Monday, January 30, 2006

Happy Transplantiversary

5 years ago January 28th, my mom got her new kidney--just a few weeks before my first child was born. My sister is telling the story of Mom's transplant in a series of posts over at Sparrow's Flight. It's worth reading!

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Day 3

It's been three days since Baby E ate the honey. According to the sources I read, 3 to 30 days is the range within which she could start to show symptoms if she was going to have a problem.

I've been trying so hard the last few days to keep a close eye on her without overdoing the worry. Every time she doesn't nurse well or has more dirty diapers than usual, I wonder if I should be concerned. We're only three days into it and already the wait is driving me crazy.

She seems great--happy, energetic, etc. But when I changed her diaper a few minutes ago, it consisted of a glob of mucous with traces of blood in it. That doesn't really fit any of the symptoms I've read about, but it's definitely disconcerting. It wasn't a large amount, so I'm not sure how worried I should be at this point. We'll be keeping an extra-close eye on her next few diapers.

Yesterday was the women's tea at church, for ladies 4 and up. I was helping set up and host a table, so I had to be there early. My theme was Thanksgiving, and since it's my favorite holiday I had no trouble coming up with decorations for the table.

I had placemats my friend Julie and I had made years ago, with pressed leaves and Scripture passages about thankfulness on them. With the addition of dishes, a cornucopia and a couple of pilgrim figurines, the table looked quite nice.

DH was wonderful. He got up early to have breakfast with a friend. When he got home, he helped me get ready and came with me to the church. He watched all three girls while I set up, so Baby E would be out of my way but available when I needed to nurse her.

Then he took MM over to Chuck E. Cheese's to meet my mom and have some special time with Grandma while AJ stayed with me. Baby E stayed with Daddy. All three girls got some individual attention yesterday, and they all loved it.

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DH was such a help with the girls, and then he also helped pack and carry things to and from the tea. To top it off, he brought in the boxes of dirty dishes from the car, washed the dishes and cleaned up much of the mess last night while I went to bed. That was so nice of him. I'm really thankful for a husband who is so willing to help with that sort of thing.

Before the tea, I told AJ that we were hosting a table, so it would be our job to make sure everyone had everything they needed. So during the event, every few minutes she would ask in a loud voice, "Does everyone have everything they need?" She talked to the guests at the table, tried to make everyone feel comfortable, and enjoyed her sandwiches and tea. She was so thrilled to get to have real tea in a teacup at a table with grownups.

I did end up wishing I hadn't agreed to host a table. I'd forgotten from last year how much work and time it took to set up and take down, and then I had to be up and down during the meal a lot refilling teapots and getting more sandwiches from the kitchen. AJ ended up having to sit by herself at the table a lot. This was the first year one of my kids had been old enough to come, so I didn't think about how much it would hamper our time together. Next year I think I'll take a break from helping host, and just use the time to focus on my girls.

We had a raffle for door prizes, and AJ was intently listening to the numbers and comparing them to her slip. Several times when they called a number, she stood up and hollered, "I don't have 117."

Neither of us won a prize, and when the last number was called and the event was ending, she jumped out of her chair and went running toward the front of the room, yelling, "Hey, you forgot me!" I felt sorry for her, but explained that not everybody won a prize and she seemed okay with that. I guess I should have explained it better ahead of time.

They had a craft for the girls to do, but only enough space for about half the kids at the table. So we stood in line for a long time waiting for the first group to finish their craft. AJ kept asking when it would be her turn, but really she did a great job waiting for so long. She talked to some of the other kids, comparing fancy dresses and twirling their skirts. When she got bored with that, she asked me (as she often does) to tell her a story about when I was a kid.

When it was finally time to do her craft, she had a wonderful time. She used stick-on letters, snowflakes and glitter paint to decorate a picture frame. I was really impressed with her artistic sense of color and balance, and she was thrilled with how her project turned out.

Just as the kids were finishing their craft, a lady who goes to our church pulled me aside. She's a nationally known speaker, writer and artist. Her work is fabulous, and we just happen to be lucky enough to be her home church. She said that she's working on a new book geared toward young moms, and she wanted my input!!!

She is talking to several young moms to remind herself what this stage of life is like and what our needs are. So she said that if I had any specific memories, thoughts or journaling that I could share to help jog her memory and ideas, she'd like to hear them. I'm going to read through my old posts to try to pick out just a few that might be helpful to her.

But that's not all. I guess she's read some of my blog posts and a few other things I've written and liked them. She asked if I'd be interested in writing something to be considered (and possibly edited) for inclusion in the book.

Wow! It may or may not end up being used, but just to have the opportunity is quite amazing. I'm really excited about that.

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Sleep . . . or not.

We had an earthquake here last night. It was a minor one, significantly less than 3.0, and centered in a neighboring city.

We thought something hit the house at first. But as DH was out walking around the house to look, he met the neighbor doing the same thing.

It was so short that we didn't really think it could have been an earthquake--maybe an exploding water main or something--but we found out this morning that it was actually an earthquake.

Speaking of sleep, I was so tired after several nights of being up until 3 a.m. again that I went to bed at 7. Lying in bed, I read vaccination inserts until they put me to sleep. DH brought the baby in around 8 and then again at 9, and she fell asleep while nursing.

We were both sleeping soundly when DH decided to join us around 11:40. This caught me by surprise, because he's been sleeping in the other room lately so his snoring and early rising won't wake us.

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I had Baby E right in the middle of the bed. Which meant that when DH got into bed he was about 3 inches away from her. He sleeps very soundly and has been known to roll over on top of my (or Baby E's) arm. So I had to wake up and move her.

Although I tried not to wake her, she was roused by being put into her crib. She started crying sleepily, not quite fully awake. After several minutes of patting her belly and holding her hand, I lulled her back to sleep and slowly, quietly eased myself back into our bed.

Then DH decided to roll over. Only, he didn't just roll over. It was more like he picked himself up on his hands and knees and threw his body down in a new position. Since he's a very big guy, and we have a vinyl cover on the mattress, this created quite a racket. Which, of course, woke the baby. Finally I got her settled down again and eased back into bed, warning DH not to move for a while.

At some point, when I was almost asleep, DH decided to snuggle up to me. As you already know, I hate to be touched while I'm trying to sleep. It sends signals to my brain that it's time to be awake. Wide awake.

Then he rolled over and started snoring softly.

The baby started whimpering again, half-asleep. She didn't seem hungry enough to quite wake fully, so I kept thinking she would go back to sleep. Finally, after fussing off and on for a while, she did.

But by then I was wide awake. DH was snoring just a bit--not loudly enough to wake me if I was asleep or very sleepy, but loud enough to keep me awake now that I was already fully awake. After a half-hour or so of lying there attempting to sleep, I got up and had a snack.

By the time I was ready to go back to bed, Baby E was up again, really awake and hungry this time. When I finished feeding her, DH was snoring in earnest--the type of snoring you can probably hear in the next house.

I went to bed in the guest room, where he's been sleeping. Just as I was dozing off, Baby E cried again. DH didn't stir.

So, I went back into our room. DH was no longer snoring, so I laid down on the bed and put Baby E in the bed on the other side of me from DH. We both fell asleep while she was nursing. It was about 3:30 a.m. Baby E and I woke briefly a couple more times, but we just rearranged ourselves and went back to sleep while she ate.

When the older kids woke at 8, DH was tired and groggy, but I had no mercy. I asked him to get up with them. I got up a little while later, when Baby E did.

I guess it's a good thing I went to bed early. Otherwise I would have been even more dead-tired than I am now. As it is, I'm desperately trying to shake myself out of a really grouchy mood. I'm trying not to blame DH for my tiredness. It's not his fault Baby E is such a light sleeper, even with a white noise machine running in the room. And she very well may have woken even without his presence in the room.

I think I really just need to have to have a conversation with God before I try to interact much with DH. That usually helps.

After all, I can't really fault the poor guy for wanting to be near his wife.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Simply Soup

I used to say that soup was one of my favorite things to cook because you can put almost anything in it and it still tastes good. However, experience has shown that this is not exactly true.

I tend to ruin soup. My problem is overkill.

Hmmm, I think . . . this would taste good in a soup. And this, and that, and a little more of the other thing.

I can't decide what spices to put in, so I put in a little of everything. The result usually ends up tasting--and looking--rather muddy.

Earlier this week I decided to make chicken noodle soup. The girls and I really enjoyed the soup we ate during our girls' night out last week. They were excited when I told them I was going to make some of the same kind.

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The soup started off well, with some chicken. Browning it in a saucepan with garlic and onions, I added a can of organic chicken broth and started it simmering while I chopped some carrots and celery to add. So far so good.

Then the trouble started.

Wait a minute, I thought . . . I have all these great vegetables in the refrigerator. Why not make it more interesting? I know my family likes chicken noodle soup, so maybe I can sneak in some vegetables they might not normally eat. I will make this a super-nutritional-value soup! Way better than store-bought soup.

I added some turnip and parsnip. Some chopped beet greens. Part of a leek. Some leftover quinoa, and some barley groats. It still tasted okay, but something wasn't quite right. That should have been my signal to stop. Instead, I added some cauliflower and yams. We didn't have any corn, so I added a can of hominy.

I looked at the spices. Would thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, or savory be good in this soup? I wasn't sure. So I added some of each. Just for good measure, I shook in some dried parsely too.

It needed some salt, but I decided to use dulse (salty dried seaweed) instead. Now I was really getting some nutritional value into that soup.

The clincher was when I decided to add the spirulina powder.

I thought, If I put a little of this in it will make the broth richer, and nobody will even notice. It would be a huge boost in vitamins and minerals. I put too much in. Way too much.

The soup was green--both in color and in taste. No longer did it taste good. It was barely edible.

I tried to save it by adding more things--carrot juice, water, red pepper, a splash of wine. I briefly considered adding a diced apple, but decided not to. Nothing helped.

I had promised the girls chicken noodle soup, so I added some corn noodles and served it. I apologized to my family as we all ate nondescript green soup. Nobody liked it. The girls were not at all convinced it was chicken noodle soup. It bore no resemblance to the delicious soup we'd had in the deli last week.

Well, it was very nutritionally dense, so a little went a long way. The banana muffins were much better.

The rest of the soup is sitting in the refrigerator, untouched. I really should just toss it, but the thought of wasting all those good ingredients (and the money it cost to buy them) makes me hesitate. I usually end up letting things like that sit in the refrigerator until they spoil. Then I can throw them away without guilt, since of course they're no longer safe to eat.

As DH often points out, it would probably make more sense to just toss it now, rather than wasting the refrigerator space for another week.

The next day, the kids asked me when we were going to have chicken noodle soup. So I opened a can of broth, a can of vegetables (carrots, celery, potatoes), and a can of chicken. Dumping them all into a pan, I heated the mixture, added some noodles, and and shook in a bit of pepper and thyme. That was it. 5 minutes, and we were eating chicken noodle soup.

The kids loved it.

My new rule for making soup is this: Keep it simple. Simple soups can be superb.

Last night, I made the best pot of soup ever. It started with chicken bones simmering softly in water for 24 hours with a small amount of onion and garlic. I removed the bones from the broth and added some leftover chicken marsala from the night before. Slicing a carrot and a stalk of celery, I put them in and then diced half a parsnip.

This time I seasoned the soup with dill, salt and pepper, a bit of thyme and a dash of rosemary. When it needed more liquid, I added a little carrot juice and some of the leftover marsala gravy. A small handful of amaranth for texture and a generous portion of tiny noodles, and it was done.

The kids loved it so much that AJ chose it over popcorn as a bedtime snack, and they begged for it at lunch again today.

It would have been good, I'm sure, with even fewer ingredients. Remember the story "Stone Soup"? All you really need for soup is a few vegetables and some water, meat if you like it, and maybe some salt and pepper.

Simply delicious.

I'd love to hear some of your favorite soup recipes. If you'd like to share one, post the recipe or a link to it in the comments, or even just e-mail it to me. Now that my family has decided they like soup, I'm eager to try lots of good recipes.

Maybe with a recipe, I won't ruin it with overkill.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Waiting, watching, and trying not to worry

Baby E was crying while I prepared breakfast.

Since she seemed hungry despite having nursed recently, I asked the girls to give her some food while I fixed their oatmeal. I mixed up some rice cereal and yams for her, then gave AJ the little cup of baby food and a spoon to feed Baby E. Both girls have gotten so good at doing this that I let them feed her by themselves (with close supervision of course).

Then I gave each of the girls some oatmeal with honey, and turned to bake some muffins. All three girls were happy at the table nearby, eating their breakfast.

A minute later, A said, "Mommy? I just realized I accidentally gave E some food out of my bowl instead of hers."

My first thought was that the fine, mushy oatmeal wouldn't hurt the baby. Then I remembered. Raw honey. My 5-month-old had just eaten raw honey.

I knew that under no circumstances should babies under a year old eat honey. I thought I remembered it had something to do with botulism poisoning. How long does it take for botulism poisoning to kick in, I wondered? Minutes? Hours?

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Watching Baby E intently, I felt so helpless. I should never have given AJ two dishes and expected her not to get them mixed up.

I dialed the phone with shaking hands, left a message on the pediatrician's machine, and thankfully didn't have to wait long for a reply.

The nurse called back within a few minutes. She talked to me, asked questions, and said that she didn't think the amount Baby E had ingested (maybe 1/8 of a teaspoon at most) would be likely to cause problems. She hung up and talked to a doctor and called poison control. Then she called me again.

Poison control had told her the chances weren't very high that Baby E would get botulism poisoning, but that we need to watch her carefully for signs and take her to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY if she develops any of the symptoms or just doesn't seem "right" any time in the next few days.

The nurse read me the information about botulism poisoning from her big book of medical information:

Onset can vary from 4 hours to 9 days. Usual onset 12-36 hours.

Possible symptoms include neuromuscular issues, visual disturbances, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, vomiting and diarrhea with no fever, trouble breathing, and excessive drooling.

All we can do is watch and wait.

When I got off the phone, I looked up honey and botulism poisoning in infants. The CDC website and the American Academy of Family Physicians website have a wealth of information, as do many other sites.

I found out that adult and infant botulism poisoning are two completely different things. The nurse had given me information on the adult, ingested-toxin form--not the infant form from ingesting spores.

There are three kinds of botulism poisoning: One is caused by ingesting the botulism toxin already created by spores growing in food, one is caused by botulism spores inhabiting an open wound and creating toxin, and the last (usually seen only in infants) is caused by the ingestion of botulism spores which then propagate in the intestines and create botulism toxin.

Infant, or intestinal, botulism takes much longer to present than botulism from ingesting the already-formed toxin. Apparently the time can vary greatly, but some statistics I found were that it could take between 3 and 30 days from ingesting the spores to start exhibiting signs of poisoning.

Infant botulism can have many of the same symptoms as adult botulism poisoning. The most common symptoms in infants seem to be constipation (which can precede other symptoms by as much as weeks), poor feeding, muscle weakness, lethargy, irritability, an altered cry and lack of facial tone/expression. This often progresses to extreme lack of muscle tone and difficulty breathing. About 2% have seizures. Contrary to what the nurse told me, fever (sometimes 105 degrees) can also be a symptom.

Occasionally, intestinal botulism will onset quickly and lead to sudden respiratory distress and death without presenting other noticeable symptoms beforehand. Some cases of SIDS are probably the result of botulism poisoning.

The treatment is to hospitalize the baby and give assistance with functions like eating and breathing if necessary until the toxin clears from the system. Well over 75% of diagnosed cases in infants lead to intubation, usually including a feeding tube and often several weeks on a respirator. If diagnosed early enough, most cases of infant botulism will eventually recover with proper care. About 2% die despite hospitalization or before they can be hospitalized.

Honey and dirt are the two known sources of botulism spores. The dirt in particular areas of the country (and presumably the world) varies in concentration and likelihood of finding botulism spores. There are "hot rings" (such as Staten Island, New York) which have significantly higher concentrations in the soil than other areas.

Honey ingestion is the most common source of intestinal botulism poisoning in infants, and most cases of botulism poisoning in the USA are in infants. There are known cases of poisoning resulting from very small amounts of honey being consumed--in at least one case, a pacifier sweetened with a small amount of honey led to botulism poisoning.

Incidentally, the spores are much harder to destroy than the toxin itself. While baking or boiling will neutralize the toxin in foods, it may not destroy the spores in honey. So children under a year should probably not have honey even in cooked foods, although commercial canning processes are probably enough to kill the spores.

As much as 25% of honey in the USA may be contaminated with botulism spores. Some infants and almost all adults will not be harmed by ingesting them. But in children under a year old, and especially before 6 months, the acid and intestinal flora levels in the intestines tend to allow the spores to grow. As they propagate, they release the botulism toxin which causes botulism poisoning.

I'm going to give Baby E some infant probiotics (acidophilus and other helpful intestinal flora) in hopes that it will help prevent any botulism spores from growing.

So there's nothing we can do but watch her like a hawk, for who knows how long. And wait.

And pray.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

33 Years

Today is my parents' 33rd wedding anniversary. Congratulations, Mom & Dad! We love you.

My sister has an anniversary post up over at Sparrow's Flight, complete with a photo of my parents together when they were in first grade. It's worth checking out!

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Solids



Here's a picture I snapped of MM feeding Baby E last week, before I took (most of) the Christmas decorations down.

The nativity scene, courtesy of my doll collection:



Updates on a few things:

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* AJ and MM have been completely off dairy products for a week or so now, and the change is amazing. They both seem to be feeling better and have more energy. MM is complaining much less about random aches and pains, and the difference in her mood is amazing. Even DH is convinced that taking them off milk made a significant difference, and he's hard to convince.

* We're all eating wheat again now, and seem to have no problems with it. We're still trying to use whole grains and a variety of grains as much as possible.

* Baby E is becoming increasingly mobile, and increasingly dissatisfied with her limited mobility and abilities. This means that she's much more demanding to care for, but it's fun to watch the new things she's learning. Since she can now get across or over pillows and cover quite a bit of distance, I set up the playpen and put the third side back on her crib today.

* The girls (especially MM) have become quite proficient at feeding Baby E her rice cereal. Baby E LOVES her cereal. We've been adding a food every 4-7 days, and so far she's tried pears, squash (which she doesn't like) and yams. She usually gets a small amount of some kind of solids at lunch or dinner.

* AJ and MM are getting to be so helpful around the house. They like scrubbing things and helping with dishes, laundry, cooking, and keeping an eye on Baby E. They also love to play outside, read, and make up stories & games with their dolls and toys.

* AJ is enjoying her ballet class and MM has happily switched to gymnastics.

* Please keep a couple of families from our home group in your thoughts and prayers. One had a scare with their newborn this week, which involved the baby struggling to breathe because of a quantity of mucous which came up. The ordeal involved an ambulance and a trip to the hospital. She tested negative for RSV and seems fine now, but it was scary.

The second family, CreativeCrafty and her husband, are expecting a baby boy. CC is 32 weeks pregnant now, and it looks like she'll need to be in the hospital for the remainder of her pregnancy due to low amniotic fluid and concerns about the growth of the placenta. They may have to deliver the baby early--maybe in two weeks.

I'm holding my children closer tonight as I pray for my friends' children.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Not that kind of die.

This morning the girls asked me, "Mommy, are you going to make your hair dead?"

"No, this doesn't make it dead. This is called hair dye. Dye is something that gives things color. It's going to make my hair a different color."

AJ: "Why do you want it to be a different color?"

"Because I want it to be brown, instead of brown and grey."

MM: "So you want to make it like somebody else's hair?"

"I want to make it like my own hair was when I was younger."

MM: "Mommy, after you make your hair dead, then you'll be a different person!"

"No, I won't be a different person. My hair will just be a different color."

AJ: "Then you'll be a kid again!"

"No, I'll just be a grownup with brown hair."

MM: "Are you going to make your eyes dead, too? Because if you have brown eyes then I won't like you any more."

AJ: "I will! I want a Mommy with brown eyes! I want everybody in our family to have brown eyes. I don't like people with blue eyes. I want us all to have brown eyes."

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why can't every day, can't every day . . .

Tonight I have that Chris Rice song going through my head, "One of Those Days." "Why can't every day / be like today?"

Three! nights! in! a! row! of more sleep. Wow. That is really starting to make a difference. Not enough sleep, still, but a lot more. The progress in the right direction does help to raise my spirits. And, I drank water today until I thought I would float away. The downside is that it means so many more trips to the bathroom, but I really am beginning to feel better.

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Moms' group was enjoyable this morning. We had a special speaker talking about food and cooking, and then we made a craft--a magentic mini bulletin board, and 4 little magnets to put on it. There were all kinds of fun craft supplies and embellishments to use--paper, beads, ribbon, magnets, stamps, etc. We even made our own magnets by gluing pictures onto the backs of flattened decorative marbles. The same project looked so different with the various phrases, papers and decorations each woman chose.

Halfway through, my perfectionist self was thinking mine was turning out terribly and I wasn't going to like it. I was especially bothered by a slightly blurred stamping job on one of the letters, and the fact that my paper was just a hair crooked and one corner wasn't folded perfectly. Worst of all, I got some glue on the front of the ribbon. If you're at all a perfectionist, you know the feeling.

But I'm really pleased with the finished product. I like it. A lot. It's something I'll enjoy using and looking at, and it has a good message too.



I brought 15-year-old MH home with me afterwards, and we had lunch and then went to work in the kitchen while the two younger girls napped AJ read books in her room. I worked on decluttering and organizing and did dishes and laundry while MH vaccumed and mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors, dusted silk plants, cleaned the bathroom, wiped down all the kitchen counters, shined the kitchen cabinets with lemon oil, and washed windows in the kitchen and family room. In three hours.

My kitchen is well on its way to looking fabulous. Next, I need to start on the insides of things--cuboards, drawers, pantry, the refrigerator (no, I still haven't really cleaned it out beyond throwing away some things that had gotten old--but my stovetop still looks pretty good).

Yes, the impossible happened: I actually found TWO teenage girls who are both great workers, good at household tasks and wonderful with kids. The sisters are probably going to take turns coming every couple of weeks to help me for a few hours. And, MH is a little older and will soon be taking the Red Cross babysitting course, learning CPR, and getting her driver's license.

Don't even ask me who she is--I'm not sharing! This babysitter and sister team is mine, all mine. Well, okay, I guess everyone else in our home group kind of has the same idea. I suspect we'll all keep the girls quite busy.

Today was day two of AJ and MM being back to their normal sweet, cooperative, almost-too-good-to-be-true selves. They had their whiny moments, but overall they were cheerful and a joy to be around. The combination of no dairy, less sugar, and earlier bedtimes must be helping--that and the fact that I'm not as tired and so am more patient and fun to be around. :)

Yesterday they were helping me get ready for home group. They were eagerly jostling for the next task, and running off joyfully to do the little jobs I gave them.

A typical moment that stood out was when MM came running to me and said, "I'm all done putting the boxes in the garage, Mommy. Please may I have another job to do? Oh, thank you!"

Today we all went to the local whole foods/natural marketplace after dropping MH off. The girls were a little upset that they didn't get to ride in the cart, but that soon passed.

Baby E is sitting up so well now that I just wiped the cart down with an antibacterial wipe, strapped her in with the little waist strap and away we went. She smiled at everyone and grabbed at the edges of the cart, kicking her little legs and captivating anyone who dared to look at her with her big, sparkly grin.

AJ chatted to us and to people in the store, read packages to us and asked questions, while MM enjoyed helping pick out and carry the groceries. I discussed each purchase with the girls and they helped me decide what to get.

We had to make a couple of stops in the bathroom. Since we couldn't take the cart in the restroom and I hadn't brought in any kind of baby carrier, I was a bit unsure what I was going to do with the baby. I can use the toilet while holding the baby if I have to, but there was no way I could lift MM onto the toilet and help her while holding a wiggling 20-lb Baby E. So AJ sat carefully on the floor in the corner and held E while I helped MM, and then MM did the same while I helped AJ. I was a little nervous about it, but they did great.

They are finally getting to the age where their help is actually helpful. I feel like I've entered an entire new season of life.

We picked out cereal, some vitamins and supplements, and a few other things. They even helped me pick out some natural semi-permanent hair dye that I hope will cover some of my plentiful grey hair without giving me hives like normal dyes do. I can hardly wait to try it out.

Suddenly, I realized it was dinner time and we were hungry. So we walked around looking at all the available options in the deli, and finally decided that the chicken noodle soup looked good. We got one big bowl of it and three spoons, and dug in. It was delicious. The companionable cheeriness of the meal, and the smiles and helpful friendliness of everyone from the gentleman at the deli counter to the lady with a 2-year-old boy at the next table, made the food taste even better. Baby E, of course, nursed, cooed and tried to grab everything on the table while we sat there.

We were still hungry after the soup (the girls ate most of it--they have suddenly started liking soup lately!). So I found some dairy- and soy-free bread and bought it to add to the meal.

The deli clerk made a berry/grape smoothie and asked if he could give the girls a sample. There was hardly anyone else in the deli area, and he didn't have much to do, so he gave us generous samples and enjoyed watching the girls get it all over their faces eating it. The little cups of smoothie were perfect to round out our meal.

As he was ringing up the bread, he asked me if I was a single mom. The question was so unexpected that I had to ask him to repeat himself.

"No," I said, fiddling with my wedding ring. "My husband, their Daddy, is at a music rehearsal tonight. So I'm sort of a single mom tonight, just until bedtime. We're having a girls' night out."

On the way home, I told the girls how much I enjoyed being with them and how pleasant it made the outing when they were helpful, obedient and cheerful. We all agreed that we had a wonderful time and it was a great girls' night out.

We had such a good time that I ended up getting them to bed far too late. Not smart at all. I hope the late bedtime doesn't delay the progress we've all been making toward better health, energy and moods the last few days.

Now Baby E is asleep and I'm going to bed too!

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John and Mamma Hen

We had the best soup for our small-group pot luck tonight. PFT's mother made it--taco soup. It sounds really easy to make and even the kids liked it. It consisted of ground beef, tomato juice, corn, and kidney beans with taco seasoning. We had it over corn chips, with various taco-type toppings.

I'm really loving our small group. The people in it are great, and we're really bonding and becoming good friends. We have a pot luck and fellowship time, then a devotional/worship time. That leads into our Bible study, and then we have sharing and prayer time after that. I especially enjoy the prayer time--hearing what's going on in each other's lifes and caring & praying for each other.

The Bible study was enjoyable and thought-provoking tonight.

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Right now we're going through the book of John, and today we discussed the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4. One thing that someone mentioned that I hadn't really noticed before was that the Samaritan woman was really quite forward and almost brazen in her interactions with Jesus--unusual for a woman of that culture and era.

Jesus, time and time again, stepped outside cultural norms to reach out with love and acceptance to women, outcasts, and those most people considered sinners and avoided interacting with. He touched the unclean, ate with sinners and tax collectors, and welcomed a prostitute's washing his feet with her tears and scandalously unloosed hair. It's especially obvious how much he turned common practice upside down by treating women with value and respect, and choosing them to talk to and to reveal Himself to in amazing ways.

In this chapter He chose a woman who was rejected by all around her because of her gender, lifestyle, religion and ethnicity to be the key person in this city that he spoke to. He treated her with respect, offered her hope, changed her life and entrusted her with His message.

Another interesting point the discussion brought out was that this interaction was the first time Jesus openly claimed to be The Messiah, and clearly identified himself as God.

25The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

26Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."


There was no word for "he" or "him" in the original language and text. So what he really said was, in rough translation, "I who speak to you, I AM." Those familiar with the God of the Old Testament and the story of Moses and the burning bush will understand the significance of that. YHWH, or I AM, was the name God gave to Himself and what His followers called Him.

A lot of people think that Jesus was a prophet and a good person, but was not God. But since he accepted worship and acknowledged himself as God and the Messiah on multiple occasions, that really leaves a problem for those who ascribe to that view. A good man and a prophet would not commit blasphemy and lie. So if He's not God, he can't really be a good man or a true teacher or prophet either. Either He is who He says He is, or He's a cheat and a liar. You can't really have it both ways.

It's late, and Baby E just went to sleep after her first waking of the night. She wasn't hungry; just gassy, and she went back to sleep on my shoulder pretty quickly. I hope tonight goes as well as last night did.

In the morning I have a Moms' group meeting, and then PFT's 15-year-old sister is coming home with me for a few hours to help with housework like the 13-year-old PFT did 2 weeks ago.

The 15-year-old babysat the girls during group this week. It was her first time caring for them at our house, although she helps in their Sunday School class and in the moms' group childcare.

The girls had a blast. We could hear them running around squealing and laughing from all the way downstairs. When they came down for dessert, the kids were calling her "Mamma Hen" because they had been pretending she was the mother hen and they were her chicks. When I heard that, my first thought was, "Ah-ha! There's my blog nickname for her. MH for Mamma Hen."

Now, I just have to decide which household tasks I'm going to have MH help me with tomorrow. Should I have her do floors and bathrooms like her sister did two weeks ago, or shall I do the floors myself and have MH wash windows? Or is there something else I've been neglecting that needs to be done worse? Decisions, decisions . . . but pleasant ones to be making. :)

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Just like syrup

Well, I had my appointment with the midwife.

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The verdict: most of what I've been experiencing can probably be attributed to extreme sleep deprivation, nursing a very demanding baby, and dehydration.

Yes, dehydration. For some reason, even though I'd had several glasses of water in the few hours before my appointment, I seemed to be dehydrated. The nurse had a hard time getting my blood to flow into the little vials, which resulted in much jiggling and tipping of the vials attached to the needle attached to my arm. Not exactly comfortable. It was "sluggish", so it took approximately three years to fill two vials, even with all the tipping and jiggling. The midwife said my blood looked like syrup. Oh, yummy.

I guess I need a lot more fluid intake when I'm nursing Baby E so much.

Also, I apparently have some kind of bacterial infection thing going on. I think that should be fairly easily treatable. Since I'm allergic to almost every antibiotic ever made, I'll see what the naturopath recommends for treating it.

We'll get the results of the blood test back tomorrow to see if there's anything else going on.

Now, the older girls are having quiet time and Baby E is sleeping. So I'm going to see if I can do something toward relieving some of the sleep deprivation.

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General update

What have I been up to lately, you ask? Well, mostly I've been walking around in a sleep-deprived fog, trying to keep everyone fed, clothed and diapered. Since the FM and CFS are acting up, even the smallest thing takes a pretty big effort. But we're surviving.

Good things are happening this week.

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On Monday, the girls started ballet classes. DH researched and arranged it all, and I dropped them off and went home to fix dinner while he stayed with them to watch.

We had thought that maybe MM would enjoy gymnastics more than something like ballet, since she enjoys things like running and turning summersaults more than precise dancing. But both girls were insistent that they wanted to take ballet lessons, so signed them up. We went Sunday night and bought ballet shoes for them. They were thrilled.

At the class Monday night, AJ was absorbed in learning how to point her toes, stand up straight, bend her knees and cross her ankles. MM refused to take part. All she wanted to do was stand at the window and watch the gymnastics class in the next room. So DH arranged for her transfer to the tumbling class next week.

Yesterday we had an appointment with the naturopath. She gave us some remedies for our trip to Mexico next month, to guard against and treat tourista (a.k.a. Montezuma's revenge) and other bugs. We also got a one-dose homeopathic remedy for each of the girls that will hopefully help with MM's wandering pains, irritability and tiredness, and AJ's anxiety and moodiness. She also advised us about our diet, and gave us some suggestions that will be a lot easier to follow than the rotation diet we were trying to do. The basic thing is cutting out dairy and soy for the whole family and just trying to get a good variety of other foods, with lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Today, I'm going to my midwife to check out some strange symptoms I've been having. She'll probably run some tests and theen I'll call and discuss it with the naturopath. If the two of them can't figurre out what's going on, I'll see my regular MD.

I am really hoping they'll find something easily fixable that will help with the discomfort, random spotting (but no AF), constant PMS-like symptoms, dizzy/weak spells and excessive fatigue I've been experiencing the last couple of weeks. My guess is that it's a systemic Candida inflammation similar to (but milder than) what I had several years ago when the fibromyalgia symptoms were at their peak.

Of course, getting more sleep may help. DH and I finally teamed up to help encourage cajole attempt to make Baby E sleep more than an hour at a time at night. She's healthy and very chubby, so we really don't think she needs the all-night-long smorgasboard.

So far, our approach is to hold her and keep her close as much as possible during the day to meet her tactile needs. Then I feed her and we put her to bed in the dark, with some white noise. (She seems to have become a very light sleeper, with any noise or light waking her.) When she wakes up about 45 minutes later, I stay out of sight and DH goes to her. He does what he can to make her comfortable, offers her some water, and tries to get her to go back to sleep. If she's not asleep and is acting hungry by the time it's been at least 2 hours since I fed her last, then I'll feed her again. Then she goes back to sleep, and about 30 minutes to an hour later we do the whole thing over again.

The first night she fussed for an hour and then when I fed her she didn't want to go back to sleep. But when she finally did go back to sleep, she slept for a four-hour stretch before waking for the day. That was progress, and I felt better already after a 4-hour block of sleep.

Last night, she woke up twice in the first couple of hours after going to bed, but DH was able to put her back to sleep without my feeding her. She slept for a long stretch and woke a couple of times in the early morning to nurse, going right back to sleep.

So we must be on the right track--hooray! Right now it's involving a lot of bed-juggling. I'll go to bed in the guest bed while DH gets her to go to sleep, then he'll join me until she wakes up again. He lies down with her until she goes back to sleep, then he comes back to the guest bed. Then Baby E will sleep for a longer stretch, and when she wakes up I'll join her in our room for the rest of the night. I'm not sure whether we'll end up in separate rooms or all together when all is said and done, but at this point it doesn't matter. We're finding a way to get some sleep, anyway. :)

On another note, we've been working on getting our clothes sorted and organized, organizing in the kids' room, and starting to pack for our trip. I've also been doing some sewing, and yesterday I started learning how to use a serger. My success at designing my own pattern for a fitted diaper with gussets gave me confidence. Now I'm creating waterproof training-pants-style diapers with an elastic waist and side closures for MM to use at night. If they turn out well, I'll give some away as gifts to a few potty-training parents. Maybe eventually I'll offer a few for sale to my moms' group.

Yesterday, I made Baby E a SPOC (simple piece of cloth) wrap, similar to a Moby wrap. I found some midweight, sturdy knit fabric for $1 a yard at Walmart. I cut it in half to make it about 30" wide, with the stretch going across the width. The 4.25 yards they had left on the roll wasn't quite long enough for my favorite way of wrapping (although 2 yards is plenty for some carries), so I cut long triangles off each side of the ends, sewed them together and attached them to make long, tapered ends on the wrap. It worked wonderfully. The knit wrap is so much better than the non-stretchy woven SPOC I was using before.

This is by far the most comfortable and versatile baby carrier I've tried so far. I can distribute the weight on both shoulders and support the baby's weight evenly on my shoulders and back. It's easy to change her position, pull one side of the wrap over her head in the rain, and nurse discreetly while keeping my hands free. Our favorite carry so far is the front cross carry (as shown in this video at babywearing.com). I still like the pouch-style sling for less bulk and a quick, easy way to wear the baby. But the soft-stretchy fabric, more secure hold and more even weight distribution make the SPOC much better for long periods or while doing housework or other activities besides just walking around.

Uh-oh! I just realized it's almost time to leave for my appointment and I'm not ready yet! Maybe one of these days I'll actually learn to watch the clock.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

So, what can you eat?

I'm getting that question a lot lately. After my last few blog posts, I've had a few phone calls from people who are worrying that we're either starving or headed for malnutrition. I don't think we are, yet. :)

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We've given up on the rotation diet for now. It was too difficult, and until I have a chance to actually sit down and plan menus a week or two in advance something like that just isn't going to work for us. So, we're just trying to make sure we have a good variety of healthy foods.

Some of the things I've cut out of our diet are only temporary, hopefully. I'm cutting them out, allowing a few days for them to clear from my system, and then reintroducing them one at a time while watching carefully for reactions.

Everyone else in the family is back to eating wheat in moderation; I plan to introduce it to my diet sometime in the next few days. We're all avoiding dairy products, refined sugars, and trying to cut back a bit on preservatives and processed foods. Other than that, most of the dietary restrictions (soy, etc.) are just for me (well, really for Baby E but since what I eat goes to her . . . ). Mainly we're just trying to eat a more healthy and varied diet.

We're eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and unprocessed meats. Less sugar and refined starchy food.

Our menu for today:

Breakfast: grapes, whole grain bread or cereal, rice milk (often we have eggs for breakfast, but I am avoiding eggs for a few days to see if that's what has been bothering Baby E.)

Snack: apple/carrot juice diluted with water.

Lunch: chicken thighs, muffins made of whole-grain barley and buckwheat flour with applesauce for sweetener, sliced cucumber, water

Snack: canned pears, raw cauliflower or baby carrots, water

Dinner: Browned ground beef with rattatouille (made with eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes and several other vegetables in a white wine sauce), served over quinoa. Perhaps a salad. Apple juice diluted with water, or just water.

Dessert: Carob rice milk (maybe chocolate almond milk with turbinado sugar for those who can have it), Gummi bear whole-food vitamins plus a calcium supplement for the kids, my regular prenatal/nursing vitamins and a calcium supplement for me. I may make a raspberry pie or a smoothie sweetened with white grape juice, too.

Baby E is eating a little whole-grain brown rice cereal now. She loves it, and seems to handle it well. I'm hoping that will help her nurse a little less constantly, especially at night. Tonight I plan to introduce pears to her diet. She is almost 6 months old and constantly hungry, and seems quite ready for solids.

Last night, we had spaghetti with a marinara and meat sauce. I had mine over millet instead of spaghetti noodles. Tomorrow we'll probaby make chicken pot pie with the leftover chicken from today's lunch. Next week sometime I want to try an intriguing recipe for New England style clam chowder made with cashew nut milk.

Don't worry; we're not starving.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Malwagy and Sillygisms

I forgot to say that the girls and I had fun at lunch yesterday. I explained that I'd made a mistake the day before, and what we'd been playing at dinner wasn't called syllogisms, it was called analogies.

Then I explained syllogisms to them:

"All cats have whiskers. Boots is a cat. So what do we know about Boots?"

Long pause. Then their faces brightened: "On your feet!" "Yeah, feet!"

"No, Boots is the cat's name. If all cats have whiskers, and Boots is a cat, what does Boots have?"

"You wear them on your feet!"

"Okay, forget Boots. The cat isn't named Boots. The cat is named . . . Fluffy. If cats have whiskers, and Fluffy is a cat, what do we know about Fluffy?"

"Ummm . . . he has whiskers?"

Then they had it.

We played with syllogisms until they requested to do "a malwagy" again. They solved all the analogies I could think of and came up with some of their own.

So, what part of the SAT shall we prepare for next?

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My Husband the Hero

Yesterday I was so.tired. I could barely keep my head up or formulate a sentence.

Baby E did not nap once all day [unless you count dozing off for 10-minute naps while nursing]. Her diaper rash was bothering her, and she was fussy. Toward late morning, she got happy again for an hour or two. Then I ate another food that bothered her, and her discomfort started all over again. Scratch the newly-introduced hazelnuts from the diet. At least that one was easy to pinpoint, because the glass of hazelnut milk was all I'd consumed that morning before she started having a reaction.

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DH had given MM milk for breakfast, and she was in fine form--whining, crying, complaining about hurting and being tired. I don't know whether the milk had anything to do with it or not, but now I'm even more determined to try cutting it out of her diet. Being grouchy is one thing, but the random aches and pains concern me. I plan to make an appointment with her pediatrician about it, too.

Both girls were tired and whiny, which turned everything into a big deal. One or the other of them would collapse in a crying, screaming, whining, tantrum-y heap with very little provocation.

"AJ pushed me off the stool! MM washed her hands first! She always wants to go first! She hates taking turns! I want to go first all the time, I don't want her to go first! AJ took my special blankie and she's sitting on it and won't give it back! MM needs to share! Carry me! I can't walk; my legs hurt! Mommy, I want to sit in your lap--make the baby move! AJ is playing the computer game first! MM is walking ahead of me down the hall! AJ turned on the light! I wanted to turn on the light! MM got in her chair for lunch before I got in mine! I want to get in my chair first because I think I'm the fastest, and she got in hers first, waaah! AJ pushed me off the stool and I hurt my leg! MM won't share all the toys . . . she never wants to share . . . she HATES sharing! I want her to share everything (because I want to play with it and not let her have it)! AJ keeps grabbing toys from me! That's my toy I got for Christmas--you play with your own. MM won't share! She has to share everything. I don't like that music! I don't want any music, turn it off! Not that book, the other one! I don't like this food--I want milk!Boo-hoo! Waaa! Waa! Boo-hoo-hoo!"

"Stop pushing and grabbing from each other. It doesn't matter who goes first. NO she doesn't have to share that toy--you have your own toy like that and your own special blanket--STOP taking hers! GIRLS, STOP FIGHTING RIGHT NOW, and NO MORE TANTRUMS!"

A friend came over with her newborn and 18-month-old, and we hung out and were tired together. :)

Both girls are generally quite good at sharing with guests, but not this time. Every time our little guest touched something they would get upset and not want her to play with it. MM followed her around "protecting" all the toys, and AJ disappeared to play by herself in the other room.

I had thought it would be a nice distraction and help the girls' mood to have someone new to play with, but I ended up spending most of the time trying to get them to share and play nicely with the little girl. Not quite the happy, fun playdate I had hoped for.

DH got home from work early, visited a bit, and loaded a double jogging stroller we didn't need any more into my friend's car. Then, as she drove away, he stopped me in the living room.

"Tonight," he said, looking intent, "I really want to . . . " [At this point I was thinking, Oh, no! He has some big goals for tonight like updating our financial records or doing something romantic together, and all I want to do is lie down and cry.]

Then he finished his sentence: " . . . do whatever I can to make the evening relaxing for you." I stared at him, trying to register what he was saying, as he continued: "I'm going to fix dinner and take care of the kids, and you can go to bed right away if you want. I can bring the baby to you when she gets hungry and then take her away again."

I almost could have kissed his feet, but I just hugged him and thanked him.

My husband; my hero.

I went upstairs to lie down, and he brought me dinner in bed. I was asleep by 7. Which was a very good thing, because Baby E was awake somewhere between 6 and 8 times [I lost count] between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m., including waking at midnight ready to play for a couple of hours.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Carnival of the Vanities

Carnival of the Vanities #173 is up over at The Hip and Zen Pen. I mention it, of course, because I have an entry this week. :)

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No more split peas--or is it wheat?

Poor Baby E. Apparently something I ate today is having quite the bad effect on her. She's miserable.

She is so tired, and will fall fitfully asleep (whimpering, trembling, and squirming in her sleep) as long as I'm holding her. The sudden episodes of quick breathing and twitching really unnerve me, but don't seem to wake her if I'm holding her.

If I put her down she is awake and screaming immediately. She acts as though her tummy hurts worse if it gets close to level with her stomach.

I ate a moderate amount of wheat today, and we had split pea soup with sausage for dinner. So I'm not sure if it's the split peas (which I suppose are related to soybeans, aren't they?), the spicy sausage, the wheat, or something else that's bothering her. I'll have to either avoid all possible suspects, or avoid them all for a week or two and then challenge them by eating one at a time to see if they bother her.

Anyway, I'm up. So I replied to a few comments and posted an update about the letter I received from the Airborne company in my earlier Airborne post.

Now I'm going to see if Baby E will let me sleep at all.

[Update:]<We both got to sleep finally around 7:30 a.m., after much more whimpering and nursing, and having dozed off briefly occasionally for an hour or so.

This morning she has diarrhea and a spotty rash. She's quite fussy, too--obviously this is not comfortable.

I really hope we stop finding new food intolerances soon.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Just because it's time for some pictures:




I planned to take my camera to the zoo today, but forgot. So I had to take some photos after we got home--messy hair, damp clothes and all. :)

I'm tired and sore after a long day and can hardly wait to get into the hot bath that's running right now, so catching up on e-mails and comments will have to wait.

Procrastination: it's not just a habit any more; it's a lifestyle.

More beneath the fold . . .

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At dinner tonight, the girls initiated one of their favorite new games . . . "The Opposites Game." They enjoy identifying opposites and rhyming words a lot lately. Since they enjoy that so much, I thought it might be fun just to see if I could take it to a new level. I figured they might not understand it, but I'd just try introducing syllogisms anyway.

"Hey, girls, I have an idea! Let's try a new game. This game is called Syllogisms. Yes, that's how you say it--syllogisms. Now, the way this game works is that I say something like this: Horse is to rider as car is to . . . "

Before I could finish the sentence, MM yelled, "driver!"

I was floored. DH and I made up every syllogism we could think of and the girls solved them as fast as we could say them. They loved it, and they completely understood the concept.

I guess they're ready for at least one section of the SATs.

[Edit:] Um, I just re-read this post and then started thinking about the word syllogism. Now I feel really stupid.

Obviously, what we were doing tonight was making analogies, not syllogisms. There is a syllogism of analogy (usually considered a fallacy), but syllogism, analogy: not the same thing.

Tomorrow we'll do syllogisms.

Major premise: Mommy is prone to mistakes when she is tired.

Minor premise: Mommy is tired today.

Conclusion: Mommy is prone to mistakes today.

As evidenced on the blog.

However, analogies are also part of the SATs. Right? Right???



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Rainy Day at the Zoo

We just got back from a trip to the zoo. MIL bought a "grandma" membership which includes all the grandkids and two guests, so the kids took Morning and me to the zoo. :)

We haven't gone very often because we thought we had to have MIL's membership card, which meant planning ahead to get it from her and then give it back to her over at their home in the next state. But I found out today that we don't need to have the card with us to get in as long as we can verify the information on the account. It gets us free parking and entry to the zoo.

We'll be going a lot more often now that we know that it's easier than we've been making it. Aren't most things, really?

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We had a great time, even though it was cold and rainy and the heater in the van is broken. We bundled up (not quite well enough--next time we'll wear gloves) and wore raincoats.

I was amazed at how well the kids put up with the cold, damp discomfort. They ran around excitedly, squealing and exclaiming about the animals and saying, "We're having so much fun! This is a great time!"

Baby E was the most warmly dressed, in her little fleece bodysuit with her head, hands and feet covered and a blanket over her. She was entranced with the animals, the motion, the rain, and the yellow reflective stripes on AJ's and MM's raincoats.

Actually, it was a great time to go to the zoo. We had the place almost to ourselves. No crowds to push through, nobody blocking our view, no noisy hubbub. Just us, the rain, and the animals.

Now we're trying to get warmed up. The kids are sitting in front of the gas fireplace drying out their puddle-splashed ankles and warming their hands. I think I'll give them something warm to drink, and then it's time to feed the baby and prepare dinner.

I'll try to catch up on replying to e-mails and comments later tonight. I've got several interesting posts in the queue as well, including another update on Airborne (I got a letter from the company) and some pondering about vaccines.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Too bad we can't just stop needing to eat

I found myself ruminating today on one of the biggest changes society's advancement has brought to our daily lives. It has to do with food.

For most of us in wealthy countries today, we no longer have to spend nearly every moment thinking about food. For much of history, and still in much of the world today, people have had to spend most of their time and energy eking out food--either growing it or foraging and hunting for their next meal.

Once they had the ingredients, they had to prepare it completely from scratch. Food preparation, before modern equipment and the advent of pre-prepared foods, was much more difficult and time-consuming.

The familiar story AJ was reading to MM and Baby E today is a great illustration. The Little Red Hen searched and scratched in the dust until she found a grain of wheat. Then she planted and cared for it while it grew, harvested it, threshed it, and ground it into flour before she could bake it into bread. All the other ingredients would have been obtained almost as laboriously.

If people have to spend nearly every waking moment getting and preparing food, there is very little time and energy left for anything else. Things like art, music, technological advances, and leisure activities aren't going to happen much if at all in a culture where each person's very survival depends on expending all their time and energy obtaining food.

With our new dietary restrictions, I feel like I've been catapulted back in time.

My naturopath recommended that in addition to cutting out all soy, peanuts, chocolate, caffeine, avacados, refined sugars, most refined grains and most dairy products, we also need to cut out all dairy products for the whole family (especially MM, who practically lives for milk), all wheat products and perhaps eggs as well.

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The good news: we can cautiously add some tree nuts into our diet.

But avoiding wheat and rotating the other grains is hard. Have you ever tried cooking for a day or two using only one or two obscure grains, none of them wheat, for all meals and snacks? For instance: Monday oats and millet. Tuesday amaranth and corn. Wednesday buckwheat, rice and lentils. Thursday barley and quinoa. That's been our week so far.

I don't really know how to cook with most of these grains. So far, my family likes maybe 1/3 of the things I've tried making with them. Buckwheat and lentils were the least-liked (non)grains we've tried, so next time I think I'll split up buckwheat and legumes.

A total rotation diet would involve rotating all foods, but we're only doing grains, possibly nightshade vegetables, and (sort of) nuts. I haven't worked it all out for sure yet.

The basic idea of a grain rotation, for example, is that you eat various grains on a rotating schedule. This involves grouping them into families and eating closely-related grains during the same time period, and then not at all for at least 4 days. You can be a little more lenient by eating related grains with a 2-day break, but being careful not to eat the same grain twice within a 4- or 5-day period. The rotation is supposed to minimize allergies and food sensitivities, and help prevent the formation of new sensitivities.

The 4-day thing is because that's supposedly how long it takes for your body to completely eliminate a food and resolve any resulting issues. The book DH got me for Christmas, "The Complete Allergy Cookbook," talks a lot about rotation diets too, so I'd already been looking into it when the naturopath suggested it.

Why are we doing this, you ask? Two reasons: we aren't feeling well (we've all been struggling with mood, energy, and recurrent illness issues for months now), and we have an extended family history of many food allergies and sensitivities. Plus, of course, Baby E's extreme sensitivity to various foods ingested through nursing--especially soy.

Current recommendations from most sources are to avoid eating any food an immediate family member is allergic to when nursing and when feeding young children.
If I were to list all the food allergies and intolerances in my immediate family (parents, siblings, self, children) it would be a very, very long list. It's easier to rotate foods than to completely avoid all those foods.

Also, there's a distinct pattern of developing intolerances to frequently-eaten grains in my family. We'd like to try to avoid that. We also have a family member (on DH's side this time) with celiac disease (a severe gluten intolerance).

We have all been not feeling well, but MM seems particularly unwell in a nondescript sort of way. She's been unusually whiny and grouchy for most of a few months now. She complains of odd random aches and pains almost daily, and is constantly tired. Yet she can't sleep well at night. Very disconcerting.

Since almost everyone else in the family has problems with dairy, and I get an increase of symptoms similar to what she's experiencing it when I ingest dairy products, eliminating dairy seemed a logical first thing to try. But she's having a really hard time with that. She keeps begging for milk. She hates rice and nut milks. It's so hard to tell her no, especially when it's her comfort food that she's used to for morning and nap time.

My naturopath and her partner seem to be of the opinion that refined sugars, refined flours, wheat and cow's milk are all innocuous-looking forms of poison. If we weren't having issues with the whole family not feeling well and getting sick a lot, plus a family history of allergies to many of those foods, I might just laugh at it. As it is, it at least seems worth a try.

It's just harder than I thought it would be.

I'm hoping it will get a little easier once I get used to using these grains and develop a repertoire of recipes we like. But we can use almost nothing that's pre-prepared. So I've ended up spending most of my day (when I'm not nursing the baby) trying to figure out what to cook, and preparing it. Almost as soon as we finish one meal it's time to think about the next. That is quickly getting frustrating.

I did decide today that it's definitely not worthwhile to start with unshelled nuts to make my own nut milks from scratch. Especially with brazil nuts. It's much easier to crack and blanch almonds (by boiling them briefly) and then peel off the skins and grind them up. But I'm not going to try that again when I can just buy organic, ready-made almond milk at a reasonable price. My hour or two of time is worth more than the $1 or so I save by making it myself.

Chichimama shared a website that looks like a great resource for finding recipes that avoid particular allergens; that might be helpful.

I'm giving the grain rotation a week or two. If it still seems too overwhelming and difficult after that, I think I'll just concentrate on getting a good variety of foods without worrying about how many days it's been since we last ate a particular grain.

I guess I'm not really convinced that the food rotation thing is really necessary. As DH pointed out, it's much more normal for people to eat a few foods for an extended period of time than to eat a food once every 4 days. In most time periods and cultures, people eat what happens to be in season or what they find a source for. If they find or grow a field of wheat, that's going to be mostly what they eat for a time. If they live near a marsh that grows rice, they'll eat a lot of rice. If they kill a bear, they're going to be eating large quantitites of bear meat for quite some time. On the other hand, I do know that people commonly develop allergies to foods they are frequently exposed to.

I don't really know what I think of the whole rotation diet issue. If any of my readers have any input or experience to share either way, I'd like to hear it.

Phantom Scribbler pointed out some articles on PubMed suggesting that it's hard to make sure you're getting adequate amounts of all nutrients with a "rotary diversified diet", but I think that's with rotating all foods and not just grains. I think we're probably getting better nutrition than before by substituting a variety of other (whole) grains for the refined wheat and white rice products most people eat.

Of course, I could always go with Dr. Mercola's suggestion (does anyone know anything about him? I'm curious) and eat few or no grains at all . . . but that would really be a lifestyle change for us. Besides, I don't find his arguments that convincing. (People didn't start using grain or other carbohydrates [such as potatoes and fruit] as a staple in their diets until modern agricultural practices developed in very recent times? Huh?) All these various people promote eating lots of whole grains, or strictly limiting all carbohydrates, or eating according to your blood type, or whatever. It's so confusing.

My inclination tends to be that the more fresh, whole, unprocessed and varied our diet is, the better. I want to avoid foods we're allergic or intolerant to, of course, and do what I can to prevent us forming new intolerances.

I want to feed my family healthy food that will optimize our bodies' ability to fight disease and produce energy and health.

But I also want to have a life outside the kitchen.

I'm not exactly sure how to do that.

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Another holiday you didn't know existed

Happy National Delurking Week . . . Leave a Comment

Did you know that it's (Inter)National Delurking Week? Yessirree, it's Delurking Week. All the cool bloggers are talking about it, and lots of people are delurking.

No, I didn't make this up. If you click on the image above, you'll find a nifty little post at Paper Napkin explaining it--complete with a selection of banners and buttons for you to post on your own blog.

What's a lurker, you ask? Great question! A lurker is someone who reads a blog without posting a comment . . . someone who lurks in the background, unseen. The writer of the blog doesn't know who you are or that you're there, reading in the shadows (except for that traffic counter thing, but that doesn't tell much).

So, now is the time for all good commenters to come to the aid of the celebration. The idea is that you delurk by posting a comment, any comment (well, anything that's not spam or hateful invectives, preferably) here.

Because we here at the Purple Puzzle Place care. And we like to know who's reading this blog. And we like starting sentences with and. And, we think it's probably pretty silly to be using the collective we when we is just, well, me.

Anyway, I do hope you'll post. Introduce yourself, or not. A comment, a recipe, the title of a book you're reading, a hello, or even just a smiley face would be a great way to delurk. If you care to share how you found this blog, that would be great.

Feel free to bring a snack and any fun raportee you come up with to add to the party. Because a party I'm hoping it will be.

The hot cocoa, carob rice milk (hey, you'd be amazed at how wonderful carob rice milk tastes after several months of no chocolate or dairy products) and apple pie are right over --------> thataway. Dig in!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On the 2-millionth day of forever, my true love gave to me

12 nursing sessions
11 toys to trip on
10 e-mails to answer
9 diaper changes
8 drinks of water
7 phone conversations (DH, New Dad of Three [as of last night--congrats!], Elementary SchoolTeacher, "Morning", DH, the naturopath [30-minute consultation about food allergies, vaccines, and rotation diets], the naturopath's receptionist, Blockbuster's automated late reminder)
6 books of stories
5 porcelain rings (3 toilet, 2 bathtub)
4 loads of laundry
3 cooked-from-scratch hypoallergenic meals (Today's rotation: rice and legumes. Breakfast: cream of rice cereal, peaches and carob rice milk. Lunch: Brown/wild rice combo, baked chicken, cucumber, water. Dinner: Perhaps lentil and sausage soup, napa cabbage salad?)--plus a snack or two.
2 loads of dishes
And a hamster beneath the sofa!

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Airborne article update

I just wanted to note that I've made a couple of corrections to my earlier post on Airborne and reorganized the chart a bit to make it easier to read and follow.

The 4 nutrients that are in excess are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Zinc and Manganese (Manganese overdose can give the same symptoms as Magnesium overdose).

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Airborne Cold Remedy: Helpful, Dangerous, or Both?

I've recommended Airborne Formula on this blog before, so I thought I'd share my recent research about it.

Using Airborne as directed on the label can result in a potentially serious overdose of several substances.

[Updated 13 Jan 2006 at bottom of post--look for the **** asterisks.]



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Airborne is a combination of vitamins and herbs intended to prevent and shorten the duration of common illnesses like colds and flus. It's become amazingly popular in a short period of time--to the extent that stores often have trouble keeping it on the shelves.

The airborne website can be found at http://www.airbornehealth.com/ (Warning, annoying noise on the homepage, so if you're at work turn off your speakers.)

Anecdotal evidence as well as my own experience seems to suggest that, if taken at the first sign of illness, it does work. Even Oprah is talking about it.

Generic versions are now appearing on the market with the same ingredients in different packaging. One example is Health Smart dietary supplement, which is in swallowable capsules instead of Airborne's effervescent dissolve-in-water tablets.

This particular supplement is unusual in that it was not developed by a pharmaceutical company or a dietary supplement manufacturer. It was invented by a second-grade schoolteacher who was tired of catching illnesses from her young students.

When my friend the doctor was here, I showed her a bottle. She mentioned that it has a full day's dose of Vitamin A in one tablet and recommended caution in using it for that reason. The issue with this is that an excess of vitamin A can cause liver damage and other serious problems, including--in severe cases--death.

The instructions on the bottle say "repeat every three hours as necessary."

Well, every three hours could result in as many as 8 doses in a 24-hour period. There's no warning on the Airborne packaging not to exceed a certain number of doses in any specific time frame. But 8 doses of Airborne would give you eight times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A--and would be at least 4 times the amount to start causing damage.

Multiply that by a week or so (the duration of a cold?) and it would result in a colossal overdose of Vitamin A.

So I started wondering whether taking it as directed would lead to an overdose of other vitamins as well.

I worked up a spreadsheet comparing the amounts of the various vitamins and minerals with the recommended daily amounts and the amount of overdose required to cause ill effects.

My figures compare the current recommended Daily Values (the newer version of the RDAs) with the amount present in one and eight doses of Airborne, respectively. I also included for comparison the UL for each nutrient. UL stands for Upper Limit--it is the FDA's figure of the maximum amount that can be consumed per day without hurting a person.

Here are the column headers:
1: Nutrient name
2: Amount in 1 dose of Airborne
3: Unit of Measure
4: % of DV in 1 Dose Airborne
5: DV (U.S. recommended daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet)
6: UL (Upper limit that can be taken without ill effects)
7: Amount in 8 doses Airborne

Here is the table as a .gif file. Click the image to see it full size.



As you can see, the amounts of several nutrients reach or exceed the UL with only 2 doses of Airborne. 8 doses exceeds the UL for at least 4 different nutrients. There is no established UL for several of the nutrients, but this does not mean that excesses cannot be harmful. For instance, an excess of one B vitamin can cause symptoms of deficiency of the other B vitamins. A severe potassium overdose can result in heart and muscle problems, among other things.

Here are some of the symptoms of overdose for the 4 nutrients which would be in excess:

Vitamin A:
What are the health risks of too much vitamin A?
Hypervitaminosis A refers to high storage levels of vitamin A in the body that can lead to toxic symptoms. There are four major adverse effects of hypervitaminosis A: birth defects, liver abnormalities, reduced bone mineral density that may result in osteoporosis (see previous section), and central-nervous-system disorders [1,48-49].

Toxic symptoms can also arise after consuming very-large amounts of preformed vitamin A over a short period of time. Signs of acute toxicity include nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, and muscular uncoordination [1,48-49]. Although hypervitaminosis A can occur when large amounts of liver are regularly consumed, most cases result from taking excess amounts of the nutrient in supplements.


Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is one of the safest supplements you can take. The main symptom of overdose is diarrhea, but it can cause other problems in very large amounts. (i.e. a gram-sized dose).

Manganese:
The critical adverse effects are elevated blood magnesium concentration and neurotoxicity.

(Magnesium:
Signs of excess magnesium can be similar to magnesium deficiency and include changes in mental status, nausea, diarrhea, appetite loss, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, extremely low blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat [5,57-60].)

Zinc:
The critical adverse effect is the influence of excess zinc on copper metabolism. Other effects include epigastric pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, headaches, and immune response impairment.

Most of this information about various nutrients is from government sources: two excellent ones are the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition website and the National Institute of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements website (be sure to check out their Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets). These sites deal with everything from herbs and nutritional supplements to dietary recommendations, and there's a lot of interesting information there. There's also a great site at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with various articles, including this one: Upper Safe Levels of Intake for Adults: Vitamins, Macrominerals, and Trace Minerals.

Please also note that, while the Airborne package says it contains 350 MG of a blend of other substances, mostly herbs (Maltodextrin, Lonicera, Forsythia, Schizonepeta, Ginger, Chinese Vitex, Isatis Root, Echinacea), it does not give amounts for the individual herbs. So you don't really know how much you are getting. It is worth mentioning that most sources agree that Echinacea should not be taken daily over a long period of time, so that would be something to be careful of also.

I haven't stopped using Airborne completely, but I have become much more cautious about it. I'll take it if I feel a cold coming on, but only one dose per day on a very occasional basis. I'm also very careful what other vitamins and supplements I take along with it.

If you do use Airborne, I would recommend checking any other supplements you are taking and limiting your doses so that you are not exceeding the ULs for the various nutrients.

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[Update:] I wrote a note to the Airborne company about these concerns, and received this e-mail in reply:

Thank you for your inquiry. Take Airborne at the first sign of a cold symptom or a day or two before entering crowded places like airplanes, movie theatres or offices. People use it as a preventative, and some take it daily. Plop an Airborne tablet into a glass of water, let it effervesce, and drink up!

The recommended dosage for Airborne is every 3 hours or as needed, not to exceed 5 doses in a day. Discontinue use when cold symptoms subside.

Airborne is meant to be taken in short duration. If used properly there is no concern of the higher dose vitamins. For further guidance, please consult with your family physician.

Have a great day and stay healthy!


I scoured every bit of the packaging my bottle of Airborne came in, the package itself, and the Airborne website. I could find absolutely no information saying anything remotely similar to "not to exceed 5 doses in a day. Discontinue use when cold symptoms subside." or "Airborne is meant to be taken in short duration." Wouldn't that be rather important information to put on the packaging and website? Also, those statements seem directly contradictory to the earlier statement in the letter that "people use it as a preventative, and some take it daily."

The only warning I can find on the package and the website is this: "As with all dietary supplements, pregnant women or people on medication should consult physician before taking."

The generic version I bought (with exactly the same ingredients) had a warning not to take the product if you have kidney disease, but the Airborne packaging does not share this caution. The reason for the caution, I'm told by a doctor, is that several of the listed nutrients are eliminated by the kidneys and could easily build up to toxic levels if these organs are not working properly. The threshold for permament damage with Vitamin A is much lower in patients with renal failure.

Vitamins and herbs can be contraindicated if you have certain conditions or if you are taking other drugs that can cause interactions. That's just one more thing to be aware of.

Here's the Airborne analysis table reworked with 5 doses instead of 8 doses in the last column. As you can see, 5 doses still meets or exceeds the UL for all four of the nutrients mentioned earlier.



Airborne, Inc. publicizes a double-blind placebo clinical trial that they funded, saying that there were no adverse affects noted. I'm trying to find more information about this trial, conducted by a GNG Pharmaceutical company.

So far I've found information that the participants took Airborne for 5 days, but nothing saying how much they took. We also don't know if tests were run to check kidney and liver function, etc. or if they just went by externally observable signs to determine adverse effects.

Again, I'm not saying that everyone should stop taking Airborne. But I would be cautious about taking it more than once a day or taking it over an extended period of time.

The bottom line is this: Vitamins and herbal supplements don't have to meet safety and efficacy requirements like drugs do. But being made of vitamins and herbs doesn't make a supplement safe. You can't trust the ingredient levels or the dosage instructions to be safe, either. It's always best to check things out for yourself, and it's usually a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking a supplement.

****Update 2007: By early 2007, about a year after this post was written, the company did start printing a warning not to exceed 3 doses per day on the packaging. The package also now contains a warning not to take the product if pregnant or nursing.****

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Natural Consequences

A while ago, someone gave the girls a package of bubble gum--one of those "6 Feet of Bubble Tape" things. Since it's not the type of thing we give our kids and they aren't really old enough to be trusted not to swallow it, we'd put it away in a kitchen drawer.

This evening as she was getting ready for bed, AJ brought DH a doll box containing scattered bits of a blue stretchy substance. "Look, Daddy! This candy is really good. Want some?"

It was what was left of the roll of bubble gum tape.

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We found the empty package in the garbage in her room. I estimated 12-18 inches of the 6 feet of gum remained uneaten. She had eaten most of it during her afternoon quiet time, and probably more after dinner.

A quick call to the poison control center verified that she wasn't in any danger of poisoning. The lady I spoke to seemed to think it all rather humorous. The pediatrician said to watch her carefully for signs of intestinal blockage.

We talked to both girls very seriously about taking and eating things we had not given to them. Warning AJ that the gum might make her sick, we told her that we'd decide what her consequence would be in the morning.

But the consequences came long before that.

The combination of a stomach full of bubble gum along with the large helping of popcorn that had been our Sunday evening treat must have been quite unpleasant.

The first time she vomited, DH and I were both a little relieved--both that she was emptying the gum out of her digestive system, and that we wouldn't need to come up with an artificial consequence for her actions.

She went from thinking the whole situation slightly humorous, to wishing vehemently that she'd never eaten the "candy".

"But, Mommy, I didn't know it was gum." [She did, however, know that she shouldn't have taken and eaten it without permission.]

Typical for AJ, she was even more upset about the mess factor than about the discomfort of being sick. Poor thing was nearly hysterical when some got on her bed even though she tried to get it all in the bowl we'd provided.

Soon she was praying aloud that God would make her stop throwing up. I explained that God sometimes allows consequences for our actions (like getting sick from eating gum) to help us learn not to do things we shouldn't do.

By the 4th or 5th session, as she was having dry heaves in the bathroom, I was begging for mercy right along with her. Hasn't my little girl suffered enough to learn her lesson already? She looked so miserable; her eyes huge in her pale, drawn face, her lips stained blue from the gum.

She's sleeping now. Hopefully the ordeal is over. And hopefully both girls have learned an important lesson.

This is definitely not a lesson we'd like to repeat.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Clean floors

It's amazing how much difference clean floors can make in the feel and atmosphere of a home. Today after mom's group, one of my friends let me borrow her 13-year-old daughter for a few hours. The 13-year-old (pixie-faced teenager, or PFT for short) is a sweet-faced, fairy-like creature who loves horses and has a surprising amount of maturity and common sense--not to mention a quick wit.

PFT cares for the 4-6 young children upstairs during our home group meetings. The kids adore her, and she seems to truly love them. I'm looking forward to teaching her our routines and how we care for the kids so that as she gets older she (and we) will be well-equipped and comfortable with caring for the kids even when we're not in the house.

I decided that I'd start out having PFT vaccuum a room, and if that didn't go well I could always just have her entertain the kids while I did housework. I was, to say the least, uncertain about the whole hiring-someone-to-help-with-housework thing.

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Last time I hired a (much older) babysitter to help me with some housework, it didn't go so well. I gave her a list of chores to do while I ran some errands. I'd gotten out both vaccuum cleaners for her before we left--the regular upright and the hand-held one. I'd explained that the smaller vaccuum was good for things like hardwood floors, stairs, and under and around the edges of things, but the upright would probably be easier for general vaccuuming of carpets. When I left, she was preparing to vaccuum the family room, which I'd picked up and decluttered in advance.

When I returned an hour or two later, she was just finishing vaccuuming the family room. She had used the hand-held vaccuum to do the entire room. I didn't feel terribly sympathetic when she said it had been hard to do. Especially since I was paying her by the hour.

The worst part, though, was that I found the whole experience rather mortifying. Older Babysitter's mother is an impeccable housekeeper--the type who scrubs the floor on her hands and knees every. single. day. She is a sweet and gracious lady who has never made me feel criticised or compared to--even on the occasion or two when she's helped me with things around the house.

But OB was unprepared to clean a home that wasn't already clean. She was appalled at the condition of my floors and appliances, and she didn't seem to know how to clean a toilet. She informed me unhappily that if I would simply wipe down my bathtub every day, there wouldn't be a faint water ring to wipe off the fiberglass. I did know that, in case you had any doubts. :)

I think she and I were both relieved when her time helping me was finished. I paid her far too much for what she'd accomplished and promised myself not to repeat the experience.

It was almost as humiliating as the time two of our neighbors decided to come over and do our yardwork for us. I'm sure it was because we had let it go for so long that it was dragging down the tone of the neighborhood. Or then again, maybe they were just being nice.

Anyway, I was a little leery about hiring someone to help me with housework at all. That's actually the main reason I haven't yet hired a professional to do a thorough cleaning (besides the financial element). I keep thinking that once the house is completely picked up, organized and uncluttered, then I can hire someone to give the floors, windows, etc. a good scrubbing.

PFT and I agreed on the way to my house that we'd play it by ear and see how it went before I decided whether to pay her by the hour or by the task. If she was fast and thorough, I would pay her by the hour, but if she took a long time to complete tasks I'd pay her what I felt the task was worth no matter how long it took.

PFT didn't bat an eye. She didn't sigh, complain, or even look hesitant at anything I asked her to do. At 13, she was cheerful, efficient, quick and diligent.

I'd give her a task to do and the next thing I knew she'd be standing behind my shoulder saying, "I've finished with that. What would you like me to do next?"

First, I had her give the kids lunch while I tended to the baby. Then she swept and vaccuumed. I cleaned up the kitchen, put things away and moved things so she could clean under and around them. Between helping the girls do school, feeding the baby, and giving my young friend instructions, I was barely keeping up.

When the kids went down for naps/quiet time, I pulled out all the stops. Working hard and fast, I rearranged, decluttered, put things away, moved furniture and gave instructions. She worked even faster.

By the time I took her home a few hours later, she had vaccuumed the living, dining, and family rooms. She had swept and mopped the kitchen, nook, bathroom, and the huge entry/hallway area, towel-drying the wood-laminate floors. She had cleaned every surface in the bathroom, including the inside of the toilet. She had helped me take the vaccuum apart to clean the interior workings and replace the belt (it was smelling hot). She had vaccuumed under the piano and up the stairs with the small vaccuum. And, she had chatted cheerfully to me during our hot cocoa (for her) and water (for me) break, while we sat and caught our breath.

Pretty much my whole downstairs (and the stairs) got cleaned. I really enjoyed having her work with me. And she seemed to enjoy it, too.

I found myself hoping that my daughters will be a lot like her when they are 13.

I paid her by the hour . . . with a bit of a bonus. I hope she can come again soon, and often.

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