Summertime … and the living is stressy

Summertime … and the living is stressy

About two months ago, I started writing a blog post about what we were planning to do this summer. I was talking about seasonal allergies and taking vacations and how to plan where we’re going to stay when we go and visit my mother-in-law, but now, I feel like all those plans are going out the window.

We don’t know if we’re going to be able to travel. We don’t know if we’re going to be able to visit zoos, museums or state parks. We don’t know if we have enough activities to keep two kids entertained. We don’t know anything. Well, to be honest, I know that we will not be able to. I know that we’ll not be able to visit fun places, even if they open.

Without fully understanding EOE, and all the other medical issues that Hank has, we do not feel that we can do anything that we normally would. And it is a HUGE bummer.

I think that it’s funny now. I was planning for so much. Planning on packing meds, shelf stable meats and allergen safe bread – but now I am searching to make sure we have enough toilet paper. Making sure that we have enough cleaners. Making sure that we have what we need to keep our family supplied to live within our home. Making sure that I have enough activities to keep two active boys entertained without having to constantly be the entertainer, myself.

I see our neighbors having an actual backyard party and I wonder what makes them so immune to today’s novel virus that they can allow people to stand that close to them and let their daughter play in an enclosed place with other children. We wanted to have a party this summer with homemade gourmet smoked meats and laughter. But we can’t. We are stuck with asthma and autoimmune issues. We can’t relax and seek out our friends and have a great time. We’re in the house for the long haul.

So, how do we move forward with this summer? What can we do to stay entertained while we see others gathering and playing at the neighborhood park?

So, we’re making a list of what we can do.

Science!

We are a science loving family. This summer we were GOING to go rocking picking, mining and explore Michigan and North Carolina’s beaches and rock mines. Now, we are going to open geodes that we have received as gifts or from previous adventures, but stored for later.

I have a recipe somewhere for “industrial” bubbles that don’t pop. Guess who is going to make that up? This woman and at least one child.

We have plants that we started off in our basement. We’re learning of plants, food production and how it all works to make it to our table.

I know, that in our garage, we have a package that when put together will be a Hank-sized catapult. As a family, we are putting that together and launching dog treats in the back yard. Unless, it is more industrial than I remember, and then, we may need to take it to the park with packets of bird seeds.

Music!

Dave is in band; therefore, we have a very large xylophone in our library. Dave is learning how to play by me and Hank is learning to appreciate music a bit more. Music appreciation will be loud and proud in our house. We just need to time it so that we’re not playing through the hub’s conference calls. I believe that we’re also going to be making a homemade guitar as that has been at the top of Hank’s wish list for a while. Well, he would love a real one, but … no.

Physical Labor!

I love this one.  Someone has to keep the grass mowed, weeds pulled and frankly, I need a patio area set up. My garage needs to be recleaned, as well as my basement. This all calls for two boys and many grumbles. I thrive on grumbles.

More of my chores have been slowly trickling down to the boys, certain items on my to-do list are no longer mine to-do. This summer, I plan on teaching and reteaching these chores.

I know that many people are getting excited with parts of our state opening up right now, but it isn’t opening for us. We need to do what we can to keep Hank safe, as well as, everyone else with compromised systems and other high-risk folks.

What fun, home based activities are you and your family doing this summer to keep with your sanity?

Wendy Price is the author of 10 Little Rules of Hank. We love them to pieces.

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Hank V. Veg

Hank V. Veg

“I’m full” says Hank as he pushes his plate across the table to me. It’s funny how every piece of meat has been picked out of the surrounding vegetables and eaten. It’s funny that he has put about a quarter cup of meat into his tummy and now, he is full. It’s funny and it’s a lie.

Hank’s diet is really all meat and carbs. I cannot get a fruit or a veg into him for the life of me. I have to do it in sneaky ways. I mix dried squash and zucchini into his nugget breading. I mince veggies super fine and throw them into his curries. I use vegetable broth instead of meat broth. But I can’t get him to eat a veg, even with money tied to the completion of the serving. Seriously. Yesterday, I cut up three small bell peppers in red, orange and green – peeling off the outer skin. I did the same thing for zucchini and squash. No peels, no seeds, nothing but yummy goodness. I brought him the plate and switched to my announcer voice (BTW, both boys hate that voice).

“Today in Café Price, Henry plans to defeat the mystery food challenge. If he can complete the challenge of five bites, he wins $1.00 and bragging rights. If he cannot finish, he gets… NOTHING.”

He’s looking at me and laughing. He may be expecting something slightly different than what he is about to get.

“So, Henry, do you think that you can complete this challenge without complaining. Without whining. Without spitting out your bites? If so, the win will be all yours!”

He catches sight of the plate and realizes that there isn’t a cookie, meat or even a bread crumb before him, but instead, the colorful array of veggies.

He INSTANTLY stops laughing and starts looking … mad. Like, really mad. Over the course of the next five minutes, he does try the zucchini and the squash. He spits out each bite of pepper. He doesn’t win his mini Hank V. Food game.

I failed. He didn’t. He knows what he doesn’t like. Even if he has never tried it before.

For dinner, I make a beautiful dish with buffalo, yams, zucchinis, squash, carrot, garlic, onion and broccoli florets. I shred the veg and brown the meat and mix it all together with a vegetable/beef broth. I loved it, Hubs liked it, Dave liked it. Hank picked the meat out and then passed me his plate. Full. I deny his statement and give him the whole, “Five more bites of veg and you can be excused.” He grumpily eats it and gets ready for bed. Funnily, when I went to look into his bowl, I saw that he nibbled the tops off of all the broccoli.  At bedtime, he tells his dad that he’s super hungry. He’s not telling me; he knows I saved his bowl from dinner.

For lunch today, I made him vegan pasta with a tomato sauce. Completely out of his wheelhouse, and he … HATED it.

For as long as he lives in my house, I will continue to try to force good foods into his system. The alternative is medical food. He will drink it, but it doesn’t taste good and he doesn’t prefer it. So, here I am, trying to figure out how to hide and how to present more veg. And here he is, pushing against all of my efforts. Maybe I need to get a t-shirt printed: “I battled veggies and I won.”

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He’s got the Sisu

He’s got the Sisu

Sisu: (see’-soo) noun

strength of will; determination; perseverance; regarded as an integral part of Finnish culture.

I am about a quarter Finnish, my children are one eighth, but Hank is the definition of Sisu. And I love him for that, even if I can’t keep up with him. Which, I really can’t.

We have put off teaching the kids how to ride bikes for a few different reasons.

  1. Warmer weather brings seasonal allergies.
  2. We’re not really an outdoorsy family.
  3. Eh, bikes.

But this quarantine is the time. It really is. I’ve seen so many videos and photos of Hank’s friends learning how to ride two wheelers right now. I don’t want to continue to hold him back.

We have a bike for Hank. It is a bright gold number that has (had) his brother’s name on it stuck on with by a label maker. It has training wheels, hand brakes and a really cool vibe to it. He loves it. Like, wants to fly down the sidewalk and leave us behind him as he travels the far reaches of the two blocks he is allowed to ride.

He streaks down the sidewalk with the blue of his helmet, knee, elbow and hand pads mixing with the shiny gold bike. His “WOOS!” following behind him, to catch on me as I walk/run to keep up.

This brave child is the same who would climb a half wall to walk it like a tight rope walker, who yells at large dogs who dare bark at us (he doesn’t yell at ours, but grounds her, instead.) He is the same child who looks at bigger kids and sees them as his equals.  

I know that he isn’t excited about the idea of the trainers coming off, but he will be determined to make it work, to make the bike fly – to let the wind take him on new adventures.

I’ll still be run/walking behind him. Out of breath, marveling of how little Finn is in him, but how much of him is Finn.

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rule #8 – embrace the humor … a book reading

rule #8 – embrace the humor … a book reading

When faced with the unknown, the scary, the incomprehensible, there’s one rule that will help … no matter what the situation.

Wendy Price, author of 10 Little Rules of Hank, has dealt with all of the above in raising her son Hank and grappling with the realities of eosinophilic esophagitis (#EOESucks, my friends). Through it all, she learned a valuable truth … embracing the humor is not only helpful. It’s essential.  Enjoy this reading from her book … and sign up for our newsletter for upcoming book readings from Wendy and our other authors!

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a teaser about HANK

a teaser about HANK

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE) is no laughing matter. And if you’ve been following our 10 Little Rules story at all, you know that’s what Hank has, and what Hank and his family are dealing with.

Yes, #EOESucks.

But EOE is not their life … not by a long shot. As Hank’s mom Wendy (author of 10 Little Rules of Hank) says, you have to embrace the humor. Wendy is about to release a reading from her book, about how to embrace the humor … in any situation. Enjoy the teaser below, then sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss the full reading. Keep smiling!

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Rule #9 – Make it Better. Seriously.

Rule #9 – Make it Better. Seriously.

With our new NEW normal of being locked away from others, I have been spending too much time on social media and news sites and doing so has really taken a toll on my emotions and mental health. Since the frustrations, trolls and our own government are piling up with drama, tension and anger, I decided that I needed to start writing down what I am thankful for. I have always looked for the silver lining in all situations, but being so bogged down, I decided that I needed to write everything down. I can’t keep a list in my brain when there are so many things that are threatening to take over.

My current list is fairly long; however, my highlights are so very important to me. I want all of you to sit down today and jot down what is getting you through the day while you are social distancing. I promise, it will feel good. Here is a section of my current list:

  • More People Home During the Day

    I am grateful that my husband is working from home. It is amazing to hear his voice all day while he’s on conference calls. I don’t really listen to him, as I am too busy working with the kids and their school work. But hearing his intonation while he is talking to his coworkers is very soothing. I feel like it is like when you first start sharing a bed and the other person’s snoring is awful and hard to sleep through, but 20 + years, a night without it leads to a poor night sleep. I am not looking forward to when he has to go back to his office
  • Online Learning

    I am pleased with being able to spend this time with my children. I never wanted to be a home-school mom. I didn’t want to have kids in the house 24/7, but I have learned that I was wrong. I like listening to them learning new things. I love watching Hank run through the house with a measuring stick to complete his math work. I really, really enjoy quizzing Dave on spelling words. I had no idea that he even knew that many words! Words that I don’t know how to spell, he rattles off like nothing.
    Our teachers are amazing. I am a huge supporter in our school system and I have always believed that our teachers deserve so much more than they get – supplies, continuing ed., and financially. Hank has two teachers in his class and they are wonderful. Within two weeks of being out of school, a teacher reached out to each student by phone. It was such a wonderful thing for Hank to talk to his teacher, but I got to as well and I felt like that five minutes completely recharged my batteries. These wonderful teachers are working together to continue our kid’s education and it has been amazing. From Zoom calls to assignments that allow for me to see the “light bulb” go off in their minds – we are very lucky.
  • My Growth

    My own education has grown. No, I haven’t gone back to school – but within my household management. I suddenly have a better understanding of food. How to make it, use it and reuse the leftovers. If you follow my Instagram account, you have already noticed a few posts about taquitos. Those came from a sudden whim of Hank’s and a leftover roast. Suddenly, we have a new food that I can make and save in the freezer. Perfect for lunches or the odd dinner where we’re having something that isn’t Hank-safe. Going through my outside freezer, I had a whole chicken, which I sous vided and made stock with the bones – not unusual, but the chicken that was stuck to the bones, I pulled them off after the broth bath and we used them to make a green Thai curry. I am really looking at how wasteful we were before and am working on correcting this through creative cooking. This brings me more happiness than I think should be allowed. Seriously.
  • Everyday Joy

    I can’t even explain, though I am sure that anyone reading this rambling knows, how wonderful it is to just hear their kids taking enjoyment in their play. We’re super lucky to have two kids – they play with each other, with only minor strife. I say minor, but today, I had to send Hank to his room for using adult language towards his brother. As I am typing this, I can hear them on our trampoline laughing and giggling. It’s like rich chocolate – it is the best.
    Many states have Facebook groups that have popped up recently about sharing rainbows. We are following “Rainbows Over Michigan” and have been loving everyone’s sunshine and brightness through this trying time. Pictures of everyone’s rainbow decorations, flowers, babies and smiles have been a fun addition to our day. We even went to Etsy and bought our own fun stain glass rainbow for our front window.

All the people along the way through the journey who make living possible right now are so very important. All the healthcare workers – including the clean up crew, all the delivery men and women, the workers at the supermarket and those who shop for those of us who cannot leave the house. I am so very thankful for all of those people that I don’t even know are still working in their fields to allow for life to still carry on.

Exploring my list, will hopefully help you to start your list and bring you calmness and peacefulness through this trying time.

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Isolation – The New-New Normal

Isolation – The New-New Normal

Happy third day of isolation, from here at the 10 Little Rules of Hank compound! Let’s talk about what is making us sane – scheduling the crap out of our day with rigid time schedules. Or you know, not, because that isn’t going to work for me. I have realized over the past 12 years of parenthood, I am *not* a Pinterest mom. But I do sort of have a schedule.

Setting up a schedule to closely replicate their school day sounds like a great idea, but the execution isn’t the easiest. Within a few hours, if you haven’t already thought so, you’re thinking that our teachers don’t make nearly enough money, sick time or free (quality) coffee. Instead of filling a schedule, I have been focusing on blocks of time.

During the first day, I decided that since I wasn’t going to be able to keep to a schooling schedule, I would focus on stimulating parts of the brain. They get that in school, too, so, I’m trying that while the kids are home.  And I know that I am writing this all out on the third day and I should really wait to see how it all works out and write this on the third week, but, hey. I am a dreamer.

Our schedule looks like the following:

Wake Up – Breakfast

Dave is on his own. There are yogurts and frozen breakfast meals where he can get them, just like any other day.

Hank wakes me up. Somewhere from 6am to 7ish am, per his normal schedule and I make him some bread and “butter” and a drink.

Both boys are to entertain themselves so that I can go back to sleep or actually wake up. Both boys have books they are listening to through their Echo Dots and are doing that while playing a puzzle game or an actual puzzle.

Mid-Morning – Lunch

*If* I see the boys, then we talk. Or they help with a chore to get the household moving. But for the last few days, they have stayed away from me until lunch – they know that I must still keep the household running and they don’t actually want to help.

Lunch

This is where I think my down fall for this whole “being home during the day” thing is starting. I am making actual lunches here from real food and they are delicious. Not something that I will be able to keep up with when (or if?) they go back to school. We sit and eat as a family, though, I walk lunch into my office to give to my husband, who has taken over my office.

After Lunch

Outside time! Normally, in the summer, I would just send them outside to play but they are both very outgoing and I am afraid that the social distancing will be forgotten as soon as they see one of their friends. So, I go outside with them. We started by sectioning off portions of the front yard and picking up sticks and looking for new plant growth. We were preparing for being able to use a lawn mower. Once we were finished (in truth, it took multiple days to do the front yard, because it was more fun to threaten each other with sticks than to put them in the yard waste bag), we went for a walk. We can see one of the neighborhood parks from our house and have been noticing that people seem to be taking turns there. So, we walked until it was our “turn.”

For the rest of the time, I have more labor that I will need them to help me with. We plan on cleaning up the backyard, which is still littered with dog bombs from the colder days. The backyard also holds the area where we are making our new garden. The area used to have an above ground pool, so we need to remove rocks from the edge and sand from the middle, not to mention weeds and grass that have moved into the area.

Besides physical chores and walks around our ghost town of a neighborhood, I also plan to take them to visit a set of trails in a wood near our house, drawing with chalk, making our own bubbles and doing science experiments that are better off outside.

Mid Afternoon

We don’t want our kids to spend much time in front of screens, but we also realize that there needs to be some type of entertainment that they don’t need to create themselves. So, during this time, which coincides with snack time, I find a movie or a show that they have not watched yet – I will not be watching Martha Speaks again. After Hank’s last case of the flu, I think that I have seasons 2 and 3 memorized.

Our television is hooked up to the internet, so I have been very fortunate to find bizarre videos and movies that are educational. On Monday, we watched a documentary on fighting ants. Today, they are watching Wallace and Gromit. Balance, yo.

Since the hubs as taken over my quiet office to work from home, I placed my computer on the kitchen bar to be able to pull up more videos from the local and not-so-local zoos as well as videos of authors reading and virtual museum tours.

This is also the time we read books to each other, practice math flash cards, play instruments and work on vocabulary.

Late Afternoon – Dinner

The kids on their own. They may play on our trampoline, or play creatively (building, coloring, writing, story play) but not hole themselves in their rooms as they did in the morning.

During this time, I am chorin’ or have been coerced into playing or continuing reading -thanks to my dear friend, Wendi (with an “I”), Hank has a new (to him) collection of Magic Tree House and we’re currently reading about Hawaii.

Dinner

I usually just make dinners on my own as I have spliced together so many different recipes that I am not following something cohesive. We then eat as a family and talk. All normal stuff.

Bed Time

This is our normal routine. We are not allowing them to stay up late, they don’t need to.

I don’t want my kids to feel as though they are interrupting my schedule by being home and I don’t want them to feel as though being home is a punishment. I want them to be safe and keep learning, even if it isn’t in the way that they are used to at school. As much as I joke about how great it is to dump them off at school, and they know that I am joking, I have not been making those jokes with this serious turn of events. These kids are two of the most important people to me and they don’t need to feel like they aren’t. Please remember that when you are talking in your household and to your own kids.

I am glad that the schools have been mandated to close for the next few weeks. Keeping them safe will, in turn, keep others safe.

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Smells like PSL

Smells like PSL

It’s the FINAL COUNT DOWN, do do do doooooo… do do dododooooooooo!

I have new school clothes on order, I have backpacks in the process of being washed to a like-new state, I have lunch ideas being saved on Pintrest. You know, those meals that Hank won’t eat? Those would be the ones. BUT, I will not feel bad, I am feeling high on life. WHY? Because we’re in the final count down for the new school year.

I love this time of year. I can almost smell the black leggings and feel those cozy pumpkin spice lattes on my legs. Wait. Reverse that. Or not, hell, I don’t care. I’m just too excited!

It isn’t that I don’t love summer. I mean, I don’t, but I don’t hate it. I am an introvert. BIG TIME. So during summer, these kids get a whole bunch of me and not a whole bunch of planned activities. Last summer, I decided that the kid fighting had to stop and that “Next year, they will go to a camp”. So, this summer, they did!

There is a local summer camp that looked like a lot of fun. Mud pits, soccer, animal learning centers, building; you name it, they have it. I was determined that each kid would be signed up so that they get a break this summer and the chance to have fun outside of the home. Bonus to me, it would be at a place where I don’t have to make small talk with other parents.

I signed Dave up for Soccer. He was such a fan for the game BEFORE he went for a week, running, maybe getting the ball and not being the player that he thought he would be … never having played before. He has asked to go back next year, and named three other camps within this one that he would like to do. Done. No prob, Dave. We’ll camp it up.

Hank got a week of animal adventure camp. We received a day-to-day (almost) weather report as to whether he was having fun.

First Day After Camp!

Monday: Mom! It was so cool! I know someone from my school!

Tuesday: *before camp* I don’t want to go. Don’t make me go.

*After camp* It was ok, I guess. Do I have to go back?

Wednesday: MOM! LOOK AT WHAT THEY GAVE ME! *He came running out with a white shirt waving over his head like a flag. Before we even got to the truck, little dude has his shirt off and it stuffing his noggin through the neck hole of the camp shirt. *

Thursday: *Before camp: small, angry camper who doesn’t understand why he can’t wear his new camp shirt to camp. I explain that he wore it half a day, spilled lunch/dinner on it and then refused to take it off for bed. He changes*

*After camp* Tired. Ran a bunch. Saved some imaginary animals. Hungry.

Friday: *After camp* MOM! There was a hotdog eating contest and I won! (no, he didn’t. The camp councilors had a competition and it was amazing to watch)

I personally liked the camp. They checked all ingredients for food activities and rather than making him an odd man out when it was determined that he was allergic, they moved him in with another group and he got to experience more of the camp than he would have. Imagine that. He went to a camp and didn’t feel left out. He actually felt like he had an advantage over the other kids in his group. My goodness. That was an amazing feeling. It was an amazing experience.

So, I’ll say it again. Next year, these kids are going to camp. Only this time, they are going for longer and maybe at the same time. AT THE SAME TIME. Nerf camp, animal camp, maybe building camp is in their future. Pedicures and coffee for me. Coffee. Maybe a cup of that Pumpkin Spice that smells so good.

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