Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa dreidel dreidel Santa

Kiddo goes to school with contraband dreidels stuffed in his coat pockets and makes Christmas crafts. We light the menorah my parents brought us from Israel and then open another box in our Playmobil Advent calendar (this one, courtesy of a co-worker, and it's entirely cute). The candy canes are piled up next to the chocolate gelt. Welcome to our schizophrenic holiday, 2011 edition.

The kids' classes have a sign-up sheet asking which holiday everyone celebrates, I guess so the teachers can talk about the holidays with them. Our kids are the only ones on the sheet to have Christmas and Hanukkah next to their names. So far they're completely blase about it. Kiddo seems to find this book useful, and has been making happy comments about his "two holidays." Which is good. 

So far we have seen Santa several times, and the kids have yet to wonder when Santa has time to make all those toys if he's bopping around having breakfast with everybody and riding random trains to nowhere. I assume that whole logic thing will kick in in a couple of years. Or else I will be a dumdum and slip up.

At any rate, we took the Santa train out of Hackettstown this year, which gave me the added bonus of now knowing where the train station is in Hackettstown. Sometime this decade, I sincerely hope to learn my way around the area. Grandma came with us this time, because she was in town, and because she is a good sport. We took two cars, because the car seats basically suck up all the extra space in our car, and that provided the added bonus of 1. our cars getting separated and 2. Grandma getting lost. She insisted we go without her if she didn't get there in time. I had visions of the kids' faces pressed to the train window, horrified that we had abandoned Grandma.

We got to the station just barely in time, I thought, and then I saw other parents frantically hauling small children toward the train and I realized the train folks must be used to this sort of thing. Because when do parents of small children ever arrive on time for anything? Inevitably there is a diaper blowout or a lost toy or a sudden tantrum, or the child decides now would be the perfect time to run in the exact opposite direction from you, and you're lucky you're able to leave the house at all, frankly.

So we walked up to pay for our tickets and we realized that the Santa train is so adorably old-fashioned that tickets are cash-only. And we froze, because we never carry cash anymore. The "conductor" took pity on us, though, and took whatever cash we happened to have and let us on board. I guess the slight monetary loss was easier to take than the inevitable crying fits when the kids weren't allowed on the train.

And we were on our way! Sort of. In that the train was experiencing technical difficulties. So it started, briefly, then stopped. In the meantime, Santa began to make his rounds. He was quite a friendly Santa, and posed quite nicely with the kids, even if he couldn't get a smile out of kiddette. But then Miss Poker Face never smiles for pictures, except the school pictures, and I would love to know that photographer's secret.

Santa went his merry way, even though the train still wasn't going anywhere. And then out the window, we all saw ... Grandma! Hustling toward the train. And they let her on, since we weren't moving yet anyway. What a perfectly timed electrical problem. The kids were thrilled that Grandma made it, I was secretly relieved, and we'll be coming back to this train group next year, because they were so nice about the whole thing.

Of course, once the train actually got moving, kiddette realized that Santa had been the high point, and was exceedingly annoyed that I wouldn't let her spend the trip racing up and down the aisle. Fortunately, Snoopy and the Grinch came around too, and Mrs. Claus, and then one of the women pulled out a guitar and started singing holiday tunes, so that kept the kids more or less occupied. (A quibble: "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"? I thought it was funny too when I was in 8th grade, but isn't that a little ... dark for a holiday sing-along?)

Balancing things out, we visited my parents' synagogue over the weekend for a Hanukkah party. The party kicked off with each Hebrew school class performing a skit, which was cute, but it did remind me that I have years of such performances to look forward to. Also, now I can't get this song out of my head. Then everyone headed downstairs for a DJ dance party, latkes and crafts. The kids have developed an appreciation for latkes, but they haven't quite figured out the point of the applesauce yet. It'll come with time. (And yes, applesauce. Not sour cream. Absolutely not ketchup. They're not Tater Tots, people.)

Kiddo danced a little and then sweet-talked yet another adult he'd just met into giving him something -- in this case, one of the light-up toys the DJ was giving out. I think maybe I should prevent this kid from going into politics.

The music actually made me a little nostalgic for when I used to go out dancing. Clearly I wasn't the only one, considering all the moms on the dance floor. Can't say I blame them.

We left after the Limbo started, mainly because I'd gotten hit with a cold or something cold-like and was petrified I was going to infect someone, even though I was slathering my hands in sanitizer. Still, good timing, since kiddo left under the impression he'd won Limbo, because the DJ had given him (along with all the other eliminated folks) a shiny dreidel. He was so taken with the dreidel, he decided to give it a spin, right there in front of the Limbo bar. I had to haul him away before someone tripped over him.

And now, as our Merry Everything celebration gets well under way, I say to you: Merry Everything! May your latkes be crisp and your eggnog incredibly spiked. May Santa or Hanukkah Harry bring you whatever you wanted, except a Lexus, because I hate those commercials. And maybe one of those guys could bring me what I want too. I don't care which one. They can draw straws for it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Progress, of sorts

Apparently all I had to do to get the hospital to call me back was leave an icily angry voicemail noting that this was the fourth time I was calling, and no one had returned my calls yet. Literally, within minutes they called me.

Man. Every time I feel bad about my icy voice and Look of Death (as DH refers to it), not wanting to be a jerk and be mean to people, I'm reminded all over again that being a jerk is frequently what works. Whoever said you catch more flies with honey than vinegar is a moron. You don't catch more flies with honey. You catch more flies with a flyswatter.

So we've got a February appointment. Yes, that would be February as in next year. Apparently no one else is as bothered by this as I am. But then, I'm impatient. Anyway we're on the waiting list in case something else opens up.

Meantime, his letters are looking slightly less like chicken scratch, but he still loses interest in writing pretty quickly. And his attention span is ... finite.

I took the kiddies downtown for lunch, and for the Victorian carolers and horse-drawn carriage rides (yes, really. It's that kind of town). He was fine through lunch. He was fine on the carriage ride -- though he, and the other little boy on the ride, were incredibly quick to notice the horses', um,  deposits on the street. Walking back through downtown, clearly, was when his attention ran out. He started to run ahead and behind us, instead of walking with us. I warned him, and then he ran off again in a parking lot and started to mess around with one of the bushes -- which happened to have berries on it. Which, with my luck, would have been the toxic kind. This scored him an early end to the field trip.

I wonder if it's length of time, or the amount of stimulation, that sets him off. I wonder if that's something I'll find out in February.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The waiting game

Really, three phone messages in two weeks and the hospital still can't be bothered to call me back? Oh, sorry, did my kid's situation not sound dire enough for you? Tell you what, office staff, I'll just swing by and drop him off to hang out with you for a few dozen hours or so. Then you tell me what you think about his hyperactivity. Kay?

Honestly. I cannot stand unreturned phone calls. I return calls when I'm at work. Blowing off messages isn't just unprofessional, it's rude. And also it will make me leave even more messages.

When I am presented with a problem, I want to solve the problem. On the spot. Five minutes ago if possible. Waiting and waiting while other people maybe sorta eventually get around to caring about the existence of a problem is maddening.

And I'm not really sure how long we can wait on this, since as things stand, is kiddo really going to be ready for kindergarten next year?

He's at least a little better with the letters, in that they sort of resemble letters, except the capital D, which resembles a crooked balloon. But it's hard to know when he's genuinely having a problem with a task and when he's goofing around because, you know, he's 4. Which is the sort of thing an expert could probably help out with, if we could get one on the phone.

I'm going to chat with the pediatrician about alternatives, I think, because a place too busy to return my calls is too busy to be of much use.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An un-diagnostic diagnosis

So after I last posted about kiddo maybe/possibly/who knows? having ADHD, I heard from my cousin down South (who very nicely gave the OK on being mentioned here). Her son, a little older than my son, does have ADHD and has been in occupational therapy for a few years now. And some of the things she described seeing sounded extremely familiar.

And then we had our first "parent-teacher conference" at the new school. And they -- nicely, supportively -- said kiddo was behind where he should be, especially with fine motor skills and with listening/paying attention. I asked about ADHD, figuring they wouldn't bring it up unless I did first. Turns out the director's son has ADHD. "A lot of the things my son did," she said, "I see in your son."

She suggested avoiding red dye and severely limiting soda. Which raised two questions: Were we even giving him any red dye-ish foods now? And who the hell gives a 4-year-old kid soda? We don't even give him that much juice -- he uses a water bottle at school. Thankfully kiddo's teacher noted that he seems to eat a lot of healthy foods as it is. Which he does -- lots of fruit, whole wheat everything, cheese sticks, sunflower seed butter, carrots and hummus.

Conversations like this are what make me think all other parents are raising their kids on Dr. Pepper and Pop-Tarts.

Anyway they said they'd work with an OT if we needed one to come to the school for sessions. And they said whatever disciplinary method we use at home, they'd use as well for consistency. So that was nice. Certainly more than the other school offered. Of course, the other school also didn't bother to flag us about his handwriting, possibly because everyone was quitting for better jobs at that point.

We took him to the pediatrician to get a referral for evaluation. And she agreed, after watching him for a few minutes, that he was definitely showing signs of hyperactivity. Mostly because he was bouncing off the walls of the examining room like he was the ball in a pinball game. She said ADHD frequently shows up along with something else, like autism, but she didn't see any sign of that, since he was peppering her with a million questions about the decorations on the walls and came over twice to give her a hug. She also said most 4-year-olds wouldn't think to ask so many questions about something, and that he's a pretty smart kid.

I actually think that's the frustrating thing: That he can be so fantastic and so completely exasperating at the same time, literally at the same second. That he really likes to go, say, food shopping with me, but while food shopping, will demand to hold the bananas -- wait, just one banana -- no, two bananas -- no, not those two bananas -- no, wait, the cranberries -- no, the mini bagels -- no, the bananas! And then will pretend the banana is a phone and walk down the aisle chatting into it. (OK, I admit this was pretty funny. People were walking by us and giggling.)

Per UMDNJ and a bunch of other places, here are the symptoms of ADHD:

  • Get distracted easily and forget things often
  • Switch too quickly from one activity to the next
  • Have trouble with directions
  • Daydream too much
  • Have trouble finishing tasks like homework or chores
  • Lose toys, books, and school supplies often
  • Fidget and squirm a lot
  • Talk nonstop and interrupt people
  • Run around a lot
  • Touch and play with everything they see
  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments
  • Have trouble controlling their emotions
The red flag is if you see at least six of these. I count between seven and eight, depending on the day.

So we have a call out to the child development center at the hospital, but of course not expecting to hear back until after Thanksgiving. My therapist says some of the tests they would use, he just isn't old enough for. So we could go through all this and still not get a clear diagnosis until after he's 5. I'm thinking the best course of action is to proceed as though he does have it, and keep things very structured for him, and see what we can do about the handwriting. At least until we hear something different.

Last year it was his eyes -- literally, the surgery was a year ago -- this year, it's his mental development. Can't wait to see what I need to freak out about next year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stroller derby!

Some time ago we decided kiddo needed his own baby doll (as chronicled here) and got him one. More precisely, my parents got him one. They were very careful to meet my specifications -- no creepy blinking eyes, no fake-wetting, must gurgle and make baby-like noises. They gave kiddo the doll ... and he promptly rejected it in favor of kiddette's doll, which he liked better.

Honestly. They're both baby dolls. They're both cute. One is in purple and battery-operated, so it waves its arms around, and the other is in pink and doesn't. They both talk (though purple baby mostly gurgles happily and pink baby cycles through gurgling to crying to snoring). They both have little hats. I'm not seeing what makes one more special than the other.

This seemed like it could be a bit of a baby war, except kiddette decided she liked kiddo's baby, so kiddo could claim her baby. And all was well in fake-babyland, except when kiddette forgets she likes pink baby better and grabs purple baby, and then kiddo flips out over the babynapping.

They're actually pretty good fake parents. Kiddo likes to feed purple baby its bottle because if you hold the bottle to its mouth it makes little slurping noises. Kiddette likes to squeeze pink baby's belly so it makes all the sounds, and then when it starts crying, she cuddles it and says "Okay, baby." Which is exactly how I used to comfort her, so it's entirely cute. Then they both sit on the couch with their babies and watch TV, which probably loses them a few fake-parent points, but on the other hand, I'm letting them watch TV in the first place, so I guess I get a demerit. Plus an extra demerit for corrupting little plastic minds as well as little real ones.

Then there are the doll-size strollers. My MIL gave one to kiddette to go with purple baby, but then kiddo wanted purple baby. I ran out and got another stroller for pink baby, and now they each have one. Unfortunately I forgot what happens when these kids are anywhere near something with wheels. So every day they put their babies in their strollers and race around the house. Apparently it's a multi-lap race. Also, collisions are not only allowed but welcomed. Because there is, after all, very little difference between a stroller and a bumper car.

How excellent for them that we had hardwood floors installed on the main floor. Now they can go even faster!

So adult conversations in our house go something like this:

"So at work today I" WHOOSH ZOOM HA HAHAHA



"Mommy can you fix my stroller?"

"My baby!"

"No my baby! Mommmeeeeeee she took my baby!"


And then we propose to table all adult conversations until kiddie bedtime.

I can't be sure, but I do strongly suspect that other children do not play with their dolls the way these two do. Truly I don't know how the fake babies are going to live to fake adulthood.

But hey, I guess this counts as exercise. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Son of Halloween Part II: The Sequel

So we lost power last Saturday. We could kind of see it coming, what with all the thick, heavy snow and the wind, and the way both were making the trees around our house lean crazily forward. We shrugged it off and continued unpacking the china, which we were getting to roughly a year after moving into the house, which actually is pretty good for us. Then the lights went off and we shrugged again, figuring they'd come back on soon.
And then, of course, day turned to night and still no power. We dined on salmon and cannellini bean salad, and chips and salsa. We bundled everyone up and went to bed.

I dreamed we got our power back overnight and we were having a lovely warm breakfast. Then of course I woke up and my alarm clock screen was still blank. No power. Argh! Oh, and it was going to be 20 degrees that night. 

Every hotel we could find within a 30-mile radius was booked by people quicker on the uptake than we were. So we gave up and drove to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

What I was most unthrilled about, aside from inevitably losing everything in the fridge and trying to get work done via e-mail while the kids ran laps around Grandpa, was losing Halloween. Because I like Halloween. I like dressing up. I like dressing the kids up. I like going trick or treating and admiring the costumes of trick or treaters at my door. I like watching the Peanuts special. I like pilfering the kids' candy when they're not looking. I am a dork and I don't care.

But since our town was one of those especially hard hit by the storm -- the spooky thing once we finally made our escape was driving south through darkened neighborhoods, black street lights and trees lying across downed power lines -- Halloween was canceled. Who knew you could cancel such a thing? Next Santa will postpone Christmas on account of a monsoon.

Weep not for kiddo and kiddette, because we brought their costumes to Grandma and Grandpa's house. They had a lovely time charming the neighbors. Pirate kiddo refused to ring a single doorbell because of all the "scary stuff" decorating the houses, so I had to do it instead. Meanwhile fairy princess kiddette told off every single dog she met at every single house, even when they were cheerily thumping their tails at her. "No! No woofy!" she said sternly. My mother took a picture of one dog wearing a doggie witch's hat. Kiddette stared down the dog, clutching the lollipop she was sucking on. "No!" she growled. "MY lollipop!" The dog just looked back at her, clearly thinking, "I don't even want your stupid lollipop. Now get this hat off me!"

Also, she stomped a bug. I mention this because 1. I'm pretty sure most 2-year-olds don't concern themselves with the existence of bugs, and 2. she was dressed in a pink tutu and fairy wings, and the cutesy girlyness of it all was kind of a hilarious contrast. The poor beetle was trundling across a driveway, and she looked at it and stomped. Lifted her foot, checked to see if it was dead yet. Stomped again. Oh boy was it dead. She was quite pleased with herself.

At any rate they both got a good haul of candy and enjoyed the rest of their stay, which lasted until ... Thursday. Right. We didn't get power back until Thursday. Now the extremely cold folks in Connecticut definitely had it worse than we did, and we did have a warm place to stay while we waited things out (not to mention all the food -- thanks, Mom and Dad), but living out of a suitcase for five days is only fun when there's an actual vacation involved. Preferably with some sort of amusement park rides.

I'm not sure what New Jersey is being punished for, but after Hurricane Irene and Snowmageddon 2011, I think we've done our time. And "Jersey Shore" is not our fault because they're mostly from New York anyway.

Here is where kiddo and kiddette made out like little costumed bandits. Halloween -- or trick or treating, anyway -- was rescheduled for Saturday in our town. Do-over! Let's pretend the past week never happened!

So we went around again. This time kiddo happened upon a group of other kids going around with their moms, and decided that he too would be part of this group, even though we'd never met them before. He ran ahead with them, with DH struggling to keep up, and kiddette and I ended up about five houses behind. What can I say? He's a joiner. We fear his high school years, when his friends peer-pressure him into every stupid thing under the sun.

He also got one of the moms to give him an extra glowstick bracelet. I'm almost impressed by the sheer nerviness of his mooching. I've seen random people give him all sorts of things. Snack food. Toys. Do they feel sorry for him or is he just that charming?

Kiddette and I hit a few more houses until the sugar crash caught up with her and she had a big meltdown, mostly because I wouldn't let her eat all the candy. Then we went home. Kiddo and DH joined us shortly after. Then kiddo insisted on helping me hand out candy at the door. "Thanks, little man!" one teenager told him. Highly cute.  

So Halloween was saved not once but twice. And the kids have an unbelievable mountain of candy to show for it. Not a bad way to end up really.

Except for the part where I keep eating the candy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scarier than Halloween

is a massive snowstorm that knocks out the power to, more or less, your entire town. And also the town next to it. And a few towns around that town. And pretty much the entire northern half of your state. Leaving you without 1. heat 2. a working refrigerator 3. daycare. And a 20-degree night is coming.

And ... Boo!

OK, so obviously we have found a warm place with actual working electricity from which I can type this. (Or else I am powering the computer with MY MIND. Mwa ha ha OK look, it's Halloween, all right? I need to find my fun somewhere.) But this isn't a long-term solution. There's that whole job thing, for instance. Also the need to clean out the food currently rotting in the fridge. Including the applesauce that I had literally just made two hours before the power went out. Hey thanks, storm.

So we're in a bit of a waiting game. And I guess it's a smallish good thing that we hadn't carved the pumpkin yet, since the pumpkin would have then been buried under snow and no one would've seen it anyway.

We'll just ... um ... delay Halloween.  Until after we have heat. And after we clean out the fridge. And after our supermarket opens long enough to have actual food in it. And after the snow melts.

And by that time, of course, it will be Christmas shopping season.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Socializing with kiddo

And he is quite social. For all his problems/alleged problems/who knows at this point?, he's perfectly willing to chat up whatever other human being happens to be within 20 feet of him. We were at the apple orchard yesterday -- in other words, the only orchard out of three or four farms that still had those suckers on the trees -- and another family was walking down the muddy path in front of us, and kiddo called out to them that there were puddles on the path, and also that we were going apple picking! In case, you know, the total strangers cared.

At dinner last night, he helpfully ordered his own entree (the waiter said kids never do that anymore, just stare at him blankly), then introduced his sister to the man bringing our drinks. (His usual line: "This is my sister. She's a baby. She doesn't do much.")

Later in the meal -- which by the way was excruciating, in that we waited for about a century despite making reservations, waited even longer to get entrees, had to repeatedly request things like silverware and drink refills, and oh yeah, they got my mother's entree wrong and tried to get out of comping us -- kiddo required a potty trip, and since I was dangerously close to throttling the waiter, DH decided it was my turn.

We were in the stall while kiddo did his business, and we could hear the mom and daughter in the stall next to us. Mom was letting Daughter have it over not eating her dinner and then whining about it after. And actually things were getting a little heated. Mom had clearly discovered the fabled last straw.

And then kiddo said, "Excuse me!"

I tried to gently hush him. Daughter complained that she couldn't reach the toilet paper. Kiddo called out, "I can't reach the toilet paper either!"

The other mom and I started giggling. Kiddo continued to announce his progress in his toileting adventure. The other mom began speaking to her daughter again, but there was  laughter in her voice now.

We all exited our stalls at the same time. Mom looked roughly my age; Daughter looked about 6 or 7. "Hi!" Mom said to him, smiling. Then she said, "He made my night. I was about to give this one up for adoption!"

"I know how you feel," I said, though I don't think I've ever quite considered adoption -- seems like a lot of paperwork -- but mom solidarity and all that.

He was still washing his hands after Mom and Daughter left, and doing his usual ABC chant for the soap (which is one recommended way to get them to scrub long enough. Their school taught them. I'm not weird, I swear). Another woman came out of a stall and complimented him on his hand washing skills. He seemed a little thrown by that one. She said to me, "He doesn't talk much to strangers, does he?"

Kiddo, being done, decided he simply could not be in the bathroom any longer and dashed for the door. "That's never stopped him before," I called back to her as I ran after him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

'I don't want to alarm you, but ...'

Oh, well, gosh, you didn't then. Mission accomplished.

What my therapist went on to say was, poor handwriting is frequently a sign of ADD.

The red flag was when kiddo's little friend gave me her apple tree drawing. We hang out frequently with the family, and she's apparently decided I'm good people, so when I dropped kiddo off at school the other day, she asked me to spell my name for her and she wrote it on the back of her tree, and gave it to me. Which was 1. the most adorable thing ever and 2. a bit of an etiquette issue -- are you supposed to take other kids' crafts? Aren't parents supposed to hang on to those forever and ever until they disintegrate? (Just me? Oh.) I did alert her mom, who was fine with it, and said she was glad her kids liked us.

But I looked at the handwriting on the apple tree. And it was ... good. Very readable. Straight lines. Very much not what kiddo does.

The only thing the other school ever said to us was, he doesn't press down on the pencil very hard. If they had also said, and by the way, he can't form a single letter properly and this is not up to par with his age group, we might have, oh I don't know, done something about it?

The new school, however, which gives the older kids real school-type homework, did catch on. And asked us if it was all right to hold off on the more advanced stuff with him -- since he seemed a little out of his depth anyway -- and focus on the handwriting. We've also been getting him to do letters with us at home. Which, maybe we should've been doing anyway, but we weren't expecting him to have academic issues at age 4.

At any rate, my therapist -- who's logged time treating ADD/ADHD kids -- also said kiddo is too young to diagnose properly and we should see how he does over the next year. If he's still having handwriting issues in kindergarten, we should alert the district's child study team, or whatever it's called.

But we've noted kiddo's extreme stubbornness. How easily he gets distracted and how bad he is at listening to instructions sometimes. How he still has tantrums on occasion, even though we've never given in to one and throwing a tantrum is going to get his butt thrown into time out. He works himself up into such a fit, isolating him until he calms down is the only option.

Granted, new school/teachers/classmates and no more naptime. So even though he's seemed more emotional than usual this week, that's probably a factor. (He was so tired last night he fell asleep halfway through his bedtime book.)

But. Previous daycare/teacher types have noted the stubbornness as well, the distractedness. He's our oldest kid -- our only other basis for comparison is our other kid. We're not always sure whether what we're looking at is normal.

Are you helping your kid more by assuming he's normal, or by assuming he isn't?

We also did a little homework last night, which he seemed to get the hang of, and then I convinced him to write his name at the top in marker. It did more or less look like his name, except for the backward N. So who knows.

He's a funny, smart, creative kid. It's just tough to figure him out sometimes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You can dance if you want to

Now hey, I'm not the most patient of mommies (as you might have guessed from my handle, there). I am easily annoyed by whining. I give time outs for talking back. My voice rises a little bit every time I have to repeat a request/command/that's an order do it now or go to your room. I'm going to assume this is somewhere in the realm of the normal. Still, I do try to be as calm and non-yelling as possible, mostly because I don't want all my kids' childhood memories of me to be "and she was always mad at me and she hated me!"

So it gives me some comfort to know that I could be worse. Like the mom I witnessed at a birthday party recently.

It was a dance party, and the kids were having a dance lesson. Her two kids didn't want to go in the studio and join in. Rejected it. Flat out refused. And their mom blew up at them for several minutes. "Go in there now! I said now! You don't want to go in there, fine! You stay there if that's what you want, I'm leaving!" And she huffed off somewhere or other.

Now I have no idea what happened with them before they got to the party. That may have been the last straw poking up out of the Worst Day Ever. But still. If you're going to snap at your kids over something -- and I mean she was yelling -- do you really want to go with my kids aren't dancing? I say this, of course, as someone who had to be physically dragged onto dance floors until I was in college (and then realized no one was laughing at me because they mostly couldn't dance themselves).

By way of a completely unfair comparison, kiddette -- one of the younger kids on the guest list -- didn't want to go dance either. So she hung out with me outside, watching the dancing, periodically swaying to the music. Eventually she went in. And sort of danced, in that she wiggled her butt every couple of minutes in between running around the room. Which actually is more or less what kiddo did. I did get them dancing in a circle with me for about 30 seconds -- the world's smallest hora -- but they each got annoyed about having to share my hands with the other one, and the circle disintegrated.

Ultimately you can't worry about whether your kids will embarrass you by doing X/not doing X/doing too much of X/having no idea what X is. Because they're going to embarrass you. And they won't always play along with something they don't like or don't want, because they don't have those skills yet. Duplicity comes with adulthood.

And now that I've broken the First Rule of Parenting again ("Thou shalt not judge other parents"), I should note that the other mom's kids, whenever I noticed them, seemed to be enjoying themselves at the party. (No idea where the other mom was, though I don't think she actually abandoned them.) I'm not sure they ever got around to dancing, but who cares really?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In transition

So the kids' last day at the old school/day care was Friday. And about time. They've lost so many families -- not to mention teachers, the director and the assistant director -- that walking through there for drop-offs and pickups was like entering a ghost town. I kept looking for tumbleweeds.

Things had been going steadily downhill since new ownership took over early this year. Parents Night Out went away. "Summer camp session" went from a whole bunch of field trips to, oh, maybe three. Parents' accounts started getting audited. The food got worse. As in, corn dogs for lunch, chocolate cake for afternoon snack. (I have nothing in particular against chocolate cake, as long as it's at a birthday party or holiday or something. But if the school serves it as part of its regular snack rotation, that's basically an official entity declaring cake perfectly fine to eat on a regular basis, which no, it's not.) Special events, like the Grandparents Day breakfast, went away. Various discounts started disappearing. Teachers started pulling their own kids out of the school because they couldn't afford tuition anymore. I heard rumors that rainy days had become "plop the kids in front of the TVs" days. And families started leaving.

The capper on the whole thing, which told us we were making the right decision in looking elsewhere, was the letter announcing we owed them $80, after DH had already gone over the records with the front office to make sure we were up to date. He asked for copies of the records and went over them all himself. Turned out we'd been given the 4-year-olds rate a few weeks before kiddo's birthday, so technically we'd been undercharged. But it also turned out that we hadn't been credited for the second-child discount for most of that time, so we'd also been overcharged. Bottom line, we owed about $40.

Once I got the regional whatever-her-title-was on the phone -- which didn't happen until after I sent a screamingly nasty e-mail to her boss -- she agreed that, technically, we owed about $40. And I said, "Since none of this was our error in the first place, and this has all been pretty aggravating, I think we should be credited the full amount." Immediately she agreed. But obviously, she'd been willing to sit back and let us pay the $40, as long as we didn't challenge her on it. Which is a jerk move, and unbecoming of a nationwide business. We gave notice two days later.

Most annoying? She said to thank DH so much for doing the extra work of going through the records. Which he hit the roof over, because that's their job, and doing their work for them took time away from his job.

At any rate, we started at the new school (which now has a waiting list, thanks to all the people fleeing the old school) this week. It's less money, seems nice, convenient location, etc. We have to make their lunches, but you know, I'll happily slap a sandwich and some fruit -- or in tomorrow's case, a sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich on wheat and a container of grape tomatoes -- together if it means no more corn dogs. I even got them their own lunch bags, which they decided were actually backpacks and carried around the house until I snagged the bags back to wash them out.

So far kiddo seems more or less fine. He's been a snotty mess to us all week, but no evil reports from school. Although I don't think he's napping at school, so that might explain the hormonal wackadoo-ness. Kiddette, however -- the one I wasn't worried about, because she likes everyone and everyone looooovves her -- is having a freakout. She totally melted down Monday when DH dropped her off. She totally melted down today when we both dropped her off. Tonight, she out of nowhere went on a more or less continuous crying jag until after bedtime. She would stop long enough to notice I was holding her, say happily, "Mama!" and then dissolve into tears again. I resorted to animal crackers to improve everyone's mood. (Yeah, you would too. Judge not.) Really she was under a year old when she started at the other school, so she was there more or less half her life; I guess I should've seen this coming. I hope it doesn't last.

Ultimately I do think this will be a better situation for us. If we can just get through this week.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Halls, I hate you.

Not because of your menthol goodness. Not because I've been hack hack coughing enough to need you in the first place. Because of the stupid little messages on your wrapper.

"Power through!" "Take charge and mean it." "Fire up those engines!" "Tough is your middle name!"

No, actually my middle name is "Hates Going to Work While Hacking Up a Lung." It's a little long for monogram purposes.

Now I am completely late to the party on this because the Interwebs tells me this particular stealth ad campaign has been going on since last year. But I didn't hack this much last year, or else I was, you know, too busy ripping open the wrapper in an attempt to stop a coughing fit to bother seeing what was written on it.

I'm going to guess somewhere, out there, are people who enjoy these little pick-me-up messages. Maybe they even feel inspired. Maybe they also enjoy learning Chinese from the backs of fortune cookie fortunes. (I like the fortunes. But only when everyone reads theirs aloud to each other and then we all mock them.)

All I think of when I read these messages is "I feel lousy and I have no voice and I still have to go to work and potentially conduct business calls while hacking into the phone and everyone around me will recoil in horror in case I'm contagious, even though the doctor said I'm not and shrugged the whole thing off, as in: Sucks to be you, take some Mucinex." And then I kind of want to punch the wrapper.

I'm just not an inspirational-message kind of person. Those messages always seem designed to make people do things they don't want to do, or shouldn't be doing. I don't get inspired by the kitten hanging from the branch. I think, "Why is that kitten in the tree? He's way too young to be climbing trees like that. What if he falls? Where's the fire department?" Partly because I'm a cat person. But mostly because I'm a smartass. Want proof? I thought this was funny.

So I keep taking the Halls and I keep going to work (since calling in sick did absolutely nothing for my cough). Today I seem to be coughing only a little bit. I'm hoping that's some sort of upward trend.

Because otherwise I'm going to have to keep reading those stupid messages.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And the house is still standing

I suppose when several moms in a row tell you how brave you're being, it probably means they're thinking you poor dumb sap, nice knowing you. But really I didn't think of it as "brave" to host kiddette's 2nd birthday party in our house. There are almost no kids in her school/daycare class, and we weren't sure how many friends of ours with kids were going to show up, so it didn't seem to pay to book a kiddie party place. Plus we tend to invite family and close friends back to the house anyway after one of those shindigs -- which after all are only an hour and a half, and our family/friends are scattered all over several state lines -- meaning we end up holding two parties, basically, with two parties' worth of food. So DH and I shrugged at each other and said, let's just have it here.

We did have a momentary panic when we realized we were expecting 40-plus people, 14 of which were children ages baby to 5. And then we shrugged again. We were going to order pizza anyway, we could figure out some games, we could toss the kids in the back yard if it didn't rain. We have a playroom and a mostly empty living room, on account of we moved here from a condo and are a little light on furniture. It would be fine. And if it wasn't, kiddette wouldn't remember any of it anyway.

Some lessons learned:

• Party hats are a waste of money because they are easily disassembled.

• Pin the Tail on the Donkey is not played at kiddie play places and therefore will not be a hit at your house party.

• Go light on hors d'oeuvres, heavy on juice boxes.

• Your pizza joint may say they'll double-cut a few pies for you, but you will end up doing that yourself with a random kitchen knife -- because you don't own a pizza cutter -- as hungry kids watch.

• The hardest part isn't getting the food, or preparing it; it's serving it to said hungry kids while trying to make sure there's some left for the grownups.

• If your son takes a few buddies upstairs to play in his room, that means they're jumping on the bed.

• If you go to the trouble of creating an iPod playlist for the occasion, the speakers won't work.

We had no particular schedule of events. No clown. No musician. No balloon artist (in fact, no balloons. Kind of a choking hazard). No traveling zoo or costumed pirates/princesses or any of that. Just a bunch of kids running around, and room to run in.

Needless to say, they appeared to have a blast. And the grownups, who were able to mingle and chitchat in a way they can't while watching their kid climb the inflatable slide at a play place, seemed to enjoy themselves as well.

Don't get me wrong -- it was chaos. But the happy kind. I don't think I heard one tantrum or argument (although possibly I was deaf at that point). And since there were adults in nearly every room keeping an eye on things, I was even able to mingle a tiny bit.

I don't think we would do a house party every time. It's definitely more work, in terms of the cleaning and the cooking and the logistics of serving the food. But it was -- dare I say it -- fun.

And as soon as we get the empty gift bags off the floor, toss the tissue paper and boxes and find a spot in kiddette's bedroom for the mini menagerie of plush she got, we'll be back to normal. Ish.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

He makes me proud, and then he makes me nuts

Our fine young kiddo has gotten himself potty trained. To the point of peeing by himself, washing his hands by himself, and five hours later, turning off the faucet by himself. (Just can't wait to see the water bill this month.) I'm still waking him at night for the after-hours bathroom trip, but nine times out of ten, he's still dry when I do it. Then he staggers, blank-eyed, down the hall, and after I prevent him from walking into the wall three or four times, he goes potty. Halfway through this process he wakes up a little more, and gets this grin on his face, like oh, here we are again. And then I guide him back to bed.

We're also still using the suppositories, but some nights he doesn't need them. Sometimes he goes all on his own, like the other day at a restaurant where he and I were eating lunch before our monthly Trader Joe's trip. He announced that he needed to poop, we hurried down to the restroom, he did his business, no problem. Absolutely the opposite of a few months ago.

So all appears more or less well there. Now if only he would, oh, I don't know, listen when I talk. Like if we're at the farmers market and I tell him to stay with me, I would appreciate it if he did not run right into the street. (The street is blocked off for the market. But still.) Or if I tell him not to touch anything, it would be nice if he did not use his hand to compress a loaf of bread into flatbread. Or if I say "no doughnuts," if he would be so kind as to not whine "I want a doughnut I want a doughnut I want a doughnut" until my ears want to crawl right off my head so as not to hear the whining anymore. Or also, if he would not sit on the ground under the produce tent and throw a mini fit because of the no doughnuts.

Really, I think the farm salesfolk dread our visits at this point. I go to pay for my produce and they have this look on their faces like You are a horrible mommy and we hate your child. I would buy produce elsewhere, but support local farmers/get fruits and veggies as fresh as possible/etc.

What's irksome is that the entire reason I bring him with me is for some mommy/son time, since kiddette has gotten especially clingy lately and does not think she needs to share her mommy with anyone on the planet ever. But mommy/son time is getting seriously compromised by the fact that I just want to buy some lettuce and peaches, dammit, without having to run after a small whiny person who seems to have a perverse desire for time outs.

I'm just wondering how long it will take for him to get the message on this one. The message being "No means no and whining annoys Mommy and then there is time out." Considering how long the potty thing took, I guess I shouldn't hold my breath. But you'd think he'd catch on that I don't change my mind and he doesn't control the universe.

While at Trader Joe's, he insisted on holding something, so I gave him a bag of raisins. In the checkout line, he broke into dance, wearing the raisins like a hat, chanting, "I'm a raisinhead! I'm a raisinhead!" Which I tried very hard not to laugh at, since I figured it was annoying the people around us. Then the cashier mentioned how funny he was. And the woman behind me said "He's so cute" and proceeded to tell me about her grandchild.

I know most people (farmers market excepted) find him far more charming than I do. Just a thing for me to keep in mind.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stupid natural disasters

Clearly someone hates New Jersey. I mean, someone besides the usual. Because why else would we get an earthquake, a hurricane and a tornado warning in the same week?

Right, I know, the earthquake wasn't too bad up here and West Coasters are mocking us for being wusses. (Oh yeah? Well ... you have bad pizza!) Irene was slightly worse, in that one person died and there's flooding all over the state. And since I have basically lived all over the state at some point or another -- south, central, north, northwest -- it upsets me to see streets flooded and towns damaged. But where we are now, the power is on, my garden is still intact (though the tomato plants appear to be doing the downward dog) and only a little water seeped into the basement, so really we can't complain. I have no idea what the rest of the town looks like and I have no intention of finding out until tomorrow. Way too windy.

I could've sworn we were leaving all this behind when we left Florida. In 2004. The year four hurricanes hit Florida, one right after the other. And we thought, man, are we making the right decision.

Poor DH had to suffer through the one that most directly hit Broward, where we were. I'd already gone back north to start the new job. Our apartment complex (pink. The whole exterior. Not kidding) had storm shutters available for the sliding balcony doors, and our downstairs neighbors were nice enough to help him put them on. And then they lost power during the storm. So he had to sit there, in the pitch dark -- those storm shutters are seriously thick -- with the cat, all five thousand of my orchids he'd hauled in from the balcony, the metal chairs and table he'd also hauled in from the balcony, and a non-working fridge. For more than 24 hours. He kept calling me for storm info, since he had no way of looking it up himself.

A few weeks later, I came back. For the cat. Because I knew he wouldn't be able to bring her to a shelter if there were another hurricane. Shockingly, he did not divorce me on the spot.

So things this time were a bit of an improvement, I guess. I was even able to get the usual milk/bread/produce on Thursday night and avoid the apocalyptic madness that is the supermarket right before any kind of weather happens. I couldn't find flashlights anywhere, though.

We got worried about the tornado warning, since if there really was one coming we'd have to get the kids out of bed and hide with them in the bathroom. So we stayed up, in shifts, watching News 12 and making sure no tornado happened. Today we're both a wreck and the kids, having had the best night's sleep ever, are running circles around us. Now they are napping and it is blessed silence, except for the wind outside.

But definitely, could've been worse.

I look forward to the locusts and fiery hailstorms next week.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Come on with the rain, there's a smile on my face

Okay, no, not me personally. I dislike rain. I'm fine with it if I'm inside at the time. Best-case rain scenario: comfy chair, cup of tea, good book, warm fireplace. Cat purring on lap. Ideally not dislodging tea. (Bit of a moot point since I'm catless at the moment.)

Outside in rain is bad. It's wet. It feels clammy. It frizzes out my hair and then I flip because I hate when my hair frizzes. You have to be careful when you have curly hair. Why yes, my name is Frieda, how did you know?

So having a picnic in the rain did not seem like the most fabulous idea to me. Except that we were meeting up with, among other people, friends who were visiting from across the country, and this was the only day to see them, and who knew when we'd see them next. Last time we'd seen them? I was still pregnant with kiddette, who is almost 2.

So I made my bean dip and we headed south. Hoping that maybe the rain would let up.

It did not. It became ark-worthy. Fortunately the park had a fairly sturdy pavilion that we were able to hide under. And by "we" of course I mean the parents. The kids, nearly all 19ish of them, gleefully dashed out into the rain. They puddle-jumped. They chased each other. They played in mud. Kiddo made his toy truck go swimming. Kiddette happily wandered the park path, raincoat hood down, hair soaked.

Some of them had raincoats. Some of them had boots. Some just had T-shirts and shorts on. All were equally drenched, and none of them cared, including the barely-walking toddler who was following kiddette around. We watched them from under the pavilion, occasionally shrugging at each other.

I do realize that letting one's kids play in the rain non-stop for a couple hours would probably raise a few eyebrows in the antibacterial playdate era. But you know, they had a blast. I keep forgetting: Kids don't think like grownups. They think, I'm not supposed to be doing this and it's awesome!

And hey, I can remember going down to the neighborhood beach as a kid and jumping into the water fully clothed with my friends, because we didn't have our bathing suits, and because it was fun. And our parents let us. Even though we'd drip all over the car seats on the way home.

(As our Pacific Northwest friends pointed out, if they kept their kids inside every time it rained, they'd never get outside at all. So everyone does everything in the rain there. In other words, we are East Coast wusses.)

So despite all appearances, the party was a success. And I got a reminder that sometimes the best thing a parent can do for their kids is lighten up. Even if the kids' shoes take four days to dry out afterward.

Totally wrecked my hair, of course. What did you expect?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And it's nature over nurture, by a mile!

I'm really fairly sure we've been treating kiddette the same way we treated kiddo at her age. Same foods. Same bed/bath routine. Same more-or-less unstructured playtime. The three major differences: Pink clothes (with an occasional side of purple). Full-time daycare at an earlier age. And full-on exposure to Boy World.

Thomas. Planes. Trucks. Running. Throwing. Climbing. The absolute preference for sneakers over any other type of shoe. The sheer joy of running around the house shrieking at the top of your lungs. (Which they do every night. Earplugs. Someone buy me earplugs.)

And yet despite all that, kiddette has somehow morphed into ... a girl.

She puts her plush Elmo in her booster seat and gives him a drink from her sippy cup. (I have drawn the line on her sharing food with him.) She brings her blankie over to him on the floor and covers him with it. If she's sitting on my lap while I eat, she monitors my food intake: "Eat? Yes? Good? Yes!" She is instantly drawn to stuffed animals. She proudly wears her fairy wings. She is a serial hugger and insists on goodnight kisses.

Kiddo did none of this. He ignored stuffed animals in favor of toys with wheels and gears and battery-operated noises. He demanded we sit at the train station and wait for a train to go by so he could watch. He figured out how to turn on the Christmas lights at his first daycare provider's house, and then kept turning them on and off over and over again, because he could. He didn't pay much attention to what I was eating, unless he wanted some.

To be fair, he's still a pretty good hugger.

It's kind of amusing to watch, this very boyish boy and this very girlish girl. And kind of reassuring, in that clearly they are wired to be into what they're into and I shouldn't stress about imprisoning them in gender roles or trying to subvert the gender roles or whatever it is we're supposed to be doing these days. They'll be what they'll be.

Of course, toy guns and play makeup are still not allowed in this house, but that's just being reasonable.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Say 'photon torpedoes'

I wasn't planning on deliberately geeking up my kids. Not because I don't enjoy being a geek. Oh, I do. I love Star Trek and Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and comic books and I used to go to conventions. I secretly envy the kids who got to grow up with Harry Potter. I played D&D in college and my friends and I used to write messages to each other in the college paper's Personals section using our characters' names. (I played a thief, even though I am the most goody-two-shoes honest person you will ever meet, because it seemed like less work than being a magic user. All those spells to learn ...) I have all seven seasons of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on DVD and the soundtrack to the musical episode on my iPod. And I sing along.

But being a geek is such a specific, niche sort of thing that I didn't want to force the little ones into it. Plus I'd like them to get dates.

So it was purely accidental that I happened to be cleaning out our bedroom closet -- not being able to see the floor is generally a bad sign -- and while going through some old boxes of mine I found some little Star Trek spaceship models. And kiddo immediately claimed them.

There are three -- an Enterprise shuttle, a Klingon ship and a Borg ship. I have no idea anymore who gave them to me, since I was never much of a model (or "toy") collector. Kiddo wanted to know which ones were the bad guys (that would be the latter two) and which was the good guy (the first one). He wanted to know where the guns were on the Klingon ship, because he's a boy. I explained that actually the ship uses photon torpedoes, which I taught him how to say. At this point DH's eyes had rolled up somewhere into the back of his head.

Hey, he knew I was a geek when he married me. Just like I knew he came accessorized with a store's worth of boxed-up baseball cards.

Kiddo was so taken with the ships that he brought the shuttle to school/daycare the next day. He played with the Borg ship at the dinner table (he finds it hilarious that it's a giant cube. That is actually pretty hilarious). Right now I have no idea where the ships are, since toys migrate from room to room on a constant basis no matter how many times I toss everything into the playroom and shut the door. But I expect they'll turn up, probably under my bare feet for maximum ouch.

Kiddo (and kiddette, when she's older) are welcome to whatever leftover geekness I've got lying around. I certainly don't want to hide it from them -- except for the "Sandman" and "100 Bullets" comics, which are vastly age-inappropriate. Already I have a short list of books I can't wait to read to them when they're a little older, including the Narnia books, "The Little Prince," "The Neverending Story" (so much better than the movie. Go read it), the Spiderwick books, "Bridge to Terabithia" and of course, Harry Potter.

But if he decides he's into football stat books, and she goes all American Girl, that's OK by me too.

I mean, they're going to be embarrassed by me anyway when they hit tween years. I might as well give them something to be embarrassed about, right?

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to vacation with small children

1. Cheerios are your friend. And sometimes raisins or Golden Grahams or animal crackers. They serve as car distractions, and they make good hors d'oeuvres while you're waiting for your meal to arrive.

2. If the kids are sleeping in the car, do not stop the car for any reason. Even if you really need something from the Walgreens on the right. Because they will wake up and never, never go back to sleep.

3. You will become intimately familiar with the public bathroom, even though you aren't the one using it. You will also curse out the designer of that bathroom when you realize there isn't a changing table in it.

4. Explain to your children that cranes, wheels, balloon races and other such games of chance are massively rigged, thus steeling them against disappointment when you don't win a single freaking stuffed animal for them.

5. Spray-on sunblock, though convenient, is harder to apply accurately, and you will miss spots.

6. If you split your ice cream with them, you will save money and no one will eat too much ice cream. Plus you still get a sugar crash out of them and, possibly, a quiet ride home.

7. Tantrums average about one an hour. Time outs average about two.

8. Meeting up with Grandma and Grandpa will be the most exciting thing about the children's museum, until they see the gift shop.

9. Most other children will seem less well behaved than your children, even after a time out or two.

10. When your child begins falling asleep at the table in the middle of the restaurant, you have overdone it on day trips. Stay home and relax.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Progress progresses, progressively

So there is good and there is bad. The good: Kiddo has gotten much more proactive about the whole potty thing. He even, occasionally, voluntarily uses it. For some reason public restrooms have a special allure that our boring old bathrooms at home do not (could it be the paper towel dispensers? the separate stalls?), so he's much more enthusiastic about the whole business when we're out and about. We've basically ditched the pull-ups.

The bad: We're not using them at night, either -- per the recommendation of his teacher -- and that's meant a whole lot more sheet-washing. I'd hate to go back to the pull-ups now, since it would feel like backsliding. But he just does not wake up to pee. I've started waking him up to go potty right before I go to bed, but I haven't quite found the magic pee time yet. 11:30? Already peed. 11? Already peed. 10:30? Can't pee yet. And yet, after falling asleep on the couch last night, then waking up in a panic at 12:30, I rushed upstairs and he was miraculously dry. This kid's bladder is playing a mean, mean game with me.

The worse: His #2 issue is so problematic it's requiring medical intervention. As in, suppositories. Every night. I don't know if it's officially considered encopresis -- I wasn't in the pediatrician's office for this latest visit -- but that does sound like what's going on. So at least we know he's not deliberately soiling himself, and at least the "medicine" (as we're having him call it) seems to be doing something or other. I will of course spare you the incredibly gross details, except to say that he's been putting up with all this remarkably well, considering, and he seems positively gleeful when he actually produces something in the proper place, and then makes me come look at it. I thought it was bad enough when my cat would kill things and then casually leave the little corpses around so I could praise her magnificent hunting skills. (Except for bugs, which she ate on the spot.)

What's really kind of aggravating is that I hear and see what other kids eat and I know my kids have better diets, in that fruits and vegetables are involved, dessert is not every night, bread products are whole wheat and high-fructose corn syrup is not allowed near our front door. But clearly this isn't just a diet issue.

I cannot believe how much of my brain is occupied with my child's other end. I mean, I just had to show the cat where the litter box was, once, and she was set for life. Obviously cat ownership did not fully prepare me for this little problem. I feel like the world's worst conversationalist -- like you could drop me in a room full of fascinating people holding forth on art, politics, modern philosophy, the slow food movement, and all I would have to say is "My kid peed in the potty five times today and his bed was still dry after his nap, isn't that just fabulous?"

But, we had the smarts to bring him to the doctor when we did, and he is getting better. So there is hope on the horizon, and eventually, if I actually want to occupy my brain with poop-type matters, I'll have to resort to watching "Dumb and Dumber" again. (I won't.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On my way, to where the air is sweet ...

It's a milestone of sorts, your first family amusement-park trip. Your first chance to pay way too much for parking. Your first time thinking maybe you should've packed lunch instead of eating at the park. Your first hour-long line for a two-minute ride. Your first sunburn. You know. Fun!

I kid. Because I love amusement parks. I love roller coasters and totally rigged games of chance and water rides and occasionally even souvenir shops. And we'd been planning on bringing the kids to Sesame Place at some point, so when friends of ours said they were heading down for a weekend trip, we decided to meet them there.

I was at Sesame Place myself maybe once when I was a kid, since by the time it had opened, I had more or less aged out of it. I remember the ball pit and that's about it. So the park was basically a new experience for me. Which would explain my many, many rookie mistakes.

1. No pocketbooks. Really. You're going on water rides. Unless your purse is waterproof, stow it in the locker. We hit the lazy river first, and I was leaning on kiddette's tube, holding her around the waist (they do supply little life jackets, which is nice, but still), secretly praying that my leather backpack/weekend purse was not going to get doused to the point that my cell drowned. Shortly afterward, I bought a couple of those little clear waterproof containers for the money and such, and stowed the purse in the locker.

Most embarrassing: I worked at Six Flags in high school. I know all too well what happens to unprotected valuables on water rides, because when I was a cashier, people would hand me sweaty, wet dollar bills and I would have to take them without looking too nauseous. Customer service and all.

2. Wear shoes you can walk around in wet. DH and kiddo had their sneakers on. DH, realizing his error in time, bought those water shoes for the two of them. Kiddette and I had sandals on, and neither of us cared so much.

And no, barefoot is not an acceptable option. The ground is hot. Your toes will melt off.

3. Sunscreen ... and then more sunscreen. The kids and I ended up OK, because I kept reapplying. DH, I would swear, had gotten enough on, but apparently he is the fairest of them all, because his shoulders are still red days later. And I thought I was the master of sunburn.

4. Timing is everything. By the time we'd gotten our plastic purses and water shoes and gotten our gear settled, we'd about run out of valuable ride time. The crowds only get bigger as the day goes on, and then the lines get longer.

Fortunately our friend is a world class ninja master in amusement parking. She got us there before the park even opened, she arranged the character lunch, she steered us to the good rides, she knew where to park the strollers so the younger ones could attempt to nap. She'd given us the heads-up to reserve a locker in advance, online. Truly, she knows all.

And did the kids like it? Is Big Bird yellow? They dug the lazy river. Kiddo and I went on a two-person inner-tube slide together, and he bawled when he realized we couldn't go right back on the ride after it was over. He was remarkably patient about the line even, though he did kind of creep his way ahead of the people in front a couple of times. Everyone smiled indulgently, which I'm chalking up to his giant Elijah Wood-size eyes because they seem to have an effect on people.

The character lunch was the first one I'd ever been to, so I don't know how it measures up. It was a decent enough spread (buffet, of course), in that veggies were involved and not all of the chicken was breaded. Cookie, Ernie, Bert, the Count and Abby wandered around for hugs and photos. Elmo, proving he is in fact the A-lister of the bunch, sat in the corner for posed shots, Santa-like, and you could take those shots home for just a little extra cash. (Or you could run over to Elmo when he got up and get some shots that way, like we did.) Big Bird sat in one corner of the room, very still, to the point that DH and I were debating whether there was a guy in there or it was an animatronic thingy. But then Big Bird got up to dance, a little jerkily, and we realized the guy had to move veeeerry carefully in order to hold up that giant head. Which struck me as odd, since out of all of them, Big Bird was the only one who was the exact same size he'd be on the show. How does Caroll Spinney do it then? 

You know I'm only obsessing on this because Big Bird was my favorite character.

I wasn't especially worried about the kids being afraid of the giant walking Muppets, and they weren't. Kiddette hugged Cookie Monster a lot. And Elmo. Because she loves Elmo. Sadly.

All the characters have their own shows, apparently, and lucky us saw two Elmo shows. In one, all the characters decided to form a rock band and sing rock versions of their signature ditties, except Cookie, who rapped instead. I died laughing. Elmo wore a black leather jacket, which bothered kiddo, because the sign outside the theater showed them all wearing different rock-star outfits from what they had onstage and he couldn't get past that. Spent the entire show pointing that out, in fact. He'll make a great theater critic.

The second show was a live-action version of "Elmo's World." If you've ever seen the "Elmo's World" segment on "Sesame Street," this is it. Weird crayon drawings on the walls. Mr. Noodle in the window. Dorothy the goldfish. Yep, all there. If you are cringing, you must be a grownup.

Kiddette, however, had her tiny mind blown. She stood clutching the plastic barrier, mesmerized, occasionally yelling "Eelllmooooo!"

Mr. Noodle, incidentally, taught the audience how to Hokey Pokey.

The part of the park I liked, actually, was the part that looked like the show set. I pushed kiddette down Sesame Street while kiddo climbed up on the fire truck (again). There was a hopscotch grid set up in the "alley" next to 123, so I did a little jump to see if I could still do it. Kiddette was quite impressed. "Gainagain," she said, which is kiddette-ese for "I would like you to repeat that." So I did. "Gainagain," she said, but this time I politely declined.

We did manage to get the kids into the car and away without entering a single souvenir shop, but since we'd already bought lunch, dinner, two plastic purse things and two pairs of water shoes, it was kind of a hollow victory.

The next morning, I came in to get kiddette from her crib and, much distressed, she demanded we get her stuffed Elmo from the floor. I leaned down. She hugged it to her cheek. "Elmo," she crooned.

Later, I heard her trying to sing the Hokey Pokey song.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chitchat in girl world

Been meaning to note this post, via the Huffington Post, about how to talk to little girls. I find it pretty interesting, and precisely dead on in that it's all about how cute/precious/adorably pretty a girl is and not much else. Because it's still largely that way for grown-up girls too. How an actress/singer/politician-who-probably-ought-to-be-treated-with-more-respect-than-this performs in public, what she says, how she says it, is nowhere near as important as how she looks and what designer she is/isn't wearing. And then DH wonders why I obsess about my hair.

Hey, I know I'm judged on my looks more often than I'm even aware of. I'm not especially cool with that, even though I'm more or less happy with my looks. (Except in a bathing suit. Curse bathing suits.) But I am absolutely sure there have been times I've been dismissed as a lightweight because I'm under 50, and moderately attractive.

There's this one earlyish episode of "Scrubs" that I love. Elliot shows up for her hospital shifts in full hair and makeup, looking fabulous, and a bunch of her colleagues rip her for it, suggesting she's vain, saying no one takes her seriously, etc. So she shows up for work one day, hair a mess, no makeup, and those same people make fun of her for looking bad. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Very rarely have I seen that point made so succinctly. 

So occasionally I worry about how to raise kiddette in this sort of screwed-up "Girls Gone Wild"/kiddie beauty pageants/high heels for babies world. And one starting point, per top link, is to say something to her besides "you're so cute!" Even though she is of course the cutest kiddette who ever was. But she's also smart and tough and crazily enthusiastic about, you know, everything.

She had her first bounce house experience today. I was holding off on that since I wasn't sure she was old enough, and also because I've heard about freak accidents involving these things when older kids crash-land onto younger ones, and when the house isn't properly secured to the ground and it gets windy (don't believe me? Here). Hey, even when kiddo is in one I'm right outside, watching, just in case. But this was a rare occasion, in that I knew personally nearly every kid inside, and was reasonably sure they could be trusted. (And no wind.) So I let her in.

Other small ones were terrified to even get inside this thing. Kiddette crawled right in. She had some difficulty standing, and she did get knocked into once or twice. And then she got right back up again and imitated the older kids, going "Yaaaaahhh!" and waving her arms as she ran across the floor. She had a blast.

I love this fearlessness about her. I love that she loves books so much that she will walk up to you, crawl into your lap and give you a book, curling each of your hands around it, and say "Read book." I love that she thinks it's the height of hilarity to run screeching around the house after her equally screeching brother, even though my eardrums do not so much love it.

So occasionally I'll tell her something besides "you're my cutie girl." Occasionally I'll tell her how smart she is and how brave and how wonderfully crazy. I hope I always remember to do that.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why yes, sure I'd like a biopsy

Spoiler alert: I do not have cancer. Just saying that going in. In fact I waited until this whole aggravating procedure was over before writing about it because I didn't want to spend whole posts whining about maybe having cancer, if in fact I did not. Because who wants to listen to that crap? Cue the violin.

Anyway what I do have is a nodule in my thyroid. And apparently said thyroid is enlarged on one side, according to the doctor who spotted it during my checkup, but for the life of me I can't see it and I've been looking at my neck for years. But the doctor sent me for an ultrasound, and then when they got the results back they sent me to an ENT, and then when the ENT saw me she sent me to the hospital for another ultrasound and a biopsy. Frankly I think ultrasounds are more fun when there's a baby involved. Way less strain on the neck.

From my minimal research I found that thyroid nodules are usually spotted in exactly this manner, they're way more common in women than men and there are frequently no symptoms of thyroid cancer. Which didn't help matters, since I felt fine. You know, upset and stressed out, but fine.

The above description might sound like this whole thing took a matter of days. Um, no. The physical was at the end of March. The first ultrasound was a few weeks later. The ENT visit was at the end of May, and the biopsy was the first week of June. And then another agonizing week for the results. Good thing I don't have cancer or I'd be dead by now.

One (small) benefit was that I got to check out another of the hospitals in the area, since we've been going to a different, larger one for all our emergency-fever/you-should-get-your-kid-behaviorally-tested-because-he's-been-acting-up-in-school needs. This other one is a little closer, and the parking setup is better, which is a good thing to keep in mind for emergency fevers. I'm not especially a fan of driving aimlessly all around the hospital, going right past the emergency room, trying to figure out where I'm allowed to park. That's annoying enough in a non-emergency, mall situation.

It's a St. hospital, which I didn't think about much till I got there and saw the whole building is designed around a chapel in the middle -- pretty interesting architecturally -- and I happened to be walking down a hallway and in an alcove was Jesus. Fairly big statue, too. I guess he kind of blended in. Waiting area, restroom, radiology department, Jesus.

The doctor who did the biopsy was nice enough but he needs new material. I told him and his assistant as they were getting me ready that I'm pretty sensitive about things touching my neck (ironically, since I'm a scarf fiend), and he cracked a line about my husband choking me. Generally when someone lobs a joke at me I'll whack it right back, so I said, "How did you know?" but I was thinking, Get smacked down by HR much, doc? And he riposted that he does the same thing to his wife at home. Dude. If DH ever made a joke like that about me he'd be sleeping in the yard.

Doc was perfectly careful and professional during the actual test, so I guess he's just a lousy comedian. But many people are.

Not a test I would recommend for funsies, incidentally, unless you like having your neck hyperextended, Also if you like looking like someone punched you in the neck for the next week. Fortunately I have a closet full of scarves. So I either looked weird for wearing them to work six straight days, or I looked hypertrendy. I prefer to think it's the latter.

The ENT said they'd get the results in 8-10 days. The hospital said 4-5 days. In search of a straight answer from somewhere, I started calling the ENT's office on day 4. They said "we're not supposed to give results over the phone" and call back tomorrow. Two days in a row. But then they said the nurse practitioner would call me Friday. The one who I'd originally made the follow-up appointment with for that Friday. Who suddenly had to cancel all her appointments that week, forcing me to push off my follow-up to Monday. Right. That nurse practitioner? Was suddenly going to be in the office on Friday?

And then my head exploded a little bit.

Fortunately she actually did call on Friday to say it was benign. Un-exploding my head somewhat.

So at least I got to spend Father's Day not going cancer cancer cancer. The ENT himself, at the long-awaited but anticlimactic follow-up, told me he never gives results over the phone because of the one time he did and they were fairly dire, and the freaked-out patient got into a car accident on the way to the hospital. Well, OK. Good reason. He also said the 8- to 10-day window is in case the test is screwed up or doesn't provide all the info he needs and he makes them redo part of it. I got the impression this guy is a bit of a hardass. My kind of doctor.

In six months I'm supposed to get another ultrasound, for monitoring purposes. But not a biopsy. Fine by me.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Deputy Underpants

I'm not quite ready to promote him to captain yet, but he has been wearing them all week. To school. In bed. And my Lord the laundry. Oh it piles up. But I figure getting this done is worth the sky-high water bill we are inevitably going to have. (Man reading the water meter: "What are they doing over there, showering a yak?")

At first he had a few accidents a day, and then by the end of the week it was one. And it was one yesterday (I think). He has gotten his shoes a few times -- thankfully they appear to be machine washable -- so I just got him an auxiliary pair to keep at school (their suggestion), just so he can still go out on the playground even if his shoes are wet. Hey, I'm shopping at Payless. It's not like he's drenching hundred-dollar Nikes.

A couple days ago, to help him remember which end of the underwear goes in back, I showed him the little emergency opening in the front and explained what it was for. Side note: Really, guys, how lazy are you that you need an emergency hatch in your underwear? Because pulling the whole thing down is somehow too much work? I didn't even realize the emergency hatch is in every single pair, until I started helping kiddo get the underwear on. Anyway kiddo was especially intrigued by the hatch, and when he hit up the potty after breakfast, he was in a hurry and used it. Highly impressed with himself, he explained to us, "When my penis gets in trouble, I can use this!" And we promptly had a giggle fit over that behind the bathroom door. Oh no! The penis is in trouble! To the emergency hatch!

A more mature person would not be so quick to embrace the toilet humor. I am not that person.

There's still the inevitable "but I don't WANNA use the potty" whine after meals and after "Phineas and Ferb" is over but it seems at least a little halfhearted. And he is genuinely using the potty, nearly every time.

I even daringly brought him to a birthday party yesterday, in underwear. At one of those kiddie play places that had a bounce house and video games, either one of which could keep him occupied (and not remotely focused on his bladder) for hours. I brought extra shorts and underwear, just in case, and did not need them. Granted I had to time him more or less precisely, then corral him and drag him to the bathroom, but it worked. Huzzah.

So we'll see how this week goes. I am, finally, optimistic.

Every single parent I talk to, no matter the generation, says potty training is the worst part and they were so happy when it was over with. So ... it gets better from here?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Potty war: A new hope?

Yesterday morning, I prodded him over to the potty for his usual post-breakfast constitutional, and he looked distinctly like something big was coming. He asked me to leave. More precisely, to "go somewhere." Which was a strange bit of delicacy, but I complied. After several long minutes, he triumphantly announced, "I pooped!" And oh boy he certainly had. There was enough left over for an auxiliary potty.

He was highly pleased with himself and the world, until we'd gotten the whole production into the toilet and flushed it. Seems the whole production was too much for the toilet, and it promptly stopped right up. Then made some ominous gurgling noises. Kiddo backed off, a little spooked. And then a stray bit of leftover production fell out of wherever it had been hiding, and kiddo stepped on it. With his new sneakers on. That I had just bought him 24 hours ago.

Fortunately everything cleaned up nicely and neither kiddo nor the toilet seem to have developed post-traumatic stress disorder.

Honestly. I'm reasonably lucky in that my work hours are a little flexible. What do parents do when they're on a stricter time clock, and this sort of thing happens? What do they say? "Well, my kid and the potty and the poop was everywhere and cleanup and, you know, sorry I'm late."

Kiddo also announced at school/day care yesterday that he needed to pee, then ran into the bathroom to do so. And then used the potty three times after getting home last night. Then while climbing into bed, announced that he needed to use it again, and climbed back down and did so. All promising signs. His teachers think give it a few more days, then send him to school in underwear and see what happens.

In the meantime, kiddette is now capable of informing us that she needs a diaper change by pointing at her butt and saying "poop." Which her brother never, ever did. So I'm thinking once kiddo is finally off the pull-ups, we start right in on kiddette. I'm envisioning a world of no more diapers, of retiring the Diaper Genie permanently, and it's a beautiful world. Also a cheaper one.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pretty fairy wings and pee talk

So there was, I am not fibbing, a fairy festival in town last week. Co-sponsored by a local dentist - tooth fairy, get it? -- and our school/day care, so I thought we'd check it out.

Oh, who am I kidding? They had me at "fairy festival." Because I am a geek girl from way back and to me, fairies are cool. What's the difference between a girl and a geek girl? Girls go through a horse phase. Geek girls go through a unicorn phase, with a side of Pegasus.

Anyhow, we get to the park and it is a small ocean of girls in fairy wings. Sparkly dresses. Tinker Bell outfits. Blue and green wings. Purple wings. Red and yellow wings. Just wings and curly ponytails and glitter as far as the eye can see. It was the cutest thing ever. If you were somehow allergic to cute, you would have died on the spot.

What amazes me is, this was the first-ever fairy festival and all these families just showed up with their girls already bewinged, meaning 1. they bought the wings specially or 2. they already owned the wings. I'm guessing 2. because 1. seems like way too much effort. Who knew you were supposed to make sure your little girl was equipped with wings, just in case a fairy festival should break out? Shouldn't someone have mentioned this at one of those hospital classes? Shouldn't there be a space on the baby registry for Wings, Glitter or Non-Glitter?

Fortunately they were also selling wings at the festival, so I got kiddette a pink pair, and properly equipped, she proceeded to run around the field with a lacrosse stick in one hand and a hockey stick in the other, being most un-fairylike.

Yes, there was lacrosse and hockey, preschool version, obviously so the wingless boys had something to do. (Apparently human children are like Gelflings, in that only girls get wings.) There were also arts and crafts, pony rides (we at first thought the ponies were wearing fake unicorn horns, and were slightly relieved to realize it was just ribbons in their mane), "fairy dancing," jewelry for sale, grownup fairies in princess outfits posing for pictures, a hot dog stand and "fairy treats," aka the ice cream truck.

Kiddo had a fine time taking shots at the net. DH pointed out how natural his stance was, even comparing him to a slightly older boy next to him who didn't quite have the movement down. Which means, of course, we need to sign this kid up for sports. Preferably not hockey, since I like him with all his teeth. Maybe he'll like baseball.

Eventually he realized he wasn't the target market for this event and he and Daddy wandered off to the playground. Fairy kiddette made a fairy flower -- alas, they were out of wand materials -- danced a little to what I'm pretty sure was the soundtrack to that Tinker Bell movie, and then told me she was thirsty. She did so by trying to grab random other kids' sippy cups. She also explained that she wanted to sit by wandering over behind the school's display table and climbing into the nice school person's chair. (Fortunately the nice school person was amused.) So kiddette and I plopped down on the grass and split a lemon ice. And then kiddo and DH discovered us, and split their own lemon ice, by which I mean DH got about a spoonful.

It was a pretty nice event, actually. I'm betting they do it again, considering the turnout.

On the way back to the car, kiddo, clearly annoyed that kiddette got wings and he didn't, whined, "But I want to be a fairy!" DH assured me that's just what every dad wants to hear from their son.

The next day kiddo and I went to a classic car show, which was basically cool old cars lining the streets of the town, so you could look at cars and window-shop. Or someone not accompanying a kiddo could window-shop, because he was in full-on drag-you-behind-him St. Bernard mode. "Look at this car! Look at that car! Wow! What kind of car is that, Mommy?" And if I didn't see the make listed on the rear, I had to deflect the question, because I know precisely nothing about cars. But they did look cool. I love those fins.

We had lunch at the "lunch store" and were on our way back when kiddo announced he had to pee. Which is information he has never, ever volunteered for any reason. And of course, the first time he chooses to volunteer such information, we're in the car.

"OK, kiddo, we'll be home soon. Can you hold it until then? Say 'Pee stay in.'"

"Pee stay in." Pause. "The pee wants to come out."

"But tell the pee it can't come out yet and it has to wait till you sit on the potty. Say 'Pee stay in.'"

"Pee stay in." Pause. "The pee is crying because I'm talking to it."

"Um, OK."

We got home and rushed him onto the potty, and as far as I could tell, he made it. Then he told me the pee was happy that it was in the potty. So really, everyone was happy.

There are no conversations quite like the ones you have with 4-year-olds.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Potty war: The continuing saga

So we turned a bit of a corner. I think.

We were up at Grandma's for the weekend, and we brought the potty with us. Have small plastic toilet, will travel. It's a little like when we used to bring the cat places with us and we'd pack her litter box. Periodically through the weekend we would declare potty time and have him sit -- and when I say "periodically" I mean there was a little timer constantly ticking in my head, counting down the minutes between the last potty time and the next potty time, between a meal and the next potty time, between a nap and the next potty time. Because really, could there possibly be anything else more interesting to occupy my brain? He peed occasionally, but reluctantly, since potty time was taking valuable Grandma's-toy time away from him.

And then ... he pooped. I mean he really pooped. I mean it was bigger than some of the dogs we'd seen at the park that morning. DH, I believe, is scarred for life just from the sight of it. And kiddo was thrilled. It was the first time ever he'd fully, willingly pooped in the potty, and he was apparently delighted to have survived the experience.

Since then he's pooped in the potty two more times, and he's peeing nearly every single time we get him to sit. He's way more excited about it than he was before. The pull-ups seem to be drier a little longer. And once he's on the potty, he stays on it, even if we get up and leave the room. He may scooch the potty out of the bathroom and into the hallway to retrieve a toy that rolled away, but he is, technically, still on the potty.

We're still holding the doctor's "special prize" over his head, because it works. I fake-called the doctor one more time, and since then I just have to threaten to do it and he yelps, "No, I don't want you to give the prize to the other boy!" Sometimes he gleefully talks about how he's going to get the prize and the other boy won't, and the other boy will cry. He's decided the mythical other boy is one of his buds from school. Not sure why he wants to make his friend cry. Is this a guy thing?

I've been quizzing his teachers on it, and they're not so much impressed with his progress. He still fights them on sitting, especially before nap. It's true he's still not volunteering to use it on his own. But I clued in one of the teachers about the doctor-prize strategy, and at school today he peed and pooped. So we'll see how this weekend goes. I figure on sticking him in underwear again to see how he does. Unless of course the world ends, in which case I may be a little annoyed that this is how I spent my last days on Earth.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Potty war

And oh man is it a war. He doesn't want to do it. Won't have it. Doesn't care if he pees or poops his pants, even when wearing underwear instead of pull-ups (so all the books/magazines/web sites that endorse that method, please take a flying leap). I took all the toys out of his bedroom and told him he would earn one back each time he used the potty. Which he'll do, and he's happy to get a Matchbox car or a Thomas train back, until the next time we tell him to use the potty and he throws a screaming fit and runs away from us. Even though it would obviously earn him back another toy.

The doctor noted he's clearly strong-willed in general (as in, if you give him the chance he'll walk all over you, something every single authority figure who's ever dealt with him has learned at some point) and recommended counseling. For us, not him, to give us techniques on dealing with him. Not sure how that works exactly. We get on the couch and they say, "Hi there, sucky parents! Here's how to do everything you've been doing wrong!" She also told him that she was going to call every night to find out if he'd used the potty, and if he had, he would get a prize. So dragging that line out has helped some. Although it's gotten to the point where I faked a phone conversation with the doctor yesterday, explaining that kiddo would not use the potty and she would just have to give the prize to the other boy. Kiddo freaked out and immediately got on the potty. I told the dial tone I would have to call her back later.

Then of course he asks for the prize, and I tell him he has to use the potty for a whole day and not pee his pants if he wants the prize. And then 20 minutes later he pees his pants.

We didn't force it while he was having trouble pooping and we had to put him on Miralax. We didn't force it when his sister was born, because that was upheaval enough. Then we moved -- even more upheaval -- and he started a new school (or day care) with kids he didn't know. Not to mention this new bedroom he was sleeping in, with a bed instead of a crib. So we would try to get him on the potty, but we didn't try that hard, because he was already having problems settling into his new class. But now he's 4 and the only one in his class still in pull-ups. Enough is enough.

Yesterday, I let him watch a little TV because he'd used the potty, and sometime during the show, he peed his pants again (and knew it, clearly, because he was standing instead of sitting on the couch and trying to squeeze his legs together). So no more TV, I think, since clearly he won't leave it to take care of business. I was so furious I hauled him upstairs and left him in his room, pantsless, with the potty, and told him he could come out after he'd used it. He did, almost right away, and then asked, with complete sincerity, "Are you happy now?"

And then I felt like the world's biggest schmuck because all I do is yell at him.

So that was my Mother's Day, how was yours?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The sick that wasn't

People told us that kids get sick a lot when they start day care, and oh boy did they understate the case. Viral infections. Ear infections. Stomach viruses. Strange unidentifiable illnesses that vanish after lasting just long enough for you to yank them out of school and haul them to the doctor. I feel like I should prerecord myself saying, "Kiddo/kiddette is sick and DH took them to the doctor, so I need to leave early to pick up kiddette/kiddo from school," and just hit "play" whenever I need to inform my boss. Saves wear and tear on the vocal cords.

So this time around, we'd just gotten kiddette in for a follow-up visit after her ear infection -- all looked much improved, but he said to keep tabs on it -- when kiddo developed his own ear infection two days later. A round of drugs for kiddo. That evening, kiddette started fussing and crying, generally acting in pain, slight fever, refusing food, and we both thought, the ear infection returns. Arrgh. I called the pediatrician, but by the time he got around to calling back, I was halfway to the ER, because it was Good Friday and we were not going to wait out a holiday weekend on the off chance her ear really was worse. Naturally, she fell asleep in the car. Which probably should've clued me in right there, in retrospect.

Fortunately the ER wasn't packed, and they have a separate sitting area for kids, which we spent zero time in anyway. I guess they didn't want to keep the small child waiting. So the doctor -- who I think might've left his bedside manner in the pocket of his other white coat -- came in and checked her over, declaring her ears looked fine and it was probably a viral infection. Duh on me. So, looking at me like I was a crazy person to panic over my kid having the sniffles, he told me to give her 130 ml of ibuprofen. And left.

While waiting for the discharge papers -- yes, apparently we needed some, and no, they didn't say THANKS FOR WASTING OUR TIME, YOU NUMBSKULL -- I checked with DH, who noted that our bottle of kiddie ibuprofen measured in mg, not ml. So I asked the nurse about that when she bustled back in with the paperwork.

A note about the nurse. I don't know if she was on loan from the grownup ER, or if she just does the kiddie ER thing on her way up to becoming chief of surgery or whatever, but seriously, if you're going to treat ill children you should have some sort of way with them. Shooting up your voice 15 octaves and talking in exclamation points does not cut it. Don't get all cutesy-poo about how adorable my kid's pink coat is. She knows. But she doesn't know you, and no power on this planet is going to make her crack a smile for you unless and until she decides you're cool by her. And why are you trying to get a smile out of a presumably ill and unhappy child, anyway? Where do you think you are, the playground?

Anyway. She bustled in and I asked her about the mg/ml thing. She seemed startled that I was talking, because clearly that's not how discharges are supposed to go. But then after hemming and hawing about it, she said mg and ml are the same thing. And that 5 ml equals one teaspoon. Thus having explained the math for us, she went back to her prerecorded discharge speech, collected my signature and left.

So I got kiddette home, and we looked at the label for the ibuprofen again and realized the amount the doctor had said to give her would've been about 15 times the amount you'd give a 2-year-old. So either he gave me the wrong number, ml and mg are completely not the same thing or the kiddie ibuprofen they use in hospitals isn't the same as what you buy at CVS. (A quick Googling tells me the answer is #2. Also, that you can't convert one to the other because milligrams are mass and milliliters are volume.) We gave her half the amount of the dosage for a 2-year-old -- that's half a teaspoon -- put her to bed and hoped for the best.

She seemed, of course, completely the usual the next morning, except her fever was still a little high. We even made our family playdate, since the other kids' parents figured, if our daughter was going to infect their son -- her classmate -- she would've done it already. And a fine time was had by all.

And then the mom made the most obvious point in the world: "You know, she could just be teething."

Why yes. Yes she could. Since she's had a couple teeth coming. And her behavior tracked much more with a teething episode than with an ear infection (no tugging on the ears, for instance).

Seriously, next time before I call the doctor, I'm just going to call all the moms I know and see what they think. It'll save me some angst.