Tooth-brushing Party

In one of my less-than-proud parenting moments, I happened to look closely at Owen’s teeth a few weeks ago and realized he had not been doing a stellar job of brushing.  Probably for a while.  An examination of Quinn’s teeth revealed the same.

Just when I think I have this mothering thing slightly in hand, the children remind me that I’ve dropped a ball somewhere.

I definitely thought I was past the parenting point where I had to teach people to brush their teeth.  But I guess a reminder was in order: as my boys in particular get older, I’m learning that hygiene issues I thought we’d covered in toddlerhood need some attention and tweaking.  I hate to gender stereotype, but these are not things I had to re-teach Bridget and that’s the truth.

I’ve also noticed that my teeth and all the children’s teeth aren’t quite as white as I’d like.  Gabe was actually the one who pointed it out a while ago.  He expressed a bit of self-consciousness over it and I agreed we could use some whitening.  I started to research natural methods, though, because I don’t like chemical treatments if I can avoid them at all.  But I sort of forgot about it without ever really doing anything.

When I saw the state of the younger boys’ teeth, though, I decided that an overhaul of the tooth-brushing and whitening situation was long overdue.  So I instituted a nightly tooth-brushing party.

The fun in this house is just non-stop, you guys.

But in all honesty, calling it a party DID make it more appealing to everyone involved.  It seems dumb, but that sort of thing can make a difference when you’re forcing your kids to go up to get ready for bed twenty minutes earlier than normal in order to complete a multi-step tooth brushing process every night.

Here’s what we do for our “party”:

We set a timer, brush for two straight minutes making sure to hit fronts, backs, sides, and all around.  Previously I had just been sending the kids up to brush on their own and I think they must have been giving it about 20 seconds without supervision because the first night we used a timer they were SHOCKED at how long two minutes lasted.

Then we floss.  I cannot tell a lie, I have flossed more in the last two weeks than I probably had in the previous two months.  The tooth brushing party is good for us all!  I do have to help Owen and Quinn get each and every little space, but that’s okay with me.  The more they do it, the better they’ll get at it.

Then we do the last step in the party process: tooth whitening.  I researched some natural tooth methods and found one that I had all the ingredients for already in the cabinet so that was the one we tried.  I used this recipe and it’s kind of weird – it looks like tomato paste but smells like peppermint (I added peppermint essential oil to make it a more familiar tooth-brushing flavor for us all).  But despite it’s strange appearance, it absolutely has made a significant difference in the level of whiteness of all our teeth in the last two weeks.  I wish I had done before-and-after pictures! It was noticeable even after just the very first use.

We brush with it for two minutes, making sure to concentrate on the teeth that really need some whitening in the front.  Then before we spit it out, we swish it around in our mouths for a minute, kind of like oil pulling.  The kids all use it without complaining, which is all I can hope for.  Because of the turmeric in the recipe, it will stain clothes and skin, though, so we are really careful to clean it all up really well when we’re done.  

That’s it.  The whole thing lasts less than 10 minutes, which is certainly a time-investment we can easily make.  And we have been doing it at least 3-4 nights a week. (On the other nights, we just brush with a 2-minute timer.)

An added side benefit of this tooth brushing party is that we do it at about 8PM every evening before the younger boys go to bed, and since I’ve already brushed at that point, I am doing far less late-night-snacking after the kids are in bed!

It’s funny, I thought this new process was going to be a pain when I first realized that I really needed to be more involved in how the boys were taking care of their teeth.  But in truth I’m really enjoying it!  Over the past few years as our kids have gotten older and more self-sufficient, Matt and I have been less and less involved in the sort of bedtime routine we had when the children were all little.  It’s sort of lovely to feel like we’re needed again.  And it’s a calmer, happier bedtime process too I think.  Plus all our teeth look much healthier, cleaner, and whiter.

Viva la tooth-brushing-party!


Last week I found out that I have a vitamin D deficiency.  I’d been feeling crappy, just tired and achy and random pains all over, and finally went to a doctor.  Blood tests came back and the result was a vitamin D level that is less than half the minimum healthy amount.

The primary source for vitamin D is the sun.  In England, apparently most people take a vitamin D supplement (or at least my doctor recommends they do) because there just isn’t sufficient sunlight in this country, especially in winter, to maintain healthy levels without assistance.

It was a total relief to have an answer, and especially one with a relatively simple solution.  Finally, months of random worries were explained: I’d had tooth pain, my fingernails were constantly breaking and peeling, my joints were achy, and I was exhausted – often to the point of tears – just all the time.  All of that is related to a vitamin D deficency.  I’m on a big booster dose now for a few weeks, then I go on a daily maintenance dose.  Everyone else in the house does too – cause we’re all getting the same lack of sunshine.

And even though it may not be enough to solve the problem, I’m making a point of getting outside for at least a half hour or so a few days a week.  I figure it can’t hurt and it’s good for me to get some fresh air no matter what.

It was odd to me, though, to think that for the nearly three years I’ve been living in England, I never knew this was a thing I had to think about.  I wonder if there are other things I don’t know I should be doing cause I didn’t know to ask.  It makes me even more ready to go home to a place where I know the drill.

And it definitely makes me excited to get back to place where the sun shines more regularly; I feel like this is a perfectly good justification for a few days spent lying on a beach soaking up all that vitamin D I can get.

Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Almost Gone

We have about four months left until we leave England.  Depending on the day — really depending on the hour or the minute — I am in turns devastated or elated about this.

We love it here. We love our house and our neighborhood and our friends.  We love the kids’ sports and the closeness of London and the ease with which we can travel all over Europe.  We especially love the school.  Oh man, do we love the school.  We don’t want to leave this school AT ALL. 

I am so sad when I think about it.

But we’re going HOME!  Where we have tons of friends to see and family so close by and my youngest sister is having another baby and she’s due right after we get back.  And we’ll be in my favorite place on earth (New England), close to my favorite city on earth (Boston).  And there are beaches only 15 minutes away all summer and skiing only 2.5 hours away all winter. 

I am so excited when I think about it.

And therein lies the trouble: I can’t reconcile the two wildly different emotions that pop up every time I think about moving.

So I’ve stopped trying.  I have to be simultaneously broken hearted that we are leaving and overjoyed that we’re going home.  That’s just the way it is.

I will be a soggy mess of tears and hugs and regret for probably the last month we’re here.  Certainly the last week of school is going to be a bit of a mess.  I will cry every day.  The children will be embarrassed.  I already know it.  I will be devastated saying goodbye to our friends here and this lovely old farmhouse and the fairy tale garden.  I will not want to leave.

And then I will get off the plane in Boston and be so filled with happiness that I am really, truly moving home that it will feel like my chest will pop open. 

I know, though, that I will always be homesick for this place and the amazing adventures and opportunities we had here. 

The more places you live, the more little pieces of yourself you have to leave behind, and the more you carry a constant sense of missing somewhere even though you may love the place you are now.  I’ll always miss our neighborhood in Virginia, and I will always miss this home in England, no matter how thrilled I am to be finally going “home” (the place I missed for the last 15 years, every day since I left).

The task then is to remember and appreciate without sadness or remorse and to just be glad for what you had and what it taught you. 

Still working on that.

Snow and Magic

Winters in England aren’t terribly cold temperature-wise, but the damp and wind seem to creep in and settle in your bones sometime in November and there they remain until June.  I never can seem to get warm, even though the temperatures rarely dip below freezing.

I don’t mind the cold really, never have.  Anyone can find happiness in a sunny warm afternoon, but it takes creativity and resourcefulness to be content when the cold takes your breath away.  Maybe growing up in New England thickened my blood, maybe I just have ice in my heart, but I’ll take freezing temps and mountains of snow over a hot, humid summer every day of the week. 

English winters, though.  They’re hard to bear. The wind never stops blowing.  The air is just never not wet, even when it’s not raining.  The nights are so long and the sun so scarce.  They wear on you, make you cranky. 

Until it snows. 

It doesn’t happen often here, but when it does, it makes up for a lot of dark days, grey skies, and damp winds.

You wake up to a world transformed, white fluffy snow dusting 800-year old churches and smoothing out the stark edges of bare wet trees, acres of rolling fields blanketed and quiet, still dotted with sheep that are harder to pick out against a backdrop no longer painted with mud and sodden hay.  The air is crisp instead of damp.  The light is brighter. 

Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as magic.

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