Dreaming of Relaxing Poolside

Five young friends in swimming pool smilingMemorial Day is right around the corner and everything I love about this time of year is coming full throttle. Children are salivating for that first full-bodied splash into the freezing waters of a swimming pool. Actually, any body of water will do, as long as it’s outdoors and not a bathtub.

Kids don’t care if the water is only 50 degrees, foul smelling, green and filled with last summer’s bugs and diseases. As soon as the bathing suit is on and the American flag is hanging high, they are off and running for the closest water source.

It’s also the season where mother’s think, “I knew there was something I left off my to-do list.”

The dreaded squeeze your pale, flaky, hibernating-fatted body into the first bathing suit of the season is a dance we all can live without. For many moms, no amount of pinching, pushing or sucking can squeeze their parts into that forgiving swim skirt.

“I know this (tug) fit (yank) last year. I obviously put it in the dryer so it shrunk.”

Since I’m no more in shape than last year, I’ll scour Target again for this years most fashionable and largest swimsuit tarp. I prefer the full body cover-up in black. Really anything short of a Burka will suffice for my summer beachwear.

Another of my least favorite things to do this summer is the daily methodical application of sunscreen to every family member. It may seem like a tolerable thought right now, but I promise come mid July, parents across the country will be fed up with the reapplying rule. When will someone invent a heavy duty SPF that can be applied easily and not have to be re-applied every two hours? Is this asking too much?

I am proud, however, to announce that both my children know how to swim – without drowning. Hallelujah! I don’t need to watch them every second, which means (shh!) I get to read a book poolside! I think the last time I read a book near water was 2005. You can imagine how long my book list is.

I’m sure there are mothers with older children, who are shaking their heads while reading this. They are thinking I should savor these moments. Experienced moms longingly reminiscing of those precious days of their toddler in swim diapers and certified life jackets, but I’m not one of them. I’m thrilled to join the ranks of non-neurotic moms relaxing in a lounge chair and periodically looking up to count heads.

I spent the last six years in the pool being splashed in the face, bonked in the head, slapped, peed on and strangled while playing with my sweet girls. But I’ve paid my penance. I’m done.

It’s a new stage of life called relaxing poolside.

Soon my girls will be hormonal terrors, who won’t want to spend time with me. They won’t even want me near the pool. I know this is normal tween/teen behavior. Developing their independence, blah, blah, blah.

But for now I will forge on, enjoying the summer breezes and laughter of kids at play. I’ll lather us up with sunscreen, lean back underneath a big umbrella, and open my book until I hear…

“Mom, I’m bored.”

 

THE TOOTH FAIRY DITHED MY KID

Being an “old-ish” mom, somewhere between fitting in Gap clothing and wearing Depends, I have found motherhood has its ups and downs.  Like when trying to remember what it was like when I did things as a child…pretty near impossible!

My oldest daughter asks, “Mom, when did you first ride a bike without training wheels?”

“I’m sure I rode a bike. But to tell you the truth, I haven’t the foggiest!” I say squinting my eyes and searching the ceiling for answers.

Or…the latest, “Mom, how much money did the Tooth Fairy bring you when you lost your first tooth?”

Now I have a mouth full of Big Girl Teeth, so I know I must have lost some baby ones during my younger days; but if you can’t remember them falling out, how can you be expected to retain the cash value for those babies?

“I believe I was given diamonds and rubies,” I retorted.  “A girl’s best friend, you know.”

“MAH-OM!!  You are joking, right?!”  Can’t put anything past this one!

“Honey, the Tooth Fairy is the one who makes these decisions and whatever the going rate is will be what you get.  It’s just exciting you have entered a new phase of tooth-dom!”

“What?” she gives me the look which I know will be repeated way too many times in her adolescence.

“Forget it,” I smile baring all my big girl teeth.  “Congratulations on losing your tooth.  Tomorrow we’ll see what this tooth fairy thing is all about!”

That night Munchkin #1 put her first bloody, hollow tooth into her precious Tooth Fairy pillow and placed it under her regular pink sleeping pillow.  Her younger sister was almost excited for the impending event; but since it wasn’t about her, why should she waste her energy?

The next thing we know it is morning and over the monitor we hear the squawking, “THE TOOTH FAIRY CAME!!!”  Have I ever mentioned how fast that kid can run?  Two-point five seconds later, she is practically beaning me in the head with 2 golden coins.

“Look, Mom!  I got a Sacagawea!” she started in her best high-pitched girl scream.

“First of all…you are in Kindergarten. How do you know who Sacagawea is?” I asked reaching for my glasses.

“And another one with some guy on it – but Sacagawea!!” she said flopping on the bed like she had just won the Powerball.

“That other guy is a U.S. President, not that I can focus on him yet to tell you who he is, but he was famous too.  These are gold coins the Tooth Fairy left you!”
“Gold? How much is it worth?” she eagerly inquired.

Inspecting the coins carefully I whispered, “It’s a gold dollar! Each one is worth ONE dollar.”

“ Kathy got FIVE dollars and she said her cousin got TWENTY dollars from the Tooth Fairy!!” she quipped.

“I hate to be the one to tell you, but you saw that tooth of yours…it was totally hollow.  I bet those other kids had diamonds or rubies in the middle of theirs.”

 

Key to No Barfing on Family Road Trips

Nauseated

The other day my friend and I were discussing how we dreaded traveling with kids and it wasn’t for the reasons most parents have:

“She crossed over the line and her finger is on my side!!”

“Bobby took my headphones!”

“Mom, Sarah won’t stop staring at me!”

Oh, no, we both had the dreaded Car Barfer.

After discussing this malady by the snack table at church, regarding traveling with kids on Spring Break, I realized that after I fought this “uphill” battle for 7 years, I could be considered an expert.

And because of that, I felt it was my public duty to share my tricks and secrets.

When my daughter, Munchkin #1 was a baby, she immediately became what they call in some glamorous social circles, a projectile puker. The girl could hurl it to the third seat area of the van if she produced a good arc.

The hubby and I prayed that she would grow out of this attractive behavior, for she wouldn’t win any popularity contests if this continued.

In fact, we couldn’t go anywhere in the van over 15 minutes without the upchuck routine. This was awful since the grandparents lived 30 minutes away and people frown on covering infants in Saran Wrap or attaching feedbags.

So after many urping episodes, and tempts of fate thinking she could make it 16 minutes, 17 minutes, we tried everything we could think of to make our darling child, feel better, keep unsoiled and not smell like the ladies room on 50 cent beer draw night.

Here are my tips for keeping you and your child happy and considering getting back on the road again:

Medications:

Younger children cannot take any medication to settle their stomachs, so you have to just suffer through. When your pediatrician says that Benadryl is OK for your child, that can be a blessing for some; but you need to be careful and know the exact dose and realize it will knock most kids out into a prolonged stupor. Of course there are some kiddos that have the opposite problem and turn into complete spazzes, but at least they aren’t throwing up. REMEMBER: Don’t give Benadryl without your pediatricians approval.

Dramamine is for kids over 2 years of age, according to the packaging. There are chewables, but they are hard to find. And if you try to get your kid to swallow Dramamine in pill form, and they have not developed that skill yet, they taste awful just sitting on the tongue, so it will be near impossible getting another one in your kids mouth ever again.

However, Dramamine is a blessing from God!! I remember thinking that my daughter would never turn two so that we could use the magic potion of the road. NOTE: Never give Benadryl and Dramamine together. Dramamine contains Benadryl, so you can overdose.

Not all pediatricians will prescribe this for older children, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, but Odansetron (aka Zofran) is an anti-emetic (anti-nausea/anti-vomiting) drug that is often used for pregnant women who can’t keep food down or patients after chemotherapy treatment. Children over the age of 4 can take this, and if your child does not respond to the other choices, Odansetron works beautifully. This drug needs a prescription, so your physician will let you know if this is appropriate for your child.

Clean-up Supplies:

1. In addition to medication, you need to have your vehicle stocked sufficiently. A little package of tissues you carry in your purse is not going to cut it with one of these kids. You need a jumbo box of baby wipes and periodically check to make sure they remain damp. Nothing worse than reaching in for a cleanup job and find dry wipes! Not only do the wipes work well to essentially bathe your child in the car, but also they can clean upholstery, carpeting and the seat belts quite effectively. These are a MUST! My kids are 7 and 8 and I still keep a box in the car just for spills and accidents.

2. At first I asked every person who traveled to bring me back vomit bags from the airlines. I had about 20 of those in the back pocket of the driver’s seat. But you will quickly learn that those are 1) not airtight 2) not leakproof and 3) have a small opening, which proves to be a poor target for a young or inexperienced barfer. Ziploc Freezer Bags with the strong zipper seal are the answer. Aim, shoot, and zip! Toss and you are back on the road. I actually kept an entire jumbo box of those in the car with the wipes.

3. The last thing you want are kitchen trash bags. Many times I stood on the side of the highway with my toddler stripped down to her diaper and I was tempted to just dump her clothes right there. If you have a big bag for clothes or the liner of the car seat, you can close those up tight and toss them in the trunk.

I apologize for those with a weak stomach. I know this isn’t a glamorous post, but hopefully this information can save at least one family some headaches.

The good thing is usually by the time your car sick child is a teenager, she can sit in the front and look out the front window, reducing or possibly alleviating the nausea.

Thanks so much for joining Nurse Mommy Laughs today! If you know of someone that has a child this post could help, please feel free to forward this link. How do you get through traveling with carsick kids? Any other tips you would like to share in the comments below?

The Power of a Hug

Mother and daughter embracing standing against white background.
Across the boards, bullying seems to be the new trend. Saturating the news are stories of people tearing each other down. Even Missouri’s Auditor and top Governor candidate Tom Schweich, who recently committed suicide, demonstrated that being a victim of harassment could be overwhelming.

A local Home Owner Associations last week refused to let a 10 year-old girl struggling with Leukemia get her Make-a-Wish request granted because the playhouse didn’t fit their guidelines. Unfortunately, it took more bullying from the public to humiliate this gang of HOA control freaks, causing them to reverse their first decision.

People, why can’t we all just get along?!

Once again, I must jump up on my granola box and shout through my poorly manicured hands, “Everybody stop being jerks!” Don’t you care that your kids are watching and learning from you?

The American Academy of Pediatrics defines bullying as, “A form of violence defined as repetitive, intentional aggression that involves a disparity of power between the victim and perpetrator.”

Perhaps the origin of this vicious circle-of-abuse is that the bullies’ parents are clueless they are partially responsible. Is it because the parent learned it from their parents and the generation before? Even if educators or other parents warn them of their child’s bullying behavior, astoundingly many parents won’t believe them.

“This is the fifth call from Y-Club and her teachers that Becky is displaying mean tendencies toward a group of girls. Can you believe that? She is always so funny at home and cracking jokes about her friends.”

Wake up and smell the high school detention room because according to an American Medical Association report, “…out of 15,000 6th-10th graders, approximately 3.7 million youths engage in, and more than 3.2 million are victims of, moderate or serious bullying each year.” That’s a whole lot of tormenting going on and it looks like there could be a GED with your kids name on it!

Are you sure your kid isn’t responsible for this behavior? I repeatedly question my kids to see if they are treating others poorly. Are they having problems with anyone in school? Pro-active teachings and reinforcements are needed to prevent this type of physical or mental abuse.

Bullying obviously gets my feathers ruffled, but this week when I was stressed because of mean girl behavior at the elementary school, I had the rug pulled out from under me. A Theatre and Film professor at the University of Kansas, Ron Willis, passed away. He had such an outpouring of love and support shown by all the students he impacted over his long career, and from all parts of the world. This wonderful man was doing something right.

When I described my love and respect for him to his family, I reflected on how he made such a profound impact in my life. Not only was he one of my first directors in musical theater, The Wizard of Oz, but he truly believed in me and became a second father figure to me.

Every time Ron would spot me from across the greenroom, his face would light up like Tinker Bells’ heinie, and we would worm our way through the crowd for the embrace, the same one that erased my worries or pain.

His hugs were powerful and loving. And he never let go until I did first. This was such a paternal and selfless act of kindness.

So I started thinking if all parents were to hug our children every day – and I’m not talking about the side hug with a lousy uncomfortable light tap-tap-tap on the back – but a REAL hug where you shut your eyes, breathe in your child’s hair and never let go until they are ready to release, we could possibly devoid the world of bullies. This would give children, whether they are the bully or the bullied, a sense of self-worth and respect. It isn’t until then that they can understand what love is, feel like they matter in the world, and what safety feels like.

My challenge is to start the parent hugging campaign. This is where you don’t let go of a hug, until your child is ready to be released. Let’s see if this simple act of love can change the psyche of our kids.

Thanks, Ron for loving me and taking care of me when I was away at college. The memories of your hug will stay with me.

Your legacy lives on forever in my heart, and hopefully will be passed onto my girls and the generations to follow.

Embracing Your Weirdness is What Makes You Awesome

SONY DSC
Mama, I can’t do that! I don’t want the kids to think I’m weird.

My daughter’s words struck my abdomen, like a knife plunging into my soul.

“Weird!” She said the “W” word.

The first time I heard my child fearing others’ opinions, similar memories of mine were stirred up. Childhood fights on the playground, bickering in the girl’s room, or even worse … debating whether “Babe” cologne or “Love’s Baby Soft” was the best fragrance. It could get nasty.

Recently, I read a quote by Meryl Streep, which struck a nerve.

“What makes you different or weird — that’s your strength.”

Seriously, if I’d heard that advice when I was young, I might have avoided 25 percent of my childhood angst. I was a professional weird kid. If they had turned our fifth-grade spelling bee into a standing Weird-Off, I would have gone to Nationals. I was that proficient. In college, I tried to major in weird, but was denied. Theater and Film was an adequate backup.

With Halloween around the corner and people’s gory, graphic yard art popping up, one starts to ponder weirdness. (Oh, and thanks for my kids’ nightmares. I really enjoy a tiny foot in my face in the middle of the night.)

My journey of weird started at an early age. Lip-synching to Donny Osmond, into my purple hairbrush, with a red sequined tutu on my head. This was standard fare at my house. The kids in the neighborhood came to expect it, as did my parents.

Although the only day I could parade my weirdness was Halloween. Costumes mandatory? How glorious!

My costumes started off innocently. A bunny, a witch with a big rubber nose, and a picturebook-perfect Raggedy Ann, complete with a full wig constructed of red yarn. But those costumes don’t sound so weird, do they? It wasn’t until I had the choice of what to be, instead of my parents choosing, that my flair flew.

In the fourth grade, I was Phyllis Diller. Yes, I teased my hair high, put on obnoxious makeup and hot pink-framed glasses. I was a dead ringer for the comedienne. The best part was the reaction I would get at neighbors’ doors.

Trick-or-treat!

(gasp) Oh, my. What are you, honey?

Phyllis Diller.

The answer was either followed by laughter or absolute confusion as to why a young girl would choose this over a cute pumpkin or ghost outfit. A boring ghost uniform would have been booed from my bleachers.

Junior high was a time for many kids to bow out of costumes in my town — but not for me. I still wanted to take my younger brother around to houses, so I could steal his candy later. What was his costume? A werewolf, of course. And living up to high standard “weirdo” expectations, I was a full-term pregnant ballerina.

There were countless kooky costumes, too many to list. But those were the years I embraced my weirdness. However, at some point I began to worry what others would think of me. I’m certain this is a developmental stage that all humans face. It’s how you react to it and learn from that uncertainty that defines your character.

So when my munchkin said she was afraid of what the other kids would think, I pulled her over to my computer to teach her about Meryl Streep. I wanted my daughter to see someone who is famous — a great role model — and learn that a woman of that caliber knows being “weird and different” is awesome!

I never imagined Ms. Streep would help me with my parenting skills. Makeup and acting tips, maybe. But her lesson is being practiced in my house now.

Mama, I don’t mind being weird, if when I grow up, I like myself.

Standing ovation, my munchkin. Standing ovation!

previously printed in The Kansas City Star October 29, 2014