Sick Kids Suck


Warning: this gets gross and graphic. If you’re of a delicate flower variety and grossed out easily, you should check out another of my posts instead. You’ve been warned.

I woke up at about 3 am to the sound of Dash sleepily pawing at the door to my room. “I frew up all over my bed.” I hoped that this was just a nonsensical statement related to a bad dream, but went to investigate. Bear gave him a cursory once-over to check for puke before letting him climb into the bed, then promptly tried to go back to sleep for a couple of hours before he had to get up for work. When I got to the boys’ room I found a cranky Ozzie standing wide awake in his crib and a race car bed filled with a whole lot of foul mess, conveniently spread all over the sheets, blankets, and even the pillow. I set about that delightful bit of cleaning, and let the kids into the toy room to keep them from making it any harder.

This was a clear sign that I’d have an excellent day. And yet, at this point, I was still able to convince myself this could be a singular incident, a fluke, and surely not a full-force sickness settling over our house. Kids do wacky things! Sometimes they just toss their cookies for no discernible reason, right? Of course I’m right. I decided I’d play it safe by sticking to serving bland foods to help settle his tummy, but otherwise I’d just let him go on about his day.

My hopes were reinforced by the boys playing happily in the toy room for a while and then eating a light breakfast. Whew, no problem!

We were sitting on the couch watching a little tv together. My kid started to retch, and I foolishly didn’t have a bowl or bucket close at hand. I scooped him up as he spat a mouthful of ichor onto the seat of the couch and ran to the bathroom, only a few precious steps away. As we crossed the threshold,  vomit sprayed all over the nice new bamboo floor, creating a slick path to the toilet. I was just trying to get him over the toilet bowl, and couldn’t see that the traction of the ground in front of me had been compromised. My bare feel squelched down into the slick mess and I slid like a cartoon character hitting a banana peel, barely managing not to lose my balance. I lowered Dash so that his face was directed at the bowl just as he spewed out another stream, and then turned to get the light on so I could inspect the floor to see how bad it was. I also murmured reassuring babble to Dash, because I know throwing up is scary to small kids. What I didn’t think about was that a three year old doesn’t concern himself with aiming, and when I turned to look at the floor, he turned to look at me. Without thinking I swooped down to catch the vomit. Why the hell did I do that? Oh, joy, now I have saved the disgusting messy floor from being splattered, and have a handful of half-digested goo for my trouble.

I redirected him toward the toilet and rinsed my hands, then stood over him, patting his back and talking him through the process. I hate to be touched when I’m physically ill, but that is apparently not his puking style.

Having a sick kid sucks. Just the part where I had someone’s vomit on me is bad enough. That I would have to clean it from the couch and floor was no picnic either. That I had a half-crying, half-pathetic-whimpering child to strip out of soiled pajamas and to steer clear of spreading it everywhere while also trying to keep Ozzie from playing in it was just the icing on the cake.

I looked over at the clock and saw it was only about 6:30am. Why does a day have to have so many hours in it?

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Once upon a time, when the flu hit the house,  it meant I’d spend some time kneeling before a toilet, and some time snuggled up in some blankets and watching tv, and maybe sipping some broth or Gatorade.  I’d likely attempt to sleep away some of the day. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t anything to get excited about.  But when your kid is sick, and also young enough to not have the routine down, it is magnified a hundred times.  There is puke all over the house. There are at least three extra loads of laundry, but probably more like five by the end of the day. Even when they aren’t actively causing a vile mess, they want to be right under my feet, so they’re keeping me from accomplishing the clean-up in any reasonable timeframe. It SUCKS.

And then my own stomach started to turn queasy. Party on!

Crazy-Easy DIY Dishwasher Detergent Tablets


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Let me just start this post out by saying I’m not suuuuper crafty. When people who know me think of me, I sincerely doubt it is because they’re thinking of anything crafty or do-it-yourself; it’s much more likely they’re thinking of my ridiculous facebook posts or my zany antics with wild hair dye colors, or (no brainer) my amazing ability to create such adorable and funny kids. But since leaving the military and embarking on my domestic adventures in being a stay at home mom, I have more of an interest in attempting pinterest projects, and without my second income I also have the drive to be a bit more thrifty. My point is, even a novice like me could mix up a batch of these babies in less than five minutes, so no, you don’t have to be crafty to accomplish this.

I’d also like to give credit for the recipe I used to make these dishwasher tabs, and since I sort of picked and chose from a couple of sources, I will just say that it’s a mix of the ones I found here, here, and here. All of them were nice and actually damn near the same, really, but didn’t quite seem right for me. so I tweaked them just slightly, and voila! I have a super wonderful dishwasher tab that left my dishes sparkly and clean! The glasses had no spots, the plastic containers didn’t have any hazy film (which we did get from several of the store-bought tabs),  and they smelled clean and fresh without being overly soapy-smelling. That strong soap smell that you sometimes get from “real” detergents creeps me out, I don’t want to eat or drink soap. A whiff of it when I open the dishwasher is one thing, but when I’m tipping a glass of water to my lips, I don’t want to feel like I’m getting a belly full of suds.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:

1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup sea, kosher, or other coarse salt
1/2-3/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed or from a bottle

A couple things to note: Washing soda is not the same thing as baking soda. It’s in the laundry aisle, usually conveniently located next to the borax. As far as the salt, any coarse one will do. I used an off brand sea salt because it was cheaper, some of the recipes even used epsom salt, which would likely be even cheaper. I just chose what I happened to have onhand. The salt is used for the abrasive quality and to help soften hard water if that’s an issue where you live, so the type isn’t a deal-breaker.

Mix them all together and it’ll be the consistency of soggy sand. Add the lemon juice slowly, and once you get it to the consistency where it’s easily sticking together, stop. It’ll still work if it’s too wet, but it’ll be messier and harder to form. Next, scoop out tablespoons of the mix. As I scooped it out, I thought I must’ve been doing something wrong because the little half-spheres I was scooping onto my sheet of tin foil seemed a bit crumbly, like they’d fall apart at a touch. Don’t fret, dear reader, your tablets will dry out and somehow become more stuck-together as they do.  I let it stay in the shape of the 1 tablespoon sized scoop and just plopped them out onto the foil, but you can form it into little blocks if you prefer. You might want it to be a different shape to fit just so into your compartment of your dishwasher, it’s up to your preference. I’ve seen several versions where people pressed it into different ice cube trays or even cookie cutter shapes, so go ahead and get creative if you want to. Have an old bachelorette party penis shaped ice mold? Who doesn’t want a little soapy penis to do their dishes? Just make sure there isn’t more than about a tablespoon of the mix in each tab, or you’ll risk having too much detergent, which means that you may end up with soapy film on your dishes. And that would be a bummer, because it defeats the whole purpose of a quick, cheap and easy tab if you have dirty dishes at the end. Who wants to re-run a rinse cycle or some other nonsense? Not this gal. Pay attention and save yourself the headache.

Once you have your own special little creations, let them dry. You can use it immediately but it’ll be mooshy, which means that you can’t store them without them all drying together, becoming one big hunk of hassle requiring an ice pick and a strong arm. If you’ve scooped them out like mine, it takes a few hours for them to dry out. If you put them into an enclosed mold such as an ice cube tray (of any shape, naughty or nice), it may be better to wait a full 24hrs. Let them sit until fully dried out, then place into an airtight container. I reused the container that my old store-bought tabs came in: take that, cascade! This recipe makes 36 tabs 🙂

When I used mine, I just tossed it into the bottom of the dishwasher, because the little compartment wasn’t quite deep enough to fit mine. In the future I could flatten them a bit, but realistically, I doubt I will. That extra few seconds per tab is really not going to matter since they work great the way I am using them, but if you’re the type that will want it to fit, you may want to check that yours do before they dry out.

Also, here’s a shot of the fabulous results:

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Ooooooooh, sparkly 🙂

The exact breakdown of the price was about $0.04, yes, just 4 cents per tablet! I factored in everything according to what the actual used amount cost, so to be fair, I did have to spend a bit more upfront than what I actually used, but since those ingredients can easily be used to make subsequent batches, I’m not bothered about it. The store-bought ones we got from Costco were the cheapest we could find locally, and those were a pretty great deal at just $0.19/tab. Some brands at Wal-Mart are as much as .$0.35 each, which means that at the least they’re nearly 5 times less, and depending on the brand, can be almost 9 times less expensive! I get it that these aren’t likely a huge part of your budget, but it all adds up. I’d rather spend my extra money on something a little more fun and exciting than dish soap!

So good luck making your own, and be sure to let me know what you think! Also, feel free to share this link with your friends, family, and even a few strangers 🙂

 

 

p.s.- if you’d like to know about the minor disaster in my kitchen as a result of making these, read on!

What Are We Even Judging Each Other About?


When I decided to settle here once I left the military, I looked to the internet to find other parents so that I could build a social network of fellow parents for me, and their kids for the boys. There are a few websites I looked into: raisingthem, meetup, mommeetmom, etc. All have parenting groups, mom’s groups, play groups, or ways to link up to make them; they all amount to the same thing. I found several groups in my area, and most of these had its own niche: All natural, green parenting; parenting kids with special needs; working parents; “geeky” gamer parents; pagan parents; fundamentalist christian parents; “fitness” parents; and then a few groups that were just location based, some that specified they are open to anyone in the area joining, and that they “don’t judge” different parenting styles. Those groups all had a very inclusive message, and I figured they were basically for parents who weren’t fired up about any one interest.

My parenting style doesn’t really fully fit into any of the niche crowds. I like video games and own several gaming consoles, and I am definitely a fan of some geeky stuff (Yay sci-fi/fantasy games, books, movies, shows!), but I’m not into D&D or Magic:The Gathering, I’m not into LARPing (Live Action Role Play) and I’m not the type to keep up with the latest games the minute they come out. I’m not hard-core enough to be a geeky/gamer parent. When the price isn’t prohibitively higher I try to make pro-environment choices and opt for some organics. I even grow a small, very amateur, all-organic garden in my back yard, but I own an SUV and I’m definitely all about murdering the crap out of a bug if I find it in my house. Plus it doesn’t make me sad to drink water out of a plastic bottle, even though I usually use reusable ones just because I’m cheap. Again, I’m just not hard-core enough about being green, so I don’t think I fit into any nature-lover’s parenting group. My kids don’t have special needs, so that’s out. We aren’t religious, and while I have plenty of mildly religious friends, I’m way too liberal to belong a group of any kind of fundamentalists, whether they’re christian or otherwise. Even though I belong to a gym, I’m not in amazing shape, and I felt intimidated to attempt to join a group of moms who identify at fit. Even though I am a fan of working out regularly, and during my time in the military I have amassed a pretty comprehensive understanding of physical training, I’ll never be confused for a fitness trainer on sight alone. I worried that my fitness level wouldn’t be high enough to be welcome in one of those groups.

So the location based ones are it, right? The problem with a random group selected solely by location is that it’s a crap-shoot as to whether they’re at all socially compatible. There was no way to know whether you had anything else in common with any of them without just jumping in. I found that many groups were centered around a core set of moms that was very cliquish, and even without any purposeful rudeness, you knew you were not really “in.” Sometimes you just can’t break into a group that really isn’t interested in expanding, so some of those groups I just didn’t bother to make a real effort with. I tried out about a half dozen groups, and with every group I found that the initial few playdates went about the same: there was a warm reception, everyone was friendly, and it was like an awkward first date in that everyone makes polite inquiries about your life and background, while offering up a bit about themselves in exchange. Some of the groups had just started, and due to weak participation or schedules not lining up, the groups fizzled before they really even got going. With others, even when I didn’t feel excited about the group, I went to several events just to give it a real try. It’s almost impossible to get a realistic feel for the group in one meeting, unless it is dramatically wrong for you.

Once I did get to see more, I noticed that a lot of the moms would gossip and snipe about other moms in the group who weren’t present. There was a whole lot of judgement being slung around about any mom who exhibited any deviation from the group’s parenting norm. This phenomenon wasn’t exclusive to any one group. Some of the things I noticed being picked on in particular were moms who were too busy with their kids’ activities, who were too cautious about what they fed their kids, who worked especially hard on their fitness, or who were extra crafty and seemed like a “supermom.” I expected some amount of gossip, which I’ve found to be common amongst groups of men or women equally, but the thing that surprised me was that I didn’t expect it to be centered on things that are generally considered positive. Anything a mom was doing that took extra time and effort was on the table. It was as if every mom doing well was somehow doing those things only to show up every other. These women’s own insecure or inadequate feelings were eclipsing their ability to even acknowledge that making the extra effort could possibly be for the person’s own sense of accomplishment, or simply because they were doing what they considered to be best for their family. Anytime I didn’t weigh in against the behavior in question- especially if I disagreed that it was a problem, but even when I merely stayed silent- I felt like I was filed away into the same category alongside those other judged moms. I’ll admit there were times that I agreed with the group simply from a feeling of peer pressure. I’m no saint, and I don’t claim to be. Sometimes I just wanted to feel accepted, and I would nod, and give a bland, “Yeah, I know.” or “Weird.”

While on some level, I would feel a twinge of guilt at participating, on another I just liked having other moms to go out with and having kids for my boys to socialize with, and there was still a significant part of the time that no one was being insulting or hurtful. These people weren’t villains with one dimensional, petty jealousy summing them up. Some were very thoughtful and helpful, there was a genuine element of friendship developing at various levels amongst group members. There just happened to also be a lot of judgement about anything “other.”

I realized that most of those niche groups were likely formed not in an effort to exclude the people who weren’t hard core enough about their particular interests, but rather, to find a group who wouldn’t ostracize them for those interests. It gave me a whole different perspective about the type of moms that must make up these groups, and I saw that I shouldn’t automatically assume they’re one-dimensional, either.

‘Parenting’ and ‘Punctuality’ Do Not Go Together


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When I first became a parent I had no idea how I was ever going to be on-time again. I was in the Army, and punctuality was a big deal in my life. Prior to Dash coming along, I figured I would spend my time during my maternity leave peacefully cuddling my new bundle and that I’d just avoid going out of the house for a couple of days until I got the hang of things. You know, since it takes a couple of days to master the whole baby thing.

I’ll skip over the frantic first few weeks when I was just completely lost in a haze of sleep deprivation and constantly freezing mid-thought to listen again for a breath because is he breathing? During those days, I barely remember leaving because I was just so upside down. Even once I was slightly better at it, leaving the house was always a toss of the dice, because I found that babies have a special sense that tells them when you need to leave now or be late, and they take those opportunities to spit up all over themselves or audibly fill their diaper as if to say, “You didn’t think we were going yet, did you?”

In those early days, leaving involved an almost embarrassing amount of preparation. I had every item known to man along, but I felt like I was guaranteed to forget something, so I would frantically dig through the diaper bag and check and recheck that everything was where it should be. I was ready if it was sunny, if it was rainy, if it was very windy but somehow still warm. I was ready for everything short of a damned alien invasion. Sure, if anyone looked into the back of my hatchback, it looked like I lived in my car, but that was no big deal. All parents have a trunk space that’s teeming with baby stuff to the point that opening it turns into a crazy dance where you try to open it just so, so that you can get a hand in there to block everything before it falls,  right?

And yet with all that packed and ready to go, it seemed like I’d get just out of the garage, or even just down to the end of our street, and have to hurry to run back in because I suddenly realized the bottle was still in the refrigerator, or that my meticulously packed diaper bag was still sitting by the garage door.

I eventually felt like I had getting out of the house under control, just in time to have Ozzie come along and make me feel like I was back to square one, because there was a little team of children tag-teaming the task of making me late, and probably high-fiving behind my back or when I was looking away.

Over a year into the having-two thing, I still find myself either rushing out the door to make it anywhere on time. Of course, anytime I actually manage to leave early due to contingency planning, nothing throws us off, and I just have to sit and twiddle my thumbs in a parking lot, trying to keep my kids from turning into pumpkins while we’re waiting for it to be a reasonable time to go into our destination. So, perpetually early or perpetually late, but never on time. You just can’t win.

My Kid is Just Not Greedy Enough


Dash and Ozzie were adorable for Halloween. Don’t take my word for it, ask anyone in my neighborhood. By anyone, I actually mean only the few neighbors along one street, because that was as far as our trick-or-treating went.

Last year was the first year we let him trick-or-treat. I’m not judging anyone else who takes an infant, but I didn’t want to make the effort until he got something out of it. He dressed as a pirate and was beside himself with excitement over us not only walking around the neighborhood, but actually going to people’s doors, which wasn’t usually allowed. The first few houses, we rang the doorbells and when they opened the door, he would try to dart inside. He didn’t understand the concept of going to someone’s house and not going in. He could barely bring himself to say “chick-ar-cheet” at half the houses, because he was nervous and overwhelmed, but he always said thank you, so I’ll count it as a victory. It was all very cute, and he was sad when it was over. He forgot about his candy by the 2nd of November, and his Dad and I robbed him blind.

This year, he was actually old enough to anticipate the holiday, and asked me every day for weeks whether it was Halloween yet. We had a couple of different costumes that he’s gone back and forth on, and he finally settled on Spiderman just moments before we left the house. Ozzie was a rat, which I chose for him at the thrift store because it was his size, in great condition, and puffy, so it would be warm. He was oblivious to everything ahead of time, but seemed to be having fun chasing Dash and making “Raaaah!” sounds up until we left.

When we started out, Dash was narrating every step, parroting back all of the prep work I’d put in, “We don’t want to be in the street because it’s not safe. We walk on the sidewalk. We say trick-or-treat and they give us candy!” and so on. Dash was very enthusiastic at the first house, and Ozzie was slightly confused by the whole situation. He didn’t try to go into the house, but it did take a lot of encouraging to get him to chose a piece of candy. He was all kinds of adorable, and he made just the right baby smiles and sounds to get the oohs and ahhs flowing. Ozzie waved bye-bye and Dash gave a gleeful thank you, and ran away from the porch. “Can we do one more trick-or-treat, please?” Dash asked as we walked down the sidewalk. “Of course! We’ll go to lots of houses!” He looked relieved.

But only a few houses later, as he walked away, Dash said, “I’m all full of candy. I want to be at my house now.” I couldn’t believe it, and I asked if he was all done, if he meant he didn’t want to trick-or-treat at any more houses. Did he get enough candy? “Yeah. I got lots of candy! My bag is so full! There’s lots of candy in it!” The whole way back (which, really, was less than a block) he went on about his candy, and how great it was, and how there was so much of it, and on and on. He was thrilled!

I was glad he wasn’t sad when it was over this year. But all told, we hit less than a dozen houses. On the one hand, I didn’t have to schlep all over the place with two maniac kids, on the hunt for tiny twix bars and such. On the other hand, between two kids, there were only about 20 pieces of candy, maybe a few more if you count the houses that gave out a couple. This means there was really not enough for me to steal the candy away without Dash noticing its absence.

Every parent knows the candy tax is the main way these kids work off all the effort their parents have put into their Halloween fun. But since my kid is satisfied, hell, even ecstatic, with such a small haul, I just have to accept that the tax is being waived this year. Damn it!

Discipline, The Toddler Edition


I’m not an especially strict mom. At one and three, Ozzie and Dash are a little young for that, but I am planning to be big on discipline as they grow up. I don’t expect my kids to be the model of good behavior for all of child-kind, but I would like them to grow up to not be award-winning assholes as adults. Ozzie is still a baby, but he knows the power of his baby face, so when I try to use a stern voice with him he usually just makes a big sweet smile and hugs my leg and toddles off to continue doing what he wants. We work on distracting him from things he shouldn’t play with, but it doesn’t really work to try to discipline him. Dash is past that point, but still has the attention span of a goldfish, so it gets tricky.

In this age of apps and gadgets, of course I tried technology. I have tried a few timeout timers that will countdown the seconds and keep him focused on what is going on. That was a total letdown: that just led to him whining for one more thing, and wanting to turn it on and “play timeout.”

I’m considering stepping it up. When the boys are bouncing off the walls and practically vibrating with the hum of energy whirring through them, sometimes I make a game of wearing them down. “Hey! Can you show me how fast you can run to the end of the hall? Wow, that was fast, but I bet you could go even faster if you were jumping the whole way!” Dash follows almost endless instruction on running back and forth across the house and Ozzie pads along in his wake, nowhere near keeping up, but still laughing and trying.

Sometimes I find myself daydreaming about when they’re old enough for me to get all crazy and perhaps have them scrubbing the toilets with a toothbrush (one specifically for that purpose, not theirs; I’m not that sick) and doing white glove inspections of their rooms whenever they get busted for bad behavior. But in this fantasy I’m also perpetually in a spotless home and a daily cheesecake does nothing bad to my body. I know it’s easy to make these big plans when there’s no way to implement them now.

I’ll admit I’m a little hesitant to use physical activity as a punishment because I don’t want them to hate working out and being active. There must be a way to incorporate this ability to follow instruction in physical activity into an age appropriate discipline method. I was in the army for over a decade, so I’m no stranger to the concept of making someone do push-ups when they screw up; but is a toddler to young to go all “drill sergeant” on them? Unfortunately, I think so. After all, neither of them can even do a single push-up, so those are out.

Do any of you readers have fantastic discipline methods to share? And no, beatings and shock collars don’t count,!

Schooled by a Preschooler


Dash woke up and rolled out of bed, I heard him from my room as he padded down the hall. As is the usual routine, he made his was directly to my room, where I asked him if he needed to use the potty. He went into my bathroom and as he was going, yelled out to me, “Am I going to school today?” I told him he was, then waited. I’m trying to establish that bathroom time is a solo deal, in the likely futile hope that he will begin to think that my bathroom time is sacred. I know, dream on.

His everyday pattern is to go to the bathroom, come climb in bed with me (and his brother who is almost always awake first), give me a hug and settle in to drink some milk while I have coffee, and we watch some cartoons for a bit until it is a reasonable time to be awake, or about 7 am.

This morning, he came out and walked over to my side of the bed, then looked up at me expectantly. “Mommy.”

“That’s me, buddy. Come give me a hug good morning!” I leaned down to scoop him up and he brought up a hand between us. I paused and asked,  “Don’t feel like watching cartoons? You can play in the toy room while mommy has coffee if you want.”

He cocked his head to the side and dripping with preschool judgement, he said, “I don’t have time for hugs and cuddles and silly shows. I have a lot of work to do.”

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I’m pretty sure I just got sloth-shamed by a three year old.