Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Trading Soda for Water

I drink too much soda.  I know this.  I should drink more water.  I know this, too.  And yet, it's awfully convenient to grab a can of soda when I'm walking out the door instead of pouring water into a jug or other portable vessel.  Also, I find that I don't really care for the taste of the filtered water in the fridge, or most bottled water either.  There are a few brands I like, but I don't like actually buying bottled water just to have it easily accessible.

When I started looking for ways to make drinking water more palatable, I came across some yummy sounding recipes and methods for making homemade vitamin water, or flavored water.  So, I made up a few batches following the directions (essentially, you put your fruits and herbs in a mason jar, muddle it a bit, add ice and fill with water, then refridgerate until you drink it).  And the combinations I made turned out good.  But, I realized it was still a bit of a pain to find something to pour it into to take with me, not to mention you really ought to strain it first, and most of the preparations ended up sitting in the fridge and lost their initial appeal.

I still loved the idea of having fruity/herb-y water, though.  And I got to thinking, I have a couple of those reuseable insulated cups with lids and straws - you know the ones I mean?  And, I have fruit and herbs in the fridge.  And ice in the freezer.  You see where I'm going with this?  I decided to try just making enough for one cup at a time, so it doesn't get wasted and stays good.  And I still get the healthy benefits and fresh flavor.

So here's the method: Get just a little bit of the fresh fruits and/or herbs you want to use.  Squeeze any juice into your cup, then drop the fruit pieces in, add herbs, and mash a little with the end of the straw.  Fill cup with ice, and then water.  Put the lid on, stir the water around with the straw, and let sit 10-15 minutes while you do something else (usually for me, it's while I'm serving dinner or cleaning up in the evening before bed).  The fruits and herbs are usually good for at least one refill, sometimes two.  Enjoy!

( I also read that frozen fruits can be used, thawed first, but I haven't tried that yet.)

A few of my favorite combinations are:
Lime with Mint
Watermelon with Rosemary
Strawberries with Basil
Strawberries with Mint
Lemon and Strawberries
Blackberries with Basil
Blackberries with Mint
Citrus- mix any combo of Lemon, Lime or Orange (I used blood oranges, they're good and make the water a pretty ruby color)

Some combos I want to try are:
Lime with Rosemary
Strawberries with Rosemary
Cucumber with Mint
Cucumber with Rosemary

After I get some basics that I really love, and more fruits come into season (think raspberries!) I'm going to expand my options, and maybe combine more than just two items together.  Hopefully I'll get to where it's my go-to drink and it'll make more sense to make up a bigger batch.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I started this week out with good plans for Dragon Boy's lessons.  He really is very smart, and can learn new things very quickly.  I figured since he went about halfway through the year in public school (he's in 2nd grade), the first half or so of the textbooks for each subject should be fairly easy as they would mostly be review.  And because he's so smart and already knows the information, we should be able to fly right through the work.  This seemed to be sound reasoning.


My first week in the Lesson Planner was so organized: I had chapters, page numbers and assignment titles scheduled for the entire week for each subject, except math- where I had a note that each day of review would determine the next day. Texas only requires that homeschooled students study 5 subjects: Math, Reading, Grammar, Spelling and Good Citizenship (aka Social Studies). I have a few additional subjects that I think are valuable and should be included: Writing, Science, Art, Religion & a foreign language (at the moment, only the first two are actually on the schedule).

So far this week, we have consistently failed to complete everything on the day's schedule. I am beginning to think I should have scheduled less work per subject. As my husband reminded me the other night, the whole point of homeschooling is to do what works for us, at the pace that works for us. Which reminded me of the reasons I am choosing to homeschool (which I think deserves a post all it's own).

Although Dragon Boy is intellectually capable of accomplishing all that I set for him, he is physically incapable of accomplishing all that I set for him.  Let me explain what I mean.  DB is, as I said, very smart.  His pediatrician has commented on it.  His teachers at the elementary school have commented on it.  His therapists have commented on it (his therapists have offered the idea that he could probably run circles around many of the teachers at school...).  And, as long as we are doing the work verbally, he's all over it.  He has every answer almost before I ask the question.  Physically, though, he is 100% incapable of sitting and focusing long enough to do the work I know he can.  Particularly when the assignments require written work.  (Written answers are not his forte.)  A Language Arts assignment (reading comprehension, writing, spelling, grammar) that should take no more than 20 minutes from start to finish turns into 40 minutes, most of that consisting of various delay tactics.  A Math assignment that should take 35 minutes - less if we do it verbally - turns into an hour and a half because "writing the answers is boring".

Right now, the biggest problem I'm facing is that he is bored reviewing the information he has already learned.  And, if I could, I would love to skip straight to new material.  But I can't, because sending home work that has been completed and shows the progress of the student was not one of the things the school did well.  Most of what did come home made little or no sense to me, and many times I was relying on my son's memory of the assignment/instructions to even figure out what it was for.  Therefore, I have no idea what he actually did in school.

Although, today we did finally figure out where we will be starting for math (subtracting from double digits that requires borrowing).  In Spelling we are simply picking up where we left off last year, since he has already worked halfway through the 2nd grade Spelling book.  Reading Comprehension and Grammar have never been a problem as far as understanding the material, and our books are different from the books the school issued, so it is not a repeat of exactly the same thing.  He is quick to tell me the answer, less prompt about writing the answers.  Writing is a struggle, not because he doesn't have an answer, but again because he doesn't want to write it down.  Although, I'll give him the excuse that due to some of his occupational and sensory issues writing can be a pain - literally.  Science & Social Studies- again, I don't know what he's done, so we're going to just read straight through the books together, discussing the review questions as we come to them.

Which brings me to an idea I had floating around my brain.  I think I am going to try a more relaxed approach to homeschooling.  With Texas being one of the easiest states to homeschool in, with very few requirements, I can really tweak our program however I like.  That being the case, I am going to focus less on quantity and more on quality.  If it takes us all week to do 2 pages of any given subject, that's ok.  And if we don't get to every subject every day, that's ok, too.  Probably, I will rely less on planning assignments, and more on recording what we do as it gets done.

I want my kids to enjoy learning, especially Dragon Boy because he is showing resistance to school.  In order to accomplish that most important goal, I have to be willing to be more flexible in what I think they should be able to do and what they actually are able to do.  I will also have to be a bit more hands-on than I had intended.  I had hoped that DB would be able to do some of his work independently, but that's not looking like it is going to happen just yet.  But, if working with him one-on-one for most, if not all, of his subjects is what it takes to keep him focused, that is what I will do.  And be glad that I have the ability and opportunity to do so.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sleepless Nights and Infant Ear Infections

If you've ever had a baby with an ear infection, you know it's just as miserable for Mom and Dad as for Baby.  Which leads to this post.  There are other places on the internet you can find information on ear infections, signs and symptoms and treatments.  However, since both my sons have suffered from chronic ear infections, I feel the need to address it here.  (My daughter, luckily, did not go through them, and has only ever had one ear infection in her 4 1/2 years.)

Dragon Boy had his first ear infection when he was about 6 or 8 weeks old, and kept getting them for the first two and half years of his life.  Every other week or so, he had another one, alternating ears, or sometimes both ears.  I think the grand total was somewhere between 34-40 in those two years.

Chunky Monkey, who is not quite 7 months old (he will be 7mo in a few days) has also had more than his fair share of ear infections, starting at 7 weeks old.  Same deal: alternating ears and double infections.  The latest has been either a never-ending infection for the last 4-5 weeks, or just back-to-back infections with little to no relief in between.

In our case, the solution for both is tubes.  DB got them at about 2 1/2 years old, and has only had one mild ear infection since.  My monkey baby will be having the same surgery in a week and a half, and I am seriously hoping for similar results. 

Like I said above, when Baby has an ear infection, it's miserable for everyone.  Since they can't talk to tell us what's wrong, it's often a guessing game and a matter of ruling out all other possibilities to figure out what's wrong.  And then, you have to try and figure out some way to help Baby find relief.  I hope this helps someone.

Signs/Symptoms of an Ear Infection include (but are not limited to!):
  • Unusual fussiness/crankiness
  • Excessive crying - especially when lying down
  • Pulling or tugging on ears (mine never did this too much, until after being diagnosed)
  • Refusing to nurse or take a bottle; diminished appetite if eating baby food
  • Cannot be calmed using usual methods
  • Fever can be associated with ear infections
  • Restlessness; not sleeping
Of course, most of these symptoms can be caused by other things, such as a cold, teething, gas, tiredness, hunger...  So before jumping to the conclusion that your little one is suffering from an earache, it is a good idea to try treating other potential problems.

Treatments for Ear Infections:

  • Warm compress on the ear
  • Massage at the base of the ear to relieve pressure
  • Keep Baby propped up at 30-90 degrees, even when sleeping
  • Apply a couple drops of warm olive oil in ear, and place a bit of a torn cotton ball in the ear
  • Walking or driving Baby around
  • Cover Baby's head with a light blanket
  • Keep the noise level around Baby as low as possible
At-home medicines
  • Tylenol and/or Motrin (dosage as directed by your pediatrician)
  • Teething tablets - believe me, this works!
  • Earache drops
  • Cold tablets - this works especially if the earache is related to a cold, and has the bonus of working on the cold symptoms, too
  • Benadryl might help, if the earache sets in around the same time as seasonal allergies start being a problem
Medical treatment, when at-home remedies simply aren't enough
  • Your baby's pediatrician can determine if s/he has an ear infection or just an earache.  There could be other factors causing ear pain, such as a wax build-up, which the doctor can clear out 
  • While sometimes ear infections will clear up on their own, there are other times when you might want to consider an antibiotic.  Amoxicillin, Cephalexin and Supprax are common ones, among others.  Be sure to tell the doctor if Baby has any known allergies.  And, if Mom or Dad has any allergies, be aware of giving Baby those or related meds and watch her/his reactions.
  • The pediatrician may also prescribe a steroid to boost Baby's immune system and their ability to fight off the infection
  • Recurrent, or chronic, ear infections might require a trip to an ENT (ear, nose & throat) doctor.  The ENT will likely monitor your baby's health, and number of infections, for a couple months, and will then discuss the best treatment options.  These can include having a relatively simple surgical procedure done to insert tubes into the ears; adnoidectomy (removing adnoids that may be blocking the eustachian tube and not allowing proper drainage); and, in rare instances, tonsillectomy - though it is generally not thought that having tonsils removed actually makes a difference to chronic ear infections.
Causes and Contributing Factors to Ear Infections:
  • Ear infections can be viral or bacterial.  Many times, an ear infection will come along with a cold, but sometimes, they'll come on their own
  • An under-developed eustachian tube that prevents proper drainage allows fluid to collect which then invites bacteria to grow causing the infection
  • Boys are more susceptible to chronic ear infections, according to some research.  Also, having a family history of ear problems is a good indicator whether you can expect it in your children.
  • Allergies, asthma or other respiratory-related problems can contribute to ear infections
  • Teething.  Not sure why, and some experts deny it, but there is a connection between teething and ear infections.  Possibly, it is the excess saliva babies produce that pools in the back of their mouths and gets "stuck".
  • Being around cigarette smoke has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing ear infections
  • Bottle-fed babies tend to be more likely have recurrent ear infections; I'm not sure why, but research shows breastfed babies tend to be less susceptible (though this certainly isn't the case in my family, here it's all genetics)
  • Some literature also claims that pacifier use can lead to increased risk of infections
  • Children who go to daycare or school are also more likely to get them, probably due to the unrestrained germ-swap they engage in with the other children
Risks from Chronic Ear Infections:
  • Possible ear drum rupture - would be very painful, though it should heal on it's own.  Carries an additional risk of infection and more medical treatment.
  • Scarring, either from a ruptured ear drum or from the inflamed and irritated tissue caused by the infections
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech delay
  • Other developmental delays
  • Balance or sensory problems may be related
  • Early weening for a breastfed baby
Prevention tips:
While these haven't worked for my boys, they might work for someone else.
  • Avoid exposure cigarette smoke if at all possible
  • Cover Baby's head and ears when it is cold, windy or rainy outside
  • Try to have baby sit up a little bit when nursing or drinking from a bottle to prevent the liquid from pooling in the back of their mouth
  • Try not to send Baby to bed with a bottle or sippy-cup
  • Try to limit exposure to known seasonal or animal allergies
Just a few more things:
  • As miserable as you are, Baby is feeling worse.  S/he is tired and in pain, and can't understand why. 
  • You will have to experiment with the different relief options to see what works best for you and Baby. 
  • Rocking, walking and/or driving with Baby really do help.
  • If Baby won't sleep on her/his own, take them to bed with you, even if you don't, as a rule, co-sleep.  The closeness may provide the extra comfort s/he needs to fall asleep, and stay asleep.
  • Try having Baby lie on your chest, and sit/lie supported by pillows or the back of a couch or chair.  Get comfy - you will probably sleep in this half-sitting up position for as long as Baby will sleep.
  • Stay calm.  As tired as you are, getting frustrated that you can't settle your baby won't help you, and it won't help Baby.  Try calling a family member or friend to come sit with the baby so you can get a little break, if you need to.
  • Nap when Baby naps, if you can
  • and, Good Luck!

(Anyone who has other questions about babies and ear infections, I'd be happy to try and give you an answer that will help.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year - A New Start

Well, it's 2013.  So much happened last year!  I don't even know where to begin.  The major events include the birth of my 3rd child, and buying a house with my fiance for our family.

I attempted the 2012 Pagan Blog Project, but I'm afraid I was a miserable failure ;)  But I did enjoy reading posts by other participants, and made some new friends that way.  I also got my first taste of blogging, even if the PBP was a little too ambitious for me.

Funny enough, it's been 8 months, and we're still settling in to our new home.  We'll be getting the carpets cleaned this weekend, and then, hopefully, we can finalize some of the furniture and room arrangements that we've been putting off.  The baby is big enough to start sleeping in his own crib (sniff, sniff) but still in our room, which means we need to move our "office" into the spare room so we have room for it.

We also managed to adopt a new kitten.  She is the cutest little thing, but growing like a weed!  She must have been abandoned by her mama; we found her hiding in our backyard and just couldn't turn her out on her own again.  Add to that, we got saddled with two additional cats whose owners were going to dump them somewhere before moving out of state and being unable to take them along.  Since I couldn't stand the thought of 4 cats just being tossed out to fend for themselves, I took it upon myself to find them homes.  I got two rehomed, but the other two are proving more difficult to adopt out.

The kids started out this school year in public school: DB in 2nd grade and FP in Pre-K.  Fairy Princess was doing fine, except for a tendency to be extremely tired and cranky, even though she only went for a half-day.  Dragon Boy, on the other hand, was struggling - his grades were consistently going down and he was already in 2 resource classes.  With his Challenges, and my anxiety, we decided to resume homeschooling as of right now, after the holiday break from school.  Our Homeschool Adventure will begin again come Monday, Jan 7.

The baby (I'll have to come up with a nickname for him...) has been suffering from chronic ear infections for five months.  After two bouts of croup, and an almost constant URI, he'll be having tubes put into his ears in a week and a half.  Of course, I'm nervous about my 7mo old having surgery, but my older son had the same surgery and he's much better for it.  Then again, he was 2 1/2 when he had it done...

So plans for the new year include a successful homeschool adventure; getting my children well - and keeping them that way!; blogging a bit more regularly - though not trying to hold myself to any certain requirements; and, as always, enjoying life and being a mom to 3 wonderful kids.

Happy New Year!