Meningitis, Mistaken Gender, and Orange Pee…Our Week in Review

Here is your brain. Or part of it, anyway. Mommy, PhD or otherwise, every

It was one of those weeks.  One of those that by the time it’s over, you feel as if you’ve been in a time warp and wondering what the heck happened.  One of those where you grow a little more as a person and grow into your relationships even more and grow to understand others, too.  In short, this is how our last five days went down:

~My husband and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary Sunday night with a dinner out, after he recovered from a nasty “tension headache” earlier that day.

~Early Monday morning, I took my husband to the emergency room;  his headache had returned with a vengeance, with a fever, chills and a stiff neck.  He was admitted to the hospital for meningitis and then given every available IV drug the pharmacy had to offer.  Friends came out of the woodwork to help:  my kids had someone to hang with and eat with, meals were delivered to our door, and I could divide my time between walking the hospital halls with my antsy husband (small hospital room + steroids is a tough combination) and being “Mom.”

~Tuesday night after my kids and I returned home from a pizza party and the hospital (respectively), my daughter discovered blood in our hamster’s cage. (We got a new critter after our first one died.) Alarmed, we went to investigate and my older son said,

Judah just bit me…and there are babies in there (the cage)!

So Judah is a “Judy.”  Or rather, a Jaida, as my kids have decided.

~Oh, yes.  The orange pee.  Well, since Dad had meningitis, the four of us had to be on a short course of antibiotics in case his infection was bacterial.  My kids got to take something called Rifampin, a capsule containing rusty-red powder that causes a fun party trick called “turning urine orange.”  My kids were super-psyched about that and motivated to chug a suspension of rusty powder in water (none of my kids can swallow pills) because they could not wait to pee and see what appeared to be Orange Fanta in the toilet.

So it’s been an interesting few days.

Until this week, understanding the inherent toll of having a sick family member was academic.  When I worked in healthcare I spent time encouraging patients’ families to take a break but really didn’t understand what families were going through.  However, I now know from personal experience that it is exhausting when a loved one is ill.   As in, your brain goes kinda numb.  As in, you shouldn’t be driving a car.  As in, you blow up at your kids even though you know this is as hard on them as it is on you.  Thank God my husband and I had help, wonderful help.  I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am to friends who came to our aid because I shudder to think what it would have been like without them.  And we are lucky…my husband was only in the hospital two days and will fully recover; the patient and his family a couple rooms down from my husband are in for the long haul.  The toll is much, much greater on them.

So this week was a true example of personal growth, and growth as a couple, for my husband and me.  We were given an interesting 23rd wedding anniversary present.

And last night I broke my favorite coffee mug, darn it all.  My parents bought the mug for me in Switzerland, at a “Heidi” museum.  On it is a scene depicting the Heidi from the book of the same name, dancing in a meadow with the Alm Uncle and Peter and a herd of goats.  I accidentally hit the handle on the kitchen counter and the handle broke into several pieces.  Any other week, I would have been really broken up about it, and yes, I am disappointed, but I surprised myself by thinking:

Ok, it’s only a mug.

Perspective is a powerful thing.  Add a little laser glue and the perfect spot on a display shelf and all is good.

And it’s really good to have Dad home, with his family, expanded by five hamster pups.

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When Bandaids Do as Much Harm as Good

Warts are no fun. But if you ask my daughter, the dermatitis from the bandage is much worse.

Warts are no fun. But if you ask my daughter, the dermatitis from the bandage is much worse.

It’s not just adding insult to injury.  It’s literally adding injury to injury.  Two of my kids, when they need a bandaid to cover a scraped knee or elbow, end up with that painful, red and raised “rash” from the sticky part of the bandage.  Talk about unfair.  And putting bandaids on a bandaid rash obviously isn’t gonna work.

I remember the first time I saw a rash from bandage adhesive.  I was working as an aide in a hospital, and the rash was actually from the white tape we used to secure gauze dressings.  Then I saw it again.  And again.  And again.  When I worked in family practice, I saw similar reactions on adults and children alike to over-the-counter bandaids (not necessarily Bandaid brand) and patients telling me they were allergic to bandaids.

But is that actually the case?

The short answer is no, but if you’re a geek like me, or a skeptic like me, you want to know more.

And I found more.

First of all, there are a myriad of chemicals, a veritable alphabet soup, that make up the sticky stuff that holds bandaids*** in place.  Are these chemicals harmful beyond the local skin irritation?  I was unable to find literature that specifically answered that question.  But there is plenty out there about the irritating irritation from the adhesive.  And here is what I learned.

Case studies abound regarding the frustrating “allergy” to bandage adhesive.  Not surprising…so many of us get that crazy rash.  Well, researchers Widman et al., decided to investigate this annoying problem and designed a well-structured 2008 study to sort out whether this rash is a true “allergy,” aka allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), or another form of dermatitis.  Because when a patient has a true allergy…to a medication, latex or another potential treatment…this means a change in how that person is treated for an ailment.  So distinguishing an allergy from a sensitivity is pretty important.

Here’s what the researchers did.  Simply put, they patch-tested study participants with a special, custom-made tray of bandages, including ones typically used in a medical setting and ones found over-the-counter (including familiar brands Curad, NexCare and a few Johnson and Johnson).  After two, and later seven days, the patches were “read,” or examined, for signs of skin abnormalities.

Here’s what the researchers found.  1)  A rash to the bandages was more likely to occur after seven continual days of exposure and less likely after just two.  2)  No true allergic reactions to the bandages were noted; however, a majority of test subjects experienced something called irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) from items on the test tray.

So how did the researchers decide the rash was not allergic?  It comes down to the appearance of the rash, which was described as “erythematous, excematous plaques” or in lay terms, “red excema-like raised areas,” which speak to an irritative more than an allergic process.  The rash, as they observed, had well-defined borders and a uniform appearance…also attributes of ICD.   Test subjects described the rash as painful with a “burning” sensation rather than itchy…the latter being more closely attributed to an allergic reaction.  But can a bandaid rash still be itchy?  Sure.  Especially when it starts to heal.  Think about how a simple cut or scrape can feel itchy.  The reason it does has to do with the body’s healing mechanism, not an allergy.

So if the bandaid rash is not allergic one, why does it happen?  ICD, as the researchers explain, does occur because of exposure to the adhesive chemicals.  Repeated and/or continued exposure to these inherent irritants causes the skin to breakdown, react and become inflamed.  Skin may also become dehydrated from the bandage adhesive and react.  And whether you subscribe to the “slow” or “fast” strategy to remove bandaids, skin can tear and then…you guessed it…the rash occurs.

How do I treat a bandaid rash?  An over-the-counter hydrocortisone works well for inflammation and its accompanying pain, redness and itching.  Just be sure to use it on intact, unbroken, skin.

So what can I use instead of bandaids?  There are several options, with varying price points:

  1.  Bandages labelled as “hypoallergenic.”  Remember, those still utilize adhesive to stay in place.  Given the mechanisms described above that cause the “rash,” it’s possible ICD will still occur.
  2. Telfa, or nonadhesive gauze, plus a wrap like an ACE bandage (for larger scrapes like road rash, on a limb) or Coban (not as wide so works better on fingers and for smaller wounds).  Both Telfa and Coban can be found over-the-counter…there are additional names for both so consult your pharmacy for help if you can’t find these products.
  3. The simplest option is to use bandaids for a short duration of time, like overnight or for a few hours at a time during the day.  It’s good to keep a wound covered initially to protect it and, as the Widman, et al., study showed, the likelihood of a rash comes after several days of continued bandaid use.  So the risk of rash is less during the time we typically keep wounds covered.

So the good news is that that pesky bandaid rash is not an allergy.  The bad news is that to avoid it the alternatives are less convenient, may still cause a rash, and can be more expensive than that store brand of bandaids.  Shorter duration of bandaid use to decrease the risk of bandaid rash is likely the best and most cost-effective solution.

As always, if a bandaid rash gets worse…redder, swollen, increasingly painful or itchy and/or starts to ooze, seek medical attention as this could mean a new allergy or an infection.

***I’ll use the term “bandaids” as a catch-all for all the bandages we use to cover small wounds, much in the same way we use “kleenex” to mean all types and brands of facial tissues.  I don’t mean to specifically pick on the Bandaid brand.

Want more details from the Widman, et al., study?  Here’s the link to the medscape article:

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/572962_4

When a Pet Dies

Peanut, the day we brought her home.

Peanut, the day we brought her home.

We have the worst luck with pets.

Dog number one.  We had to give her up because she kept running away.

Dog number two.  Became food aggressive with kid vomit and bit my husband.  We had to surrender him to the humane society.

Lizard.  My son caught “Lizzy” in our yard and designed a lovely terrarium for the randomly-assigned “her.”  She lived her life span adored, sunning herself under her own heat lamp and feasting on bits of banana.  My son was devastated when she died.

Dwarf hamster.  Our most recent, and possibly cutest, pet.  She loved corn and green beans and rolling like mad in her hamster ball (or the rolling drove her mad as she desperately tried to seek refuge in the darkest corner she could find…).  We hadn’t had her three months before my husband, um, found her.  And what’s worse is the kids and I were out-of-state and learned the bad news from a text message gone wrong:

Dad:  We have a problem (sheepish emoji face).

Me:  Yes?

Dad:  Make sure the kids are looking over your shoulder.

Me:  Ready!

Dad:  Peanut died.

Whoops.  My husband felt so bad, first because Peanut died under his watch and second because he meant to text “aren’t” instead of “are.”

Even though there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can take away the sadness and grief of losing a beloved pet, my husband and I tried our darnedest to find something comforting to say that would belay the tears.  Some words came easier than others.  Like when my son said, “I hope Dad is joking,” the response was an easy one:

Oh, no, Dad would never tease you about something like this.

But trying to reassure my kids they did nothing to cause Peanut’s demise was a bigger task (you fed her, you gave her fresh water…really, you took awesome care of her).  Discussing hamster afterlife (what do you think hamster heaven is like?) was surreal.  But the biggest challenge, because they aren’t (definitely not are) emotionally or mentally ready to understand, was telling our kids it’s ok to find joy in the day to day despite their feelings of sadness and loss.

This is a sophisticated balance of emotions…we adults struggle with joy interrupting grief because another difficult emotion sets in, guilt.  We’re human and to feel anything but sadness in a sad time is to dishonor the loved one we have lost.  Kids get that once they reach a certain age.  My 11 year old son seems to.  Maybe that’s young or maybe it’s not.  No matter what, it’s a tough way to feel.

And it’s even tougher to give ourselves the permission to feel happy.

I found myself assigning human qualities to Peanut, hoping she could give our kids that very permission to enjoy legos, splash in the pool and play arcade games.

You gave Peanut a good life.  She would want you to be happy, too.

She loved to play.  She would want you to do the same. 

Corny?  Perhaps.  But I know there will be more pets.  Like the three (not one, not two, but, yes, three) betta fish my son says he can afford.  Like the puppy I know we will get once the time is right.  We will not have those future companions forever.  And sadly, there is the inevitable reality that we will lose the important and most-loved humans in our lives.

My kids need the go-ahead to feel joy through grief, be reassured that joy helps heal the hurt and that we honor our loved ones’ by living life the best we can.

 

Hate to Pack? Try This “Hack.”

The packing has begun...

When it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, I just have to share.  Getting all three of my kids to agree to anything at the same time and in the same place is practically a miracle.  As my mother-in-law has observed, not just with her own grandkids but in other families as well:  one child is always unhappy.

Not this time.  And the task involved actual work.  A request.  And since the reward wasn’t a lego set (note:  it never is)…well, I still can’t believe this project went 3-for-3. Continue reading

A Little Potty Talk

 


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I completed a half marathon last weekend and this time,  I crossed the finish line under my own power (my first “half” didn’t go nearly as well…but that’s another story).  Along the way I was relieved to find a port-a-potty a) because I really had to go and this meant b) I was actually well-hydrated for this run through our high-altitude, arid climate.  After taking care of business, I was startled to see a man sitting by the side of the road near the portable stall.  I hadn’t seen him before so I felt a little creeped out, especially as we runners were spaced out enough that no one else was around.  Was this guy dangerous?  Nah…but still.  I was reminded that being in a public bathroom is just a vulnerable situation.

Especially for kids. Continue reading

Where There is Love…

I am thankful this is what I see each day when I get up in the morning. I am also thankful for a cloudy day…sometimes that is just nice.

If someone were to ask me if I were a more of a religious person, or more of a spiritual one, I would say I am definitely more spiritual.  I believe there is a reason for everything, things become as they are supposed to be.  Not that I’m always happy with the reason or the result, but I truly believe the world becomes as it should.
Someone I know recently shared with me a beautiful quote taken from mystery novel The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny:

“Where there is love there is courage,
where there is courage there is peace,
where there is peace there is God.
And when you have God, you have everything.”

There’s something in this quote for everyone, spiritual or religious ( or neither), happy or depressed, or with or without hope.  For me, it speaks directly to how I feel about my family.

I love them so much I’d do it.  Even if “it” is out of my comfort zone and scares the H out of me.  I’d accept a challenge, muster that courage, if it meant doing the best thing for them.

It’s not the “doing.”  It’s making that decision to be courageous, not necessarily acting on that decision, that can be the toughest part.  You know how stressful it can be to be faced with making a choice and once it’s made, you feel a wave of relief?  Bazinga.  Peace.  

That calm, that peace, comes from feeling the world is as it should be.  The decision that makes the most sense has been made.  We may worry about how tough the follow-through will be, or what the neighbors will think, but there’s that amazing feeling of peace that comes from someplace or someone more powerful than we humans are.  That peace is our sign we are heading in the best direction.

And then…we act on our decision, head down that path we forge with courage and peace.  Not the right path…the best path for our family.  From there, the world is our oyster, our everything, and the pearl? Our family.

Hooray for Summer (Exclamation Point): Steps to a Successful Break (Question Mark)

It’s almost here!  For some of us, it already is.  Summer break.  Honestly, my head is spinning the school year went by so fast.  And I feel totally unprepared for having my brood around for three months.  So I dug up this post from a year ago to help refresh my brain on how to (and not to!) navigate summer with kids.  And I hope it helps you, too:

A year ago, as the school year drew to an end, I wrote a post that received some flak.  In Hooray for Summer? (In retrospect, Horrors, It’s Summer! would have been a fun title…) I described the difficult transition for parents, myself wholeheartedly included, to having the kiddos home for three months.  I outlined my plan to keep us all from going crazy, which, it ends up, was a near-total flop.  Disappointing, to say the least…I needed a solid strategy because I was really not looking forward to the loss of (forgive me) my freedom.

But this year?  I am stoked for summer.  Cannot.  Wait.  We are going to have a blast.  I learned a lot from the failures of last year.  Plus my kids are a year older, with more specific interests.  We have lots to look forward to this summer, but before I get into our new-and-improved plan (hopefully resembling a jewel-encrusted flip-flop instead of a plain old crummy flop), here’s a summary of last year’s plan.  And what happened when we tried it out.  Because as some things work better for some kids than others, you may find our failures to be your successes.

Summer 2014 Plan (aka, How Not to Kill Each Other While On Summer Break):

**Set a Schedule (this-happens-at-this-time-or-else-you’re-grounded!).  Yeah, you can see why this was a total disaster.  Even without the threat of grounding.  Yes, I really thought my kids liked routine.  Maybe it’s only the routine set by school (under the threat of the principal’s office?) that they “like.”  I get why they drug their feet with 10:00 am flash cards but with the 1:30 pm go-crazy-outside-in-the-beautiful-mountain-air?  I’m still lost on that one.

**The “I’m Bored” Jar (Russian Roulette for kids).  The rules were straightforward:  say the words “I’m Bored!” and draw an activity out of a whimsically decorated jam jar.  The activity could be “water the plants” but it could be “go out for ice cream.”  A fun game of chance!  Not really.  Here’s how things went down in our house:

Kiddo:  “I’m Bored!”

Me:  “Here’s the jar!  Let’s see what you get!”

K:  (drawing out a labelled popsicle stick…come on, how whimsically creative is that?):  “I don’t wanna!”

M:  “It could be ice cream….!”

K: (reading his activity)  “Awwww!  I don’t wanna build a fort!”

M:  “But you love to build forts!”

K;  “No, I don’t!”

You get the idea.

**Read the Newspaper.  I did.  We have an amazingly vibrant town with endless summertime activities.  Response to Endless Summer was similar to the Jar activities.

**Who’s Who on the Loop.  There are about 20 children who live on our cup-de-sac.  How many were around during the day last summer?  About negative 5.  Which was weird as many of them were around to play the previous summer (I recall 12 in our yard one particular sunny day) but not so weird, really, in that many of them have both parents working outside the home.  So most of those kids were enrolled in day camps and not home when my kids knocked on their doors after lunch.  My kids were kinda lonely.

**Compromise.  Tried it exactly once.  I like to jog and my kids like to shoot hoops (shoot!  that should have been a Jar activity!) so I took my kids to the local rec center to play basketball while I ran on the track above the court.  Great idea, right?  I think I jogged exactly 10 minutes before my kids started arguing over whose ball was whose, a no win situation since the balls were identical.

Poop.

So Summer 2014 Plan was not exactly stellar.  But we made it through and did enjoy a late summer family vacation.  But that’s beside the point.  Because what is important now is the…

Stupendous Summer Plan 2015 (aka, Mom’s Learned From Her Past Mistakes and is Super-Stoked to Make New Ones.):

**Attitude.  I will admit I was in a bad place a year ago, feeling the impending arrival of summer break and departure of my flexibility.  This year, I am using the power of positive thinking to fuel our entry into the next three months.  That, and:

**Pre-planning.  Something I have never been good at when it comes to summer activities.  A year ago I put my kids in a couple impromptu day camps and it was a veritable disaster.  They hated the time they spent at camp and from all accounts of their experience, I don’t blame them.  They still wax hatred over it.  And I won’t ever again send them to that particular camp.  Then I promised myself I’d do what I’ve never successfully done before, and that is lock in the good stuff.   But as most parents know, registration for sought-after summer activities can start way in advance, and April being tax month makes writing those summer security checks rather painful.  But I did it.  Two of my kids play violin so are doing violin camp.  My oldest is itching to be on stage so he is going to do a month of kids’ theatre.  There’s a gymnastics camp thrown in there, too.  Boom.  Done.  The checks cleared.  We didn’t bankrupt ourselves.  And my kids are really excited.

**Who’s Who on the Loop, the Sequel.  I am putting together a list of all the kids mine want to play and have sleepovers with this summer, along with their parents’ contact info.  And who I can get ahold of on a weekday for a playdate and who is better able to come on a Saturday.  I’m keeping the list on my phone so it is always handy.  No excuse for not calling someone up and planning some fun.

**Goal Setting.  I’m going to run a half marathon.  I’m going to run a half marathon.  Did I mention the half marathon?  No?  Well, a friend and I have committed ourselves to a 13.1-mile running event this fall.  We are training together.  This summer.  A half marathon in October.  I’M GOING TO DO IT.  Why?  Because I never have and I want to.  Last summer I felt I could only slip in a workout here and there, like if the kids were having some screen time and dad was home.  I didn’t make exercise a summer routine like I did during the school year and that was bad for my psyche.  This summer?  I have set a goal.  Made an obligation to a terrific friend.  I’m making myself (creatively) carve out the “me time” that keeps me a sane mother and a present one.

So, yes, I am truly excited for summer, with an exclamation point.  But will our new-and-hopefully-improved game plan work:  that remains the question mark.  At least right now, I feel confident it will (period).

Last year's leftover school supplies. This year's haul is rumored to be even more epic: my son was told to bring a garbage bag to school on desk-clearing day.

Last year’s leftover school supplies. This year’s haul is rumored to be even more epic: my son was told to bring a garbage bag to school on desk-clearing day.

Let’s Get Organized: a Stepwise Process for Parents and Kids

chore-list.jpegOne of the least “organized” decisions we can make as adults is to become parents.  Is there anything less neat, orderly and predictable as having children in the house?  And if you can show me a mom who, without missing a beat, can juggle the school field trip schedule, remember who likes what cold lunch fixings and recall if she brushed her teeth that morning…I’ll show you a mythical Greek Goddess.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the messy business of parenting.  I adore my kids.  In fact, I relish the unpredictability of their fights, their ever-changing school and activity schedule and the impromptu playdates.  It keeps me on my toes and mentally sharp.  And it challenges the “J” in me to find an even better strategy to not lose my head amidst the ongoing chaos.

According to the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory I am a “J,” which stands for “Judger.”  That sounds terribly uncomplimentary, and would expect that those at the opposite end of the personality spectrum, the “P’s” (or “Perceivers”) would agree.  But apparently these descriptive terms are from the Carl Jung school of thought so maybe he was just a bit of a jerk.  Anyway, in a nutshell, “J’s” like order in their lives.  They like schedules and plans.  “P’s” subscribe to the “fly by the seat of my pants” school of being, to “see what happens,” explore and discover.

My kids’ dad is a “P.”  So I find myself in a cold sweat when we discuss our weekly game plan and he won’t even have his smart phone calendar at the ready to get it all down.  On the other hand, my mother-in-law is a planner, a true-blue “J.”  We get along famously, especially on family trips.  We have it down.  Except when we are doing our “J” thing about different things.  Then I break out in another cold sweat.  Still, I “get” her and she “gets” me.  And that’s why we leave the men out of the planning of stuff.

Sorry, I digress.

It’s not that fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants people aren’t organized.  It’s not that we list- and calendar-lovers don’t enjoy a little unpredictability.  But there are times when a stepwise plan of attack is necessary, and we adults may not even realize we are doing it.  If you think about it,  how do we get from the 6:00 am alarm to heading out the door in the morning?  How do we get make and get dinner on the table?  It would take some effort to write out the step-by-step because things like this are so second nature, whether you attack life as a “J” or a “P.”  But accomplishing these tasks is an art, something we had to learn and practice.

Perhaps the “second nature” of completing daily skills is what makes us parents so frustrated when our kids, for example, can’t get ready for school in the morning, or sit down to do homework in the afternoon.  Of course, kids don’t want to do either of these things, but part of this may be having trouble getting the process started.

And this is where parents can help them, whether we are “J’s” or “P’s.”

Start with a family pow-wow.  Sit down with your kids and put together a short list of things to work on:  homework, getting ready for bed…whatever the struggles are in your daily routine.  Then chose one thing off the list to tackle first.  Talk about how working on getting the task done will make family life better (as in more time to play outside) and make sure your kids know you will help them to be successful…but that you also expect their best effort.

Write it out (Sorry “Percievers.”).  An article on understood.org recommends breaking the task down into a beginning, a middle and an end.  Otherwise, a task will be pretty overwhelming to plan out.  For example, let’s say the problem is getting homework accomplished after school.  The “beginning” of the task could look something like this:

  1.  Homework time starts at 4:00, at the kitchen table.

2.  To do homework I will need:  a pencil, an eraser, scratch paper, and the assignment.

3.  Write the due date at the top of the page so I know which homework to do first.

The “middle” part of the completing homework, or of any task, is the actual “doing,”  the execution.  This is the challenging part, which kidshealth.org calls the “Focus” step.  Who wouldn’t want to play Nerf guns instead of taking out the garbage or doing grammar?  (parents, admit it…).  But an easy first step is to give kids an easy mantra:  just say “no” to distractions.  But keep that carrot dangling…a bit of fake apocalyptic mayhem after an exercise in dangling participles is a great motivator.  But if that simple mental “no” isn’t enough to stave off temptation, suggest next your kids ask themselves, “Is that what I’m supposed to be doing right now?”   Help kids remember these questions and supervise at first; they will need support getting through this step.  If you can, set an example of “focus” by sitting with your kids during homework time and read, or balance the checkbook, or write a grocery list.  This way, you are readily available to offer prompts (So what’s next?  Remember what to say to yourself if you are distracted?) Avoid your screen…if your kids are like mine they are like moths to lightbulbs and the temptation to peek over my shoulder is too great.  In other words, do something that looks like “homework.”

“The End.”  Again, write in your master task plan the steps for crossing the finish line.  That could be wiping out the garbage cans before replacing them in your house.  In the homework vein, that’s the proofreading, correcting, and putting the pages in the right folder to be returned to school.  In short, the task is done, so answer the question, now what?

Time to Party.  Ask your child how he thinks he did with the task and troubleshoot any problems that occurred along the way.  Perhaps the homework space was too distracting…maybe we shouldn’t do homework in your room where your toys are, so let’s brainstorm another spot for you to work in.  Praise your child for a job well done (if he did do it well). Then reward.  Have those Nerf guns ready.

Suggestions to keep the organizing organized:

~Keep a jumbo desk calendar on the wall.  Each family member gets a “color” for their appointments, field trips, etc.  Kids will love writing their “things” on the calendar, be able to look ahead at what’s coming up, and be more excited about the day-ahead prep (More on that below.)  Plus they will go nuts for the ripping-away of April to look at May, and so on and so forth.

~Gaming.  Make a game out of estimating how long it takes to complete tasks.  Write down the guesses and see how much time it actually takes to wrap it up.  Not only can this be a “everyday” math exercise, it can help you and your kids plan accordingly for the next day.

~Lists!  Post a colorful list (have your kids make it) by the door to help kids remember what they need in their backpacks for school.  Tape a Saturday morning “honey-do” on the kitchen table.  Some kids love the idea of ticking the jobs off a list*** as a motivator to finish their responsibilities, and you don’t have to go into “nag” mode.

~Speaking of backpacks…plan a Sunday night backpack check.  Understood.org recommends cleaning out the junk from backpacks, double-checking for permission slips or MIA homework, etc., once a week.  What better time than Sunday night, to start the school week off on the right foot.  And on the same wavelength, pack up the night before. Have completed homework and show-and-tell items for the next day zipped in and ready to go so nothing gets left behind on that rush to the school bus.

~And my favorite:  Cook (or bake)!  There’s making the shopping list.  Getting the ingredients.  Reading the recipe.  Completing each step in order.  Time management.  What better way to learn organization and get brownies at the same time?

***One final word on organization:  entlistungsfreude.  Of course there’s a German word that means “gratification of accomplishing something by crossing it off a list.”

When a Loved One is Seriously Ill

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This week’s post was supposed to be about how to help our kids learn to be more organized but that’s just not going to happen.  Sometimes life takes us on a detour from from our best-laid plans.

As I switched gears on what to write this week, I realized it’s still about organization but in a different vein.  The good news?  It doesn’t require a visit to The Container Store.  The bad news?  It’s about bad news.

Sadly, it’s inevitable. But that’s the very reason we don’t want to think about a family member getting sick.  As in:  it’s going to happen someday so why dwell on it; we can worry about it when the news comes.  Which seems the healthy mental thing to do, really.  So of course we don’t think about receiving bad news, much less the painful task of telling our kids, or how to work through the new reality as a family.

But it never hurts to be a little prepared.  Hearing the news that a grandparent, a beloved aunt or a family friend is ill comes as a shock.  It’s difficult to collect our thoughts when our own emotions are running high.  So having a plan on how to tell our kids seems like good sense.  Fortunately, there’s a lot of info out there that can help with the process, but unfortunately, too, there’s a lot of info to filter through.  So I pulled together info from some wonderful websites and pdf’s and hope it can help you as parents when you are faced with receiving and then giving bad news. Continue reading

Only Children as Parents

Expressing my independence at age 2. Even the ducks are impressed.

Expressing my independence at age 2. Even the ducks are impressed.

When I typed “only children as parents” into Google, I found very little that discussed only children and their children.  Here’s what I found instead (among other things):

“9 Reasons Why Dating An Only Child is Difficult.”  (Ha, only 9?  My husband would love to add to that list!)

“What Being an Only Child Says About You.”  (with a title like that it can’t be good…)

Various sites regarding support groups for the parents of only children.

and finally (I almost peed a little when I saw it.):

“Only Child Adult Blog:  Are You an Only-Child and a Parent?” which I immediately clicked on, only to find the most recent of a handful of comments was in 2010.  

I guess we only-children parents aren’t as interesting as I had hoped (insert obvious joke about self-centeredness here).  But on the bright side, I guess we aren’t screwed up enough (or screwing up enough of our own kids) to warrant being studied.  I consider that a definite win. Continue reading