Mission Statement

One of my 3in30 goals for this month was to write a personal mission statement. I’ve felt, for a while, that having a touchstone of sorts that I can look to would help me better prioritize my days, my work, and my life. I used Mission Statements for Moms to help guide my process. I found her questions very logical and it helped me to get the ideas shaped up. Granted, this is a draft and it will likely change, but I came up with this as my mission statement:

I am a mother who creates a healthy, nurturing, fun environment for my children. I help them become their best selves and achieve their dreams.

I am a woman who strives to strengthen my relationship, who shares freely with others, and who works consistently to achieve my dreams and goals.

I am a wife who helps, encourages, and loves my husband. I remember our perspectives and experiences are different and appreciate those differences. I show love and affection for him daily.

I am a teacher who empowers my students to take charge of their own learning. I encourage students to do their best work and help them to succeed.

So, what do you think? Constructive feedback, observations, etc., are welcome. If you’re going to call me an idiot for doing this, just move along please.

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The Fear Aggressive Dog and Children

In the comments on my post about dogs and where to find one, The Momsomniac said she would have been afraid to have Sam around kids and wanted to know how I did it. I’m going to point out, right here, that I am not an animal behaviorist, I am not a vet, and I am NOT advocating that ANYONE attempt to manage an aggressive dog with small children. I was asked what I did and how I did it, and I’m answering the question. That’s it.

Okay, so first thing, before we realized that we had a “problem” on our hands, Sam was around children. She grew up around a sweet little girl (who is now almost 16, OMG) who was very willing to listen to what she had to do when she wanted to be with Sam. One of the strongest, most indelible images I have in my mind is letting her walk Sam (with a gentle leader on Sam), and not going with them. Her father was concerned, but I knew Sam and knew what she would do. The second that the young girl started to lead Sam past a point where Sam could see me, she balked. Sam sat down and refused to move one more step. The little girl shrugged, turned around and started walking back. It was so much that Sam was protecting the little girl as her sense of security has always been wrapped up in my presence. It is very hard for P to take Sam to the vet without me and we try to avoid doing that. Typically, I’m in the exam room with Sam, the vet, and at least one vet tech. I’m the one who mans the “bitey end” because I know what the hell I’m doing with her. Normally, vets discourage you from being near your dog when she needs treatment, but our vet realizes if I’m not at her head, where she can see me, she will fight like a demon to get away and no one needs to experience that. No one.

Also, it is very important to understand that Sam has a diagnosis of fear aggression. She has been seen by behaviorists who do not understand how I’ve learned to manage her as well as I have. She is on medication for thyroid and pain related to two medical conditions that underlie and can aggravate her aggression. I have not labeled her myself and I have not reached the conclusions or the decisions that I’ve made by myself. Our vet(s) have been our partners in treating Sam since the day the first Dr. K figured out that Sam had “a screw loose.”

So, when we found out that we were expecting Ben. I dug out something that I’d picked up in New York a couple of years before — a newborn Cabbage Patch doll. We refer to that doll as Sam’s practice baby. I had read in numerous places that, used properly, you could teach a dog how to treat a baby by using a doll. However, you don’t give the doll to the dog. This is where most people make a mistake. You play with the doll and teach the dog how to be around the baby.

I would sit on the floor once or twice a day with the doll and play patty-cake with it or whatever until Sam got interested and came over to check things out. Then she’d be told to lie down next to the area where the baby was playing and stay. She learned to do that and was very respectful of the doll’s space. I made sure to make the doll make random movements like a baby might and to make crying noises and so forth. I’m convinced these things helped Sam adapt to Ben’s presence more than anything else that I did.

I also read Childproofing Your Dog: A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog for the Children in Your Life. This book helped me with the next phase of training both my dog and my son.

Sam loved Ben from the start. She thought he was the most interesting thing, though she quickly learned to be wary of those little arms as they moved without warning. She became more wary when Ben got bigger, but my job was already started. From the time Ben could make self-determined motions, he was cautioned about Sam. Practically from birth, he’s been taught that there are things you don’t do with Sam.

As he’s gotten older, he’s made some mistakes, and fortunately, Sam sees him as her small person so she doesn’t take exception, too strongly, to his mistakes, but he’s gotten that warning grumble that raises the hair on the back of my neck. At one point, when Ben was in the super-dropping toddler phase, Sam was kept behind a gate during meals to keep her from competing with him for food. He would lose. We’re heading into the stage where we’re going to have to do the same thing for Katie.

My kids are never left unsupervised with Sam. NEVER. Since she tends to follow me everywhere, this hasn’t been as large an issue as it might be for some. Sam has her own space and the kids are not allowed in it, no matter what. Sam is given some level of preferential treatment.

Even with all that, she was almost put to sleep a few years ago because she bit again and I was worried that she was going to attack Ben. And, to be honest, had I not insisted that our vet check every possibility she likely would have bitten Ben. But now, we know what one of the underlying issues was that caused the dramatic (even for a dog with fear aggression) change in personality. And there’s medication and it helps her.

Sam is never going to be a calm dog. She’s never going to be a dog who can be trusted with small children. I drug her with tranquilizers when Ben has playdates so she doesn’t fuss up a storm while other kids are over. She can’t be trusted to understand that a small child chasing Ben isn’t a threat to him. I would be in constant terror if I let her loose.

She can be managed. But that management comes at a price. A fairly steep one. She can only be boarded at our vet’s office. And he can only take her when there aren’t emergencies taking up all of his space. Usually, he will find room for her. We don’t have people over as often as we might like because it’s too stressful for her even with the drugs. All the drugs do is force her into a drugged up stupor, but they do not lessen her anxiety over the situation.

Sam

She’ll be twelve in March. Hard to believe for me. It still seems like I brought her home yesterday. Again, I would not advocate trying to manage a fear aggressive dog with a young child unless you feel confident that you know your dog and know him/her really, really well. I had eight years of experience with her under my belt before we had Ben, and I was STILL caught off guard when she developed her additional problems. If you think you have a fear aggressive dog, get HELP. There are animal behaviorists who specialize in fear aggression who can help. Ask your vet for recommendations. Do not try to do it on your own.

When Asthma Doesn’t Seem Like Asthma

Quick. When you think of someone with asthma what do you picture? What do you hear?

For most people the answer is wheezing. They see someone who always seems to struggle for air a bit or whose breathing is audible a lot of the time. My aunt had that kind of asthma. It was scary stuff. She could go from feeling fine to not feeling fine quickly and listening to her struggle to breathe was painful and when you were familiar with her triggers, you took great pains not to trigger an attack.

But my aunt’s asthma is more complicated for me because, it turns out, that I, too, have asthma, even though I’ve never sounded the way she did. I knew about exercise induced asthma and I knew that wasn’t what I had. Exercise and I have always been on somewhat unfamiliar terms (my current attempt at a 30 day challenge, not withstanding). But I always knew I struggled sometimes to breathe. I would start coughing and I couldn’t stop and I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. It was uncomfortable, but I didn’t think it was life threatening. Life limiting maybe, but not life threatening.

And then, almost ten years ago, it wasn’t so simple anymore. I got sick. Very, very sick. My poor doctor was taxed almost beyond his abilities trying to figure out what was wrong with me. He ran tests; he thought he had an answer. Off to a specialist I would go and they would determine that what he thought wasn’t it. He thought I had polyps in my nose. There’s family history and it seemed logical. Except, upon much closer examination by an ENT, it was determined that I absolutely didn’t. More blood tests and he found RSV. Yeah, that RSV. The one that kills babies and old people. That one.

I was so sick that I ended up taking two weeks leave from teaching — in the middle of a semester. Let me tell you how often that’s done. Yeah, very rarely. But, with his note and sick leave built up, I was able to do it without a loss of income. And still, I was sick afterward. It took another three months of me not getting better and him struggling to figure out the problem before the magic day happened.

I started coughing in the office. The spontaneous, racking cough that would get where I honestly thought I would die before I would stop coughing. The cough where I couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t speak, couldn’t do anything but cough with tears streaming down my face.

He had been on his way to see another patient when he heard me. He burst into the room, and this was real bursting because I hadn’t even seen the nurse yet, and said, I know what it is.

I’m looking at him like he’s lost his mind and he hands me a rescue inhaler and tells me to breathe squeeze and breathe in. I did. He told me to do it again. I did.

And suddenly, I could breathe. It was like a miracle. It was Albuterol.

He called it non-wheezing asthma and he knew how to treat it. I take two different drugs, carry rescue inhalers on my person at all times, and have a nebulizer in my bedroom (and in my carry on luggage when I go on trips). You’d think it would be a relief to know what it is and how we can manage it, and in many, many ways it is. Now I can explain why some things set me off and make me cough and uncomfortable, and yeah. But, because it doesn’t sound like the asthma my family has known, it’s been hard, at times, for them to accept that it is, in fact, asthma.

At one time, I was advised that I should get full-fledged asthma testing because “it’s not really asthma unless you have those tests.” My doctors have a different point of view. I would not respond so well to the drugs that I take if I didn’t have asthma — in other words, they would have no appreciable affect on my coughing and on my struggles to breathe.

These days non-wheezing asthma has a new name: cough variant asthma. What’s particularly interesting, if you read around on it, is that it is difficult to diagnose because the usual tests for asthma don’t work. In fact, there are really only two ways to diagnose it 1) be lucky enough to have an attack in the doctor’s office, or 2) inhale irritants to trigger an attack in the office. In other words, have an attack to prove that’s what’s going on. So, I guess I got lucky in that I had an attack in the office and my doctor knew what he was hearing.

The really tough part is that because I have it, both of my kids have an increased chance of developing it. The first pediatrician we had didn’t think it was an issue, but our current one asks me every time we bring Ben in if I’ve seen any signs or anything that worries me. Because it’s difficult to diagnose and it does occur in children, the best way to catch it is for parents to be aware that it exists and that it doesn’t behave like typical asthma. So, what do I watch for:

1) Coughing. A dry cough that is completely unproductive. It can sound a bit like barking and a bit ragged. It can also seem uncontrollable, like the kid literally can’t stop coughing. Sometimes the kid may say that their ribs hurt from coughing or talk about a little tickle in the back of his/her throat that seems to be making them cough.

2) Specific things that seem to trigger a cough. My triggers are grass, pollen, cigarette smoke, dust, and perfume. So yeah, I don’t get out much.

Of course, this means when Ben has an unexplained coughing fit, I get a little nervous, but I don’t see the uncontrollable aspect that I associate with my asthma. He seems to be able to get it under control and he doesn’t seem to get breathless. I guess that means so far, so good.

Excuse me, I have to go find an inhaler — the dogs just came in and I’m having a “bad breathing” day.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One

Passed along recently, “It’s the definition of a mammal. If you’re not breast feeding . . . you’re a fucking reptile.”

Nice.

Very nice.

Not that we’re judgmental or anything. And we completely support your “choice” not to breast feed, but don’t mind us while we call you a snake because you don’t.

It’s taken me almost twenty-four hours to move from stunned, shocked, and hurt to incredibly pissed off. See? I can be taught. My initial reaction wasn’t rage; I was too busy being hurt by it to be furious. Now? I’m angry.

And I’m mostly angry because some people who breastfeed are so damned self-righteous about it. I mean, seriously, it’s not rocket science to breastfeed, so this notion that you’re vastly superior because you do it is total bunk. If you were harnessing wind energy in your backyard and living totally off the grid — that takes guts and gumption and is deserving of accolades. Breastfeeding — it’s great if you can do it, but it doesn’t automatically nominate you for sainthood or make you a wonderful person. I’ve known some really crappy people who breastfed, so yeah. Not the winning argument there.

And I’m pissed off because I’m made to feel like I have to explain why I don’t breastfeed my daughter. The marauding educators make me crazy. Don’t you know that it will make her smarter, more resistant to disease, and on and on and on?

Well, here’s the thing. Her brother was a formula baby for different but no less compelling reasons. He’s smart as a freaking whip, never gets sick, and frankly, if breast feeding would have made him smarter than he is, I’m utterly grateful my milk never came in. So pathetically grateful.

I think what kills me about all of this is from the one side people are all “oh we support mothers’ choices” but when confronted with one that isn’t the choice that they’d make, they get judgmental or self-righteous or both.

The thing is, not breast feeding isn’t always a choice. I read a ton of books, had all the necessary accoutrements to do this (appropriate wardrobe, pumps, Lanisoh cream, breast pads), I was seriously ready for this and really, really wanted to make it work. I was so determined that I was going to find a way to make it work this time.

And in the end, I had a doctor ask me which was more important, seeing Katie graduate from college or breast feeding her now. In his estimation, I could do one or the other, but it was unlikely I would be able to do both. I trust this man with my life on a daily basis. I trust him to get the medicines that keep me alive right and to not screw up and in the four years he’s been my primary physician he has not messed up once.

Even still, I got back on the phone with the lactation consultant and discussed it with her before I agreed that he was right. You know what she said? “The benefits of presence far outweigh the benefits of breast feeding.”

And I know she’s right. On the other hand, there are any number of crusaders out there who are happy to tell me what a horrible thing I’m doing every time I buy a container of formula for my daughter. I had one literally shatter me when I was buying nipples for her bottles. I was so upset and shaking so hard I had to leave the store, sit in my car, and cry for a good fifteen minutes before I went back into the store to make my purchases.

So my PSA for the day is this: let’s not judge each other, Moms. If you breast feed, that’s great. You’re feeding your child. If you bottle feed, that’s great. You’re feeding your child. Net result: child gets fed and gets the opportunity to grow. Isn’t that all we’re really aiming for anyway?

So let’s can it with the nasty jokes and insinuations. Let’s stop the roving educating and let people be. You don’t know if you’re talking to someone who is bottle feeding because it’s convenient or if they’re bottle feeding to give both baby and mother the best chance at life. And really? It’s no more your business why someone bottle feeds than it is someone else’s business why you breast feed.

Thanks from those of us who are really tired of having to defend ourselves from all comers.

Picky Eaters

I am almost embarrassed to admit that we’re raising one. Of course, my cousins who are likely reading this right now (hey y’all) are likely laughing themselves sick and asking, “What the heck did you expect?”

In the best of all worlds, I would call myself a discerning eater. In other words, I’m picky as all get out. In some ways I’m easy because I go on food jags. For example, at one point in my life the only thing I would eat for lunch was bread and butter sandwiches. Every day. For months on end. To the point that I honestly believe my mother should have been nominated for sainthood. And then, one day, I didn’t want bread and butter anymore, and I wouldn’t eat it for the longest time AT ALL.

And now, my discerning tastebuds have come home to roost because Ben is, um, discerning. And he food jags, too. For almost two weeks, all he wanted was popcorn chicken from our local grocery store. The fact that it was a protein and he was willing to eat it was just about all I needed. We bought them whenever we found them and woe befall us if we ran out and Publix didn’t have any. P actually went to three different stores in search of the magical chickens at the end, only to have Ben refuse to eat them anymore. Poor P.

Constants in his diet are Cheerios, Goldfish, and Cheddar Cheese Chex Mix. I am pretending to myself that these are healthy foods, but I do understand that they are not. Other foods that are met with varied success: peas, bananas, apples, grapes, blueberries, yogurt (but only if the fruit pieces are fished out first), pasta with no sauce on it (well, it can have had sauce on it, but there should be no evidence of the sauce to Ben), pizza (so long as he can pick the toppings he “no likes” off of it), oatmeal (I’ve managed to persuade him to eat the high fiber version, but must be flavored), waffles, pancakes, muffins, and homemade bread. He will sometimes eat a grilled cheese sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich. He drinks milk, 1 glass of juice a day, and as much water as he can hold.

I consider that water my personal triumph as I was not much of a water drinker as a kid, but he loves it because it’s what he sees us with most of the time (my current grading insanity not included).

We’ve been suggesting to him that when he turns 4 and is a “bigger boy” he will have to start eating what MomMom and Daddy eat for dinner. So far, he’s accepting this new very calmly. I suspect this is due, in large part, to the fact that he has no idea that he’s turning 4 in August and I’m not sure he believes that he’s going to have to eat what we eat.

We’re heading to a crossroad here, and I’m not sure I’m looking forward to it. We have been trying some new menu planning ideas that are working really well for us (P and me). I’m hoping that taking the actual stress of menu planning out of our marriage (which for us was HUGE STRESS by the way) is going to make the whole “get Ben to eat what we eat plan” a little easier, but I’m not holding my breath.

I just remember what meals were like in my house when something we didn’t like was served, it was pretty unpleasant. More so for my sister than for me, I think. She tended to be more picky than I was and more unwilling to bend on her dislikes (e.g., I don’t think a bite of fish has passed her lips intentionally since she was 6; she’s in her mid-thirties now). I don’t want to have to resort to timers and revisited meals (a la Joan Crawford) because, really, I don’t think I have it in me to force someone to eat something they don’t want to try.

Heck, Ben wouldn’t eat bananas six months ago. He watched me eat one and asked if he could try it. Since then, banana eating fool. I’m convinced the way around Ben is exposure and letting it go. He asks for things and he can try them. If he won’t eat it, I insist he let it sit on his plate until the meal is over. The fact that these days he’ll let anything sit on his plate, even if he doesn’t want it, is a miracle as far as I’m concerned. At one point, he was happier flinging than not.

So, what are your “tricks of the trade” to get a picky eater to eat or to at least approximate a healthy diet.