24 February 2014

7 Quick Takes: Mostly children and money

I'm gonna do this 7 Quick Takes style because I think Mondays are a very logical day for quick takes.

Abigail is sick again. Because why not? I'm pretty sure she's trying to catch up on every past episode ever aired of Blues Clues. I mean, why else would you get dehydration/constipation, the stomach flu, and a head cold all consecutively if not to spend an entire month on the couch watching Blues Clues? Do you guys have the kid's book Ten Little Fingers? There is this one page that says, "And one who was born with sneezes and chills." The kid spends the entire book with a runny, red nose. Sometimes I feel like that is poor Abigail's life. Her weaker immune system (a Ds thing) means she's always got something.

So I researched "teaching patience to toddlers," and gathered up the advice I received from the blog post. We've implemented a two-pronged approach that has significantly reduced our terrible two outbreaks. These new techniques are in addition to the old ones that still had some effectiveness.

The smaller prong is the timeout prong. Abigail gets a timeout when she's doing something she's previously demonstrated she knows is wrong. For example, pulling the cat's tail. I used to be able to say, "Be gentle to kitty!" and she would cease her meanness, but lately, she just yanks anyway, sometimes even pulling the cats across the kitchen tile floor by their tails. That behavior = timeout. Timeouts around here are done Super Nanny style - swift (remove her from the crime immediately), quietly (I only speak to briefly reiterate why she's going to time out: "I said 'Don't pull kitty's tail.'"), her timeout is equivalent to her age (2 minutes), and we make-up afterward (we hug and say "I love you" and give kitty a gentle "apology" pat). The cats are pleased to report that, so far, it has been very effective.

The larger prong is the one we use more often. It's a technique called "feed the meter." It's this concept that if you recognize your child's good behavior little-by-little throughout the day, they'll act out less. As in, putting quarters in the meter throughout the day keeps you from getting a ticket. So I praise Abigail when I see her being gentle with the kitties, putting a toy away without being asked, nurturing her dolls, etc. I thought I was already good at praising her behavior, but I've since realized that I was regulating a lot of the praise to therapy stuff and that you can never compliment someone enough. So now I recognize good behavior for doing things she used to do, but still does well, like tells me when the kitties need "help" or closes the lid to her straw sippy cup. This has definitely been an incredibly effective strategy and I noticed an instantaneous, same-hour reduction in bad behavior.

But I guess if someone suddenly started complimenting me on my laundry folding or dish doing, I'd be pretty happy pretty quickly too.

I don't think I say enough on here how incredibly thankful I am that we do sign language with Abigail. I can't imagine not knowing what my almost three-year-old wanted. Abigail is getting the the point where she likes to tell acquaintances what is going on in life, so she'll excitedly tell the guy holding the door open for us at Mass that we drove our car that morning or the lady at coffee and donuts about the baby who was crying during the Homily. I know this behavior is normal because my young nieces and nephews are the same way. They have no blinding insight about what they had for dinner last night, they just feel the need to share the facts. But even though Abigail is doing something normal, because so few people treat her like she is normal, no one responds normally to her. So the conversation goes something like this:
Guy holding door at Mass (who sees a "Ds Angel" instead of a little girl): How is my favorite little girl today?! I love your pig tails!
Abigail: *signs car and points to the parking lot behind us*
Matt: *interprets the sign*
Guy at door: Yeah? *Awkward pause until we leave*

I get that she can make people a little uncomfortable. The sign for car (as if your hands were on a steering wheel) is pretty clear, especially with us interpreting it, but Abigail has a verbalization with it that I can see how it unnerves people. Abigail's word for car is this weird noise that sounds like the "-ar" part of car, but you have to drag out the "r" and not official end it, so it sounds almost like someone with a Harvard accent. It's weird, I get it. It calls to mind images of overweight, underkept adults who used to garner the title of "retarded." I know that's what they're thinking, I can see it in their eyes. But what Abigail has opened my eyes to is that all her behavior that seems weird or makes people uncomfortable is simple the other person's uncomfortability with their social expectations being violated.

There is meaning and intention behind her weird noise: it's her trying really damn hard to say "car" like you and I say "car." And I know how long it took her to get to the point where she could pair a vocalization with a sign. Abigail taught me how to don a perspective that "different" people still have meaning and intention behind their "weird" or "uncomfortable" behavior. That's why I say to treat people who are different as if they have no differences. If a regular kid said in a regular voice, "We drove our car to church!" what would you say? "Oh yeah? Do you love riding in the car?" "Oh yeah? What color is your car?" "Oh yeah? I love cars too!" Well, man-holding-the-door-open, that's what you should say to Abigail.

After a brief sock hiatus from the baptismal gown, I have resumed sacramental preparations. Back when I was crocheting socks for Christmas presents, Matt and I sitting next to one another on the couch watching a movie after Abigail went to bed (a "date moment," if you will), he would stare enviously at all these pairs of handmade wool socks. Since I can't exactly make him something without him seeing it, I instead made him a coupon for a pair of handmade socks in a yarn color of his choosing and gifted him with that. It took 1.5 months to pick out and order the yarn, but we finally did and it took me a lengthy 10 days to whip them up (normally it takes me a weekend, but the stomach flu can really throw off timelines). He was pretty stoked to have his new socks. Anyway, so now I'm back to the gown. I'm almost half-way done with the skirt.

Secret confession: I wish I was a couponer. Not like a crazy, I-have-100-boxes-of-cereal-in-my-cupboard couponer, but more of an I-never-pay-for-deodorant couponer. At the beginning of the year, I got serious and started clipping coupons from the local paper and basing my twice-monthly meal plans around the sales flier. I shopped at one store and made a lot of stuff myself. In our strong desire to get rid of this freakin' law school debt (which, granted, is less than half the national average of what a law school student graduates with), we live with one (non-smart) cell phone, we don't have a TV package, we have one car, we shop around for cheap car insurance, and we keep the heat low. I never thought I could get our incredibly low food budget any lower. But that didn't mean I didn't want to try. So when I got serious in January, I chopped 20-25% off our grocery bill. We were pretty stoked and I have been tucking the extra money away into an envelope labeled "post-partum food," so that we'll have something budgeted for those early recovery days when frozen pizza and chinese take-out rule the day.

But when I skimmed through the local community education class booklet and saw a one-night couponing class for only $25, I knew I would do anything to take it. The class occured the day after I recovered from the stomach flu and they promised that by following their tips, I'll save an average of 50% of my grocery bill per month. 50%?! For us, that is a life-changing amount of money to play with each month. There are so many places we could funnel that money to relieve other pressure plus up our debt payment.

In addition to massive savings, I would also love to stop making some things from scratch. Some are way fun or are healthy enough that I want to keep going, like bread and gatorade; some things are nice to make, but when I'm crunched for time or sick or pregnant, I would like to buy, like tortillas and laundry detergent; other things I never want to make again, like body wash and crackers. Skin-irritating detergents or not, I freakin' hate making body wash! Plus it would be nice to have more convenience foods - things I'd never buy without a serious discount, like spice mixes and slow cooker sauces - but will make dinner prep much faster on days when I feel really...pregnant.

I've been "crazy couponing" for one week and I've already gotten $.70 name-brand conditioner, $.17 frozen pre-chopped veggies, and two $.25 two liters of soda (the hubby is a soda junkie). I've previewed the coupon-sale match-ups for this week (I don't go shopping until Saturdays), and have seen some pretty awesome looking things: $1.50/box of Cheerios, $.64 canned diced tomatoes, and $3.50 California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizzas.

The couponing does take a few extra hours of my time per week, but to make/save 50% of my grocery bill per month, it is so totally worth it my time. I'll let you know how things go as I continue this journey.

If I can really save 50% of our grocery bill, I can totally use a month's worth of saved money to throw the girls a party in May! The double celebration 3rd bday/Baptism I was dreaming of could totally happen! I mean, we're not talking anything fancy, Hot 'n Ready pizzas, some balloons, a few cases of soda, but it's something! Talk about motivating!

Lastly, not that I want to sound any alarm bells, but if you could say a quick Hail Mary (or what-have-you) for this baby, I'd appreciate it. I'm sure it's all in my paranoid head, but this baby doesn't move like Abigail moved and it's got me a bit nervous. I've got a doctor's appointment this Friday and will bring it up, but in the meantime, prayers for an unborn child never hurt anyone : )


Cam Wollner said...

Yay for couponing! And I don't know if you guys shop at Meijer but I saw last night that this Friday and Saturday they're offering a 5% off coupon through MPERKS on groceries and 15% off everything else and I am way, way too excited about it.

And prayers for the new baby and that Abigail is feeling better soon. This flu season has been such a nightmare. I'm really hoping it's over soon!

Amelia@One Catholic Mama said...

Prayers for your baby. 2 of my babies didn't move as much and it freaked me out, but they were fine. I think the location of the placenta has a lot to do with it, if the placenta is in front, you can't feel it as well.

That said...how far along are you? I think after 26 or 28 weeks you are "supposed" to call the dr. about any decreased movement. However, they just tell you to lie on your side and drnik juice. Have you tried that?

Anonymous said...

An envelope for "post-parting food" is INGENIUS. I really like how you think.

How do you make Gatorade? Whenever my boys are sick, they're excited about Gatorade for maybe one day and then no one will drink it anymore. Pedialyte is out of the question because its even grosser, unless completely frozen.

I tried to make some rehydration drinks last week (diarrhea was visited upon the boys), but nobody wanted it because it tasted like lemony saltwater. I'd LOVE a tasty, healthy alternative that my kids would actually want to drink.

I will keep your baby in my prayers as well. My third moved much less than than my first two, but then I had extreme polyhydroamnios, so he was probably kicking away in all that fluid, barely bumping me. :-) TB

Anonymous said...

Ummm, "post-partum". Thank you, Incompetent AutoCorrect.