Saturday, May 29, 2010

Procrastinators: Leaders of Tomorrow

I'm raising the ultimate procrastinator. She's truly amazing at stalling when it comes to bedtime or anything that requires her to stop playing (meals, for example). We have a consistent bedtime routine that always ends with the same book (Goodnight Moon) and the same lullaby (Stay Awake from Mary Poppins). Last night we read several books from the library and then I reached for Goodnight Moon. Em quickly grabbed the book and threw it across the room! We retrieved it together and I began reading. She closed the book three times yet when I began to put it away she suddenly wanted to read it. After we finished I turned the light off and began singing. She literally put a hand over my mouth. Does she really think she won't have to go to bed if I can't sing the song?? I laid her in her crib and then the requests began.

"You already had some water."

"Beeper?" (her name for the pacifier)
"It's in the crib."
"Yellow beeper."
"Alright, but then it's bedtime."

"Purple beeper??"
"Seriously!? Goodnight, Emily!"


Here's where she pulls out the big guns. Mommy is a sucker for a hug and she knows this. I gave her one last hug and she immediately said, "No, a bear hug!" Cute. So, one last bear hug.

"Bunny kiss?"

Who is this kid?!? So much for getting to bed on time. I have to admit that I find this routine pretty entertaining. Plus, I get a lot of extra hugs these days.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Feeling Swanky

For the past month or so, I've been on a diet specifically designed for MS patients. It's called the Swank Diet (named after the doctor who designed it, although I like to pretend that Hilary is on it, too). It's basically a really low-fat diet with some insanely restrictive rules that make eating out next to impossible. Do I feel better?? Of course I do... Anyone who eats healthy foods is going to feel better. I have no idea if it will actually do anything to help my MS (and honestly I'm pretty skeptical), but it certainly can't hurt. When I started the diet, I learned very quickly that it's actually the FAT that brings flavor to many meals. Who knew? I was really thankful to find a few websites and blogs by other swanky folks who have figured out how to modify recipes to make them "legal" and found creative ways to make them flavorful. There are so many fat free options out there now that it's actually fairly simple to follow the rules. I wouldn't recommend fat free shredded cheddar, though... I don't trust a cheese that doesn't melt.

One of my favorites lately is a ground turkey meatloaf. I'm all about recipes that are comfort foods turned healthy. Eventually I'll probably go to a modified version of this diet, but for now I'm trying to do it right. If I were to do it long-term, I wouldn't be allowed red meat or pork for a year. Can you imagine?? I haven't started dreaming of bacon wrapped filet mignon quite yet, but I think that will be my cue to call it quits. So far I only miss cheese. A lot. We'll see how long I can take this... I once gave up meat for Lent (trying to fit in with my Catholic friends?!) and binged on more ham than anyone should consume in a single sitting come Easter morning. Let's hope my return to cheese doesn't go the same way.

Here's the turkey loaf recipe in case anyone is interested. Let me know what you think!

Swanky Meat Loaf

1 lb. Extra Lean (98% fat free) ground turkey
1 jalapeno, diced (I remove the seeds first -- Leave them if you enjoy eating fire)
1 small yellow onion, diced or grated
1/4 bell pepper (red or green)
1 packet of taco seasoning
2 egg whites
1/2 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 c. ketchup

Preheat oven to 375. Combine first seven ingredients in a large bowl. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray then place the mixture into the pan. Spread ketchup on top of mixture and bake 35-40 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"You're My Boy, Blue!"

About a week ago, Emily reached up to the counter and knocked down a bowl of her breakfast food while I was preparing it. Our Weimaraner, Blue raced in to devour the mess and ignored all of my attempts to stop him. What Blue doesn't know is that Emily's doctor has advised us to mix 1/2 teaspoon of Miralax (a laxative) into Emily's breakfast each morning. Not a good day for Blue.

Emily loves our dog. Unfortunately, the feeling is not mutual. We're pretty sure the only reason Blue tolerates Emily is because he knows he's not the one we'd choose to keep if there were ever a problem. The exception to this is during mealtimes. Blue's not supposed to eat people food. We fork out an absurd amount of money each month for a prescription dog food for protein allergies to avoid the onslaught of hives, hair loss, and digestive issues he experiences when he eats anything else. Tell that to a two year old! One of Emily's favorite pastimes is to sit in her highchair saying, "Don't feed Blue!" as she chucks bits of her meal overboard. Thanks, Honey.

I'll admit I don't try very hard to stop her. So much of what she does to Blue borders on animal abuse that I feel like the forbidden treats make up for it a little. In the last few days alone I heard myself tell her, "Please don't pour chocolate milk on Blue's head," "Baby, don't feed him plastic," and "I don't think Blue wants you to wash his face." He puts up with a lot.

Then again, so do we. Blue is the poster dog for why every pet owner should buy pet health insurance (the vet is on my Christmas card list). Nail trimmings require a prescription sedative, he whines incessantly the moment we put Em to bed (It's MY turn for attention!) and he's the only hunting dog on the planet who is afraid of feathers. What's wrong with this animal?! Looking back, we did tell the breeder we wanted a goofy family dog. We love him despite his needy and neurotic behavior. As long as he doesn't chew on our daughter, he gets to stick around.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Perfectly Imperfect

There will always be someone better at this than me. I had high aspirations of being a super-parent. I read EVERY book out there on infant care before Em was born. A small confession: I took notes. That's how determined I was to do this right. I swore I'd never use the swing, bouncer, or other "sleep clutch" to lull my baby to sleep because the books told me she needs to learn how to fall asleep on her own. Fast forward to the day I put Em's mechanical swing in our dark walk-in closet, draped the hairdryer over the door on high, and laid beside her crying and praying she'd sleep for more than 10 minutes. Having a baby changed all of the rules. At the end of the day, I think all parents do the best we can with the resources we have available to us.

I'm not proud of all of my parenting moments. At age 2, Emily probably shouldn't be saying "Cheeseburger!" every time we pass the golden arches. She says, "Mommy's drinking wine" when she sees me with a glass and on occasion belts out, "Oh my God... Are you kidding?!" Wonder where she heard that?

However, the benefit of working with children and families is that you get to see the entire spectrum of parenting. I once did a risk screen interview in which the father told me his son has never played with fire. He then bragged that his son knows better "ever since I held his hand over a candle to show him how hot it is." I'm doing better than that guy. You'll never see my daughter in a Hooters T-shirt, carrying a cell phone as a 2nd grader, or exhausted because she was up late watching The Ring with her parents. By the way, that movie terrified me.

Thinking about those situations makes me feel better. So what if my kid is the one who tells her teacher, "Mommy and Daddy drank a WHOLE bottle of wine last night!" I'm OK with that. Provided it's a good bottle of wine.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Got Meds?

I realized last night that I take 91 pills each week. How crazy is that? Jason likes to joke that I need one of those weekly medicine organizers that I've only ever seen in pharmacies and my grandmother's house. Those tiny little slots are hardly large enough. With that many pills, I'd be looking at a Tupperware and duct tape contraption with the days of the week written in Sharpie. Very classy. I think I'll just stick with the bottles.

I'm a little nervous about how to explain all of this to Emily when she's older. Why does Mommy give herself shots? What does it mean to have Multiple Sclerosis? I have a hard enough time explaining this to adults. I do my injections after her bedtime and keep the bio-hazard box out of her reach. At some point I'll need to figure out a locked space to store all of my meds. Seeing as how she opened a child-proof baby oil container the other day (and succeeded at getting it all over both of us), I'm not convinced that pill bottles are made for adults only. If a toddler can do it, how hard can it be?? I had a harder time getting Emily's grocery cart buckle undone at the store today and came moments away from cutting the straps to free my overtired toddler. They should put those on the bottles.

I've been really lucky so far with my symptoms. They're annoying, but they're hardly disabling. If my biggest problem is worrying about whether Emily can open dangerous bottles, I'm thankful. I'm open to suggestions for how to remove baby oil as well.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Expert Advice

Several months ago, I signed on as a parenting / relationship expert for a Q&A website. I answer random questions from strangers around the world and get paid a small amount for my time. Many of the answers involve suggestions to "talk to her about your feelings," "contact your son's teacher to schedule a meeting," or "be prepared for your wife to react negatively when you tell her you've been crossdressing for 15 years." I'll admit that last one only happened once, but it stands out in my mind.

I frequently tell parents that I'm happy to share what other families have found to be effective or what current research supports, but it's just a suggestion and may or may not be helpful. Ultimately, we all get to decide what's best for our kids and families (even if we're making up the rules as we go). So, why do I have to remind myself of that fact so often??

I received an e-mail newsletter yesterday that outlined a toddler's daily nutritional needs. The title may as well have read, You're Not Feeding Your Kid Enough. Not for the first time, I felt guilty for not meeting the standards of an expert recommendation. Does she even have a toddler?!? I'm lucky if I can get Emily to take two bites of oatmeal before she flings a spoonful (we call the 3 feet around her highchair "Gallagher's front row").

I may have to add a disclaimer to the answers I provide on the Q&A site from here on out: "Please don't take me too seriously. You're the real expert here and for all I know, the crossdresser's wife was ecstatic about doubling her wardrobe."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Every mother has a birth story. I'd heard some horrendous ones while pregnant with Em (why do people do that?!?) and was absolutely terrified of labor and delivery.

We went out for a nice Italian dinner the night before my induction. Around midnight, Jason awoke with obvious signs of food poisoning. Two hours later my contractions began (so much for the induction) and my poor husband felt as lousy as I did! Thankfully, his Pepto Bismol and my epidural worked right away and the rest was a cake walk. We told jokes. We played 80's music on the iPod. I had to ask if I was having contractions because I honestly didn't know. After one hour of pushing, our gorgeous, healthy little girl was born. We were elated.

I realize I had it easy. A friend of mine had a baby and later told me how bitter she was when she couldn't walk for 12 days. As she was wheeled from the delivery room to have her emergency C-section, she turned to her husband and said, "Jenny said 80's music and jokes!!!" Apparently, I'm a big liar.

I can't believe that was two years ago. Little did I know that it wasn't the delivery that I should have been afraid of, but the newborn phase. Those first 6 weeks were wonderful and insanely difficult! I distinctly remember thinking, "People put themselves through this more than once?? On purpose???" Just when I felt like I knew what I was doing, it was time to start solids. I'm finding that's how it goes -- The moment I get cocky, we reach a new stage that I know NOTHING about. Sure enough I notice I'm feeling pretty confident lately. Lo and behold Emily woke us up this morning by standing in her crib and yelling, "Stinky pants!" I get it. Once she's aware of needing to be changed, it's probably time to start potty training. So... how on earth does that work?!

I'll worry about it tomorrow. Today, we eat cupcakes!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Emily Want a Cracker?

Every morning after breakfast Emily plays in our family room for a time then suddenly stops to stand very still. She gets a serious look on her face and I can tell exactly what she's doing. She looks at me and says slowly, "Are you pooping?" I laugh and say, "No, honey... Are you?"

My little parrot repeats everything she hears. There are the occasional days when the timing is unfortunate, of course, like the time I dropped the "S word" while preparing to have our church pastors over for lunch.

Lately it seems her language development is sky rocketing. She's constantly talking and singing. The lyrics aren't always accurate, but they're close enough. She provided our dinner entertainment by singing yet another rendition of the A, B, C's ("H-I-J-K and another B!") At bedtime, she touched my nose and said, "I love you, darling girl. You are my heart." This melts me.

I love that she's listening (most of the time). I realize that won't always be the case, so for now I'm enjoying every minute of it. And trying to watch my mouth.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Do You Like Them Apples?

It's so true that the apple doesn't fall far... This was made abundantly clear when I called a parent in to discuss his son's inappropriate behavior my first year out of graduate school. I had a long speech planned about how concerned I was about his son's lack of respect for authority figures. That day he had yelled, "F---- you!" to his teacher in front of 20 other students. The irony was that his father arrived wearing a mesh back hat depicting a large fist on the front and (you guessed it) the middle finger blatantly displayed for all to see. Charming.

I'm throwing Emily's 2nd birthday party this weekend with a cupcake theme and I can't wait. The only thing separating me from my mother when it comes to party planning is the number of chafing dishes and glassware I own. I only have one chafing dish and 30+ wine glasses, but I'm working on it. Don't judge. I was thinking today about how we all tend to turn into our mothers in some ways. In my case, I've undoubtedly inherited the Type-A, party planning, list making gene. Emily already shows streaks of my stubbornness, impatience, and verbal propensity (I'll admit the first two are probably not my finest traits). A few days ago I told her to stop throwing food from her highchair. She responded by saying, "No! That's enough!" Oh, God... Is that what I sound like??? I'm trying to remember that I live with a sponge who absorbs everything I say and do. I want her to be like me, but only the me that I'm proud of. Is that too much to ask??

As a side note, I'm seriously interested in buying that hat if anyone sees one available. And another chafing dish.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Born Again Toddler

Emily has a habit lately of narrating every aspect of our day. "That's a yellow bus. That's a purple flower. That's the number 5." It's cute in a Chatty Cathy kind of way (I have no idea where she gets that). Today in the grocery store we passed the deli meats and cheeses and she suddenly belted out, "Ooooh... CHEESES!" Say this repeatedly and you'll get an idea of what my daughter sounded like as we rolled by the Kraft and Oscar Meyer products. "Oh, cheeses! Ooooh, cheeeeeses!" Once she finds something amusing, I can't get her to stop. It sounded so much like she was yelling, "Oh, Jesus!" that I found it fairly embarrassing. I tried to ignore the behavior (why doesn't that ever work with my kid?!) and meanwhile all of the other shoppers in the store were staring wide-eyed as my daughter had some sort of religious experience in the grocery cart. There's a cashier we usually try to avoid when we shop here. We'll call her Crazy. Even Crazy was staring. I truly think that my best parenting asset is a sense of humor. Every day is an "I Love Lucy" marathon with my born again toddler. It's much better to laugh and enjoy the show than to try to control the madness. Praise Cheeses!