Apr 192012

Since yesterday, we’ve been dealing with something I never thought would be an issue for any of our kids – the chicken pox.

I do vaccinate my children, and they’ve all had the varicella vaccine, but poor DJ, who is too young to have had both of the required doses, came down with the pox anyway.

The poor little guy just can’t catch a break.

Fortunately, he has a mild case, in comparison to when I had them as a kid, and was covered from head to toe in crusty scabs. He doesn’t seem terribly bothered by them, though he does scratch, and he refuses to allow me to put calamine lotion on. Our doctor recommended that we give him Zyrtec or Claritin, and just try to keep him comfortable. Last night, he came upstairs after his shower, pointed to some pox on his leg, and said, “Look Mom…I got chicken legs.”

He also refers to them as “Chicken Pops,” which sounds like something you might find on the menu at Sonic.

I’m just trying to keep my sense of humor about being stuck at home with sick kids for three weeks straight (Cakes came down with the flu last week, just as DJ was getting over it). Although yesterday, when I first discovered and recognized his spots as chicken pox, I immediately got him dressed and hauled him out to the van to go to the doctor’s office, and I think I yelled, on my way out the door, “My life SUCKS right now!”

Or something to that effect.

Anyway, on to the last batch of your email questions:

Q: I have 5 boys (3 that live here all the time, and 2 are my step sons) We also have a baby girl on the way. We have a 3 bedroom house so as you can imagine I’m trying to make the most of our space. Toys and clothes are a major issue in the little guys bedroom (they are 3,4,and 5) They all share one closet. I am just looking for thrifty organizational ideas. I have been reading your blog frequently ever since I stumbled across it, you have some very crafty ideas. I know if anyone can help you can. 🙂

A: Have you ever heard of the concept of a “family closet?” If I had an extra bedroom, I would turn it into a playroom, and use the closet as a family closet, because I think it would really simplify the laundry process. It involves dividing up the closet pole into sections for each person, but ready-made dividers cost $1 apiece, so I would recommend that you just save lids, such as from cottage cheese containers, punch holes in the centers to fit the closet pole, and label them. Much cheaper. You also need to install low closet shelving, with a section designated for each child, for folded clothing and shoes. I think this idea might work for keeping the clothes mess organized for your boys. Also, I would suggest setting up a toy library system, although I do try to avoid keeping toys in bedrooms. Our playroom is in the basement, because we’ve found that toys in the bedroom create too much chaos, but obviously this isn’t an option for everyone. I recommend doing a major toy purge first, and you will need to police the boys diligently until they’re consistently following the rules. I’m also a fan of under-the-bed storage boxes on wheels, because I like hidden storage, and they make clean-up easy. They’re great for toys like Legos, because they’re shallow, so it’s easy for kids to find the pieces they’re looking for.

Q: Would you consider writing a post about preschool? This is a topic I’m struggling with right now since we are in preschool registration time for the upcoming fall. I know you were unhappy with Cakes’ first preschool and you pulled her out. Did you ever regret not sending her to a structured program during that year? Did/Do you think preschool makes a difference for a 3 year old vs. just sending them when they’re 4? Have you given much thought to what you’re going to do for DJ?

A: I think the major focus of preschool at age 3 is socialization, and introducing children to the structure of a classroom setting, but my opinion is that children don’t necessarily need to attend preschool at age 3, especially if their parents read to them regularly, spend time with them, and provide them with opportunities to play with children in the same age group. I don’t regret my decision whatsoever.

I’m a firm believer in the advantages of early education programs. There was an opening in Denise’s 3-year-old program for the second semester of that year, so I did enroll Cakes, and she’s done extremely well. Bee attended preschool for two years, and I plan to enroll DJ at age 3 also. I think that Bee, upon entering kindergarten, had a good understanding of how to get along with other kids, follow rules and directions, and participate in a group setting. She also had a good grasp of language, and was already reading at age 4. However, now that I’ve had experience with both, I believe that there’s a major difference between private preschool programs – such as the one Cakes now attends 3 mornings a week – and public combination preschool/daycare programs, like the one I pulled her out of. Not that public programs are bad, but when care for children of all different ages is included, the staff, by necessity, has a whole lot more to focus on than just preschool. So, while there is a free, public preschool program available in our community, and they’re putting up a new building so DJ wouldn’t be in the dungeon-like environment that Cakes was, I’m still going to enroll him in the private program that Bee attended. I think it’s worth the money.

Q: Would you be willing to share how you handle your use of your Discover card? That is the one we have for use, as well. That cash back is wonderful, but I fear that we will have a hard time staying paid off to date. How do you manage the amount spent each month, as far as setting a budget for your usage? Do you specify a certain percentage of the month’s usage for different categories? If so, how do you track what you’ve spent in each category? We, too, have Quicken, to help me keep track of payments and balances, etc, but I have never used it to break down an account’s balance to track spending. I hope this makes sense to you…hard to say what I am trying to ask, I guess. We have tried to figure out how to come up with a reasonable amount of money to have each month for groceries and household expenses, but it seems to vary so much. When we started tracking how much we spend each month on “stuff” as Gail Vaz Oxlade would say on TV, we were seriously shocked.

A: I completely understand. It can be difficult to keep tabs on it, and I remember months when I would open our bill, and be like, “WHAT!? Honey, I think someone’s been using our credit card!” All those little miscellaneous purchases can really add up.

Do you use Discover online? Because I solved this problem by taking advantage of the free “Spend Analyzer” which tracks and categorizes your spending for you every month, based on how the merchants you buy from are categorized. Since our most recent statement closing date, we have 4 transactions – 3 in the merchandise category, and 1 in automotive. I check this every week, and break down the general categories a bit more, if necessary, to get an idea of whether we’re staying on budget. Sometimes I find that we need to reign in our spending in certain categories, but there are no more unpleasant surprises when the bill comes.

Q: I would love your imput on a certain issue I have with my 2 year old son. One of my biggest challenges during the day is when my attention is taken from him because of a phone call, preparing dinner, helping his sister with her preschool homework etc. He will go into another room to poop or pee so that I have to stop what I am doing and clean it up. He only does it when he is demanding that hold him, get milk for him, play with him and I tell him just a minute mommy is —— fill in the blank. Any ideas?

A: Because he only does it when he wants attention from you, I believe this to be an (inappropriate) attention-seeking behavior. Is there a particular time of day when this happens most often? Is he otherwise potty-trained? Generally, in children this age, this kind of behavior is most often caused by physical stress, such as hunger, illness, or fatigue, or by anxiety, frustration, or anger. Children often act out when they feel out of control, overwhelmed, and unable to manage their emotions, and they also try to test limits. It’s always helpful to try and see the world through your child’s eyes. For 2-year-olds, the dinner hour is a particularly difficult time, because they’re usually fatigued and hungry, and desperate for parental attention (especially if they’ve spent the day with another caregiver). I would suggest that before you begin dinner prep, or homework help, you make sure that his basic needs are met – snacks, drinks, clean diaper – and get him settled with an activity he enjoys. Also, pay close attention to his sleep times, and make sure that he’s getting adequate night-time rest (11-12 hours is typical for most toddlers) as well as an afternoon nap (1-2 hours). If his behavior continues, it may be because he hasn’t learned appropriate limits and boundaries, or it may be a warning sign that something is really bothering him, in which case, you’ll need to do some more investigating.

Q: I’m currently on my 3rd and final pregnancy and just found out we are having twins! I have 2 small children still in the home all day, and have been SO tired. Can you give me any advice on how to keep a semi-clean home all while keeping my youngins’ entertained? The guilt trip is starting to set in because the tv has become my babysitter, and take-out dinners are getting pricey 🙁 All I want to do is curl up in bed and sleep alllll day….

A: Congratulations! Go easy on yourself right now. It’s OK to employ Mrs. T (which is what I call the TV, when I’m desperate for a break), and to eat takeout, if that’s what you need to do to get by. In the early stages of my pregnancy with DJ, I suffered from crippling morning sickness, and our house was disgraceful, but we all survived. I was blessed with a friend, who took the girls during the day, for several days during the worst of it, and our church provided some meals for us, so I didn’t need to cook every day (thank goodness, because I couldn’t even look at food!) Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t try to do more than Basic Maintenance. You need to just go into survival mode, and remember that it will get better. I know that can be hard to do, but I found that once I lowered my standards, I was more able to accept the take-out food, dust bunnies, laundry piles, and general filth.


  5 Responses to “We’ve Got the Pox (and the Rest of Your Email Questions)”

  1. I’m so sad that the questions/answers are coming to an end! i just love to learn your input on things! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Heather :). Janel

  2. Loved hearing your response to all of the questions.  Forgot to thank you specifically for answering mine! Praying for DJ and the rest of you!

  3. Poor DJ! My little Beanie got the pox after the first dose of her vaccine (we now do her vaccines one at a time). It was not a fun experience. Hope he feels better soon!

  4. Thank you so much for your advice. I cant wait to get started on the boys room tomorrow 🙂

  5. Sorry about DJ having the Pops!  My oldest got them when he was around 8 or so, even with having the shots for it.  He then gave it to me because I had never had the chicken pox when I was young. It was way worse for me than it was for him.  I hope everyone feels better soon and stays that way for awhile!

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