Friday, November 30, 2012

Hydrogen peroxide... who knew?

In preparing for the upcoming holiday season, I stopped by the Lindt chocolate store on the way home from work.  I purchased 150 lovely truffles wrapped in brightly colored plastic wrappers.  I was excited.

In the hustle and bustle of arriving home near dinner time, two cranky kids, and bed time on the horizon, I dropped my bags on the floor of our bedroom and didn't think twice about it.

After all the dinner dishes were cleared and kids in pajamas, I headed off to get something from our bathroom.  I heard Otis noshing on something noisy.


Otis apparently thought those chocolates were exciting too.  When I came upon his gluttonous and potentially deadly feast, he had already consumed 27 white chocolate and 12 raspberry milk chocolate truffles.  And 38 wrappers... Nate was able to retrieve one bright pink one from Otis' teeth.

I called the vet immediately.  Mind you, it was nearly 8pm.  Thankfully our vet has late office hours.  I explained the situation.  I felt terrible about my absent-mindedness.  I was thankful that I could at least tell them the exact quantity of chocolate that Otis had eaten, as well as knowing that he had not been eating it long enough to digest it.

They weren't terribly concerned about the quantity of chocolate.  I learned that white chocolate has only teeny amounts of cocoa in it, so it isn't harmful to dogs.  The 12 raspberry milk chocolate truffles that he consumed wouldn't do much to him based on his size. 

They were very concerned about the plastic wrappers.  Each one is approximately 2 inches by 2 inches square... he had eaten 152 square inches of cellophane plastic. 

The vet stayed on the phone with me and instructed us to put Otis in the bathtub.  She told me to start pouring hydrogen peroxide into Otis' mouth, one ounce at a time.  Eventually the hydrogen peroxide would cause Otis to vomit, and the goal was to get all of the plastic out so he wouldn't have to have surgery.  I set the boys up with a Super Why to keep them away from the drama.  Thank you, Kids on Demand.

Nate held Otis still while I loaded him up ounce by ounce with the peroxide.  The vet said that Otis would probably need about 5 ounces to get him to start vomiting.  After 5 ounces, Otis was retching by keeping everything in.  We took him outside to walk around.

Eventually the hydrogen peroxide worked just as the vet said it would.  Otis lost the white, goopy, raspberry smelling contents of his stomach.  He stood off to the side as we dug through the pile and counted plastic wrappers with gloved hands.

Thankfully we found them all.  The vet was very happy with how things went, advised us to keep an eye out for Otis to show signs of chocolate poisoning (high heart rate and hyperactivity), and let me know that if we had a cat, this peroxide trick would not work for them. 

Otis has been sheepish and sleeping since the retching stopped.  No chocolate poisoning.  He's burping hydrogen peroxide every now and again.  I felt bad for him, but thankfully we aren't taking him for emergency surgery.  The remaining chocolates are high on a shelf.  Hopefully Otis has lost his taste chocolate... I know that sucking down half a cup of hydrogen peroxide after eating it probably left a bad taste in his mouth (pun intended... though its still a little too early to joke about it).


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sneak peak

Monday, November 26, 2012

82 and three-quarters

My paternal grandmother joined us this year for Thanksgiving.  Nana Jean.  When I was growing up, she was always Grandma Jean... but when she learned she was going to become a great-grandmother, she decided that she wanted a new name.  When I learned recently that she called her own grandmother Nana, the change all suddenly made a lot of sense.

Nana Jean is 85 years old, still lives on her own, and is very active socially and in her church.  She lives in New Jersey and toughed out several days in a heatless apartment during Hurricane Sandy.  She became a widow at the tender age of 52, but didn't let the loss of the love of her life stop her from loving life.  She worked full time at an executive secretary at Rutgers University and is an avid Rutgers sports fan.

She traveled to North Carolina shortly after Luke and Will were born, and was able to visit them in the NICU.  Her tenacity and willingness to travel and provide support has always amazed me.  She kept tabs on them through the blog and phone calls, and has had the boys on her prayer list at church since the day they were born. 

Nana Jean is the most frequent commenter on the blog.  She sends me emails after almost every blog post, giving me her thoughts on things that I have said or stories that she wants me to hear.  I am grateful that she is around and willing to share such wisdom and family history with me.  It really helps to put things in perspective sometimes.

Some of Nana Jean's wisdom:

On people with disabilities not letting their disability stop them from reaching their dreams:

I must have told my Dad's story hundreds of times; he was my hero with one leg inches shorter than the other and withered. He was born in 1887 and had polio when he was still a toddler. My grandmother didn't expect him to survive all those years ago; I think about him especially when I read about Luke. My Dad, Charles Albert Pascall, walked with a God awful limp for all of his 81 years. When he was little, he was often called gimpy. We had a next door neighbor who called him the same thing. He worked until he was 72 years old as a respected newspaper reporter; he had the bluest eyes and the most wonderful smile I have ever seen. Before elevators and when courthouse steps were many, he spent most of his days walking his beat always with a smile. When he wasn't working at his profession, he was an avid fisherman, gardener, and Dad. I need to put into words his story for Luke to know some day. Luke's story today brought back so many memories of what a gutsy man my Dad was. And he's the Pascall for Luke's middle name.

On little kids acting funny after being separated from a parent (like Hopkins this year):

I'm reminded that when Vicki was born, we were a week in the hospital. That's the way it was done way back then. I didn't see my 17 month old little boy for a couple of days after we got home; when I went to Grandma Baldauf's to pick him up, he looked at me for a couple of seconds and ran for his grandpa. My heart was breaking, but it was only for a few seconds when he came running back to me. One of those unforgettable moments. I know how hard separations can be. Hang in there.

On letting go of anger and hurt:

I learned a long time ago not to hang onto hurt and anger. Life is just too short for that.  There comes a time in life to get on with getting along with everyone.

On strained family dynamics:

I want them to get along.  They just don't. 

On sibling rivalry:

My youngest great-grandson is going to be a people pleaser all of his life if he doesn't drive you out of your mind before he grows up. He is a charmer even while he's breaking things, isn't he? He will probably aggravate Luke more often than not all the time they're growing up. Now I understand why my brother didn't like me very much until we got very old. He was just shy of five years old when I was born, and I was the achiever (and kind of sneaky I'm afraid) and got away with lots of stuff that he didn't. I wasn't as adorable looking as Matt though.

On being herself:

I am well; I am feisty.

Nana has always had a special relationship with Luke, Will and Matt.  But something that happened this weekend really caught my eye and taught me something new about this woman I have known all my life.  It was bright and early, and she was sitting on the couch alone as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse came on the television.  Suddenly Matt crawled up next to her and cuddled in.

Matt isn't always the cuddliest of kids, especially now that he's two.  So Nana took this situation as a gift, and snuggled in to watch the Mickey Mouse episode.  Within minutes, the two of them were laughing and conversing about Martian Mickey, Toodles, and Pete the Cat.  You'd never know that their births were separated by 82 and three-quarters years.  They were like best friends.

I've learned so much about life from my grandmother.  I am so grateful and fortunate to have her so healthy and an active part of my life, and in my family's life!  I love her humor and the fact that she can find relevance in both her past and present.  I love that when I sit back and listen, she tells me stories about people that passed before I could remember but that she loved with all her heart.  What a gift.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


On the morning of Thanksgiving, before the bustle and hum of an eventful day, we opened a gift from Grammy and Papa from New York.  From out of the package sprung our first ever Elf on the Shelf.

For those who aren't familiar, this is a little stuffed elf who comes with a story - basically Santa has sent him to sit in your house until Christmas, to report back to Santa on who is naughty and who is nice.  The kids are not allowed to touch him, and the parents must remember that every night, the elf must move to another spot.  If he doesn't move, the kids get suspicious that the Elf on the Shelf might have passed away and not gotten back to Santa that yesterday they were definitely deserving of a spot on the nice list.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the Elf on the Shelf process is choosing your elf's name.  We have a lot of people filled with creativity and opinions amongst the 5 of us, so I pulled out the boys' paper easel and we got started with ideas.

Nate threw out Rumplestiltskin.  I suggested Bazinga.  Luke wasn't a fan of either of those, so he grabbed a crayon.  His first suggested was Pahhe. 

He quickly decided that Pahhe was not a name he wanted to suggest, though, and scratched it out.  Then he got a determined look on his face, stuck his tongue out in concentration, and at the top of the Elf Name Suggestion List, wrote this:

For those who cannot make out the writing of a kindergartener, Luke suggested the name Hliflitz.  I know it seems strangely devoid of vowels, but when you step back and read it phonetically, the name is remarkably easy to pronounce.  Hliflitz.  Hu-liff-litz.  It helps to clear your throat before saying it.

Luke was very proud of the name he had suggested.  We took a family vote.  Around the room we went, Hliflitz was a unanimous selection.  Will clicked emphatically in support of the name.

Once we had agreed on the name, we registered it at the Elf website. We got a nice welcome certificate signed by Mrs. Claus herself.  Luke was shocked when we learned from the Elf Registry that Hliflitz was not on the Top Ten List for Elf Names.

 Since then, Hliflitz has been on the kitchen island, on top of the fridge, on the living room table, and tomorrow when the kids wake up, they will search and find him on the stairs. He's a busy guy... and already been TOTALLY useful in curtailing some tantrum activity...

"Don't make me have Hliflitz tell Santa about this..."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Being Luke.

Luke's school had a fundraiser today called Boosterthon Fun Run.  It is a nice way to raise money for the school, where students collect pledges  and learn about leadership, fitness and making good choices.  The week of activities culminates with a Fun Run - a small track is set up on the school grounds and all students have a goal of completing 35 laps.  Thankfully the track isn't the size of a standard track.

Luke was very excited about the Fun Run.  He had that goal of 35 laps in his mind and he wanted to do it!  I was nervous about the Fun Run.  Luke has a lot of challenges with running and stamina.  I was nervous about whether he would reach his goal, how he would react to other students passing him on the track, if he would hurt himself, if other students would tease him for wearing braces on his feet...  

I showed up to the track bright and early.  I hadn't told Luke I was going - I have never seen him from a distance at school, and I wanted to see how he acted, who he played with... how he was as a student away from the watchful eyes of parents.  The event was set up nicely, with upbeat music playing and several Boosterthon employees giving out directions.  Imagine if dancing around, encouraging fitness to elementary students and showing off your best 'Sprinkler' and 'Running Man' was your job!

All the students and their teachers ("coaches") ran out onto the track through an inflatable tunnel, showing off their decorated team shirts.  Luke was excited to run through the tunnel with his classmates for Team Green Machine, showing off his green Binghamton University sweatshirt with pride.

The Boosterthon employees quickly ran through the logistics of the event, pumping the kids and the parents up.  They really did a great job, and with an excited "on your mark, get set, GO!," the running began.  All the kids together.  En mass.  Imagine watching a soccer game played by 4 years old.  A big clump of kids. 

My kids must recognize me as a mess of hair and a big camera in my face, because amongst all the parents and kids and cheering, Luke called out "MOMMY!" as he rounded the first turn and gave me a big grin.

The goal for each of the students was 35 laps.  Given the size of the track was probably about 1/15th of a mile, that probably doesn't seem like a lot of running.  For the first couple of laps, Luke did a pretty good job of keeping up with his friends.  He was excited to be a part of it all - arms pumping, big grin on his face, and only a hint of a limp.  I hid a little bit in the crowd of parents so that I didn't hover.  My eyes got a little teary - he WAS DOING IT.  What he wanted to be doing... running like a 5 year old.  Happy as can be amongst his buds. 

At the end of each lap, the students passed a line where the teachers - armed with permanent markers - marked off each lap on the back of the kids' shirts.  Numbers 1 through 35 (the Lap Cap).  Luke understood the concept.  He wanted to get to that goal. 

About 8 laps in, Luke's face showed a little bit of distress.  I pulled him off to the side for a minute and tightened his braces.  The second his shoes went back on, he was off like a flash.  He didn't want to lose pace with the rest of his classmates.

By lap 15, Luke had stopped for water once or twice.  He knew he needed a break.  I was proud of him for listening to his body.  But just like with the shoes, the minute he drank the Dixie cup full of water (thank you PTA!), he kicked it back up into high gear. 

As you would expect, the pace of the running amongst all the kids got slower as the laps went on.  I wasn't really keeping track of Luke's lap number.  I just kept looking for that green hoodie while dancing along with the Boosterthon employees to the Jackson Five, Sweet Caroline, and random songs from the 90s.   He was still going.

About the time Luke's face started to look like this:

I started to get concerned.  I didn't want him to hurt.  He didn't look like he was enjoying himself.  I asked him quietly as he ran past if he wanted to stop.  I looked at his shirt, he had done more than 20 laps - that was a great accomplishment. 

"I need to get to 35, Mom.  I don't want to stop." And he was off.

Every now and again, I'd see him stop one of his friends to look at the back of their shirts, to see how many laps they'd done.  Then I saw him stop to talk to his principal, clearly asking her how many laps he had completed.

After I took this shot, Luke took off like a flash, suddenly finding a burst of energy.  He ran past all of his friends, around the outside, making his way through the line of kids waiting for their shirts to be marked before hitting the ground again at high speed. Determination written all over his face.

He had realized that he was behind, and he needed to make up some ground.  But Luke's stamina was waning, and his braced feet were starting to get clunky on the ground.  I didn't know what to do.  I wanted to step in, but he kept on going.  Slowly, then quickly.  Wanting to go and meet that 35 lap goal, but his legs and feet were failing him.  They announced 10 minutes remaining in the Fun Run.  Most kids cheered.  Luke didn't.

At lap 31, he stopped and told one of the Boosterthon employees that he couldn't go any further.  They tried to be encouraging, telling him that he'd done a good job and should be proud.  They announced that there were just 2 minutes remaining.  I could see his lip start to quiver.  Off he went running again, just for a second, though, before he started to limp.

He was trying SO HARD.  Beyond determined.  My heart was breaking.  He was displaying his own.

When he came through the line to get his 31st lap marked, I asked if I could walk with him.  He gladly accepted, and off we walked - hand in hand.  He was pulling on me very hard.  I could tell he hurt.  He did not whimper or complain.  He just kept talking about how sad he was that he wasn't going to get to 35 laps if we didn't hurry up.

As we were nearing the marker line, they announced that time was up.  Luke had completed 32 laps.  I was so proud of him!  I didn't have any expectations for how many he was going to complete, so to get so close to the goal seemed like a win to me.

Luke was devastated.  The Boosterthon employees announced that classes should get into their team lines to start heading back into the school.  Luke started to cry.  Big tears, heavy sobs.  He was so disappointed in himself.  He really wanted to reach the goal.  He felt that he had failed.  I picked him up to try and tell him how well he did and he just cried harder.  He pointed at all of his friends and how they had all reached the 35 lap goal.

I looked around at all of his friends.  Girls, boys, tall, short, black, white, happy, sad.  There were a couple of other kids who didn't finish and they weren't happy either.  I looked back at him.  In a moment I was struck with how far Luke had come and how I wanted to tell him all that he'd accomplished. 

None of those kids was born 3 months early.  None of these kids was resuscitated in an ambulance on the side of an interstate highway.  None of them has had heart surgery.  Or 4 separate shunt surgeries.  None of them had a severe brain hemorrhage at birth or has had weekly physical therapy since 6 months of age.  They don't have faint white prick marks on the backs of their hands from hundreds of IVs.  None of them has annual head and belly x-rays.  None of them has brain damage or cerebral palsy or wears braces to help them walk.  They don't have permanent lung damage from being on oxygen for months. None of them.  Sure some of them probably had one of these things... but none of them has dealt with all of these things, and none of them is still trying SO DAMN HARD to just be another one of the kindergarteners.

But I didn't say any of that. 

I put Luke down.  I asked him if he wanted to finish.  He shook his head emphatically.  His tears stopped flowing, but they still sat on his cheeks.  We started to walk back towards the track. 

I told Luke's teacher that he wanted to finish the Fun Run, and that I was going to walk with him.  She looked at Luke and just shook her head yes.  She knew I wasn't really asking.

We started slowly around the track.  Luke's limp was pronounced.  He didn't complain of pain.  He was just counting 33... 34... 35... over and over.  The classes were still in their lines near the marker line as we neared the end of the 33rd lap. 

Over the microphone came an announcement:

"Everyone, we have just been told that there is a remarkable boy here today.  Luke Slavik is very determined to make his goal.  He has two more laps to go.  Let's all cheer him on."

Luke's teacher had told the announcer what we were doing.  There was a roar that errupted from the lines of kids.  Luke wasn't sure what was going on.

"Buddy," I said, "they're cheering for you." 

He smiled.  BIG.  "Mommy, come on.  Let's run."

I started crying.  So much.  He hurt.  He was tired.  His heart had already shown its truth to me, and here it was, showing me even more.  Where did he learn such determination and tenacity?  I was blown away.  We ran past Luke's pre-K teacher.  She was smiling and crying too.

We ran around the track like it was the first lap.  Fast.  Coordinated.  The cheers made him so happy.  Pushing him on.  We crossed the line marking our 34th lap.   Luke's teacher grabbed his other hand, and the three of us ran around the track together.

The 35th lap was done.  As we crossed the line, there was another eruption of cheers.  Cheers for determination.  Cheers for heart.  Cheers for Luke!  I picked him up and gave him a big hug.  I looked into his eyes.  They were clear and happy.  He was proud.

Despite the smiles and the running, his tears from earlier were still camped out on his cheek.  I caught his teacher's eye and pointed to the back of Luke's shirt.  In front of his whole class, she checked off the last laps.  He had done it.  We cheered again. 

"I did it Mommy!  I made it to the Lap Cap!"

I put Luke down.  The head Boosterthon guy walked over to talk to Luke.  He told Luke how proud he was, and how Luke had demonstrated all of the growth and strength lessons that they had been trying to teach all week.  They gave each other a thumbs up, stopped for a picture, and he thanked us for letting him be a part of such a great story.

All the kids went back into school to have an assembly and give out fundraising prizes.  I went back to the van and just sat there for a minute.  To say I was profoundly affected would be an understatement.  My heart was so full of joy and amazement.  I called Nate and tried to tell him what had happened.  I was a sobbing mess, but he understood both my words and the gravity of what had transpired.

He said "I am so happy that you were there."  So am I.  I don't know if Luke will remember this day for the rest of his life.  I know that I will.  The day that he didn't give up, made up his mind, hit his goal, strived for something that he knew he could do.  Felt pride and joy and inclusion.  The day he showed us all what being Luke is really all about.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mr. Slavik goes to Washington('s Birthplace)

I like history.  I want my boys to appreciate history.  Thankfully I have a spouse and friends who are willing to humor me.

Westmoreland State Park is less than 5 miles from the place where George Washington was born in 1732 - a large plantation called Wakefield on the banks of Pope's Creek.  Though young George moved away from Wakefield at the age of 3, the property stayed in the Washington family and has since become a National Monument.  The house where George was born burned in a fire in the late 1700s, but a memorial home was constructed in George's honor and the remainder of the farm stands much as it did back in George's day.  This includes a working blacksmith shop, kitchen, and farm with heirloom breeds from the same era.

When we arrived, the kids jumped out of the car and excitedly ran to the visitor center.  You're probably thinking that they were excited to go to the bathroom or something.  Wrong.  They were actually excited to go into the visitor center!  I just don't think they knew what a visitor center was.

We enjoyed walking along Pope's Creek and seeing the waterfowl that had taken refuge in the area.  Compared to the stormy "seas" that we'd seen the day before on the Potomac, Pope's Creek was calm and serene.  Our first stop was at the memorial house - complete with a historically inaccurate but greatly appreciated wheelchair ramp - where we braved showed off our extremely well-behaved and historically-astute kids on a tour with a park ranger.  Thankfully no one broke anything.

After the house tour, we marveled at the gated garden near the house, spotted a brave squirrel preparing for the winter, and learned how to read a sundial.

The highlight for all the kids was definitely the farm.  There were cows with horns, large noisy sheep, and the biggest pigs you ever saw... with little piglets that ran through the mud and made us all laugh.  The best view in the house was from one of hundreds of sections of split log fences on the property.

The highlight for the adults?  Aside from enjoying our weekend, hiking, spending time together and cooking a lot of yummy food... we spotted a bald eagle soaring overhead as we toured George Washington's birthplace.  How patriotically perfect, right?!  You can't script things like this.  You just take a moment with your mouth gaping, and hope desperately that you remembered to take off the lens cap as you feverishly take pictures.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall Back: a primer on how to ensure your kids don't wake up an hour early the next morning

The second night at Westmoreland was the end of daylight savings time, where you set your clocks back an hour and dread the next morning when your kids wake up at their usual time only to find it an hour earlier.  To them its cool because they get an extra hour of Disney Junior while you try to pry your eyes open.  To you, its really not cool at all.  Sometimes there's just not enough coffee.

Given that we were on "vacation" for the weekend, it seemed like an alright idea to keep the kids awake later than usual in hopes of getting them to sleep an hour later the next morning... but actually wake up "on time."  We came prepared with ways to fill up that extra hour.

We made s'mores.  Nothing makes my kids stay awake like a mouthful of chocolate, graham crackers, and especially marshmallows.

After s'mores, the kids built a fort by stringing blankets between two chairs in the living room and piling the inside with pillows. 

Fort play time lasted for a good long while.  When we started noticing kiddos spending a little too much time laying on the fort pillows, we pulled out the big guns... a Halloween gift from Grammy and Papa.

Glow swords!  Don't worry, they're made of foam.  Totally safe.  And okay for kids strung up on sugar and chocolate and the best night of their lives... when their parents threw all the bedtime rules out the window and cheered them on as they made more and more noise as the hours wore on.

I feel like such a bad mom right now.  But you know you've been there too ;-)

We turned out the lights, cracked the glow swords, and oohed and aahed as they started their green glow.  Matthew and Matthew played "baseball game" where they swung the swords around like a baseball bat.  Luke and Katelyn shook the swords as hard as they could and laughed.  There was actually very little sword fighting, thankfully.  Will fell asleep with the lights out... 1 out of 5 ain't bad.

The eyes grew heavy with the lights out, and the fun of baseball games ended as the s'more sugar rush ended.  But the battle of bedtime had been won... by the parents, hoping desperately not to wake up before the sun!  The kids went to sleep easily, we weren't too far behind (we had hiked more than 4 miles that day after all!), and we woke up at the same time as the sun (not before it) so all was right with the world.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

4 miles of fall

I'm a bit behind. It has been nearly a week since we got home from our weekend at Westmoreland State Park in Montross, Virginia and I still haven't blogged about it! But you'll be happy to hear that I am mostly caught up with sleep.

Our tradition of going to Virginia State Parks started about 3 years ago when one of my best childhood friends and I decided that we needed to meet somewhere in between our house and her's in Maryland. We ended up at at James River, and have been visiting different parks every year since.

Westmoreland is one of the original six VA State Parks, built in the 1930s, and sits on the Potomac River. Because there were 9 in our party this year, we opted to stay in a larger house rather than a smaller cabin... and it was potentially the weirdest house I have ever seen. It was formed from two smaller vacation homes from the 1940s - joined together by a newly constructed living room and linkway. So we had 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, 2 dining rooms and 3 living rooms. There were lots of twists and turns and the kids enjoyed hiding wherever they could.  It was chock full of character... but could definitely be a bit creepy if you were staying there by yourself. 

The water was choppy as Hurricane Sandy had recently passed by, and the Potomac looked more like the ocean than a river. The house was right on the banks of the river, and the dock outside still shows damage from Hurricane Irene last summer.

The wind was persistent and cutting, but we bundled everyone up after breakfast on Saturday and hit the trails. Lots of sweatshirts and coats and hats and Deuter KidComfort backpacks. Our intent was to do a couple of miles and then head back for lunch. Time got away from us as we explored the park, searched for fossils, and enjoyed the autumn weather at the playground.

By the time we returned to the house, we were all cold and hungry. Luke had started complaining that his feet hurt (prompting Nate to pick him up and carry him AND Will for part of the walk). Matt was asleep in the backpack. We checked the pedometer. Our short little morning walk had turned into a 4.2 mile hike! No wonder we were all tired. It was the middle of the afternoon, and we hadn't even realized it.

After we warmed up and ate some lunch, some in our party napped. Others played quietly and enjoyed our view of the windy Potomac. I flipped through some pictures that I had taken that morning... immediately realizing that I had taken nearly 200 photos and that this one of Will's shoes walking through the autumn leaves might be one of my most favorite shots ever.