Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Having Your Child's Cavity Filled: A Survival Story

My youngest doesn’t just hate going to the dentist--she loathes it. So at her regularly schedule cleaning when the dentist said she needed to have a cavity filled, I just laughed. “Good luck,” I told him.

“No, it’ll be fine, I’m really good with needles,” he explained. “We don’t use gas here, I just give her a quick injection to numb the area and then she’ll be fine.”

I knew better. I tapped into all my inner mom readiness strategies to prepare for the big day. I bought an inexpensive new stuffed animal to bring along, then I promised myself I wouldn’t mention the shot until after the fact. Normally, I’m all about explaining to my kids exactly what’s going to happen. But with my youngest I knew if I told her about the shot there was no way she’d step into the dentist’s office...ever.

I’m not sure exactly what triggered her fear of dentists. At one of her regular doctor’s visits there was some sort of backlog on her vaccinations and she ended up getting three shots in each leg. Ouch. Understandably, she’s been sore about visiting any kind of doctor since. But this time, I planned to bribe her into submission—if she could make it through her cavity filling, she could have her stuffed animal.

Well, when we arrived at the dentist’s, as promised he was quick with the numbing shot. But not quite fast enough. My youngest hollered and nearly shaved one finger off his right hand. To be fair he was really good at explaining what would happen in a fun, kid-friendly way, “We have to go in and chase out all the little monsters that are eating away at your teeth.” He described five levels of "little meanies" that he’d have to drill out. Before he could get through one level (I think he said they had wings)--my youngest would have none of it. She started to cry uncontrollably. You know, those fits where once your child enters into that cry zone it’s nearly impossible to shake them out of it. I tried everything to bring her out of her fit--mentioned her favorite books, movies, stuffed animals, family vacations, anything to get her mind off the drill.

The dentist suggested coming back another day. I knew I’d be hard pressed to ever get my youngest to enter the office again. Now or never. I think he saw the resolve in my eyes. He called for another assistant. She distracted my youngest with the overhead lamp while I made her stuffed animal do dances above the dentist’s head. He moved fast and filled the cavity. Whew! The dentist didn’t say much after he was done; I wasn’t much for conversation either. My youngest, however, bounced back quickly. “Do I still get to pick something from the treasure box even though I cried?” she asked, her face filled with red splotches.

“Sure,” I said. “But make sure to brush your teeth better so that we don’t have to do this again, okay?”

And maybe that’s our silver lining, since her filling, my youngest has been meticulous about keeping her teeth clean. No more arguments about brushing! She's even flossing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Literacy Triggers—What Book Turned Your Kid On to Reading?

My oldest child hasn’t been without a book to read since she first cracked open Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. For her (and I suspect millions of other kids), Harry Potter was what I call a literacy trigger. A story that became so fused with her imagination that it let her become part of another world, a chapter at a time. She enjoyed the experience so much she didn’t want it to end once she was through with all the Harry Potter books. She moved on to The Series of Unfortunate Events, The Last Olympian Series, The Twilight Series, Cressida Cowell’s Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous series, and every Eva Ibbotson book she could lay her hands on.

I was sure my middle child would have a similar literacy trigger as my first—that the boy wizard would draw her into the reading. Not so. In fact, I’ve had a much more difficult time finding a book that will help her graduate from children’s books to chapter books. So far, she’s tolerated the Magic Treehouse series, but she’d much rather hang out with Olivia. I’m trying a new method this week, however, partly because I want to make sure she does develop a love of learning and maybe even more, because I love reading out loud the adventures of Hiccup Horrendous, one of the funniest Vikings around.

My youngest is still too young to have had her true literacy trigger. But I’m already convinced she’ll be a reader. She insists I read a book to her each night. And on those rare occasions where we miss bedtime and it’s too late for a story, she cries like I’ve thrown out her favorite teddy bear.

How about your kids? Have you discovered their literacy triggers?

And don’t forget to enter ReadyMom’s LeapFrog Tag Reading System giveaway.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Reading Tip: Writing Journals

My middle child had a tough time reading. In fact, given a choice she’d probably still rather pick up a sketchpad and pencil versus a book. I tried to tap into her love of writing by doing a joint journal. You can find, like I did, $1 notebooks at Target to start your “journal.” I ask her simple questions about her day, like, “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” or “What was your favorite thing you did today.”

Usually, I slip the journal under her pillow with a pen tucked inside. She answers my questions and usually finds an equally stealth spot to pass back the journal. We went a few weeks going back and forth with our little journal entries. I got a peek into what she was really thinking about; and she had a chance to form stories and ideas herself instead of just struggling to understand them while reading through a book.

I wish I could say we’ve kept up our journal every day, but usually I just dust it off when I feel like she’s slacking off on her reading practice. How about you? Do you ever use writing to get your child more interested in reading?

Don't forget to enter the Reading Giveaway!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Saving Money Going Green with Your Kid's Lunchbox

This year my kids’ lunchboxes are undergoing a redesign. No, I’m not talking about swapping out the smiling High School Musical crew for a Hello Kitty box, I’m rethinking what I’m packing on the inside in an effort to make their lunches more eco-friendly. My efforts are not wholly altruistic. Turns out, going green is not only good for the environment, but it’s easier on your budget too.

Forget the juice boxes. Opt for a sturdy water bottle that your child can use the whole year instead of daily juice boxes. Not only will you be cutting out extra sugar (and trash!), but you’ll be saving on your grocery bill too.

Buy reusable, plastic containers. Look for a variety of sizes to pack up sandwiches, chips, cut up fruit and veggies, even good-for-them desserts like calcium-rich pudding or yogurt. Leah Ingram, author of the upcoming book Suddenly Frugal, says she bought plastic sandwich keepers for each of her kids’ lunches. “It wasn’t cheap,” explains Ingram who also blogs about green living. “But the containers can last two or three years, meaning I get my money’s worth out of it and it creates no trash, unless of course my daughter doesn’t eat the crusts.”

Create your own convenience packs. It’s easy to throw a bag of chips, a box of raisins or other prepackaged goods into your kids' lunches. But by spending a little time packaging snacks yourself you can save money. At the beginning of the week, have your children help create snack boxes of their own with favorites like raisins, pretzels, or even individual yogurt cups, then use them to fill lunches throughout the week.

Stash your trash. Ingram trained her two children to bring home their lunch trash instead of tossing it. Leftover food scraps go into the family compost pile while any paper goods or plastic goes into the recycle bin.

Choose local produce. Look for farmer’s markets or locally grown produce at your neighborhood grocers instead of buying fruit and veggies that have been flown in from far-off locales. For example, Ingram picks apples at a nearby orchard to include in her kids’ lunches.

Label everything! All your recycling/reusing efforts will go to waste (literally!) if you don’t write your child’s name in permanent ink on her lunch containers — so don’t forget to label and to remind your child to bring home everything.