Category Archives: Parenting

The origin of the dingle pepper. 

The other night, as I was prepping for dinner, Frances offered to help, as she often does these days. I asked her to get me some onions and garlic, which she did. We then had a lengthy and very deep conversation about why garlic skin was white and onion skin brown. I was essentially making things up for which I had no answer, or like my friend Bridget claims about her own mother, faking my way through parenting.

Following that, I took a red bell pepper from the fridge. I asked Frances if she knew what kind of vegetable it was.

“A pepper!” she exclaimed proudly. (This from a kid, who when I asked her last week what her favorite vegetable was, replied—chocolate cake.)

I then asked her if she knew what kind of pepper it was. Her triumphant smile faded into a look of true puzzlement. 

“Dingle?” she replied, not nearly as certain as before.

“Huh?” I said, trying to conceal the laughter that was threatening to erupt (our girls are very sensitive to any kind of perceived mockery).

“A dingle pepper?” she repeated again, sounding slightly more confident.

It should be noted here that dingle is a word I have used, and Liam has adopted simply because of my overuse of it, to describe one of the kids doing or saying something foolish. Kind of like the way in which one would use the word doofus

As in: “That shoe is on the wrong foot, ya dingle.” 

Yes, I know. It sounds dangerously short for dingleberry. And I admit, that might have been my intention in using the moniker in the first place. However, at no time has that word ever been used to refer to a species of pepper we use to cook with weekly.

“Hmmm. I’ve never heard of that kind of pepper before,” I said, still dying inside, waiting for any adult to come through the door so I could relay the then-present conversation taking place.

“You know,” she continued, trying to substantiate her claim. “The kind we grew in the garden this summer. The dingle peppers?” she said.

What was this girl talking about?! 

“Ummm, no. We grew jalapeño peppers in the garden, but no dingle peppers that I can recall. This one is called a bell pepper,” I said.

“Oh, yeah. Now I remember,” Frances said, with a bashful little chuckle.

For the life of me, I cannot make the connection to explain her misunderstanding. And I’m usually pretty good at following those little kiddo lines of thought. Maybe bell pepper—which she couldn’t quite recall—made her think of Jingle Bells, and jingle rhymes with dingle?  That’s all I got.

In any case, it’s definitely sticking. Dingle pepper it is, from now on, folks. We just might even try to grow some in the garden this coming season.

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Bedtime play.

The girls were so tickled by my retelling of the events that led to their brother charging into their bedroom the other night, that I thought it best to capture the moment here before it’s soon forgotten. 

Typically, Rowan falls asleep nursing. Calmly and dependably usually. However, the past few days he’s been like a wild animal at bedtime. It could be due to the fact he’s overtired since we’ve been on vacation time. Or maybe it’s the opposite—he’s getting older and just doesn’t require as much sleep. Or maybe I can just blame it on my usual culprit—teething. Who really knows. 

Anyway, the other night, after Rowan had performed several acrobatic feats while somehow miraculously staying latched, he’d decided he was going to be finished with the nursing business, yet remain quite wide awake. 

We played a little game of turn-taking, with me asking him to put his head down and him saying a whiny ‘no.’ Then, he’d proceed to roll around on the bed. Following that, he crawled way down under the covers until he disappeared, popped his head out, and then crawled back in again. He also spun around in circles, breakdance style, stopping with his head at the opposite end of the bed and doing a few—nicely executed I might say—rounds of downward dog. 

Across the hall, he heard Liam begin reading bedtime stories to the girls and he stilled to listen. Then, he crawled backwards down off the bed and headed for the door, not wanting to miss out on any fun they might be having without him. 

“No,” I warned firmly. He disregarded me and walked to the door leading to the connecting bathroom. He jiggled the knob this way and that, unable to maneuver his small wrist the quarter turn necessary to pop open the door.

Not one to give up quickly, he tried the other bedroom door, which led to the hallway. Jiggle jiggle. Jiggle jiggle. No luck.

So, he climbed back into bed, which is generally a real struggle and fun to watch, with the joint effort of hands gripping the sheets and feet kick-climbing up the mattress.

Then, we began again:

“Rowan, put your head down.”

“No.”

“It’s time for bed. You need to close your eyes.”

“No.”

Roll around. Under the covers and out again. Spin, spin. Crawl backwards down from the bed. Walk to bathroom door. Jiggle jiggle. Doesn’t budge. Walk to hallway door. Jiggle jiggle. No luck. Climb and scurry back into bed. Repeat, repeat.

After about five rounds of in and out of bed, he finally managed to jiggle jiggle one of the doors open. He took two seconds to look back at me as if asking permission. I gave him a stern look, although how I wasn’t cracking up, I don’t know. He took my lack of words as a go-ahead, and wasted no more time. He headed off in the direction of the girls’ room.

I heard them all squeal when they saw him: “Rowan?! What are you doing in here?”

He was pleased as punch to be there, and did not appreciate at all being removed a minute later. As I had had quite enough of his bedtime shenanigans, I let Liam take over. Of course, he had Rowan to bed in under ten minutes then. “It’s because you don’t walk him around,” he explained when I gave him a disdainful look.

No, I don’t. It’s not the mother’s job to walk the kid around. It’s the mother’s job to nurse if she chooses. And if that doesn’t work, well hell if I’m going to do anything extra. 

Anyway, I climbed into bed with the girls and told them all about how Rowan jiggle-jiggled the doors about a hundred times, climbing back into bed between rounds, before opening one and making his great escape. Their giggles were proof they were so genuinely delighted by the imagined actions of their little brother. I couldn’t help but laugh along with them.

When it comes to Mr. and Mrs., where have our manners gone?

When I was a kid, my parents—my dad especially—insisted we use ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ when referring to grown-ups. Our older nextdoor neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Bechtold. My parents’ friends and co-workers went by names like Mr. Harris and Mr. Chalfant. 

If we ever slipped up and dared to be so bold as to refer to one of our parents’ friends as Ken, or Bill, or Dave, we’d simply get ‘the look’ from our father or else an incredulous ‘excuse me?’ followed again by ‘the look.’ In any case, we knew we needed to rectify our error.

Gulp

Looking back, I appreciate so much how we were expected to address grown-ups by their respectful titles. I love the notion of instilling that same ideal in my own children. However, the times have changed, and beyond that, we’re not off to the best start.

Many of the grown-ups in our kids’ inner circle insist on going by their first names. Babysitters of past and present went and still go by first names. All of our old neighbors introduced themselves to our children using first names. In fact, when we suggested otherwise, they scoffed at us. Call me Larry. Betty. Isabel, they said. In the end, we compromised a bit with names like Mr. Larry and Mrs. Betty. Miss Isabel. 

Nora’s first two teachers also went by first names Meghan and Eileen. No surnames. Something I know my dad disapproves of in general  (teachers going by first names) since I got to witness his reaction when I told him. Love that he’s so traditional. Old school. Stern and all about being reverent.

I don’t know. It just seems so weird to me to introduce our own friends as misters and missises (is that even a word?). We seem too young for all that. But my parents and their friends were our age when we were kids.

I still feel slightly uncomfortable referring to my in-laws by their first names because it’s so ingrained in me to use proper titles. It’s like I’m breaking the rules or seomthing.

And yet, I just can’t imagine referring to my friends in my kids’ company as anything other than their first name. If I even tried to, I think I’d bust out laughing at the formality of it all. But, I like the idea of it. What to do?

I’m thinking I might just keep everyone the kids know now grandfathered in just using first names. And then maybe everyone new we meet from this point on can become Mr. So-and-So and Mrs. Such-and-Such. 

In the future, the kids will remember everyone as belonging to either the pre-when-my-mom-was-hip-and-breezy era or the post-when-she-tried-to-be-all-formal-and-proper-and-whatnot era.

They won’t be confused at all. It will be fine. Trust me.

Saturday grouchies.

Usually, the weekend grouchies don’t set in for me until about 3:00 on Sunday afternoon. This is the time I start feeling the pressure of the upcoming week and the heavy weight that comes with the realization that all of the weekend chores I hoped to accomplish are just not going to get done.

Then, it’s like a mad rush to go grocery shopping, throw in as many loads of laundry as I can before bed, tidy up the various toy-littered surfaces of the house, and make a quick plan for dinner which always ends up being a fiasco because there was no plan to begin with, and the kitchen is once again going to get destroyed, and be in need of some major clean-up for which there is Just. No. Time.

So I tend to get a bit grouchy. So does Liam. We need to be better about planning for the grouchies so we can plan to avoid them by having a better plan. Does that make sense?

Saturdays, for the most part, are bliss-filled. Today, however, was an exception to that rule. We had lots going on. And the busy-ness—I think—made it easy for the grouchies to creep in a day too early. Well, that, and having a low tolerance for likewise cranky kids.

We began the day’s events with a trip to a local farm to buy some plant starts for the garden. Liam and I were busy on the drive trying to have an important conversation about all of the things we need to do before and after our upcoming move. Have I mentioned we are buying a house? No? I’ll save it for another post.

Anyway, we were trying to take advantage of precious time spent in the same place at the same time during daylight hours. Only—we were being constantly interrupted by our chatty little girls. They were whining about being hungry, despite the fact they’d just finished eating breakfast within the past thirty minutes. They wanted the volume turned up. Turned down. Song changed. And, of course, to ask a million questions about a million different things. This was the start of the irritation that seemed to grow as the day went on. 

At the farm, Nora entertained herself with a roll poly she found. But Frances insisted on being held (she’s very shy, and so crowds often overwhelm her). Juggling plants and wallets and keys and Frances was a bit of a challenge. So was maintaining my patience.

After the farm, we drove to a farmer’s market. The girls whined the entire trip about how long the drive was taking. Also, they reminded us about how they were STILL HUNGRY. The ride was made longer by the fact that Liam and I were so engaged in our conversation, that we missed our exit and added another ten minutes onto our already long-ish trip. Irritation grew a little more, like Pinnochio’s nose after his first lie.

I had high hopes for the farmer’s market. I was just saying to Liam this week that I’d like to start finding some markets since growing season has begun. It seems silly to be buying all of our produce from the grocery store when there’s much better stuff to be had. However, upon walking around the market, I soon discovered—that although there was lots of great looking produce and a variety of available items—the prices were a bit too steep. Nothing like the Lancaster market we left behind. Boo! 😩

I ended up buying three small heads of different lettuces for $9, just because we had made the trip, knowing full well that the giant box of organic salad greens from Stop and Shop are $3 cheaper and last all week long for lunches for both me and Liam, whereas the three small heads of lettuce might be able to stretch for three days. Bummer! At least the kids got a cookie snack from a kind stand owner who took pity on their frail frames. Not

And then back in the car, post cookie, they were back at it, proclaiming they were starving again. Next up, Liam dropped us off downtown an hour before the girls and I were scheduled to take in a show at the local theater. We grabbed some lunch, which the girls just picked at, despite their self-proclaimed hunger and deprivation. 

We made it to the theater on time to catch the Pinkalicious musical, which both girls were SO excited to see. However, as soon as the show began and the lights dimmed, and the extra, EXTRA loud volume of the cast members’ voices began talking and singing, Frances freaked, and jumped into my lap. 

She spent the first part of the show with her head tucked into my chest, body clenched and hands covering her eyes, cowering into me from fear of all the sensory input around her. I think the energy with which she was resisting her environment caused her to pass out, because she fell asleep for the second half of the show, even though the noise was at decibel level ninety. (I should google fact-check decibel levels now to see if ninety is what I’m going for, but ain’t nobody got time for that). Nora loved the production.

After the show, we had to hang out downtown for a bit on account of the fact that we needed a lift back, and Rowan had fallen asleep at home with Liam. So, we walked to get ice cream. And then wine. And then to the library.

So pink-a-licious!


After Liam came to get us, we stopped at the local food co-op to pick up some meat to grill for dinner. While we were there, an employee told us about an event they were having for members that evening that involved free food. Of course, we headed back into town to take advantage of that!

The girls wanted nothing to do with the delicious falafel and chicken schwarma that was being served. Rowan enjoyed it as much as Liam and I did. That kid will eat anything. And he did too. After the free dinner, he tried to indulge in some dirt dessert. And then he was off to play in the stones and mosaic glass that was all over the ground. Because that seems like a safe idea for an art park where kids play.

After recognizing Frances’s embarrassing saggy diaper, and her imminent meltdown, we decided to head home. We were delayed a bit when Frances decided she did not want to come with us if we were not going to carry her, and then promptly parked her saggy bottom in the sidewalk, refusing to budge.

When we were nearly out of sight, Frances panicked and caught up to us. But not before a handful of parents probably judged us for threatening to leave her behind. I want to be a mindful parent. I do. But sometimes it’s just so hard.

When we finally got home and fed the girls, I poured a glass of wine and sat down in the reclining chair to read a food magazine and relax for the first time since my morning  cup of coffee.

And then, the baby—who up until that point had been content and busy—decided to crawl over to me, whine until I picked him up, and then tug at my shirt repeatedly, communicating his desire to nurse.

At least if he nurses, I can relax and read, I thought. Wrong again. No matter where I moved the magazine, the baby swatted at it. If he wasn’t using his hands, he was flailing his feet at its pages. I sighed a deep, frustrated sigh, and then looked across the room to catch Liam chuckling heartily at me. Then I burst into laughter too. Apparently, it just wasn’t meant to be.

We will have to try again tomorrow. Slow down and not have so many plans. Hey! At least we have a dinner plan—meat on the grill that was meant for tonight, but never eaten on account of the change in our dinner plans. Things are looking up already!

Oops.

A post a day in May, did you say?
I did. I did say that. And then last night, I fell asleep promptly at 7:30 pm with the girls, and did not rise again until midnight (thank you, Rowan, for sleeping so long without wanting to nurse). It was the kind of night where teeth did NOT get brushed, contacts got ripped out and thrown on the floor (I should be embarrassed to admit this, but strangely, am not), and daytime clothes were slept in for far too long than was comfortable. I hadn’t anticipated falling asleep. And I fell asleep HARD.

Needless to say, I was not waking up from THAT kind of sleep to write a blog post. So, oops.

                  ————

This evening I’ve been filling out paperwork to register a certain little five-year-old for kindergarten. How can this be?! I can’t believe I have a school-age child. And, I’ve been just AGONIZING about where to send her.

In our town we have several magnet schools. So families have to apply and get accepted through a lottery. We’ve been accepted to one school and Liam wants us to consider the parochial school he went to as a kid.

I’m sure my parents never thought twice about school choice—not that it was even an option for us then. But I’m also sure they didn’t worry too much about us being successful or fitting in. Or being challenged appropriately vs. feeling bored. 

Mothers of my generation tend to worry about this stuff too much. And, well—I worry about fifteen times as much as the most worrisome mothers of my generation. So yeah, it’s been a struggle.

Anyway. I’m sure Nora will do fine wherever she goes. And if not, we’ve got options. And options are always good, right?

I told Liam earlier that I just want to homeschool. He gently reminded me that I only like the idea of homeschooling and not the reality. There’s a reason I married this man.

Teachable moment: You should marry the one you love.

Nora asked me tonight as we were driving whether I thought she ought to marry a boy or a girl when she grows up. I told her she should marry whomever she loves. 

“But who mommy? A boy or a girl?” She really wanted me to give her a definitive answer.

“I can’t tell you that,” I said. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

I’ll admit, it was really hard for me to just leave it at that. To not say something like: Well, most girls marry boys. I didn’t want to color my thinking—and therefore, her developing worldview—one way or the other. 

Most of the married couples close to Nora are ones who are involved in heterosexual relationships. However, we’ve spoken briefly about the many kinds of relationships that exist between people, both romantic and platonic. It’s natural she’d ask since we haven’t conditioned her to think one way or another.

Although marriage is a long way away, it’s important to me that Nora be aware of and accepting of all healthy and loving relationships, no matter the gender of couples involved. Most importantly, I want her to learn from an early age that she can express her feelings freely—always—without worrying she will be judged by me. 

I did put my foot down, though, when Nora next told me that she was going to marry forty people when she grows up.

“Oh no, dear,” I said. “The rule is, you only get to choose one.”

Why is ‘food as medicine’ such a hard pill to swallow? 

Last year, we visited an ENT several times with our oldest. Nora seemed to have a cold or be congested for much of the late fall through early spring. When the rest of the family caught a virus and then got well, Nora remained snotty and stuffy.

During one fall illness, we noticed she was saying, “What?” after everything we said. It began to drive us crazy.

And so we started the first of several trips to the audiologist for hearing tests, followed by ENT appointments to check Nora’s ears.

Everyone concluded that she was getting fluid trapped in her ears again and again, and that this was causing the temporary hearing loss. The ENT recommended tubes.

“Of course they did,” said Liam. “That’s their job. If they don’t do surgeries, they don’t make money.”

Good point, I thought. It’s not like I was concerned about Nora’s hearing interfering with her speech or development. It was just really annoying to have to repeat myself. Eventually, things cleared up on their own. We ended up not scheduling the surgery.

For better or worse—yes, I’m that kind of mom—I hopped on the Internet to investigate tubes anyway. I admit I did read some stuff that said tubes really helped children. Like kids who hadn’t been speaking suddenly started making language gains. Or stopped having painful recurrent ear infections. But this was not Nora. Her speech was very much developed, and she wasn’t suffering from ear infections, just fluid buildup.

However, I read far more that said tubes didn’t help children. That kids continued to get infections. Or the tubes fell out, and kids needed multiple surgeries. There were even recent scientific studies suggesting that tubes might not be the way to go anymore. 

Fast forward to this past late fall season. We started having the same issues. During one long cold, Nora began having hearing difficulties again. We took her to a new pediatrician in Connecticut and she suggested we try to alleviate allergies by using a nasal spray and hypoallergenic bedding. While I do think this made some improvement, I started to wonder about food intolerances, as this was about the same time I was trying to help self-diagnose some food-related symptoms I was experiencing.

We saw the audiologist again and an ENT twice. At her second follow-up with the  Connecticut ENT, the doctor declared the fluid gone and ears clear in one breath, followed by “I think her adenoids are enlarged, though, and should come out” in the very next.

What?!

This was the first I was hearing about adenoids. The ENT said they were likely enlarged and causing the constant congestion and fluid. They were also likely responsible for her nighttime snoring and mouth breathing, something I mentioned at the last visit.

The doctor then—rather abruptly—handed me a form to sign to give permission for the surgery, and then ushered me and the kids into a room to schedule said surgery.

Whoa! Slow your roll, doc. I’m sorry, but this felt so rushed to me. Surgery is not something I’m opposed to if it means my kid isn’t going to have to suffer unnecessarily. But the rate at which we went from “your ears look great” to “you’re going to need your adenoids removed” was too speedy for my comfort. 

I smiled at the receptionist, took down some possible dates, told her I was going to discuss things with my husband, and then nearly ran from the office. I’ve yet to call back.

I followed up with my pediatrician, who giggled about the incident. Apparently ENTs are known to get down to the business of scheduling these kinds of things. Makes sense, given—like the hubs reminded me—this is how they make the big bucks.

It just didn’t jive with me. I’m the kind of person who is far more interested in discovering the root cause of chronic illness and dealing with that, than just trying to medicate or rely on surgery.

I talked to my naturopath a little at my last visit. And, I might end up taking Nora there to see her yet. But in the meantime, we discussed trying to remove dairy from Nora’s diet. For a lot of folks, both young and old, dairy can cause congestion and allergy-like symptoms, and even—yup—enlarged adenoids.

At first, I felt awful thinking about telling Nora she wouldn’t be able to drink milk, eat cheese or have ice cream. She loves these foods. Turns out a lot of the foods we love and feel addicted to may be the ones causing our bodies the most harm.

I posed it to Nora as a trial. I told her we were going to experiment. If removing dairy helped her to breathe better, kept the fluid at bay, and cured her bad breath (something else I’d read about co-existing with enlarged adenoids), we would likely stick to it. And if I saw no difference, we would go back to normal.

Within two days of removing dairy (we’re almost two weeks in), the bad breath was gone, and hasn’t come back. She hasn’t been congested, and she’s closing her mouth to breathe more at night than I’ve ever noticed before. 

And, the part I thought would be difficult—keeping her from food she loves—hasn’t been too bad. We took the cheese off pizza one night. She has almond milk in her cereal and French toast. And, we found a delicious chocolate coconut ice cream we all love.

I just don’t understand why, with so much scientific and anecdotal evidence from families, that the least invasive remedies—like removing a suspected food or food group—aren’t offered as a first possible solution, or at all. 

Instead, it’s: “Let’s schedule this major surgery. Put your kid under. Remove part or her body which is said to fight infection and which may prevent illness. And after it’s over she’ll bleed down her throat a little and be on a liquid diet for about a week. Oh, and it may work at solving her problems. Or not.”

Like I said, I’m not opposed to the surgery if it’s medically necessary. But I’d rather try my little experiment first, which will have no adverse reactions, except maybe a little disappointment, and potentially huge payoffs.

Money for doctors and procedures and pharmaceutical companies should not be the guiding force behind the decisions we are making about our kids and their health. 

It’s just wrong. ☹️