Saturday, July 31, 2010


I knew the day would be a little out of the ordinary when J asked me, "Mommy, can you do that thing where you make us all go outside?"

"You WANT me to kick all the kids out of the house?"  Yeah, he did.  So I happily complied.

My kids seem to work in rythms.  There are weeks where they will want to be outside all the time.  Then they'll forget about the outside world and focus on indoor things.  These indoor phases seem to last longer, for some reason.  So I find that the best way to jolt them out of it is to MAKE them go outside.  They almost always whine and complain.  But then they go outside and usually end up having a great time and have to be dragged back inside later in the day.

I don't think this puts me in the "mean mom" category.  But I'm sure there are lots of other things that do.  But we don't really need to go into that right now.  Or ever, probably.

With all the kids outside, I was enjoying some peace and quiet--a fairly rare commodity around here.  Then I noticed that the kids were all walking back and forth in front of the house, in a line, like they were playing follow the leader or something.  My curiosity was piqued.  When I got closer to the front window, I could see what the attraction was.

A white kitten, which they were all delightedly following around.  It didn't seem to be posing a threat, so I let it be.  A little later on, S came inside to excitedly tell me all about the girl cat they had found which had "adopted" them and which they had named Peppermint.

At that point, I went out to investigate a little further.  She appeared to be quite young.  And she also appeared to be a stray.  She was a little jumpy with any quick movements, but didn't seem to feel threatened with people nearby.  I also discovered, to the kids' surprise (and dismay), that she was, in fact, a he.  But that didn't stop any of them from referring to him as a her.

We decided to give him some milk.  J decided to give him some of our dog's bacon chews.  He happily accepted both.

The kids discovered that he had a very playful nature.  Anything from ribbon to tennis balls to paper bags to fingers was fair game.

Up to this point, I hadn't encouraged any of the kids to hold Peppermint.  But as I was sitting in the grass, he came up, climbed on my lap, or what's left of it anyway, and started purring.  Who could resist that?  So then everyone had to hold him.

That is one happy kitty.  But I imagine that would be exactly how I would feel if I had been wandering around homeless for who knows how long, looking for food and shelter, and then finally found some nice people who fed me, played with me, and then rubbed my belly.  I'd probably promptly fall asleep, too.

To make a long story short, we couldn't bear the thought of just leaving him to fend for himself outside, so we took him in.  Temporarily.  But of course, as soon as he was safely indoors, the pleading eyes and desperate requests to keep him began.  Charger was relegated to the back yard--he doesn't do very well with cats.  And since this was such a sweet cat, we didn't want him to get eaten.  Especially on his first day off the streets.

The kids made all sorts of cat toys for him.  Shaggy was a little surprised to find a cat in the house when he came home, but happily jumped on board with the rescue.  He's such a softy.  He set up the dog den and the kids made a cozy little bed for Peppermint.  Where he promptly fell asleep . . . again.

Of course, S was the most devoted caretaker.  She was the only one willing to clean up after the cat's little messes.  But it was surprising to me how nurturing J was towards this little kitty.  But I suppose such a small kitten is much less intimidating than a giant shepherd.  His pleas to keep the cat were VERY heartfelt.

But once again, we had to face the facts--the harsh reality that we happen to have a dog with an enormous prey drive, and that we are about to have another baby.  So the kids ended up having a fabulous two days to play with a sweet little kitten before we gave it to some friends whose kitten just died.  I think it worked out well for everyone.  Especially Peppermint.

Handyman in Training

My kids usually start peppering me with questions and requests before I'm even out of bed.  Granted, it would probably be good if I was one of those early rising morning people.  But I'm not.  Nope.  Not me.  I get up when I HAVE TO get up.

And since it's summertime and I'm huge and pregnant, I've been milking my lazy mornings for all they're worth.

But there are many days when grunts and unintelligible mumblings from me just don't cut it.  At least not for my kids.

The other day, J was bursting to tell me all about his morning magnet discoveries.  He wasn't satisfied with the "Mmmm hmmmm" response.  He continued chattering about his creation until I had pried my eyes open enough to actually look at it.  He was holding a rather long chain of magnets with a screwdriver dangling from the end.  Then he proceeded to enlighten me on the subject of "magnet energy."

Apparently, when you stick multiple magnets together, they combine their "energy" which makes them stronger so they can hold up bigger things.  I may not be an expert in magnetism, but that sounded pretty close to me.

So I managed to drag myself out of bed and made sure that everyone had eaten breakfast.  Check.  I started cleaning up the table and rinsing the dishes.  By this time, J was onto his 5th or 6th project of the morning.  I'm grateful for the ones that involve only toys.  Unfortunately, he has been expanding his horizons.

Meanwhile, the older girls were shut away in their room working on a 750 piece puzzle.  They've been at it for days.  I realized I should have been buying them big puzzles like this for years.  A mistake I plan to remedy soon after they finish this one.

R was contentedly building mountains out of various items for her figures to climb on.

So, with everyone relatively content, I got down to the business of making cookies.  We were hosting a little get together to say goodbye to some friends who are moving very far away.  They have been great friends as well as our go-to family whenever we've really needed help.  We are so sad to see them go.  I thought various forms of chocolate were called for.

I found it very refreshing mixing up the cookie dough all by myself.  I usually have quite a few eager little hands wanting to dump this in, or mix that up, or eat those chocolate chips, or lick the beaters.  Things were much faster this way.  At least for a little while.

Then J came into the kitchen with a little train engine that required a new battery.

This is unfortunately, a very common problem around here.  We are FOREVER running down the batteries in some toy or other.  It's a constant battle to keep them charged up.  Too often, the toy just sits for weeks on end in our dead battery jail, waiting for some spare batteries to come their way.

But recently, J has decided to take matters into his own hands.  Thanks to his father.

A couple months ago, Shaggy thought it was a good idea to get J some tools of his own.  J, of course, was absolutely thrilled.  He loves ANY excuse to go to Home Depot with his Dad.  And to be able to go and pick out his very own tool bag along with some basic tools to go in it . . . well, that was just heavenly.

I have to say that he has been downright handy with his tools at times.  He took off and then replaced all the face plates when we were painting.  He always knows right where his screwdriver is if I need one for something.  He is perfectly willing to smash a broken toy to bits with his hammer so it will be sure to "fit" into the garbage can.  Nice, huh?

But it has also allowed him to enter somewhat dangerous territory.  Dangerous as in "I'm not sure I want him doing that."  Like changing batteries.  At first, he didn't pay much attention to the battery size difference.  Which didn't work out so well.

But then he got the hang of it.  And also learned about the proper direction to put them in.  Then he figured out how to use our little homemade battery tester to see which batteries still had juice in them.

So I suppose he is now about as proficient in battery changing as he needs to be.

But sometimes I have to remind myself that I really do WANT him to grow up to be extremely handy like his Dad.  It's just that some days, I sort of dread the learning process he will have to go through to get there.  When I recall some of the stories from Shaggy's childhood, they involve such things as tortured barbies, small fires in the backyard, disassembled toys, digging around in garbage cans for spare parts, etc., etc.

I have nightmares of one day hearing J say things like, "Look Mom, I figured out how the TV works" or "I think I have some extra parts from the thermostat."

These are the things that were flashing through my head as J was waiting for me to give him permission to change the battery in his train car.  I must have taken too long in answering because I got the raised eyebrows and the tilted head and the little smile when he repeated his request.

I sighed, "I just can't keep up with you."

He tilted his head a little farther and said ever-so-sincerely,  "This is the LAST thing I'll ask you for ALL day!"

Ummm . . . right.  I know he means it.  The problem is that he will completely forget about saying it approximately 30 seconds after he gets what he wants.  I suppose I should just be glad that he still seeks permission for these things.  I fully realize that that will end sooner rather than later.

So I told him to go ahead which made him very happy.  And which gave me a chance to get the cookies ready to go into the oven.  I turned around and found that R had spread out her blanket and pillow directly in front of the oven and was "cuddling up" in her bed.

It really is amazing that I get anything done.  EVER.

Even without the helping hands of the kids, it took me hours to make cookies.  But at the end of that time, I had a COMPLETELY full cookie jar.  And that . . . well . . . that made me very happy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Alternative

This is me . . . on a soap box.  But I'll try to keep it short . . . sort of.  And remember, you don't HAVE to read this.

I am grateful for all the advances in modern medicine.  I am grateful they have found lots of ways to do lots of surgeries and treatments to save lives.  But conventional medicine misses a lot.  And sometimes it is so focused on the modern cure, that it overlooks the holistic approach, or the homeopathic one, or the one that old wives have been passing down for centuries.

This isn't really a new revelation for me.  I've been on this path for a while.  I pretty much reject the whole doctor-is-God thing.  I'm grateful for doctors, but I know that they don't have all the answers.  In fact, I've seen that they are sometimes dead wrong about things.  And that it is far better for me to trust my instincts and do some research if something the doctor tells me doesn't ring true.

When a doctor tried to tell me that I HAD to supplement between each nursing session because my newborn had jaundice, I knew that he didn't know what he was talking about. 

When a pediatrician tried to scare me with threats to call child services because I didn't want to give my baby 4 shots during one visit, I changed doctors.  And stuck to an immunization schedule that made sense to me.

Over and over, I have found home remedies that are much more effective than prescriptions the doctors have given me.  And they help me avoid a costly and inconvenient trip to the doctor's office.

Once, I found myself taking some crazy expensive anti-viral drugs because my doctor told me my swollen lips were caused by fever blisters.  Something that was highly contagious, and would plague me the rest of my life because there was no cure.  She hadn't run any tests.  She had merely looked at my condition and pronounced it so as she wrote the prescription.  I should have known better, but I was scared--I truly looked freakish.  After a while, I realized that the drugs had absolutely no effect on the swollen lips and that I better search for another cause.  Turns out I was simply allergic to my lip balm.  I threw it away and have never had a problem since.  Thanks doc.

The first time I threw away an antibiotic prescription for my kid instead of just going with the advice, "Well, maybe this will help," I felt liberated.  Viral vs. bacterial is sort of a fundamental difference.  One that some of our pediatricians didn't care to acknowledge.  Which drove me crazy.  So I turned to homeopathics and education.  I learned which illnesses the body could resolve on it's own and which ones responded well to homeopathics.  But I am also fortunate to have found a pediatrician who tells me the truth instead of just handing me a prescription.  He acknowledges when an illness is caused by a virus and just has to run it's course, even when the symptoms are scary.  See, I appreciate that kind of honesty.

Recently, when the doc told me my baby was breech, she didn't give me a whole lot of helpful information.  "Walk.  Gravity should help her go head down.  If she's still breech at 38 weeks, you'll be looking at a c-section." 

Really, that's it?  That was the best information modern medicine could give me?!  First of all, explain exactly HOW gravity will help the baby flip over.  Her bum was where her head was supposed to be.  Gravity was NOT going to help her flip over.  Mostly, it would just cause her to sink lower, but stay in her current position.  I didn't even need to turn to my trusty friend named Google to figure that one out.

So I began researching my options.  Research feverishly driven by my fear of c-sections.  I'm glad they exist, of course.  And if I really needed one to avoid serious complications, or worse, I would gratefully submit.  But that's only if I was unable to find another way. 

As always, it felt good to take charge of my medical decisions--to learn about ALL the options.  And I was lucky enough to find some alternative approaches that worked for me, a nice combination of old wives tales and holistic medicine.  Which is SERIOUSLY good news since I was actually considering a home birth in order to avoid the c-section!

I think that our current mess of a health care system would be forced to change for the better if more of us were willing to take charge of our own medical decisions.  If we were willing to educate ourselves about our conditions OUTSIDE of the doctor's office.  If we weren't afraid to ask hard questions about the cost and necessity of things our doctors might recommend.  If we were willing to try the home remedies and explore alternative medicine in order to avoid some of the more expensive treatments modern medicine would like us to turn to.  If we would realize that some cures require patience because we have to find the cause rather than just treat the symptoms.  If we would remember that there are so very many ways to successful healing.

We are the consumers.  It's time we started acting like it.  It's time we realize that the control over our healthcare choices rests squarely on our shoulders--not the doctors, not the insurance agencies, and certainly not the government.

Ok, that's it.  I am now stepping down from the soap box.