Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Taco Headache

It began slowly, first just a couple of itchy bumps, one on one side of my neck and one on the other. Later, I noticed two more bumps. They were larger and more aggravating than the first two. I mentioned it to my husband over the weekend. "Look!" I said. "It's those bumps I get from being around cats." I had hugged two people over the weekend who have cats. "I have to stop hugging cat people. It gets all over my neck and chin and then this!"

Yesterday, I noticed pain in my jaws. I worried it could be dental pain. I've been too long without a cleaning and those wisdom teeth never have been removed. I flipped my head upside down to blow dry my hair with the diffuser and I felt the distinct pain of sinus pressure. Nope, not the teeth. Definitely pressure behind my eyes and nose. Not cool.

Today, I developed a headache. I felt crummy. My face hurt. I took a few ibuprofen tablets but as the day lingered I just felt worse. "I must be getting a head cold" I told my husband. My eyes felt scratchy and I was foggy. It didn't feel quite like the onset of a cold, but what else could it be?

Enter the teen-aged girl, Tuna. We attend a group meeting every Tuesday evening and this particular evening she had convinced the group that everyone should arrive in costume. The temps were hovering near 100 degrees and I was going to wear a giant felt costume and I already felt like poo. Woo hoo.

As I was finishing up my makeup, head threatening to implode, Tuna asked me to come up to her room so she could show me something. She had a secret to share. All sorts of things ran through my mind, but she had a decision to make. We could arrive at the meeting, she and I dressed as an M&M and peanut M&M package and the Big Guy looking like Jack Sparrow, or we could go share her secret. One or the other- there is only so much time in the day and the clock was ticking. She opted for the meeting.

It was there, in this meeting...people dressed as cats and Pokemon characters, wearing fake mustaches and M&M costumes, that Tuna decided to drop her bomb.

"I've been hiding a kitten in my room for three days."

Suddenly everything fell into place. The swollen nasal passages, the rash spreading around my neck, the facial PAIN. Uh huh. There was a CAT in my house. I was slowly dying. Betrayed by my own child.

Apparently the kitty had been rescued from the creek bank and even spent the first day after her rescue in Tuna's backpack at the high school. She had spent the next three days in a small animal carrier in Tuna's closet and probably spent nights in Tuna's bed. I imagine she spent an abundance of time shaking her precious kitty dander into the cold air duct where I could inhale it and embed the allergen straight into my sinus cavities.

After a desperate flurry of visits and phone calls (and some allergy medicine) the kitty was safely settled with a friend's mother who will bottle feed her and get her to a vet. After she is healthy and weaned she will be adopted by another friend who does not have a highly allergic mother.

Her name was Taco- Taco the pain in the face kitten.

Just goes to prove that your children will try to put you in an early grave. And kittens are irresistible.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Defining Normal

A friend of mine recently brought a letter to my attention- the letter written to Karla Begley, the mother of a teen  with autism living in Ontario. My friend asked what my response would be and says she is waiting with baited breath. She has had to wait a few days. (I'm sorry, Friend.)

This letter has been widely distributed. You can read the article I read at the Huffington Post here.

I needed a few days to really process this letter and discern what it meant to me and how I would feel if I had received the letter. While this entire letter is atrocious, the line that resonates with me is this:

"That noise he makes outside is dreadful...It scares the hell out of my normal children."

Normal children.

What exactly are normal children

Ask any mom with a decent sense of humor and they'll tell you that children are not normal. Seriously though, we all have our issues, folks. We do. Every one of us. We must stop defining our children as normal. Life is not a game of normal kids vs. abnormal kids. We all have to get along and work and play together. Everybody has to play nicely in the sandbox.

The CDC says 1 of every 54 boys is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Think about that- 1 in 54. Karla Begley's boy is like 1 of every 54 boys. That sounds pretty normal to me. The CDC also says that about 1 of every 6 children in the United States has a developmental disability. That means Kara Begley's boy is like 1 of every 6 children. That sounds VERY normal to me. If we take a close look at those other 5 children, I bet we could find something abnormal about them. It seems like maybe the normal child is kind of the odd kid out, so to speak.

Fortunately, it sounds like the neighborhood has rallied in support of the family of the targeted teen in Ontario. I personally believe that hateful folks are few and far between and most people are supportive and kind. We could all go a step further though.

We could all stop using the word normal to describe those without differences or challenges. Think for a moment about how you teach your children and how you interact with the world around you. I have a son with autism. Would you speak to me and refer to my child as abnormal? Probably not. But would you refer your own child as normal? What defines abnormality? Children with allergies? Children who are gifted? Children who were premature? Children with freckles? Children without freckles? Blond children? Brunette children? Happy children? It's a very slippery slope, folks.

The reality is, there are no normal children- just children- and they all deserve our compassion and respect.

I won't address the rest of the letter because I just don't have it in me. That kind of hate doesn't deserve attention and dwelling on it would just drain any positive energy I have left. I need all the energy I can muster to raise my 5 children to be the kind of supportive, compassionate, and accepting folks this world so desperately needs.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hello, Poison Control?

I was in the shower. That's a good place to be when a situation arises- wet and soapy. I heard a knock on the door and what sounded like the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons coming from the other side of the door. "Wah wah woh wah woh wah!" For the love of all! "Open the door!" I yelled back. The door opened and a frantic Fish cried out something about Little Bean having nail polish remover poured in her mouth.

I grabbed a towel and yelled for her to bring the poisoned child to me. Little Bean entered the bathroom smelling like she had chugged a gallon of nail polish remover. I ordered Fish to dial 411 and get a connection to Poison Control immediately and I grabbed a cup and instructed to Little Bean to rinse and spit, and not to swallow.

Frantically we carried on for a few minutes until I had Poison Control on the line. Rinse. Spit. Cry. Rinse. Spit. Snot. Rinse. Spit. Snot. Cry. Snot. Rinse. Spit.

Between spits I tried to pull out details. How much nail polish remover? Did she swallow it? Did any get in her tummy? Thankfully, she had not swallowed and it seemed only a teeny bit had gotten into her throat. Poison Control informed us that we had the best kind of nail polish remover on hand- non-acetone, with a sponge in the container. The risk was minor and since she had not swallowed the stuff a good glass of milk should coat her mouth and tummy and remove most of the taste.

Once the milk was downed and her little body washed, I had more time to ask "why in the name of all that is holy did you have nail polish remover in your mouth?!"

Actually, I already knew part of the story. I needed the finer details. Apparently, Rough Stuff wandered onto her big sister's nail polish remover and decided she needed to remove her finger nail polish. Upon opening the container, she decided Little Bean should get a good whiff of this awful smelling stuff. So, like any good big sister, she shoved the container right up in Little Bean's face and tipped it upside down over her nose. That is when all of the liquid not absorbed into the sponge poured right into Little Bean's mouth and nose. This incident occurred in the family room, because that is exactly where you want to pour nail polish remover out.

So that is how I ended up standing in a towel with a crying, snotting, foul-smelling child, on the phone with Poison Control, with water and conditioner dripping in a puddle at my feet.

How did you spend your Saturday, hmm?

(Little Bean is perfectly fine, though her tongue was a bit numb at dinner time and she could smell nail polish remover in her sinuses for several hours. Rough Stuff is mortified that the nail polish remover actually poured out of the sponge. Fish has been properly appreciated for handling the whole incident so well. I am praying I don't see bleached holes in the rug or furniture tomorrow.) 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The End of Morning Clothing Arguments

When the kids leave for school each morning, they must have clothes on. On this point, the Big Guy and I agree. Just what exactly they should be wearing is a point of contention. We both agree they should have matching, clean, and well-fitted clothing on that is weather appropriate. Our concepts of matching are miles apart.

Now, getting the kids out the door each day in matching (according to varying definitions), clean, and well-fitted clothing is nearly impossible. Like catching a greased pig impossible. Clean clothes suddenly disappear. Shoes migrate under large pieces of furniture. The kids will swear we never owned coats, gloves, or hats on the first cold morning. It is a some kind of law that spirit wear shirts will fall into the black hole of hell the night before they are needed- I swear they will slip their clean little cotton selves right off the hanger and just dis.a.ppear.  Gone. Vanished without a trace.

This year, I decided we would end the before-school clothing battle before it even started. The youngest kids are required to have 5 full outfits (shirt, jeans, undies, socks) on hangers, in the closet by Sunday evening. To help facilitate this unreasonable demand, I made daily organizing tags for their closets.

You can find cute little tags and beautifully organized closet spaces all over Pinterest. The clothes are all ruffly and adorable and the hangers all match. They are precious. I, was not going for precious. Nope. I was going for simple, fast, and functional. I am all about functional. (This momma ain't got time for precious.) 

I used a free CD label template in a Word document and printed 2 images to a page on colored cardstock. I spent about an hour cutting out 2 sets. I used 2 of each day (Monday through Friday plus Weekend) back-to-back and glued them together with a glue stick. I ran them through a hot laminator, 3 to a page and spent another half hour cutting the shapes from the laminate. I left a decent amount of laminate (plastic?) in the center so they would grip the closet rod. 

I figure I just saved the Big Guy and myself 171 hours of rather-poke-yourself-in-the-eye-than-search-for-another-lost-shoe early morning arguments about clothing.   

Oh, so worth it.   

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fortune Telling

Little Bean: Press the button and ask a question.
Tuna: Am I going to be rich?
Little Bean: If you marry somebody rich.

Oh snap. 

Little Bean: Dad, press the button and ask a question.
Big Guy: We don't believe in the practice of fortune telling. 
Little Bean: I don't have any practice!


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Party #66

As I prepared this afternoon for Rough Stuff's birthday party, I asked myself why I just wasn't feeling any stress about it. Not feeling rushed or stressed can mean two things- either I've totally got it together and the event is so well-planned that there is nothing to stress about, or I've totally forgotten some huge detail and the crap is about to hit the fan. It is usually the latter. I said to myself "Girlfriend, which is it this time? What have you done, or not done?  Think, Lady. THINK!"  

And then something came to me. I said "Girl, you've done so many parties, you're a pro. What are you worried about? You could pull a party out of your behind on an hour notice. Quit stressing."

As I hung upside down, drying my curls with a diffuser (I do most of my serious thinking in this position) I did some quick calculating. This particular birthday party is number 66 for us. SIXTY-SIX. I've planned 66 birthday parties for my children. This does not include trick-or-treating parties, cookie-exchanges, sleepovers, or classroom parties. Just birthday parties.

I've not actually hosted too many classroom parties. I think I'm on a room mother black list. They stopped asking me to host after that big 5th grade Halloween party in the gym when the firemen showed up and evacuated the whole elementary school. We mothers were not actually pointing fingers. We weren't going to openly admit to bringing the fog machine that set off the alarms. Then the cute firemen called the all clear and my kid entered the gym with a throng of 5th graders and screeched "it was YOUR fog machine, MOM!" No more room parties for me.

But birthday parties- no problem. People still send their kids to my house for birthday parties. Some even send them back more than once.

Birthday party #66 was a gummy bear party. A what? Yeah. Gummy bears. How do you do that?


You start by making gummy bear-printed  bookmarks with little gummy bear-shaped glass beads. 

And you fill little baggies with gummy bears so you can send your guests home with additional sugar. Have your kid help with the 'thank-you' tags because you know you will never get thank you cards sent. Heck, you couldn't even get the invitations mailed out, Girlfriend. Wait...am I talking to myself again? Ahem. 

Then, you mesmerize them with sugar. 

After visiting 2 stores trying to track down a bear-shaped cookie cutter, you give up on the bear-shaped sandwiches and feed them pizza rolls. This will disturb you more than them. If you're super talented like we are, you will mix up the cheese and pepperoni pizza rolls on the pans and terrorize your vegetarian children. (I'm sorry, girls. Your dad did it.)

Add a craft. We chose to fill bear-shaped honey bottles with colored sand because we figured our kitchen could use a healthy dose of sand. 

We wrapped the whole thing up with a dance and karaoke session to the gummy bear song. I will spare you the details. If you do not know the gummy bear song, DO NOT GOOGLE IT. Don't do it. You will never, ever, get it out of your head. 

I will be hearing that song in my sleep. 

I'm a gummy bear. Yes I'm a gummy bear.

I'm a yummy, tummy, funny, lucky, gummy bear. 

And I'm a party pro. Yes I'm a party pro. 

I can make a party happen on the go.     

Yes, I've gone a little left. Hey, after 66 birthday parties, I've earned it.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mom Failings

Every Sunday, I stand, iPhone in hand, and update the calendar on our dry erase schedule. And then we live by the schedule. I do ask all family members to double check the schedule and ensure that their events and activities are accounted for. That works quite well. (Riiight.)


This week's schedule included a birthday. See that? Up there on Thursday?

Yeah. Only Rough Stuff's birthday was actually on Wednesday. Mom Fail.

But wait...there's more. What did we actually do on Wednesday? We had a slumber party for Tuna. We invited the whole color guard team for a sleepover complete with pizza and movies, on Rough Stuff's birthday. Ultra Mom Fail.

But wait...it gets better. We baked a birthday cake. Yes we did! For another kid, whose birthday was on Wednesday. We did not bake a cake for Rough Stuff. Because on the schedule, her birthday was on Thursday.  EPIC Mom Fail.

Yes. I'm hanging my head in shame.

Thank heavens my mother called to tell the kid happy birthday at 9:00 AM or I might not have even realized my scheduling snafu. But then again, if Mom hadn't called, I might have just slid right under the radar on this one. Did my mother save my butt or call me on the carpet here? Tough call.


I missed getting a back-to-school registration on the schedule. Yep. Thank heavens for those phone trees. The school actually called with one of those voice recordings designed to help parents like us remember to show up. There were two back-to-school events scheduled for Thursday and we are currently sharing one vehicle so the Big Guy got to drive the golf cart to the elementary school. He's super cool like that. It was rainy.

But, the Fish and I made it to the middle school and decorated her locker with the One Direction paper I found and since Harry Styles is so sexay  that makes me a pretty cool mom. So I was sort of able to redeem my bad self. (All opinions expressed about Harry Styles are those of the Fish.)

Wonderfully blurry locker pic.

So there.

The Big Guy picked up BBQ ribs for Rough Stuff's late birthday dinner (in the golf cart) and I created a layered black forest-ish trifle-like thing. Rough Stuff was a happy girl.

Happy 11th birthday Rough Stuff.
So, I'm not winning any Mom of the Week awards this week. There's always next week.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Put On Your Big Girl Shoes

We did some serious back to school shopping this weekend. We took 5 kids shopping in 4 different stores on Saturday. We also attended the high school marching band's family picnic and an American Girl tea party at the local library just to balance out the day. Saturday was like a three-ring circus and The Big Guy and I were the ring masters- kids like clowns doing donuts and wheelies in the aisles.

This shopping trip was a bit special. We were purchasing all of the typical school supplies- stacks of post-it notes, reams of paper, cases of binders, a truck load of pencils (I'm so kidding- we only bought 9 boxes of pencils)- but we were also bringing home a brand new razor for the newest shaving member of our family. Oh the joy. She could hardly contain it. She couldn't wait to get to the razor aisle but then...

I sidelined her in the lingerie department and announced that we would also be purchasing a bra. And there went all of  her joy.

I'm not sure when the back to school shopping shifted away from cute character backpacks and chunky crayons to bras and razors but I'm not very happy about it. I was looking forward to bra shopping with 3 girls about as much as I would look forward to kneeling on Lego blocks. The lower the age of the girl, the higher the level of pain associated with picking an acceptable bra. As painful as I knew bra and razor shopping would be, it could not prepare me for what I encountered in the shoe store.

The mission in the shoe store was fairy simple: Fit and select shoes for 2 girls while keeping the other 2 girls' hands and eyes off of all shoes, socks, backpacks, purses, and other people's belongings. Oh, and try to keep the 2 being fitted up off the floor. And get all of the rejected shoes back in boxes and on a shelf so as not to leave a trail of mass destruction in our wake.

We hit a roadblock fairly early in the game. Little Bean sized in at a girl's 5.5. That is a 7 in women's shoes. A  S-E-V-E-N. Suddenly, the cute little black Nike shoes with the hot pink stripe for $50, $25 with the buy-one-get-one-half-off deal and a 20% coupon to boot were up to $74 because Nike doesn't make those shoes in a girl's 5.5.

After I recovered from the initial shock of having to pay a whole lot more for this kiddo's shoes, I started to crumble emotionally. I wanted to cry, in the middle of the shoe store. After 18 years of shopping for little shoes, I realized I would never again shop in the kid's shoe department.

That was it. It was over. I felt cheated. Life is cruel that way.

Sometimes you just have to put on your big girl shoes and move on.