Thursday, July 23, 2015

DIY Epi-Pen Case

Credit for photo of my son Will - RLPhoto (Rachael Lescarbeau)
Ah, the Epi-pen. That little dual-tube of security and terror that folks with anaphlactic allergies (and their parents) carry around with them; an insurance policy in the event of an exposure to a sneaky allergen, ready to protect at the moment of accidental ingestion and subsequent life-harming reactions. 

The Epi-Pen: the Athanas Family security blanket for the last 2 years. It has given us a bit of reassurance at restaurants, on trips, and even just on day trips or cookouts with friends.

And for the last 2 years I have been on the hunt for the "perfect" carry bag. Something that would allow me to have his vital information, basic - but clear and important - symptoms to look for, and clear instructions for how to use the injector in the event of an emergency. Something that wouldn't be just an Epi-Pen at the bottom of a bag with all the regular pens alongside... somewhere... I think?... a printed and folded allergy plan.

Something simple. Something that a childcare worker or Sunday school teacher can just grab, have instructions, have the Epi, and be able to react fast.

I couldn't find one that I liked. I certainly couldn't find one that wouldn't have cost me more money than I thought something like that should cost. And I can't sew. Actually, let me rephrase that: I don't like sewing by hand - I'm not very good at it - and I have no idea how to use a sewing machine. So sewing an epi-bag was out... which meant that I have not had a carry case that I liked.

Until today.

Did you know that it's "Back to School" time? Oh, Target shoppers... guess what?

They have a plastic pencil case right now for a mere $0.69 that fits an Epi-Pen 

Like a glove.

I spent some time in MS Publisher creating basic instructions and included a 4-step graphic on how to inject the epinephrine in the event of an emergency (I got that off the internet someplace). 

I spent a little more time creating a front cover that included a picture of Will, his allergens, and who to call after calling 911.

I cut out both and attached them with packing tape (though "contact paper" would be just as good I would imagine). 

I made one for my bag and one for my husband's bag (we keep one in each) to give us a consolidated, grab-and-go tool. It's simple, it took very little time, and you don't need to be crafty to get it done. I feel so much better that this is a shape that can easily be felt in any bag and that his allergy plan/information is right there and visible.

Especially since I am giving you the .pdf file to fill in with your own (or your child's) information.


Now you too can have an insanely inexpensive, easily found and simple Epi-Pen case.

May it never come in handy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Wednesday, The Mom Guilt, The Husband, and God

We call the day my daughter was born "The Thursday".

Every so often, I think about the day that will always be stamped in my heart as "The Wednesday". That is the last day that I had with just Will and I before I was blessed with his baby sister.

It was a gorgeous April day, the kind of day that I wasn't wearing any jacket at all and I was comfortable just throwing a little vest on Will to go outside and play. I wasn't feeling too terrible even though I was a week or so away from my scheduled c-section date to welcome Evie into the world. I felt puffy, large, and pregnant - but I still felt fairly mobile.

We went outside that afternoon after his nap and took advantage of the gorgeous weather. Winters in New England are always hard, so when those first few 50-60 degree days start to appear you learn to take advantage of them. Will had asked me in his cute little almost-two-year-old way to go outside when he woke up from his nap that afternoon, so we did.

He climbed on rocks in our garden. He wandered around the driveway and drove his little truck. We walked together up and down the sidewalk as he looked at ants and picked up sticks and examined the grass. We enjoyed the weather, we enjoyed each other.

Will's last day flying solo with Mommy - April 2014.

Then I went to bed. I got up. We did our hectic day. We had Evie by dinner.

The arrival of Evie grew our family in size, in heart, and exploded our capacity for love even further. She's sweet, she's energetic, she's bold, she's hilarious. I don't think that Steve, Will, or I can imagine her NOT being a part of our lives. She's seriously an amazing kid.

Sometimes Steve and I will split duty with the kids, either because he's got a day off from work or he's home for the weekend. Usually either he will sit with both of the kids while I do errands without needing to juggle extra people or we will split the kids up and take them for some one-on-one time with Mommy or Daddy. For their own reasons, both of these arrangements are wonderful and I've come to appreciate them. We have found that the significance of these times is not lost on any one of us, and we love when we all come back together.

I've never really thought twice about our little upgrade from 3 to 4. Having Evie and Will together all day was just a life change that I accepted and welcomed with open arms. I had never pined for the days of only one child, maybe because I grew up in a family with 4 (sometimes 5) children and never thought about the bond my parents had with each of us individually. I never asked my mom about her feelings as we continued to expand, just knew that she loved each one of us together and separately.

Me and the kiddos - May 2015
Last week, Steve got Friday off to "observe" the Fourth of July holiday. We decided to do our split-duty and I took Will to his speech therapy appointment. We chatted on the car ride up, he excitedly gave me the tour of the therapy center's new digs after the session, then he took my hand as we walked up the sidewalk back to my car to leave. He had his little hand in mine as we paused to check for moving cars in the parking lot before proceeding. Our shadows extended in front of us, and as I looked down at them I caught my breath.

I suddenly longed for that last day before Evie was born. Those days when it was just Will and I and there wasn't as much chaos and I could just watch in wonder as he discovered the world. The days when I could just snuggle with him without worrying about his sister trying to shove him off my lap for her turn or he could pick out a book without anyone quibbling about whose book was going to be read first. My heart had a brief moment of ache and want for those days of only having one child.

Then the dreaded Mom Guilt came over me like a tsunami crashing on the shore.

Image via SeizingHopeDotCom

Later as I was emptying the dishwasher, Steve could tell something was bothering me. So I confessed my horridness as a parent to him, defending myself that I don't want to NOT have Evie, I just miss those days of just Will. That I love Evie with all of my Evie love, but sometimes I just wish I could cuddle Will without them pummeling each other and whining about Mommy's lap.

I cried. I told him I felt horrible, and guilty, because Evie is amazing and I felt like I was betraying the love I have for her in a way.

Steve just laughed at me.

Not in that way, guys.

He gently took the dishes from my hand as he laughed and told me to stop feeling guilty. "Dee, just stop it. Seriously. You should not feel guilty right now."

He took me by the shoulders and just spoke the words that I needed to hear, that he needed me to hear, that God needed me to hear.

I don't remember the exact words, but the sentiment was this: I love Evie. I love Will. I love them with all of the heart that God gave me for each of them. God loves us individually and wants a relationship with each of us individually. And just as He loves us and wants a relationship with us individually, so has he designed parenting for us to love our children and have relationships with them individually.

As his words sunk into my heart, Steve continued to encourage me. "Honey, it is totally normal and OK for you to want to spend time with JUST WILL, and it's OK for you to want to spend time with JUST EVIE, and it's OK for me to want the same things. In fact, we probably should do a better job at making sure we spend time with JUST WILL and JUST EVIE individually."

We have an awesome family, and we need to work on our bonds together and apart. We need to love each other as a whole and as our parts.

Image credit to RLPhoto
I have often said that God created us in His image, and the closest thing that we will ever experience to what it's like to be Him as Our Father is to be a parent. To know what it's like to be willing to do anything for your children, to long for them to have the best, to want to protect them yet know that you have to let the go and let them grow. To be willing to lay your life on the line for them.

To want a relationship with them as individuals. To want them to look at you and say "I Love You" and mean it from their hearts, not because they feel an obligation to say so.

What my husband did as he spoke to me that day is remind me of this; he reminded me of this dynamic we have as parents to want to love and encourage and be with our kids individually. In The 5 Love Languages of Children, the authors write "If you have several children, you need to look for times when you can be alone with each one... The key to quality time is found in its values and priorities you as parents determine to cherish and implement in your home."

I should not feel guilty - that was the reminder my husband continued to give me for the remainder of the day. I love my children. I want my children to love God and have a relationship with Him.

They matter to me individually. The best way for me to know how to serve them and raise them and know what is best is to spend time with them one-on-one as well as together. The best way to know how they need me to love them is to spend time with them one-on-one as well as together.

I no longer feel guilty on this one.

I'll save my Mommy Guilt for the next time I lose my patience and temper.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Potty Training By the Seat of My Pants

I gave up on the concept of letting books dictate my parenting style right around the time that Steve read something in a book that told him our kid should be stacking blocks at 9 months old.
OK... now if you're an experienced parent you're probably laughing. If you're a new parent you might be worrying, wondering what I'm going to say next about it. If you're not a parent who knows what you're thinking... so I'll just continue.

I'll wait for the experience parents to finish laughing and telling stories about what things parenting books told them that were ridiculous too before I continue. Are you good now? Okay. I'll go on.

That night I took the book from him, closed it, and told him he was done because NONE of Will's 9-month-old playmates were stacking blocks. And in all honesty I haven't opened up a parenting technique book since despite recommendations on books about sleep methods and separation issues and whatever. I am currently about two chapters into "The Five Love Languages for Children" and have really only read books about how to make sure you don't go off the rails as a parent. I read devotionals and books about how to understand my kids and relate to them, but I don't generally speaking read specific parenting books that include milestones to look for.

Actual screenshot from today of my "Goodreads" app.
I won't tell you how long it took me to get to 17% read.
The other book you can't see from the screenshot? Schindler's List.
I won't tell you how long it took me to get to 50%, or how long it's been collecting dust.

I don't have room in my life for that kind of stress. I just don't.

As such, when I decided that it was time to begin potty training Will - I didn't even ask for recommendations. I just decided it was time. I brought Will to pick out underwear. I bought a small potty. I bought a seat insert for the big potty.

No books, no searching for advice. Just some anecdotal information from other moms who talked about it and a general knowledge of my kid and how he operates.

We are four-and-a-half days into the experience, and so far it's been... interesting. I've mentioned before that I think that moms sharing their experiences can be wonderfully beneficial, so I figured I'd share a few of the things that I've learned and experienced with you.

1. Poop is scary. Over the winter, Will had a "naked phase" during which time I moved the potty into the kitchen. He peed on the floor but pooped in the potty during these 4 hours, so I assumed (foolishly) that pooping would be the easier thing for him to experience. This is not the case. The moment he started to make that scrunched up face indicating that a load was about to be dropped out of his behind, I picked him up and brought him into the potty. Crying, wailing, and near-tooth-gnashing ensued. "NO I DON'T WANNA POOP ON THE POTTY!!!" echoed off the walls and probably was heard by my neighbors. Ten minutes later he pooped. I did the whole positive encouragement thing and reassured him that it was great. I've been bringing him with me in when I poop so he can see that it's really not a big deal - everyone poops. You know... maybe I should just get him that book, come to think of it...
Anyways, he's genuinely scared of pooping in the potty. We've gotta work on that. I refuse to rub his back and hold his hand in his college dorm bathroom. 

Available for purchase on Amazon
2. Bribery... I mean... rewards... are awesome. Is it really bribery if I give him chocolate chips after he uses the potty? I read or heard somewhere on some website or blog or something that you shouldn't reward kids for things that they should just do as part of life. Among these things are putting their clothes in the laundry, making their beds, helping with the dishes, and using the bathroom. I don't know about that. It seems to work when you reinforce the behavior and then phase it out as time goes on once it's just rote behavior.  There's something to be said for conditioning practices, and for crying out loud it makes me feel like I'm putting that BA in Psychology to good use. I don't have my son throwing a temper tantrum when he doesn't get his single chocolate chip for peeing right before bedtime, and he's certainly not getting one for peeing in the bathroom at Target. But so far it seems to be working and helping him to pay more attention to what his body is doing so he can make it to the bathroom. This is enough for me to continue to feed my kid a chocolate chip when he pees and 2 if he poops. No accidents all day? Kid, you're getting a mini-Hershey's.

One for one and two for two - get it? I'm so clever...
3. Fun for the whole family! Our almost 15-month old daughter has been getting in on the fun. Every time Will needs to use the potty, she's running in right behind us. If he's on the big potty, she'll plop on the small one and start tearing off tiny pieces of toilet paper to drop between her legs into the pot. I've been told that the second child will often want to train early because the first one is using the toilet, so I have (for the most part) been allowing her to follow us in there. What I have noticed is that she can be distracting for Will sometimes, so I have to meter it and sometimes she doesn't get to come in (see number one above about number twos). This, of course, lends to a meltdown because the potty is just so darned exciting! Either way, she's getting involved in the process and has gotten a few new words out of it (bathroom - bah-ruhm, chocolate - chot-tit, and hands - han). And let's not forget the high-fives from everyone when Will is successful in the bathroom-going endeavors. Most necessary. 

4. Kids say (and do) the darndest things. Today while I was waiting the requisite 3 minutes (arbitrary amount of time I wait for Will to try and pee), I noticed that Will was flexing his pelvic muscles to make his little tiny penis bounce. This... this didn't start at home. This started in the bathroom at Target. So I asked him, "Will, whatcha doing?" to which he said "Making my penis bounce."

Of course.

This bouncing led to him giving himself a tiny person erection (which he didn't question). I drew no attention to any of what he was doing other than asking and let it go. When he was done with his 3 minutes (he didn't go, presumably because he was doing the aforementioned) we pulled his pants back on, washed his hands, and went on our way.

The next time he saw his penis, the tiny person erection had of course passed. This led to him screaming from our bathroom "OH NO!! Mommy! My penis fell down!!!"

It's times like these that I am sad that we can't laugh at more things as parents so as to not discourage our children or make them think they are strange. I assured him he was completely fine. He felt better. And then we went into the "poop is scary" phase (see number one about number twos above... again).

Note: I share this story with you because kids are ridiculous, and if no one warns you then your kid will do something like this and it will freak you out. No one warned me about certain things... so... you're welcome for this story. 

Because these two are ridiculous... never a dull moment.
5. They WILL figure it out. Today after breakfast, I was cleaning up the kitchen when I noticed Will standing perfectly still pinching at the crotch of his pants with a strange look on his face. "Will," I said, "I think you need to pee, Buddy." He scrunched his face up all concerned and said "Yeah I do", so we rushed to the bathroom and missed an accident by the narrowest of margins. After he was done and his hands were washed, I explained to him that if he felt that again where he thought he had to pinch himself that he should let me know. "Will, make sure you say 'Mommy! I need to go to the bathroom right away!' and we'll get you there super duper fast... OK?" Sure enough, within minutes of being home from the store he got a concerned look on his face again and said "Mommy INeedToGoPeeRightAwaaaaaaay!!!". We jumped up, ran to the bathroom, and missed an accident by an even narrower of margins than the narrowest. I've been watching as he's been paying more and more attention, and it's been pretty cool to see him discover what his body does and how to handle it.

The war zone. I even got a stool to reach the sink.

So I didn't read a book on this and I'm totally flying by the seat of my pants to teach my kid how to use the potty, but it seems to be working out OK. It might take me longer than a day or a weekend or a night or even a week like some books will say - and some people have used those methods with great success - but I'm all right with that. To quote so many parents that I've talked to about it - very few children go to kindergarten without being relatively potty trained. 

And also to quote so many parents I've talked to and a mantra we tend to stand by: You have to do what works best for you and your family. Take all the advice, cull it and tailor it for your needs, make your own story.

That's what works best for us. 

That and chocolate chips.