Monthly Archives: February 2012

Commiserating with a Bad Mother

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I love to read, but reading books has been a challenge for me this year. Staying focused, during the brief moments when I’m actually able to read uninterrupted, is the first challenge.  The second is remembering what I’ve read when I am finally return to a book hours, or days, or weeks later. So, when I picked up Ayelet Waldman’s Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, I was delighted to discover that each chapter is really rather independent of the others, meaning that I didn’t need to have perfect recall in order to follow a plot.  Reading her book was like having a conversation while your kids are in the room, which is to say, I was often interrupted, but when I came back, we’d pick up right where we’d left off.  In this book, Ayelet discussed her views on everything from Mommy Wars, the fantasy of the Good Mother, feminism and how her actions sometimes were in conflict with her views on the subject, Attachment Parenting, breastfeeding, sex, how she met and chose her husband, and how she knew he was “the one”, the division of labor in the home, her relationship with her mother in law, abortion, mental illness, how being a mother changes as we age and gain some on the job experience, homosexuality, patriotism, Barack Obama, family size, having certain expectations for her children, and various other parenting issues, such why fighting with your spouse is not the worst thing you can do to your kids. But mostly, she talked about how all of these things relate to how she sees herself as a mother, and how others see her as a mother.  It is just over 200 pages long, and there is a book club version available.

Not only did I not know anything about this book when my husband brought it home from the bookshelf at work, but I also didn’t know anything about the author.  I went in a blank slate, and I that was probably for the best.  When you get to know people in real life, you often don’t know where they stand on hot button issues, which I think is why we are willing to take a chance and get to know people.  After reading it, I googled the author, and learned that Ayelet seems to be the type of person that people either love, or hate.  She is a gifted writer, and surely has many fans, but a quick internet search of her name, or any number of her popular essays, shows that she also has many detractors.  If you look up this book on Amazon, reviews are quite polar. She discusses her “haters” in the book, and seems to take them in stride.

The general pretense in this book is that mothers strive to match the perfect ideal of The Good Mother, but in reality, this goal is impossible to achieve, as the mother that we strive to be is based on a fictitious notion.  Since our idea of the good mother is beyond what we can achieve, we privately beat ourselves up about the many ways in which we perceive ourselves to be falling short.  What’s more, though, is that we beat each other up, although not so privately, and more so, seek out examples in the media and in our community, to showcase as further evidence that we, being better than them, ARE  not so bad after all.  While I agree that the goal of “Good Mother” is out of anyone’s reach, it won’t stop me from trying to a better mother (although I’m glad to think that I’m not the only one who finds themselves falling impossibly short of meeting the mark).

In discussing the fictitious notion of The Good Mother, the author goes on to discuss all of the ways in which she herself feels that she has fallen short.  I didn’t feel that this was a “poor me” confessional, but rather, an honest memoir that made me chuckle, cry, and reflect on myself as a woman, a wife, and a mother.

This book sent me go through a range of emotions.  I found myself nodding passionately in agreement when she described the astronomical differences between A Good Father, and A Good Mother, namely that A Good Father is a realistic goal that men can easily meet simply with the gift of their presence, whereas A Good Mother, by her definition, is an impossible standard that women will most certainly fail to reach.  I identified with her when she discussed how she feels that women can lose their sense of self in the throws of motherhood, defining themselves by how they feel they measure up  in comparison to this impossible ideal of the Good Mother , and  I agreed with her when she called the so called “Attachment Parents” out on being the largest offenders in the Mommy Wars, because that’s also been my experience.  I sympathized with her regarding leaving a much loved career to take on the world that encompasses being a stay at home mother, and the notion that feminist teachings didn’t exactly tell the whole truth when it said that women could “have it all”.  I found myself tearing up reading her chapter on her relationship with her oldest son, and her competition with her mother in law, thinking about how one day, my own sons’ future wives will indeed win the war for superiority in my boys’ lives. I sobbed when I read the chapter entitled Rocketship, which tells of her experience and the emotions surrounding her own elective abortion.

I loved reading the chapters that spoke of her parenting ventures.  There’s no advice in this book, at least I didn’t think that she was trying to dish out any, and that’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed it. Let’s be honest: there’s enough people giving out parenting advice, often unsolicited.  Rather, it felt more like the author’s journey towards catharsis.  It was like having a girl’s night, the kind where one person gets to hold the spotlight for an evening, and just lets it all hang out.  In the end, I really did feel like I had gotten to know her, and could be her friend.

Which is to say that I don’t always agree with everything that my friends do or say.  It was evident that some of her politics are polar opposite of my own, but, as is my tendency in real life, I don’t eliminate friends based on politics alone.  I wouldn’t parent my children in all of the same ways in which Ayelet professes to parent hers, but I will admit that some of her methods made me raise an eyebrow thinking that perhaps she was on to something.

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace was a book that I enjoyed due to its format, content, and sentiments.  I felt that it was written from the vantage point of a mother that doesn’t fit neatly into a certain category, which I identified greatly with.  While Ayelet Waldman is clearly not a bad mother, I think many of us can identify with feeling that we’re still a parenting work in progress, and I’d recommend this book if you are looking for a nonfiction read that isn’t quite as mindless as a months worth of Facebook updates, but probably is more enjoyable.

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Venturing Into Natural Remedies

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I built a career working in healthcare.  Belief in Western Medicine pays the bills in my house, built the foundation of a good portion of my social circle, and occupies a huge percentage of my long term memory.   I believe in it like I believe in God, which is to say that I’m absolutely and unabashedly sure of its worth and importance in my life, even though there is still much that I don’t know or understand. But, just because I value and believe strongly in Western Medicine doesn’t mean that I don’t also appreciate other approaches towards health and wellness.  In fact, over the past few years, I have tried several homeopathic and herbal remedies with my own family, mostly with the help of my good friend Patty.  She’s steadily becoming my homeopathy guru.

When His Majesty was born, Patty  was one of the first visitors to come to our home.  She’s kind of the matriarch of our social group, the Don of our Mommy Mafia if you will, and she’s got to lay eyes on any newbies ASAP, give her approval, and read them a beautiful story that tugs on your super hormonal postpartum heart strings, and makes you fight back tears.   Anyway, during this visit, she gave me some breastfeeding support, and informed me that my breast milk would cure just about any problem his Majesty might have.  Diaper rash.  Pink eye.  Nasal congestion.  Eczema.   Now, honestly… she’s a little crunchier than I am, and I thought she was a little nuts for a minute there.  But Patty has a handful of children, and years more experience with infants (and with lactating, for that matter) then I ever will, so, when His Majesty woke up with a gunky eye on the day before his newborn photos would be taken, I squirted him in the eye with breast milk.  My husband, the wise man that he is, believes so much in the wisdom of my Patty that he even helped me get my aim right.

His eye was better- I’m talking completely cleared up- in 12 hours.

A few months later, when His Majesty started to become more mobile, and thus, began to bump his head into things, Patty recommended that I buy Arnica.  Do you know what Arnica is? I had never heard of it, but Arnica is magic.  It’s magic.  There’s no other way to describe it. You know how kids will bump their heads into things, and get those goose egg bruises?  Or when your toddler breaks away from your grasp and makes a run for freedom, thus running face first into the crystal clear, streak free, floor to ceiling glass windows at the Apple Store?  Oh, that’s just my nutty kid?  Well, either way, I have personally watched as bumps and bruises fade away in mere minutes following the application or ingestion of Arnica.  And, it must feel better, too, because His Majesty will ask for demand it by name (“Hurt head.  Need Arnica!”).

After His Majesty’s breathing problems earlier this month, I mentioned to Patty that he definitely seemed to have an environmental component to his symptoms.  In fact, after a few hours outside (we have had the warmest winter, it’s been unreal), he required a nebulized albuterol breathing treatment, and another one that evening before bed.    Breathing problems are obviously concerning, even with the proper equipment and an effective medication, and the nebulizer treatments are not only time consuming to administer, but they are also not without side effects (notedly, restlessness and irritability, which are particularly unpleasant in not-yet-completely-verbal toddler). Given that, Patty offered to let me try some of her homemade Elderberry Syrup, explaining to me that it can help ease the symptoms of not only environmental allergies, but also of the cold and flu viruses, and also works to improve mood, and boost immunity. She sells it for $8 a pint, which is far cheaper than the elderberry syrup that you’ll find at the store, plus hers is made with superior ingredients.

Given the solid history of following Patty’s advice, what do you think I said?  I’m not stupid, I took her up on the offer.

Elderberry Syrup from South of the Fork. Isn't it pretty?

After a few doses of Patty’s Elderberry Syrup, His Majesty was noticeably less stuffy, and on the 5th day, even after a full morning of outside play, he did not show any respiratory symptom at all.

The more that I think about it, the more instances of effective homeopathy I can recall. My “work husband” suffered terrible arthritis in his knees that was successfully managed for several years with glucosamine chondroitin, thereby avoiding steroid injections and hefty doses of NSAIDS, which can be hard on the gut.  Fish oil is now a staple recommendation in the  promotion of a healthy heart.  We have long known the benefit of B Vitamins in providing energy and aiding the metabolism (you know those “12 hour energy shots?  That’s what those are.  Take a B vitamin at night and try to go to sleep, and see if you don’t believe me…).  Ginger is useful in treating nausea (perhaps that is why your mother used to give you Ginger Ale when you were sick as a child).  Fenugreek can be used to aid in lactation, lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.  I knew another man through work who, following a terminal cancer diagnosis with the grim prognosis of mere months to live, actually lived for several years, a blessing he attributed to “magic shiitake mushrooms“.  I bet if you really thought about it, you’d be able to come up with several instances of homeopathy at work in your friends and family.

Natural remedies and Western Medicine are not as far apart as you might think.  Aspirin, the “miracle drug”, was originally derived from the bark of the willow tree.  Antibiotics were first discovered in mold.  Warfarin, a popular anticoagulant, is based on a chemical naturally found in clover.  Digoxin, a powerful cardiac drug, is derived from the Foxglove plant.  Modern medicine is often based on some compound that is found naturally.   Science often takes its inspiration straight from God.  It is my belief that the two can not be wholly separated.

I’m not saying that they will work for everyone or for every problem, and herbs and homeopathic remedies can have their own side effects, especially if you go rogue and make up your own regimens without knowing what you’re doing.  Know that I’m not making any medical or treatment recommendations, PERIOD, that’s what you need to see your own health care provider for.  But I am saying that if you are at your wits end about what to do about a certain condition or ailment, don’t discount asking your provider about alternative therapies that may be available.

I should add an extra caution to you that because many natural remedies and herbal preparations are not held to a standard manufacturing quality or recipe, you should be cautious of where you get your products, especially if you don’t have a Patty in your life.  As with most things, cheaper isn’t always better, and if you are seeking herbal remedies, find yourself a trusted provider.  Just like Western Medicine, when you’re looking for advice on health, wellness, or disease, you should find a someone that you are comfortable with, someone that knows their stuff.  Don’t just head to any local vitamin place and pick up elderberry syrup, simply because it’s the closest store to your home that happens to sell it.  Actually talk to the staff, and find out where they get their products.  Then do your research, and come back and ask more questions. You should do this when it comes to your healthcare anyway, regardless of whether you are seeking alternative medicine or not.  It’s YOUR health. It’s YOUR body.  It’s in YOUR best interest.  No one should be expected to look out for you more than you look out for yourself.

Do you have any homeopathic or home remedies that you swear by?  Anything that your mom or grandparent passed along to you that perhaps you don’t completely understand, but you know it to be effective?  If we don’t pass these things along, they disappear when we do…

Funfetti Dip

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Remember when I told you that I made another recipe for the play date last week?

It was Funfetti Dip, from Shannon at Adventures in Food.

Shannon finds, and creates, some amazing things, and several of them use Funfetti boxed cake mix.  Funfetti pancakes, waffles, or cinnamon rolls, anyone?  Check out Adventures in Food for those recipes and more, including a bunch of ideas for making baby food, and more than a hundred toddler tested and approved items!

This dip was so easy!  But since Shannon only made a small amount, I used a recipe multiplier from Lots of Kids to quadruple the recipe and make 8 servings… then I got distracted in conversation and added an extra scoop of yogurt, so to fix my mistake, I doubled THAT, and wound up making 8x more than Shannon, or about 16 servings…. Good thing we liked it!

It’s easy.  All you need is yogurt (I used plain, but the recipe said you can use vanilla), Funfetti cake mix, and whipped cream or cool whip… which I didn’t have.  But I did have whipping cream… And I was going to whip it in the mixer… so I figured, why not.

To make the 16 serving batch, I used:
3/4 cup Dry cake mix

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup whipping cream (or, if you’re a better planner and follow the original recipe, you can use 1/4 cup cool whip or whipped cream)

I whipped them up together in my mixer bowl until they were well blended, and looked like cake batter.

Then I served them (in that cute little heart shaped bowl) with pretzel chips.  My friend Emily said that the pretzel chips were good just for the purpose of moving the dip into her mouth 🙂

It was an easy recipe to make, and a sweet treat.  You can serve it with any crackers that you want, of course, but I like the salty/sweet combination with the pretzels.  I’m sure I’ll make this again in the future, probably trying it with the actual ingredients recommended.

If you need a quick, easy, sweet treat, it doesn’t get much better than cake batter.

Fluffy Cupcakes? Serious Research

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I have been wanting to try out this tip, from Kelly Neil, but I haven’t had a reason to bake a full batch of cupcakes until this week.

There’s a play date in the house– Holla!

O.Em.Gee.  The things you say when you are a real adult and you’ve stopped caring about what the cool kids might think of you.  Love it.

Anyway, play dates = lots o’ kiddies and moms coming over to hang out, and what’s better than playing and chatting than playing and chatting AND eating?

Enter the opportunity to bake cupcakes.  And try another recipe that I’ll give feedback on soon.  Promise.

Anyway, the cupcakes.

The recipe is complicated.  About as complicated as opening a box and reading a few sentences.

Yes, I used boxed mixes, and I’m not ashamed.  Anyway, I followed the directions on the box. Then I set up my experiment: Two identical cupcake trays, lined with identical cupcake liners.  The mix ended up making 18 cupcakes, so I set up my trays to each have 9 cupcakes. I wanted to have as few variables in this process as possible.

For my control tray, I continued following the directions on the box.  I filled the cups 2/3 of the way and baked them at 350 degrees for 21 minutes (the recommended time was 18-22 minutes). Here’s what they looked like when they were done baking.

For my test (variable) tray, I followed the tip on Kelly Neil’s blog.  I filled the cups 3/4 of the way, and although I preheated the oven to 350, I turned the oven down to 325 once I put the cupcakes in, and increased the baking time to 25 minutes. Here’s what the test batch looked like when it was done baking.

And here’s what they look like side by side.

<----Control Variable--->

<--- Control Variable--->

And the view from above:

<--- Control Variable --->

What do you think?

Well, the cupcakes cooked at the lower temperature (the variable) were lighter, and indeed, they were larger, but that makes sense: they were 3/4 full as opposed to 2/3 full.  They were also a *touch* higher, but nothing amazing.  However, they were lighter in color, which I liked, and, a big squishier to the touch.

I let them sit overnight, unfrosted, using another trick that I found.  This trick was from Baked Bree, which is a great cooking blog with lots of pin worthy stuff.  Did you know that if you set a piece of bread on your baked goods if you leave them out at night, they’ll stay moist?

I’m here to tell you, it works.  Pretty awesome. When I woke up, the slices of bread were hard and stale, but the cupcakes were just as moist and springy as when they came out of the oven.  This is a keeper.  If you bake cakes the night before, and want to leave them out to cool before you decorate them the next day, just toss a piece of bread on it.  Thank you Baked Bree!

So then I frosted them.  Using the tutorial from Kristen at Decorate This.  Are you looking to pin some baking inspiration and tutorials?  Check out what Kristen has to say.  Good stuff.  Her tutorial on icing cupcakes was really easy to follow.  I used an open star tip– mainly because I only own an open star tip and a plan round tip, and I just happened to grab the open star first.  I did my best to do what Kristen told me to do, and even with my very limited skill set, they looked alright.  I’m sure with a little more practice, I’ll get better.  I guess that gives me added incentive to host more play dates!

<---Control Variable --->

<--- Control Variable --->

For the finishing touch, I added some sprinkles and some edible decorations (there’s not enough sugar in them as is, right?) and my cupcakes ended up looking like this.   It was not as easy to tell which ones were which by the time they were frosted and decorated.

<— Control                          Variable —>

But, obviously, when it comes to food, appearances aren’t everything.  So, I taste tested them.  Took one for the team (technically, TWO for the team…), in the interest of science, of course. I ate one cupcake from the control group, and one cupcake from the variable group. And then I ate another one, using random selection, just to be sure (Three for the team?)… Well, really I ate that last one because I couldn’t fit them all on the serving platter.

The cupcakes were sweet, moist, delicious cakey goodness.  In my case (i.e., when using boxed mixes instead of a yummy homemade cupcake recipe like the amazing Kelly Neil),  it didn’t matter if they were baked at 325 for 25 minutes or 350 for 22 minutes, they were just really good.  And pretty, if I do say so myself.  Which means, well, just do what you want.  If you want to bake them at 350, go for it.  If you want to bake them at 325 for a few more minutes, knock it out.

People are still going to eat them.  For sure. The kids at the play date liked them, my kids liked them, my husband will eat anything with sugar in it, so he liked them, I pawned two off on Christopher’s friends, and at the end of the day, we didn’t have any remaining to tempt me in all of their cupcake-y glory.

So there you have it.  My Scientific Analysis of Cupcakes.  Probably more science than you cared to think about when baking cupcakes from a boxed mix!

Do you have any great baking tips to pass along?  Anything that you’ve pinned and haven’t tried out yet?

Valentine Fun

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Tomorrow is His Majesty’s play school Valentine’s Day party.  Play school parties, I’ve come to learn, require roughly as much food as that necessary to feed a high school football team, only packaged prettier so as to attract the little tykes’ attention.  For the Thanksgiving party, I signed up for the “snack tray”.  I brought a two pound bag of chunk cheese and 2 boxes of pretzel crisps, figuring I’d bring the rest home as an afternoon snack.

When I arrived to pick him up, less than three hours later, every bite of the cheese and crackers was GONE.

There are five children in His Majesty’s class.

FIVE.

They collectively weigh less than my (naturally and annoyingly thin) husband, and they ate TWO POUNDS of cheese and TWO ENTIRE BOXES of pretzel crisps, PLUS the “Main Dish” and fruit platter that were brought in by other parents.  I was absolutely astonished, but more so, I was secretly relieved to know that it wasn’t only my toddler who ate like every morsel of food set in front of him was his last meal.

This time, it’s my turn to provide the “Take Home Treat” (which is their way of describing goody bags). I knew that I wanted to make sure to include enough stuff to actually make it home.  I mean, if they can blow through two pounds of cheese and crackers two hours after breakfast, I’d better have more than one thing to tide them over until they got out of the parking lot.  Naturally, I turned to my pinterest boards.

The first thing I decided to include was this holiday snack mix, from Betty Crocker.  I followed the directions exactly and whipped up a batch, packaging it up into individual servings in these cute little heart sandwich bags.  Pretty, colorful, AND tasty.  It reminded me of what I’ve always called “monkey munch” (and what my husband calls “puppy chow”), except with vanilla instead of chocolate.  I made a double batch to pack some in my husband’s lunch, for a play date that we’re hosting this week, and of course, for Christopher to have a special treat. The recommended servings were really small, though (seriously, a TEASE), so I ended up making TWO double batches.  If you’re going to make a mess in the kitchen, do it right.  At least, that’s how I like to do it.

Next, I saw this school valentine idea using Swedish Fish (from Bateman Buzz), and I decided that it would be the perfect way to incorporate His Majesty’s favorite treat on the planet:  Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers.  Oh yeah, baby.  I kick myself for not having bought stock in Pepperidge Farm prior to His Majesty’s discovery of them, but luckily, we have a Pepperidge Farm Outlet a few miles from our house, so he’s not breaking the bank with his demands indulgence.  I did a quick Google search for “Free Fish Clip Art” and came up with dozens of choices.  My favorite was these kissing fish, from Squidoo.

I cut and pasted the images onto a 3 column table, picked a font, typed the rhyme from the Bateman Buzz post, and printed everything out on regular old printer paper.  I cut them apart, and then used a hole punch and yarn to string the Valentine to the individual cracker bags.  You could use card stock, if you’re that cool.  You could even get fish stickers and really fancy it up. I am not that cool, so printer paper it was.  Maybe next year I’ll be cooler.

Next came the butterfly suckers.  I got the idea from this pin, which led me to Mud Pie Studio , where I read her incredible post of 101 Valentine Ideas for Under $5.  The list is a keeper, so be sure to pin something from it for next year.   The butterfly sucker#8, was the original idea that I was after, and it was easy to recreate, using (the obvious) suckers, Valentine themed scrapbook paper to print the template (so graciously provided by Mud Pie Studio), scissors, wiggly eyes, and tacky glue.

Cute, right?  Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it in a minute…

While I was perusing Mud Pie’s List, #65 also caught my eye; What toddler doesn’t love bubbles? Seeing that I already had some mini bubbles (from the stash of pinata supplies I’m collecting for His Majesty’s big birthday party coming up in a few weeks), all I had to do was search for “Free bubble clip art”.  I found this little cutie from Clkr, and my search was complete.

I made another table, typed out the text, printed it, picked up the scissors, and went to work with my paper punch and some valentine ribbon (I got the valentine themed mini ribbon multi-pack last year from Michael’s).

I was pretty pleased with myself.  I got out the Valentine’s Day boxes and treat bags that I bought on Super Clearance last year, and I also threw in little harmonicas from my growing pinata stash.   At Christmas, one of the take home treats was a little plastic flute, so I decided to stick with the noise making toy tradition.  His Majesty loves that thing, and it’s so funny to watch him dance around the living room “making music”.  Toddlers are so fun.  I spent less than $20 on everything,  which is $4 per kid, with several leftovers to give to friends, and lots of leftover chex mix to enjoy and, of course, for the teachers.  Not too bad.

But, do you remember when I told you to hold the thought about the suckers?

Do you see a problem here?  Look again…

Think about it…. Toddlers… play school party… suckers… And no, I wasn’t worried about the sugar.  I know some people who are super freaks about sugar, and that’s cool for them, but I’m a moderation person.  Plus, I don’t even give His Majesty juice, not even watered down juice, so I’m ok with giving him a sugary treats here and there.

But sugar worries exempted, the problem was indeed the suckers.  Specifically, that I had chosen to use Blow Pops.

*Forehead Slap*

Blow Pops have GUM in them.  As in, pretty much the number 1 edible item that “they” tell you not to give to toddlers. Play school parenting fail.  I got so excited about the cute pin that I pretty much forgot about who I was making them for.  Boo.  But, no worries, we have a playdate the day after the big party, so we’ll be giving some to his older friends.  Plus, Christopher assured me that he could handle eating “a few”, all in the name of not letting any go to waste of course. He’s such a team player, that one.

So, I guess three out of four ideas turned out as intended, and I’m ok with those odds.  75% was a passing grade when I was in school, and I’ll take it for my parenting prowess as well.  C= MOM.  Oh Happy Day.

What about you, though? Are you passing out Valentine’s this year?  Are your children?  Anything that was inspired by Pinterest? Share it with me, maybe I’ll be able to use it next year!

Handy Home Medication Tip

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It was bound to happen, eventually.

We would have to go to our family doctor for a “Sick Visit”.  And I would get the chance to use this brilliant medication administration tracking tactic.  How’s that for practical, easy, and absolutely useful?

Unknown user upload to Pinterest

My family does pretty well in avoiding these types of visits.  Which is not to say we avoid illness entirely, however, we have been fortunate enough to keep our illnesses to mild febrile viruses, coughs, colds, and allergy flare ups every year when the tree pollen drops.  Which reminds me, oh baby, with as warm as it’s been this winter, be warned that it’s going to be a tough allergy season, followed by a contender for the worst year for insects in recent memory.  Yippee. Get yourself some zyrtec or some local honey, whichever way your pendulum swings, maybe even get both, because Hons, odds are that someone in your house is going to need it. But back to my story.

We get sick here and there, but until this week, His Majesty has NEVER, and I do mean NEVER been in for a sick visit.  Not since he was born, almost two years ago.  No ear infections.  No episodes of stomach virus. No lingering fevers, and, in fact, he’s only had one fever, period, a year ago.  Both of my sons have been very healthy, praise God, with the exception of some pretty nasty allergies in Christopher, but that’s minor as far as I’m concerned.  I can’t remember the last time any of us had symptoms significant enough to warrant a visit to the doctor… However, in this house, we have a pretty high threshold for illness.  You have to really be sick for us to say that you are.  “Sick” is practically a four letter word in our house (and it’s definitely not my favorite one).

My husband and I are both health care providers (HCPs) (Well, I was, until I retired in favor of my encore career as a Domestic Engineer, but he still practices).  The first “rule” of being a HCP is “He who diagnoses and treats himself has a fool for a patient”, and that rule trickles on down to your family as well.  If you choose to ignore this rule, one of two things may occur at your fault.  One, you’ll think a complaint is nothing, but in reality, it will be something serious, and then your family will be mad at you and think you are a quack, or two, you will think you/your loved one have a terrible, rare and usually fatal, illness, when in reality, they’ll be fine, after which they’ll discredit your advice when it’s logical and appropriate, say, for instance, when you tell them to stop smoking around their asthmatic kids.

A friend of mine, who happens to be a Pulmonologist, once took it upon himself to suture the facial laceration of his young son, sparing his family a certain multiple hour block of time at our favored University Medical Center.  His wife, who is normally a calm and composed woman, was understandably somewhat displeased, and by his account, the ensuing fight was of legendary proportions.  I’ve seen the scar.  It’s not too shabby, for a pulmonologist, which is not to say that it was a top notch job, but to say that compared to the chest tubes I’ve painstakingly watched him sew in, it was a work of art.  I’m teasing, but the point is, the guy is an excellent lung doctor, but he’s not a plastic surgeon,  and sewing up a kids’ facial lacerations should best be left to the real experts.

That being said, I have started IVs for hydration on myself, my husband and our kids, hanging the fluid bags from the ceiling fans, I’ve forced fluids and deep breathing for fevers that I wave off as being due to a simple virus, and I occasionally do phone diagnosis and make treatment plans for my Grandmother, and always with favorable results. We joke with friends that in our house, with two HCPs, the kids need have a bleeding wound that won’t stop with 30 minutes of firm pressure, a compound fracture, or a massive head injury in order to see the inside of an Emergency Room.  We work(ed) in hospitals.  We don’t like to see them in our free time, and if we CAN manage it at home, we often times WILL manage it at home.  It’s cleaner that way.  Lawd, have you SEEN the inside of a hospital, or an ER for that matter?  Filthy, and what you see when you work there, ugh, it defies logic.  If you weren’t sick when you got there, you’ll probably be sick when you leave.  And while we’re talking about Emergency Rooms, let me take this opportunity to give you some Life Changing Knowledge.

ERs are for serious medical and sudden problems only, folks.  Not for the back ache that’s been going on for 2 weeks, and could best be managed by your primary care physician or a referral to a specialist.  Not your ingrown toenail.  Not because your chief complaint is that you might be pregnant. Leave the ERs for people who need them, y’all.  People who could be having heart attacks, or strokes. People with breathing difficulties. People who have had traumatic injuries, falls, or amputations.  Victims of sudden violence.  Car accident survivors.  Not your cranky kid at 2 AM during an ice storm, who could have easily seen the pediatrician yesterday for her fever, if only you had taken the day off of work to take her in.  And we wonder why health care costs are in the stratosphere. If everyone with non emergencies went to their primary care provider, instead of clogging up the ER, staff would be available to treat REAL emergencies.  It’s good karma.  You’ll appreciate that if ever the day or night should ever arise where you or your loved one has a REAL emergency.

Ok, ok, so my story.  The other day, His Majesty wasn’t acting like himself.  He had a snotty, runny nose.  He had a little bit of a cough.  None of that concerned me.  But, he hardly ate any of his breakfast.  The boys an eater, so I figured he was feeling lousy.  I listened to his lungs.  They sounded junky, so I started making him drink extra water, and having him cough for me at frequent intervals.  He was extra whiney, and didn’t seem to be interested in playing all morning.He picked at his lunch, but then got horribly upset when I took him down from his highchair.  Naturally, he started crying, and in true temper tantrum form, he was inconsolable for about 10 minutes; But this is when the story shifted.  When he stopped crying, he was out of breath, and hot and sweaty.  Not too big of a deal by itself, since he did throw quite the fit, but he just couldn’t seem to slow down his breathing afterwards, and he was still sweating.  I listened to his lungs again, and while they were junky, but unchanged, his little heart was just banging away in his chest, crazy rapidly.  I sat him down and tried to keep him calm, and after a few minutes on my lap, I heard it, first with my ears, and then with my stethoscope.

Wheezing, when he exhaled, like a little whistle.  I didn’t like that. Not one bit.  I pulled him into the bathroom with me and turned the shower on hot.  I left a message at our doctor’s office, which was closed for lunch, and I texted my husband. We sat there for a few minutes, my normally crazy active, maniac little toddler quietly on my lap.  I listened to his lungs again, and the wheeze was about the same, so we hung out in the steamed up bathroom for a bit longer.

I figured that since we were going to be there for a bit, I’d change him into his pajamas, so that he could be more comfortable.  I laid him on the floor and talked to him softly as I stripped him down, and then, I asked him a silly question, just to hopefully make him smile.

He smiled, and then answered me, two words at a time, unable to complete a sentence without taking a breath.  And these are toddler sentences I’m talking about, folks, he wasn’t reading a sentence out of a document from The Library of Congress.

I started to sweat, and not just because it was hot as blazes in that bathroom.

And then, I saw something else that made me start to move quickly.  It was dim in the bathroom, as the blinds were closed and the lights were off, but I though to myself “Is he sucking in his neck muscles when he breaths?  Is he retracting his chest muscles?”  I turned on the lights at the same time that I hollered for Christopher to gather up the diaper bag, and I listened to the baby’s lungs again, while my eyes adjusted to the additional light and confirmed that yes, yes indeed, he was struggling to breathe.

I haven’t moved that fast in a while, and hope not to do so again.

I gathered the kids up and hopped in the car.  The doctor’s office is on the way to the Emergency Room, so I figured that if they didn’t answer, I’d keep going and head to the ER.  15 minutes to the doctor, 25 minutes to the ER. He wasn’t sick enough for an ambulance ride, not by a long shot.  But kids change condition quickly sometimes, and sometimes minutes are just too much time.

Fortunately, the doctor’s office called me back a few miles down the road, we got in to be seen right away, and after a nebulized albuterol treatment, a take home nebulizer, and a few prescriptions, we were on our way back home, and hopefully towards improved wellness as well.  He’s doing much better now, and I am glad that I remembered this medication administration tracking idea.  I normally keep a regular old notepad of any medications that we administer or take, and I highly recommend it so that you can remember what you’ve taken and when, but I like this idea better for short term prescriptions, since it allows you to keep track of everything right there on the bottle/package, and check off the doses as you give them.  Just write down the day, and check off or note the time that you administered a dose (I just applied white label stickers to the nebulizer box, which I can reapply if I should need a new surface to write on later). I told you that this was a great idea.

Whew, that’s saying a lot for a post that is about such a little tip! Enough about me, tell me about you! Have you and your family managed to avoid sick visits? What is your secret to staying well and avoiding the doctor? Or, on the other side of the spectrum, have you had a spell where you and your family have been battling illnesses back to back?

Pizza Night! Knock off Papa John’s Sauce and Pizza Balls

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Every few weeks, I make homemade pizzas (well, not completely homemade; I use pre made pizza dough, and normally, I use Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, but its still as close to homemade as it’s going to get around here).  I feel good about it, because it reminds me of making pizzas with my parents when I was a kid, and my kids love it because they get to eat pizza.  But this weekend, I changed it up a bit.  I decided to make pizza balls, from my favorite kid friendly healthy food website, Weelicious, using knock off Papa John’s pizza sauce, from this recipe.

I started by making the pizza sauce (click for a link to the recipe).  Simple ingredients: olive oil, water, lemon juice, salt, crushed or pureed tomatoes, thyme, garlic powder, basil, oregano, and sugar…

Or, splenda, if you are so inclined.

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir it every few minutes so that it doesn’t stick to the sides of you pan.

After that was taken care of, I got busy on the pizza balls (click for a link to the recipe). Weelicious is such a great sight, chock full of meal and snack ideas that, at least in my family, have been real kid pleasers, so I was pretty amped up about giving pizza balls a shot.  The concept is simple.  You start with a 16 oz package of pizza dough at room temperature (I used whole wheat).

Break your dough up into 16 equal-ish chunks.

Combine 1/2 cup of pizza sauce (of course, I used the sauce I’d made, 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and, if you wish, 3/4 cup of a filling.  You can use chicken, pepperoni, cooked sausage, broccoli, spinach, tomato, ham, mushroom, pretty much whatever you’d put on pizza, get creative.  I did not get creative, and just used cheese and pizza sauce, and I used a touch more mozzarella, since I omitted the extra filling. *You could probably even use soy cheese with this recipe if you wanted to, if dairy is a problem for you.*

Roll each dough chunk into about a 3 inch wide circle, and place 1 tablespoon of your cheese mixture in the center.

Then take your edges and bring them to the center, covering the cheese mixture, and pinching them closed to seal everything in.

At this point, you’re ready to roll those babies into little balls.  Or, pseudo balls.  Mine were kind of lopsided.

Place your pizza balls, sealed side down, on an oiled pan.  Brush them without olive oil and then sprinkle them with grated parmesan cheese, baking in a preheated oven.  The temperature is tricky, because I used a pre made pizza dough.  The original recipe called for baking at 425 for 25 minutes, but my dough called for 400 for 18 minutes.  I decided to follow the directions on my dough, and to keep them in for a few extra minutes since they were filled. I ended up leaving them in for 21 minutes.  They leaked out some of their filling, but they were a nice chewy consistency.

I also made a big pizza (I put the pepperoni and bacon bits under the cheese, and mushrooms on top of the cheese, but only on half, since Christopher doesn’t like them– unless it’s the last piece of pizza, then he’s ok with eating them).

And a personal pizza for me, on lower carb flat bread by Hungry Girl.

What was the verdict?

Well, my kids loved it.  But it’s pizza, so I’d expect no less.

His Majesty was most excited about the fact that he got to eat a ball.

And they both ate nice big meals.

I thought that the pizza balls were a success, because not only did my kids eat them, but I also had leftovers to use for lunch the next day.

But the sauce…

It was ok.  It certainly wasn’t bad.  It was easy enough to make, don’t get me wrong, but when I use Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, I don’t have to dirty up a saucepan.  If it had tasted phenomenally better than the jarred variety, I would be more apt to make it, but to be honest, I just wasn’t wowed, and neither was my husband.  However, when I’m buried in our tomato crop, as I hope to be this summer, maybe I’ll make it again, solely because it wouldn’t require a trip to the store, but not because it was so delicious that pizza would never be the same without it.

So that was our pizza night.  How do you do pizza night at your house? Is it your children’s favorite meal, too?