Friday, April 30, 2010

Airplane races at the sick resort

As my parents left yesterday, my dad joked that he didn't want to come to this "resort" again. Owen and I were sick for the bulk of their visit, which ranked right up there with the time they joined us at the beach about a year and a half ago, and Will threw up the first night and as soon as he was on the mend Owen started vomiting and didn't let up for the rest of our stay.

The boys, though, thought it was magical to have two willing playmates trapped mostly indoors with them. They played games, did puzzles, read books, built towers, drew pictures, went on treasure hunts and occasionally Will got to sneak outside for a park outing or some baseball in the back yard. After my parents left yesterday, and in spite of my many patient explanations that they had flown back on the plane to Colorado, Owen kept looking at me and saying in frustration, "Grammy and Grandpa STILL not come back." He must have said it 30 times.

One of the highlights of the indoor games were airplane races. The boys and my mom or dad counted "uno, dos, tres" and let their paper planes fly.

If your plane soared the furthest distance you could celebrate like this:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Events for the weekend -- and the sick report

I've failed to keep up the blog for a week because I've been out of town and then out of commission. My parents arrived on Friday and Rob and I promptly scurried off to a Pine Mountain cabin for a weekend to ourselves while the grandparents babysat the boys. On Sunday we met up at Callaway and tried to introduce my parents, who'd flown in from some still snowy Colorado weather, to a taste of summer at Robin Lake Beach.
And then on Monday Owen and I came down with what seems to be the same peristent little virus that Will had the week before (the current theory with the doctor and me is that Will never had strep). So while Owen and I have been fighting high fevers and sore throats and congestion, my parents have been babysitting and taking care of things. I am grateful to have them here and the boys have done more puzzles and played more games in four days than they have in months.

This winter and spring has taught me a lot about patience and acceptance, and I'm hopeful that once I finally get my exhausted immune system some recovery time over the summer, I'll be back to relative good health for a long time to come.

This weekend we're hoping to have at least a momentary spell of good health. There are a lot of fun events for the weekend that we're hoping to take part in including a "Dinner on the Farm" Saturday night at the Jenny Jack Sun Farm and a Midtown "Party on The Lawn"of Wynnton Arts Academy from 3:30 to 6:30 on Sunday, featuring rythym and blues by Peggy Jenkins and the Bizness and free refreshments and face painting. Bring lawn chairs if you come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jack-in-the-box at bedtime

It’s been two and a half weeks now since we boldly dismantled the side rail on Owen’s crib and converted it to his “big boy bed.” For a few days, Owen was so giddy with his newfound freedom that he’d still be up an hour and a half after bedtime as we negotiated potty trips, lotion needs (for “hurting” stomachs and legs), band-aid requests (for invisible boo-boos), darkness concerns, sibling complaints, unexplained smiling appearances and the like. Finally I decided it was time to bring out the no-nonsense “Jack-in-the-box” technique, courtesy of Marc Weissbluth’s “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.”

The strategy involves returning your kid to bed without looking at him or talking to him every time he gets out of bed, no matter how many times it takes. You let him know you’re going to do this ahead of time, but it’s a psychologically brutal parental experience on the first couple nights.
We started by making a sign with Owen’s sleep rules: “At bedtime we: 1. Stay in bed; 2. Close our eyes; 3. Stay very quiet; 4. Go to sleep

Will added a fifth rule in his own handwriting: “Be very still and don’t wake up your brother”

Owen colored a bit on the sign and decorated it with stickers. We posted it in the bedroom, and I braced for the imminent battle.

We’d resorted to the jack-in-the-box strategy with Will a few years back, and we put him back to bed something like 75 times the first night, 130 times the second night and then Presto, the magic kicked in and there were only a few return trips to bed or maybe none on night three. With Will it worked like magic for a couple weeks, then things quickly fell apart again as soon as we spent a weekend away from home and we’d have to do it over again.

Rob had such negative memories of the experience (he calls it the worst thing we went through with Will) that he was feeling really reluctant about releasing Owen from his crib. So I decided to take on the role of the evil, mute, eye-averting returner to bed. (It’s best for just one parent to do it per night anyway, Weissbluth says.) I handled Owen gently but gave him no feedback at all, and he was so devastated by the loss of interaction with me that he hollered and carried on and climbed back out of bed 57 times over the course of an hour. I snuck in a few tears of my own when Owen wasn’t looking; the whole process goes against every motherly bone in my body -- except that I know I’m going to have a well-rested kid after just a couple days of misery.

Meanwhile, we let Will sleep in our bed for the first hour or two of the night. In fact, I was putting Owen back in Will’s double bed. Since the boys share a room these sleep training issues are complicated. Owen prefers Will’s truly big bed to his little “big boy bed.” And yet in a way Will’s potential presence adds incentives for going to sleep quietly. Before we got to return trip 80 or 125 or whatever it might have been on that first night of jack-in-the-boxing Owen, I sent Rob in to make one final deal. If Owen would be quiet, Rob would return Will, now sound asleep in our room, to the boys’ room so that they could sleep quietly together. This did the trick. Owen lay still and silent and was soon sleeping soundly next to Will.

We had to remove Will again on night two, and after about 20 return trips to bed Owen got quiet and we moved Will back. By night three, Owen got with the program, followed his sleep rules and Will got to stay. Since then bedtime has gone relatively smoothly. But I’m sure we’ll regress.

Naptime in the bigger "big boy bed."

**On a side note, Will appears to be fever-free for the first time in six days and we are grateful for that. This was a rough round of Strep to say the least. He's still a little red under the nose, dark under the eyes, thinned out all over -- but at least he's up and playing and eating again.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Natural remedies for kids' congestion

We’ve been a sick house for the past several days, beginning with Owen’s violent but fleeting 12-hour stomach bug and ending with a mysterious bug that has had Will running fevers of 103 between Tylenol doses. He’s been lying around miserable, fighting congestion, sore throat, headaches, an upset tummy and until today he was refusing all food. Rob and I have never seen him so sick. This morning we saw those tell-tale white pus pockets on the back of his throat and top of his mouth that scream “Strep!” so we got him started on an antibiotic.

In the meantime, I’ve finally found some natural kid-friendly methods for fighting congestion that seem to be helping my kids cope with some of the sinus issues and perhaps prevent some of the ear infections that have plagued us in the past. For stuffy noses, we use Little Noses saline spray as well as an Xlear Kid’s nasal spray, a spray that contains the natural sweetener xylitol and grapefruit seed along with the saline and water. Both Will and Owen think the Xlear is more effective at clearing their noses, and there seems to be some research to back it up. I also let the kids chew xylitol-based gum to stave off ear infections. Both the act of chewing and the xylitol are supposed to be good for preventing ear infections (and preventing tooth decay as well).

I’ll also boil some water, pour it in a mug and let Will breathe the steam in through his nose to loosen all that gunk.

These are the things you have to do when your kids are too young for Buteyko breathing method exercises or a neti pot (both of which have been helping me with my sinus issues).

For nighttime coughs, we’re still using honey -- another simple technique that research has shown to be more effective than any children's cough medicines.

What natural remedies have you found effective for coping with and/or preventing children’s congestion, coughs and ear infections?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New research on spanking

There’s no denying that parents see immediate results when they administer a swift whack on the bottom to a misbehaving child. But a growing body of research suggests that in the long term children who are spanked are likely to become more aggressive and exhibit lower cognitive abilities than children whose parents use alternatives to corporal punishment as they discipline – and teach and talk with -- their children.

A recent Tulane University study of almost 2,500 children, found that even when controlling for children’s level of aggression at age 3 and other confounding factors, those who were spanked more frequently (more than twice in the previous month) were more likely to be aggressive by age 5. Go here for an abstract of the study, which was published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.

I wish we could all find ways to share this information with other parents in our life. Disciplining without spanking can feel like a long, frustrating process sometimes – but the payoffs are big.

Here are a few excerpts from a Time article reviewing the Tulane research:

“Now researchers at Tulane University provide the strongest evidence yet against the use of spanking: of the nearly 2,500 youngsters in the study, those who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were more likely to be aggressive by age 5. The research supports earlier work on the pitfalls of corporal punishment, including a study by Duke University researchers that revealed that infants who were spanked at 12 months scored lower on cognitive tests at age 3.”

“ ‘The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began increased by 50%,' says Taylor. And because her group also accounted for varying levels of natural aggression in children, the researchers are confident that 'it's not just that children who are more aggressive are more likely to be spanked.’ ”

“Compared with children who were not hit, those who were spanked were more likely to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, get frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against others.

The reason for that, says Singer, may be that spanking instills fear rather than understanding. Even if a child were to stop his screaming tantrum when spanked, that doesn't mean he understands why he shouldn't be acting out in the first place. What's more, spanking models aggressive behavior as a solution to problems.”

“Spanking may stop a child from misbehaving in the short term, but it becomes less and less effective with repeated use, according to the AAP; it also makes discipline more difficult as the child gets older and outgrows spanking. As the latest study shows, investing the time early on to teach a child why his behavior is wrong may translate to a more self-aware and in-control youngster in the long run.”

Any thoughts from you seasoned parents out there?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Camping on the farm

This weekend we babysat a friend’s daughter in the woods for a few hours and in exchange we got to play and camp on their rural wooded property.

Owen still hasn’t learned how to sleep well in his own sleeping bag, but in spite of the sleep that both he and I lose in a tent, spending a weekend under the stars and in the woods with my boys is more than worth it.

A few photos:

Four-wheeler riding (one perk of staying near a well-equipped friend’s house)

Campfire sing-along

Hot dog (and marshmallow) roasting and consuming. (We also roasted vegetables in our newly acquired dutch oven.)

Ravine climbing (we are getting excited about an upcoming camping trip with grandma and grandpa to Arches National Park in Utah, where we’ll get to climb on real rock)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Get festive with reptiles

In the middle of a wild week of trying to train Owen to go to sleep on his own without crib rails to contain him, we are contemplating a camping trip. Not a wise choice, perhaps, but sometimes the woods beckon.

If we don't go camping, we will at least go hang out with some reptiles at Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center's annual Reptile Fest . It makes a nice little adventure to bike down the River Walk to Oxbow and mingle with the reptiles before biking home.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tooth fairy talk

Anticipating a visit from an older friend who had likely already lost some of her teeth, Will launched into some tooth fairy skepticism yesterday. Here's how we danced around the issue:

W: "I don’t think there’s really a tooth fairy because fairies aren’t real, right mom?"

M: "Usually I think of fairies just being in stories but a lot of people say there’s a tooth fairy."

W: "Who says it? Do the scientists say it?"

M: "No, I don’t think the scientists do. But lots of parents and story books say there are tooth fairies."

W: "Do you think there’s a tooth fairy?"

M: "I’ve never actually seen a tooth fairy. But when I was a kid and I lost a tooth I’d put it in a little pillow with a special tooth fairy pocket and in the morning my tooth would be gone and there would be a quarter there."

W: “All you got was a quarter?!!?”

And so we left behind those tricky tooth fairy questions and launched into a more innocent discussion about inflation.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter to you

We had a joy-filled one. Hope you did too.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rules for rules

Here’s an NPR parenting story worth a listen: “The Rules About How Parents Should Make Rules.” The overarching premise is that rules designed for safety, health and basic morality work well, while rules that attempt to unnecessarily control kids can backfire – and that all rules applied in a gentle, non-authoritarian way, as choices between two or more alternatives that are acceptable to parents, are much more likely to be accepted and followed by children.