Have You Ever Come Down With Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

I did. And not because I ate my poop. Or my kids’. Or even Wayne’s for that matter (though I am the one who scoops his box).

It began with Fia. She had a semi-mild fever, ranging from 100-102 degrees off and on for a few days. She would break out in splotches of hives as well, which is how her body sometimes reacts to a virus. Other than that, she was totally fine. She wasn’t tired or cranky and she wanted to play and do all her usual things. I was puzzled.

Going on day 4, I took her to the doctor. As soon as they looked in her throat they discovered the mystery cause. She never had the sores that often form on your hands and feet, thus giving this disease its name. This is the second time she’s had it though and I hear there are something like 54 strains. Each time you get one, you don’t get that strain again. So now she only has 52 or so to go (not to worry. This isn’t a contest to get them all. Most of us only get a couple). That’s one reason why adults don’t usually get it. We’ve all had a strain–or 5–when we were communing with other Petri dishes in our own preschool days, so typically that immunity pays off.

Before she was diagnosed I probably wasn’t as careful as I should have been in not eating or drinking after her, though I stand by my non-poop eating statement. After the doctor I became diligent. But it was too late. Whatever strain Fia had, I apparently wasn’t privy to in my childhood (and there is a new one that came out in 2012). I woke up 2 days after Fia was diagnosed feeling like I had razor blades in the back of my throat. The telltale sign is little red spots on your hard pallet. Check.  Fia was almost 100% better by then. I was down for the count. It hurt to eat or drink anything and the only thing I could do was take ibuprofen and wait it out.

Thank god my in-laws were in town. It was Fia’s spring break and my lucky one. They played with her while I rested. I wasn’t sick all the time. I would wake up with a decent amount of energy, run an errand and get suddenly wiped out.

But the real problem is the name of this virus itself suggests you should be confined to a leper colony: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Imagine if the common cold was called the “Common Mucus Disease.” We’d all be walking around with a rubber bubble duct-taped around our body.

It can be transmitted a few ways: Oral contact with poop–which we’ve covered. It can be from trading blister fluids, which sounds like a blast, though we are a blister-free household.  And then there’s snot, which we do have a lot of. Emmett is to snot what Mt. Vesuvius and it’s spewing lava was to Pompeii. There seems to be a constant flow. So I suspect he probably picked it up from his 2 days a week at preschool and passed it along to Fia and we never knew he had it.

According to the CDC, this virus is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also called hoof-and-mouth disease), which is a disease of cattle, sheep, and swine. However, the two diseases are caused by different viruses and are not related. Humans do not get the animal disease, and animals do not get the human disease. I guess that takes the possibility of me eating Wayne’s poop out of the equation. So at least that’s a relief.


pic of sick child via shutterstock

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College Prep. For Kindergarteners. Really.

Have you heard the news? It’s great. One school in Long Island is so hell-bent on making sure they produce college graduates, they are canceling their “kindergarten show” in order to prep these 5-year olds for the big wide world they will enter in, oh, a decade and a half.

You might expect this from an uptight, competitive school in Manhattan. Might. But on Long Island? Come on. It’s not even an outer borough.

The administrators at the Harley Primary School in Elwood, NY sent a letter to parents. This, after protests began on the school’s decision to axe what is equivalent to an end-of-year school play.  Here’s an excerpt:

“We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers.” 


This take on it from Gothamist sums up what the school must really be going for:

“Gaining acceptance into a top school by 18, advancing quickly in a high-powered career by 25, developing a crippling addiction to pain pills by 32 and, if all goes well, a swift, stylishly-timed heart attack by 40. That’s efficiency.”

In all fairness, perhaps this little school in Long Island wants to make a name for itself and its students. Perhaps it is trying to be more like South Korea, which has one of the best education systems in the world, along with one of the highest student suicide rates in the world. Competition is cutthroat. Pressure is fierce.

I don’t blame them entirely for being worried about the next generation of kids. Many of the Millennials (and to some extent my generation, Gen-X) here in the U.S. have given us a crisis in confidence.  A minority of entitled slackers have made the majority fearful of becoming a country of deadbeats. But I’m not sure canceling a kindergarten show is the way to change that.

Anyone else care to second that thought?


pic of schoolteacher from 123parades.com

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Why I Was Late to Work Today

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

I work in an office building. A densely populated one, at that. Therefore, when I’m walking in late, it’s painfully obvious to at least 40 people. But the reason it’s happening certainly isn’t obvious. I assume most people just attribute it to laziness, lack of motivation, or an overall disregard for corporate policy. I only wish it were that simple.

While I take full responsibility for this, I find it necessary to explain the history. It all started the night before, actually.

With earnest intentions to get my sons to bed early (or at least at their regular time), I started the bath 15 minutes early while my wife, Sonia dutifully sat with them to finish dinner. I was ahead of the game, or so I thought. Have you ever been on a conference call where you’re convinced the meeting leader is purposely extending the call (aka stalling) so it reaches the scheduled end time exactly, no matter how useless the extra information is? Well, my kids do the same thing with bedtime. And whether we like it or not, we’re going to hear about last quarter’s financials. Translated: My sons decided to extend dinner just for the sake of extending it, refusing to eat a morsel until it was cutting into bath time. I came down and tried to help, ultimately causing the running bathwater to almost overflow like that scene in Fatal Attraction. So much for being ahead of the game.

Needless to say, the kids wound up getting to bed even later than usual (because, of course), meaning they’d most definitely wake up late the following morning. But them waking up late means us getting to school late, which means me getting to work late. So, this morning I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. It was earlier than I’d expected. And I should’ve started the process of waking them at exactly that moment. But I didn’t. Instead, I waited. I mean, the house was so silent that I could hear it settling. How could I mess with that kind of serenity? So I lay in bed and listened to the sounds of the birds outside, cars whipping around the corner, etc. Considering that the three days preceding it I had awoken to my five-year-old poking me in the throat, I embraced that rare, precious moment like it was a gregarious puppy dog.

I soaked in every millisecond of stillness and waited until the last possible second to wake the boys up, knowing I would essentially be peeing into a beehive. And, to be clear, they took that serenity and gruesomely murdered it. They flopped around like dying fish; they shouted angry words into their pillows. My one son even called me a cactus (I’ve figured out that’s his word for a**hole—clever boy). To be honest, I don’t really blame him. I mean, I’d call the person waking me up an a**hole too.

Getting my children from their beds to the breakfast table when they’re exhausted is not unlike getting my wife from the shoe store to the exit when she’s shopping. There’s some magnetic surge that renders the voyage near impossible. I then find myself going into what’s referred to in football as “hurry up offense.” The clock is ticking, time is slipping away, and with every daunting second, I am even more certain that losing is in my future. So, I tuck both boys under my arms like footballs and head to the table, while they’re crying. I’m pretty sure Peyton Manning has never faced this type of pocket pressure. And in case it wasn’t obvious, two weeping, exhausted kids don’t really feel like eating. Another thing they definitely don’t feel like doing is taking off their pajamas. I mean, you’d think their school clothes were made of fire.

The time was rapidly approaching for us to be out the door, so I took their breakfasts and dumped them into easily transportable Zip-Lock bags. Their tears had subsided and dried to their faces at this point, but they’ll be damned if they’re going to be happy about being awake and actually eat. I was still the “cactus.”

We were finally in the car. This is momentous. However, I left the bags of cereal on the aforementioned breakfast table. So I bolt back inside. It only took 30 seconds to do that, but those 30 seconds will matter very, very soon.

Because of the time I lost forgetting the cereal, I end up pulling off my street directly behind a yellow school bus. But not just any yellow school bus. The bus that has 18 stops to make…and they’re all on the one-lane street that takes me from my house to my kids’ school. So, there’s that.

I finally arrive at school and, because some jerk decided to walk their kid inside and leave their car in the loading/unloading area, the rest of us mere mortals have to helplessly wait in a line behind them. Naturally, when the driver finally emerges, it’s one of the parents who never RSVPed to my son’s birthday party.

A rushed minute later and we’re finally indoors. Out of oxygen from the 20 yards I just had to run, I give the boys a breathy goodbye and a kiss on the cheek. Then, as I’m walking away from them, I have this momentary epiphany where I become aware that I spend far too much of my time with my children simply getting them from point A to point B. I peer back and watch them disappear into their respective classrooms, as I wonder if I’m “present” enough in their lives. It is during this impromptu soul-searching event when the clock on the wall comes into view. I need to be at work in 20 minutes…and I’m 35 minutes away.

The rest of the story is likely a familiar one for those of you who have ever crept into work a little later than you’d care to admit. Most of us don’t try to be late. In fact, it’s entirely possible the co-worker you see sneaking in at 9:15 was detained because they simply overslept, or they had to change a flat tire. But in all likelihood, they are late because they had multiple mouths to feed that morning. And one of those mouths refused to eat and secretly called him an a**hole.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to join the conversation by tweeting me or adding a comment below!

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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The Anatomy of a Child’s Birthday Party

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

Since my older son’s fifth birthday party was held last weekend, I find it appropriate to discuss exactly what goes into planning, and ultimately executing a child’s birthday party. Now, I know plenty of parents who will scoff at this and ask, “Why bother stressing over a kid’s birthday?” Well, the short answer is because stress is in my blood. The remainder of this blog is the long answer.

Planning a birthday celebration for an adult is fairly simple. You pick a date, you pick a place, you send a mass text, and whoever is around shows up for a drink. And generally speaking, there’s very little stress (if any at all) and plenty of alcohol involved.

So, about that kid’s party…

The very first thing to consider is theme. As in, which animated character makes your child cry the hardest when pried out of his or her hands? For my son, this was undoubtedly superheroes. Batman, Incredible Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man. You name it. He’s obsessed with it. Sure, he’s never actually seen any of them on television (or even the comics). But why should that insignificant detail deter him from infatuation? Regardless of what you choose, though, the inevitable theme ends up being “parents spend an obscene amount of money that their child will never fully appreciate.”

So for my son’s party, my overly driven wife decided to make HOMEMADE SUPERHERO CAPES AND MASKS as party favors. In a way, I was impressed by her determination. In another way, it felt like going swimming with cinderblocks tied to each ankle. Ambitious, yet not entirely desirable if you’re already having trouble keeping your head above water.

I wish I’d put half the effort into college that my wife puts into party favors.

The next thing to consider, naturally, is the date the party will take place. Choosing the date closest to the actual birthday of your child is ideal, but not always feasible. What if your child’s birthday coincides with Labor Day weekend, or the birthday of another child in your kid’s class, or the anniversary of Titanic’s sinking? Ultimately, you’re either the type of person who says “screw it” and books your party the date you want it, or the type to play nice and make sure you’re not stepping on feet. No matter how hard I resist, I typically fall into the latter category. I just refuse to touch anyone’s feet.

Choosing the location and party package (assuming this isn’t happening in your backyard) quickly turns into a game of “Which business owner is trying to screw me the hardest?” There will be the basic party package, which they’ll actually title “Basic Party Package” to make you feel like a heartless cretin selecting it. This package typically includes six party guests, 30 minutes of jump-rope, and maybe use of paper goods and plasticware. The basic package is the party equivalent of ordering the 8 GB iPhone. So, ultimately, because you’re having more than six kids at the party, you’re ordering the Jumbo Kid Orgasm Package that costs roughly the same amount as your mortgage payment. But that includes cleanup, saving you the trouble of taking paper plates and napkins and tossing them into a trash bin. So, there’s that.

Then, reluctantly, comes the creation of the invite list. And make no mistake; no adult wants their kid to be on that list. There’s no alcohol, there’s little refuge from their kids, and there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll have that party hat elastic band snapped onto their face. This may explain why we invited 32 kids to my son’s party and a whopping seven replied by the RSVP date. You would think we were asking them to sign up to be a foster family for a homeless groundhog with the hollowness that encompassed our phones and email inboxes. Add on the fact that we mistakenly invited his entire class, and we were met with a whole sh*tload of indifference. For potential ideas on how to quell this RSVP issue, check out this recent article.

Once the date, location, invite list, theme, and alcohol to be consumed afterwards is all laid out, it’s time to “execute the party.” So you cart the balloons, cake, party favors, and every stimulant imaginable to the party place. And you start to realize that holding a child’s birthday party is not unlike having a wedding. First of all, there is virtually no socialization (for you) at all. You’ll greet people as they walk in the door, mindlessly shout “thanks!” as they’re leaving, and practically nothing in between. You’re too busy taking and posing for pictures. You’re too busy documenting who gave which gift so you can mention it in the “thank you” card later. You’re too busy ensuring every soul in the building is happy, eating and hydrated…except for you. And that’s when you decide that your child’s next birthday will be at the Outback.

My task the night before the party was turning Poland Spring into “Super Water”

But there’s something intrinsically important that happens during your child’s party. There’s a moment when the music is colliding with your relentless thoughts, when your spouse is anxiously asking you where you left the camera and you feel the sweat start to bleed through your shirt fabric, when you see your child absorbing every stimulating element surrounding him. And he’s so incredibly happy that you can’t help but smile through the chaos. Because you know, despite the price tag, your sweat is worth his joy.

Another thing that was actually worth it? This cooler than cool superhero cake.

Yes, the fist is edible. Yes, I ate the fingernails.

Alternatively, if in that moment you don’t see your child exuberantly smiling, at the very least you’ve brushed up on your project management skills.

Thanks for reading, and please join the conversation by adding a comment below, checking out my Facebook, or following me on Twitter. And if anyone in the New Jersey area wants the number of the cake creator, drop me a line.

Get started planning the perfect birthday party for your little one using our Birthday Party Planner!

Kid Craft: No-Sew Superhero Capes
Kid Craft: No-Sew Superhero Capes
Kid Craft: No-Sew Superhero Capes

* Balloon photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Part 2: Can You Top This Sleep Training Saga?

We left off yesterday with my friend Jennifer’s saga to sleep train her daughter. Eleanor is 2 1/2-years old and Cece is 4-years old. Both have been good sleepers. They share a room. But a few months ago Eleanor began to fuss. And Jennifer began to go in. Before she knew it, they were playing musical beds in the night, no one was sleeping, she and her husband were fighting, and everyone was miserable. Something had to give.

So they hired a sleep consultant, Renee Wasserman, from SleepHeadSolutions, to give them a plan that would work. For more on all this, and all the drama it entailed to reach this point, you can refer to Part 1.

Now it’s the second night and Jennifer is hoping it will be better than last night’s fiasco. So here she is again, with the play-by-play:


We get a late start to bedtime.

As usual, Cece falls asleep right away.

As usual, Eleanor starts screaming under the door immediately.


I realize we forgot to give Eleanor her antibiotics. Yes – we’re sleep training this poor child while she’s on antibiotics for an ear infection. In our defense, we’re halfway through the prescription and she hasn’t complained about her ear in a week. And we’ve found that there’s always, always a good reason to put off sleep training…

I bring in the pink medicine (this kid loves taking it) and then since I’m in there, I give in to her screaming potty request. She pees in the big potty in the bathroom, which is probably one less pee I’ll have to clean up off the floor in the morning.

We return to the girls’ bedroom and Eleanor wants to get into her sister’s bed. I let her sleep with Cece since I figure she’ll most likely end up there during the night anyway. Night two is around the same as night one but Eleanor cries for shorter periods of time. And she keeps her pajamas and diaper on all night. Huge progress!

We celebrate in the morning.


Eleanor is up twice during the night but not for long. Again she keeps her pajamas and diaper on. She sleeps in her big sister’s bed all night. It feels like we’ve moved a mountain! I know it’s not ideal for the girls to be sleeping together in a twin bed. Cece complains about Eleanor sleeping on her hair and rolling on top of her, and, as our sleep consultant points out, she might just be replacing me with her sister.

In a perfect world Eleanor would be capable of sleeping through the night in her own bed but I gave up on a perfect world a long time ago. And I know we’re headed in the right direction.


Eleanor sleeps through the night without waking up! She snuggles with her sister but now they both seem pretty comfortable together.


Eleanor has another successful night. This is changing our life. We realize we didn’t have evenings before this – I used to tip toe out of the girls’ room at 11pm, trying not to wake them and then it would be musical beds all night. Having kids that sleep feels amazing! The next day after school/work we go for a celebratory dinner and then to Pinkberry for dessert.


We have a bit of a relapse tonight. Maybe from the Pinkberry sugar? Eleanor is up a few times crying in the night. It’s still a whole new world though. I just look at her on the monitor and don’t go in. Now I can say with confidence she will figure it out. And sure enough, just a few tired tears and then right back to sleep.

Now the question is: do we allow them to keep sleeping together in one twin bed or do we try to nip that in the bud too?

Per our sleep consultant’s advice we talk to the girls about having more space for their bodies to stretch and grow if they stay in their own beds. Eleanor is going to try to sleep on her own tonight. Their snuggling is so damn cute though. And I’m very proud of Eleanor’s progress and I feel bad enforcing another difficult challenge so quickly.


In an effort to get Eleanor to stay in her own bed, we decide to push the girls’ two twin beds together. This way the girls can be in their own beds and also beside each other. So far so good - 10pm and not a peep. Maybe pushing the beds together is the answer?  Nope – Eleanor ends up in her sister’s bed again. We think about it and decide we’re ok with this arrangement for now. Hopefully they’ll outgrow sleeping together when they’re ready and if they don’t, we now have the tools to make another change when we’re ready.

It’s been less than a week of sleep training and life has already changed so much! The improved sleeping has made a huge impact on all of our lives. The girls seem more rested, we’re all happier people, my marriage feels easier, I’m more productive at work… I can’t believe It took us this long to finally fix the problem. We should have done this many, many months ago. Getting outside help was key for us – we were too tired to think straight and our repeated attempts weren’t working. I realize now that Eleanor’s job was to test us and she was doing great. We just needed to set the limits for her. When I think about it, Renee really sleep trained us.

If anyone wants to contact Renee her info is:

Renee Wasserman, P.T., M.P.H.

SleepyHead Solutions

Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant




Pic of girl sleeping via Shutterstock

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