Halloween part II

Did I mention how much I hate Halloween? Well, I do. I would love to post a picture of my kid in her costume in front of the house of a neighbor who went way overboard on scary Halloween decorations, but I don’t have one. Why? Because my kid didn’t wear her costume, and didn’t stand at all in front of any houses.  I spent almost $100 on her ‘Elsa’ costume, wig and all (I know, that was stupid.) The wig didn’t even make it on because it was hot and was getting hair in her eyes and kept falling off and made her ‘look like a monster’. The crown, the $25 crown, also didn’t make it. It was very cold last night and I tried to convince her to wear a long sleeve shirt under the dress. Because: 1. I knew it was going to be itchy and I was trying to avoid that and 2. it was cold outside. But, no, just the dress. We made it into the car and before I could even make it to the stop sign she starts screaming about how itchy it was. As we continued to drive to our trick or treating destination (a 45 min drive away) she managed to de-costume while in her car seat without ever taking her seat belt off (impressive, I know). She also managed to find and open her school bag and put on a t-shirt. When we finally arrived at our destination, there were all the other kids, so cute in their costumes (even itchy ones.) They had face paint on, carrying swords, in full blown itchy-falling-off-in-my-eyes costumes. And there my kid was, in the back seat of the car, with no pants on, a disheveled shirt, and hair in a mess from de-robing while attached to a moving vehicle.

It was dark outside, because, well, it’s Halloween and you can’t trick-or-treat in the morning. And yes, my kid asked, the morning of Halloween, to go trick-or-treating.  She’s afraid of the dark and doesn’t like scary things at all (see previous Halloween post.) Here is one pictures of the beginning of our evening:

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She’s the little on on the left. Blurry and dark, great picture. I do believe that one will go above the mantel. Anyway, I ended up carrying her for half of it. Now, for those of you that don’t know, my husband lives in another country. This week was particularly special because I just found out some really sad news about a very close relative, went to visit another relative who is very sick (and it was so sad and I cried and cried), had to take two days of leave without pay at work, and found out Thursday I have a pelvic organ prolapse. So, the last thing I wanted to do was carry a 35lb child up and down the streets in the cold without my husband, while trying to keep an organ from falling out of me. But I did anyway, with a smile on my face (and, no, the organ did not fall out.)

Until next Halloween… (did I mention I hate Halloween?)

Whiny Wednesday

I know, it’s Thursday. I also know having kids makes me busy and tired and forgetful. But mostly just tired. So here are two Whiny Wednesdays. (I will try to remember next Wednesday (but I probably won’t)).

First Day of School Picture.

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                                          The I-thought-this-was-Walmart-not-the-airport fit.

whiny wed.

Halloween

halloween

As you can see I am not crafty in any sense of the word. But this sad little cupcake sums up how I feel about Halloween; ugly, expected, and slightly annoyed. I have really never been into Halloween as an adult. As as child, I loved it. I would much prefer to decorate my porch with fall and Thanksgiving things than half dead zombies. It just creeps me out, and my little one too. Yes, in fact, that’s when I started to hate Halloween. When my difficult child had just turned one.

I was in Walmart shopping and had my child, who was just one, in the cart. It already wasn’t going well because Walmart is the last place you want to take a difficult child. But then we passed the Halloween aisle. Since my older child is half obsessed with Halloween we had to look. I put on a scary mask just for fun and that was the end of my little ones world as she knew it. I have never heard her scream like that. I put the mask down and left!! It has been downhill ever since that day. I wasn’t trying to be scary, I don’t even remember looking at her.

I was trying to find a picture of my little one at Halloween and then it dawned on me that I could not recall one costume she has ever worn. Oh, what kind of mother am I??!! I had to search my photo library to recall the costumes. I think Halloween is just so difficult that I have suppressed the memories! Trick or Treating usually consists of running from house to house before the sun sets. And running while you are carrying the child at that! Because you cannot put her down, there are way too many scary things every where! She is allergic to peanuts so after you get home you have to take the bag of candy away and frantically remove all the peanut candy while she screams the entire time at you. While that is happening, trick or treaters keep ringing your door bell adding to the mayhem.  You dare not open the door either because one of two things will happen: she will cry harder thinking you are giving her candy away, or she will freak out at the scary monsters trying to come inside the house.

Last year we were living overseas so Halloween really didn’t happen for us. I somehow forgot (again suppressing) all about Halloween and caught myself on the Halloween aisle at the grocery store last week. Then it happened again. My older child picked up a gigantic fuzzy spider and pretended to yell. My little one let out that same blood curdling scream.

I can’t wait until Halloween is over.

Life hacks to raise difficult children

It’s not easy raising a difficult child because they are, well, difficult. Irregular sleep patterns, strange eating habits, over sensitivity to most sensory stimulation are just a few of the things we must deal with daily. Our children aren’t bad or misbehaving, they are just different and take more focus and energy than most children. I have put together a few things that have worked for me to heal some of these difficulties. My child is almost five, so most of these are geared towards that age.

Goggles. . Yep, goggles. Like swimming goggles. We take them everywhere and she wears them a lot. They are especially helpful at bath time to avoid the water-in-my-eyes meltdown. I am actually able to wash her hair now. They are also helpful when we go out on windy or humid days, she has very bad allergies and this cuts down on her eyes constantly being itchy. She has itched them to the point where they have swollen completely shut! I also got her tinted goggles to help with the days that are ‘too sunny’, or places like Walmart that are ‘too shiny’. Yes, people will look strangely at you but just ignore them.

Electronics. My first child, my easier one, rarely watched TV. In fact, we didn’t own a TV until she was seven. And we didn’t get cable until a year ago (five years later). We just aren’t TV people. I could tell my first child to go play in her room if I needed a break or needed to make a phone call. My second child, however, has an extremely hard time playing by herself, even at home with her toys. She can play alone for about 15 minutes. Since her sister is seven years older than her, I end up being her daily playmate. Occasionally, believe it or not, I need a mental, physical and emotional break from pretending to be four all day long. Those rare breaks from my difficult child ended up in a intense crying episode or a tantrum (which just made the break not worth it). TV or the iPad are the only things I have found that give me a break. Most of the time I use these breaks to cook dinner (I can’t tell you how many dinners I have burned), clean, or focus on my older child. Grocery stores were an all time worst nightmare place to be with my difficult child. There is just too much light, noise, smells and sounds for my difficult child to handle in one place. By letting her play on the iPad I can usually get my grocery shopping done if I’m in and out in under an hour. Most people will look down at their noses at you if your kid is playing on their iPad at the mall or the grocery store, just ignore them. They do not understand. Before I had my second child I was one of those people. My child was perfectly content at the mall for hours, silent in the grocery store, played in her room for hours without electronics. I was biased and often rude when I saw people whose kids were watching TV or playing with electronics. Now I understand that for the most part, the parents are just trying to keep peace in line at the grocery store, or prevent a meltdown in line at the clothing store. If you have been reluctant to let your difficult child watch TV or let them have an iPad, just try it out. I am not saying use these things as babysitters, because with a difficult that will not work. My child can watch TV for 30 minutes or 1 hour max. After that she begins to ‘freak out’ or ‘get bored’. She even has trouble sitting through a movie at the theater.  There are times when she has complete overload meltdowns, for whatever reason, and nothing but turning on the TV will break her focus. She doesn’t ask or beg to turn it on during these meltdowns, that’s not what I am saying. I turn it on by my choice to snap her out of it.

Probiotics. I figured my child would grow out of her irregular bathroom habits and constipation when she was young, but she hasn’t. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered Yakult. My child won’t eat yogurt, but she loves Yakult. You can find these most places, even when you travel. I wish I’d have known about them sooner. She never seems to be hungry during mealtimes, she’s always ‘starving’ in the car, right before bedtime, during bath time. But when we sit down to eat dinner, she’s never hungry! Ever! The Yakults have helped keep her regular.

Eye Spy. My child has never been happy in the car. From the first day I brought her home and the whole time she was an infant, she screamed every time we got in the car. Then when she was a toddler and until now she get’s very car sick. It got so bad that I would not go visit family if they were more than ten minutes away. Even as an infant, I turned around and went home multiple times on the way somewhere because I could not get her to stop screaming or vomiting. I tried everything, including medicine, nothing worked. The first three months after I moved, where I had to do much more driving than before, I kept barf bags, towels, and a change of clothes in the car. She threw up almost every single time we got in the car! It became overwhelming to me. Then I decided to play Eye Spy with her to keep her focus out the window and it worked!!! She still gets nausea and sometimes I have to pull over but for the most part it has helped so much. I have to play it the second we get in the car, before I even back out! And play the entire time we are driving. I also found that kid type music, where she can sing along, helps as well. She has become so conditioned that she even gets nauseated when she sees our car. I now make it a point to completely distract her when we have to get in the car. But I think she is growing out of it as she gets older and can see out the window.

Just a few things I hope you can find helpful!

The focus box

My husband came up with the greatest idea for the dinning room table battles. My child always wants to bring toys to the dinner table, or does bring them and I end up fighting to get her to put them away to focus on dinner. I’ve tried time out for the toys, reward for not bringing the toys, taking the toys away, nothing worked. It always ended in a tantrum and an unfinished dinner. Then my husband took an empty box in the house, had her paint all over it, and dubbed it the ‘focus box’. Dinner was as usual, but when she brought her toys to the table my husband told her that she could put the toys in the ‘focus box’ so she could focus on dinner instead of playing. And it worked!!! I just sat there with my mouth open, and was a bit jealous. Not only does it work for dinner, but it works for getting ready in the morning, homework time, putting shoes on, or any time we need her to focus on a task.

She doesn’t feel like it’s a punishment or a reward, it’s just a place her toys go when she needs to focus. It’s her box, decorated how she likes. She takes the toys out when she is done! It doesn’t work every single time but it works 90% of the time! And we use it so much that sometimes she puts her toys in there without us even asking.

 

The routine

Routine. I hated that word for the longest time. Especially after I had children.  I didn’t hear it much with my first child, the easy one. But I’ve heard it thousands of time with my second child, the more challenging one. She’s acting out because she needs a routine, they would say. Children like that thrive on routine, I would hear. They would say to me, she will stop throwing fits if she just had a better routine. I hate that word because to me, routine meant rigidity. It meant having a set way to do things, a set order, and never wavering from it. Ever. No matter what fun movie popped up at the cinema. No matter who came over for a surprise visit. No matter what was going on in my life, the routine would have to dominate. I just didn’t think I was that good of a mom.

The problem was I had a completely twisted interpretation of the word routine. I grew up in the Catholic school system, where I associated routine with rigidity and discipline. I owe my life and salvation to the Catholic church so I am eternally grateful for it. But they ruled with an iron fist. I was kicked out of choir because my shoes were too loud. One time a student stole something and our principle had the entire class kneel at the church pews and pray until someone confessed. We were in there for hours, no one confessed. Uniform skirts were to be to the knee. Random uniform checks would be done to make sure. They would make us stand up straight and get down on their knees to make sure the skirt was to the knee. When we graduated we were required to wear white gowns and they checked every single girl to make sure their undergarments were white as well, or they didn’t walk. But along with the discipline came love. I vividly remember my English teacher telling me how smart I was and how I was going to be something big in life, telling me this at a time in my life when no one else believed in me. My theology teacher would take me to church on Sunday’s and buy me lunch, she was the only true friend I had at that time. The only one who never expected anything in return.

Recently, I read The Difficult Child, by Stanley Turecki.  I learned that routine means doing the same thing in the same order, not necessarily at the same time everyday! I was so relieved. I knew my difficult child needed this routine and now I understood. My child doesn’t get hungry at meal times, no matter how much I begged or brided her to eat.  Turecki says that difficult children often will not be hungry at meal time, they still must sit with the family but don’t force them to eat. Some days she needs eight hours of sleep and some days six. He said bedtime is time to be in bed, not necessarily time to sleep.  I made a morning and evening routine chart. For example, the morning routine says (I also drew pictures because she can’t read yet)

Wake up.

Eat breakfast

Get dressed

Brush teeth

Make lunch

Go to school.

None of these thing happen at a specific time, but they always happen in the same order. Some mornings she just stares at breakfast and ends up eating in the car. She loves her charts and it has helped so much with the fits and screaming. She is so proud of them, too, because she can do something on her own, without me nagging her. And she is the first to voice when I am trying to do something out of order of the chart. This also helps with her not feeling rushed because I am not asking that she do something within a certain amount of time. I have found that timing her, or mentioning the time causes her anguish and she just ends up giving up. When we leave for the house the shoes are always cause for problems. I have no idea how children can lose a pair of shoes so quickly or be unable to find them entirely. I bought a shoe rack, anything but shoes end up there. Purses, books, keys, but never shoes. And not ever the shoes my child want to wear as we are walking out the door. So I would say, you have five minutes to find and put on your shoes. This never ever worked. Now, she has to put her shoes on during the ‘get dressed’ part of the chart. This has helped so much.

Eight months ago we moved very far away from everyone we know and in three months we will move back. I feel encouraged now with these charts that the transition will be much smoother this time. I could even create a special chart for the airplanes.

Routine is no longer an unspoken word in my vocabulary. I has worked so well with my child that I am telling everyone who will listen!!

Red dye No. 40

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Chemical structure taken from Sigma Aldrich website, Allura Red AC

This isn’t another blog post about how bad red dye no. 40 is for your kid. I’m not going to try and convince you that your kids will get hyper, get caner, asthma, or anything else by ingesting red dye no.40. Why? Because I don’t have a clue if it does, and neither do 99%of  the people trying to convince you otherwise. Sure, there have been studies done that ‘link’ the dye to all those horrible things. I’m not trying to down play the scientific method or scientific studies. But I am saying that you have to have knowledge and experience in scientific studies to understand statistics. And if you do, then you know there is no such thing as a ‘link’ between two things, in statics there is just a p value. The p value can only tell you if something is statistically significant. It cannot tell you if the findings are important, are theory or fact, those things come from someone’s own interpretation of the p value. Therefore, when a scientist publishes a study and some scared house wife who has a large blog following concludes that this causes that, she has no idea what she is talking about. But you have to put your trust in something. I recommend only believing things you read if the author will be held accountable for their words. Will so-and-so blogger be held accountable for saying that candy makes their kids crazy? No. Will Sigma Aldrich be held accountable for providing false or misleading information on their website? Damn straight. Will a highly reputable and long time chemistry organization be held accountable? Yep. Will Wikipedia be held responsible for providing false information? Nope.

So, what does all this have to do with my blog post? It’s just a disclaimer that all observations and decisions made regarding red dye no. 40 and my child are completely of my own. It is my experience. Here is how it all started:

I was talking to my friend a while back about how hyper my kid can get sometimes. And by hyper I don’t mean running around and screaming, well not all the time. I mean that she has times where she gets extremely frustrated and screams, about things as simple as the wrong spoon for her cereal. She constantly said, “I don’t know what to do.” She paces and just looks exhausted yet can’t stop moving. I couldn’t just tell her to go and play, this would most certainly cause a breakdown. Anytime I tried to Skype my family I had to end up removing her from the room because she was so loud and could not sit still. My friend said to me that her kid was having similar problems and she read a lot of things about red dye no. 40 and being hyper. She said she removed the dye from her diet and her kid calmed down a whole lot. She knows how much I hate when people believe anything they read on the internet. She knows I have a chemistry degree and that I just won’t take people’s word for it. So she said, “Well, it couldn’t hurt, could it?”

Huh. She had a good point. I don’t know if red dye is bad for my kid, but could it hurt if I removed it from her diet? Well, no, I guess! So I did.

I was skeptical at first, of course. The first few days I noticed she was not as intense, she didn’t cry and say she doesn’t know why she is crying. After a week I called my mom and step dad via Skype. I was sitting on the couch and my child was sitting next to me. After about 5 minutes my mother asked if my child was sick today. No, I said. Why? My mother said she has never seen her sit still for this long. I laughed and realized she was right. By this point I would usually be putting her in her room. But, she was just sitting next to me. I said that I stopped letting her eat anything with red dye in it, my mother said to keep it up!!

It has been a few months now, my child is still highly active. I still run and jump and play with her the same amount, but with no breakdowns or tantrums. She still throws fits but not with the same intensity. She rarely says that she is bored and “doesn’t know what to do”. I see a significant improvement in her attitude and she is much more happy and content.

The thing is, I don’t know if it was the removal of the red dye or the improved diet because of it. Removing red dye from her diet was not as easy as I thought. I just assumed red candy. It’s in so much food. But what I found is that the food that contains it isn’t necessarily good for her.  Sadly, and embarrassingly, I fed her a lot of junk food. Fruit Loops, soda, juice, candy. I even found it things like gum and boxed dinners. And it goes by many names! Allura Red AC, E129, Lake 40 (or technically disodium 6-hydroxy-5-((2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo)-2-naphthalenesulfonate) Don’t take my word for it, do some research of your own.I realized that her diet, our diet, was terrible! Since so many things had red dye, I had to completely alter what we eat. The easy part was removing it from the house, not buying it at all. The hard part was finding alternatives and getting my kids to eat those alternatives! A lot of fruit and vegetables went rotten because they just wouldn’t eat them. Slowly, surely, and with persistence their tastes changed and they now eat carrots, apples, cucumbers, pineapples, baked chicken, rice, etc.

Maybe it was removing red dye no. 40 or maybe it was the subsequent reduction of sugar, processed foods, fast food. Maybe it was the introduction of so many whole fruits and vegetables, home cooked meals instead of boxed dinners, water instead of soda. I started giving her non food items as treats, like balloons or small cheap toys. She still eats candy, but not nearly to the extent she did before. And yes, I pick out the red M&M’s. I have no idea either if fast food has red dye in it. But again, I asked myself if removing fast food from her diet will hurt her. No, it won’t.

As a parent, I have do what’s best for my child in my current situation. I did not remove red dye no. 40 because I believed that it caused her to be hyper or that it will give her cancer. I removed it because, after my friend told me her story, I started to look at our diet and how it could be improved. I realized that I had decided to just give her a bowl of Fruit Loops in the morning instead of taking the time (time I had) to cut her some whole fruit. That I rewarded her with a candy, every time, because it was easy, accessible and cheap. That red Kool-Aid was a staple in our house because I convinced myself that if there was no red Kool-Aid she would die from dehydration. When in reality I didn’t want to deal with the whining and complaining of drinking just water.

So, I encourage you to remove red dye no. 40 from your kid’s diet. Why? Because it can’t hurt, can it?

The Five Senses

My child is exceptionally keen of her five senses. These are the cause of most of her angst. I wish I could help her overcome some of these quirks, if you will, in regards to her five senses but for that to happen they would have to make sense. They do not. Let me explain:

1. Taste: 

She is extremely picky with what she will eat. I am sure you are thinking, well aren’t most four year olds? Yes, but do most four year old refuse to eat with forks too big? Or refuse to eat a pancake that is not a certain diameter? An exact (unknown to me) milk to cereal ratio must be met before she will eat it. She absolutely love gum. 

2. Sight:

This one is a daily battle since we live in the desert. She is very sensitive to the sun. Most days it’s ‘too sunny’. She won’t play on playground equipment that has floor grates with too big of holes, meaning that if she can see too much of the ground under her she will not stand or walk on it. 

3. Smell:

She will let you know, loudly, if you smell bad at all. She will announce in the grocery store that it smells like fish and she wants to leave! The odd thing is she doesn’t seem to mind good smells. The strong perfume in the department store doesn’t bother her. She frequently takes paper samples of perfume and just smells them the whole time we are in the mall. 

4. Sound:

In the womb she would move around if there was a loud noise. She was, and still is, an exhaustingly light sleeper. If I raise my voice she grabs her ears, screams, and runs off. The hair dryer cannot be too loud. The movie theater is not a fun place for her. 

5. Touch:

Her socks have been known to be ‘too wiggly’. Today she wore shorts over her pants and yesterday pants over her shorts. The bed sheets have to be perfect before she will sleep in them. 

These things can be overwhelming at times but they make me love her even more, knowing she is unique. Sometimes I spend a considerable amount of time making her a bowl of cereal or trying to the wiggles out of the socks. Sometimes I make her eat with forks too big or make her sleep in her bed when I just don’t have energy to get the sheets perfect. Either way I love being her mommy and I know I am a good one. I don’t always understand the things that upset her but I try to pay attention to help avoid an overload of her five senses.