Rationally Irrational

Happy Belated Adoption Month! Yes, I know it was in November but I’m sure you understand that the reason I missed Adoption Month was because of, well, adoption. Thanks to the very reason I have all my kids, I can’t even reflect on how awesome it is to have my kids. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Perfectly logical, right? As opposed to the recent study on flu vaccine deniers that shows debunking myths about the flu vaccine makes people less likely to get one. What?! So in the spirit of National Influenza Vaccine Week, I’m just going to have to crawl out of the chaos and explain that one.

If you read the findings, basically it went like this: Group A and Group B believe the flu vaccine is dangerous, can give them the flu, and so on and so on. Group A is given lots of very factual information on the dangers of influenza (like death). Then Group A is also given piles of information on the safety of the vaccine as well as the reason why the vaccine can’t give them the flu (because it can’t). Meanwhile, Group B is served coffee and donuts. Afterwards, they ask each group whether they have changed their minds about getting the vaccine. Shockingly, Group A is now less likely to pop down to their local Walgreen’s and roll up a sleeve. Yep. That’s right. So much for information is power, eh? (It’s actually kind of depressing. I’m wondering why I bother saying anything ever now. Sigh.)

Anyway how did the researchers explain this phenomenon? By the way, these guys are famous for studying irrationality. They’ve basically made a career out of showing how facts that challenge one’s belief system don’t necessarily change that belief. What they have found is that dispelling one myth just dispels one myth. It doesn’t challenge all the other reasons a person believes a certain way. In fact, getting rid of that one myth, brings to mind every other concern, misbelief or outright fear that person may have.

It’s like this: Zoe: “Mommy, I don’t want to wear that shirt, it’s scratchy.” Me: “What are you talking about? I just cut the tag out and had the entire inside lined with soft fleece after washing it 50 times in fabric softener.” Zoe: “Oh. Well, the problem is that red is just not my color.”

Get it? The sad fact is that the more we talk about vaccines, the more people are reminded of all their fears about immunization. They search for other reasons not to vaccinate. But the answer is not to stop talking. Those of us who believe in the life-saving miracle of vaccines need to talk until we are blue in the face, stamping out myth after myth after myth until there is nothing left to be afraid of.

So there you have it. There are a lot of things to be scared about in this world. If I tell you I hate skiing because I’m afraid of the chair lift, you’re probably going to point me in the direction of the towrope. At which point I’ll tell you that I’m actually afraid of breaking my leg. Which isn’t entirely irrational. What is irrational is that we’re going skiing over Christmas. Skiing is dangerous. But so is influenza. As are the other vaccine preventable diseases. Not getting vaccinated is not a rational decision.

Go get your flu shot.

A Different Kind of Chicken Pox Party

Flu Shot Day! Yesterday I had somehow managed to finagle 3 appointments in the same day from our pediatrician. Small detail/complication in that they weren’t at the same time. On purpose. Round One saw Otto go in for his. Being under the age of 2, he got the injection along with a few others that needed doing. Then I dragged him back home to wait for the girls to return from school. I swiftly handed him off to our babysitter, pulled the girls off the bus and headed back to the doctor’s office for Round two. Why not all at once? Because I just can’t handle pulling Otto off counter tops while wrestling Zoe into shot position and at the same time keep Eva out of the M&M jar on the desk. I simply can’t. Call me weak. I don’t mind. But what I’m not weak about is how important the flu shot/spray is. Every year we lose perfectly healthy people to influenza. It’s not a joke. Influenza is deadly and the flu shot works.

Anyway, on the way to the office the girls were debating whether to get the FluMist nasal spray or the shot. Since they are over the age of 2 and otherwise healthy, both were an option. I left the choice entirely up to them. For the mist, there are pluses (no shot) and minuses (small risk of a mild viral illness). Hilariously they went back and forth, finally boasting that they were both in for the shot. “Well, it doesn’t really hurt me because I’m very strong,” claimed Eva, flexing an arm that is about as big around as a pretzel stick.

But then Mommy remembered something. The girls hadn’t had their kindergarten shots yet. As in the varicella, DaPT and MMR boosters. Now most people get these shots in the run up to kindergarten. My two aren’t in kindergarten yet. However they are both old enough to be boostered. (Is that a word?) And you know how I like to make sure we are an immune bunch. Not to mention the very real possibility that life could get even crazier and I would forget to take them back in. I mean, seriously, someone asked me the other day how old I am and I just stared back, completely blank. Dealing with 3 small kids, a child-like husband, a house and a job is hard enough. Don’t ask me to remember things like my first name or favorite color. Let alone if I remembered to make an appointment for a varicella booster! Our pediatrician knows us well enough to know that he has to act when he sees us.

Anyhoo, all this means we rolled into the pediatrician’s office and I casually enquired, “So, am I crazy or do they also need their 4 to 6 year jabs?” He flipped through the charts and nodded, silently pulling out vial after vial, recording lot numbers and vaccine names. The flu shot conversation fell right off the table and I informed both that they would only get the FluMist.

In addition to 3 more shots.

The girls looked me with horror and I began apologizing profusely, telling them how terrible chicken pox and measles are and promising that I too would get my flu shot the next day. (Reasonably asthmatic, I don’t have the nose spray option.) “You wouldn’t want to be horribly sick with terrible itchy spots do you?” I pleaded. I can’t blame them for their reactions, as usually I do like to prepare them instead of just springing surprise shots on them. But we were here and the shots needed doing. They remained unimpressed and openly resistant until their pediatrician interrupted me. “Don’t worry. We can just take care of Mommy right now.” They stared at him as he pulled another vial out of the fridge and began writing yet another note. Which seemed to do the trick. Eva pulled her leggings down and marched forward, a half-smile on her face.

“You’ll get yours next, Mommy, but you won’t get a chocolate,” Eva informed me as she crawled onto my lap for her jab-jab-jab-spray. There were some tears, for sure, but a sterile urine collection tube full of M&Ms was quickly shoved into her hands and it was Zoe’s legs and nostrils next. Sweaty and red-faced, the two of them then sat together, shoving chocolate into their mouths with giant grins on their faces. “Your turn!” they sang, as I pulled up my sleeve. How very kind of them, so pleased to throw their mother to the wolves…

I didn’t cry. I also wasn’t offered a piece of chocolate. But I am protected against this year’s projected strains of influenza. As are my kids. Husband was injected two weeks ago. And on top of that we had a bit of a party at the pediatrician’s office. Chocolates were flying, the varicella boosters were flowing. In other words, a chicken pox party without the risk of pneumonia, encephalitis, group A strep sepsis or death.  On top of that we got protection against influenza and no more shots for the girls until age 9 (HPV). Now how’s that for a good time?

Five Years a Mom!

Happy Birthday to Me!

It was five years ago today that I stood in a hospital room–fully clothed mind you–waiting for the birth of my first child. It was a crazy, emotional, stressful and joyous time. Not only were we not guaranteed this baby (her birth mom had a minimum of 24 hours after delivery to change her mind), but she was being induced prematurely for fluid on the heart, a known high-risk pregnancy with poor growth and fetal stress. And then out she came, tiny and furious, beet red and fuzzy blond. The estimated weight was 3 ½ pounds, so you can imagine my relief to hear “4 pounds 10 ounces!” The special care nurse came and deemed her well enough for the big baby nursery. And then we trotted off down the hall, facing this day of visits from cardiologist, neonatologists, social workers and lawyers. This day I became a mom.

So what have I learned since then? Um, basically that I didn’t really know very much about babies and children. Board certified pediatrician? Yes. Knowledge of nipple flow speeds? Diaper sizes? How to get a child out of a poopie onesie without scissors? Hardly. (Never moved beyond scissors when my kids had poop going up their backs, to be perfectly honest.) Exactly 5 years ago a nurse handed me first the baby, then a tiny little bottle with a teaspoon of formula. I stared at her dumbly and said, “um, how do I fit this inside of that?” nodding first to the seemingly huge nipple and then to her impossibly small mouth. I could write the order for the nurse to feed her, but what did I know about nipple feeding a microscopic preemie? The nurse took pity on me and gave me a crash course in NICU tips and tricks. For the rest of it, as we all do, I just had to figure it out. And despite my many missteps and moments of bumbling idiocy, she doesn’t seem to have suffered too much.

Fast forward and suddenly I have a 5 year-old! And what a joyous little girl she is.  This child literally beams from morning to night. Even when she was learning to swim, you could look into the pool and make out a huge smile as her arms and legs flailed hysterically. Yes, this child even smiles while drowning. I mean, that’s really a lesson for all of us, isn’t it?

No matter how prepared you may think you are—hello, board certified pediatrician here—becoming a parent really reveals how ignorant and inept you really are. It’s the most humbling of jobs and yet the most rewarding. But more importantly, it’s the most learning we’ll ever do in life. Eva’s favorite phrase is, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.” Whether the cupcakes fell or she spilled her breakfast on her lap, she’s got a smile on her face and a shrug of her shoulders. We just frost the cakes anyway, wipe off what we can with a baby wipe and get on with our day.  With a big smile on our faces.

So thank you to my first born. You’ve shown me how uneducated I really was. You teach us all to smile all day, every day. And you remind us of what does and really doesn’t matter in life. Flat cupcakes are still cupcakes, aren’t they?  Still so tiny yet in some ways so very wise. Here’s to a very, very happy birthday, Eva.

Otto’s Growing Vocabulary  

Isn’t it funny how once a kid gets the hang of something, he really gets the hang of it? Like when I think back on the girls, I can remember being worried because they didn’t really speak. I then remember thinking they would never shut up. (Which remains a current theme as they take absolute delight in screaming, “Vagina! Penis! Bumhole!” As often and as loudly as they can. (Yes, I’m aware that the medical term is “anus.” They just don’t seem that taken with it, despite my efforts to correct them. Apparently “Bumhole” is a lot more fun to shout out.) Anyway, that’s another post. The point is, I don’t really remember the in between, you know, the period of time between an occasional new word and a little person who seemed to understand and say just about everything.

Which is why I feel compelled to try and carefully record Otto’s language progression. I’m sure as his vocabulary grows, my interest in each new word will wane, but for now every single step we take toward verbal communication feels awesome. Well, awesome until last Saturday when Otto gave me his 3rd word. Are you ready? Okay then. Here it is: Elmo.

Yes, Elmo. As in the furry, red, loveable little Sesame Street Character. The one that has lived in our home, been thrown down our stairs, and cheerfully encouraged my children to use the potty while they were watching him and simultaneously urinating on the furniture. That Elmo.

Now I know what you are going to say. So let me say it for you. “But Dr. Zibners, we all know the AAP says no television before the age of 2. So how on earth did Otto become so familiar with said furry muppet?”

The answer? Um, he watches television? I mean, not all day long. But certainly not “never.”

This very subject came up last summer when we were visiting with some friends who have a daughter about Otto’s age. Her dad is also a pediatrician and a very good one at that. In keeping in line with the AAP guidance, he gets really mad at her mom when he finds out she’s been allowed to watch television. (Notice the careful wording here.) The mom confided that she occasionally lets the little girl watch a bit of Sesame Street in the morning when her 3 year-old sibling is home. I mean, what’s the harm?

Well, is there any harm? What does the AAP actually say about this? Some of you may have heard that the American Academy of Pediatrics strictly recommends absolutely no television viewing before the age of 2. Which isn’t actually what they said. In fact, in the Policy Statement, they point out that they have been “frequently misquoted by media outlets as no media exposure in this age group.” But, no, before you get too excited, they aren’t exactly praising me for popping my kids in front of the television either. However, do allow me to summarize the 3 key points.

  • There is no evidence that children under the age of 2 can benefit developmentally or educationally from electronic media. Unstructured play is clearly better.
  • There is evidence that media exposure can cause aggression, sleep problems, obesity and attention problems, although these studies have looked at preschool and school age kids.
  • Yo! Parents who think it is okay to watch CNN or Breaking Bad while their kids are in the room are not only going to miss some key moments, but their kids are actually watching people being blown up in the Middle East. That’s probably not good, eh?

So there you have it. What the policy actually says is this: we should be discouraging media exposure in kids under 2. Notice I said “media,” not “television.” The policy is not just addressing Sesame Street videos, but Angry Birds, Farm Heroes and whatever else you’ve got on your smart phone or iPad. (I’m on to you. I travel and eat in restaurants with children too, people.) But the truth is, kids learn better from unstructured play in the real world, with 3-dimensional objects they can touch, hold, sniff and lick. 2-dimensional worlds don’t give them the same richness of experience and the result is that little ones can’t learn as much from playing an electronic puzzle as from playing with one made out of wood.

But—in my defense– the policy does not say “absolutely none.” The AAP recognizes that media and television are a part of our lives. So, no, your kid shouldn’t have a TV in his bedroom. But if your 17 month-old son happens to love Sesame Street, that’s not the worst thing you can flip on while you try to get a shower/do the dishes/write a blog post. (Just saying.) If you do allow your little one some television or iPad time, you should make sure the material is appropriate for a child of that age. Even better if you can watch together and sing songs or talk about Mr. Noodle. And please don’t stay there all day. One episode is enough.

So there you go. Solo playtime allows babies as young as 4 months to think creatively, solve problems, and accomplish new tasks independently. Unstructured play with or without an adult is more valuable for these precious little minds than any television show or Mickey Mouse Roadhouse Rally game. But what’s also valuable and precious is my sanity. Which sometimes means turning on the TV. Of course, now that Otto can say, “Elmo,” he thinks we’re going to turn on a video every time he asks. Which clearly isn’t the case. At least not after the first dozen times. It is super cute. And he is very clearly impressed with himself. As am I, although admittedly he could have chosen a word that didn’t publicly shame his mother. Then again, at least it wasn’t “Walter White”, right?




Otto Speaks…Sort Of

Yes, the boy says “Mama.” Which officially makes him a Mama’s Boy. Which is exactly what I wanted. In all seriousness, I thought it was worth following up on the Otto the Silent post from a few weeks back. I got a few comments on my Facebook page, all of which were totally valid even though they didn’t completely align with one another. So I thought this would be a topic worth revisiting.

The good news is Otto is no longer entirely silent. In a span of a couple of weeks, he’s begun clearly saying “Mama” and occasionally screaming “Nein.” (The “nein” came out when Zoe tried to pick him up and he got angry, so I’m guessing that was actually what he was trying to say.” There has also been an improvement in his nonverbal communication. But this is because–and I hate to even say it—we broke down and taught him some sign language.

It’s not that I have anything against sign language per se. I mean, it’s a whole language used by people with profound hearing or speech impairments. Awesome. But baby signing? Ah, I’ve always figured that was not for me. We didn’t do it with the girls and I’m just not into that baby massage, organic clothing kind of stuff, if you know what I mean. So yes, there you have it. I was prejudiced against baby signing because I thought it would make me a hairy-legged, tree-hugging hippie.I didn’t wear my babies. I didn’t make my own baby food. Everyone sleeps in his or her own bed. I shave my legs. And I was not going to walk around making big theatrical signs trying to achieve some level of communication that seemed, frankly, like I was trying too hard to prove my kid’s smarter than yours. (I mean, obviously. The girls are nearly 5 and as illiterate as they come. What, me worry?)

So let’s be clear. I am not hugging any trees here. But actually teaching a few signs to help a frustrated toddler communicate isn’t the worst parenting decision I could make, is it? I don’t have to start eating granola right this minute, do I? The arguments against baby signing are this: there is absolutely no evidence that it improves language skills or cognition. No well-designed scientific study has been able to demonstrate an advantage for kids who sign. What’s more, if your little one uses signing as a substitute for learning to speak, (Because hey, why say “Pretzel” when you can just tap your chest “Please?”) signing could theoretically delay speech, not promote it.

But the argument for it? I was losing my mind. The gibbon shrieking, fist pumping, cupboard banging monkey child was growing on my nerves. I was desperate.

Which is how we end up making many parenting decisions, isn’t it? You want a cookie, no I think, oh whatever, have the cookie. Just stop trying to climb on Mommy while she’s working on the computer. I’m not proud of those decisions. I’m just saying sometimes it’s easier as a parent to take the path of least resistance. And in this case, it was teaching “Please” “No more” and “Up.” In sign.

Which is the case for baby signing: it might reduce some of the frustration both you and your toddler experience during those long, long months between having an opinion and being able to express it. If you keep it simple and limit it to a few important gestures, it could help bridge that gap toward speech. The important thing is to remember to keep encouraging language and speaking to your toddler, using the same words as the sign to reinforce the fact that he will need to learn to speak. I spend half my life yelling, “Use your words, people, not your tears!” Why should Otto get out of rules his sisters have to follow?

Which brings me back to the comments on Otto’s lack of verbal achievement. Some folks expressed gratitude that they weren’t alone. Another offered the fact that her biomedical engineer son didn’t speak until he was 3. But a few expressed concern that I might be discouraging parents from seeking help if their child does seem to have a speech and language delay.

So let me be clear. If my kid is a few months past his first birthday, and oh, let’s see, is maybe learning 2 languages and was a bit premature, don’t expect me to freak out if he doesn’t have many (as in any) words yet. But if you are approaching that 2nd birthday, it’s would really be time to discuss his language progress with your pediatrician. Obviously, if you are concerned about his hearing, or if you feel his nonverbal communication is not up to par with his playgroup buddies that’s also a reason to act sooner rather than later.

But for us, I’m going to keep shouting “UP!” and kissing Otto all over his cute little face every time he communicates his wishes without sounding like a caged animal. Can you blame me?

Otto the Silent

Well, maybe “silent” isn’t really what I am looking for. Averbal? Nonspeaking? Unintelligble? Man of few words? Monkey boy?

Should I be worried that my nearly 16 month-old son has virtually no words and chooses to communicate through a combination of fist whacks and gibbon-like shrieking? Which, technically, would make him more “Lesser-ape boy” than “Monkey,” although let’s not get bogged down by semantics. The fact is that Otto doesn’t really speak. And The Book says “1 word sentences by 1 year” or some such nonsense. But here we are. 4 months past the deadline. And nothing.

Kid wants to be picked up? Lifts his arms and shrieks. Wants a cookie? Beats at the cupboard and shrieks. Wants to go into the room where his sisters are? Presses his face against the glass door and—and yes, you got it—lets loose a long, high-pitched, ear splitting screech. Jeez Louise. I don’t know how much more of this my ears can take.

So what does the American Academy of Pediatrics have to say about Otto’s communication skills? Well, by age 1, most babies say “ma-ma” and “da-da” and apply the words to the appropriate parent. (Um, let me see. Does he do that? No.) They say at least one word. (Hmmm, uh no.) Point to items and make a sound? (Hey! Finally. Although they don’t really describe an “ear-splitting screech” option. Anyway.)

And am I worried? No. And not just because I’m a hot mess, 3 kids dripping off me, bigger worries on my mind, like where my sanity has gone. And no, it’s not because I haven’t even bothered to think about it. It’s because Otto is doing all the other things right on track. Responds to his own name being called? Yes. Understands what a “cookie” is? Clearly. In fact, in 2 languages. Before you go there, it’s arguable whether bilingual kids really have language delay. Big milestones are supposedly on track, so I can’t go pulling that card as much as I might like. But anyway, hearing and receptive language seem okay. Makes repetitive sounds (other than the gibbon like one, obviously)? You bet. All kinds of “nnn-duh” and tongue clicking. So he’s at least trying and capable of making some repeated sounds. Points to items or makes his wishes known? Hell, yeah! He has no problem letting us know the infinite ways in which we are total morons, oblivious to his desires. We just got back from a trip where every time we went through the restaurant he went completely bananas as soon as he saw the ice cream stand. So, yes, Otto, I’m aware that you like ice cream. And I’m also aware that your preferred flavor is chocolate.

So to sum it up, every kid develops at his or her own pace. So long as the big picture seems pretty on track, a couple months here or there when it comes to milestones is usually perfectly okay. Any doubt, obviously ask your pediatrician. But for now, I will continue to give him very clear instructions when I leave for work. “Today, Otto, I would like you to learn to speak, use a fork, and entertain yourself for 5 minutes. Do you think you can do that?” I’m quite confident I’ll come home one of these days not too far away and find out he’s met at least one of my goals!

Otto the Impossible

Were the girls like this or did I block it out? Is my PTSD from raising 2 babies born 3 months apart (14 weeks and 3 days to be exact) protecting my fragile psyche from the memories of what that was like? Or were my girl babies just very, very, distinctly, undeniably different than my son? Those of you with children of different genders, can you chime in here now? Are girls so different from boys or is this just a matter of gender-neutral personalities? And frankly, does it matter? I’m stuck with the 3 of them, so why ask questions now?

Alas, I’m only half joking. I love, love, love all 3 of my kids. But when we were waiting for Otto, my husband expressed outright fear: what if he’s like those boy children we see? You know, the ones that run screaming through public buildings, jumping off playground equipment, wrestling each other in the dirt, using everything from plastic straws to hairbrushes as swords?

And then I pointed to Zoe and asked, so what’s the difference? Can a boy really be any worse than that? (At the time she had developed this obsession with jumping down entire staircases.) When Zoe was a toddler, I would routinely snap photos of the blood-stained towels around our house, collecting them for the day I would demand repayment for the years that child had stolen from my life.

Then again, Zoe could be kept still by strapping her into a stroller and handing her a brownie. Otto? Not so much.

I promised to explain the broken tooth. So I will. It’s not actually a very exciting story. There was a small child and a tile floor. I heard screaming (Open airway!! Spontaneous breathing!!) but saw no blood. And later we noticed part of his front top tooth was broken off. Dr. Zibners obviously whipped into gear, ascertaining that this was an Ellis I-type fracture—involving only enamel—and therefore wouldn’t require any treatment. The tooth was stable, not loose or out of place. I mean, what’s a mom to do? (Other than make constant comments about how ridiculous he looks? My son, the hillbilly. Anyhoo). For those of you also parenting children with no sense of self-preservation, teeth can be fractured (broken), intruded (pushed in), subluxed (out of place), and extruded (knocked out). What needs to be done depends on what type of injury and whether the tooth is missing or not. The key is to not panic. Unless you have family photos scheduled soon. Seriously, any doubt, just give your pediatrician or family dentist a call. For the most part, only teeth that might fall into or already are sitting in the lungs are a true urgency.

But back to Otto. The child intent on self-destruction. A few days after the tooth incident, he was found sitting on top of the kitchen counter. No. I’m not joking. He’s 15 months old.

What else is different? Well, to start with, he’s 15 months old (did I mention that?) and he doesn’t say a single word. He just shrieks like a gibbon. I will go into more of that soon. Should I be worried? Isn’t it about time the kid learn to use some words? Probably, but let’s stay on track. In addition to not communicating, he cannot, under any circumstances, stay seated. Okay that’s a lie. He will sit in the highchair for the 30 to 90 seconds it takes for him to shovel food in his mouth. And then he’s off.

So tell me, is it me or are boys different from girls? The small sampling of other parents I’ve been asking tell me yes, but in ways that are as glorious as they are frustrating. Presumably there will be fewer mind games in the future. Less manipulation. No weeping over imaginary love gone wrong.

But for now, I’m one exhausted lady, running after the kid with half a tooth who is hell-bent on knocking out the rest of them. Oh, crap. Gotta go. Otto, nein!

Have Doctor, Will Travel

And we’ve made it back from our trip to see the Grandparents! Summer holidays are a mixed bag, aren’t they? On one hand, aren’t we super lucky to have the flexibility and means to travel across the Channel and see family and friends? And on the other hand, who in her right mind drags 3 small children anywhere? Think about it. I am one woman with 2 arms. The kids’ dad has a couple of arms, as far as I can tell, but, well, you know. Which means it’s mostly me packing luggage, loading kids into airplanes, hooking up rented car seats and handling all the little details that pollute what seems like an otherwise wonderful idea. Yet I do it anyway. For the love of travel, family and friends.

We had a great time. I really have to admire the kids for how adaptable they are. I’ve dragged these little ones around the world and back again. That’s just part of living thousands of miles away from your family. But it’s what they are used to. So without blinking an eye, those kids whip through security, buckle up on airplanes and manage to fall asleep in strange beds without too much of a fuss. Unfortunately, though, they are still children. Which means all of the bumps and bruises that happen at home happen when we are away. And that brings us to today’s topic: What does Dr. Zibners pack in her little bag of doctor tricks when traveling with children?

You want to know, don’t you? What are the things I tuck into my suitcase to limit the chance I’ll wind up in a strange country trying to act out the word, “Ibuprofen?” Well, start there. At least 1 bottle of age-appropriate pain and fever medicine. Ditto for an antihistamine, like Benadryl or Zyrtec. Bandages in various shapes and sizes. Tweezers (splinters!!!). A tube of hydrocortisone. One more of Neosporin. And there you have it. At least as far as what you, the non-medical parent can pack. My kit actually includes a few other things, like skin glue and antibiotics. But for these goodies, you’ll have to go to medical school, which might not be practical. It’s actually kind of handy, I must say. Bringing a pediatrician along. But for those of you who can’t, at least pack the basics!

So, did we use any of it? Oh you bet your shiny boots we did. Zoe got stung by a bee and Otto routinely ran into things/fell off things. (The kid actually chipped his tooth on this trip. Tiled floor + newly walking toddler = dental injury.) I’ll go into more detail about both of those dramas another day. But back to the story, the baby spent two days throwing up with a fever and the girls became obsessed with Doc McStuffins and needed to bandage pretty much everything. So yes, the majority of my doctor kit was on full display this holiday. Which means I need to restock before we head off on our next trip, this time with my family. The cousins arrive this week and I’ve got to pack supplies not just for 3 little kids, but for 5. (Holy help me.)

Traveling with kids brings its challenges. And joys. It’s not always appropriate for very young babies, as you can see from my post this week at Shot of Prevention. But when you can, what a gift to give your children: the chance to see new places and learn about new things. So long as they stay safe and healthy. Which reminds me, I’ve forgotten to mention the most important thing in my suitcase that keeps us happy, healthy and away from hotel doctors:

SUNSCREEN. Bottles of it.


How Times Have Changed

“Mom, what’s a water balloon?”

“Um. Um. It’s something that I used to do when I was a kid that was really, um, fun but it left lots of little shreds of latex lying around and so, um, well, just thank heavens your aunts didn’t choke to death.”

Last night’s conversation started after a trip to the grocery store. We are in Germany and one thing I’ve learned is you can’t go into a public building of any kind with young children and not be offered one of the following 3 items: processed pork meat, gummi bears or latex balloons. No joke. If we’d wandered by the meat counter, you can guess what the girls would have been busy chomping on but instead we were on a Diet Coke (mine!) mission and the check out lady took pity on their grubby, empty little hands. And, you guessed it, out came the basket of latex balloons.

We all know how I feel about the latex balloon, don’t we?
But the girls are well past the age of 4 and Zoe routinely lists the dangers of latex to anyone who offers their younger brother a balloon, so I’ve started relaxing a bit when it’s just the girls and it’s a single balloon each. (That way I can easily track the buggers and promptly remove any post-inflation remnants.) But while I am ever so vigilant about balloons, I am less careful with my language and that’s how, oops, the idea of the water balloon came about.
Quick thinking, quick thinking, what was I going to do? On one hand my childhood was littered with dead balloons and I’m still here. It was (whispered in hushed tones) really super fun. Why am I being such a stick in the mud and denying my children the awesomeness of a water balloon fight? After a few seconds of deliberation, I decided to go for it. “You guys can have water balloon tomorrow when your brother is asleep. If it’s warm out. Now, give those to me for safe-keeping and let’s go home.”
My plan obviously was to go for an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of thing. We’ll see how it goes. Today they haven’t yet mentioned it, given the onslaught of processed pork and gummi bears that continued upon awakening. Actually, at the drugstore the clerk offered them what appeared to be a flavored sugar cube. (Even more hilarious is buying the girls a little pig shaped soap for their bath tonight (bribery!) and having Zoe ask gleefully, “Does it really make us smell like sausages?”) Truly outstanding, isn’t it?
Anyhoo, back to the balloons. Times are different, aren’t they? When I was a kid, I doubt my mother gave them too much thought. And this is a woman who invented her own car seat for me. Without divulging my age, I’ll just say that infant car seats weren’t really widespread and definitely toddler seats weren’t. But if you look photos of me when I was young, I’m wearing this harness contraption that supposedly she could strap into the seat belt. And before that she had some kind of baby carrier that she wedged into the floor mats behind the driver’s seat. Yes, I know. Not ideal. Far from it. But still. The point was that my mother was a car seat demanding, hot dog refusing, safety machine of the 70’s. Yet she let me play with balloons. Does this mean my mom didn’t have her eye on safety? No. Hardly. It means she wasn’t necessarily aware that she needed to include the innocuous water balloon in the list of things most likely to harm me.
Times have changed. Which is exactly the sentiment of a great post over at The Vaccine Advocate this week that ties into my series appearing now on Shot of Prevention. Now in the interest of full disclosure, A. Z. Naprawa is Amanda Zibners Naprawa. Have you made the connection? Anyway, she wrote a great post about growing up in a very safety minded home yet with a lot fewer worries on our parents’ part. Just like having to worry about whether your kids’ friends are vaccinated. Which is what I’ve been addressing over at Shot of Prevention. So go check them both out. While I find my children’s toothbrushes and wrestle them into a bath where they come out smelling like clean children.

Baby’s First Hausschuhe

I completely forgot to mention the World Cup, didn’t I? I know all of you were watching, completely riveted. Me? Totally missed the ending. Despite being in Germany, married to a German, I have to admit that my interest wasn’t quite as high as one might think. In fact, halfway through the game I went to bed. Hey, I’ve got a 14-month old that thinks 6:30 am is a sleep-in and the game was on at 9pm over here! (The next morning my husband actually told me Argentina won. I told the kids, we all shrugged our shoulders and got ready for breakfast. Sorely disappointed at our reaction he came clean.) Anyway, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m still on holiday in Germany.

Spending time with children in another country gives you a different perspective on parenting. For example, when we were in Portugal I was shocked to see children running around at 11pm. But that’s just what they do: sleep until 9, nap all afternoon and then stay up all night. It’s culturally the norm. While my poor, pale little Anglo-American-Saxon darlings go to bed by 8 and wake up really far too early for their mother. That’s our cultural norm.

What’s also our cultural norm–at least at the Zibners house–is to be vaccinated. I’m back up at Shot of Prevention giving suggestions on how exactly to ask if your child’s friends are as well. Check me out.

But before you go, anyone have any suggestions for my list of German children toys I’m developing? I mean, here we are, deep in the Black Forest and I’ve got nothing to do but watch my children eat sausage and Haribo, right? If you don’t understand the Germans, you may not find this list very funny. But the most important thing right now is keeping myself entertained, isn’t it?

My First Meat Slicer
My First Hausschue (House Shoes…have you ever seen a German’s feet?)
My First Coffee Machine
My First Filterless Cigarettes
My First Recycling Bin

Actually, I love that my kids are bi-cultural. They are growing up with a perfect understanding that when in Germany, we wear slippers and consume mountains of pork products at breakfast. And then we turn around and go to California where shoes don’t exist and the only bacon we get is made from turkey. I completely embrace their German side. But it doesn’t mean I can’t poke a little fun at it, does it? Anyway, head on over to Shot of Prevention and give me your ideas on the reasons why it is so important to ask about vaccinations and exactly how to go about it. While we get ready to head to the grandparents and make sure they’ve had their Diphtherie-Pertussis-Tetanusimpfungen. Because somethings are important rules for parents no matter where you are!