Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christmas Re-cap!

Ooops. Somehow I never got to post about our trip to see Santa Clause. I think might be because it was traumatic for both of us.... and because the pictures did not end up on my camera as planned, because of the trauma and drama. I was SO excited to take Lydia to see Santa this year, because SHE was actually excited about Santa this year. This would be her third year going to see the man in red, but this was the first time she knew what was going on. She had done so well on her other visits to see St. Nick (at 6 months and 18 months) so I was getting all worked up over the fact that THIS year she would actually be able to talk to Santa!

My mom met us at the mall and as we have done in the past, we let Lydia ride the toy train. Then we waited in line and when it was our turn, we had Aunti take Lydia to meet Santa, while I got ready with my camera. We had talked with her about saying hi to Santa while we were in line and Lydia wasn't a bit worried.
But when Aunti tried to pass her off to Santa, Lydia clung to her for dear life. So it was my turn. Aunti Jen took the camera and I tried to position Lydia on Santa's lap.
No luck, so I tried to re-group and come at it from a different angle. At this point I would have been fine with the goofy screaming kid on Santa's lap picture. Lydia wasn't going to let it get that far. She went limp, she clung to me, she ran away.
Finally, we settled for this compromise. See my hands? I ended up posing in front of Santa with Lydia on my lap (while I balanced on my hurt knee!) I was not expecting to be on camera that day, so I won't show you the full shot.
Look at that smirk of vindication. She got her way and the old man gave her a cookie anyway! She wouldn't even look at him to get the cookie, though. She buried her head in my shirt and reached one arm back to take it. Oh, well. Only 10 months or so until we try it again!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Words of Wisdom Wednesdays

A friend of mine who also blogs has Wordless Wednesdays. Since my blog is morphing more and more into an opportunity for me to put my thoughts in writing (hopefully so that Lydia can read them one day, but also as an exercise in the discipline of writing) I have decided to try doing "Words of Wisdom" Wednesdays. Basically, there are things that I think are really great ideas and I want to remember to teach these things to my kid. So hopefully this will remind me of these concepts when I need reminding, hopefully it will keep them in my mind to tell her, and if not, she can read it someday.

So, for this dreary February Wednesday, when my head feels achy and I have a sore throat, and my husband has definitely caught a bad cold (so he is not able to help much at home), when my bank account is smaller and my bills are larger than I would like, when spring break seems SO far away, and the piles of papers to grade, laundry to fold, and dishes to wash seem larger than I want to deal with, when my weight is up and my energy level is down ......I am trying to remember these words of Wisdom. "Even the pope needed a way to get away from it all."

The pope? Yep! Specifically this pope, Julius II, the man behind the painting of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo (along with many other important commissions). I am not sure where I picked up this interesting tidbit of art historical information. Probably in college, so Dr. Townsend (if you are reading this via Facebook) help me out with the details!

Anyway, when learning the undisputed facts about Pope Julius commissioning the painting of this ceiling, my professor mentioned something about the Pope wanting sometimes needing to "get away from it all". I am not sure where the lecture ends and where my own imagination picks up, but the idea of the Pope, the most powerful person in Renaissance Europe ( a man who never had to bother with a mortgage, or bills, or cramps, didn't have kid, or a spouse, etc. etc.) needed a place to go, to calm his mind when the weight of a world of souls (OK, maybe being pope could get stressful) was just too much for him. The pope had the resources to hire artists to create fantastic visions to take him away from his problems, but also the pope NEEDED that.

Even the people who seem to have it all (all the power, all the money, all the resources) still have their moments when they feel like they can't cope. If they can have these moments, so can I. It's normal to feel down and it WILL pass. Try to find a way to take a break and focus on the things that help you get through it all and it might pass more quickly, or you may at least be in a better frame of mind to face your problems.

P.S. A friend of mine has a related lesson about people with no resources that I need to remember to elaborate on later (don't let me forget, OK?)

Aside from remembering that it is only human to need a break every so often, I also like to look at what worked for Pope Julius when he was stressed. Michelangelo's figures are just so strong and yet so graceful and often very calming. This is how I want to look and feel when twisting and turning and reaching to get things done.

Here is one of my other favorite things about the ceiling of the Sistine. This is how Michelangelo thinks of God. Aside from wearing what looks like a pale pink hospital gown (is it wrong to chuckle at the thought that it ties in the back, leaving even God's arse exposed?) God is shown in this billow of fabric containing heavenly beings. In The Creation of Adam, you can really see the details of these figures that apparently have been floating around with God since the beginning of the world. See that one woman under God's arm? Most historians agree that she is meant to either be Eve or the virgin Mary. Either way, the message Michelangelo sends with this tiny detail in a small part of a really big ceiling is that even at the beginning of the world, God knows how it is going to end. Either he knew Adam would have an Eve (and all that would happen between those two) or that as a result of Adam and Eve the world would need a virgin Mary, through which we get Jesus. Sobering thought. If God's plan had already worked out all those details, I probably shouldn't worry so much about the details of my own life. I like the idea that some of those unseen figures in that God cloud play a part in my life too.

And then there's Adam, lounging on Earth, not yet fully alive, waiting for God to touch his life. I wish I could be more like him, relaxed as could be, waiting for God's hand to touch his life.
No wonder Pope Julius liked to come here to get away from the world.
And thanks for the inspiration, Michelangelo!
Maybe next time I am struggling with life in general, I can think of his masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel....... or maybe I can spend a little more time focusing on my own little masterpiece.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pajama Party with our Priest

Our church is preparing to host Family Promise soon. Family Promise is an organization aimed at getting homeless families the help that they need to find and keep permanent housing. Have you heard the statistics that most people are 2-3 paychecks away from being homeless? Think about your bills and how much or little you have left at the end of the month and it is a scary thought. Even scarier is that most shelters are seeing larger numbers of families (most with children) needing housing. Furthermore, most shelters don't take families. Women and children go to one shelter while men go to another. Family Promise is a network of churches who agree to house a set number of families for one week. They provide the organization and transportation and we provide meals, supervision, and clean sheets. It is a really great program and my favorite thing is it ends up being really FUN! Everyone is hanging out at the church, eating meals and watching TV, playing with kids. These are really nice families and fun to get to know.
It does take a lot of help to pull off and so we are preparing for our upcoming Family Promise week with a kick off Pajama Party at church tonight. I volunteered to make pajama party themed cupcakes (surprise, surprise!) and was inspired by these images found online. The idea and the above image appear in the book Hello Cupcake, but I also found step by step directions here.
I have also seen this idea applied to an entire sheet cake, often just using Twinkies as the people, like this image from Sugarcraft. Sadly I had more ambition than time and scaled back my plans from homemade cupcakes to ones from a mix. Then at about 8pm LAST NIGHT (when I finally was able to go shopping for supplies) I scaled all the way down to pre-packaged Zinger snack cakes. Oh well, I still got to do the fun decorating (with store bought icing!)

Here are my Zinger people in progress! Those are miniature Nilla Wafers for the faces. I used icing for the body (the real directions used marshmallows and even jelly beans for feet). The directions also called for airheads candy for the sheets, but my Walmart didn't have those so I used Fruit Roll-ups. Have you tried unwrapping one of those things lately? They must be made by the same folks who make "child proof" medicine bottles that kids can open but adults can not! Sticky stuff and apparently fruit roll ups are advertising on the Roll-ups now (my box was about providing laptops to kids in Africa, so they had printed African animals on them. Sorry, I am a little cranky over all the sleep I lost to peeling and trimming those roll ups. Plan ahead. Get the airheads!
So here are the finished products. I had a lot of fun with trying to do different hairstyles on them all. Some even have Teddy Graham teddy bears tucked in with them. Hopefully our Family Promise guests will soon sleep as soundly in homes of their own!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Daddy was a Drag Queen!

Let me start by saying that my husband is a very good sport! Once he decides to do something, no matter how ridiculous, he is an all or nothing kind of guy....or in this case gal!Our church does a lot of really fun FUNdraisers and one of our favorites is the Mz. Good Shepherd pageant. When we first heard about it, we misheard that it was the Mrs. Good Shepherd pageant and we were trying to get our beautiful married friend Kelly to compete. Boy were we surprised when we saw that year's competitors!

This year it was PJ's turn to participate. I told him he had to create a character (the biography is one of the three rounds) and he told me he was the "All American Girl Next Door"! So cleaver! We decided to play up his manly features and turn him into Helga Schwartzenager, Arnold's cousin who immigrated and embraced all things American.

Helga is into Rhythmic Gymnastics! How funny is that for the talent portion! PJ/Helga warmed up by lifting a car engine over his/her head and then frolicked around the parish hall waiving a ribbon in the air.

Finally, it was the question and answer portion. We decided Helga should wear an evening gown. I just happened to have an American flag inspired ball gown in my costume bin. ( I must admit, it is a pretty good costume collection!) It needed a few alterations to make it big enough for Helga, so it counted as one of my Things a Day that I made. I also made Helga's gymnastics outfit. It was originally a really large polyester gown, so I just cut off the skirt and added several of those pleated patriotic banners that normally hang in a half circle on porches. That project was a little more involved and counted as Thing a Day #2. But enough about me and my creations......
Back to Helga! She seemed to enjoy herself! And Lydia laughed SO hard each time Drag Queen Daddy took to the stage. OK, so did I!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day Preparations

I don't decorate my house for Valentine's Day, but I do try to make Lydia's Valentines. I am sure some day she will protest and beg for cheap store bought cards, but for now she has no say in the matter, so away I go. I saw this cute idea on Craftzine, one of my favorite crafty idea websites. Luckily i saw it right around the time left over Christmas merchandise was discounted 90%These are white chocolate, candy cane valentine pops! I think they are SO cute and the best news is, they were SO easy. I bought a few overhead projector plastic sheets a few years ago because if you put melted chocolate on it, the chocolate can be peeled off easily once it cools. So all I did was lay the canes on the plastic in a heart shape, melt the chocolate in a zip lock baggie, snip the end so it pours out and fill the middle of the heart. I sprinkled them before they cooled, but plain white looked nice too.
Luckily I made them last weekend, figuring that I would have this weekend to wrap and tag them, because Thursday morning daycare informed me that the party would be FRIDAY. So after work, and after book club I bagged and tagged and counted and packed 12 for Lydia to take in the morning. I didn't know where any thick paper was to make a tag, but I had a deck of cards, so I used one of the fancy Stampin' Up paper punches to make a little tag. I had to position the punch pretty carefully, but I was just able to get 12 tags that each have a heart on them. Here's hoping no one wants to play poker any time soon!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


A while back, I signed up to do this Thing-A-Day thing. It is a creative deal and designed to get people committed to make one new thing each day of February. They have a website where people post their creations each day. So, apparently, there were around 700 members on February 1. I know this because right before February started, my e-mail inbox exploded. Apparently the default setting on the membership was to have EVERYTHING emailed to you. Every post (from each of the 700 members) about each item on each day, PLUS every comment that 700 people could make on 700 other peoples creations. I went in numerous times to reset to NO emails, NEVER EVER and I would have 50 more emails in the next few minutes. So, I unsubscribed and decided to share my creations daily on Face Book and weekly on the blog.

Of course, with so much time spent making stuff recently, I have not found a lot of time for picture taking or blogging about what I have been making. So here is a little bit of a recap. One of my classes at school is making sock sculptures, so I decided to join in on the fun. These two little birdies were easy enough that I could finish one a day, hence thing 1 and thing 2 for February 1 and 2. I found the basic idea on this website.
I had a day or so where I had to claim "making dinner" for my thing I made each day. At that point I wised up and decided that making progress on something that I was interested in was better than finishing something just to be able to have something finished. So this sock skeleton took several days to complete. I think he was worth the effort and am happy with the way he turned out. The basic directions for a sock skeleton can be found at this website.

Finally, I have been working a little bit on a painting that I started a LONG time ago. This was started after a workshop with Anna Maria Horner. In fact, those are a few of her fabrics glued to the canvas. The general idea is that you glue fabric to a canvas and use that to create background textures and patterns behind your painting. I have made several paintings using this technique. You can use just one fabric or several. They can be in abstract patterns, like this background, or cut out to make specific objects, like that tree. I think it is a really great way to start a work of art, but if you are feeling less creative you can just paint a simple shape on top of the fabric. Such a great idea it earned Anna Maria a spot on Martha! So JEALOUS!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Uninvited Guest Part 2

I am happy to report that Friday's head check revealed only one nit. Saturday I only found one thing and I am not even sure it was a nit. Today I had my first "no nit day!" Yippee. I want to celebrate, but I have learned that these things can be very hard to see and if even two tiny nits get missed, we will be back where we started in a few weeks. So, I said in my last post that taking care of the effected person is the first step. We have done that for a week and we will continue checking Lydia diligently over the next few weeks and then periodically as long as she is around other kids who could have gotten "it" (so pretty much the rest of her childhood).

In addition to taking care of Lydia through all this, we simultaneously have needed to check ourselves and deal with our home so that we don't pass this around. PJ and I both got our heads checked the night we discovered it on Lydia. We also covered our heads in olive oil. It's one of those old fashioned home remedies we heard about. (Mayo seemed to work under the same idea of suffocating the "its", but sounded way more disgusting and harder to remove.) Olive oil wasn't that bad. I doused my head, wrapped it in plastic and went on to cleaning the house. I have to say, my hair has been SUPER conditioned ever since. PJ and I made jokes about keeping the aliens from reading our minds, and generally laughed at how ridiculous it all seemed. (keep in mind I am usually in bed by 10 and at this point it was nearing 2am). Other than that one oil treatment, I have settled for a twice weekly head check for family members who are in contact with Lydia. Thankfully no one has found anything, but once you even hear the word lice, you can't help but feel itchy and start wondering. So we keep checking ourselves and treating our clothing and bedding as if we have been exposed.

While the olive oil was soaking into my scalp, we started stripping the beds and changing out the sheets. This is standard procedure in my house whenever anyone gets an illness. Lydia still spends some time in our bed and we still end up in hers, so everything went into the wash. I read that a hot water wash cycle and about 40 minutes in the dryer would kill any bugs, including bed bugs if you are concerned about that too. Lydia has been getting clean pillow cases every night and any article of clothing that has been worn recently has now been washed. We have instituted a single use only policy with towels and even clothing that has only been lightly worn and still is basically clean. (I can't wait to see this month's water and electric bill) Everything has been washed after any contact with any of us. We have smooth leather couches, and hardwood floors, so they are getting wiped down more frequently. Any upholstery or carpet should be vacuumed frequently as well. A live "it" supposedly only lives for 24 hours if it isn't on a person, but the eggs can live longer. Most of what I read says that "it" can't jump and they cling pretty tightly to the head. You have to work to get a nit loose, so the idea that they won't just fall off on clothing, carpeting, or upholstery is plausible. This line of thinking says kids only pass it through direct head to head contact and that even sharing hats and combs shouldn't pass "it". A comforting thought if you are worried about one family member spreading it to others, but I am not taking any chances! I will continue washing like a mad woman for a while now.

So that brings me to my last thought on fighting "it", should "it" happen to you (and let's face it, "it" happens!). I believe you HAVE to TELL people!!! It is NOT fun to alert the public to something that you are embarrassed about. However, if I had known that a kid who comes into regular contact with Lydia had been fighting "it" for more than a month I would have been watching for "it", I could have done some initial research into what to do if you get "it", I wouldn't have let Lydia sleep in our bed as much as she did this past month. I wouldn't have done anything different regarding the kid that was fighting "it" and I hope no one is treating Lydia any differently right now, but I could have been a little more watchful and a lot more prepared.

I started calling close friends the morning after I discovered it, anyone who Lydia had been in contact with over the past week or so got a call. I hope I didn't miss anyone and I know it is easier right now because she is too little to know what is going on or to be worried about her friends finding out or making fun. So if your kid is school-aged and fighting "it", things might be a little different. School friends are probably safe from head to head contact and your kid is old enough to understand what to do and not do to protect friends from getting "it" from them. I have been putting Lydia's hair up in ponytail holders to keep what is happening on her head contained and what might be happening on other kid's heads away. (I have heard that hair product can help create an extra barrier to keep "it" out.) I do, however, feel that any kid who comes into your home and any household that you send your kid to while dealing with "it" needs to be informed. In my book, this means you also tell the school.

Most schools have changed there policy from the "no nits" policy of my childhood. No nits means an effected student stays home until there are no nits. That's why schools used to do head checks periodically. I feel like we did everything we were supposed to do and it took us a week of constant picking to get to our first no nit day. The kid that Lydia got "it" from is still fighting nits over a month later. Most schools have decided that is just too long to keep kids out of school when they are healthy and getting treatment. (keep in mind that other than being gross and somewhat contagious, "it" does not harm a child in any way)

I understand why schools aren't sending kids home, but I strongly believe that they should notify parents when someone in the class is dealing with "it". They can keep it anonymous, they can just tell the parents what is going on, they can offer facts on what to watch for and information on treatment. Of course, before the school can notify parents, the parents must notify the school that their kid has "it". I know that is tough to think about when your kid is older and you are concerned someone will find out. Keep in mind that if your kid got it, they got it from someone around them, so a little extra public notice on the subject may help that kid finally get rid of "it". Also, if your kid has it, not only is there someone else who gave it to your kid, but there may be someone else (or several someone elses) who have also contracted "it". The more kids who have "it" in a group, the harder it is to get rid of. So we are sort of all in this together. If you read this blog, there is a good chance that your kid plays with my kid. So if I promise to do all that I can to get rid of "it, and to check to make sure "it" hasn't come back, to get rid of "it" from our home, to be sure no one else in our house gets "it", to tell you if we do have "it", can you promise to do the same? Thanks!

Friday, February 4, 2011

An Uninvited Guest

We have had an uninvited guest in our house this week. I live in the country, teach public school, and have a toddler (read germ magnet) so we get plenty of real and viral "bugs" in our home. But this week we have been dealing the bug whose name shall not be named! I hesitate to even write about it here, but I know I am not the only mom to go through this and hope that I can lend a little advice from our experiences that can help someone else.

Lydia contracted lice. There I have said it, and now I will go back to referring to it as "it"! She didn't invent "it" and neither did the kid who gave it to her. Apparently "it" has been found on mummies in Egypt and just keeps getting spread from person to person. It never really occurred to me that Lydia could get "it". I remember there being spot checks sometimes in elementary school, but haven't thought about "it" since then.

I never had it, that I know of, as a child. But as a teacher and through various jobs working with young children, you get warned what to look for enough that when Lydia started scratching her head last week, I checked and after a few seconds saw something move. YUCK!!

So I began searching the Internet about what to do. In my mind there are 3 major areas to take care of when you are dealing with any contagious situation. First you deal with the person immediately effected. For us that meant running to the pharmacy late at night to buy what ever shampoo they sold to get rid of "it". (We ended up with RID) The directions call for an immediate wash in the medicated shampoo, followed by a session of combing out what ever remains, followed by a re treatment with the shampoo in 7-10 days. As if that is ALL it takes!

Just the idea that people are so freaked out about getting "it" should tell you it is NOT that simple. First of all, the RID did not kill all the living "its" there were. I found five on my post wash combing. YUCK! There is a theory that "it", like many conditions in our over medicated world, may have drug resistant strains. FUN! Apparently if you continue to have recurrences your doctor can proscribe stronger medications with different pesticides.

That can be a big concern. It is pesticide that you are putting on your child's head! So many people resort to home remedies. I was told to try mayonnaise, olive oil, and Listerine to get rid of it. For now I am sticking with the RID, but with one exception. That business about combing the hair just that one time after the shampoo is ridiculous! What you are doing ins sectioning off the hair and going through it with a FINE toothed comb. According to the directions, the tiny metal comb that came with the medicated shampoo can be used to pull the nits, the eggs, off of the hair. (momma "its" glue eggs to individual hairs near the scalp) If your kid gets "it" you will recognize these as small dots about the size of a fleck of pepper (finely ground). The good news is it is just an egg and it is not going anywhere. If your child is cooperative, you can spend an hour or two going through their hair, one hair at a time and pulling out the nits. Keep in mind, the comb they tell you will do all the work for you, will go right over the nit and not do anything. I recommend ordering a better nit comb (available over the Internet, so not very likely to be available when "it" strikes your house) or using your finger nails to pull out the nit....or the hair what ever works!

So I do the initial nit pick for two hours, from 10pm to midnight. My child is mostly cooperative, but she is two. Thankfully at some point she fell asleep, so it got MUCH easier then. Even with a motionless patient, how likely is it that I got EVERY nit? With the chance of drug resistance, how likely is it that any remaining nits are dead? Considering that one adult female can lay 8-10 eggs a DAY, I am not about to take that chance. So I recommend comb and pick EVERY DAY. I have gotten it down to about a 30 minute process now, so it isn't terrible (except for the whole picking bug eggs off my kid's head part!). Up until 5 days into the process, I was still getting too many to count. 2 days ago I got 12, time to celebrate except that 2 were the size of a nit but they MOVED! They were too small to even see legs, but they MOVED! So I assume that some missed nits have hatched. The next day I only found 9, but most of them were the nits that move. I am now thankful for nits that stay glued in place!

Nits hatch about a week after being laid and I doubt they were all laid on the day I discovered the problem, so obviously we have more than I am finding and they were not all killed by the shampoo. I am not to use the shampoo again until a week after the first dose, so I am putting all of my hope in the daily pick and in my understanding of insect life cycles.

According to my research, the eggs hatch after 7 days. Every couple of days they get successively bigger until they are mature. Then they can mate and lay eggs and more eggs and more and that is where you get a new outbreak. I am hopeful that each day I am finding a few that I missed the previous day and that eventually we will have a no nit day. My plan is to check daily until I have 3 days in a row with no nits. Then I will move to every other day combing and eventually to a once a week check, that probably won't end until middle school. Maybe high school. Maybe college.

So this is what I have been doing with my time lately with regards to caring for the person who was immediately effected. In addition, you have to deal with anyone who has been exposed to "it" as well as dealing with any physical item those effected have come into contact with.

I am tired and needing to go check Lydia again before our evening plans begin. Wish me luck and hope for a nit number lower than NINE! More later on checking family members, notifying friends, and getting "it" out of clothing, furniture, car upholstery, etc.