Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mad Mondays: If Looks Could Kill Every Child Would Be An Orphan

I know it's Tuesday but I didn't get a chance to post this yesterday and you didn't want to wait another week to read it, did you? Just humor me.

Dear fellow shopper/diner/church goer, etcetera,

Get over yourself. When you give me the stink eye because my two year old is being a two year old I am not impressed, and since this is my second child you should know that I stopped being embarrassed by public tantrums 4.5 years ago. Your glare (which honestly you must practice in the mirror before leaving the house the way some people double check their makeup) doesn't  do anything to stop my two year old from whining, attempting to run down the aisle, or asking for a snack 800 times. In fact, you don't even exist in his world, because he's, you know, a two year old and you are a stuck up intolerant person. Does it hurt when you sit down? Listen, I know whining and crying and hearing the word, "no" spoken repeatedly at an offensive volume is annoying. I know you want me to remove my kids from public, which I promise I am doing as quickly, efficiently, and non violently as possible. I know you think it is easy to leave a fully loaded grocery cart in the middle of the aisle and come back at 9:00 PM when my husband is home and the kids are in bed not being unleashed on the poor unsuspecting public. I know you think it's easy to pick up thirty pounds of dead weight off the floor of the shoe department and disappear into thin air so as not to further interrupt you trying on 57 pair of stilettos. Try chasing a toddler in those puppies! But wait, you probably don't have to. I am making an assumption by your perfected "Children upset my Feng shui" look, your choice of footwear, and the fact that you are in the store with no child on your hip or food on your clothes, that you are not in the toddler phase of motherhood. Or you have a full time au pair. Although I am sure if you do or did have a toddler he/she would/will NEVER act like that in public because your kids are perfectly behaved at all times and in all situations. Mine were too. Then they came out of the birth canal.

Actually, my kids are pretty great and thankfully my five year old has passed the phase of public displays of crazy. Behind closed doors is another story altogether, but I promise not to invite you over. My two year old? Well you see he still doesn't care what people think of him. He too is typically pretty happy to tag along with Mom, but when he needs to express his feelings about some injustice such as not being allowed to throw everything that's yellow into cart, not only does your glare not bother him, it doesn't even exist. Sometimes I envy toddlers' ability to be completely oblivious to how they appear to others. Sometimes I wish I could be more like my two year old in that regard. Don't worry, I am not going to lie down on the floor of Target and wail, but don't think I haven't felt like it.

I get it. When kids are misbehaving we parents sometimes just need to remove them from the situation. As I previously mentioned, this may take some wrestling. I will let you in on a little secret: the mom or dad trying to reason with or remove the screaming, escaping, snack wielding toddler is not happy. Also, he or she notices the scene the child is making and your glare doesn't help. Just keep walking or even better, smile sympathetically. I have noticed men seem to be better at this. While I have gotten the evil eye from plenty of women, from men I am more likely to get the "better you than me" smile. This is not a stereotype, just my personal experience. Glaring is passive aggressive. Just stop.

I have to mention another more sobering aspect of this phenomenon. If you see a struggling parent with a running, spinning, crying, or yelling child who may even be past the notorious toddler years, resist automatically assuming that the child is misbehaving. You may be looking at a child with an invisible disability such as autism, and a heroic parent with unending patience.

We need to be each other's cheerleaders. The next time I see a mother fleeing the produce aisle with a kicking toddler under her arm or a wailing baby on her hip, I want to remember to tell her I've been there. Then next time I see parents standing in the back of church while their child spins around the vestibule, I hope I remember to say, "I'm glad your here." We are all guilty of making snap judgements, especially when we are tired and frustrated in our own lives. I know I have been guilty of getting annoyed too quickly, particularly while driving. "Why is she driving under the speed limit, I am already late! Maybe she can't see is well as she used to. Maybe she is being extra cautious and trying to hold on to her last bit of freedom. Or maybe she is driving to the doctor to receive test results. Maybe she already knows in her heart what the results will say and it is all she can do to keep her foot on the gas pedal. "He just cut me off and took that parking space! Didn't he see my blinker on? What an inconsiderate jerk! Maybe he has something on his mind and didn't even see me. Maybe he is meeting someone to interview for a job he really needs. Now, mind you, some people are just jerks, but many aren't. The problem with judgments is they are often quick and based on limited information. It takes less time and effort to judge someone than to walk a mile in their shoes. Unless they are wearing stilettos.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Random Thoughts Thursday: Mom In Translation

We moms say a lot of things to our children on a daily basis, much of it automatic. Children are little parrots and I often hear my own words coming out of my children's mouths. Just this morning my two year old was crying in the car and his brother said in his best grown up voice, "I am not very pleased with your behavior this morning," which was a direct quote of what I had said to him a half hour earlier when he was refusing to get ready. Then again, not everything I say can be interpreted literally. For the sake of future therapy sessions I don't say all of what goes through my head, or rather I say an edited version of it. Simply put, I have a filter. Here is a list of some common things I say and what they really mean. Add your own.

When I say: "I'll be right back."
I mean: "I am going to hide in the bathroom/ pretend to put laundry away. Please do not follow me."

When I say: "I don't know."
I mean: "It is 6:00 P.M., it has been ten hours since I spoke to an adult, and my brain has turned into split pea soup. Stop asking me questions."

When I say: "You really need sleep. Stay in bed and lay quietly."
I mean: "I really need to watch Modern Family, drink a beer, eat dinner, and be reacquainted with Daddy without having to get off the couch every 1.3 minutes."

When I say: "What's wrong/what happened/why are you crying?"
I mean: "For the love of all things holy, what the ever loving hell could actually be wrong now?"

When I say: "Please stop doing that!"
I mean: "Stop. Doing. That. Or Else."

When I say: "Are you tired?"
I mean: "You are acting like a bipolar dictator on steroids. Does this mean that you will go to sleep early, allowing me to watch Modern Family and reconnect with Daddy? And wake up a regular little boy again?"

When I say: "Mmmm hmmm."
I mean: "Not listening."

When I say:"Shhhh."
I mean: "My head is about to explode."

When I say: "What would you like to do today?"
I mean: "Can we please please oh please do something other than play the same game we have played all day for the last 872 days? Not that I don't love that game..."

When I say: "I am starting to lose my patience."
I mean: "This is the last chance you have to alter your behavior before you need the help of an exorcist."

When I say: "That is out of batteries."
I mean: "That annoying, insanity sucking piece of shit has been lobotomized. I will put batteries back in it once I lose my hearing,"

"When I say: "We'll see."
I mean: "Never gonna happen."

When I say: "I love you."
I mean: "You are my entire world, all of my dreams come true, and worth every tantrum, tear, and sleepless night.

Now, I don't want to leave my husband out, since I also have some things I say to him that might mean something a little different. For example:

When I say: "Busy day at work today?"
I mean: "You are home late again. Your boss must hate children and also women. That asshole."

When I say: "Do you want to give the kids a bath tonight?"
I mean: "There is only one answer to this question."

When I say: "I am tired."
I mean: "Sorry, not gonna happen tonight. Okay, fine, but my participation will be minimal."

When I say: "How's the game?"
I mean: "I don't give a shit about the people throwing a ball around on the TV. On a totally unrelated note, want to help me organize the basement today?"

When I say: "Mind watching the kids while I run to Target?"
I mean: "Grocery shopping sounds like a Caribbean Cruise right about now."

When I say: "What are you working on?"
I mean: "I wish I could limit your screen time. I am just thinking of your health. I once read somewhere that laptop radiation can cause cancer. Or impotence."

When I say: "Should we see if the babysitter is free this weekend?"
I mean: "Please get me out of here at all costs. But first we have to ask a teenage girl if we can go out to dinner. A very invaluable teenage girl."

When I say: "I'll be right back."
I mean; "I am going to hide in the bathroom/pretend to put laundry away. Do not follow me. Also, if the kids ask where I am tell them someplace far away."

When I say: "I love you."
I mean; "Thanks for being my partner and friend through it all. And for putting up with me."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tough Stuff Tuesdays: Friendships - Friend or Foe?

Last year I was having a stream of difficult days, and so I sat down, grabbed my laptop and wrote a sixteen-page tirade on what I assumed was my mid-life crisis. I tried to analyze each facet of my life including my experiences growing up, friendships, successes, and failures, body image, marriage, kids and aging. I wanted to know what made me tick, what were the most influential and most damning parts of my life so far. But, one of my biggest questions about myself to date, is why I can’t seem to forge any new friendships at this stage of my life. Why I find myself hiding behind other “obligations” to avoid making new connections.

Now, I have never been one to be overly outgoing even though some who know me, may think otherwise. I was an insanely shy child growing up. I can’t really say why I was shy, but perhaps it was because I lacked confidence in myself. I was never a student who excelled and was often put in remedial classes which I hated. Nothing hurts the ego or your confidence more than being teased because you were in the “stupid” math class. I hated it. I hated it so much that I refused to go and insisted that I be put in regular classes. I told my parents I would much rather get a C in a regular class than an A in the “stupid” class, and so I fought, every school year,  just to stay above water. I envied the kids who breezed through school, who seemed to know all the answers without much effort and who were outgoing and well liked. Not only was I a struggling student but I was also gawky and pretty much a wallflower. And conversations with boys? Forget it!

Once I graduated from high school and got away from “who I was” or at least who everyone perceived me to be from Kindergarten to 12th grade, I reinvented myself. I went off to college and seemed to have more friends than time. I had a hard time understanding this new change. I was still the same person really. The only difference? No one knew me from before. I didn’t have to submit to the hierarchy that was set in place in grade school – all those same people who seemed to shine so much brighter than I were no longer blinding everyone. I was finally being seen for who I really was, and I was finally beginning to realize that I was worth being friends with. I was worth something.

Yes, I’ll admit it, high school sucked. Image was everything, and it seemed as though most were out to achieve a sense of belonging, no matter what the cost. Once you were categorized, you were stuck for four long, miserable years. I don’t know if I even belonged to a category or group. I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t a geek, I wasn’t a “burn-out”, I wasn’t into sports (at least not at school). So, I guess I just considered myself a nobody, someone who was easy to ignore.

Flash forward to now. I am 46 with a wonderful husband and three beautiful kids. I have lived in Chicago, San Diego, Seoul, and Beijing and have met a multitude of wonderful people from all over the world. BUT, friendships? I have very few. As a matter of fact, I shy away from new friendships these days. One of my friends asked me the other day why I thought I preferred to resist new friendships, and I had to dig down deep to figure this out. What was I afraid of? Why did I avoid settings and situations that would put me face to face with new people? Why do I tend to stay out of contact with some of the friends I already have? Well, it’s painful to admit, but it’s all about past friendships.

I can recall the first burn vividly. It was when I was in junior high, and the Farrah Faucet hairstyle became popular. My best friend, since at least third grade, had been moving over to a new crowd when we were in junior high. She was pretty and began hanging out with the popular crowd. She had the new hair style (along with a vast majority of middle school girls), and I wanted that hair style too. When I came to school the day after I got my hair cut, she yelled at me during lunch in front of a whole table of popular kids telling me I shouldn’t have copied her. I was mortified. She was my best friend who I did everything with, EVERYTHING! And she made me the laughing stock of the lunch room. I never spoke to her again. Since then, I have been burned by “friends” more times than I can count but the ones that hurt the most were the ones that happened as an adult.

As adults, we’re expected to be mature, respectful people. We should have learned by now, to respect one’s opinions, speak kind words, not talk behind one’s back, be there for the good and the bad. Unfortunately, for some, just because they are an adult doesn’t always mean that they have reached full maturity or ever will. Some continue to carry on as though they are still in high school (have you seen Housewives of Beverly Hills – which should be called “High School on Steroids”?) But, when an adult burns you after you invest so much physically and emotionally into a relationship, it’s very hard to recover. With each burn, the scar tissue that forms after healing becomes tougher; thicker. You would think this scar tissue would protect you, allow you to endure more, make you more resistant to the pain, but it doesn’t. It only makes it harder for the next person to find you, to get to your deepest layers, to allow them to see you and all your vulnerabilities.

My scars are thick, and sometimes I think they are impenetrable. I find myself avoiding situations that would cause me to meet new people because I just don’t have the energy to invest in “potential” friendships. As I meet people I begin to categorize them immediately. I’ll probably never see her again, I wouldn’t mind having coffee with her but I draw the line there, She’s interesting but sooo opinionated, if I don’t want to feel more depressed I better stay away from her, I could hang out with her – she seems rather fun and carefree, I do not have time to be her psychologist, would she answer the phone in the middle of the night if I needed her? Would she drop everything and be there for me if I needed her? She doesn’t swear enough, she swears too much….The list is lengthy and stupid, but it is something I can’t turn off.

So, lately, I have moved to being organic. Not with food but with friends. The best friendships seem to be those that form organically and feel effortless. Just because your children are in the same class doesn’t mean you will be friends or that you have to be friends. Forced friendships are rarely timeless – they usually have an expiration date like when the kid’s lessons are over, and you go your separate ways or the end of the school year rolls around, and you aren’t invited to a summer pool party. But the friendships you make that are built bit by bit, coffee by coffee, laugh by laugh over time may just be the ones that will be the most precious. It takes time to build trust, especially if you have experienced too many hurtful relationships.

There are many different types of friendships, and perhaps, my inability to distinguish between them could have caused unrealistic expectations among my friendships. Maybe I thought of a friend as close while, to them, it was casual. In a Huffington Post article, the author listed three types of friendships which seemed simplified compared to some of the other articles out there. The three listed were: convenience friendships, cosmetic friendships, and interdependent friendships.
Convenience friendships are formed out of convenience such as proximity or activities. People we may have met through school, our job, our daily grind and who we see on a regular basis. Sometimes these may be considered best friends and sometimes not.

The next type of friendship is a cosmetic friendship. Someone who is friends with you because it allows them to gain something whether it be money, benefits, job promotion, or status. You are their ladder, and once they have used you and you have nothing more to offer them, they are off to their next victim leaving you in the dust (I had way too many friendships like this. I would consider this the burn friendship).

The last type is the interdependent friendship where both people contribute evenly. This is generally a healthy friendship that cultivates long lasting bonds and is based on time and trust. These are the friendships that most people desire, especially as we age, yet it seems to be the most difficult to procure because of life-long negative experiences. But, in my experience, even though these friendships are hard to find, they are the ones that last and are healthy. When you do come across someone who may just fit this type of friendship, it should feel like you are slipping into your most comfortable slippers without effort. It should feel like eating your favorite food and never getting full, and it should feel like when you say goodbye, they are only separated by distance, not spirit. Yes, this is what humans thirst for, the interdependent friendship that keeps us feeling loved, thought of, emotionally desired and precious.

I’m still fearful of opening myself up to new friendships. Sometimes I think it’s just easier to become reclusive than to put myself out there again, but being alone can sometimes be just as damaging. Finding interdependent friendships at my age proves to be difficult but not impossible and getting rid of the cosmetic ones will only help to improve my trust going forward.

That being said, It’s important to identify the cosmetic relationships early and, if you have kids, it’s important that they know the difference as early as possible. It’s okay to still be friends, but it’s important to protect yourself from the fall, from the burn, from the disappointment that comes from those who use you for their own personal gain. Because once you are lured into their web, getting out alive without losing a part of yourself is tricky and it will always leave an imprint on you that will be permanent.

What is your most valued friendship? How do you teach your child the importance of being a good friend? What do you do when your child has a cosmetic friend? Feel free to share your friendship stories!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Random Thoughts Thursdays: Nailed It! Inspired By Pinterest!

I have noticed this phenomenon of parents doing things for their children. Now, don't get me wrong, I have been guilty of wrestling my kids into socks or tying shoelaces as we rush out the door in the morning because it is so much faster when I do it myself. That being said, Overachievers, if you are going to do your preschooler's or kindergartner's project without any input from your child, at least make it look like a kid did it and not like Pinterest sneezed. On Friday mornings I take my two year old son to a park district class consisting of music, a craft, and a puppet. The crafts are mind numbingly simple because, hello they are being completed by one and two year olds. Except when they're being completed by overzealous moms. "Give me the sticker, Sally, let Mommy put it in the right place for you." Last week's craft was a door hanger foam monkey. Each child was given a foam monkey and several foam stickers including eyes and flowers with which to decorate his or her monkey. The moms quickly swiped the projects from the greedy little hands of the toddlers and began carefully placing the eyes evenly and putting the flower stickers in the monkey's hair. The teacher walked around and gave her approval. When she reached Elliott's monkey she said, "Oh!". You see, my contribution to the project consisted of taking the backing off of the stickers and handing them to Elliott. although I have to say he did a pretty good job; I don't think I could have done better myself. This is Elliott's monkey project:

I especially like the eye on the top of his head. Priceless. If it looks like a two year old did it that's because a two year old DID in fact DO it. Maybe it won't win an award for symetry but Elliott got a kick out of putting stickers all over the monkey, which was the point.

Now, just like everyone else, I am on Pinterest. In fact I have followers on Pinterest which is hilarious because I have never pinned anything artsy, except blog posts. By the way if you want to follow something, you should follow this blog. Just sayin. Have you ever seen those posts showing Pinterest projects done by the ghost of June Cleaver pictured next to the same project completed by an ordinary mom without an art degree and infinite patience? Well, look up "family tree crafts for kids" on Pinterest. The one I created with Aiden looks just like those, huh? At least ours is environmentally friendly and doubles as an earth day/recycled materials project.

Nailed It!

Hey, we incorporated writing, hole punching, cutting and taping. We also kept our 7 Up box out of a landfill. Your welcome.

To be clear, I am not knocking Pinterest. On the contrary, I find a lot of great ideas for art projects to do with my kids, birthday party themes, and baking ideas. The only issue is our results don't look exactly like the pins. My five year old loves Halloween. It is actually kind of an obsession. He begins preparing for it, planning his costume, and asking to put up Halloween decorations by early August, which either means Halloween is his favorite holiday or he is preparing for a career as a department store manager. Either way, we always make sure to make some spooktacular crafts like this spider:

Nailed It!

I guess the moral of the story is that Pinterest is really great for getting ideas, but not so good when trying to convince yourself that you have this whole June Cleaver thing down. I also have a theory about some of the crafts on Pinterest:
The two year old didn't do it.
So stay calm and art project on.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Chronically Disappointed Kid

Kids are forced to deal with disappointment every day. Whether the disappointment is as simple as no more snacks before dinner, or a cancelled play date or as difficult as a bad grade on a test they studied hard for or a team they tried out for and didn’t make the cut, it’s, unfortunately, a part of life. Even as adults, we experience disappointment in the things we do or thing people do to us. And yes, even our beautiful, talented, sweet, energetic kids can disappoint us more often than some of us would like to admit. As adults, we know we must take the bad with the good. We know life is an up and down journey (hopefully more ups than downs), and that through failure, we learn more about ourselves, our needs, our wants and our resilience. How would we know the true feeling of success without all the failures along the way? Would the success mean as much if we didn’t struggle a little to obtain it? No, probably not. But what happens when your child seems to always be disappointed? And what if, as her parent, you feel slightly responsible for her stream of disappointment?

This school year, we moved our 10 year old (now 11), to a new school. I felt her old school had lost its focus on creating a sense of community while nurturing our children. There was a lack of communication between teacher and parent and you could tell, thanks to the principal, even the teachers didn’t seem happy nor did many of the parents. Instead of suffering through another unsuccessful academic year, my husband and I decided to move her. My daughter was highly upset (and I completely understand that part, I would be too), and I think, to a great extent, she made it her mission to show how unhappy she was with her new school and our decision to take her away from her friends, every day. Disappointment is the cornerstone of her life at her new school and each day, a new brick of disappointment is added. Add to that a bully and a string of events during the school year she was overlooked for.

Today, my 11 year old came home disappointed yet again. Her class has been preparing for a field trip to BizTown where the students run a simulated town for the day. It’s a great way to teach kids how a town runs from banking to working and shopping. Well, she ran for Mayor of BizTown and lost which was disappointing but not overly so. Then, she listed three jobs she would like at BizTown and had an interview where she was told that she would probably get the news anchor job. She was thrilled because she loves to perform in front of people. Well, today, they handed out the jobs and, not only did she not get the job she interviewed for (welcome to reality), but she didn’t get any of her three choices. She got a job as a store clerk. Tears streamed down her face as I tucked her into bed and tried to convince her that she will make the best clerk they have ever had. But, really, I was a little pissed - I was disappointed too! Every time there is a performance or something significant, she seems to get overlooked. I could understand if she had played a significant role in the 5th grade play or if she was chosen to sing a special part in the Christmas show but she didn’t and it seems as though the same kids get the same preferential treatment. It’s the same kids who get the best parts – EVERY SINGLE TIME!

I was frustrated and sad for my daughter. It’s been a difficult transition this year and without any positive experiences it’s hard to offer hope of something better next time. Teaching our children ways to cope with disappointment is one of the best tools we can give our children so they can handle all of what life throws at them. And, as parents, we can learn a thing or two as well. I had to do a little research on how to exactly deal with this chronic disappointment my daughter seems to be wallowing in and below is some sound advice I found.

     1.  Don’t ignore the disappointment or brush it under the rug. Address it and have your child share why they think it happened, what went wrong and how they think they can solve it or avoid it in the future.
      2.  Don’t step in too soon. Give them time to work it out on their own. We sometimes forget how resilient and resourceful our children are. Encouraging them to think out solutions but not deciding for them teaches them what they are capable of and allows them to see how strong they really are. Okay, I kinda did step in on this one. I sent the teacher and email and it went like this:

Dear …..
I was just curious on how the jobs were selected for BizTown. Jessica didn't get any of her three choices and is quite upset. I was hoping you could explain how the process works so I can help her through this. 

It's been a long year and she feels like she is always overlooked and, again, I find myself having to talk her off the ledge and tell her that she will make a mighty fine clerk. She doesn't even want to participate and wonders why she was even asked to put down her top three choices when she didn't get any of them (I am actually kind of wondering that myself). I just want to help her get through another disappointment without too much drama.
Too much to ask for? How do I explain it to my daughter without some knowledge on how it all works? Did they tell the kids they would more than likely get one of their three choices? Did they make a mistake when filling out the job forms? Did I sound like a disappointed and frustrated parent? You betcha!

3.    Don’t get stuck looking at the problem from one point of view. Help your child see the problem from other vantage points – put them in the shoes of the one on the other side of the problem. This allows them to learn how to have more empathy and tolerance for others.

4.     Don’t show your child that you are depressed about their situation in order to seem supportive (this is a tough one for me – obviously). Children need to learn by example and they certainly don’t need the burden of your disappointment while dealing with their own. Talk it out, help them figure out why it happened and what can be done to resolve it or avoid it in the future.

5.     Don’t accept poor behavior due to the disappointment. Teach them how to manage those feelings without melting down or taking it out on those around them. Sometimes all they need is for you to validate their feelings.

If these things don’t work, there’s always a bottle of wine (for you, not your child!) because you are going to need it after you deal with talking them off the ledge. Lately, since I can’t seem to solve her school problems, I have gotten my daughter involved in activities that make her happy and where she can experience more victories than defeats. When your child is chronically disappointed, every small positive is a reason to celebrate with them and with yourself (with wine, after tuck-in)!

Stay tuned for a segment on when parents are disappointed in their children. Having teens breeds a whole new wave of disappointments that, as parents, we need to deal with.

#childdisappointment #disappointment #howtodealwithdisappointment

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pediculophobia - Fear of LICE!!!!!

Is it just me or does the word LICE immediately have you scratching your head and thinking to yourself, “oh God no! Please don’t let it be my kid!” while you start recounting all the encounters with friends your child has had in the last couple of weeks? You immediately begin to formulate a plan, thinking of all you may have to clean, the moms you may need to call and the plans you may need to cancel. All of this is done while you are trying to keep a fair distance from your child as you peer down upon her head. And, if your body begins to show signs of anxiety at the mere uttering of the word, you could be suffering from pediculophobia – the fear of lice.

I have experience lice three time – yes THREE! And now, today, as I was picking my birthday girl up at school after her after-school program, the instructor ran out and insisted on talking to my daughter’s friend’s mom about lice. She saw them on the computer that my daughter's friend used. Just moments before, my daughter was romping around with this friend, heads pushed together, hair hanging and colliding. I began to itch immediately, as a matter of fact my head is itching now but I am trying to keep busy by typing because I know the minute I stop typing, I am going to be itching imaginary itches.

My first experience with these super sleuthing bugs was when we lived in Korea almost 8 years ago. Because I had taught at a middle school, I knew what lice and their eggs looked like and I knew where to look for activity thanks to the school nurse. My middle child came home from school and at about 4p.m. said, “Mom, my head itches.” I thought it had to be dry scalp but I decided to have a look just in case. My daughter was in 4th grade at the time and had never heard me swear. I started to look at her hair and it didn't take long before, “Oh, shit!” fell out of my mouth and into her ears (she still brings this up as the first time she ever heard me swear). There they were, those little buggers, in all their glory, trying to escape my human eyes. So, what do you do when you are in Korea and you find lice? First, you panic and swear and feel like you may need to do a few shots of vodka to calm the *beep* down. They don’t have CVS pharmacies where you can just drive over and get your box of Rid. Once I calmed the *beep* down, I called the international clinic and was told I needed to bring her in and have her diagnosed before they could prescribe the treatment (which is not over the counter and for good reason – I’ll explain shortly). I took my daughter in and guess what?! She had lice – yep, just like I thought. The doctor, who explained to me that this was strictly an American thing and that Korean’s don’t spread lice, handed me a prescription and sent me across the busy street from the hospital to the pharmacy. I was given the prescription – a bottle of clear shampoo, and sent on my way. There was no comb for the nits which I thought was strange so I called doctor back wondering if I got the wrong stuff. “Oh, no, that’s the correct shampoo. It will kill both the lice and its eggs but it may cause her to get a rash or her hair could fall out.” What?! Of course I couldn't read the bottle because it was all in Korean! I didn't know what chemicals were in there. But, here’s where I get the “Mom of the Year” Award. I loathed lice so much that I was willing to risk my daughter’s hair falling out and her getting a nasty rash. I suppose I could have gone to the market and gotten some mayo but I wasn't even thinking of that at the time. When we got home I had all three of my kids strip down to nothing, and because my head was itching, I did the same. I lathered up each head and had them sit with that shampoo on their head for probably longer than the recommended time before allowing them to rinse. I grabbed all their clothes and began throwing them in the washer, bagged up all their stuffed animals, stripped all their beds. I had piles and piles of linens in the laundry room that took a couple of days to wash. It was exhausting.

The next day, my middle daughter went back to school. I notified the school and they ran a lice check. It was their field day when the students participate in fun team competitions. I went to the event and walked over to my daughter and one of her friends who was swinging her hair around and whipping it towards my daughter. After the girl walked away, my daughter told me that she was the girl with the lice – they found it on her that morning but never sent her home. I began to itch again. It was so nice of her to continue to share her hair pets! Ugh! That night, I washed my daughter’s hair again with that noxious shampoo!

Well, my kids never did get a rash, nor did their hair fall out and by golly, it killed every last one of those damn buggers but, to this day, I don’t know what it was that I put on their heads. Since then, my middle child contracted lice two other times – both while we were living in Beijing and I was armed with Rid from the states. Try explaining to your housekeeper who doesn't speak a lick of English that we have to clean everything because your daughter has lice. I learned to use the Google translate thingamajig and wrote her a little note. She began to read it with a happy face, like I was giving her a love letter. I was worried that maybe, it didn't translate correctly, until I saw her face change from happy to horror in less than a second. She spent the rest of the day scouring the house and doing piles and piles of laundry while her face looked like she was sucking on a lemon.

Pediculophobia. Yep, that’s what I have. The extreme fear of lice seems to be pretty common. Many people suffer from a fear of head lice whether it’s from having it ourselves or experiencing it with our children. Once we are exposed, it’s difficult to not have some aversion to the word because the word carries with it such weight and work.

There are many myths associated with lice, and from what I have read, there are different opinions and information out there as to how they are spread and how to get rid of them.

1.     Lice are not a sign of uncleanliness. Lice don’t really care whether your hair is clean or dirty. I have even read that lice prefer clean hair because it’s easier to grab on to, less slippery with oils. I’m sure lice don’t really care who the host is, they just want a place to get their next meal.

2.   Lice cannot jump or fly. So, if you sit next to someone who has it, you are not going to get it unless you touch heads and probably longer than a couple of seconds. There is some conflicting info on whether you can contract it by combs and brushes. Some say yes, others say no. It’s always good to err on the side of caution and clean all brushes and combs.

3.   Some believe that lice is transferred through pillows and bedding, others say it’s unlikely that lice would voluntarily leave the head, therefore the need to clean bedding is more to clean any lice excrement (ewww!) that may be on the bedding. But, I would cover all my basis and clean them in extra hot water.

4.  Head lice can only survive 24 -36 hours without a host. So, your couch, pillows, carpet, etc. won’t need to be deep cleaned. Still, I would bag the things you can for 36 hours just in case. Especially stuffed animals your kids come in contact with, blankets, etc. Again, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

5.   Here’s an interesting one. I read that it’s not necessary to remove nits from the hair after it’s treated. I’m not an expert, but I think this should be done. If those eggs hatch, you will be kicking yourself as you go through the whole process all over again. The one thing that saved me from complete insanity was going through my daughter’s hair day after day and taking every nit out. I owe my success in getting rid of the buggers by being diligent for a week after treatment – checking every day and removing nits that I may have missed the day before. 

6.   Home remedies such a mayo, oil or Vaseline don’t necessarily work. I guess the concept of suffocating the little bastards while leaving your kids hair looking like a greasy mess is not the best route to take. But, if that is all you have, then it’s better than nothing!

I could go on with a list of myths about head lice – it seems everyone has an opinion on the matter. What I do know, is that prevention is the key to your sanity. Talk to your kids and give them a few pointers.

* Don’t share your brushes or combs with your friends.
*Don’t share your hats with your friends.
*Don’t spend countless minutes with your head next to someone else’s. 
*Avoid putting your head on the school carpet.
*Avoid hanging your jacket against someone else’s jacket.
*Keep your hair up in a ponytail, braid, etc.

Also, there are preventative products out there. Lice don’t like certain scents such as peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender or rosemary as well as tea tree oil. You can find many products that are made to repel lice which contain these natural oils (and your child’s hair will smell fabulous). When I was home for the summer (still living in Asia) I purchased the below product. You can get shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, etc. I recommend using something, especially during the most active lice months.

So, just know, you are not alone in your head lice phobia and there are plenty of options to help you avoid ever having to go through it. And if you do, remember, it’s not a reflection on your home cleanliness or hygiene. Lice are just little bastards who want to play with your sanity!
#lice #licephobia #pediculophobia

Random Thoughts Thursdays: The Truth About Boys

Man, I am on a roll this week. That's what happens when you don't leave your house. Boredom is the great motivator. Anyway, as we all know today is Random Thoughts Thursday, my personal favorite because it takes no organization. Today I am going to share some of my own myths and facts about having boys.

Boys are drama free. Myth
I heard this one a lot when I was pregnant with my first son, mostly from women with daughters. "Oh, you are so lucky! Boys are so much easier! No drama!" Now I am so lucky, and as far as boys being easier I don't have daughters so I have no idea if that is true or not. One thing I can assure you of, though, is the fact that boys are NOT drama free. At least mine aren't. My five year old alone could put any girl's dramatic performance to shame. Here are some dramatic quotes I have heard from him in the last week:

"Why don't you do what I want for a change?" (This after I had taken him bowling, rented Despicable Me, and let him have popcorn for dinner.)

"My life would be better if I could just watch another show."

"Why isn't anyone playing with me? Can you please stop doing the dishes and just play with me? What's more important me or the dishes?"

"I had the truck first, you bad brother!"

"Mom, he's touching me!"
 and just this morning: "Winter is the worst season of my life."

My two year old? He has perfected the fake cry. The fake cry is so over acted that I usually have to leave the room so he doesn't see me laughing. You can't laugh in your crying kid's face even if the cry is fake.

Your bathroom will never be clean again. True.
At least until they move out. I thought I was very fortunate when my oldest basically potty trained himself at two and a half. Really, I didn't do much. However, three years later and he still forgets to lift the seat, or wipe, or flush, or all of the above. He also occasionally gets distracted and turns to look at something midstream. It's not like I redecorate my bathroom, so I can't imagine what he needs to look at that can't wait a few second. The best is when he pees on the toilet seat and then closes the lid. I am constantly saying, "Flush and wash!" My two year old has no concept of potty training, but I think that may be a good thing. Don't even get me started on the soap and toothpaste all over the sink and counter. My five year old has a sensitivity to food dyes which means we have to buy a certain kind of dye free toothpaste which is approximately three times the cost of regular toothpaste. Approximately forty percent of it winds up smeared all over the counter and mirror. Isn't it great when kids learn to brush their teeth themselves? This brings me to my next point...

Boys are messy. True.
They spill things. They get food everywhere except in their mouths. They wipe hands and noses on shirts, carpets, and couches. I wonder why all of my clothes are stained. Sometimes I think my boys look at me and see a giant walking napkin or tissue. If there is a mud puddle they will jump, sit and roll in it. Don't fight it. Just stock up on galoshes and bubble bath.

Boys Don't Care What They Wear. Myth.
My two year old wants to wear "choo choo train SHIRT!!!!!!" This last until breakfast when he squeezes his tube of strawberry yogurt all over his choo choo train shirt. Whoever thought those yogurt squeeze tubes were a convenient alternative to a spoon didn't have boys. At this point I can clean up the yogurt as best I can and move on, or I can add the shirt to the laundry pile and listen to, "No, I want wear CHOO CHOO TRAIN SHIIIIIRRRRRTTTTT!!!!!!!" Did I mention the drama? My five year old is a fashion non conformist. He insists on wearing his boots with his shorts in the summer. This is one of those pick your battles situations. At this point in my parenting career I am used to nosy strangers giving me disapproving looks. He has also gone to school without wearing underwear, unbeknowest to me. Isn't it great when they can dress themselves?

Boys Are Ruff and Tumble. True. And False.
An assumption I heard when I was pregnant with my second son was that I already had a boy so I knew what to expect. My boys are night and day. My oldest is intuitive, creative, and cautious. He can sit on the floor for hours building elaborate neighborhoods with his blocks and Lincoln Logs. He also struggles with separation. When he was a toddler he would stand next to me observing the other little boys climbing on and jumping off the structures. My youngest never stops moving. He climbs things. He runs at life full throttle. He takes off without looking back to see if I am following him. He falls down and bounces back up without missing a beat. I spend a lot of time saying, "Get down!" and "Get back here!" They are both obsessed with vehicles, though. With my oldest it is specifically garbage trucks and construction vehicles while his brother loves trains, trucks, cars, school buses, airplanes, and boats. I love both of my children equally but not the same. I love both of their little individual unique personalities.

You Will Become Familiar With Your Local Pediatric Emergency Room. True.
Boys fall down stairs. They fall off sleds and bikes. They attempt to eat coins. The literally run into walls. Ironically it is my not so ruff and tumble boy who has landed in the emergency room with a head injury.

Boys Think Potty Talk Is Funny. True.
Boys find a way to work the word "poop" into every day conversation. Sometimes they will just randomly yell it out. In a restaurant. And then laugh hysterically. It never gets old. They also like to rewrite sons using the word. Example: "Old McDonald had some poop. Ey I Ey I Poop! With a poop poop here and a poop poop there... Hahahahahahaha!!!!!!"If you want to keep your sanity you would do well to ignore it. The more you show annoyance the funnier it will become. Believe me, I learned the hard way.

You Will Want A Girl. Myth.
I mean you might want a girl. As for me, I don't not want a girls, but I am perfectly happy with my two boys and I would be ecstatic to have another boy. Really, if I am fortunate enough to have a third child I couldn't care less about the gender. I honestly don't get the whole gender disappointment thing.  If you give birth to a healthy baby you have already won the genetic lottery. Besides, why is the question, "So are you trying for a girl?" appropriate? How does one exactly try for a girl? Don't answer that. When I was pregnant with my second I got, "Are you hoping for a girl this time?" I don't know, are you hoping to get a lukewarm decaf coffee thrown in your face?

You Will Not Know How To Parent A Child of the Opposite Gender. Myth.
Kids are all unique. Sometimes it is more difficult to parent a child similar to you than one who is nothing like you. Either way. you will parent each child a little differently and each will be a challenge in some ways, and easy in some ways, regardless of gender. I was a tomboy growing up. I climbed trees, wore ripped jeans, and hated dresses. If I have a girl I am not sure what I will do with the whole brushing hair and coordinating outfits thing, but I'll learn.

No Woman Will Ever Be Good Enough. True.
We wish we could pick the people our kids end up with. I am pretty far from that right now, but one day they will bring girls home and I will be nice. On the upside, this perspective should help you understand your own mother in law. If she is good to you like mine is to me, count your blessings. Whether your mother in law hates you or loves you she did have to accept you. I mean, you weaseled your way into her son's heart, you jerk.

You Will Get Lots of Love. True.
I love having boys. I love have fellow mom of boys friends. I love all of the cars and truck lying around. Except when I trip on them. I hope I am up to the challenge of raising confident, curious, compassionate, strong, independent, sensitive men.

Image result for raising boys someecards

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What's Up Wednesdays: Sick Days

I may have mentioned this before, but I don't like being stuck in the house with kids. It is kind of like prison but with better coffee, and less time to drink said coffee. No, I have never been to prison but I have read Orange Is The New Black so you see I am an expert. Nonetheless, I am ready to join Jan on a federal prison vacation right about now. I think we would make pretty good partners in crime.

I may also have mentioned Murphy's Law before. Illness strikes at really inopportune times. My five year old is a bit of a hypochondriac. Every day he is "sick" with a long litany of complaints. His tummy doesn't feel good, his leg hurts, his arm hurts, his nose hurts, he needs crutches, he has a virus..... you get the picture. I don't even think he's always faking it, but clearly he has a lot of psychosomatic complaints. Remember the boy who cried wolf? The villagers were very concerned the first two times he insisted that he saw a wolf in the field, but eventually they tuned him out. Yesterday  he had a fairly good morning as our mornings go. His buddy was waiting for him at the school doors and they stood there chatting about lost teeth like two old ladies before I finally ushered them into the building. The principal is so sweet and cheerful and she was finding their conversation so cute that I think she was inclined to let the little truants stand outside chatting all day. Anyhow, he walked into the building without me which is a monumental accomplishment for us, and I happily went on to Bible study where I could dump my other kid...I mean place my other child in a loving, educational based nursery for some important socialization and graham cracker eating. Two hours later I returned for kindergarten pick up. The teacher's aide brought Aiden out to the car looking like a puppy that had been out in the rain. And eaten something out of the garbage. I asked what was wrong and the aide told me with a very sad face that he didn't seem to be feeling well, his nose was running, and he wasn't himself. At this point Aiden chimed in, "I told you I was sick." The aide may have given me a sad look, or it may have been my self conscious imagination. I took him home and took his temperature. It registered at 100.7. Cue the mom guilt, please.This is the problem with the boy who cried wolf. How do you know when a wolf is legitimately lurking? Ironically enough, he hadn't complained of being sick that morning, although complaints of illness are usually a part of our morning routine. I could just picture the aide shaking her head and thinking, "These selfish mothers sending their kids to school sick just to get two hours of free time." Well, at least I am getting better about worrying what other people think of me.

As good ole Murphy's Law would have it, I had two appointments today and a meeting tomorrow morning. Doctors and dentists love when you cancel an appointment that you made a month ago at the last minute. The receptionists really love it, and they let you know their appreciation in a really passive aggressive manner.

"O-kayyyyy, so, Mrs. Clark..... Spell your last name again (so I know exactly who to curse when I am playing with my voodoo dolls tonight). Okay, so Mrs. Clark, you want to CANCEL your appointment for TOMORROW, is that correct?"

Yep, that's what I said.

"Would you like to reschedule at this time, or do you want to check your schedule and call us back?"

"I'll reschedule." Actually let me check and make sure no one else is scheduled to get sick. My two year old did drink out of his sick brother's cup.

To be honest, I am not that upset about missing the dentist today. I think I'll get over it. I would actually rather be stuck inside on the first 50 degree day in five months than go to the dentists. I would also rather walk on glass. By the way, the only thing dentists love more than cancelled appointments is people who put off going to the dentist for two years so that by the time they do they have really bad cavities. I am not sure who would do that.

"Hummm, Mrs. Clark I see you need some fillings. Did you know that it is highly important to come in for a regular dental exam every six months?"

Nope, never heard that before.

"And you were last in *checks computer*... December of 2012."

"Oh, wow, that is a long time ago. Can I be arrested for not keeping my dental health up to date? Are you sure? It might be worth a call to the authorities."

Everything is cancelled and rescheduled and it is still morning. When my kids get sick, which fortunately isn't that often, I have to remind myself how blessed I am to just be dealing with a garden variety virus. I know well the miracle of having healthy children and I can only imagine the pain and stress of caring for a chronically ill child. When we say our prayers at night we always pray for those who are sick and thank God for our health. When an inconvenient virus strikes it can be a good opportunity to remind us not to take our health for granted. That being said, being stuck in the house with sick kids can make for a long day. As my two year old keeps saying, "I want go bye bye car". Until you can go bye bye car (yes, I need some adult conversation) here is my own personal sick kid survival guide:

Throw screen time limits out the window. Your child just feels like laying around and that is probably the best thing for them. I usually stick pretty closely to the hour a day of TV but when illness strikes all bets are off. Huh, since when do we have the Disney channel?

Push fluids. With a fever, food is not that important, but keep pushing the water, juice, and smoothies on your kid. Avoid dairy products. Dairy and mucus are friends. For yourself, push the coffee. You are going to need it.

Try not to get sick yourself. Do you know what is infinitely harder than caring for a sick child? Caring for a sick child while sick yourself. Do you know what is harder than caring for a sick child while sick yourself? Caring for an energetic post illness child who has been stuck in the house for several days while sick yourself. Parents don't get sick days. I suggest Airborne and lots of water. I also diffuse four thieves oil. Yes, I am one of those essential oils natural medicine people. Glad we cleared that up.

Hand sanitizer is your friend. I know there is a lot of information as to whether or not hand sanitizer is advisable, and germs are good. Those of you who know me know that I have a semi neurotic obsession with hand sanitizer. I am not going to give it up.

When necessary, don't be afraid to use pain relievers. I didn't say all natural. Your child might need some, too.

Remember, this too shall pass. Don't you love when people say that? Glad I could help.