January 31, 2011

Let the Sickness Begin

My daughters' health is the one area where I try not to take chances. You have to understand that these four girls spent between 63 and 87 days in the NICU. Any and every little gurgle was a cause for concern. Having had such "fragile" babies has likely turned me into one of "those" moms, the one who calls the pediatrician at the sign of any pending illness.
The other day I was convinced Sue Sue had a concussion. She woke up and said she had a headache. I told her to drink some water. A short time later she was on the couch and seemed a bit lethargic. I tried talking to her but she wouldn't say much, other than reminding me that she had a headache. Then I noticed she had a bruise on her head. For a few minutes I was convinced she had bonked her head without my knowledge and now needed to be rushed to the pediatrician. Fortunately, rather than calling the pediatrician, I first called Hubby. Not that he had any answers. He was at work and could only go by what I said. In the course of that short conversation, Sue Sue got off the couch and started playing with her sisters. Her lethargic ways had disappeared. So much for the concussion. (In my defense, she is sick. She has some type of virus, so I'm guessing that day was the beginning stages of her illness).
It's easy to laugh and write me off as a hypochondriac or a worry wart. The thing is, when I don't worry, things go from bad to worse. About two years ago, Sue Sue had a fever and a cough. A terrible, horrible cough. I brushed it off as a cold... until the evening rolled around and she was having trouble breathing. After a brief consultation with the on-call pediatrician, Sue Sue and I were on our way to the emergency room. Croup. We were there for hours doing chest x-rays and getting doses of steroids. That incident is always in the back of my mind. What if I blow off the next illness and it's even more serious?
Over the summer, both Cakes and Sue Sue had really goopy eyes one day. We had been outside all day and it was really windy. I chalked it up to allergies... until their eyes were matted shut the next morning. Pink eye. 
In all seriousness, I truly don't call the pediatrician that often. I know what questions the nurses are going to ask (temperature, rashes, etc), so if I can answer those questions and be comfortable with the answers I usually don't call. Sue Sue spent all day yesterday napping. Today she seems better, but not 100%.

January 25, 2011

Putting It In Perspective

Sometimes it takes something sad to remind me how fortunate I am. Yesterday was one of those days. I was having a bad day. It's not necessary to go into details. Little things were bothering me. Then when I picked my daughters up from school I quickly remembered why it's important to blow off the small stuff.
As my daughters left school, Roo's speech therapist approached me and apologized for not working with her that day. Apparently the therapist had spent the morning calling parents to let them know a preschooler had died over the weekend. In that instant, I forgot about my "troubles."
The young boy was not in my daughters' class, nor do we know him, but it still hit home. Apparently he had a "medical condition." It's not my business so I didn't ask more questions. Counselors were going to be at the school in the afternoon (he was an afternoon student) to talk with his classmates and their parents.
The thing that really struck a chord with me is that this boy was a twin. All day long I thought about his family: his brother who likely had a close bond with him; his parents who will always celebrate his birthday and it will surely be bittersweet to only have one of their sons around. 
I can't imagine the pain. Nor can I imagine what the teachers and counselors are able to say to such young children to bring them comfort and quash their fears. My thoughts are certainly with this family right now.

January 24, 2011

I'm Definitely NOT a Tiger Mother

When I read the review for the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in Entertainment Weekly, I didn't believe it. Surely the reviewer left out some key details.  No mother would admit to calling her child garbage or rejecting homemade birthday cards and then write a book about it. I immediately put myself on the waiting list at my local library. I just finished the book the other day. It turns out, the reviewer did not leave out any key details. Those incidents happened.
For those not familiar with the book, Amy Chua is a first-generation Chinese-American. She decided to raise her daughters the "Chinese way." To put it simply: she wanted to be stricter and more structured than "Westerners." 
Some of her ideals aren't so bad. Her children could not get any grade less than an A. As extreme as it sounds, I don't think it's bad to have high standards for your children. However, having struggled with certain subjects in high school, I can also tell you sometimes expectations have to be amended. She pushed them in school, in music, but I understood her theory of not letting her children give up based on their own insecurities. (In other words, sometimes you need your parents to push you in order to succeed).
Other rules left me baffled. Her daughters could never have play date. Why? With school, music lessons and practice (sometimes three hours a day of practicing their instruments), they simply didn't have any free time. They couldn't be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play or choose their own extra curricular activities.
As for the garbage incident? It happened and it's brutal. Chua says during her own childhood she was disrespectful to her mother. Her father called her "garbage." As a  mother Chua employed this same tactic with one of her daughters. She told this story at a party and one of the other guests was so upset for her daughter that she left in tears. 
It's Chua's youngest daughter, Lulu, who receives the brunt of any negativity associated with her child rearing tactics. While the oldest, Sophia, seems to be a "model daughter" who blossoms under the "Chinese way," Lulu is quick to push her mother's buttons. She questions. She argues. She wins from time to time. Sophia recently wrote a piece in defense of her mother for the New York Times. That's all well and good, but I would much rather hear what Lulu thinks of all of this. 
It's easy to simply write Chua off as a "bad mother." I will give her credit for putting it out there for the world to judge. Still, I wonder if she realized not a lot of us would be on her side. Even toward the end of the book, as she is "humbled" by a 13-year-old, she still seems to think everything she did was right and will have no ill affect on her children. I know that my daughters are not going to look back on my parenting skills and always sing my praises. What child does? I just hope that with the tactics I've employed, I won't have the need to write a book about the wrongs I've committed!

January 19, 2011

Changing the Way We Do Things

A few days after Christmas I had a bit of a breakdown. At the dinner table. Hubby and I were eating yet another processed meal out of a box and I just couldn't take it any more. With work and the holidays I hadn't had time for any exercise and I felt awful... sluggish, no energy. That night we made a decision: it's time to change some of our bad habits.
For the last year, Hubby's work made it hard to eat healthy. He was gone five nights a week, which made it easier to rely on convenience foods. Now that his schedule has changed, we need to change too.
I've started a new exercise program. It's a challenge because it requires a 6 day a week commitment, roughly an hour each day. (It lasts 90 days if that helps you figure out what program I'm doing). Hubby has been good at helping me. He is "lucky" enough to be able to get up at 4:30 am and use the gym at his work. So if the girls don't have school (meaning I can't work out while they're in school), then he willingly takes over "quad duty" when he walks in the door so I can get in my work out. I'm on the third week and feeling good. I went for the "classic" routine (meaning more strength training) but I think at the end of this week I may switch to the "lean" version because I feel like I need more cardio.
We're also really making an effort to eat better. Since that night we have not had one meal out of a box, except for the occasional frozen meal when I'm working during the dinner hours. We've always been bigger lean meat eaters (fish and chicken) than red meat, so that hasn't been a difficult change. We're also adding more vegetables and brown rice rather than bread. 
The vegetable issue has been a bit of a challenge. We would both rather go organic, but when you're on a budget it's hard to justify a $2.99 bag of carrots versus a $.79 bag. I know organic tastes better, but still.... I'm hoping during the summer I can frequent some of our local road side vegetable stands for fresher produce. We also have a vegetable/rice steamer on order, which should help us broaden our choices.
As for the girls, they are reaping the benefits of extra vegetables. As for the processed food, they're five. We're getting there. At least they eat organic mac and cheese!

January 18, 2011

Fighting Back

In the three years my daughters have been in preschool, they have rarely been sent to time out. In fact, I can only think of two instances and it was the same daughter.
Last year, Sue Sue received a time out, along with a few other students (none of my other daughters), because they refused to come in from recess. They kept playing. The teacher gave them a warning. Then she made them sit in time out the next day during part of recess. Sue Sue also lost some privileges at home. 
Last week Sue Sue received her second ever time out at school. I guess I should be upset, but mainly, I'm delighted. You may remember a few months ago when I wrote a post about "Becky." Becky is a little girl in preschool who causes problems. On a regular basis, I hear tales of Becky's wrongdoings. Becky pushed Tortilla. Becky took toys from Cakes. Becky yelled in Sue Sue's ear. Becky bit Roo. So what do my girls do in return? Nothing. After the biting incident, I reached a decision. Since Becky has continued to be aggressive toward my girls (and pretty much every child in the class), I instructed my girls to fight back. If Becky pushes you, you push her. If she hits you, you hit her. Normally I wouldn't condone this, but the teacher clearly doesn't have a handle on Becky. When I expressed concern, her answer was "I'm working on it." I could be that mom and call the principal, but I wanted to see what happened if my daughters tried to take care of themselves.
Sue Sue's time out? Becky pushed her. Sue Sue pushed her back. They both went to time out. Sue Sue was not the one to tell me about her time out. Neither was the teacher. It was her sisters. I sat Sue Sue down, asked her why she went to time out. "Because I pushed Becky." "Why did you push her?" "She pushed me." Sue Sue clearly thought she was in trouble. I told her that I agreed that she should go to time out at school because she broke the rules, but that there would not be any further punishment at home.
I know some people are reading this, shaking their heads. How could I possibly encourage my daughters to fight back? At some point, all children need to learn to stand up for themselves. In my opinion this was a last resort. I don't want my daughters to resolve disputes by fighting, but I don't want them to let other people walk all over them. I know I'm sending them mixed messages. It's OK to be naughty sometimes, just not all of the time. That's a lot for a preschooler to grasp. But in this case, it seemed to work. When I asked Sue Sue what happened to Becky at the end of the time out she said "Becky and I played and she was nicer."

January 17, 2011

The Blankie Dilemma

Three of my daughters love their blankies. Interestingly, they are the same three who suck their thumbs. They need their blankies at bed time. They need their blankies when they're tired. They need their blankies when they are sad. One blankie, though, is on the verge of disintegrating. 
You think I'm joking? Tortilla has started this bad habit of chewing on her blankie. Not just nibbling a little corner but putting a huge chunk in her mouth and gnawing on it. 
Initially, we all treated it as a joke. "Ewwww... get this wet blankie off me!" No one wanted to be near Tortilla's blankie. Unfortunately, this bad habit is destroying her blankie. It's full of holes and it's becoming frayed. 
Yesterday, I pointed out to Tortilla how terrible her blankie looks. I gave it a hot, hot "bath," trimmed it the best I could and gave her strict instructions not to chew it. It was hard for her. She really wanted the blankie in her mouth. It's a cotton blanket, so I'm not sure I can mend it too much. Hubby suggested sewing a border on it, but because of the material I think a border will pull in the wash and ruin it more. For now, the frayed edges have been trimmed, but it's still a "holey" mess. Let's hope she values the blankie enough to give up the chewing habit or I'm afraid this blankie will soon be a goner.

January 12, 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship With Hootie

When Hubby and I moved in together, I suddenly went from never owning a pet in my life to sharing a space with two cats. Elwood took to me immediately. From the minute he saw me, he wanted to get to know me, sit on my lap, eat my food. Hootie, however, was a different story.
Hubby's parents found Hootie when Hubby was in high school. They were driving at night and their headlights illuminated something in the road. Hubby's dad thought it was an owl (hence the name they gave him). He got out of the car and found a wounded cat, most likely hit by a car. Hubby's parents took him home and eventually to a vet. Considering the amount of money it took to fix him up (including a pin in his leg), Hootie became a member of his family.
Hootie stuck to Hubby like glue. He considered Hubby to be his and his alone. So when I came into the picture, I was nothing but a threat.
In the beginning, Hootie refused to acknowledge me. He didn't want me to pet him. He didn't want to sit near me. If I sat near Hubby, Hootie would wedge his way in between us. I have a rocking chair that was either my great aunt's or my great grandmother's. The back has caning and had a tiny, tiny hole. Hootie hated me so much that he chewed through that hole and ruined the caning, which I still need to fix. Hubby's parents were stunned when I told them that story. This was not the gentle, caring cat they knew.
Eventually, Hootie figured out I wasn't going anywhere. Slowly, we forged a bond. I learned to love him. He learned to tolerate me. In the time that I knew him, I don't remember him every voluntarily sitting on my lap, but he did allow me to pet him and he always came around when I had something tasty to eat.
Hootie was a smart cat. He never once bit anyone or lashed out at anyone. He knew right away not to mess around with our girls when they came home from the hospital. As the girls grew, he tolerated their rough pettings and hugs. He let us dress him in goofy outfits. If he were a person, he would be mortified by the picture I used for this post, but it shows how tolerant he was. He pretended like he was above chasing a laser, but every now and then he would join the younger cats in the fun. He was the "top cat" in our house. He let the "young whippersnappers" have their fun, but if they got out of line, Hootie was right there to put them in their place. The other cats weren't scared of him, but they definitely followed his lead. Back in the day, he was better than having a watchdog. If I heard a noise, all I had to do was look at Hootie to see if I should be concerned. If he went about his business, all was well. If he had his ears pointed and a bushy tail, I knew something was wrong.
It's hard to say exactly how old Hootie was. Our estimate is 22 to 24 years old. (FYI, if Hootie was 24 that apparently equates to 104 in human years!) A few months ago, his age started to show. He began losing weight. He walked like an "old man." During one visit to the vet, she recommended some work on his teeth for a whopping $600+. Hubby and I had a long discussion. It was a hard decision for Hubby to make, having had such a long relationship with Hootie, but we decided not to sink that kind of money into a cat if it meant only prolonging his life by months, rather than years. (How many cats do you know that have made it to their 20's? Our vet couldn't think of many).
A few weeks ago, it became obvious that Hootie wasn't doing well. He started snubbing the special food we bought to fatten him up. He preferred a "liquid diet" consisting of cat milk, pea juice and the like. Still, he was fighting to live. He could get up and down the steps to our bedroom, to the cat box. He would come to the kitchen and plop down in front of me, demanding to be fed. As long as he fought, we were willing to do what we could to help. 
Overnight it all changed. On Monday, Hubby woke up and Hootie could barely walk. He tried to eat, but just slumped his head over the bowl. This is not the same cat who just the day before had readily come around for food. As much as we thought he would simply go to sleep and leave us peacefully, it was time for us to take action and say good bye.
As I got the girls ready for school, they asked why Hootie was walking funny and barely walking at all. Then one of them asked a loaded question "Is Hootie going to die?" As much as I did not want to send my daughters to school on such a sad note, I sat them down and told them Hootie was very sick and was going to be leaving us that day. The tears flowed freely. I promised them they would be able to come home from school and say good bye... as long as they promised me they would go to school and not be sad.
The good byes were hard. Last week it was easy to make light of goldfish Rocky's passing. He had been with us for 2 1/2 days. There was no time to bond. Hootie had been in my life for nearly 11 years... and about twice that long for Hubby. He was an integral part of our family and he is dearly missed.

January 11, 2011

The First Body Piercing

Well, I did it. Actually, I should say Roo did it. She is now the proud wearer of pierced earrings. If you'll recall, I'm desperate. The other three suck their thumbs and I've stooped to bribery (which is not something I'm against). I told them if they stop sucking their thumbs, they can get their ears pierced. Since Roo never sucked her thumb, she asked every day if it was time to get her ears pierced.
Sunday was the day. I called the closest chain-store that pierces ears (if you think about it, you'll figure out what store I went to). I made sure the store had two certified piercers working so both ears could be pierced at the same time. Then Hubby, Roo and I made the trek over. I made the other girls go to grandma's because I really wanted to play up the whole "specialness" of this event. 
Roo smiled the whole way there, but didn't say much. She refused to talk to the two employees at the store. (For the record, this store employs "young" workers, but they were kind and professional through the entire experience). 
The piercing "guns" aren't the staple gun sized contraptions I remember being pierced with. They were small and didn't make a "popping" sound. They counted to three... I didn't even realize it was over! Roo didn't flinch and didn't shed a tear. (It helped that I popped a lollipop in her mouth as soon as it was over). 
She's very proud of herself and has been very careful with her earrings. She doesn't let anyone touch them unless we're cleaning them and she helps me mark off the calendar each day so we know how often to clean them.

For those who have asked why I'm concerned about the thumb sucking: I've never believed sucking thumbs causes crooked teeth. However, according to our dentist it can change the shape of one's palette. It elongates the roof of the mouth and causes "crowding of the teeth." We already know all four girls will need braces (yes, even non-thumb sucking Roo), but we're trying to avoid the palette cracking contraption Hubby had to wear. It goes in the roof of your mouth and you have to turn a "key" every day to separate your palette. I'm dizzy just thinking about it.
As for the others? They're trying, they really are. The problem with their thumb sucking is that it's a "comfort" thing. They ONLY do it when they're tired. However, I noticed Sue Sue no longer sucks her thumb in her sleep... could she be the next to get pierced? And for the record, any piercings beyond their ears will have to be paid for out of their own pockets!

January 05, 2011

The 14 Day Guarantee

This year for Christmas Santa brought my girls an aquarium. Actually, while they were excited at the prospect of being fish owners, the gift was really for Mommy and Daddy. We have always entertained the idea of owning fish and would some day like to have a large tank of tropical fish. We decided it's best to start small. So we now have an aquarium fit for a few princesses. It's pink. It has pink rocks. Did I mention we bought a pink castle for the fish to swim in and out of?
Last week Hubby got the aquarium ready. Then on Sunday we ventured to the pet store to buy two goldfish. Did you know goldfish aren't always gold in color? I didn't know that either until Sunday.
Anyway, our aquarium can accommodate two to three goldfish. I bring up this point because the pet store employee emphasized this fact, even though the tanks at the store had 30 or more fish crammed in them and aren't much bigger than our tank.
The pet store employee was clearly exasperated with us. We didn't want him putting just any fish in a bag and sending us home. No, for our 13 cents a fish we wanted the ones we picked out. First into the bag was Mo. He's gold in color and has a black stripe down his back, sort of like a mohawk, hence the name. Next came Rocky. He was black in color, very pretty. He was a slippery sucker and kept dodging the net. Apparently the worker gave up because when we were in the car we noticed Rocky was suddenly silver. Oh well. He was ours and that's all that mattered.
When we made it through the first night with no dead fish, Hubby and patted ourselves on the back. We're good fish owners! Unfortunately, when the girls and I went to feed the fish this morning, poor Rocky had passed. Believe it or not, he found his way into the castle and used that as his final resting place.
The girls and I were slightly disappointed, but not overly upset. It had only been 2 1/2 days. Yesterday Hubby pointed out that Rocky never used his left fin. We're guessing he was injured and dying before we ever brought him home. My explanation to the girls was that Rocky knew he only had a few days left and really wanted to get out of that crammed fish tank at the store. I like to think he enjoyed a few days of having room to move in the princess tank.
As for the title of my post? Well, the store has a 14 day guarantee on fish, so tomorrow Hubby will be heading there to bring home Dorothy.

January 04, 2011

Rapunzel, Rapunzel

I've never had really long hair. Growing up, my mom made me get a "pixie cut" every summer, although to me it was called a "boy haircut." I vowed never to do that to my daughters. Then I had girls with tangled messes for hair.
I'm willing to do simple hair styles... ponytails, braids, barrettes. I'm not able to do more elaborate 'dos (think French braids). My daughters don't seem to mind. I don't make them get a pixie cut, but they do end up with a bob a few times a year. Usually I'll let their hair grow out in the summer and then cut it right before school starts. This might seem backwards to some... they should have short hair for summer, right? But I would rather get all the chlorinated, sun damaged hair cut off.
At the beginning of this school year, only Roo and Cakes had hair long enough to justify a $10 haircut. I won't pay $10 for a trim. I do all bang trims myself. Soon, Tortilla needed a cut, but since she wanted to be Sleeping Beauty for Halloween, I let her keep her unruly locks until November. Days after Halloween she happily went to a chin-length bob.
This has never been a problem, until now. The other day I mentioned to Sue Sue that it's about time for her to get a haircut. Her response: I want long hair. Right now her hair is about shoulder length. If it gets cut, it's going chin length. She wants to keep it the way it is. I don't mind, except her hair is always in her face. So I made a deal with her, she has to wear some type of 'do (headband, ponytail, whatever we decide each morning) and keep it in. If she starts pulling out the accessories mid-morning, as she is known to do, then she has to have her haircut. So far our deal is working. It means a few extra minutes are added to the morning routine, but as long as she's keeping up her end of the bargain, I'll stick with it.

January 03, 2011

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

I've frequently posted about my three thumb suckers. Roo has never sucked her thumb, the other three think their thumbs are made of chocolate. Or crack. Take your pick because they are addicted. I've tried chats about how we're "big girls now." I've talked to them about what this will do to their teeth. I've threatened to cover their hands with socks at night. That was the dentist's suggestion. It sounded good, but then I thought about how uncomfortable I would feel with my hands covered all night, so I don't know if I'm willing to go that route. Nothing has worked.
The other night, out of sheer frustration, I came up with something that might actually work. Roo is going to get her ears pierced this week. That's my new rule: if you don't suck your thumb, you get to have pierced ears. She is really talking it up and her sisters are jealous! They're trying to stop sucking their thumbs because they want earrings. I think the real motivator will be when Roo comes home this week sporting her earrings. I had always planned to wait until they were a little older, but if it means no more thumb sucking, then bring on the piercing gun!

The Winners Are...

That's right, I said winners. There was miscommunication about how the Purex giveaway was going to work, soooooo Purex has agreed to give THREE Buried in Laundry readers a coupon for a free bottle of Purex Complete Crystal Softeners. Those three winners, as determined by Random.org are:
You have 48 hours to provide me with your mailing address or a new winner will be chosen. I'll get the coupons out to you as soon as I receive them from Purex.
Thanks to everyone who entered!