Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How to Deal With a Child Who Has Food Intolerances

When I married my darling Jack he brought along all of his many wonderful qualities and attributes, but he also brought along two secrets hiding in his family history: milk and sugar intolerances. 
I’d heard stories about how his little brother Beau would go absolutely nuts whenever he was given sugar, and I knew that Jack himself had been milk intolerant as a small child, but in the bliss of young love I never dreamed that someday I might have to deal with those issues.  My family, after all, didn’t have any of those kinds of issues… except for ADHD, I guess…
So, in case you haven’t guessed, we have come to the conclusion that Sarah has both sugar and milk intolerances, and we think she has ADHD which, cutely enough, can be set off, if you will, when the afflicted one partakes of one of the many yummy things made with milk. 
We suspected the sugar allergy about a year ago, but just taking her off sugar didn’t quite do it.  Once I gave in and admitted that my contribution to the DNA mix might have been contaminated as well we started looking into natural ways to control ADHD.  It just made too much sense that perhaps she’d gotten a bit of Jack’s inability to drink milk which exacerbates the wee bit of ADHD she may, or may not, have received from my end of things.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, this combination works like a charm.  It’s wonderful because I now have a four year old girl who is helpful, kind, caring and just plain nice.  We don’t have meltdowns anymore, she shares her toys, I haven’t seen her hit anyone for a while, and instead of joining Evee in destroying the house she comes and tells me when her delightful sister is emptying the bookshelves with abandon (which happened this morning). 
The negative side of it is actually having to stick with this diet.  My fabulous mother in law told me it took a year or two of being completely off sugar to cure Beau of it, and I am sure not looking forward to two years of policing everything she eats.  I’ve even been dreaming lately of stealing cookies from her hands and swiping goldfish crackers out of her mouth like she’s a baby about to choke on them.  Another downer is that this may cure her so well of bad behavior I might not have any more stories to write about for my blog…
So what kind of changes have we had to make to do this, you ask?  The major things are easy enough.  We buy rice/almond/coconut milk instead of real milk, but we have to make sure they’re the sugar free kind.  I was making all our bread at home for a while, but honestly it’s just too stinking hot outside.  But we found a great bread at Costco that fits the bill.  It’s actually been really easy to alter the recipes I make most often for our meals.
Where we’ve been running into trouble is in the snack department.  If you go down the cracker isle at the grocery store every single cracker has either milk or sugar in it.  I know, I’ve checked.  I have found a few in specialty stores that are milk and sugar free, but in all honesty they’re pretty gross.  The only snacks we’ve been able to find are fruit leathers and dried fruit, but it turns out small children get bored of those after a couple weeks. 
So what’s the answer?  Make my own!  It turns out that’s going to be the answer most of the time.  So far I’ve made passable chocolate cake, graham crackers, and wheat thins.  It’s pretty fun now while I’m still experimenting with it, and I hope that enthusiasm holds.
One thing I do have to be enormously grateful for is that Sarah is completely on board.  It turns out she doesn’t like being unhappy and restless all the time.  She has been absolutely fantastic whenever we tell her she can’t have something because it has sugar in it and she’s been getting better at asking us if something has sugar in it before she eats it.  It’s been really nice getting to know the real Sarah.  She really is a sweetheart.  But if I ever miss my little monster all it would take is a single goldfish cracker to bring her back for a full four days until the sugar and milk fully pass out of her system.  Joy.

Here's my first attempts at graham crackers and wheat thins:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Get a Threat of Continental Expulsion

Well friends, it finally happened: this past weekend my mother officially asked me when exactly we were applying to Oxford and if there were any way she could help expedite the process or help us pack.
            I was mistaken in thinking that such an exclamation could have come after a mere few hours of babysitting.  It turns out that it takes four days straight of minding interesting children before beloved grandparents throw in the towel. 
            Jack and I went on a camping trip with our church this weekend, which is why the beloved grandparents were saddled with the children in the first place.  Why didn’t we take them along, you ask?  It isn’t really the kind of thing you take small children to, unless you want to double or even triple the pain of the experience.  It was a Pioneer reenactment, which means that all the teenagers and adults we could muster gathered together in Northern Arizona, dressed up in ye olde Pioneer garb, loaded handcarts with all our gear, and then walked, and walked, and walked, and walked, aaaaannnnd waaaaalllked, thereby simulating at least in part the great trek our ancestors took across the plains. 
            It probably sounds a little strange, but it was great fun and all the teenagers got to learn a lot about their Pioneer heritage.  This being said, never had I been more grateful that I was not a pioneer; after all I’d witnessed I doubted very much that my two interesting and curious children could have survived the experience.  It’s hard enough keeping them alive in our apartment; I can’t even imagine the trouble they’d get into if the whole outdoors were open to them for months on end.
We were filthy, blistered, exhausted, and sunburned as we drove back down to the Valley of the Sun where we live.  It was our greatest hope that the beloved grandparents would be able to keep the children one more day, giving us at least a little time to begin the recovery process, so as soon as we got back into cell phone range we called my mom to see how she and the girls were getting along.  It turns out they had had a very interesting time of their own.
They’d started the fun the day after we left.  My mother had been directing Sarah to water the trees in the backyard.  The last one she told her to water was the tree by her window.  Sarah didn’t understand what that meant, so my mother said, “the one by Jason’s fire escape.”  Sarah knew exactly what she meant by that, since she had helped plant flowers in there just a few weeks before.  Unfortunately, while planting flowers we’d noticed a small tree fighting for life in there as well; a small tree Sarah was very fond of. 
This being the case it is not difficult to see how she got confused and so instead of watering the tree planted in the ground near the fire escape, she stuck the hose down in the fire escape instead.  My mother knew the tree she had intended to be watered was very thirsty, so she let it run, and run, and run, and run.  And run.  Only after the water had flooded Jason’s bedroom from wall to wall, and the water level in the fire escape was half a foot over the tops of the flowers did Jason finally wake up and realize that something was amiss. 
On Saturday afternoon, the day we came home, my mother had the obligation of attending two family events back to back.  This gets tricky because it means that Evee would have to miss out on her afternoon nap, and Sarah her afternoon rest time (where we make her lie down and watch a movie for an hour since she doesn’t nap anymore, but should).  The wonderful thing about interesting children is that the more tired they get the more hyper they become.  My mother and brother had a most delightful time wrestling the two children and apologizing profusely to everyone around them.  Sarah, I am told, even took it upon herself to go digging through a drawer full of guns.  The owner of the house explained to my mother that the drawer had been full of guns for forty years and in that time Sarah is the only one to have ever, ever gone digging through it.  She would.  She is just that interesting.  But, no harm, no foul, except for the two small heart attacks no doubt experienced by the homeowner and my mother.
You can imagine the kind of response I got then, when I called my mother as we were driving home.  “So,” I asked tentatively, not knowing all that had transpired while I’d been away, “is there any chance of them staying another night?  I’ve got a lesson and a talk to plan for church tomorrow, and we’re both in desperate need of a shower and a nap.  But,” I added on to sound a little less pleading, “if you want us to come get them I suppose we could.”  “You can get them right now,” she said firmly.  I could tell she had had enough, and even though I knew none of the details, it wasn’t hard to guess why.
We drove the hour drive from our side of town to Mesa.  It was a miracle we stayed awake for it, but it was not hard to keep our eyes open once we learned all the awful truth; less seasoned parents might not have been able to sleep for days.
We gathered the girl’s things together as they tore through the house like howler monkeys, and this is where my mother looked at us and asked quite politely how our Oxford application was coming and if we’d need any help packing.  The next day she made a point of telling us she didn’t really mean it and that we weren’t actually allowed to move out of the country.  I think if it does actually come to moving away we’ll just leave the kids with the beloved grandparents for a full week.  They’d be dropping us off at the airport in no time.

Monday, May 9, 2011

How to Hide in a Department Store

As I buckle Evee into her stroller I start a little conversation with Sarah that goes something like this:
            “So, Sarah.  We’re about to go into this store and do some shopping.  Mommy needs to buy a present for Aunt Kim.  Won’t that be fun?  Will you help me find a good present for her?”
            Sarah is investigating the car we’re parked next to.  I take her hand to redirect her attention.
            “Just remember that in the store I need you to stay with me and Evee.  Don’t run off, okay?  It’s not safe, and it makes mom grumpy.  Understand?”
            No response.
            “So let’s stay together, okay?”
            She finally nods her head.  “Okay.”
            Alright, I think.  Problem solved.  My parenting books have all promised that if I explain to a toddler what I expect before we enter a store, they will behave and do as I say.  This last conversation was merely one of many we’ve had about proper conduct in stores, so I know my daughter is more than prepared to be on her best behavior. 
            As we walk to the doors side by side (holding hands while in the street, of course) I picture the other moms I’ve seen who have absolutely no control over their children.  They were just too lazy to read the right books and take the right steps.  My children would be perfect.
            Opening a heavy door while trying to push a stroller through it can be somewhat tricky, and my always on the ball Sarah takes the opportunity to jump ahead of us, racing down the aisle to disappear around a corner.  Oh, crap.
            We spend the next thirty minutes playing catch and release.  I finally catch up to her, get down on her level—just like you’re supposed to—and we have yet another little conversation about staying with mommy.  She stays with us until I turn to look at something and then I have just enough time to look back and catch a glimpse of a pony tail whipping past a clothes rack.
            Eventually our little conversations take a turn to something like: “If you run off again you are going to be in time out for the rest of the day and maybe for the rest of your life!”  Evee usually adds her two cents around this time by crying—loudly and with great animation.
            Out of the corner of my eye I notice something pink and sparkly on a table I’m running past, so when I catch Sarah this time, I carry her under my arm back to that table, toss whatever it is on the stroller, and haul my noisy, kicking and screaming crew to the register.  It’s here in this enforced slow zone, exhausted, disheveled, and on the brink of rage, that I notice other people in the store looking at me like I need to pick up a couple parenting books.
            As the lady behind the counter rings up the whatever it was that I grabbed for my sister I look at the clothes racks behind me, the ones Sarah had hidden in for ten minutes last time we were here, and wonder if there’s enough room in there for me to take a nap until all the judgmental people are gone.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Have the Coolest Cell Phone Ever

“Jack, have you seen my phone?”
I had just been talking on it ten minutes ago, but it was absolutely nowhere to be found.  I looked on the couch, in the couch, under the couch, on the back porch, in the kitchen, refrigerator, toy bins, under the beds, in beds, in the toilet, in the cupboards... but all to no avail.
“I haven’t seen it,” Jack answers.  “Where’d you see it last?”
“Evee had it for a second by the back door, but she put it down and ran off.”
Jack pulls out his phone and calls mine, but we can’t hear it ringing.  I know it’s in the house, and I know the ringer is on, so where is it?!
Then Jack, my genius husband, had the bright idea to not only look on the back balcony, but to look down as well.  There, sitting in the rocks three stories down, is my only tool for outside communication—my lifeline to the world beyond small children, dishes, and laundry.
Le sigh.
Sarah and I put our shoes on and went down to get it.  We knocked on the door of the neighbor on the ground floor.  No answer.  Dang it.  I really needed my phone back.
We went around to the back.  The back fence was only about three feet high, so I hefted Sarah over it with specific instructions to grab my phone and only my phone and come straight back.  She came back with my phone and an armful of toys I recognized that had apparently also received the Evee treatment.
And what was the condition of my phone?  A small scratch on the back, hardly noticeable.  Otherwise, it was in perfect working condition.  I held it lovingly to my chest as we walked back up the stairs, indescribably happy I didn’t have to go down and hassle with the Verizon people for a new one.
I was even happier two days later when Evee through the same phone into the bathtub.  It took about an hour for the speakers to dry out, but it still works just fine and I am one happy camper.
I suppose this isn’t as much of a “how to” as much as it is I really, really love my phone and would encourage anyone else with small children to get one as soon as possible.  Jack and I both have one and I can’t even tell you how much money we’ve saved from not having to replace them every couple months.  They’ve survived all the chewing on, and throwing, and dropping, and slobbering, and dismantling, and biting, and bathing… and I think that when they finally do die someday we will have to give them a burial with full honors for their brave service to my family.
If you want to see the awesomeness for yourself you can check it out here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to Bathe Your Child in a Joanns

Every once in a while a creativity bug snatches on to me and I feel the need to peruse a Joanns or Michaels store and spend some money on projects I will never finish.  I stick Evee in the front of the cart and Sarah in the basket, hand out some snacks and toys, and then stroll around for as long as their good behavior lasts.
During one of these outings I received a call from a family member and we got to talking… and talking.  You know how it goes.  To my delight, my children were absolute angels the entire time (and it was a long time).  Evee sat in the front chewing on her binky quite contentedly and looking around while Sarah played quietly with toys. 
After much longer than it should have taken me to realize, I began to get suspicious at how very quiet Sarah was.  I leaned forward so I could see exactly what was keeping her so attentive.
Any guesses?  With the whole inventory of a craft supply store at her sticky fingertips, what does she choose to make a mess with?  Paint.  The easiest thing in the world to clean up.
It was white paint which had apparently reminded her of lotion, so she treated it like lotion: shmeared from her ankles to her thighs and all up and down her arms.  She’d also taken to applying a fresh coat to the sides of the basket she was in, and when she’d tired of that she just dumped the rest in my favorite leather bag where it dripped all over and in to my favorite leather wallet and everything else.
I took a moment to remind myself that I was in a very public place and that my reaction could result in the calling of CPS if I wasn’t careful.
So I didn’t say a word.  But what do you do with a child covered in wet, and quickly drying, paint?  There was no way I was going to let that disaster anywhere near my car for the twenty minute drive home.
I took the only option I had available to me: I grimaced bravely and wheeled us all down to the bathroom in the back of the store.  Thankfully the room was big enough for me to push the whole cart into, so at least everyone was contained and within sight.  But now what to do with Evee?  She was too small at the time to leave in the cart untended while I dealt with Sarah’s mess.
Thankfully blessings in heaven came to me in the form of a complete stranger who took pity on me and my plight.  She held the cute fat baby and chatted with me about the joys of raising interesting children while I very carefully picked Sarah up out of the cart and placed her into the one sink.  She did not like this.  It could not have been very comfortable.  Unfortunately for her I was not in the mood to take pity, especially once I’d noticed that she’d managed to get paint on the new and very cute shirt I was wearing.
A couple hundred paper towels, a lot of scrubbing, and a few promises to Sarah of her being grounded from paint for forever and ever later, I’d finally managed to get all the paint off her skin and most of it off her clothes.  My bag and wallet were a lost cause, never to be the same again.  And the green plastic cart will forever be endowed with essence of Sarah’s creativity, as it was the last thing I cleaned and the paint had already dried.
We thanked the very nice stranger profusely (and I thanked my lucky stars she wasn’t some psycho and didn’t run off with Evee while I was up to my elbows in paint).  We went to the front of the store and paid for the ruined paint and a few other things I had thrown in the cart earlier that either had or had not been painted on as well.  It was about fifty-fifty.
But at least it was over. Until next time, at least.
The most interesting part of this whole story is that some months later I was telling it to my brother’s fiancĂ© and she claimed to have already heard about it from a friend of hers who had passed through that Joanns bathroom while I was bathing the struggling toddler in the sink.  It made me all the happier that I had refrained from using expletives.  You never know who’s watching, right?

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Get Ready in the Morning

The simple answer to this is: do it the night before.  If you’re going to be tied to any type of a schedule the next day the greatest favor you can do for yourself is to have everything ready a day ahead of time.
1. Clothing.  Pick out all the clothes for the next day before the kids go to sleep.  That way the next morning when your toddlers refuse the clothing choices and you have to start from scratch, at least you’ll have the argument, “But you picked this shirt last night and said it was your favorite, favorite shirt!” at your disposal.  Not that it will change anything, but it might make you feel better.
2. Breakfast.  One of my favorite things to do is make muffin batter the night before, get it all situated in a muffin tin, and have it waiting and rearing to go in the refrigerator.  In the morning it just takes twenty minutes in the oven and boom!  There you go: a hot delicious breakfast with no dishes mess.  It’s a portable meal as well, so when all your best laid plans go awry and you’re all eating them in the car as you dash to church, your children can pick that place to either A) inform you that they hate muffins and are really hungry, so what else do you have for them? Or B) quietly rip the muffin to shreds and shmear it all over their clothes and hair.
3.  Bathing.  Doing this one the night before sounds pretty common sense, but keeping them clean thereafter can be surprisingly troublesome.  Most days it will work out perfectly and they’ll be all sparkling clean for those trips to the park and preschool.  But on mornings when it’s very important that they stay clean all day (holidays, weddings, etc) they will find the means and opportunity to get dirty, no matter what it takes.  You can try to pre-empt their efforts as best you can: dead bolt the back doors, hide the yogurt, banish the dog, give everyone some Pepto to dissuade any barfing or explosive diarrhea, but it matters not.  All you can really do is give yourself enough time to give everyone a second bath on mornings that are really important.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to Apologize to Your Child's Pre-School Teacher

“Could you stay after a second?”
I’m standing in the hallway outside Sarah’s preschool class when I hear these dreaded words.  Once again I get to partake in the awkward conversation about what Sarah did in class that day.  We’ve had talks about such things as: throwing sand in other kid’s eyes, kicking sand at other kids, biting, not sharing, not listening, not participating, wetting her pants five times in a two hour period, and basically just doing what she wants when she wants.
All of the children are directed out to their parents, one by one, their little backpacks and art projects in hand.  After the other parents have trotted off with their little tots one of the teachers stays in the classroom with Sarah and distracts her with something or other while the other teacher pulls me aside and says, “Today we had a little incident during recess.”
“Oh?” I say, hopeful that maybe it was someone else’s kid who’d done the damage this time.
“Yeah, while we were all playing outside Sarah came back in the classroom and locked all the doors.”
It takes everything I have not to laugh.  Sarah was starting to get more creative.  The most interesting thing about my conversations with Sarah’s teachers is that she has never been called out on for the same thing twice.  She gets in trouble for something, is told to never do it again, and then she never does (at preschool, at least).  Her ingenuity for new and improved ways to act out at school was truly impressive... in a very naughty way, of course.
We finish off our little discussion in the same way as all the others.  I can’t believe she did that, we’ll talk about it when we get home, blah, blah, blah.  It’s just going to end up with the same result.  We’ll be here again next week talking about her newest adventures and their consequences.
In all the months we’ve been in preschool I’ve never noticed the other parents getting pulled aside for the awkward conversation, unless they were the parents of the victims of Sarah’s sand throwing and biting phases.  I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing something wrong.  But, honestly, how do you pre-empt something like locking the teachers out of the classroom?  It doesn’t quite fall into the category of “make sure you listen to your teachers and do what they say” discussions.  After all, she did unlock the doors when they asked her to.
So, barring my coming up with every feasible way of acting out and having a talk with her about it I’m left with apologizing sincerely and often.  When they ask for treats for class parties I make home-made cinnamon rolls with sprinkles.  When they ask for cardboard oatmeal canisters I bring several.  When they ask for toilet paper rolls I bring them by the dozen.  This, in combination with Sarah’s curly-haired cuteness, I hope is enough to at least bring us to a neutral ground.
The goal is that by the time Sarah reaches kindergarten she will have mastered such skills of sitting still, listening, and playing nice with the other kids.  Two years should be long enough, right?