Category Archives: Aitch

Marshmallows

My daughter, Aitch (6), came to me asking for a mid-afternoon snack. I asked her what she wanted. Her reply, “Marshmallows!” When I told her no, she asked why then was the bag was already opened.

It’s a new bag, brought home Christmas Eve, and it’s the s’more style, which are rectangular in shape (genius, right?!). Both children are sneak-snackers and pantry-raiders. I have to keep candies hidden. I usually find out that the stash has been discovered when wrappers are found stuffed between couch cushions, in their bedroom trash cans, or under the coffee table.

I called both of them to the kitchen counter and explained very simply that neither of them was to get out of their seats until someone had confessed to opening the bag of marshmallows without permission. The accusations and denials streamed out of them, even going so far as to blame dad, who in fact loathes marshmallows.

As for me, I made good use of the time by emptying the dishwasher and tidying up the kitchen. After ten minutes, I was impressed neither had caved. By twenty, I was wondering if in fact the mice had somehow learned to coop their resources and used the scissors to open the bag. After all, It was crudely cut open…

Doodicus (13) worked the angle that if Aitch would just admit to the crime, her punishment wouldn’t be as severe. Aitch’s defense centered around Dood being a self-confessed sweetaholic. I had nearly cleaned up everything in the kitchen when Aitch confessed as dramatically as one could when admitting to opening a bag of marshmallows without permission after 30 minutes of duress.

I dismissed Dood from the counter. I asked Aitch to bring the bag of marshmallows over to where I stood by the sink. Once she did, I opened the cabinet to the trash and instructed her to throw them away. I saw the flush of humiliation immediately bloom from her neck to brow line. She let out a plaintive whine, “Why??” I calmly explained that it was her punishment. A couple of minutes of silence passed as she stared into what must have appeared a shiny white maw of a monster slurping eagerly for its unexpected treat; I stood looking down at the part in her hair, now also very pink with rage.

She threw the full bag into the trash and ran from the kitchen in tears.

A few minutes later, she returned to tell me that because I had made her cry, it had given her a sore throat and now hurt to talk. I said nothing. My throat hurt too.

Rotten

Just a post for me to look back on in 10 years to remind me that I predicted Aitch would need $10K in orthodontia work…

Over this past summer break, Aitch would come to me complaining of a headache or toothache. I would offer a washcloth to bite on or if she was particularly clingy, a baby aspirin. Where she pointed in her mouth led me to believe that her 6-year molars were coming in, because, well…she’s six. But other times, she would point more to the frontish-side-ish and so I imagined baby teeth were getting ready to be ousted. I shrugged it off while encouraging her to suck it up until her bi-annual dental exam on July 24.

At the exam, I was informed that she had pretty extensive decay on all four primary (baby) first molars. Worse, there was no waiting for the baby teeth to fall out as they normally don’t until sometime around age 8 to 12. Her dentist recommended fillings at the least; pulpotomies (a root canal on baby teeth) at the worst. Due to procedures being necessitated in all four quadrants of her mouth, he suggested doing it under general anesthesia. The other option was to do the procedures in his office, but if we chose that route, we’d have at least two, possibly three more office visits since he wouldn’t/couldn’t do them all in one.

I was devastated. Rather, I was embarrassed that my perfect snowflake (said with some sarcasm) had nasty teeth. I regretted every soda I shared with her; every glass of orange juice I poured; every pint of cherry tomatoes she ever polished off; and every glowing review I gave to her post-brushing when I’d “Oooh!” and “Aaaah!”  when in reality all she was doing was rubbing the brush across the front of her teeth as she grimaced into the bathroom mirror.

Working for an oral surgeon had been educational on the long-term effects of ondontophobia (dental anxiety). If the first appointment involved work on the most painful tooth (needles, drilling, gagging, grinding), how difficult would it be to get her back for the next appointments? On the other hand? She should suck it up. I should suck it up! General anesthesia is dangerous stuff, especially when I had no idea how she would respond to it, and so young. Not to mention the considerable extra expense!

I chose to have it all done in one fell swoop.

The procedure was scheduled three weeks later. August 12th. A week before she returned to school (as a 1st Grader!). That Sunday before, the pain flared again. When I looked into her mouth (now knowing where specifically to look), I saw the gum surrounding the worst tooth was red and swollen to twice its normal size. Surgery couldn’t come soon enough.

Unicorn, freshly washed and fluffed.
Unicorn, freshly washed and fluffed.

Tuesday morning, we were as ready as we could be. I had made sure to bathe her the night before and gently warned her that she couldn’t have anything to eat or drink, not even a sip or to even brush her teeth. She seemed happy when I told her that she could stay in her jammies and bring along her favorite blanket and stuffed animal (Unicorn). We were scheduled at 9:00 am at the surgery center. By 8:40, we were buckling up in the car when the SC called, “The doctor is just finishing up his last case. Are you on your way?” I assured her that we could be there in 10 minutes. At least he wasn’t behind…

Upon our arrival, I filled out some paperwork and wrote a check. We have a high-deductible plan and while I knew the SC would have to take a write-off, we’d be responsible for a majority of the bill. Within just a few minutes, the prep-nurse brought us back and had Aitch exchange her jammie top for a child’s scrub shirt. She chatted happily with the nurse; her only complaint was that of hunger. The anesthesiologist stopped in, someone I had known for many years through the hospital. She introduced herself to Aitch and said, “You know what? You have your daddy’s eyes.” I didn’t think too much of her observation until later when she was getting our family history, “…even though I know you don’t have her maternal history…” While I knew this woman, I wasn’t friendly enough with her to have ever mentioned Aitch was donor egg in a past conversation. I wondered if a common friend, who did indeed know, had told her.

The CRNA went on to explain quietly what her job would be during the procedure while Aitch seemed to be ignoring her as the stupor of the oral sedative (versed) worked its magic. The plastic syringe brought earlier containing the bright pink medicine frightened her at first as she believed it was a needle. She barely opened her mouth as they dispensed it. I discovered later that she had been paying close enough attention for someone in a drug-induced haze.

Then the performing dentist came in. I told him about the swelling and redness from two days before. He frowned and told me that if that’s the case, the tooth was worse than they had thought and they may have to pull it. With his assurance he would do what they could, I kissed Aitch’s brow good-bye. She weakly reached for me, but her eyes were closed, barely awake.

A sterile, lonely and quiet wait.
A sterile, lonely and quiet wait.

I took a seat in the lobby. For an hour I read my Kindle in solitude. I didn’t start to worry until the 60 minute mark, again thinking about her age and general anesthesia and the complications. The next 30 minutes dragged, the 15 after that were unbearable. In that time, I realized I must have a nervous bladder; I had gone to pee three times. Finally another nurse came to get me and escorted me to the family consulting room. There I waited several more minutes before the doctor came in. Aitch was recovering and they were cleaning her up. Unfortunately, he said, the tooth (upper left) that had been so painful and inflamed, was too decayed to save and was extracted. In fact, the bacteria had spread to the adjacent molar tooth and so a filling was applied.

The right upper first molar was also bad, but he thinks the pulpotomy and a silver crown (porcelain would have been too brittle) was applied. The two lower molars, right and left as well, only had to have fillings. I sent Sparring Partner a quick text with the news and I nearly cried. It must have been the combination of relief, tinged with so much regret (for all the things I had pointed out earlier plus letting a good part of me not believe the pain she had experienced was as bad as it must have been).

Holy Hole-in-a-Tooth, Batman!
Holy Hole-in-a-Tooth, Batman!

A nurse came then and led me to where I could see Aitch, awake and dazed. A couple of nurses were trying to get her to bite on a small wad of gauze to try to control some minor bleeding of the socket. She brushed weakly away their efforts until she noticed the IV in her arm. They attempted again to place the gauze, which was now tinted with saliva and blood. To top things off, a biohazard Ziploc bag was on her lap. In it was the tooth. A nasty-looking black hole from the caries bored nearly to the center; three prongs of roots sprouted from the end. She looked at that, and then she looked at me, and then started to cry.

I stood next to her and brushed the hair from her face and assured her that everything was OK. She calmed down soon enough, but remained fascinated by the gauze in her mouth. The nurse gave us an “elephant’s trunk” emesis bag, which she kept spitting into. However, the nurse observed that she showed signs of possibly being sick so she gave her another round of Zofran through the IV. We were then told that once Aitch was able to drink or eat a little bit of flavored slush, we could go home. I was surprised to discover that she wouldn’t have to worry about any after-affects of novacaine. The nurse mouthed silently to me “it makes kids c-r-a-z-y!” over the gurney.

The rough part: post-anesthesia.
The rough part: post-anesthesia.

She still looked like a crushed flower in the bed, droopy and spent. It was with the announcement that she could pick out a movie to watch until she felt better that she actually brightened a bit. A TV and a media cart were rolled to the foot of her bed and a large binder full of movie title photo-copies was given for us to select from. She finally settled on Sleeping Beauty. The movie was started and a cup of crushed orange ice was handed to her, and she eased back into the pillow and snuggled up with the blanket we had brought from home.

We were the last case of the morning so everything was quiet. She looked more alert and color was starting to come back around. She had also stopped trying to spit out blood and had asked for a refill of ice. The IV was removed at which time the nurse remarked they must have tried at least twice in the OR. About fifteen minutes later we were OKd to go. Aitch was given a ride in a wheelchair to our car and a short drive later, we were home. The first thing she asked for was some food. Not just any food, but a bowl of chili. It seemed an odd first meal request, but soft enough.

Latex allergy?? Unknown.
Latex allergy?? Unknown.

For the rest of the day, she played and acted as if nothing had happened. No aches or fatigue. The tooth was deemed “cool!” and a bargain was made to not give the tooth to the Tooth Fairy and instead I would take her to get the next edition of the My Little Pony comic book. By 7:00 that night, she and Doodicus were outside playing hoops. I was only concerned to see she had a slight reaction to where the staff had placed the adhesive patches from her chest and taped her eyes, but by the next day, the rash was barely visible. At her post-op, the dentist didn’t think it was a latex allergy, but he made a note in her chart.

I wouldn’t have done it any differently. She has had no more pain and only describes the area where the tooth is gone as being “ticklish” when food touches it. Selfishly I was happy to see that unless her head is tilted back and her mouth is wide open that neither the empty socket nor silver crown is noticeable. I now watch her brush to make sure she’s getting to the back, and upon the suggestion of her dentist, I picked up some fluoridated mouth rinse. The total monetary cost was $4400: $2.7k for the surgery center and anesthesiologist; $1.7k for the dentist to prepare three fillings, the pulpotomy, crown and extraction, as well as their “hospital fee” (which I know is an utterly bogus fee).

So as I said, I only decided to update here in case I needed to refer back to it someday. In fact, I was just looking over my Disney World posts from a couple of years ago. We didn’t take a family vacation this year and maybe we’ll go again in February 2015. Three years will have passed by then, and frankly that seems impossible the kids have aged that much since that memorable trip.

November 18 – Ah Eff It

This is the only time I hadn’t been able to make it the 30 days of blog posts. It wasn’t that I was too busy (hello?? unemployed!”) or that I didn’t have anything to write (you can hardly shut me up on Facebook). It’s just that drive wasn’t there and you know what? That’s OK.

Aitch was diagnosed with a yeast infection. By the time the pediatrician examined her that afternoon of her appointment, blisters had formed down there. BLISTERS!! Can you imagine? As for the areas on her face, he doubted that the two pimply looking spots were impetigo, however there was a suspicious area under her nose that might have been, but meh, what’s the point of testing since he’s putting her on an antibiotic for the infection. The pediatrician explained how impetigo manifests when kids rub their runny noses with their sleeves (Aitch had a minor cold about a week before) which then causes the smallest abrasions under her nose, resulting in the infection that can easily spread across the surface of the skin.

I remembered a couple of years back when she had all the mysterious skin rashes that he said that she’s a carrier of latent staph. I asked him if it’s possible that she’s still carrying it. He said she could for the rest of her lift, so yes, any bacterial infection could very well be harboring MRSA. With that being said, he said the spot on her hip was NOT bacterial but indeed did look like a spider bite that was thankfully disappearing and healing very quickly.

He also said that he wasn’t going to test her for that either, since it just becomes a logistical nightmare, which I concur. The antibiotic he prescribed would be the same as if she had MRSA. Other than that, we were given instructions to use an over-the-counter athlete’s foot cream (we opted for the Desenex powder as she said the Lamisil ointment “burned”) and to treat the blisters with an OOC antibiotic  topical. Within three days, all signs and symptoms except for the blisters had vanished. She’s been very good about taking her medicine, which luckily is only twice a day, but I know it can’t taste good.

In a completely unrelated note, today was my first day that I didn’t go to my office. I’ve made excellent headway on converting the catch-all closet in the mudroom to an “office & school” supply closet. It’s been slow-going because as I move schtuff from one nook in the house I realize I’ve created a whole new area to organize. Busy work, busy work.

Speaking of which, I’ve started a private group on Facebook that was inspired by the Annual Holiday Card Exchange. If you want to join the group, which I can’t stress enough is PRIVATE, you can ask through this group address.

November 12 – infection?

Aitch has been scratching at her privates very indelicately claiming she itches down there. To my untrained eye I thought she may have something akin to a diaper rash, which wouldn’t have been a stretch considering she still has problems getting up to take bathroom breaks at night.

I started applying Butt Balm to her but after a couple of days the itching became extremely painful at which point we visited the urgent care.

The doctor there thought the rash was a yeast infection and advised me to apply lotramin. We are now two days into that treatment and yet she’s worse. This morning she has two zit-like cysts on her cheek (face) and another visual inspection of her bottom reveals she’s redder than ever and has broken out there, too. She told me the cream burns, so I didn’t use it. I also scheduled an appointment with her pediatrician tomorrow.

Insult to injury, it looks like she was the recipient of a particularly nasty spider bite on her hip. I’ve been applying Benadryl cream to the bite, but it gives her little relief.

I thought about running her an oatmeal bath tonight, but not sure if she should stew in any water at this point or not. FWIW, she doesn’t take bubble baths nor has she been on any antibiotics. She also doesn’t care for yogurt.

Any suggestions on some easy home recipes to give some relief? She’s pretty miserable.

November 11 – Forgotten

2013 036pse

I have a year’s worth of downloaded pictures taken with my camera that I have yet to sort through, edit and file. I found this one that was taken at the 4th of July parade. I’d completely forgotten I had taken this and several similar pictures until tonight. I’m thinking about doing a couple photo-books for my mom, whose dementia continues to progress. It’s been a full year since we decided that it’s no longer safe for grandma to drive 20 miles one way to spend a day with the kids in the house alone.

My brother told me that Saturday night after evening Mass, mom came over to their farm and spent an about an hour visiting. She left to go home, which is three miles away and a straight shot on the highway. Unfortunately, she showed back up at my brother’s farm and confessed she had gotten lost and couldn’t find her way home. My sister-in-law drove her vehicle while mom followed her home in her own car. Sure, part of it was probably because it’s now dark by the time she leaves church to head home, but this is not the first time she’s gotten lost driving. Yes, she still drives. I know. I know…

The time will come all too soon that she’ll forget whose face is above, much like how I’d forgotten I’d even taken the photo.

November 9 – Emergency Date Night

Aitch and Doodicus are at those ages that my husband and I are comfortable going out for the evening for dinner and a movie. It’s nice to have the free time without worrying about rounding up a babysitter days in advance. Tonight we had made plans to go to our neighbor’s house for his birthday party. Keep in mind that this “neighbor” is a mile over, not next door. We make sure that the cell phone we keep in the house is charged and not muted and that Doodicus knows he can always call us if he needs something.

We first drove into town to get something for the cooler since the party was BYO, and then headed back out to their home, which all-in-all, took about 35-40 minutes from the time we left our house. We had just parked our truck when my cell phone rang. It was Doodicus. I answered and I immediately could hear Aitch screaming in the background. Doodicus quickly told me that the iPad had fallen on her nose and that it was bleeding quite a bit.

How does an iPad fall on one’s face? Those details are not important.

I got out of the truck’s passenger side and climbed back in behind the wheel and headed back home, leaving Sparring Partner at the neighbors. When I arrived home minutes later, Aitch was sitting on the couch, her face red from crying and a tissue held under her nose. She had a small pile of used tissues next to her, all with blood on them, but I could tell much of it was a mixture of blood and mucous from her recent head cold. She told me that Doodicus had advised her that crying would make it worse. He had even showed her how to pinch her nose and upper lip to slow the bleeding. She went on to tell me that “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me!”

Both kids are now deep asleep. Aitch might have some swelling tomorrow, and she’s got some dried blood up the one nostril, but luckily she’s fine. Doodicus handled the situation, his first “emergency” on his own, exceedingly well. He addressed her needs first, getting her tissues and an ice pack, and then called us. He’s always made us proud, but there are these moments that help me see that he’s maturing and that he’s on his way to becoming a responsible adult.

November 7 – Eye of the Beholder

This afternoon when I got home from picking up Aitch from school, one of the chores I wanted to get done was to clean out the inside of my van. I still had a bag of potting soil in the back from this summer and more recent, the wings from my daughter’s Halloween costume that were among the mishmash of clutter. All of it was taking up an unreasonable amount of space, especially considering I volunteered to transport much of the office supplies from my now closed office to the school for the teachers, which will easily fill up the cargo space.

I told Aitch to go ahead and stay outside and play in what was left of the snow we got Tuesday as I went inside to change out of my office clothes. Before I made it back outside, she came inside with a bouquet of foxtail weed stems and offered them up to me. I was in a bit of a hurry to get back outside before it got much colder or darker so I told her to just hold to it for a bit longer, hoping she’d just get bored and forget about them. I finished zipping up my coat and turned to see she had the stems in her mouth. At that very moment, she decided she didn’t like how they tasted and spit on the kitchen floor. I was infuriated. I took the bouquet from her hands and handed her an antibacterial wipe to clean up the floor. As she wiped up the mess, I absentmindedly threw the foxtail into the trash, still focused on my original intent to get back outside.

She finished cleaning up and opened the trash can and saw the disposed bouquet. Instantly, her flushed face accentuating her big, blue eyes as the tears flowed down her cheeks. “You threw away my flowers because you don’t love me anymore! I didn’t mean to spit on the floor!”

I was horrified that my careless action had elicited such a heartbreaking response. I was so focused on what I wanted that I just saw a handful of weeds. To her, it was a gesture of love, and I literally threw it away.

I can only hope that with the more time I can devote to the projects and chores of the home, that the less harried I will feel to get them done under my currently strict (and largely unattainable) timetable. I’ve never had much patience, which even my mom can attest to, but my shortage of it shouldn’t mean I can’t be long in appreciation in these all-too-brief and fleeting moments of childhood where even weeds represent beautiful innocence.

foxtail
(Image from Our Prairie Home’s blog, a blogger from Iowa)

November 2 – Conception

I’m dialing this in via my smart phone, so I beg of you tolerance for any wonky editing or grammatical errors sure to come.

November has never been my favorite month. I guess when it comes to not so great things that could happen, I have a one in twelve shot of it happening in November. Take for example my first miscarriage at 16 weeks. And possible my second and fourth…honestly I lost track and I try not to archive-dive unless absolutely necessary.

But today also marks the day Aitch was conceived six years ago. Before anyone prudish gets too squicked out what would be normally considered TMI, I wasn’t even present during conception and was actually 100 miles away. No Shades of Gray action going on here.

If you don’t have time to read the post itself, don’t bother; however read the comments to see if you recognize yourself.

This is my therapy.

Lots of things happening, but either not feeling the urge to blog about it or lacking the time. Right now, I’m sitting quietly next to a digital dictaphone while it records the dictation from another dictaphone because I screwed something up at work. Sparring Partner has eradicated the louder humans from the house, so I’m doing what I can with the silence gratefully acquired.

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We were on vacation a month ago. We spent a week at my Southern-living SIL’s vrbo beach house. The arrangements were perfect for us; specifically within a very short walk to the ocean and our own private pool. We had invited another couple and their two children who are close to Dood’s age, but they weren’t able to accept. Instead my single, child-free sister was crazy enough to accompany. I think by the time she got back home to her two cats, she was thankful to be both single AND child-free. I often felt torn between letting the kids dictate the schedule and making sure my sister was able to take advantage of the local offerings.

Unfortunately, the most memorable part of the trip for me was the harrowing return flight. I won’t bore you with details, but please for the love of the sweet baby Jesus, if you bring carry-on luggage with you, and even if you plan on not letting that item leave your side the entire flight, put one of those stupid little tags that are piled on top of the terminal’s check-in desk on your bag. Shit can, and will, happen if you don’t. I was so traumatized that I have cried each time I recount the details.

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I recently had a birthday. My mom sent me a birthday card and at the bottom of it she wrote, “Come get your rabbit.” I have no fucking clue what the hell that even means.

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My daughter turns five next week. I still get phantom let-down pains when I think about her infancy.

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Next month Aitch will start kindergarten. Not a big deal, certainly, but I’m mostly concerned about how my tu-tu wearing, pink! purple!, girly-girl will adjust to the navy/khaki school uniform requirements. I imagine it’s also more of a struggle with girls than it is for boys at that age. The worst part for Doodicus was teaching him how to tuck in his shirts and to button a fly. In the past year, Dood has worn one pair of pants that did NOT have an elastic waist, and that was for his grandpa’s funeral.

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Since my FIL’s death, my MIL has been holding my husband emotionally hostage. If before I didn’t care for her, I now want to kick her in her artificial hips. HARD.

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Sorry to end on what can only be the most somber of notes, but it is important to note that my son’s best friend’s dad committed suicide on July 4th. I had the chance to speak privately with Danny’s* mom the day after the funeral. While the dad probably had always had depression, it was both undiagnosed and untreated, however the circumstances that led to the self-inflicted gunwound were mostly acute in nature; an accumulation of events from the preceding handful of days. If the news hadn’t been horrific enough, Danny was the first on the scene.

I was lucky enough to be able to see Danny the day I talked to his mom, but I was utterly speechless with him. We made small talk as we admired the crucifix his pastor gave him at the funeral. While I am completely heart-broken for the family, I am also very angry at the selfishness of the dad. He left two young boys behind who are THE age they need to have dad around (not that there’s really an age a boy doesn’t need his dad…), but both currently face heavy bullying (one of the reasons my son gravitated to Danny in the first place because they were both picked on by the same kids when they first met years ago). Plus the younger child has emotional issues that likely will have to be closely monitored all his life. It all just makes my head and heart ache. It’s unimaginable the burden the mom carries. At the close of our talk, she said on top of everything else, she feels humiliated by what he did and knows that the community will judge her unfairly. Sadly, she is right. I know being there just to listen will help, but I really wish I had the ability to perform just one miracle…just the one.

*name has been changed

That’s Bressels. Not Brussels.

I’ve been training temps this week and I am trying to be sympathetic about their individual plights, but one of them has just rubbed me wrong from Day 1. The temps were really brought on in a rushed manner, and apparently my boss seems to have approved the first two applications that fell across his desk.

Here’s an interaction that took place within just a couple days of Temp Z’s training, which took place when I popped my head into where they were working to talk to a fellow employee:

Me: "Blah blah blah patient is blah blah blah and Doctor wants to reschedule to…"
Temp Z, interrupting: "Where did you get your top?"
Fellow Employee and Myself, awkward silence.
Me: "Uh, I don’t know. I’ve had it for a couple years."
Temp Z: "I think it came from The Store."
Me: "It could have."
Temp Z, defensive tone: "Well, I guess I got MY answer!"
Confused look exchanged Fellow Employee and Myself.

I won’t even go into her voice, which has been described by more than one person as "bored" and "disdainful".

And just because you know I’ll never lose that last edge of my Bitter Infertile, she announced she was pregnant and due Christmas Day, and she made that announcement April 20th. YOU do the math.

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The Fellow Employee’s last day was Tuesday. She left me a note to read to the entire staff at our morning huddle. It expressed the hurt she felt over something a couple of other employees did and the backstabbing. While she ended it on a positive note, I decided that I wasn’t comfortable reading it. I know it will get back to her and it’s unfortunate that her anger may end up getting diverted back to me, but I selfishly have to look out for myself as I’m the one still in the office dealing with the Backstabbers.

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On a more humorous note, my daughter, Aitch (who I may have to re-nickname after I discovered that "H" is actually a street term for Heroin, and here I am calling out to Aitch in public settings…More hip listeners might think I’m a soccermom addict), was instructing me in the ways of womanly attributes last night.

As I was tucking her in she poked my stomach. "That’s your belly." "Yes, it is." "And this is your chest." "Yes, it is." "What are these?" as she poked me directly on the boob.

"Those are called Breasts." "They’re Bressels." "What??" "Bressels are Spanish for breasts." I’m laughing now, "Hmmm, okay."

"I don’t have bressels. I’ll get them when I get bigger. I’ll get a Patch, too, right?"

All I could do was laugh some more and answer, "I suppose you will!"

My Seuss Shelves

When Aitch was a baby, I stumbled across a small display cabinet, which was for sale by a store closing in the mall. It was pretty beat up and a dark blue inside and out. With some leftover paint, I gave it a quick face-lift and used it in her room for books. It’s done its duty for these past few years as just that: a simple bookshelf.

Today as a blizzard raged outside, I decided to retire Aitch’s baby board books, and I also had Doodicus help me sort through his books that were OK to hand down to his little sister. While I was able to pull out 20 board books, which take up a lot of room because of their width, I probably reassigned 30 of Dood’s. Luckily, they are mostly first-readers and paper, so while they are thin, they are taller.

The bookshelf just wouldn’t hold all the books. If I made the top shelf “short”, it was mostly wasted space since a lot of books were too tall for it. It then meant many of her tall books had to lay on the bottom shelf and that turns into a clustermuck. As she gets older, she won’t have as many hardbound books. Paperbacks will get slouchy and bent, so I experimented.

I took each of the shelves and dropped the adjustable pegs down on one side only resulted in sloped shelves. Once I restocked the books, I couldn’t believe how much room I had left over! Granted, in a couple of weeks it will look as if a major earthquake has hit, but right now? I like it. It’s quirky, fun, and organized. There’s even room for her Highlights magazines that I had been piling up on her dresser.

Wonky Bookcase
Wonky Bookcase

Scarlet Fever is in This Little House on the Prairie

Aitch had been running a fever off and on this past week, plus she complained of a sore throat. I chalked it up to a cold, what with the occasional wet cough and drippy nose that’s been incessant. I’ll admit I was just hoping she wasn’t going to throw up in the car seat (again!) or on the carpet (again!) or the couch (again!!).

She wanted to join her brother at the local Y for Family Swim Night, which was just an extended open swim from the after-school program. I went through the rushed steps of getting her undressed from her clothes and getting her into her swimsuit as quickly as possible so we could make the most out of what little time we had left. I was also distracted by the fact I had to get in the water with her and was no mood to be in a swimsuit without an opportunity to shave.

I slid into the cold water and turned my arms to reach for Aitch who stood at the pool’s ledge arms crooked to her body like a tiny t-rex and I pretended the water felt great. It didn’t. Normally she doesn’t hesitate to just jump in, but once her feet touched the water, she tensed up and would have climbed up and sat on my head if physically possible. I peeled her off me and sat her back on the ledge, annoyed. I had been in such a hurry that I had forgotten to have her go to the bathroom so she stood there, quaking with cold and doing her version of the “potty dance.” I climbed back out of the water, grabbed our towels and we trotted back into the locker room.

As she was sitting there, I noticed how red her hip looked. I lifted the top of her swimsuit and the rash ran all the way up her back. And even though she was shivering violently, she was hot to the touch. It was then she told me she wanted to go home. I knew it was time to take her to the urgent care.

The doctor diagnosed her with strep throat. I asked if he was going to swab her throat to confirm (I think “strep” is just code for “sore throat”, it’s not as common as most think), but he said that the scarletina was confirmation enough. I had never heard a rash described with that word before and didn’t think much of it. We were given a script for antibiotics and we went home. Of course I googled rash and strep throat when I got home and I was surprised to find out that “scarletina” is actually Scarlet Fever.

She has all of the symptoms:

  • sore throat
  • fever
  • rash
  • bright red tongue and throat
  • headaches and body aches

I was expecting it to be just another unexplained rash like when she was a baby. Honestly, I didn’t even think Scarlet Fever was a thing nowadays. By the way, she’s feeling fine. Today both her and Doodicus BEGGED us to take them into town to go sledding down the dam’s hillside, which we did. The girl is a trooper. That’s all I can say.

Guns and Your Child’s Friends

I read today on Facebook that a friend of mine asked a mom if there were guns in her home before responding to a RSVP for a child’s birthday party. I was amazed by her audacity, her bravery, her awareness. Even though a day rarely goes by that I don’t think about the shooting in Newtown, it never occurred to me that as my children’s social circles expand that I need to consider more than the basic questions (what, where and when). As one of her other FB friends stated, it’s a question parents should “normalize.”

First of all, I am absolutely for gun control. I believe the 2nd Amendment is ridiculously outdated and grossly misinterpreted. It’s a topic that I know has lost me friends (if not, my name on a restricted list or two) because it’s one I’ll admit that I’m not flexible. However, what you probably did not know is that my husband, Sparring Partner, was a long-time member of the NRA, but while he’s no longer a member and his opinion about the NRA is now hardly favorable, he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on gun ownership. In fact, there are guns in this house. Right now. I couldn’t tell you where they are except I do know they are under lock and key, and that neither my 4-year-old or 11-year-old know we have them. Then there’s my husband’s father, who is a collector. Not just a half-dozen or so, either: we’re talking hundreds of guns.

I grew up with guns, specifically rifles. As a farmer, it was one of the tools of the trade and used for hunting, pest control and as brutal as it sounds, to humanely treat critically ill livestock. They were kept (and still are) in an unlocked cabinet in my parent’s house where even now my kids can see them and frequently ask about them when we visit. The only dangerous situation I ever recall happening was this incident back when I was still pregnant with Aitch (I never would have guessed it had been that long ago) when my husband had one of the old rifles misfire while he was handling it.

The point is, I’m not at all ignorant about guns and how they can be used effectively in the hands of a responsible owner, but I also know that there are a half-dozen less objectionable ways to protect ourselves or to put meat on the table. So simply put, I don’t like guns, under any circumstances. It wasn’t until I read my friend’s update mentioned above would I have ever thought to ask the parent of a child if they had guns before I considered letting either Aitch or Doodicus go to their homes. I then put the question to my friends (bear with me as I included ALL of the responses below):

I have to ask, and I do so respectfully (and expect the same in responses): would you ask a parent if they have guns in their home if your child was invited to a sleepover? And how would you address this with your child if the parent’s response was not favorable?

RN: I wouldn’t even think to ask this question, but I think it’s a really important one. If there is a gun in the home, I would follow up with asking how it is stored (is it locked up in a gun safe?) and if it’s loaded and where the ammunition is stored. If everything is locked up in gun safes and only a responsible adult knows the combo, it is probably ok. Right?

KA: No, because although it’s not completely unheard of here (we live in quite a rural area and next to a big game shooting area), legally they would have to be in a locked cabinet, inspected etc.

TGM: i don’t know if i would think to ask but then again i am not sure. if a parent asked me that i would answer them honestly. yes we have guns in our home. they are kept in my room, in a closet where the children can not access them easily. they are kept unloaded and the ammunition for them is not kept in the same area as the guns. if they objected to their child being there, i am ok with that and don’t see it causing any hard feelings on my part. i know that not everyone is comfortable with guns. i am not that comfortable with them. all of the guns we own are my husbands, used for hunting (no hand guns) and some are from his grandpa that were handed down. however, i don’t have an issue with my child being in a home where responsible gun ownership is being practiced. responsible being the key word. and of course i assume that i would know that family pretty well.

MG: Never thought of it before..

XV: 1. Yes. 2. I’m worried about a lot of kids in the same house with guns. Yes, I know the parents are very responsible, and I know you are careful, but you know as well as I do, darling child, that kids can be crafty and get excited in packs, so…I’d rather not risk it. I love you.

IPK: I would absolutely ask and if the answer was yes I would not allow my child to visit that home. I once visited a home and discovered after half an hour that my three year old was playing with duplos in a room with a shotgun leant up behind the door. I died ten times inside.

EGM: I don’t know that I would think to ask normally but if I did, I would follow it up with asking how they are stored and locked away. If the answers weren’t satisfactory, I would be honest with the other parent and say that I’m not comfortable with it and ask if the child could sleep over at my own house first. Then I’d address it with my child. With a child of [Dood’s] age, I’d be honest and explain my concern and the solution (hopefully the other parent would be OK with the sleepover at my house instead). With a younger child, I’d probably just say that we’d decided to change it to our house. For the record, we have a gun–it’s kept locked up in a coded safe, unloaded, and the ammunition is under separate lock-and-key. Only Jxxxx and I know the code to get to the gun itself, so even crafty kids couldn’t get it.

KA: I let M spend the night with a friend who I know the family has guns. They live on a rural property, and the guns are locked away. I think the dad usually does carry on his person though. I grew up on a farm though, and my father had guns, so my comfort level might be different.

KJW: I would ask. I’ve personally known 2 families that wish they would have asked as well. You can’t be to careful. You don’t get a “re-do” with a gun.

KA: Also, I’ve had some pretty blunt discussions with my M about guns and gun safety. I agree that there are people out there who might be careless with guns–and careless with other things too. Trust your gut. If you’re not comfortable, for any reason, keep your child home and do something else.

EMM: Yes, I would absolutely ask! If they were locked away and secured appropriately, fine. If not, explain the rules of gun safety with him (treat every gun as if it is loaded, etc.)

JF: Oh honey, I ask even if we have a play date and I’m staying. It’s an important question to ask.

EC: I have the gun talk with my boys A LOT. Their Dad and his brothers all have guns. They are locked up appropriately, but I’m paranoid. There are three houses in the neighborhood where my kids play and have sleepovers. I’m nosy enough to know that all the parents are crazy liberals like me and don’t own any guns.

MGK: Never would have asked that I grew up in a home with guns was educated starting at an early age (5) my daughter has been shooting since she was 5. I feel it is very important that our youth are taught about guns what is proper handling and how to act around guns. People can get hurt around guns if they don’t know proper handling and how to act. If children are brought up and taught to respect guns and that they should not handle guns without an adult present I believe you have a lot less to worry about. When kids are introduced to something and taught properly they are less likely to investigate on their own it becomes second nature. When I was growing up my dad had all of his guns in his gun room and I knew I couldn’t go in there and when I had friends over they were not aloud in the room and it was never an issue.

KY: We have guns and they are locked in a gun safe. I wouldn’t be offended if someone asked me about it but I have never asked, nor have I had anyone ask us. We have lots of sleepovers.

KA: [Yo-yo Mama], the more I think about this, I had to add that A LOT of things make me nervous about sleepovers. (Older siblings, drugs, other safety concerns, and so on.) I think for me, it comes down to how well do I know the family, how comfortable am I with them, and do I have a high enough level of overall trust for my son to be in their care for any amount of time? When I lived in Boston/Cambridge, guns probably would not have come up. Living in rural NH, I tend to assume that almost everyone, regardless of political leanings, likely has a gun. I went to get a permit myself recently, and had to go back, because the PD has run out of applications. I don’t currently own a gun, but I wouldn’t be offended if I was asked politely if I did, by a concerned parent.

CC: Yep. And if I wasn’t comfortable with the answer, my kid wouldn’t go over to that friend’s house. I’m the mama. I don’t give a fig about the other family. There are houses that are off limits to my children because I think the people are too stupid to be responsible (with and without guns). There are houses that are off limits to my children because I know drugs are present. There are houses that are off limits because the parents allow movies and videogames that my children are not allowed. My job is to do what I think is best for MY family…not be politically correct. And how I handle it…I’m honest with my kids about it.

JF: We have a lot of potentially dangerous medications in our house. For my child’s safety and the safety of those visiting our home, we purchased a medication lock box. We keep all of our daily meds in there (the scary stuff – not the vitamins). I think it was $30 but it gives us peace of mind. We also put it up high when we have kids over and our son does not know the combination (though he’s tried to get it out of us LOL)

KCN: Vitamins can be fatal too if ingested in high quantities. I would lock those up too.

JF: True [KCN] – they are kept out of reach as well. However, I’m more concerned with seizure meds and stimulants than vitamins and space is limited.

CMS: The harder part of your question is explaining it to your child. They really have no comprehension of the finality of gun accidents. If a parent is offended by you asking, I would wonder why. Shouldn’t they be just as concerned if the sleepover was at your place? I think an open discussion is never out of place.

KY: I agree that we don’t do sleepovers with people we don’t know very well – my son is just uncomfortable in that situation. So, with that said, we know the families and where they stand on the issue of guns. Now, one of my son’s best friends has parents that “act drunk” in his words, or leave the kids home alone often at night. He himself chooses not to stay at their home overnight.

KF: Do I have to let my kids go on sleep overs? . Never thought of that now I have another reason to be paranoid! . I am not sure if I personally would have the guts to ask but I wish I could! Good luck with that one!

KSB: Sleepovers aren’t what they used to be. I fear the older sibling or the older sibling’s friend or the creepy uncle who swings by for pizza. Medications, drugs, guns. I recognize that I can’t control every environment my children enter, nor do I want to limit their experiences. We haven’t reached sleepover age yet but I’m sure it won’t be long. We’ve already agreed that sleepovers aren’t allowed unless we are friends with the parents. Not just friendly. Friends. My nephew went to a sleepover and their house phone was turned off that night. The mother didn’t want to use up all her minutes letting the 10 yr old boys contact their parents, so my SIL had no way of contacting her son. The next morning the mom took the boys to a splash park without asking permission or notifying anyone. The police found my nephew in a parking garage outside the park. He was fine but terrified. Some if our close friends have guns. My kids could sleepover at some of their homes but not all. Not all gun owners are safe and responsible. In fact I am terrified that the house next door to us has four unlocked guns and two mentally impaired/unstable preschoolers. We don’t do play dates at their house. It’s likely nothing bad will ever happen over there, but why hang around to find out? I understand we will encounter tears and drama and “it’s not fair!” The first time W isn’t allowed to go to the big fun sleepover but I’m okay with that. It’s my job to keep her safe. Not keep her cool.

JLK:  It, coming from a no gun culture, scares the Willies out of me that people would have them in their homes. No matter how they are kept.

SR:  I absolutely would ask but I wonder how many people are going to tell you if they have guns but don’t store them properly? I didn’t grow up with guns and I’m scared of them but I know people who are responsible gun owners so I don’t think that anyone who has a gun necessarily is bad or irresponsible. As other people pointed out, there are so many things surrounding sleepovers that are troublesome for me but it all really boils down to how well do I know the parents (which I know isn’t a guarantee either).

ALH: Sigh. I would ask, if I was an American. Don’t know how I’d respond to a yes — and I come from a hunting culture and have handled plenty of guns.

JL: I ask, saying something like “you know how interested kids are at this age.” And he doesn’t go if I’m not comfortable with the answer. I also have a good long talk with him about what to do if the subject of seeing a gun comes up.

Even after reading the comments, I’m still not sure if it’s something I won’t feel awkward asking about, but it really is a question that shouldn’t be uncommon (“normalized”), and therefore shouldn’t be a question that anyone would find offensive. On the other hand, it makes me wonder how I would feel if a parent who was a hardcore NRA member refused to allow their child over to our house because I wouldn’t be the person willing to arm myself to save their baby in an event that would be a hundred (if not a thousand) times MORE unlikely than an accidental gun-inflicted injury.

And while we’re talking about accidents, it never occurred to me that we should have my son’s stimulants secured in a lock box, which we are now going to remedy. But what about the beer in the fridge? What about the carkeys on the hooks? What about the stairs to the basement? The toilets, kitchen knives and glassware? Sure, *I* know there’s a huge difference between a gun and a glass, but the difference comes in teaching Responsibility. For me, that is something I can teach and don’t have to have a gun in my hand to teach it. NOT talking about it isn’t going to make it go away or not happen, and that’s hard for me to remember because open discussions often feel as if I’m erasing innocence.

Naughty

Aitch’s preschool class takes turns in bringing snacks for all the kids. Each day, a Snack Bucket is sent home with one child who is to return the next with snacks for all. This is rather an exciting event to four-year olds. I remember the first time my son came home from preschool with the Snack Bucket because he had snuck it into his room and had fallen asleep not only with it in his bed, but with it wrapped tightly in his arms.

My daughter is no less enthusiastic about this honor, but when I asked if her classmates had enjoyed the snacks she had brought yesterday, she sadly told me that she had not been able to hand them out. Instead she had sit in time out. “I wasn’t listening,” she explained with a pout.

This had not been the first time that she has told me about sitting in time out for Not Listening, so today I caught the preschool teacher and asked her about it.

“It’s not that she’s being naughty…” she started. I braced myself because really, what else could it be?

“…it’s more of she’s not following directions.” PO-tato, paTAto, right?

The teacher continued, “When we came in from recess, I counted the children and came up with 23 (FYI: there are 24 in her class), so I counted again and came up with 23. We realized Aitch was missing. We quickly discovered she was ‘hiding’ from us, which is why she was given the time-out.”

Oh,yeah, I definitely think that qualifies for being naughty.