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February 28, 2012

Tooth Fairy Busted!


Did you know that February 28 is National Tooth Fairy Day? I’m serious. You can go here if you don’t believe me. (It was National Wine Drinking Day the other week- I didn’t Google it for proof. I just believed and poured myself a glass).
Not long after I wrote my post about kids losing their teeth and the joys of playing the Tooth Fairy, my curious and surprisingly sleuthy 6 year old twins discovered my treasure trove of baby teeth. I have been keeping them, hesitant to throw them out. It seems somehow sacrilege to just toss these little baby teeth in the trash. So I have carefully placed each little fang into a separate labelled bag and have hidden these bags in a decorative wooden box on my dresser, a relatively innocuous box with no other purpose. Seemed the perfect place! Or so I thought...
The other day K and M were playing nicely in their bedroom when they wandered down the hall to play in my room. I’m not sure exactly how they came to open the box but I can only imagine their delight when they found the bags of baby teeth. When the unusual quiet drew me to investigate, they declared with great excitement that they had found some teeth! (They didn’t realize at that point that they were their own.)
I stood stunned for a moment and quickly went into crisis control mode, whipping up a story about how I had left a note for the Tooth Fairy asking her to leave the teeth for me. I told them how she took their teeth from under their pillows, replaced them with money and then, instead of bringing the teeth to new babies (!!), she came into my room and left the teeth under my pillow so I could save them. I might have even joked about making them necklaces out them when they are adults (*shudder*). I used my happiest “wow- isn’t this exciting!” voice and they seemed to buy it. Or perhaps the joke is on me and they really know the truth and are just humouring me. Either way, we remain co-conspirators in the fantasy. 
There is just something so special about kids believing in magic. Perhaps it's a way for us parents to recapture some of the innocence and wonder of our lost childhood, the belief that anything is possible if you only just believe. I know there are nay-sayers out there who claim that these childhood myths are harmful lies, causing our children to never trust again. I believe that there is no other time in our lives where we have such faith, such hope in the joy of life. What is more magical that Santa, the Easter Bunny and of course, our beloved Tooth Fairy! Why wouldn’t we want to keep the magic going a little longer?
(Please? Just a little bit longer? At least until I have those tooth necklaces done.)


February 21, 2012

Living With(out?) a Peanut Allergy


When L was barely 2 years old, he ate peanut butter toast for about the fiftieth time and developed hives around his mouth. A few months later he ran to me from across the room at a New Year’s Eve party, his mouth and tongue swelling after eating a snack-sized Crispy Crunch bar. His pediatrician referred us to an allergist who confirmed our worst fear: a peanut allergy, potentially anaphylactic.
Our lives were turned upside-down. We bought Epipens (at $100 a piece- thank goodness for drug plans). We educated ourselves and learned how to read labels carefully. We ordered a Medic-Alert bracelet for him to wear everyday. We constantly made decisions about what was or was not safe for our little guy to eat. Dinners at restaurants became fraught with potential danger from cross-contamination and we learned how to speak to servers and managers about it. Traveling outside of North America became too great a risk for us to take. Just flying in an airplane gave us reason to worry.
I had to learn how to bake when I realized that most birthday cakes made at bakeries could not be guaranteed nut-free. I figured out the allergen-labeling policy of major manufacturers. Did you know that Canada does not yet have a law requiring companies to label for potential allergens? (It comes into effect in August, 2012). Did you know, for example, that Loblaw does not have a policy about labeling potential allergens in their products? I had to learn to call the 1-800 numbers for these companies and asking if specific products may contain any traces of peanuts.
When L started school, we had to figure out how the school was going to keep him safe. Thankfully, the teachers and administration have always been supportive and the Toronto District School Board has an anaphylaxis policy. L learned to wear his Epipen when he started JK and we have Epipens stored in the classroom and school office as well as in my purse. 
L has been very good about his allergy. He grumbles from time to time about wearing his Epipen but asks questions about the food he is offered and has no problem refusing something he isn’t sure about. That’s not bad considering much of what he has to refuse is candy or a baked treat!
We have negotiated play-dates and sleepover camps and birthday parties. I am eternally grateful to parents who aren’t intimidated or put out by his allergy, who ask the appropriate questions and take the necessary precautions. Just knowing that you care so much about his safety makes me want to hug you.
When L was 6 years old, he was retested. He was so hopeful. I could see the dismay on his face as the hive developed on his arm where the peanut serum was placed. I reminded him that nothing would change and to stay positive. His peanut allergy had remained but he had not developed any new allergies nor had he had any accidental exposure. His chances of outgrowing the peanut allergy were between 20% and 50% as a result. We were instructed to come back in 3 years time.
This afternoon, we visited the allergist again. My big boy (almost 9 years old) didn’t have to sit on my lap this time nor did I have to hold his arm down and instruct him not to scratch. She tested both saline and a histamine as well as peanut serum. And the peanut serum did not react! She placed actual peanut butter on his arm and did another skin test....and nothing. Now he has a requisition for a blood test and if that is negative, they will conduct an oral challenge in a hospital setting, feeding him actual peanut butter (likely this summer).
It all seems a bit surreal. We’ve learned to just live our lives around this allergy. It is our day-to-day reality. To think that in a few months there is a decent chance that we can eat out without worry, go to an ice-cream parlour, buy goods at a bakery or even eat peanut butter in our own house... I could cry with the relief over the thought of it. I’ll try not to get too excited and hopeful lest L sense it and become potentially disappointed. But I have all of my fingers and toes crossed!
Many thanks to organizations such as Anaphylaxis Canada, Medic-Alert, the Toronto Anaphylaxis Education Group and publications such as Allergic Living.You have made our lives easier by giving us the information we need.


Image © Martin Maun | Dreamstime.com

February 09, 2012

The Dreaded "H" Word


My son is 8 years old and the world’s best procrastinator. He must have inherited this trait from me. He is one of those bright kids with “great potential” that frustrates the hell out of teachers (and parents) because if he doesn’t want to sit down and do the work required of him, he simply does not.
I’ll begin by saying that I am not the biggest fan of the amount of homework that children get these days. I don’t remember ever getting homework in primary grades and I’m sure that most adults don’t end their work day by eating a snack and flipping open their laptop to do more work the minute they get in the door. Energetic and growing kids need an opportunity to unwind, get fresh air, run around and get their ya-ya’s out. What they don’t need is to sit down the minute they get home from school to do more of the what they did in class (where they sat and did work most of the day).
That being said, homework is a reality in our world. I have chosen at this point to suck it up and help the kids develop good homework habits because I don’t think the homework conundrum is going away anytime soon. I try hard not to roll my eyes at the amount of homework they are given. All I can do is empathize (“it must be frustrating when you just want to play”) and work with them at making it enjoyable. I try to give them some outside play on the way home and make sure a snack is at the ready when they get in. My kids are vultures the minute they hit the kitchen- something about “not having time to eat lunch at school” (another post altogether). We’ve even installed a breakfast bar so there is another homework station within quick reach of Mom’s help or another snack.
What frustrates me the most is the amount of time my son spends sitting in front of his homework doing anything but. He breaks and sharpens his pencil about 30 times, asks for more food or another drink, fidgets and scribbles, taking 60 minutes to complete something that could have been done in 15. I try not to stand over him, encouraging/pleading for him to get it done. I try to gently remind him of the consequences (handing in incomplete work to his teacher who he likes and respects) but I can’t seem to find that inner motivation button. Trust me when I say that the reward system doesn’t work in our house (tried and failed numerous times). Sticker charts and bribes don’t resonate at all with him and I personally disagree with this approach. I don’t want to raise kids that will only participate in life because there is some kind of personal reward in it.
Last night L revealed that he had an art project due the next day. He also had other homework to complete before dinner and his Cubs meeting. That meant that he was up this morning, attempting to complete some pretty complex drawings and colouring before I hustled the three kids out the door for the bus. He didn’t finish it. And L loves to draw. He is passionate about it (not as passionate as he is about hockey but close). I often have to tell him to put away his sketch pad and pencils to go to bed. This should be an easy A for him. Instead, he tells me that his teacher says that he will be lucky to get a C+ in Art this term. I believe that it related to him not having good work habits and not completing his assignments on time. It feels a bit cruel when I know that he can do well but I appreciate where his teacher is coming from. He needs to learn that there are things required of us in life that aren’t pleasant but simply must be done in a timely manner (making dinner and doing laundry come to mind).
So I am biting my tongue, letting the chips fall where they may. We’ll find out what the teacher had to say and see if he gets an “R” on his assignment (I think it stands for incomplete but it’s in French so what do I know?). I'm going to go back to my Alyson Schafer books and scour her website for tips on dealing with homework (she isn't a fan of it either). We’ll sit down with L this weekend and try again to come up with better homework strategies together. And I will continue to search for that elusive inner motivation button. If I find it, I'll let you know!
Image © Reiulf Gr√łnnevik | Dreamstime.com
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