Friday, May 30, 2008

The Final Countdown

I have reached that stage of my pregnancy where, on a given day, I might get an irresistible urge to paint the entire house, plant an herb garden, or sew a complete set of crib bedding from scratch (note: I don't sew); yet I am officially too big to even put on my pants by myself.  Some call this urge the nesting instinct.  I call it panic.

See, at thirty-six weeks and counting, you suddenly realize you only have about three or four weeks left to be an actual human being (albeit one with a rather large, energetic parasite that starts doing water ballet about 11p.m. each night) before being plunged back into the world of feed, spit-up, poop, feed, spit-up, poop, feed, spit-up, poop -- a world where you exist in such an exhaustion-induced stupor that when you finally come to, you realize you haven't showered or brushed your teeth in six weeks.  (Incidentally, this is the part of motherhood you conveniently forgot when you started to consider getting pregnant again).

Yeah, it's beginning to dawn on me that, unless I act quickly, the crayon mural my two-year-old created on the sliding-glass door will still be there in a year and a half, along with the drips of orange juice on the wall behind the kitchen table, and the twenty-some-odd boxes in the basement labeled "Stuff" left from our last move.

So I've written up a nice long list of impossible tasks to complete before the end of June -- things like cleaning out all the cupboards in the kitchen, organizing the storage room, and finishing the novel I started six years ago.  And I'm all geared up to accomplish every last one of them -- something that would seem so much more achievable if only I could see my shoes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Confessions of a Non-Soccer Mom

I like soccer.  I really do.  In fact, I played soccer for six or seven years as a kid, and in fourth grade my team won the state championship (you should probably know, though, that my contribution to this victory was fairly minimal; that is to say, I occasionally blocked the ball with my face when it was kicked in my direction).

But there's something about walking onto the field with your 5-year-old for his first soccer practice/game that feels like the first day of junior high (minus the zits and bad haircut) -- except the sensation is doubled because you're also feeling it for your preschooler:  Will he make friends?  Score goals?  Or just occasionally block the ball with his face?

Within a couple of weeks, however, I realized this was worse than junior high -- I mean, in junior high you eventually discover other mutant thirteen-year-olds dealing with zits and bad haircuts who will at least sit with you at lunch and not make fun of you when your hamburger goulash gets inextricably lodged in your top braces.  But I quickly became convinced that I would never fit in with the other soccer moms.  

For one thing, the other boys all had names like "Talon" and "Gage" and "Stryker" (as if their parents had actually wanted cars or tools or heavily-armed science fiction action figures instead of kids).   A kid named after a sixteenth-century poet/playwright could get eaten alive out there.

And if the kids didn't get him the parents might:  I actually overheard one of the dads telling his boy who had fallen down and was crying, "If you don't stop crying, I'm gonna sign you up for the girls' team!"  Honest.  I'm not making it up  (I wanted to say something to the guy, but I had problems with what he was saying on so many different levels I didn't know where to start).

And then there was the mom who, every week without fail, dressed her three-year-old daughter up in a sparkly pink and purple cheerleader outfit (complete with pompoms) and reminisced with another mom about their cheerleading days.  This is the same mom who, after watching her five-year-old perform remarkably straight cartwheels out on the soccer field, called him over and said, "If you don't stop messing around and start scoring goals, we're going home!"  Yeah, I'm not making that up either.

So, after going the first three or four games without a goal (in fact, I'm not sure Will even kicked the ball -- he spent most of one game inspecting a weird bug he found in the grass), I began to wonder if I should have prepared him better, practiced with him more, so he would be able to play like the other kids.  

But then I started to appreciate the entertainment value in a kid who, after the first five minutes or so, completely loses interest in the game and becomes oblivious to the ball going back and forth across the field.  

For example:  Gage steals the ball from Stryker and runs down the field.  Talon pushes Gage down, takes the ball, scores a goal.  

Will picks several handfuls of grass and tosses them up into the air.

Talon throws the ball in, Stryker takes it down to the goal.  Gage kicks him in the shin, takes the ball away and scores a goal ("Get him, Stryker!  Get him!" screams Stryker's mom).

Will runs over to show me the pile of rocks he's found on the field.

You know, maybe next year Will will be more interested in the game and score a goal or two, right along with "Ridge" and "Titan" and "Truck" (okay, I might have made some of those up).  Then again, maybe he won't.

But in the meantime, I'm okay with the fact that when the game's over and Gage runs over to his mom and exclaims, "I made five goals today!" Will runs over to me and says, "Guess what Mom!  A kid fell down and I helped him up!"

Good enough for me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The $35 Band-aid: A Hysterical Mom's Guide to Dealing With Minor Lacerations

We have a rule in our house: no broken bones, deep lacerations, or knocked-out teeth after 9 p.m.

The reason for this is simple.  The urgent care clinic (co-pay: $35) closes at 9 p.m. and the emergency room (copay: $400 and up) is, basically, off-limits since we would have to sell the afflicted child (once healed, of course) to pay the hospital bill.

We made this rule early on in our parenting career after Will got croup at ten months and I woke at midnight to hear him gasping for breath. Being the calm, practical mother that I am, I carefully analyzed the situation, then shrieked, "We're going to the emergency room, NOW!" and dragged my half-dressed husband and sick baby to the car.  After three hours or so of waiting, breathing treatments, and doctors looking at this hysterical mother like they wished they had a strait-jacket nearby, we headed home with instructions for steaming up the bathroom to help Will's breathing and an ER bill designed to squeeze our savings account dry.

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson.

So, this morning, when Will was spinning himself and his younger brother around on the office chair (parenthetical warning: two boys + spinning office chair + sharp desk corner = disaster), and I heard a loud smack and that long pre-scream silence that signals catastrophe, I took a deep breath and prepared myself to be calm, practical, and analytical.

Then I walked into the room, saw blood running down the face of my precious two-year-old, and did what any other calm, practical mother would do.

I completely lost it.

I'm the kind of person who, if a grease fire started on the stove, would sit and try to blow it out. My brain simply ceases to function in an emergency (which, by the way, is why I'm a piano teacher instead of, say, and EMT or police officer).  I was lucky to get out the door with both children, my keys, my purse, and my pants on.

Play-by-play of the next two hours: 
Jack stops screaming bloody murder.  
Jack stops bleeding.  
Will and Jack spend next 45 minutes touching every possible surface in the waiting room.
Nurse takes us into examining room.  
Will and Jack spend next 45 minutes touching every possible surface in the examining room.  Twice.  
(Garbage can, three times.)  
Jack swings from the arm rest of the chair and smacks the other side of his head on the wall (heck, if he'd gotten another gash, it could have been a two-for-one deal, right?).
Doctor finally comes in, pokes and prods at cut.
Doctor applies band-aid.
We leave.

Luckily, the whole ordeal only cost us $35 (band-aid included!) and an exhausting two hours at the urgent care clinic.  Not expensive enough to sell a child.

But a spinning office chair, maybe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pride and Pregnancy

Have you ever noticed how, when you're pregnant, your body kind of becomes public property? It's like, just because your stomach happens to protrude a few inches (or feet, as the case might be) further in front of you than usual, it has suddenly entered the public domain.  

I mean, the first few months of pregnancy, sure, you're sick as a dog and feel as if Mount Vesuvius will erupt if you get the tiniest whiff of a cooking pork product, but at least it's a private agony.  Then suddenly, month five or six hits and your belly pops out and you become a one-woman petting zoo.  One of my little piano students rubs my belly enthusiastically every time she comes for her lesson, announcing matter-of-factly, "Yep!  It's getting bigger!"  And quite honestly, eight-year-old piano students are entirely preferable to the random strangers in the supermarket who get this irresistible urge to touch my stomach and comment on its size (something nobody would dare do if, instead of being pregnant, I had just overdone it on the twinkies and doughnuts).

And sometimes the comments are worse when they're trying to be nice.  Like the sympathetic friends who try to make you feel better by asking, "Oh, are you pregnant?  You're so tiny, you hardly even show!" when you know for a fact that this morning you split the seam on your hugest pair of maternity pants and you've started wondering if they make maternity clothes in size "Hippo".

Then toward month seven or eight you know it's getting bad because instead of asking "How are you doing?" people start asking in this sad, concerned voice "How are you feeling?" and what they really mean is, "Holy smokes -- you've bloated up like a whale.  You must feel awful!"

So between all the comments and belly-rubbing and weekly doctor visits, by the time you're ready to deliver, you've completely lost all inhibitions regarding your pregnant body.  When Will was born, I had been poked, prodded, and checked by so many random doctors, nurses, groups of interns in training (and I'm sure there was a janitor or two) over the course of twelve hours of labor, I felt like getting on the hospital P.A. system and announcing "ATTENTION HOSPITAL VISITORS, IF ANYONE ELSE IS INTERESTED IN CHECKING TO SEE HOW FAR THE PATIENT IN ROOM 475 HAS DILATED, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO DO SO AT THIS TIME." 

To tell the truth, though, most of the time it's not so bad.  It's kind of sweet the way, when you walk into the room, people look at your belly before they look at your face and it makes them smile (Or laugh out loud.  Or dive out of the way like a steamroller's coming through).   It's nice to know that just a glance at my stomach can brighten someone's day.  Hey, I try to do my part to make the world a better place.  And if all it takes is looking like I've swallowed a giant beach ball, so be it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My Two-Year Old, the Sugar Addict

 I can only blame myself, really.  I mean, with my first pregnancy, I was so careful.  I followed my "What to Eat When You're Expecting" book to the letter, shunning all sugar and white flour, concocting incredibly healthy and incredibly foul-tasting cauliflower soups, and eating muffins made with enough wheat germ to make them taste like tree bark. 

But with my second it all went out the window. 

I bought boxes of chocolates and virtually inhaled all the ones I liked, then nibbled the chocolate off the outsides of the ones I didn't (honestly, who decided lemon cream was okay to put inside a chocolate?)

The arrival of each new holiday signalled a new adventure in my sugar indulgence -- at Halloween, it was candy corns; Christmas, those foil-wrapped crispy chocolate bells;  and Valentines, conversation hearts.  The rest of the time, it was basically just chocolate: chocolate bars, chocolate frosting, and chocolate chips dumped into the peanut butter jar and scooped out with a spoon.  I know, I know -- the "What to Eat" folks would be appalled.  But really, who wants wheat bran/carob chip brownies when you can have a pint of chocolate chip ice cream? Especially when your belly's huge and your ankles are swollen and you feel like some sort of mutant hippo?

So I shouldn't be surprised that my now-two-year-old has some kind of sixth sense when it comes to candy.  All it takes is the faintest rustle of a plastic wrapper and his little face lights up: "I want some!"

Case in point:  a couple of weeks ago, I sneaked a bag of those Whopper's Robin's Eggs into the shopping cart at Wal-Mart (obviously, my diet's not much better with this pregnancy!).  They made it into the cart under the radar, and they even made it through the cashier and into the grocery sack without incident.   As we drove home, I turned up the radio and at a stop light gently pried the bag open.  I carefully slid my hand inside and pulled out an egg.  I turned my head to the side so Jack wouldn't see me putting it in my mouth.  Crunch.

"I want a Whopper!"

He's like the little "Sixth Sense" kid that sees dead people, except he sees candy -- through cupboard doors, in my purse, in the top drawer of my dresser -- he's always managing to find my secret stashes (of which I have quite a few, I must admit).  One day I walked into the kitchen and found him sitting on the counter, one hand up to his wrist in my sugar bin, the other shoving a handful of the stuff into his mouth.  "I yike sugar!" he cheered, delighted with his discovery.

I imagined my dental bill climbing into the thousands.

I can't even buy cereal with any sugar in it -- he eats the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms, the frosting off of the Frosted Mini-Wheats, and even digs out the sugar-coated raisins from the Raisin Bran.  I've created a monster.  And it's all my fault -- it's like he was fed a direct line of corn syrup in utero.

But then again, who needs the guilt?  So, next time I find him reaching into a bag of chocolate chips, I'll probably just grab the peanut butter jar and a couple of spoons and join in.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kindergarten Shots!; Or, How to Get Your Five-Year-Old Vaccinated Without Losing Your Mind

Will is an unusual five-year-old.  At least, that's what his pediatrician kept informing me as she stood there, shaking her head exasperatedly, watching him kick and scream and flail his arms in the examining room.  

"This is really unusual behavior for a five-year-old."

More kicking and flailing.  Louder screaming.  More head-shaking.

"This is really unusual for a five-year old. Really, really unusual."

Okay, yeah, thanks.  I get the idea.  An interesting observation, but not exactly helpful to a six-month-pregnant mom struggling to hang on to a 40 pound kid intent on getting out the door and as far away as possible from the two nurses waiting in the doorway to give him his kindergarten shots.  Was she trying to tell me that most five-year-olds sit calmly smiling as they get stabbed four times in the leg with needles the size of light sabers? (F.Y.I.: That is the needle size as described by Will, who admittedly may be exaggerating somewhat).

Actually the whole thing hadn't started so bad -- Will held my hand and skipped across the parking lot toward the clinic, anticipating the promised incentive (read: bribe) of a treat in the pharmacy if he handled the situation calmly.  I was even waxing a little sentimental, thinking *sniff* how grown-up my little boy was getting.

Next thing I knew I was dragging him through the lobby of the pediatrics office, howling and shrieking (Will, not me -- though I felt like joining in), with the nurses looking at us like they'd like to run for tranquilizer darts.   

The pediatrician couldn't even finish the exam (even with a stethoscope, I'm sure she couldn't hear his heartbeat over his yells) and with more of the aforementioned head-shaking and staring like Will was some kind of bizarre cross-bred animal at the zoo, she escaped and left the poor nurses to the mercy of my screaming hyena/howler monkey.

Well, to make a long story short, less than thirty seconds after being pinned down by two nurses and a mom and stabbed by four (light-saber-sized) needles, Will was sitting teary-eyed but quiet, contentedly investigating the bandaids on his thighs and asking what kind of treats they had in the pharmacy (I didn't see where the nurses went, but I'm guessing they left to see if the pharmacy served any alcoholic beverages).

Unusual behavior?  Maybe.  But not for a five-year-old.  Or a nine-year-old (my sister-in-law just told me about chasing her nine-year-old down a busy highway last November trying to get him in for a flu shot).  Or even a thirty-one-year-old mother of two -- it was all I could do to keep from screaming bloody murder and running down the street when I got my last epidural.

And Will did, in fact, finish the exam.  His dad took him back this morning and swears he didn't make a peep (though he says the doctor and nurses were backing away warily as they walked into the office).

So I guess the moral of this story is, if you're six months pregnant and thinking of taking your five-year-old for his kindergarten immunizations, think again -- and send him with his dad.  Or just invest in a few tranquilizer darts.

Note: Here are a couple of  helpful sites on actually preparing your child for shots ... unfortunately, I found them after the fact.  Of course, I get to go through this all again in about three years, so... let me know if any of it works! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Paranoid Mom?!?

I think I'm becoming a paranoid mom.  And if you asked my family, they would most likely say that the "I think" and the "becoming" parts of that last statement are unnecessary.  Okay, okay, I'll admit: I'll be the first to snatch up the Reader's Digest if there's a title in giant red capital letters like "DEADLY CHEMICALS IN YOUR HOME!"  And I'll probably be the first to suggest that we move to Alaska and live in a hut made of sticks, dirt, and grass to escape the "Deadly Chemicals."  
Then I keep a little list in the back of my head of all the potential hazards.  I'm like a police dog:I  can walk into a room and sniff out every possibly dangerous item that can cause cancer, choking, or just be shoved up a kid's nose.  Let's call it my own little private insanity.  Well, not exactly private.  I drive my husband nuts, especially when he's, say, fixing lunch for the kids.  The conversation might go something like this -- Wes: "I think I'll fix some scrambled eggs for lunch." Me: "Are those eggs expired?  Have they been kept at or below 40 degrees since we bought them?  Did you wash your hands after cracking them?  TEFLON?  You're not using the teflon pan, are you?  Look, there's a flake!  It's flaking!  Don't you know teflon flakes in your food can cause cancer?  Oh, no no no -- not in the plastic bowl -- don't microwave stuff in a plastic bowl.  Chemicals can leach out into the food.  Aaagh!  No, the glass bowl's fine, just don't cover it with plastic wrap!"  
I take over fixing the eggs.  Wes takes a Tylenol and a nap in a dark room.
It's worse when I'm around my mom and sisters -- although they usually just roll their eyes when I recite my litany of hazards: listeriosis from bologna, lead paint from wooden toys, cancer from pesticides, ADD from artificial colors and flavors ... it goes on and on.  But here's the real problem:  I'm just a little inconsistent in my paranoia.  For example, one day I'll pull out a box of cereal with a single ingredient that looks like it has little hay bales inside and serve it with organic bananas and non-rbST treated cow milk.  The next I'm letting them eat from the butter dish and chow through their entire stash of Easter candy in a record 2.5 minutes (which, um, happens to be going on even as I write this ...) causing an artificial color, flavor, and sugar-induced whirlwind to tear through my house.  Which makes that stick and mud hut in Alaska start to sound really appealing.

Pumpkin Soup

An easy soup that my kids love to help me make.  They can help with everything except heating it on the stove.

1 tsp. onion powder
3 T. butter (melted)
1 can unsweetened pumpkin
1 can chicken broth
1 C. half-and-half
1 t. salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 T. brown sugar or honey
1/4 t. yellow curry (if you like curry)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Warm over medium heat, stirring frequently, until hot but not boiling.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

This is a Russian recipe that usually uses "Tvorog" or farmer's cheese.  I can't find any in my area so I just use cottage cheese, and it works fine (though it doesn't taste exactly authentic).  My kids help me mix them up, and I fry them up.

1 C. cottage cheese
2 eggs
3 T. sugar (Jack's favorite part!)
3/4 cup flour
dash of salt

Combine ingredients and drop by spoonfuls into a frying pan coated with oil or cooking spray.  Brown on both sides and serve with butter, jam, or even sour cream on top.

Easy Peach Dessert

Another fun recipe to make with kids -- just toss in ingredients, mix, and stick it in the oven.  

1 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
1 can peach slices
1/4 C. brown sugar

In a baking dish, combine flour, sugar, egg, soda, vanilla, and salt.  Mix in peaches.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake at 325 for 35-40 minutes.  Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.