Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Please Don't Drink the Air Freshener

Just when you’re not sure what to write about your four-year-old tries to drink air freshener. Isn’t it always the case? She’s fine, but I may begin a re-child-proofing of our house to keep up with her curiosity.


It all began innocently enough when she told me she wanted another sip of apple juice. I was putting the lunch dishes in the dishwasher and her glass was still on the table. A few seconds later she skipped towards me and said the water with the sticks tasted bad.

Hum, I thought, taking a look at her juice glass. What does she mean by sticks?  She made a face and I was certain she’d tasted something that didn’t seem right.

“Can you show me?” I asked.

After a few seconds she led me into the entryway. We have a large round table decorated with a lamp and about fifty feet of garland my seven-year-old has made out of construction paper. In the center is a glass and wood reed diffuser that sends a subtle, welcoming scent into the air. She and her sister had given it to me, with a little help from their father, a week before on my birthday.

“You drank the air freshener?” I yelled.

“I’m so sorry,” she whimpered.

I led her back into the kitchen and pulled out a chopstick.

“Pretend this is one of the wooden sticks,” I said, holding the chopstick. “Did you put your lips on it and then go ‘yuck’ of did you use it like a straw and try to suck?”

She was not game. And I had a feeling she’d be suggestible to whatever answer sounded like it would make me less upset.

I called our pediatrician. He was calm and helpful.

“Lemongrass,” he said, when I told him the scent. “Well, that’s edible.” Still, he said, call poison control.

Very Old Information
I happened to have the number for poison control quite handy. It’s time likes this, and perhaps only times like this, when I’m glad our kitchen hasn’t been updated since 1980. The previous owner had affixed a small primer from poison control to the inside of a top cabinet and I dialed the number. It forwarded me to the current number and a friendly man answered. I explained my daughter tried to drink from an air freshener diffuser, I didn't think she'd gotten much, but my doctor suggested I call.

“Yes, I did have the original box,” I said. Of course it said to keep out of reach of children and do not ingest. “Williams-Sonoma. Lemongrass,” I offered.

Not long after, he told me he had pulled up the product on his computer. There was probably not much to worry about given her exposure. There was alcohol in it. And oil. And I am sure a lot of other things he didn’t tell me. He thought she’d be fine.

“Maybe have her drink some juice,” he added, “to get the taste out.”

Her breath still smelled like oily lemongrass, something that is a lot less pleasant coming from your child than it is wafting through a room. I gave her some juice. Then I walked her over to the diffuser and explained that she was never to drink anything that I hadn’t given her, especially if it wasn't more akin to water or juice or milk.

I put the diffuser on top of a bookcase, very much out of reach.

You may remember about a year ago when a lot of attention was given to new colorful gel pods of laundry detergent. Shortly after they were introduced, kids began eating the pods in alarming numbers: jumping from 200 reported cases to 1,210 in about two months. The concentrated detergent was dangerous, some kids were hospitalized, some put on ventilators. Senator Chuck Schumer urged the consumer product safety commission to require child safety locks on the packaging.

Senator Schumer was made fun of for talking about the pods and saying laundry detergent was made to look delicious. And I remember thinking that I was glad he was pushing for better packaging and labeling, but that I could not figure out how a kid would think the pod looked like candy, or something interesting to eat.

That was then.


This week on The Educated Mom, we talk about the educational value of a road trip. I'm heading on one soon, and will be back with a new post in April.





Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tips the Parenting Magazines Won't Tell You: Google Searches

Inspired by a recent article in the NY TIMES, we offer you another edition of Tips the Parenting Magazines Won’t Tell You. We’ve gathered the best in parent Google searches to reveal new insight into the mysterious world of self-diagnosis.


We start with rashes, a wonderful place to start.

“Bouncy Houses and Hand Foot and Mouth Disease” 
Yes, it’s possible! But please do not confuse this with Hoof and Mouth Disease (if you are a farm animal you may be reading the wrong blog). Many parents forget to worry about this problem because they’re distracted by the deafening noise of the air pumps in the facility.

“Is Déjà vu real?”
This query was most common for parents who watch “The Fresh Beat Band” with their five-year-olds. “Wait, this is a new episode, why do I feel like I’ve seen this before?” is the most common follow-up.

“What are the nutritional benefits of pizza and hot dogs?” Lots to read up on with this one but beware; the “Count the Pickle as a Vegetable” parent-group is very aggressive.

“Toys R Us and severe case of Hebejebes” 
Hebejebes may sound like a sugarcoated snack, but parents describe the sensation as “feeling like I must find an exit” or “deep regret that I walked through the princess aisle with my daughter fully alert.” In most cases, the heartbeat usually returns to a normal pace when waiting in line, which should take you about twenty to thirty minutes depending on who is returning a Polly Pocket dream vacation spa without a receipt.

“Can laundry detergent give me supernatural powers?” 
Many an ego has been inflated after removing an “impossible” stain such as grass, mud or blood, but before you try to lift up a car, take a deep breath and spill some red wine on your favorite white linen dress. You will be appropriately humbled.

“Sleep Training and baldness” 
This is not so much a mystery when you think about it.  I maintain there should be more chapters on this in books. Here is my own advice: When you curl up against the wall and wait for your child to stop crying (aka screaming) you should sit on your hands, and not hold them against your hair and pull. 

And finally, what search history would be complete without two perennial favorites?

“Can imaginary friends spread conjunctivitis?”
Given the contagious nature of pink eye is there any wonder parents might worry when a child tells them her imaginary friend was sent home sick from school? Hearing about head lice is equally disturbing. If you can get an email address for the invented friend’s mother, it is certainly OK to drop her a line.

Remember, a Google search for your pediatrician’s home phone number does not usually end well, so stick to the office hours, and never try any of this at home.

Tips the Parenting Magazines Won’t Tell You is an occasional satirical series. Click here for past posts. 


This week on The Educated Mom we look at Pluralistic Ignorance and why it might be a useful phrase for parents.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spring Cleaning Circa....

Spring is in the air, if not the temperature, and I have been thinking about cleaning, which is different, of course, than actually doing it.


Some readers may know that I am quite immersed in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, reading them with my soon-to-be eight year old, books I did not experience when I was a child. So while my daughter identifies with the young people in the stories, I am usually thinking about Ma, or in the second book of the series, Farmer Boy, Almanzo’s Mother.

Here’s a little bit about spring-cleaning in their farmhouse in New York State.

Let’s see….they pulled all the carpets out the house and hung them on clothes lines; removed every item from the house and scrubbed and scoured and then polished it; then they removed the feather beds, the blankets and quilts and cleaned them. Then they had to fetch water so they could clean the cellar, clean out the vegetable bins and milk pans and finally pour buckets of lime on the walls and floor to “whitewash” them. Then they got some straw and tossed it on the floors back upstairs to go under the carpets which would be brought back in and tacked down.

Do this on top of the chores with the farm animals and make a supper which may consist of: baked beans, salt pork, boiled potatoes, ham gravy, mashed turnips, stewed pumpkin, plum preserves, strawberry jam, and two or three different types of pie.

Could I do all of this?

I have modern technology to help but probably not the know-how, and I do not think I’d like to lay straw beneath the carpets, given my allergies. On the other hand, it would be nice to have everyone pitch in to help clean every single object in the house.

Realistically, I think I’ll try to clean out my clothes closet. If I find anything that hasn’t been worn since 1870, out it goes.




This week on The Educated Mom, we look at cell phones and the lost art of being able to disconnect.