Friday, June 26, 2009

Just too much

I may have mentioned that the school district here, in combination with the government, provides free lunch all summer long to all kids everyday. It is a great program: free food, lots of toys and playground equipment to play with, programs for the kids, and adult interaction for me. There are a lot of moms available to talk to, which is usually a really great break for me. My kids play pretty well, and Tommy is typically sleeping during that time, so what better time to talk to other moms?

Lately, however, I have been feeling a little less than enthusiastic about the adult interaction. J, a mom whose daughter was in Danny's class, comes to the lunch most days, and we talk. The problem is, the conversation almost always turns to something highly negative, whether it is her complaining about her sister-in-law, her son's teacher, or any number of other people, most of whom I have never met. This makes me really uncomfortable. First off, I have been trying really hard (and ok, I have definitely failed a few times, too, but I AM trying) to avoid gossip and negative talk. And secondly, the complaints seem rather ridiculous to me, as if she is actually looking for things to be upset about. I don't know what to do to extricate myself from these discussions. Any advice?

Another issue came up the other day at the lunch. A mother, whose name I don't even know, was complaining about services at the school. Her son is autistic, and apparently she has had difficulty getting services for him. All fine and well. I understand her frustration. What bothered me was that when J was sharing some difficulties she had with her son's teacher (who thought the boy had Asperger's) the mother refused to listen to J. Instead, she plowed through and explained what J should do to get a diagnosis (even though J is convinced her son is not autistic), how it is hard to face the truth sometimes, but that J needed to do so, etc. I guess this made me uncomfortable, because I got the distinct impression that this woman actually wanted J's son to be diagnosed with autism. She spoke as if it were a foregone conclusion that something was wrong with J's son, though I don't think the mother knew anything at all about the kid.

It doesn't help that a couple of years ago this same mom told me Danny was autistic. I know her heart was in the right place, but it really rubbed me the wrong way for many reasons, not least of which was the fact that she had never actually met me or my son before. The only facts she was basing her diagnosis on were what she observed on Danny's school field trip. It was his first field trip ever and he was way overstimulated and had major difficulty calming down. Because Danny was exhibiting some similar characteristics to her son, she was convinced that Danny was autistic.

The woman may have had some really good points to make, but she never even introduced herself; she just went ahead and diagnosed my son, despite the fact that her only experience with autism involved her son.

I understand the impulse to help someone, especially when you think they may be struggling with problems similar to your own. I have spoken to a few friends about SPD when they have told me of challenges their kids face. The difference is I have never actually told someone that their kid had SPD. I just encouraged them to do some research themselves to see if it might apply in their case. Also, it has always been with a friend whose child I knew and it was only after the mom shared her concerns with me.

I don't know. I am not even sure why this particular woman has bothered me so much. As I said before, I am certain her heart is in the right place, but it was just difficult for me to watch and listen as she steamrollered over J, interrupting her and talking over her, trying to convince J to face the truth. I just felt so overwhelmed. So tired of analyzing every single quirk and foible of my children. So weary of talk of development and milestones and why my kid is so different from "normal" kids.

So, I excused myself from the conversation and played some games with Danny and Charlotte.

Which was exactly what I needed to put everything back into perspective.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

summer vacation, SPD-style or help, I need some advice!

So far, summer vacation has been going pretty well. I made up a chart to show Danny what we would be doing on any given day and he seems to enjoy helping me put up the pictures that represent our activities for the day. And though our schedule seems to be running smoothly, there have been a few issues that I am unsure how to deal with.

The biggest issue has to do with when we have visitors. We have had a lot of people over in the last few weeks, especially kids, and this tends to overstimulate Danny. For that reason, we have always been pretty careful about how often we have people over. This summer, though, we have not only had his friends over, but we have babysat kids and also had people over to help us with a huge project (we had 5 trees taken down this past weekend and some teenagers from church came to help us out with all the work.) Even though, he rarely gets crazy overstimulated at other people's houses, having people over here consistently messes him up and I can't figure out why or what to do about it.

Danny does a lot better if we spend time outside, but still that doesn't always guarantee the visit will go well. Also, it doesn't seem to matter who is actually visiting. I used to think that he got overstimulated because the kids who were over were very hyper and difficult to deal with, and while I definitely think that contributed to Danny's difficulties, it can't be the only factor, since those particular kids haven't visited our house in almost 2 years. Even when the visitors are adults or teenagers who aren't at all contributing to sensory overload, Danny gets overloaded.

What happens typically is he will play well for a while and then start yelling and getting angry. Typically, his anger is targeted towards Charlotte, whether she is provoking him or not. He will get really frustrated with her, yell at her because she isn't doing something exactly how he wants, or he will refuse to share with her. These behaviors do not occur nearly as much when we have no visitors, and his anger and frustration escalate to levels that are atypical.

Does anyone else have any experience with this type of behavior? Do you have any insight or advice for me? I would really love to hear it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

what I want right now....

Do you have any idea what I would give for a couple solid hours of time completely my own? Time with absolutely no one to answer to, worry about, provide snacks, discipline, or timeouts for. Time in which I can do whatever I want except for laundry, cleaning, dishes, cooking, and wiping dirty behinds. I want to be able to go out in public without a little girl to scream and embarrass me. I want to go a few hours in which I do not need to constantly ask someone if he/she needs to go to the bathroom. I want to be able to retreat to the solitude of my bedroom without kids following me and demanding to know why I am lying down.

I guess I need a break. Does going grocery shopping alone count? It ain't much, but it's better than nothing.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

success! finally!

OK, anyone who has read my blog much knows that I am a bit obsessed about potty training my kids. I think, though, that anyone in my situation would be a bit desperate. After all, my son will be 6 years old in July and he still poops in his pants. And as of last week, my 3-year-old daughter showed no interest in using the toilet.

Yes, you read that right: as of last week. This week? Whole different story. I had been putting her in underwear so that she would connect the feeling that she has to go with actually going. This is the strategy that finally worked with Danny at age 4. Yes, I know. Please don't judge. My self-esteem is tenuous enough already.

So, I kept putting Charlotte in underwear despite the fact that she seemed to be making no progress for a couple of weeks. I was getting discouraged but had no idea what to do. I didn't know what was going wrong. I mean, Charlotte doesn't have developmental delays like Danny, so what was taking her so long?

I have no idea, just as I have no idea why she suddenly started using the toilet. Wednesday morning, I happened to get her to sit on the toilet before she went in her diaper and she has not had a single accident (pee-related accident, that is. We are still working on the poop) since then. Not only that, but she has told me a couple of times when she needed to use the potty in public.

As I told my friend D, I feel like I have won the lottery, and I am truly not exaggerating. I had almost given up hope on being able to potty train any of my kids, but now I know it is possible. And with this renewed hope, I have devised a potty training plan to help Danny poop on the toilet. I am not sure if it will work, but it involves major incentive for him, and I plan to say many, many prayers. I am so hoping he is totally potty trained by kindergarten. I mean, I am not being unreasonable here, am I? We'll see.

Monday, June 8, 2009

the smell of burning flesh or why I love my husband

I now know what burning flesh smells like. More specifically, I know what my burning flesh smells like, and let's just say it's not a scent anyone is going to make into a candle anytime soon.

I went to the doctor today to have a mole removed because it was apparently suspicious looking. My doctor gave me the option of waiting and watching it or just removing it. I opted for removal because I am already paranoid enough about cancer (it seems to run in my mom's side of the family--she and three siblings have had it), I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

I have been seeing this doctor for over 3 years and like him, for the most part, but my experience with him today left me feeling a bit disheartened.

First off, I really wish he had explained the procedure in a bit more detail. It drives me nuts when a doctor works on me, but tells me nothing about what he is doing. Rather than prattle on and on about the waterfall he is planning on building in his yard, it would have been nice to have been prepared for the stench of my own burning flesh. Instead, I had to put 2 and 2 together to realize that Dr. B was in fact cauterizing my skin to stop the bleeding. I don't know, it just seems that if someone is going to sear your skin, they should at least warn you first. But maybe that's just me.

What really bothered me, though, about my interaction with Dr. B today was that he bagged on his wife at least 5 times in the short time I was in his presence. He has never done this in previous appointments, but there has never been a cute, young nurse in the room before either. It seemed as if he was flirting with the nurse and trying to either impress her or make her laugh.

At his wife's expense.

This incident gave me pause. I felt sympahy for Dr. B's wife. It wasn't that he said anything exceptionally cruel, but he wasn't very nice either, and I know it would have probably hurt her feelings to know that her husband was making fun of her behind her back. At least I know it would have hurt mine, had I been in her shoes.

As I thought of this incident I realized how lucky I am to have a husband who doesn't do that. He never makes jokes at my expense in front of other people and he doesn't engage when men are sitting around talking smack about their wives. I also know I can completely trust him not to flirt with other women. He is extremely careful not to put himself in inappropriate situations; he even avoids being alone with other women and never gives me cause to be jealous or unsure of his fidelity. I am grateful for this, because I know it is rare.

I know I am extremely lucky. And all it took was some seared flesh to help me realize it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Monday Mumbers--I promise there's no poop in this one!

5:30 AM The time that I have agreed to meet my friend everyday to exercise. Are we crazy or what? We are doing the Couch Potato to 5K training program and just started. And as we both have a passel of kids each, 5:30 in the morning is the only time we can run/walk without any kids attached to our hips. If this doesn't help us both shed the unwanted pounds then nothing will. D promises me that in 2 months I will be able to jog a 5K without stopping. As of right now, I can jog about 90 seconds without stopping. This must be some kind of miracle training program.

1 Number of times Danny has helped me this week with our garden. He was a great little helper and pulled a bunch of weeds. After weeding, I told Danny that he could help me pick some basil, but that he should wait until I retrieved a bowl from the kitchen. In an attempt to be super helpful, he uprooted the entire plant and brought it to me. Apparently, he didn't realize that picking basil is entirely different from picking weeds. Luckily, we managed to replant the basil with little harm to the plant.

32 Number of popsicles I have made this weekend. My kids LOVE popsicles, but I have been trying to eliminate as many artificial colors from their diet as possible. Some of them seem to make Danny super hyper (as was made abundantly clear this weekend after Bil bought a bag of cheese curls. Danny has been bouncing off the wall, and if there is one characteristic that I would most preferNOT to amplify in my son's personality, it is his excessive energy.) I found some really cheap popsicle molds at Wal-Mart and we have been making them with fruit juice. The kids can't get enough of them and have no idea that they are a bit healthier than the colored frozen sugar water they used to get.

1 The number of times Charlotte actually went pee on the toilet this weekend.

54 The number of accidents Charlotte has had this weekend. On the bright side, at least one of the accidents happened right in front of the toilet while she was attempting to pull down her pants. I think she is finally figuring out what we expect of her and any little progress is enough to brighten my day.

Everyone reassures me that my kids will be potty trained before grade school, that no kid goes to high school still in a diaper. As true as that probably is in most cases, I still have my doubts. I'm beginning to wonder if Tommy will be the first fully trained Pancake kid.

2 Number of baby bottles I have lost in the last month. It's not too big of a deal except that I wonder where I left these dirty bottles. Will friends of mine find some random, probably moldy bottle in a few weeks and wonder where it came from?

That actually happened to me once. I came upon an old bottle of Danny's when he was a baby that had slid under our couch. It had to have been under there for weeks, maybe longer and the residue of formula was all moldy. I know this makes me sound like the worst housekeeper ever, but really I am not that bad, typically. Under normal circumstances the only mold in my house can be found in my refrigerator (no matter how often I clean it out, which if I am honest, is not all that often, I still find some random container of moldy ricotta cheese or a liquefied bell pepper I have forgotten about). OK, actually, in the interest of full disclosure, maybe I should admit that I have found mold in other places just this week. Someone in my house put a wet towel all crumpled up in the bottom of Charlotte's laundry basket and piled clothes on top. With all the heat and humidity, the clothes in her basket got all moldy.

So, I guess I really am a pretty crummy housekeeper. But, I can still quote a couple of Shakespeare sonnets and can spell most words easily, so I don't need to base my self-esteem on how clean my house is, right? Sigh. If only quoting Shakespeare actually helped me in my duties as hausfrau. Or helped me earn some money. Or even really entertained anyone besides me and a few of my more nerdy friends. Well, if nothing else, surely I can use this talent to someday embarrass my kids in front of their friends, right?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

empty calories

In our town, the school hosts free lunches all summer long for any kid who wants to come. It is not based on income, but is funded partially by the USDA. I love these lunches for several reasons:

a) Neither of my kids ever complains about what is being served.
b) It saves me at least an hour (or more) in the kitchen everyday. I not only do not have to cook or clean up the mess, but I am not expected to be a short-order cook. I don't have to read Charlotte's mind pertaining to what she wants to eat. And I don't have to undergo the infuriating process of preparing something for her only to have her demand an entirely different meal. Yeah, fun times.
c) After eating their lunches, the kids run off to play and I get to talk to my friends.
d) They even have programs at the school during the lunch time, one of which is a cooking class taught by a woman at our University of Illinois Extension office. She teaches kids simple cooking techniques and encourages healthy eating. Ostensibly.

On Friday, the cooking lady (who is really, really nice) taught the kids how to make this yummy apple salad which consisted of apples, canned pineapple and its juices, a box of butterscotch pudding and some Cool Whip. It sounds good, but isn't something my kids are likely to eat. Danny has a major texture aversion and doesn't eat foods that are mixed together. Plus, butterscotch pudding has red food coloring which we think gives me migraines and which we try to avoid with the kids, because I swear it makes Danny even more hyper than usual.

Anyway, what I found disturbing was what the cooking lady said as she hyped her creation. She claimed that the most unhealthy part of the dessert was the pineapple and apples because those have sugar, while the pudding was sugar and fat-free and the Cool Whip was also fat-free.

Why is it that people automatically assume that if something has sugar it is evil? How could apples be less healthy than pudding that is full of all kinds of chemicals and artificial flavors and sweeteners?

Don't get me wrong, I am not some kind of health food extremist. I don't have a big problem with eating junk food once in a while. (OK, when I say "once in a while" I really mean often. I can't make it through the day without at least a little bit of chocolate.) I can totally see using those types of food to stave a craving and minimize caloric intake. But to eat a sugar-free candy bar INSTEAD of fresh fruit would be not such a healthy choice. My concern is that people erroneously think that just because a food is sugar or fat-free it is a healthy food. What's more scary is that this is being taught to our kids.

And please don't think I am criticizing the wonderful cooking lady; I'm totally not. It seems like everyone, even some nutritionists believe that sugar-free foods are good for us. Weight Watchers definitely does. They push their products all the time and most of them are so full of artificial stuff it's hard to understand how it could be considered food.

If we really want to be healthy, shouldn't we be eating more natural foods more often? I know I, for one, could really improve in this area and I am making strides to do so. Maybe someday society will go back to more natural and whole foods. I know I always feel better when I eat like that. So, my new goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.

But I'm still not giving up my drug of choice: Mint Three Musketeer bars. I just can't do it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Random Thoughts Tuesday--The Swimsuit Edition

** So, I went to the doctor's yesterday to have several suspicious moles checked out. The ones I was most nervous about? Turns out they are age spots, and the way my doctor gave me this news, you would think I had a terminal disease. Apparently, I am too young to have age spots. All I could think of was hey, it's better than the cancer I was sure I would be diagnosed with. With reddish hair, skin the color of Elmer's glue, and tons and tons of freckles, I have had my share of sun damage, so a few age spots are not surprising.

It makes me think of those magazine articles where dermatologists use some special technology to show you the damage your skin has been subjected to because of your lack of sunscreen usage when you were a kid. In this particular article, they actually told the women what age their skin was as opposed to how old it should be. Why, why would anyone really want to know how damaged their skin is? It's all irreversible, right, so why give yourself more angst? Not me, I'd rather not know that my skin is so damaged it is like the skin of someone 30 years older. I have enough insecurities, thank you very much.

**Speaking of insecurities, our town's pool has opened and we have bought our passes. Last night as I splashed around with my kids in an oversized t-shirt ( gotta prevent more skin damage and age spots, right?) and baseball hat, I spotted what no insecure, frumpily dressed woman wants to see: a woman with an absolutely perfect body. This woman was wearing a tiny bikini and looked like a model. And even though she had two small boys with her, she had no stretch marks at all. None.

Is that even legal? How does anyone birth two kids and not have any stretch marks???? I wanted to hate her, I really did, but then I remembered my new have-a-positive-attitude-give-others-the benefit-of-the-doubt-don't-gossip-and-for-pete's-sake-don't-hate-people-for-arbitrary-reasons goal. Yeah, I just set it this week totally forgetting how hard it would be to keep during swimsuit season.

**Did you know that if you break a graham cracker on an angle, the broken piece will likely resemble the state of Nevada? Danny pointed this out to us last night. He has many of the states' shapes memorized and now often sees the shapes of states in things like broken graham crackers. I don't know what this means, but I choose to take it as a sign of my son's genius.

**Speaking of genius kids, I recently read about a study that showed that babies with moms who have a lot of belly fat are smarter than those whose mothers are skinny. Yes, this thought occurred to me last night at the pool when I saw skinny, model-mom. I had the fleeting thought that my kids will definitely be smarter than hers what with my belly fat and all.

But, hey, as soon as the thought entered my mind, I remembered my new goal and I banished the evil thought with happy, positive thoughts about how pleasant and wonderful model-mom probably is. It wasn't easy.

**This morning as I was cleaning up the kids' room, I found a mini-red potato under Charlotte's bed. A couple of weeks ago, Charlotte started playing with this potato and even named her Nicey. She took the potato with her everywhere for a couple of days. She fed it and played with it and made it dance. I thought she had forgotten about it, so I returned Nicey to her family in the pantry the other day. Almost immediately after the tater family reunion, Charlotte went in search of Nicey, so I had to break up the family.

I have heard of pet rocks, but pet potatoes? If she is still into veggies this Christmas, I plan on saving some money by shopping in the refrigerator crisper.

**Yesterday, I babysat my friend's son who is completely potty trained. While we were all at the lunch that the public school hosts all summer, he totally pooped himself. Of course, I had no diapers or even wipes (since Tommy was at home with his dad, I also left the diaper bag behind). It was a pretty disgusting mess, but as my friend pointed out when she picked up her son, I am totally used to cleaning up poop. This is so true, I am considering changing the name of my blog to Poop Gone Awry. Consider these examples just from this week and tell me if I am not correct in assuming that the god of poop is targeting me for some past sin:

~Danny is still not pooping on the toilet.
~Charlotte, who we are in the process of pottty training, pooped all over her undies and her pjs the other day, when of course, it was my turn to clean it up. Bil was really happy to have dodged that bullet.
~There is an animal who is pooping in our garden every single night. We can't tell if it is a dog or cat, but man, the thing leaves little piles all over the garden.
~My friend's dog just pooped in our front yard this week. She asked me if I wanted her to clean it up and I thought, "Hmmmm....how do I say this nicely? Of course, I want you to clean it up!!!!" I will clean the poop of my kids, my friends' kids and even possibly kids of people I don't like, but I draw the line at cleaning up dog poop. Is that so wrong of me?