Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Lazy Days of Summer

Man, oh man. My summer is over and it isn't even August yet. Not that my summer had any relaxation in it, oh no. Not with five. I need my own dashboard that shows me the 'common operating picture' of my family. That and perhaps I inject tagging devices into their arms at night (so is that how alien abduction fantasies started? Moms with plenty of children went into the babes' rooms at night and inserted tracking devices into their arms? No, that's just me and my weird sense of imagination) so I can easily call up a map and see where they all are. Maybe there is even an iPhone app for tracking your children, similar to the one my husband uses on my phone (how does he know I'm in the shoe department of Nordstrom during the Anniversary sale when he's 100 miles away, hmmm?) but less expensive than buying everyone an iPhone. Maybe I just take them to the vet and have a little device put in like the dogs have. I think I've been working too much lately. Anyway, I jest. I swear.

It's been fun, if not exactly sleep inducing, this summer. Lots of swimming, sleep overs, BMX racing, basketball and water polo playing and the like. Hubby and I have even come to an agreement on a vision for the backyard, and have about half a dozen large rocks in the garden to begin the artistic stage of that vision. Which is basically going to the local nursery in the heat of the day and buying anything that looks like it's surviving the pounding heat. Voila! Instant garden!

The B can swim. Not the earliest swimmer I've had, but the United States of America has a lot more to offer than a camp in the middle of a Filipino jungle, so we don't swim as much (maybe once a day instead of three times a day). Z, my 10 year old, learned before he was three, all by himself because I'm too much of a fraidy cake to let my children attempt to drown themselves while I watch. That sort of thing requires daddies.

Which reminds me of the time I left J, the 13 year old with his daddy at a hotel swimming pool with daddy's friend. J was about 6 months old at the time. I ran to the store and left the men wiht the child. When I came back, the child's head was wet. Dunking, I thought. Actually it was worse than that - they were pushing him back and forth under water to each other. I would have fainted at the sight. I don't care what forward thinking Australian lifeguards think (you know who you are) I don't think babies need to be underwater.

But the Z - he ripped off his water wings at the tender age of almost-three when I was safely on the other side of some Olympic sized pool in a hotel in Manila and yelled "Watch this!" and proceeded to swim across the width of the pool. Egads. (This is the same daring individual who during his preschool graduation, as he was walking down the center aisle to the stage in his tiny cap and gown, put the L sign on his forehead and yelled at the top of his lungs: "Rock on, Losers!" I kid you not. This is the child who is in the GATE program. Gawd help us all.)

Today is the first day of football for the boys. J and Z have been having quarterback training since the spring with a high school football coach from Pasadena. Nice guy and he knows his stuff. And the boys listen to him, unlike me or their dad. So it's worth the 2 hour drive and outlay of cold, hard cash.

That meant yesterday was physicals day. For three. With two small pink hanger's on. One wearing a tutu and nothing else (haha! No pants to remember!) and the other wearing a sundress with leopard print tights and red winter boots. Gotta love their sense of fashion. The boots prompted a lady in the elevator to tell the B that if she had boots like that, she would wear them all the time too. We ladies, we stick together.

The ped's office is an assembly line. I love their doctors. Which means I have finally let go of my Olympia Wash. doctor who I'm sure treated me kindly, but thought deep down inside I was a stalker. Because I would show up even though he knew I was in places like Egypt, the Philippines and Indonesia. But he put up with it since I brought him fun things to diagnose, such as amoebas, malaria, and various exciting skin rashes.

It cracks me up to have the doctor tell me that even though she has three, when she sees our family, it makes her want to have more.That is some good acting. (we are in Southern California, after all). This is after the blood curdling screams from the B because her brother is terrorizing her, and Fifi, the littlest one takes off down the hallway after I tell her to get back into the cozy little examination room. After I am trying valiantly to collect notes on my iPhone with one hand as the dr. is telling me information, using a foot to block the door so Fifi can't escape again, and the other hand to snap my fingers, point accusingly and pinch collar bones to keep everyone at bay. All without my blood pressure rising. I'm either the calmest person on earth, or Hannibal Lecter.

Let's talk blood pressure. I'm kind of freaking out because the 8 year old - my wiley guy - the one who has been in special therapies since the age of two for lack of using words, has high blood pressure. He has a BMI of 15 (what I'd give for that kind of BMI!!) and eats healthily dag nabbit. This doesn't run in the family. Mine is so low, I'm practically dead and that's after a pot of coffe and a couple shots from the salt shaker.

And we found out that he has a little nystagmus when the neuro check went down. A bit of shaking of the eyeballs when he was trying to follow the doc's pen to his nose. Blood pressure? We'll monitor that each day with the free machine (and $1.00 scoop ice cream!) at the Rite Aid that is a block away. The nystagmus has opened up another door for me to go through - opthamologist and a pediatric neurologist/education counselor appointments that might just get me that much closer to figuring out how to help K. Last year was a heart wrenching experience - he graduated out of physical therapy - his handwriting is spectacular! Even for a lefty (Sorry, President Obama - you give us some hope!) He's doing fine in speech and academic therapies, but there has to be something else that will help us through the tearful learning process that is the American education system. Thankfully, he had an amazing teacher last year at his school and I am forever indebt to that lady. Even though every time I saw her name appear on my phone I'd have to take a deep breath and brace myself. Because no mommy wants to hear their child is having trouble. It breaks your heart. I wanted to cry in the doctor's office, just to have another option so clearly presented again. I've gone down the tutor route; that failed. I've spent countless hours researching and interviewing people, but services pretty much end at five years of age. I'm excited for our prospects.

So, here's to a good school year, which begins in two weeks. What's up with that? I'm still waiting for my summer to begin.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes

One of life's greatest pleasures is listening to small children completely massacre their native language. We've had some good ones lately:

The B, my four year old loves to eat Rice Crispies cereal. Today she told me they were singing to her: "Crack, snapple, pop." I love a little 'crack' in the morning, too.

Favorite treat? Costco nonfat frozen yogurt from the snack bar. She likes the chocolate/vanilla swirl, which she refers to as 'squirrel.' The 13 year old relentlessly asks her what she wants to eat and can't stop laughing when she tells him she like to eat squirrels.

At night we say prayers together as a family. Sometimes, if the boys are thither and yon, I'll take that opportunity to teach the girls more traditional Catholic prayers instead of our nightly family prayer. The B requests 'Holy Moly' or 'Hairy Mary' otherwise known as the Hail Mary.

She's been watching Monsters v. Aliens quite a bit recently (you know how preschoolers and toddlers watch the same thing over and over and over and over again... gah!) and she loves to act out scenes. Her favorite is calling to the lead character Susan, who for some reason she can not pronounce without interjecting an 'n' so it comes out 'Snusan!'

Massacring language doesn't stop at four, however. We've had the opportunity to live in many different countries, and it is hilarious to hear what people say (as it is for them to hear me say stuff to them, for example, my whole 'chocolate duck' story).

One of the best is the misspelling of my friend Chris's name, so the emails he would recieve would be addressed, "Dear Christ," He's a great person, working for CRS first in Banda Aceh, and now Haiti, but even I wouldn't go that far.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Back on the Soapbox - Eat Your Veggies!

Recently on NPR, Morning Edition profiled a family on food stamps that found it was difficult to eat healthy on a tight budget.

In a nutshell, the mom says she can't afford leaner cuts of meat or fresh fruits and veggies because they are so expensive. Even though they have a garden, she finds herself giving her child a bottle of orange soda when he is thirsty.

There is something wrong in this country, folks. I do think that the suggestions outlined for remedying this are good - food pantries and soup kitchens offering cooking and nutrition classes; The First Lady encouraging chefs to volunteer at schools, heck, I love the Naked Chef and all that he did for American TV even though he's not really Naked,..

I find it horrifying that although the US is leading the world in obesity, we are also in fact, way up there in malnutrition. It's time we understand that eating simply is better for our bodies. I don't mean boringly; the best foods are the one popping with flavors - what beats fresh basil or cilantro? Nothing, folks.

I feed my family of seven probably on about $600 a month, and we eat very well. This includes name brand foods, organic, whole wheat and my beer. I'm a couponer - I live and breathe by the - it helps me plan out my food strategy for the week, find the best deals and not waste a bunch of time looking at circulars on my own. That means that I buy stuff when it's on sale - this week we may be eating grapes instead of apples. Not a tough decision, that one. When you are feeding seven people three meals a day, that is a lot of organization and planning to make sure everyone has something to eat and they are eating healthily. These are not faint of heart eaters, either,.. the boys are incredibly active. Already dinner consists of two pounds of hamburger; can't wait til they all hit their teenage years. We are already in discussions to purchase half a cow.

I also believe in Coscto. Defame the large box store all you want, they do have the leanest hamburger and most normal tasting chicken I can consistently count on. I'll also supplement with meats from the store, again, when they are on sale, but I rely on this place. I don't buy a bunch of predone foods - it's not tough to grill up some chicken, steam some frozen (organic from Costco, even) veggies in the microwave and cut up the fruit of the week for a salad for dinner. I don't go that often, so these days I'm somewhere between a normal cart and the flatbed, but like driving a mini-van, I refuse to drive the flatbed.

Yes, I'm lucky to live in Southern California where we have a lot of great local farms to visit, and I also am part of a food coop. I go for the cheap organic box and get what I get. It's introduced us to new fangled fruits and veggies (dandelion greens, anyone? ) that we wouldn't have eaten otherwise. I also visit the local fruit and veggie stand, when I have time. The produce is 50% cheaper than the local grocers. But, to me, time is money, so it's a real treat to herd my brood of five through the confines of that small store.

Check ingredients, too, folks. Artificial sweeteners are not better for your kids. And they are usually more expensive. It's better, in my opinion, to feed the kid sugar (a real food) than some manufactured sweetener. There is nothing in any study done that says sweeteners do anything good for you. Yes, I'll have a diet coke every so often (and visualize my bones becoming porous as I do), but I won't give it to the kids. Soda? Yep, we have movie night once a week and the kids can have soda. Also at special occasions, but as a daily stipend? Never. You can actually survive on water as a liquid, amazing, but true.

High fructose corn syrup? Get it out of your diet. Look at ingredient lists. Even if a bread is whole wheat, it may contain this syrup. A local grocer's brand of whole wheat bread doesn't have corn syrup and is cheaper than named brand white breads. You have to do some work to find this stuff, but you can do it.

I think it's very important to teach kids to eat healthily and how to do themselves. This stuff is learned, folks. Are you going to teach them to pop in a microwave oven and go through the drive thru, or are you going to teach them how to wield a paring knife and make sure their plates are colorful? It isn't easy, but it's worth it in the long run.

Okay, off my soapbox now,..