Diapers only work when they are being worn

Pete slept late this morning and woke up in a great mood.

The first thing he did was take off his pajama pants, which he has never done before.

Then he took off his nearly dry diaper.

Then he called for his family.

After his audience dutifully assembled, he urinated a night’s worth of liquid all over his crib.

I missed it all, since I was in the shower. When I got out, having been informed of his actions, I asked him where he was supposed to go potty. He smiled and pointed to the bathroom. And then returned his attention to his “coffee” that he and his brothers were sharing in their “Army camp.”


Skinny Minny

God has blessed me with healthy kids. Sure, we’ve had our medical adventures, and naturally the usual bumps and bruises, but even colds and stomach upsets pass through our house with only a temporary disruption and not everyone being affected.

God has also blessed me with skinny kids. I, like most moms I know, expend vast amounts of mental energy trying to think of ways to sneak more fruits and vegetables into my kids’ daily diet. Like most moms I know, I spend a generous amount of time thinking about and preparing snacks and meals that are balanced and more nutritious than the standard fare offered via kids’ meals or school cafeterias or the snack aisles at the grocery stores. A homemade muffin, even one from a package, has to be better than a store-bought muffin. Cookies are after-dinner desserts, not mid-afternoon snacks. My pumpkin bread may be loaded with sugar, but at least it’s not loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Candy is eaten at Easter, Christmas and Halloween fairly exclusively, although long trips may warrant lollipops and M&Ms. After years, I finally cracked and do buy frozen chicken nuggets which I reserve for quickie meals or ones where the grownups get steak. I occasionally make Kraft Mac N Cheese and my spaghetti sauce comes from a jar, but this is balanced by homemade pizza dough and rolls. There is almost always more than one vegetable served for dinner. Dessert is only for those who eat a sufficient amount of the food served. Popcorn is for movie nights. Chips and soda are for parties only.

I think I have a moderate approach to food. My goal has been to instill in my kids a healthy attitude toward food wherein they recognize certain foods as treats and other foods as necessary for good nutrition and select an appropriate quantity from each category. Over the years, I’ve read tons of articles on childhood obesity and what parents can do to avoid it. I’ve modified the ways I used to cook and types of food I make: I’ve withheld butter on vegetables I serve, used chicken breasts and shunned dark meat, baked instead of fried, broiled instead of sauteed, limited potatoes and rice and pasta, tried to encourage fish even if it was just fish sticks. I’ve allowed my children to indicate when they were full. I’ve simply not purchased certain foods (chips, candy, sugary drinks) and avoided fighting with my children over their consumption by not having them as an option most of the time.

I’ve done lots of things “right.”

But I’ve been wrong.

Because my skinny kids, and in the spotlight for the past month has been my son, Billy, are too skinny. This is not a problem that I have ever personally had to deal with. Once, maybe, I’d like to be too skinny. For a day, perhaps. I would much rather have to work at keeping some meat on my bones than work at keeping it off. And I’d much rather have too skinny kids, than ones who sneak into closets with fistfuls of candy. But still, I have the worry and concern that comes when doctors look at your kid with a critical eye and ponder what could be wrong with him.

Last month I took three of the kids for physicals, and although all are skinny, Billy is off the charts in height and weight – off the lower end, not the upper end. This led to a referral to an endocrinologist who ordered blood work, a urinalysis, and an x-ray of his hand to look at bone growth.

In between the pediatrician and the endocrinologist, I had thought long and hard about my son and his height and weight and the possible causes. My motherly analysis decided he just did not eat enough food. I recorded his caloric intake for a day, and it was under 800. But he was “full.” After the endocrinologist listed for me the tests she thought ought to be run, I asked her if seeing a pediatric nutritionist might not be a good idea, since I was pretty sure that he wasn’t eating enough food, and I desired guidance in what kinds of foods I should have him eat. She lauded me for being a pro-active mother, which I thought was bizarre, and put me in for a consult.

We had the blood work done, and while waiting for the results I managed to get to the pediatric nutritionist. I told her about my food philosophy described above, and she said that it was well and good for lots of families. But not mine. My kids don’t sit still at a desk all day long (I often wish they did). My kids don’t fend for themselves in the kitchen for snacks and even frequent meals. My kids don’t sit alone in front of the TV with a snack or their dinner. My kids don’t associate people and food – they play with little regard for eating (they eat with quite a bit of regard for playing instead). They don’t live from meal to meal, but from game to game. I must add that, quite to my complete embarrassment and annoyance, all five of my kids were in the exam room for this discussion and did everything they could do demonstrate just exactly how active and non-food focused they were.

The bottom line is that my kids now no longer get to decide that they are full. They get ice cream for dessert. They get chocolate Carnation Instant Breakfast heaped into their whole milk multiple times a day. They get Flintstones Complete vitamins which vaguely resemble candy, and I am very thankful that they have child-proof caps. They have to stop playing and sit down and eat their breakfast or lunch or snack until I say they can get up. We’re now eating chicken thighs instead of breasts, buttered vegetables and rice, and more pasta.

After the lab results came back, the endocrinologist called and said they indicated that Billy was healthy in every way, except for one: he was anemic. Possibly this was a result of diet, but possibly it meant something else. She put in a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist. We went to see this GI doctor yesterday. Fortunately for Billy, he had gained a whole pound in two weeks, which comforted the doctor and added credence to my assertions that the child is simply underfed. Had he not gained any weight, she would have been completely baffled. The kid has all the outward appearance of being healthy, but his consistent drop from the 50th percentile in height and weight at age 2 to his less than 3rd percentile at age 7 is so “remarkable” that the experts seem strongly inclined to study his “case.” I have this strange feeling that Billy is the trick question on the final medical exam – only the “trick” is that he really is healthy and really just needs to eat more food, but the experts think there must be something more…the other answer is just too easy.

But since he has gained weight, mom’s tactic seems to be working, and maybe, just maybe, a wait and see approach would be best in this case. So, we’ll continue to stuff him up like Hansel at the witch’s house, and in four months or so, have his anemia and weight checked. That’s around the time the baby is due. Maybe we’ll all be able to back off on the ice cream by then. I know I’ll need to.

Billy asked me yesterday if this was the last time we’d be going to Walter Reed. I responded, “Just don’t do anything crazy, Billy. No dramatic events in the next two weeks, ok? And then, yes, hopefully, this will be our last time at Walter Reed.” God willing.

Quiet time – not

It’s not yet 6 am, and Jenny is awake. Of course, she wants attention, too, but this time is my time. I get up early so I can have coffee, pray, exercise (well, probably not this morning on that one), check email, and maybe blog…all without an incessant dialogue between me and one or more little person(s) or the drone of background noise. In four months, this time will vanish, and I’ll either be blogging with a baby at my breast or sleeping later to make up for nighttime interuptions. Between now and then, I guard this quiet time sternly. Jen’s been banished to the couch.

It’s not surprising that she’s up early today, or that she was up early yesterday. We’ve been in the car around 6 pm both evenings prior, and she’s fallen fast asleep. Out cold. We just put her to bed for the night. Frequently, if there aren’t sufficient distractions, she falls asleep around that time anyway, generally while in the middle of a meltdown. It’s a messy situation, and it’s obvious she needs more sleep. I could point fingers at a certain older sister who likes to stay up late (and sleep late) and likes to have company in so doing, but instead, I’ll simply state that something is going to change. I’ll go to bed myself and ignore the giggles and chatter still bubbling with an unnatural energy at 10 pm, but I won’t give up my morning’s peace and quiet. And I really won’t accept a cycle that consists of three nights of yelling at asking little girls to stop talking followed by three mornings of having a someone lying on the floor at my feet complaining about everything from her tummy hurting to how boring it is at 6 am with nobody else awake and how cruel I am for ignoring her (repeat cycle).

This calls for a classic technique: divide and conquer. Somebody is going to be spending their bedtime on mom and dad’s bed.


Yesterday morning, Bill plugged something into an outlet in our den – the room with the computer – and the room lost power. He tried the circuit breakers, but this wasn’t a simple overload. He called maintenance, and they sent some guys out within an hour or so. They diagnosed a loose wire, and set about trying to locate it. They found the offending connection at the circuit breaker box, but they also found, among the web of wires there, about six wires that were charred.

Yes, charred.

This house was built just over a year ago. Fire, especially an electrical fire, is one of those things I’m paranoid about. And after last fall’s experience when my smoke-filled house failed to detonate a single smoke detector, I’m very grateful that God loves us so much He’ll bend over backwards to protect us from what I consider certain death. One of us, and not likely me, is destined for something greater, and we’re all benefiting from the Divine protection offered to that one.

For some time, they left us with some power: A/C and hot water and some outlets. By early afternoon though, they had cut everything off. They started mentioning alternative sleeping arrangements. If not for the A/C, I would have gladly just stayed without power in our own home. It was a great debate in my mind – the comfort of my own bed vs. the comfort of climate control. When you are 22 weeks pregnant, this is a tough call.

Since it wasn’t yet too hot in the house, we stayed for a while doing our sorting and cleaning and other fun getting-ready-to-move things. Then we opted to head to the pool. The maintenance guys were returning as we were leaving. Thank goodness, they called us an hour or so later and told us it was all fixed. And so, after feeding the kids pool-side deep-fried chicken nuggets and fries, we returned to the well air conditioned fire trap with comfortable beds.

As I’ve said to Bill perhaps a hundred times in the last year: I’m so glad we don’t own this house. Our 55 year old fixer-upper in New Jersey is a much smaller headache than this place.

The last page of another chapter

Bill’s parting words this morning, on his last day, after we had just touched on a few of the things on our to-do list:

Humperdink: Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work. But, I’ve got my country’s five hundredth anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.

Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.

Today is a beautiful day.

A Recap of the Week

It was a long, busy, first week of summer vacation.

On Monday, Billy got his staples out of his head. I tried to make a same-day appointment, but they told me to just walk in. They made us (all 6 of us) wait for well over an hour. Some things you just have to offer up.

That afternoon, I had an OB checkup. In and out in 15 minutes.

Tuesday was my ultrasound. Wednesday, Fritz had an appointment with the orthodontist and had his expander removed. I can understand him so much better now. And the dentist called and was able to squeeze Billy in last minute for a tiny filling (the first cavity among the kids).

That evening, Fritz had his Scouts den meeting. Only 4 boys came. They all helped in a demonstration to make a foil dinner packet. Then the dad pulled out one already cooked and everyone sampled it. My boys thought it was great. It is true that children are more willing to taste food if they help to prepare it.

When they were all done, out came the snacks with plenty of extras for the siblings who were there (mostly mine, but I brought the snacks). All the kids were on the back of one dad’s pickup truck, but the 4 boys from the den plus Billy grabbed their snacks and ran off to a bit of woods across a field near the parking lot.

This left my girls and two other girls in the pickup truck with Petey. It took about 60 seconds for Petey to look around, assess the situation, and determine that he should be with the boys and not the girls. “Down, Mommy,” he said, and he was gone.

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting little Mary Claire who is so very pretty. Mama Cris is another Catholic, military, homeschooler, and it’s a shame that our paths are crossing just this one time right now. The blogosphere is fine, but being able to hang out in someone else’s house while your children eat their complete supply of graham crackers tops 20 love notes in the com-box any day.

As we were leaving, her almost 4 year old daughter and my daughters were talking about a sleepover, which just isn’t going to happen in these few brief weeks. In the ever-mobile military, you have to accept that the physical closeness of friends (like the physical closeness of the spouse serving in the military) is a luxury. Just before Scouts on Wednesday evening, we ran over to another friend’s house to deliver a goodbye card that Katie had made. The departing kids were packed in the car, the parents were loading the last few things and waiting for housing to do the final walk-through. The mom and I hugged, we smiled, we wished each other well on our new adventures. We didn’t exchange cell phone numbers or email addresses. We like each other, we have stuff in common, we got along, but we weren’t able to develop a really deep friendship. Maybe I’ll never see her again. Maybe I will, and if so, we’ll pick up right where we left off. And in between, we will both have other friends with whom we’ll spend a few hours a few times lingering over tea and good conversation while the kids play, perhaps helping out in a pinch a few times, and then hugging and wishing well when it’s time for the next duty station.

This military life is so impermanent. But in the final analysis, so too is our life here on earth. If you want to learn detachment to things, people, places: be a military spouse.

Yesterday, my friend Rachel and I went kid-less to the IHM Conference. I really enjoyed listening to Laura Berquist speak. It is comforting to hear someone who is at the end now of her homeschooling career (her youngest of 6 just finished high school) talk about all the same issues you face daily. There is hope, you can succeed, it won’t kill you, the kids will turn out great, your family will be strong. Now if I can just bottle that message and get a whiff once a month or so, I’ll be fine!

Then I had to hurry home from the conference to take the kids to their baseball team’s party. This coach, a neighbor and friend of ours, was great. Always encouraging, always displaying and teaching good sportsmanship, always pushing but not too hard – I wish all my kids’ coaches could be like him. It’s no wonder the team only lost one game. It’s not that we had the best hitters or that the coach put the strongest players at the key positions: we didn’t, and he didn’t. He just pulled from each kid the best effort they had and managed to get 7 to 9 year olds to cooperate as a team. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

The party was fun with a kids vs. adults (and teens) pickup game, hotdogs and chips, and trophies. {On the way there, Fritz, with a concerned tone, asked if I was going to play…you know, since I was pregnant and all. I assured him that I would not, knowing that chasing Petey would be enough for me, and thinking it was a good thing I had a toddler to watch since otherwise I probably would have been fool enough to join in.} By the time their later than usual bedtime came around, I was sapped. This weekend will be busy with the Scout Pack camping out tonight, and the boys crossing over to the next level.

Monday is Bill’s last day of work.

The movers come in 18 days.

That to-do list does not have enough things crossed off.