkin, put her on the potty with only the nightlight as our light, washed her hands, and carried her out to the car. I strapped her into her car seat, made sure she was safe and sound, and went back in the house. Then, I got the very sleepy Pookie out of his crib, changed his diaper, got the dolphin he sleeps with (or rather, I keep in his crib while he is sleeping), and carried him out to the car, locking the front door as I went. I strapped him into his car seat (still rear-facing, so they can look at each other), made sure he was comfy, got in the drivers seat, and off we went! We were on the road by 5:30!

    My hope was that they would fall back asleep, all snug in their pajamas in the moving car while it was still dark out. That didn't happen. It was too unusual of a situation, I think. There was newness, excitement and general awakeness. BUT they WERE sleepy, so they both just hung out in their carseats for about an hour.

    So they didn't sleep for the first hour. I figured I should stop for gas then just in case they actually did fall asleep after that. We went in for a bathroom break also, and I gave the kids milk and snacks in the car. We got back on the road.

    At about 7:30, they still weren't sleeping, and the snacks weren't enough. It was time to stop for breakfast. We went into a McD's, since I feel comfortable with them being peanut-free. I washed and dressed the kids in the bathroom, and we sat down for breakfast. Me and the two kids. Having breakfast on our road trip. It was actually a lot of fun.

    When we got back in the car, I put on the kids music. The Pumpkin loves music--heck so does the Pookie! So we enjoyed that for a while. Not too long after, the Pookie fell asleep. I pulled out the sticker book and action figures for the Pumpkin to play with quietly while the Pookie slept. I was able to keep her quiet and let the baby sleep for about 45 minutes. But then she was getting frustrated about something and wouldn't stay quiet, and that was it for any sleeping in the car the rest of the trip.

    We did one more bathroom stop, but the rest of the trip was really uneventful. The kids played with car toys, looked out the window, listened to music. The Pumpkin and I also sang, which entertained the Pookie.

    They were really well-behaved in the car. I will never forget the 1.5-2 years of difficult car trips when the Pumpkin was a baby and couldn't stand the carseat. It was so hard to visit relatives or friends or go on vacation, because she was so miserable. But now? She is a champ in the car! And luckily, the Pookie hasn't had a problem with the car.

    When we were driving in the mountains, getting very close to my inlaws' town, I started pointing out the forests, mountains, rocks and valleys. I would call out what I saw and point to it. So then the Pumpkin started doing that for her brother. And then the Pookie starting vocalizing and pointing out his window. I just thought it was so cute!

    I feel like there should be more to this tale, but it went pretty smooth and we had a lot of fun. Our stops went well, and the kids seemed to be entertained and had fun. When we got to my inlaws' house, Londo was there to greet us and help get us and all our stuff into the house. We ate lunch, and then I took a nap.

    So, it turns out: being the the solo parent on a car trip with two kids can go pretty smoothly. I think the keys things are:
  • Plan the timing that will work best for you and your kids. Usually, Londo and I do the trips at least partially at night so the kids will fall asleep in the car (we did this on the way back). But I knew that I'd be too tired to drive at night, so I decided on a morning trip.
  • Pack almost everything in advance. That way you are less likely to forget anything important. And it makes leaving the house more smooth at any time.
  • Pack toys or other entertainment items for the car ride. My girl loved having a special "car bag" next to her.
  • Keep the things you need for yourself and the kids REALLY handy. I was so glad I had the following handy: the snack foods in little bowls with lids, the sippy cups of milk, the car toys, the CDs with kids music and snacks for me.
  • Prepare the kids for the journey. I told my girl ahead of time to make sure she knew what to expect, what may happen, what wasn't going to happen, and the general timing of everything, especially that the trip was going to be LONG. That really helped things to smoothly.

    Now that I've done this once, I find the idea a lot less intimidating. Now I know that just because Londo might not be able to go somewhere, that doesn't have to stop me from going with the kids. I'm already planning lots of beach trips for next summer!
  • The Beginnings of a Ski Buddy

    After lunch, my daughter and I went back up the "magic carpets" to the top of the bunny slopes. She wanted to keep skiing! With me...