Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dealing with CVS…No, not the Pharmacy

Just before Jake’s second birthday he was hospitalized for dehydration after a rather nasty bout of vomiting. You know your nearly two-year old is sick when he hides behind the couch and won’t watch his favorite Disney movie. This episode was the first of many stomach issues for Jake.

Over the next two years, Jake had violent vomiting episodes every four to six weeks. When I say violent, I mean vomiting between 15-20 times an hour for nearly 24 hours. The doctors kept telling me that he had recurrent stomach viruses, yet Justin and I were never sick. It just didn’t seem to add up. After Jolie was born, we finally ran into an old Army doctor that had an answer for us. He took one look at Jake and his record and suggested that he might have Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS). I went home and immediately did some research on CVS and nearly fell out of my chair. Jake had all of the classic symptoms. His vomiting episodes started at about the same time of day, were extremely violent (12+ times an hour), left him nearly comatose, ended very abruptly, and he had no symptoms in between episodes. Finally, I had an answer to all this vomiting. I was amazed that none of the other doctors, even after all of their testing (blood, urine, etc.), had any idea as to why my son was regularly sick.

We learned how to deal with Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. Jake would have episodes after stressful situations (Justin deploying), exciting events (birthday parties), and infections (minor colds), so we would do our best to ease into new situations. After our move to central Washington, Jake had a more extreme episode and was again hospitalized for dehydration and an unknown infection. Our pediatrician wanted to “confirm” the Army doctor’s diagnosis by conducting additional testing to rule out any other illness that might be causing Jake to be sick. There is no test to confirm CVS, just other tests to rule out any other illness. Well, you try getting a four year old to have an upper GI, and you’ll feel our pain and frustration about these “additional” tests. As suspected, the doctor didn’t find any other reason for Jake’s recurrent episodes, and further confirmed the diagnosis by stating the direct link between CVS and maternal migraines (I’ve had migraines since about the age of six).

Since we’ve been in Virginia, Jake has only had a few episodes. Unfortunately, he has had two episodes in the last two weeks. Two weeks ago he had a fever and a bit of a cold, which triggered a very mild episode. It had been nearly a year and a half since his last episode, so we were very encouraged that he was coming close to outgrowing them, especially since that episode was so mild.

Well, it appears we were wrong. Friday morning, Jake woke up not hungry (sign #1), and was somewhat lethargic (if you know Jake, then you know that was sign #2). About a half hour after waking up it began. Luckily this time he only vomited about 3-5 times an hour. By about that time he was basically comatose and did not move for much of the day. He is usually fully recovered the next morning, so I was hopeful that he would be back to normal on Saturday. Not this time. He finally requested food Saturday evening (recovery sign #1). This morning he was talking a bit more (recovery sign #2) and walking around. His eyes are still sunk in and he’s emaciated, but he appears to be doing better. Luckily, no dehydration this time.

So what triggered it this time? It looks like it was a combination of triggers. The day before, he had helped me run errands, played some tennis with Justin, and scootered (more on that to come) three miles while Justin and I ran. On top of that, he had chocolate. Looking back, many of his episodes coincided with large quantities of chocolate consumption. We have added chocolate to his list of triggers.

Living with CVS is something we have learned to deal with. We’re hoping that Jake will fully grow out of this in the next few years, but it is possible that he will have to deal with it into adulthood, or that it will morph into migraines rather than tummy trouble.

Last night we discussed what seems to trigger his episodes, and we are going to try avoiding them if at all possible. As he matures, I’m sure he’ll be better able to deal with the stresses of life, and will have episodes that are few and farther between.

A Farm Fieldtrip

Friday afternoon we spent at a local farm. Jake was sick at home with Justin, but Jolie, Jensen and I went and had a blast. Jensen was very eager to pet the animals and participate in the activities, like planting seeds and looking for worms.

Jolie, on the other hand, was not so inclined. She preferred to stand by my side during the activities and stand outside of the fence while Jensen pet the animals.

We have enjoyed many memorial fieldtrips while in Virginia Beach. The kids enjoyed a trip to the farm last fall to pick pumpkins and take a hay ride around the farm. A group of us headed into North Carolina to pick apples. We got to see ice cream and waffle cones being made at Cold Stone Creamery and made pizzas at Pizza Hut. I think the one the kids liked best was going to a small, but nationally known bakery, Rowena’s Bakery, for a tour and taste testing (I have to admit, I think that was my favorite trip too).

I hope that we are able to find some places to take field trips to while we are in Florida. There should be lots of wonderful outdoor trips we can take in the area. We’ve found a homeschool group that seems to have a philosophy similar to ours, so we hope to jump right in with them when we get there.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Visiting a Founding Father

We visited Monticello yesterday, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Monticello was one of the Virginia sights that we wanted to see before we moved away. Thomas Jefferson holds a special place in our hearts. Not only was he one of our nation’s founding fathers, but also he was a very Unitarian Universalist thinker, an academic, and a visionary.
The gardens were very beautiful this time of year. Many of the trees were in bloom, and the vegetables were up and thriving. Jake and Jolie walked along the main garden, reading each of the labels on the vegetables and herbs. Jefferson’s gardens made Monticello basically self-sustaining. The tour guide mentioned that Jefferson was basically a vegetarian, who had meat on the side. We too are trying to eat more home grown and home made foods. It was amazing to see the kitchen that the cooks cooked in as compared to modern kitchens. One visitor mentioned how small the kitchen was, and I on the other hand thought that the kitchen was quite spacious and seemed to be well equipped with oven and stove equivalents.
The house tour was very informative and full of interesting artifacts. The kids thought the “school” room was pretty neat. Jefferson’s oldest daughter, Martha, taught her 11 children in that room. I never realized that Jefferson never remarried after his wife died, and instead invited his oldest daughter and her family to come and live with him and help him run Monticello. We were all impressed with the dumbwaiters in the dining room that were used to retrieve wine in the cellar area. The clock in the entrance hall was most curious. Jefferson built the clock to show the day of the week, but found that his wall wasn’t tall enough, so he cut holes in the floor so that the balls that told the day of the week could pass though to the basement, and tell the final three days of the week.

We walked the grounds, enjoying the many flowerbeds and trees on the mountain. My kids especially enjoyed the tulips, which reminded me of eastern Washington.
Jefferson and many of his descendants are buried on the property. The kids were impressed by Jefferson’s obelisk, which is not the original marker for his grave, but later placed by the US government. We have considered using an obelisk to mark our final resting place, adding to it the names of our children and descendents over time.
Our children love history, so the trip to Monticello was a great hit. I wish we could have stayed longer and done the plantation and garden guided tours, but Jensen was content with one tour for the day. As always, we received comments on how well behaved the kids were. We will miss all the abundant history that is centered here in Virginia. Who knows, the Navy may bring us back some day and we’ll be able to visit the rest of the historical sights we missed.

Our New Toy

It isn’t often that we buy ourselves an adult toy. The kids have their fair share of toys, but Justin and I usually are content with what we have and rarely satisfy those “I want” urges. I’m sure it’s the frugalness in us that says, “No, I don’t really NEED that, but I am going to add it to my wish list.” Our family has a running wish list on the fridge. We add to it anytime we see something that catches our eye, that way when birthdays, holidays, or any other special time comes around, we (and when I say we, I really mean me, because I can never remember what Justin wants/needs, yet he on the other hand can remember every thing I have ever oogled at for more than a moment) have some idea what the other one could really use.

Well, with our move right around the corner, and the high likelihood that we will be purchasing a home, we found that we were in the market for a lawn mower. We sold our old gas mower when we moved from Washington and have just been using an electric weed whacker to clear the small yard we have in our current rental town home.

In trying to be more eco-friendly, we were looking into an electric mower. There are corded and cordless electric mowers currently on the market. They both looked wonderful, but a bit pricey for our taste.

I then just happened upon some reel mowers. You know the ones. Well, actually, I bet you wouldn’t recognize the “new” reel mowers. I remember the one my parents had when I was small. It was metal, it was bulky, and I vividly remember it throwing a rock at me. We were impressed by the price of the reel mowers and their ultra-greenness…there is no gas, no oil, and no electricity to these babies. Just good old-fashioned sweat to make it run.

After some research, we chose the Scotts Classic 20” reel lawn mower. The Scotts had great reviews and was reasonably priced. I liked the fact that it has a 20-inch cutting path, one of the largest in reel mowers on the market. We ordered the mower, along with a grass-catcher bag, which didn’t come with the mower (its only real draw back).

The mower got here today, so what did we do but put it together and play with it. It worked great! No loud engine, no fumes. We are very pleased. Justin mowed not only our yard, but part of the common area at the end of the building. Jake is excited about getting to mow the lawn (I wonder how long that will last). I think the reel mower will be a great addition to our new home.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Garage Sale Blues

Saturday was a big day for me. It was the day in which I was prepared to finally part with most of my baby paraphernalia.

You must know that I have saved EVERYTHING since the kids were born. Every receiving blanket, onesie (except the ones with those “special” stains), outfit, swing, and stroller was saved. Each of the kids’ closets was filled with old diaper boxes (the only boxes that will fit on their shelves) full of out-grown clothes. The outdoor storage area was full of baby equipment. I saved everything from Jake for Jolie, and then from Jake and Jolie for Jensen.

I always figured that it would be more cost effective to save rather than buy new for each additional child. I know that we saved oodles of money saving and reusing all of our baby items. I can’t imagine buying a new stroller/car seat set for each child. I know we spent $150 on the “travel system” we bought for Jake. So I guess we saved about $300 by continuing to use the stroller and infant carrier for Jolie and Jensen. We did add a few new baby items over the years. Jolie got a new swing (Jake didn’t have one) and Jensen got a new crib and mattress (the old one was damaged during our last move). We welcomed hand-me-downs (both clothing and equipment) from friends and relatives. We took great care of our baby items to ensure that they would last until we were done having children, whenever that might have been.

In January, we made the big decision that our family was complete and took the steps necessary to ensure that we would no longer need all of those saved baby items. Because they were no longer needed, we decided to find our beloved baby items new homes. I have, and will continue to, give(n) my youngest sister all of my “boy” clothes. I know that they will have a full life making their way through four boys (Jake, her oldest, Jensen, her youngest). Not having any nieces as of yet, Jolie’s clothes are posing a bit more difficult. I have saved some of her nicer outfits for my not-yet-married sisters. I tried to sell her clothes at the garage sale, with little luck. We will probably take the remainder of her clothes to a consignment shop; and those items that are not accepted, we will share with friends; and those items that are not accepted will be donated.

As for the larger items, I was surprised that they didn’t sell at the garage sale. It must not be new-baby season yet, or people are not used to seeing “antique” baby items in such great shape. Our stroller set is turning nine this month. We are planning to invite over a friend’s daughter, and share our much-loved and gently used items with her. If she doesn’t want them, then I will probably try to take them to a consignment shop, and then donate them if all else fails.

So why the “Garage Sale Blues,” you ask? Well, I prepared myself to get rid of items that had grown near and dear to my heart, and they are still sitting in my living room. I worked through my emotional attachments Monday afternoon while Justin and I got the items out of the storage area and again on Friday night while I was cleaning everything up. The other day I was unsure as to whether or not I would be able to part with the stroller because I had used it with all three kids. Now that I have made the detachment, I am ready for them to find their next home and make someone else as happy as we were.

I’m sure we will find them all homes soon, and I do mean soon. I want to be able to spend some time in my clean living room before the movers have it all in boxes by the end of next month.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nutrition Facts for Recipes

I am a new recipe junkie. I like to try new recipes I find in magazines, online, gather from friends, and yes, I have been known to make up a recipe or two. I don’t necessarily think that my family is as enthusiastic about my recipe hording and experimentation as I am. I think they would be content with the same recipes over and over again (i.e. homemade mac & cheese, spaghetti and chicken sausages, tuna casserole, potato soup, homemade pizza, chicken and dumplings, meatballs and rice, repeat).

Because I am a semi-health nut, I like to know what the nutritional value is of the foods I prepare and feed to my family.

Last year sometime I came across the Nutrition Data website. I only used it a handful of times and rediscovered it today. I made some extremely yummy peanut butter and banana muffins the other day from my Deceptively Delicious cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld. I love the cookbook, but there isn’t nutritional information for the deceivingly nutritious recipes. I plugged and chugged the ingredients from the recipe into the Nutrition Data’s recipe analyzer and got all of the nutritional information for my recipe.

The “Pantry” allows me to look up the ingredients, tell it how much of each was used, and then it processes the information into a nice Nutrition Facts list, like those found on most American processed foods, as well as a Nutritional Target Map and a Caloric Ratio Pyramid. Because of their copyright laws, I am unable to post the images, so you’ll just have to take my word for it, or check it out yourself.

My next adventure is to re-find the site I bookmarked that gives the nutritional pyramid for a person based on their size, shape, and activity level. I’m hoping to print one for each of my family members and see if we meet our food pyramid requirements on a weekly basis.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Learning About Stealing the Hard Way

Early last week Jake went in the back yard to grab his scooter and helmet, just to play for a while out front after dinner. After a few minutes, he came back in, unable to find either item. I went out to try to help him find them, knowing that Jake is one of those kids who is blinded by the refrigerator light. It must be genetic because so is my husband. Okay, I thought a second set of eyes couldn't hurt. We checked the bike shed (we have one of those Rubber Maid, sliding-roof sheds), behind the garbage can, under the umbrella table. No luck. I questioned him as to the last time he had it, and he couldn't remember. We then searched in the front area, again with no luck.

You must know that we live in a town home community with lots of kids. Our cul-de-sac of town homes fills one regular school bus with elementary school children (minus mine, of course). That's not counting the additional middle schoolers and high schoolers that live on our street. Take that, times about 15 cul-de-sacs in our neighborhood, and that's a lot of kids!

You also must know that not everyone parents their children the same way my husband and I parent ours (imagine that!). There are children on our street who are out till all hours on school nights, some who are rude to non-related adults, some who vandalize community areas, and some who steal. This last attribute is the one that was of greatest importance to Jake and myself last week.

After a grand search, we created and put up (in the drizzling rain) the following posters -

We believe that it is possible that the scooter and helmet were accidentally left out front last weekend after a quick switch from skating to playing manhunt or some other make-believe boy game.

I had to explain to him that unfortunately not everyone respects other people's property, making it important that we put our things away when we are through with them so that those individuals aren't tempted by our nice things and do something they shouldn't. The hardest part for me was not running out and buying him another scooter and helmet. I originally thought that the small wheels on that type of scooter made them a bit dangerous, and told him that I would not buy him one and if he wanted a scooter like that, then he would have to spend his own money to purchase one. Well, he saved his birthday money and some allowance money and bought himself the red RAZOR scooter you see above. I was proud of him for saving his money for something that he wanted, and am now hurting that it was stolen from him.

Luckily, my mother-in-law bought him a nice skating helmet for the holidays, so he has another helmet to use when he rides his bike or skateboard (yes, my family all wear helmets when we do not have two feet on the ground). He hasn't yet said whether or not he will buy himself another scooter.

Unfortunately, Jake had to learn about stealing the hard way. Sometimes I hate natural consequences, but I'm sure he learned his lesson and will think twice before leaving anything out for those tempted individuals who were not taught the Golden Rule.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Thomas Jefferson Education: Seven Principles

Today I began my educational planning for our next "school" year. Like I've said before, we are hoping to transition into a more mentoring model of learning once we move. We figure that the transition will fit nicely with our relocation. A new home, a new educational method.

Before our move, I am hoping to fully study the Seven Principles, making them like second nature. Some of the ideas put forth by Oliver Van DeMille in A Thomas Jefferson Education are so different from the type of education I received in the public school system. If you look at each of the seven principles, you will see that many of us that grew up in the public school system were taught in a way that was contrary to the way most of our Founding Fathers were taught, or rather mentored. We are hoping to break that cycle and create an educational environment in which our children will thrive.

Here is a listing of the Seven Principles that are utilized in the Thomas Jefferson Education model, written by Rachel DeMille in A Thomas Jefferson Education in Our Homes: Educating Through the Phases of Learning.

The Seven Principles of TJEd -

1. Classics, not Textbooks - learn directly from the greatest thinkers, historians, artists, philosophers, prophets and their original works.

2. Mentors, not Professors - professor/expert tells the students and invites them to conform, and grades based on the conformity. A mentor finds out the student's goals, interests, talents, weaknesses, strengths and purpose, then helps him develop and carry out a plan to prepare for his unique mission.

3. Inspire, not Require - you can inspire the student to voluntarily and enthusiastically choose to do the hard work necessary to get a great education, or you can attempt to require it of them. Ask "What do I need to do so that these students will see my example and want to do the hard work to get a superb education?"

4. Structure Time, not Content - help your student establish and follow a consistent schedule, but don't micromanage the content. Let the student pursue their chosen interests during their study time.

5. Quality, not Conformity - once the student is inspired and working hard to get a great education, the mentor should give lots of feedback and help, but not in the form of grading or otherwise rewarding conformity. Two grade choices are either "A" for acceptable, or "DA" for Do it Again. Thinking and performing is the goal, not the grade.

6. Simplicity, not Complexity - the more complex the curriculum, the more reliant the student becomes on experts. This is great for socialization techniques, but not as an educational method. Students need to develop an ability to think, independently and creatively, with the skill of applying their knowledge in order to deal with people and situations in the real world.

7. YOU, not Them - these principles are not about improving your child's education without going on the journey yourself. Focus on YOUR education and take them along for the ride. Read the classics yourself and find mentors. You do not have to be an expert, as the classics do that for you, but you need to be setting the example.

Friday, April 4, 2008

If You Give a Mom a Muffin

I got this as an email today. If you want a peek into my daily life, read on...

If You Give A Mom A Muffin
(Based on "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Numeroff)

If you give a Mom a muffin,
She'll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She'll pour herself some.
The coffee will get spilled by her three year old.

She'll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she will find some dirty socks.
She'll remember she has to do some laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer,
She'll trip over some snow boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan dinner for tonight.

She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She will look for her cookbook (101 Things to Make With a Pound of Hamburger).
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill which is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook.

The checkbook is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two year old.
She'll smell something funny.
She'll change the two year old.
While she is changing the two year old the phone will ring.
Her four year old will answer it and hang up.

She remembers that she wants to phone a friend to come for coffee on Friday.
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
She will pour herself some.

And chances are......
If she has a cup of coffee......
Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

Author: Kathy Fictorie