Monday, December 29, 2008

Recovering (Literally) From Christmas

It's sort of becoming a tradition that our son gets sick around Christmas. Last year, we were at my in-laws' house, and on Christmas Eve, V came down with a nasty stomach bug. Luckily, he was fine all day on Christmas, and neither B nor I had any symptoms until some time after the holiday. This year, it seemed our big gift to each other was that same nasty stomach bug. V started in with it very early Christmas morning in our bed. Yuck. He'd had a rough day with it two days before, but we assumed it was a continuation of his croup. Some kids puke when they have too much snot draining down into their little tummies. We slept late Christmas morning, had a small brunch, and opened our presents to each other. It was a nice little Christmas morning, and V really enjoyed the toys he received from Santa. We settled in for a relaxing day around the house, and everything seemed fine until V threw up his breakfast on the family room carpet. Poor little guy. He seemed okay after that, and we relaxed again for the rest of the day. Then, without warning, around four o'clock or so in the afternoon, the bug hit me big time. I spent the rest of the day either in bed trying to sleep it off or in the bathroom. I was glad we had had such a great Christmas Eve, visiting Santa at a local mall, wrapping Christmas presents together, and driving around looking at Christmas light displays. I didn't feel so bad spending my Christmas evening in bed away from my boys trying to feel better. The day after Christmas, V and I both rested on the couch in the family room while B worked at the office. He managed to rearrange his schedule a bit, so he could come home earlier and give me a chance to rest a little more. He went out and bought us chicken noodle soup, too, which was exactly what both V and I needed for our tummies. We missed the Christmas get together with B's grandmother, but we were looking forward to spending the weekend with the rest of B's family. Then, that night, the stomach bug visited B. He hardly ever gets sick, and when he does, he doesn't seem to get it as bad as V or I, and he seems to recover much faster. However, this thing came at all of us fast, and it came hard. B was just as sick as V and I. I was afraid we were going to miss his family's Christmas, but Saturday morning, he felt well enough to sit in a car for the trip to his parents' house, and he slept there until it was time to go to the party at his sister's. After the party, all three of us crawled into bed in his old room and fell asleep early. Yesterday morning, we all seemed to be on the mend, though not quite 100%. At least we were all eating okay, which was the main thing. We had a great time opening presents with my in-laws, and I was happy we were well enough to see my mother-in-law and father-in-law get their surprise present of Rose Bowl tickets. Their youngest daughter lives in Pasadena, and they're visiting her this week, so we thought it would make their trip extra special if we could get them tickets to the game. After dinner, we loaded up all the wonderful presents and the rest of our gear and drove back home without incident. B went to work this morning, though I know he's still not completely healthy. He's on-call, though, and he has a light day. He can rest in the call room in between cases, and if he's not busy this evening, he can come home to sleep. Then, tomorrow when he's post-call, he can spend the day resting. V and I seem to be doing much better. In fact, V ate like there was no tomorrow, this morning, and he's still eating at lunch time! We have plans to spend New Year's gaming with friends, so I hope that we're all completely over this thing by then. I apologize if there's just too much information in this post. However, it is what it is. These things happen, and though it happened over Christmas, I must admit that we were still able to have a pretty good time and enjoy ourselves. I just hope that we're able to break this little tradition come Christmas-time, next year.
Best to you all, and hope you had a good holiday, too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Traditions and Handy Mandy

We spent this past weekend with my family for our annual Christmas get together. On Saturday evening, we opened presents at my parents' house. It was a lot of fun, and the biggest surprise of all was for my parents. My siblings and I gave them handmade gift certificates that they can turn back into us to receive tickets to a Chicago Cubs game as well as a hotel for a weekend stay in Chicago. We decided not to book anything yet, so my dad can pick out the game he wants to see and the weekend they want to go. We put the gift certificates in a basket along with a Chicago Cubs T-shirt for my mom (B and I gave the exact same shirt to my dad, so they'll match), a couple of gift cards they can use on Cubs merchandise, a restaurant gift card, a gift card to a movie theater, and an American Express gift card they can use for spending money while in Chicago next year. It was a wonderful surprise for them both, and I can't wait to help them book their weekend and the game in the coming months. Sunday evening was my dad's family's big Christmas dinner. Everyone brings in food for the pitch-in, and we bring presents for the kids to open. We used to do a gift exchange among all the adults and kids in the family, but my dad had ten brothers and sisters growing up, eight of whom are still living, and all of whom are married with their own kids, so you can imagine how big the pitch-in gets every year. I think I have over thirty first cousins on that side of the family alone! One of my more technologically minded cousins put together a big surprise for everyone. As we were finishing up the meal, he turned on an overhead projector and played a slide show of old pictures from the family with music to accompany them. It was very emotional, especially for my aunts and uncles. Many of the pictures were of my grandparents, both of whom passed away several years ago. There were also lots of old, funny pictures of my dad and his siblings as well as all of the kids from my generation and younger. I had to turn my head when my senior picture came on screen, poodle haircut and all! It was moving and funny and just a thoughtful way to celebrate our family. Presents were passed out to the kids and some of the adults after that, and then it was time for the main event: The Christmas Pinata. Don't ask me how this tradition got started. There's been a pinata at my family's Christmas dinner as far back as I can remember. We don't have any Hispanic heritage (as far as I know), but someone must have thought at some point that it might be fun to have the kids try their hands at smacking a pinata open for candy and quarters every year. When I was growing up and even until last year, one of the uncles or older male cousins would hold the pinata at the end of a broom handle and pray to God the kids hitting it wouldn't smack him in very sensitive places by mistake. This year, there was a new twist. One of my male cousins-in-law got the great idea of making a pinata holder. He called it his "Pinata Holder 3000" or something (after Widget on "Wow, Wow! Wubbzy"; he has a toddler, too!). It looked like a giant PVC candy cane stuck to a piece of plywood and held down by a couple of bags of sand. There was a metal hook attached to it, so the pinata could hang freely as the kids smacked away. We always have them line up from youngest to oldest, so the first few little ones get lots of help from parents or aunts and uncles. V did pretty well hitting it on his own a few times, but one of my nephews managed to bring it down all on his own. Then, there was much scrambling for candy. There was a second pinata after that, so the older kids could get a chance at it. It really didn't take long for it to come down, either. It was a lot of fun watching the kids grab for the candy and quarters, and I was really glad to see V right there in the mix. We came home from the entire weekend with lots of presents and LOTS of candy. A wonderful time was had by all! Here are a few pictures of the pinata experience for you to enjoy:

This morning, V saw the big box containing the new tricycle his grandparents gave him for Christmas. I was going to wait until my husband could put it together, but V really wanted to ride it. So, I grabbed a hammer and screwdriver, pulled out all of the pieces and set to work. In about fifteen or twenty minutes time, my son had a new trike to ride, and I was pleased that I was able to put it together all by myself! It wasn't difficult, but at least I know that in a pinch, I can be Santa's elf and assemble the toys for him. ;)

Best to you all!

Friday, December 19, 2008

O Christmas Tree!

We finally got our Christmas tree out and up last Friday. B thought it would be a good idea to leave the ornaments off for a while, so our cat and our son could get used to the fact that there's a small, fake pine tree living in our front room. It's pre-lit, which saved us so much time from the usual untangling of lights, making sure they work, and winding them around and around the tree. Wednesday night, we brought out all of our old and newer ornaments and set to work. It was the first time V's ever helped us decorate a tree, and I think he had fun!

That last picture is of "Kringus: Devourer of the Twelve Kingdoms of Christmas". Yes, it's technically just our Christmas tree with a pair of paper, comic-strip-looking eyes stuck to it. It's based on a recurring Christmas theme from our favorite webcomic PvP. Here's a recent strip for clarification, entitled "Kringus Returns".
Have a very Merry and Geeky Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I took V to his pediatrician's office today because he's been sick for the past three days. At three o'clock Sunday morning, V woke up with the worst cough I've ever heard. It had that "barking" sound we've all been told could be a sign of something like whooping cough. He coughed so much that he suddenly had difficulty breathing. It was very scary, both for him and for B and I. The breathing difficulty didn't last too long, and after he was given a little Children's Motrin for his fever, he settled down and went back to sleep. Though it was never as bad as that first night, his cough remained over the course of the next three days and nights, as did his high fever. I could tell he was feeling absolutely miserable, but after speaking to the nurse at his doctor's office Monday morning, I found out there was nothing I could do to help him, except give him lots of fluids. She told me that if the fevers and coughing continued after a couple of more days, I could bring him into the office to get checked out. After our fourth night of very little sleep, I decided it was time for his doctor to see him. B had talked to one of the pediatrician's at the hospital on Sunday, who thought it sounded like croup. Well, V's doctor agreed with that physician, today. We didn't have a terribly long wait, but V was so tired (probably from coughing and not sleeping well) that he fell asleep in my arms before the doctor came into the exam room. He did remarkably well during the exam, too. Usually, his well checkups are complete nightmares. You'd think he'd be perfectly fine around doctors, since his father happens to be one. However, over the past couple of years, he's associated doctors with getting shots and having his ears poked and prodded. He did wake up during the exam, especially when the stethoscope was placed on his back. However, he didn't put up too much of a fight when his ears were examined, and he did cough a little, giving the doctor a better understanding of his illness. We were given a sheet of paper with information on croup and instructions on what we're supposed to do when he has "coughing fits" (not a technical term, but what I would call them) and stridor, which is the name for the harsh, raspy breathing related to croup. The only thing we can really do is observe him and make certain he's continuing to improve instead of getting worse. If the coughing and stridor get too bad, we can run a hot shower and have him breathe in the steam, or we can take him out into the cold air, which is supposed to help his airways open up. We can continue giving him Motrin for fever or pain, but that's about it, since cough/cold medicines are not recommended for children anymore. And, so, we wait, and watch, and hope he starts feeling better soon. And, I've learned to arm myself with tons of Kleenex, because the mucus coming from his nasal cavity is plentiful. Ewwww....
Best to you all,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Discipline and My 2-year-old

Several years ago, I graduated college with an Early Childhood degree. There were big plans for teaching Kindergarten for a while before ultimately getting a Master's and Ph.D. in Child Development and teaching college level courses. Then, as someone said to me once, life happened while I was busy making other plans. Various events occurred that caused my teaching career to end only months into it. I ended up working in receptionist positions in medical offices to help pay the bills, and I felt as though I had failed somehow and would never use the degree I had worked so hard to obtain. Then, our son came along, and I realized I was using that education in child development every single day. Of course, there are times when none of that knowledge seems to apply. Then, I remember that every child is different, that every child develops at his/her own rate, that my child is no exception to these rules, etc., etc., and so forth. All of this is relevant because in the last month or so I've been relying heavily on what I learned in school to help me discipline my son. He's at that "I'll-throw-myself-on-the-floor-and-scream" phase, where he tries to communicate with words, but he gets frustrated because he can't seem to find the right words to get what he wants or needs. Or, maybe Mommy and Daddy just ignore his words because they aren't paying attention to him, or they don't feel that what he wants is the best thing for him. Whatever the case, the words suddenly turn into tears, screaming, hitting, scratching, or sometimes, no words at all. He just climbs into my lap while I'm typing or reading or watching TV, and he gets into my face or pulls my hair or something equally more distracting (like he's doing at this very moment; I'll be back)...At first, I thought I would never get through this phase without one of us being emotionally scarred for the rest of our lives. Then, the arsenal of discipline choices I'd gained from school suddenly came back to me. They're not all fool-proof, mind you, but some of them seem to really be working. For example, whenever V has a huge, screaming fit, I try to ignore it. I usually start out by saying, "You can't get such and such or do such and such if you're going to scream about it. Screaming doesn't get what you want. Use your words, please." If that doesn't work and he's still screaming, I try to let him throw his fit (without harming himself, of course), especially if it's happening at home. When he tries to kick or scratch me for attention, I've found that gently moving him away from me helps sometimes. I also say something like "Mommy doesn't like it when you scratch her. Use your words." If he's screaming because he wants something and I won't give it to him, then I try to give him a choice between a couple of other things that might be more appropriate. The other day, he wanted a cookie, but he'd already had one earlier. I gave him the choice of a banana or grapes. He still screamed for the cookie, and I continued to give him the choice of a banana or grapes. At some point, he realized that the cookie wasn't an option, so he chose the grapes instead and seemed happy with his choice. I've found that giving choices really helps, especially if we're out and about. I bought him some boots this week, and he wanted to wear them out of the store, something he'd done on a previous shoe-shopping expedition. I told him that he couldn't do that, and he started to throw a fit. Then, I told him that he could hold his boots and carry them for me. He seemed to like that idea and immediately calmed down. I've noticed that the more I get him involved in the shopping experience (like putting items in the cart or helping me to push the cart around the store), the fewer breakdowns he seems to have while we're in the store. I've also tried reminding him of certain rules before we get to a store, and while in the parking lot, I remind him AGAIN. The main rule is "no touching", but he doesn't usually abide by it and must be reminded several times while we're in the store. That's okay because he's still learning appropriate behaviors, and I've learned that it's best to pick and choose our battles. One day before we got to the store, he asked for "Yummy Yummies", which is his name for "M&Ms". I know that bribery isn't the best way to get a child to behave, but I told him that if he listened to me and did well in the store, I would buy him "Yummy Yummies". I reminded him of that while we shopped, and he did so well and helped out so much, that I went ahead and bought him the candy. I've noticed that the "if, then" with consequences type of discipline seems to work, too, sometimes. Today, I had to say, "If you throw a fit in the store, then we have to go home, and you don't get to play the Wii at home." I allowed him to play with the game controllers in the electronics department, which is one of his favorite things to do when we're out shopping. I told him we had to do something else, and he started throwing a tantrum. When it was time to leave that department, he stubbornly walked back to it and screamed when I tried to pick him up, so we ended up leaving the store altogether. We're home now, and he actually fell asleep on our way here (naps have been scarce recently, but that's another story), so I didn't have to worry about another fit regarding the Wii. My husband and I may hear about it tonight, but I plan on following through. He threw a fit, we had to leave the store, so no video game playing, this evening. I don't know how much he understands, but I've come to realize that consistency is the key. If he's made aware of the consequences and Mommy and Daddy follow through with those consequences, then hopefully, he'll remember what happened and modify his behavior appropriately later on. I know it'll take a long time and numerous efforts on our part to help him understand how to behave in certain situations. Hopefully, he'll realize when he's older that we disciplined him now because we love him and want him to become a successful member of society. Currently, though, I'd just be happy to have a couple of minutes of quiet time while I finish dinner or check my e-mail or do whatever. Thank God for "Blue's Clues" and our DVR! ;)
Best to you all,

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back Home Again In Indiana...

It's been two days since we returned from our trip to Los Angeles, and I'm still a little jet-lagged. V must be, too, because it's ten o'clock in the morning, and he's still asleep! It's been tough getting back into any sort of routine, but that has a little to do with our traveling fatigue. We had a wonderful time with B's younger sister in Pasadena and other areas of L. A. just seeing the sights and sampling wonderful food. Here are some of the highlights from our trip:

We spent Monday in planes and automobiles trying to get to our destination, so we didn't really see anything until Tuesday. We decided to spend that day walking around Pasadena and getting to know the neighborhood around our hotel. Everywhere we looked, shops and restaurants were decked out for Christmas.

V really enjoyed all of the fountains we saw around town.

Christmas in Pasadena means lights everywhere, including on the trees along the side streets.

We took the light rail and subway systems to Hollywood on Wednesday. On our list of things to see and do were the Highland Center (a big mall at Hollywood Blvd and Highland), where you can get a great glimpse of the Hollywood Sign; Grauman's Chinese Theater with celebrities' footprints embedded in cement for posterity; a walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and lunch at Pink's for some amazing and unusual hot dogs.
The entrance to the Highland Center

V and I in front of a very tiny Hollywood Sign

V tried to fill the shoes of a famous actor...

One of the hundreds of stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame

A place famous for their hot dogs, which can be ordered any way you want them. I had the "Hollywood Walk of Fame Dog", which consisted of a hot dog with cole slaw and tomatoes on top. B shared his "Three Dog Night" with V, which was three hot dogs, three slices of cheese, three slices of bacon, and lots of chili and onions, all wrapped up in a tortilla! Talk about a heart attack waiting to happen!

After lunch at Pink's, we hopped a bus at Santa Monica Blvd, and took it to Beverly Hills. Ever since I saw "Pretty Woman" for the first time, I'd always dreamed of walking along Rodeo Drive and looking in on the rich as they indulged themselves in fine food, expensive jewelry, and beautiful clothing. The experience didn't disappoint, and it was made even more spectacular by the fact that everything was decked out for Christmas.
Another fountain V had to stop and look at...

The sign points the way to extreme indulgence...

The fountain in front of Two Rodeo, an extravagant outdoor mall in Beverly Hills

We had dinner that evening in Koreatown, where my sister-in-law and her roommate introduced us to Korean barbecue. It was fabulous!

On Thursday, we decided to do some more kid friendly activities. There was a cute park near our hotel in Pasadena where V was able to play and run and have a wonderful time.

After our visit to the park, we decided to drive to Griffith Park and walk around the Los Angeles Zoo. Though it was really chilly that day, we still enjoyed seeing the animals in their exhibits.

While in Pasadena, we spent our evenings either eating at my sis-in-law's apartment or eating out with her. While hanging out at her place, V had lots of fun playing on her Nintendo Wii.

My sis-in-law had the day off from work on Friday, so we spent our time with her in Glendale and Burbank shopping, eating, and enjoying the spectacular views of the mountains. Lunch was at Porto's in Burbank, a wonderful bakery and sandwich shop. When we got back to Pasadena, we had her drive us up to the Rose Bowl. B and I had tried to walk to it on Tuesday with V, but we had taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up seeing it from far away. We discovered that it was much easier to just drive up to the entrance and walk around on the lawns just outside it.

One thing I absolutely loved about Pasadena...roses in December! They were everywhere!

We spent the evening in the hot tub at our hotel before heading to my sister-in-law's house for some Chinese take out for dinner and Dots cupcakes for dessert. It was a relaxing way to end our stay in L. A., and we came home Saturday exhausted, but happy, from our many travels.

It's Monday, now, and B's back at work. V's finally awake and having a late breakfast. I need to stop writing, hop in the shower, and start doing the many chores that have been neglected over the past week.
I hope you all had a wonderful week while we were away.
Best to you all,