Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Continuing Saga of Our Runaway Mutt


Our children have been wanting a dog for a long time. They have begged, pleaded and bargained. We finally relented. Ashley is a rescue dog. She seemed so perfect for our family - quiet and sweet, doesn’t shed, loves to snuggle, gentle, etc. We were told that her only down side was that she was really shy. Not a problem. This family understands introverts! When we brought Ashley home, we couldn’t believe our good fortune in finding such sweet dog! She almost acted like a service dog. On walks, she would stop and wait for anyone lagging behind and would even stop before crossing a street. We were amazed!

We picked her up on a Thursday and spent the weekend snuggling, going on long walks and playing with our new member of the family. The kids were ecstatic! 

Then on Sunday, we left home for a couple of hours. When we returned home and opened the door, Ashley bolted. Faith and I pursued her. A nice lady picked us up and drove around following the naughty dog for about a mile or so as she crossed over a four-land highway (stopping traffic in both directions) and continued to run through neighborhoods. Lots of people got out of their cars and tried to help, but to no avail.

We did all of the things that you do when you lose a pet: put up posters, post on Craig’s List, call animal control and local vets, etc. But Ashley seemed to have disappeared without a trace. On Thursday (four days after running away) we received a call that our dog was sighted in another part of town. Could it be? Had our little pooch really survived the cold and rain and evaded being coyote prey or roadkill for four days?! Hope rekindled but was short-lived. Again, she disappeared without a trace.

On Monday (eight days on the run!), Michael heard a single bark on the side of our house around 5:00 am. He went outside and there was the crazy mutt staring at him! However, she would not let him get too close. Somehow, she had found her way back to the home that she only lived in for a few days and was letting her people know that she was still alive. But something inside her would not trust humans enough to let us get close. 

For the next few days, Ashley stayed in our neighborhood. She happily ran around taunting us. She ate from her food bowl on our porch. The construction workers at an apartment complex next door would feed her. Neighbors followed her. But she still would NOT allow anyone to get close. 

We were beyond frustrated! It seemed that our only hope was a trap. The local animal control officer loaned us a trap and instructed us on how to use it. Since Ashley was already accustomed to eating from our porch mornings and nights, our plan was to set the trap the following night (Thursday). However, Thursday morning the pursuit was brought to an abrupt end.

Ashley was hit by a car on Hwy. 99W after ten days of running free and evading capture. The jerk who hit her just sped off. However, thank God for kind people who stopped to help the little injured mutt. The people who stopped were busy people. They were headed to work but took the time to stop and care. 

Conveniently, Ashley was hit very close to an animal hospital and was immediately cared for. The x-ray showed shattered pelvic bones that would require surgery. Amazingly, she had no life-threatening internal injuries and no sign of paralysis. If the bones could be repaired, her prognosis was very good.

Here comes the hardest part of being a pet-owner/parent/human-being-with-a-heart. Could we afford to pay for a pet’s surgery? Of course not! It was out of the question! The kids were crying (okay - we were all crying) and telling us they didn’t need any Christmas presents and would sell all their toys and help out at the animal hospital to help pay... And then there were those sweet, tearful little prayers!

But there was just no way we could... 

And it made no sense to... 

It’s just a...

Ashley’s surgery went very well and she is recovering! 


Hi. My name is Ashley and I am super adorable (and naughty!).


Have we completely lost our minds and abandoned all common sense? Yes. Are we irresponsible and crazy? Absolutely! Will I be mopping floors and the animal hospital for the rest of my life? Probably. But we couldn’t do it. We couldn’t euthanize the sweet little (albeit psychotic) dog who was smart enough to find her way back to us and clever enough to keep herself alive in the wild for ten days. So we abandoned all reason.

We are currently looking into organizations that help out with this sort of thing. One local group has already committed to paying a small portion of the costs. We may very well sell some of the kids’ toys (might as well while they are motivated!).

In the meantime, please don’t judge us. Sometimes you just don’t know what you would do until you are in a situation.

I will keep you updated on the little pooch’s status. She’s tough and she’s a fighter. Something tells me there is a good chance she will survive and live a very long life.

Side note about the Palmas and pets: 

Michael and I are what you call Overly-Conscientious Pet Owners (OCPO). That is why we should not have pets! We have an oldest-child, over-sense-of-responsibility complex. When Michael was a kid, he cried hysterically when his mealworms died. I once prayed over a dying worm. Years ago, we won a beta fish as a door prize. We were told that beta fish are “happy” in a very small space and only need to eat once a week. However, we extensively researched What Beta Fish Want. Our fish (named Omega-Three Fatty Acid Palma) had a nice big tank and was hand fed three pellets twice a day. We took our garage-sale-rescue Guinea pig to the vet multiple times (mites, allergies, eye infection, old age...). Michael constructed a little Guinea pig condo for our two little rodents. Bob, our remaining piggy, is fat and happy and even has his own little heating pad for “cold” summer nights on the porch. 

Because we knew of our OCPO disorder, we were hesitant to get a dog. Lesson learned.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Princess in the Broken Down Car


Dedicated to my dad & husband.

For our family movie night recently, we watched Mirror Mirror. Michael said, “I see why you like this movie. The princess fights for herself.” This brought on a discussion about princess movies, being a strong woman, etc. My daughter is now old enough to find these topics interesting. I may have gone off a bit on my soap box and said some things along these lines:
 “Women should not just sit around as helpless damsels waiting for their prince to come and save them. Of course, a man should be willing and capable  of saving his princess. In fact, he should be willing to swim through shark-infested water to bring her lemonade - or whatever her heart desires!” (Actually, I should just add here that any guy who dates/marries my daughter dearest better be willing to do all that and more. She is VERY high maintenance and he should know that up front). 
I’m not apposed to princess movies. Little girls have an innate desire to be beautiful and wear pretty things and be sought after. However, I’ve never been particularly fond of the usual story line where the prince comes in and saves the day. 
So last Thursday I was driving home from work. The car broke down. It lost power and I just barely made it into a parking lot. While waiting for Michael to arrive, I called my mechanical-genius dad to see if he had any insights. He first joked about me “finally needing dad” then asked if I had looked in owners manual and checked something-or-other under the hood. “Ummm... no, Dad. I haven’t gotten quite that far yet. I’ve only had time to eat a snack, check my email and update my Facebook status to reflect my current situation while I’m waiting for Michael!” (Not my exact words, but the truth). 
Then it occurred to me: I was being that princess! I was sitting there helplessly waiting for my man to come and rescue me. Pathetic. Maybe I should have paid more attention in my auto mechanics class. Maybe I should have taken my dad’s advice and learned a couple of things about cars. 
So I managed to find the little lever thingy that pops the hood and had the owners manual open when Michael arrived. That way it looked like I was doing something and I wouldn’t look quite so pathetic to my children.
The car had an electrical problem diagnosed by my dad and Michael. There wasn’t really anything I could do without a jump start. 
I was humbled and decided that it is okay to need someone else’s help (even a guy)! In fact, I believe men have an innate need to feel needed. Rescuing their “damsel in distress” helps them feel manly and stuff. 
I also decided that I should educate myself on some car basics - especially If I’m going to preach to my daughter about a woman’s strength and independence. (Truth be told, I don’t even how to hook up jumper cables! I would no doubt electrocute myself.)
So ladies: Be strong. Be capable. But don’t be afraid to need someone else. We all have different skills and resources. Everyone wants to feel needed sometimes. And if it makes your guy feel more manly, well then... 
You may just both live happily ever after!
The End

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cleaning Puke and What to Look for in a Husband


If I were asked what one parental tasks is the true initiation into parenthood, I would have to say it is the cleaning up of vomit. Little else compares to the sight, the smell, the shock factor and the loss of sleep that accompanies little ones with a stomach virus. Once you’ve dealt with the above, you can truly consider yourself initiated into parenthood.
It was Friday evening after a long week. I was exhausted. After a day full of housecleaning and laundry, I decided to take a long hot shower (a rare treat for a mom, right?). As usual, my shower was interrupted by pounding on the door. Seriously, can’t kids entertain themselves for a few minutes?! Will I ever be able to take a shower in PEACE?! I can’t even go into the bathroom without little fingers under the door or a sudden and “urgent” need arising on the other side of the door. Anyway, these are the type of thoughts that go through my head as I answer “What?!” in an admittedly unpleasant tone. 
As it turns out, this particular shower interruption was completely valid. “Mommy, Caleb is PUKING!” Sure enough. He had complained of a stomach ache earlier in the evening, but I mistakenly assumed he had gas pains or something. When my daughter complains of a stomach ache, I immediately get a large bowl and raise the puke threat level to red. she is the one that has thrown up after too long on a tire swing. Caleb, on the other hand, had gone so long without throwing up, that he did not even remember how traumatic it is and asked in a shaky voice, “Am I going to die?”
Similar to Murphy’s Law, there must be a law stating that children will always throw up on something that is absorptive and cannot be easily thrown into the washing machine - such as carpet or the interior of an automobile. 
Here’s where I have to give credit to my very sweet husband. He actually has done most of the vomit cleaning over the past nearly eight years of parenthood. Ladies, if you are dating, don’t settle for a guy that would not do this!
This past week, we celebrated our 14-year anniversary. (Actually, I should say that the date passed and celebrating may happen at some point in the future when we’re not busy cleaning vomit and such).
So while we were busy cleaning the carpet and doing laundry, Caleb fell asleep on a freshly-cleaned-after-camping sleeping bag in our bedroom. Here’s where I have to mention my sweet daughter. The same little girl that has been tormenting her brother much of the summer, magically transformed into the nurturing little nurse. After giving him some water and covering him with blankets, Faith snuggled up next to him and promised to stay beside him all night! 

Here he is, asleep with his face in a bowl:



I was taken back to when I was about his age. After a bout with the stomach flu that resulted in throwing up all over my parents’ bed during a time when we had no running water, I developed severe vomit anxiety and would not sleep without my face in a pan (have I mentioned that I have some anxiety issues?). For several months, I woke up with a crease on my face from the side of the pan. I still remember how that pan smelled and how the metal felt against my face. Very soon after that, I developed a fear of germs and washed my hands anytime I touched ANYTHING. My hands were completely raw for months. Anyway, I digress. 
Tonight I’m spending Saturday night hanging out with my sick child. And I want to tell my own mother how much I appreciate all the times she cleaned up puke in the middle of the night... And all the times she stayed home with me when I was sick. 
Here’s to moms (and dads and grandparents, etc.) everywhere who are so committed to those little ones that they sacrifice sleep and fun to hang out with the little sick kiddos. And who bravely face the gag factor to clean up unspeakable messes!

Friday, April 20, 2012

One More Thing To Keep Your Eye On!

As parents, we are bombarded with health recommendations and warnings. Every now and then I break out in a cold sweat with sudden panic that I might be forgetting something important. Are their shots up-to-date? Are they getting enough vitamin D? Are they getting enough exercise? For months I was plagued with guilt that my children had not yet been to the dentist (for shame!). Finally I made an appointment and (phew!) their teeth were fine. 
The last thing we want is ONE MORE THING! Well, I’m about to give you ONE MORE THING. You’re welcome.
The American Optometric Association recommends that children have their eyes examined between age two and five. Did you know that? I didn’t either. 
Of course their eyes are fine! It will be obvious if something is wrong with their eyes, right? Lazy eye? That’s when one of the eyes wanders or something. 
That’s what I would have said a month ago. Now I know better. So I’m telling you because it’s important.
Caleb was just diagnosed with amblyopia (lazy eye). As a toddler, the vision in his left eye started to deteriorate. The images from that eye became progressively worse to the point that his brain started to ignore them completely. So his vision continued to deteriorate in that eye to the point that it is now 20/300. He also cannot see color in his left eye. We had no idea!
Caleb has always been advanced in his learning. He learned all his letters before age two and started reading at age four. So we never would have imaged anything was wrong with his eyes. 
At his four-year well-child visit, the nurse conduced the routine eye exam. With his right eye covered, Caleb had trouble reading the chart. We didn’t think too much of it and the doctor didn’t even mention it. However, when the same thing happened at his five-year checkup, we decided to make an eye appointment. 
That’s when we found out about the amblyopia. And that’s when we felt like awful parents! The opthamologist asked questions like: “Does he trip and fall a lot?” “Ummm...yeah...*gulp*...we just thought he was clumsy.” Apparently, for the best outcome, amblyopia needs to be treated before age five. Caleb is five-and-a-half. But we are very, very hopeful. Fortunately, the opthamologist we were assigned to specializes in amblyopia and has even had success treating teens.

Thankfully, treatment is a patch on the good eye for only two hours a day. So far it’s going well (I’ll keep you posted). We are keeping things very positive. On the day the glasses arrived, we all went out for dessert to celebrate. The thickness of the left lens was a bit of a shock to Michael (I forgot to prepare him for that) and he had to blink back tears as he smiled and told Caleb how great he looked. Faith is insanely jealous that Caleb has glasses and she doesn’t (I remember wanting glasses MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD at her age).


On the first patch day, we all wore an eye patch for two hours - even Faith (there may or may not have been bribery involved!).
Seems like there is always something we parents have to deal with. We can be very thankful that this is the worst thing we’ve had to deal with so far. 
I just want to get the word out that eye exams are important. At least be aware of the symptoms.
My apologies for adding ONE MORE THING!
Here’s some info for parents of small children:

Click here for Info on amblyopia

Here’s a book we’ve been reading (coincidentally, the family in the book looks a lot like ours!). 



Other books about getting glasses: 



Saturday, February 11, 2012

Family Vacations: Off-The-Grid And Beyond Civilization


Family vacations. I’ve heard of such things. I’ve heard that some families go to places such as Disneyland, vacation houses on the beach or on skiing trips to the mountains. We don’t. 
Our itinerary is typically the same. It is simple, yet complex. After over-loading the highly utilitarian we-don’t-care-what-the-kids-do-to-it vehicle, we head off on the family road trip. While the kiddos watch movies on their very own Apple TV that Michael custom designed for such road trips (yes, he’s THAT nerdy!), we drive through beautiful scenic regions. We pass gorgeous lakes, rivers, snow-capped mountains and drive through lush forests. Then slowly, the scenery begins to change. It becomes more rugged and barren. When the lush green forests have been replaced with stubby scrub brush and dry tumbleweeds blowing in the harsh winds, we know that we are close to our “vacation” destination - Grandma & Grandpa’s house. 
My parents have always had a taste for the rugged life. They are now living their dream far from civilization and “off the grid”. It’s not the first time. I spent parts of my childhood living without luxuries such as electricity or running water. Unlike most of my generation, I know what it’s like to haul water, light lanterns and take a shovel out to the woods in lieu of a toilet (yes, I’m serious!). My parents built several houses with their own hands. Morally opposed to incurring much debt, they built as they could afford it. Electricity and plumbing were “luxuries” that were way down on the priority list. And typically by the time we acquired them, it was time to move on. 
Moving was also very much a part of my childhood. I’ve moved more times than years I’ve been alive. By the time I was my daughter’s age (seven), I had lived in three states and one Canadian provence and had probably lived in at least 10 houses. My dream was to settle down someday and always have indoor plumbing. 
So now I have that life. It is wonderfully boring. I live in the suburbs with all the modern conveniences. My daughter is in second grade and has already gone to the same school for three years - something I never did!
Yet a few times a year we take a trip back in time and venture into that crazy off-the-grid existence. Many Portland folk think my parents’ way of life is wonderfully back-to-the-earth organic and granola. I challenge them to take a little “vacation” and enjoy low-carbon-footprint living to the fullest! They too can enjoy hanging laundry on the line and taking a trickle of a shower. 
This past Christmas was our most recent trip. With 12 people sharing one bathroom (the other 2 bathrooms are shut down during the winter so that the pipes won’t freeze), I hope and pray with all my might that I will not get the stomach flu. I pack an entire pharmacy's worth of first aide since the nearest emergency room is in another state. (Worst yet, the nearest Starbucks is at least 30-some miles away!)
It may not be Disneyland or a five-star resort in the mountains, but it’s time with family. It’s all we can afford and that’s okay. Time with family in the boonies? Priceless. My children have room to run and play and explore. They find exciting things like owl pellets, snake skins and rodent skulls. At night they hear the coyotes howl and see the sky lit up with stars. Evenings are spent in the comfort of a cozy wood stove heated cabin watching classic comedies (with the help of a generator) and eating stove-popped popcorn by the  light of kerosene lamps. 
I’m sure one day my children will find their suburban life incredibly boring. They will pine for adventure. My answer to them? “Go spend a month with Grandma & Grandpa!” It will be a win-win.  
The cabin we usually stay in. It's the lowest square footage that can be built without being taxed!

My grandparents' cabin. They are 85 years old and built this themselves!
My parents' house that they built with their own hands.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

M.O.P.E.


M.O.P.E.
Mothers Of Picky Eaters (M.O.P.E.). I’ve often thought there should be such a support group. If you have a little Princess or Prince with “discerning taste” you know what I’m talking about (if you don’t, please read this anyway so you’ll understand and won’t try to give advice!). Take the following test to see if you have a Picky Eater in your house (check all that apply):
You know you have a child with “discerning taste” if...
  • Your first thought when your family is asked over to eat at a friend’s house is “Will there be anything my child will eat?”
  • He/she sits at the dinner table and immediately bursts into tears.
  • You are not above bribery (i.e. “If you will just eat one bite of Grandma’s roast without whining...”).
  • You’ve ever caught yourself being excited that your child tried a doughnut (or other worthless food) because at least it’s something new!
  • When eating away from home, you have discretely eaten food off your child’s plate so it looks like he/she actually ate something. 
  • You make a special trip to that one store for that certain brand of that one thing that he/she ate that one time. 
  • Your family is limited to restaurants that offer French fries. 
  • When eating at a restaurant, you order something off the kids’ menu - even though you know your child won’t eat it - because you don’t want the waiter to think you don’t feed your child.
  • In desperation, you find yourself using that silly line about “starving children in China” that your parents used and you vowed you’d never say.
I’m actually a Registered Dietitian. I’ve spent time studying the nutritional needs of children and there was a time when I imagined feeding my future children. My children would love fruits and vegetables. The theory was: if a child is only offered nutritious foods from the beginning, he/she will develop a taste for those things. And mealtime should be a pleasant and positive occasion, right? I imagined my child sitting in her highchair, happily stuffing squares of tofu and steamed vegetables into her chubby cheeks. 
Then I had a child. Not just any child - the World’s Pickiest Eater (I’m sure of it!). I still remember the fateful day that I put her in her highchair for the first time. It was the day I had been waiting for for so many years. From that first attempt at rice cereal, until now - nearly seven years later, meals have been a constant struggle. 
When my daughter went in for her one-year well-child visit, the doctor gave us “the talk” - the your-child-is-falling-off-the-growth-chart talk. She was dipping dangerously down below the 5th percentile of weigh-for-height. For the next few months, we tried desperately to get her weight up with PediaSure, butter and/or dressing on everything, and anything she would eat. I imagined my child being labeled “failure to thrive” going through life with a feeding tube. On the next visit to the doctor, however, the growth chart revealed that she was maintaining her weight and following her own growth curve appropriately. Whew! The damage was done, however. To this day, plain milk is intolerable and bread must have at least an inch of butter to be palatable. 
Sometimes I think back and wonder where I went wrong. Oftentimes, I am embarrassed to tell people that I am a dietitian. “Um, yes, I’m a dietitian ... and yes, my child only eats five things.” 
Before I make the situation seem terrible, I should mention a few things about my picky eater. Most of the things she likes are actually quite nutritious. She loves vegetables (albeit with their appropriate amounts of ranch dressing or butter). Her one-and-only bread is the whole wheat baguette from the Fred Meyer bakery. She drinks only low-fat organic milk (cooked in the microwave for 30-33 seconds with approximately 1 tablespoon of Ovaltine). 
And then there’s the advice you get from well-meaning folk. You’ve probably heard it all. “If she’s hungry enough, she’ll eat.” “You’re feeding her too often.” “You’re giving too many choices.”  “When my kids were little____.” You’ve probably also received “the look”. You know “the look”. It says “I’m keeping my mouth shut... but you are clearly catering way too much to that child.” 
I’m not writing this merely to vent about the past seven years (however, that’s been helpful!). Actually, I want to point out some positives and give some hope to other M.O.P.E. members! 
Here’s some things I’ve learned:
  1. Don’t panic! Remember the one-year well-child visit? Apparently, that same scenario is extremely common. I’ve talked to many other moms since then who went through the same scare. The physician had them worried sick and the child continued to grow and thrive at his/her own rate. Of course, there ARE situations where real physical problems exist. You can pay attention without panicking. 
  2. Everything is a phase. For several months following being sick and vomiting, Faith would only eat dry cereal, crackers and popcorn. We worried ourselves sick. Then, slowly but surely, she started to incorporate a few fruits and veggies. Soon she was back to her “normal”.
  3. Reinforce the positive. Have a reward system for trying new foods. Make positive statements such as “That’s great that you like to eat your vegetables. Protein foods are really important, too. Would you like peanut butter or a piece of cheese for your protein?”
  4. Teach children about food and nutrition. Talk about nutrients and the foods that they are in and talk about it during meals. Find books and activity sheets that teach about what happens to foods when we eat them.
  5. Don’t let the child see you sweat. So much of the Picky Eater Syndrome is a control issue. If the child knows you are worried sick about their nutritional intake, he/she will milk that for all its worth. Pretend that you are not concerned. Here’s where the Love & Logic philosophy is helpful. “I’m sorry you don’t want to eat your dinner. You will be really hungry later.” 
  6. Allow the child to make choices where appropriate. We all have preferences and that’s okay. Let the child have a part in making decisions in his/her nutrition. “Would you like peaches or apples for your fruit today?”
  7. Involve children in food preparation. Kids are more likely to eat a food that they helped prepare.
  8. Plan ahead. Before eating away from home, prepare your child. If age appropriate, talk about being gracious and saying “thank you” rather than whining or asking for something else. For younger children, take something that you know the they’ll eat (so the host doesn’t have to worry about what to feed the little one). Older children can either eat what is set before them or wait until later.  
  9. Take advice with a grain of salt. The fact of the matter is, only you know your child. Someone else is only seeing a small glimpse of the big picture. The observer may see a child that is only eating two things at a meal. You see a child that has just tried something new! Don’t throw out all advice, however. As with any aspect of parenting, keep an open mind and glean from the wisdom of others. 
  10. Model good eating habits. It may not seem like your kids are paying attention, but they are. They should see you enjoying a variety of healthy foods. “Mmmm...this is yummy broccoli. Want to try some?” (I’m still waiting for this one to work, by the way!).