Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What it means to have a little brother

I was watching my daughter (6) and my son (3) play together the other day and it got me thinking about my own little brother. We are 3 years apart. I have some really fun & tender memories of playing with him.

My parents got divorced when I was around 6 years old. We (us kids) were pretty much left to our own devices to entertain ourselves after school. When I was 10 or so I joined a softball team. All the other girls on the team had played together for years which meant I was the new one. Our coach was the Mother of one of my teammates and super hard core about the sport. She totally intimidated me. I was really tall, really skinny and really uncoordinated. 3 things that make playing just about any sport kind of awkward. To say the least - I wasn't good.

One of our first games was held on a weekday around 4:30pm making it pretty much impossible for my Mom to attend. I had to walk down to the game by myself, play and then make my way back home. Enter my sweet little brother into the equation. He volunteered to come with me. He was probably around 7 years old at the time.

As the game progressed it became more and more clear that it was going to come down to the wire. During the last inning, it was my turn to bat. "Strike one." My coach yelled at me to keep my eye on the ball. "Strike two." My coach stamped her foot and told me to FOCUS! "Strike three." I was so embarrassed, but more importantly, I was OUT. On my way back to the dugout I had to pass my coach. She was fuming. She smacked me on the butt when I passed her. It hurt. It wasn't a "hey buddy, better luck next time pat" but more like a "you suck" hit. I was so mortified and so upset. The tears instantly started to fall.

I couldn't bear to sit in the dugout with the rest of my teammates. I walked right past the dugout and headed straight for my little brother. He was already standing up, holding the blanket he brought to sit on. Without a word we walked out of the ball park, hand in hand. I cried the whole way home. I specifically remember him telling me that everything was going to be okay and that my coach was just mean and stupid.

I don't think I ever told my Mom the real reason I stopped playing softball. I know my little brother didn't either.


We had a small family-owned water park in our neighborhood and to keep us busy, my Mom bought my brother and I summer passes. We went almost every single day. We would wake up, eat breakfast, change into our swimming suits and flip flops and walk to the park. It was probably about 1 mile each way. We had to cross a super busy road to get there and when it was time to cross, we'd hold hands and run across the road.

There was one run that you sat in tubes to go down. It was fast and rough and my brother did not like it. He hated when his face got wet, which was totally inevitable on this ride. He knew I liked it, so he always encouraged me to go. At one point during the ride you go underneath the spectator bridge and every single time, there would my brother, patiently waiting on the bridge, watching my progress. He was always there at the exit. I would turn in my tube and off we'd go to the blue slides that he liked better.

We would spend hours at this park and at the end of the day we'd walk back home. That is such a happy memory for me. Being so tired and so hungry, but in a good way. We played our guts out.

I can only hope that my daughter has the same relationship with her brother(s). They are, afterall, one of life's most awesome blessings. Thanks for being cool, J. I owe ya one. Or two, or like 30 million.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pediatric Dentist

F had his first every dentist appointment in December. I thought he might have one, maybe two cavities. The kid somehow finds sugar everywhere he goes, regardless of how diligent I am in making sure he stays away from candy. Boys.

I was somewhat surprised when I learned he had five cavities. And to add insult to injury, they were on opposite sides of his mouth, top & bottom alike. Which means only one thing - more than one appointment to get them filled. And then, just to make matters even more ridiculous my dentist announces that he doesn't work on kids as young as F and recommends a pediatric dentist in the same neighborhood.

Fast forward a week. F and I met with the pediatric dentist. Super nice guy. Obviously very committed to his line of work. His office was very high tech. He explained our sedation options very carefully (laughing gas, nasal/oral sedation or full-on general anesthesia). He let me make the ultimate call. Since I had absolutely no faith that F would keep the laughing gas nose thing on - I opted for a combo of laughing gas and nasal sedation.

Today was the first of two visits. I was really nervous for a variety of reasons. They were:
(1) no food and/or drink after midnight last night - until after the appt. The food wasn't necessarily a big deal, but this kid has a serious connection to his cup of water.
(2) Nasal sedation. Apparently, its the equivalent of Valium. However just like with any type of medication, you can never be too sure how your child will react.
(3) Laughing gas nose thing. I don't even like that thing stuck to my face - how could I expect a 3 year old to be compliant?
(4) Potty training setbacks. We have done so well the last week or so. No accidents. However, with waking up early, getting totally stoned on Valium, and being in a new place - I was really worried that he would have an accident, therefore setting us back a lot and possibly regressing back to diapers. I realize that this whole potty training worry was probably an overreaction - but hey, I'm this kid's mom and what mom doesn't overreact when it comes to the welfare of their babies?

F woke up this morning at 6:30am which put me into a slight panic. That meant over an hour of telling him "NO SIPPY." However, by some miracle, he didn't ask for it once. J was a dear and made sure the car was warmed up and ready for us to leave at 7:30am.

We were the 1st appt. We got called back immediately. The dentist reconfirmed that we were going to try the nasal sedation + the laughing gas. He had me hold F on my lap, facing me. He came up right behind F, leaned him backwards into his lap and stuck a syringe-looking thing up his nose and pushed the plunger down. One nostril and then the other.

F WENT TOTAL BAT SH!T CRAZY. He hated that! He cried and kept holding his nose and touching the back of his head. He said it tasted "cuh cuh" and that he didn't want anymore. He dentist gave him a bit of water to wash the medicine down the back of his throat which helped a bit, but not as much as putting his kiki over his head and letting him hide.

It took less than 5 minutes. He pulled his kiki off, lifted his head and stared right at me. I could literally see the effect of the medicine in his eyes. They kind of lolled back and forth a bit. He gave me a goofy smile and asked me if I loved Thomas Train. I reassured him that I did and he smiled at me again. He leaned forward and put his head on my chest and told me that I smelled good. He's the best.

I carried him to the dentist chair, which was already reclined. They had a Thomas movie all ready for him. I laid him down, put the headphones on him and covered him with his kiki. After a few minutes they put the laughing gas nose thing on and holy crap - he didn't even care. They even put a heart rate monitor thing on his thumb - which he didn't care about either.

The lights were turned off and the door was closed for optimum relaxation. He was 100% stoned. He would turn his head every few minutes and smile at me.

The dentist came in and began the procedure. He numbed up the inside of his lip and then gave him a shot. F didn't even budge. His heart rate monitor didn't even go up. After he was good and numb, they isolated the teeth that needed to be worked on. F didn't really appreciate this part, but still - he held steady.

They had this weird ancient torture device looking thing to hold his mouth open. Again, F didn't love it, but he tolerated it.

It took about 15 minutes to fill the cavities. I ended up leaning over him a bit and holding his arms down. He wanted to investigate what was holding his mouth open and what was making that horrible sound. During the drilling - he whined a bit and his heart rate went up, but I think it was more out of sheer annoyance than anything else.

When they finished, they turned the laughing gas off, but kept oxygen flowing through the mask. It was crazy how fast the Valium medicine wore off. You could almost instantly tell. All the sudden he didn't want the mask on. He didn't want the heart rate monitor on. He wanted to get off the chair. He wanted to go home. He wanted a toy.

The dentist explained the reaction to the Valium as dealing with a drunk toddler. But, you just never know if you're going to deal with a "mean" drunk or a "funny" drunk. F was a bit of combination of the two. I had to physically hold him up so he wouldn't fall the floor. He demanded to be taken to the toy vending machines with the "magic" money.

He got a bouncy ball which pissed him off because he really wanted a fake mustache.

I carried him out to the car where he immediately started chewing on his bottom lip. He made it bleed pretty bad. I went back in and asked for a popsicle. We ended up with a blue otterpop which helped a lot. Total distraction from making mince meat out of his lip.

As soon as we walked in the door at home he started yelling at me. First he wanted to put on his light-up car shoes. Then he wanted a new Thomas Train show. But, he changed his mind half-way through the setup and decided he wanted to watch pink panther cartoons instead. I fed him a strawberry parfait from Kneaders while we cuddled and watched pink panther.

He almost made it to the toilet about 15 minutes later, but the water works started about 10 seconds too early. I didn't make a big deal out of it. Just took off his pajama pants, gave him some new underwear and new pajamas and went on with the morning.

He's been okay toilet-wise since. He's gone a handful of times by himself, without me pestering him.

Its been 5 hours since we finished. He's still acting a little goofy and he still cannot balance by himself, but the numbness has worn off and his fat lip has started to go down a bit. He hasn't said anything negative (or positive) about his experience. He hasn't brought it up at all.

With the exception of the nasal sedation freak out (which frankly, I don't think I could expect anything else) the whole experience was great. The office staff obviously knew exactly what they were doing. The dental hygienist helper girl was very sweet and made every effort to engage F in conversation that he would understand. The dentist was really nice and made me feel very confident that my baby was in very capable hands. The office is very clean and bright and is decorated in a fish (think Finding Nemo) theme with a huge aquarium in the front. Toy selection was great - how can you go wrong with bouncy balls and fake mustaches?

I'm not as anxious or nervous for next week's appointment anymore. Still, I have a little hesitation, but not because of anything that happened today. Just normal I'm-a-mom-so-I-worry type of thing. I'm proud of my little buddy and am taken by surprise sometimes when I see how grown up he is. He's an awesome little kid and I am truly blessed to be his mom. Its amazing what kids can teach you - when we're supposed to be ones teaching them.

Thanks Dr. Jones & staff - you made my morning MUCH better than I expected. And a big shout-out to you, F. You rock my world.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Lottery Rose

When I was in 7th grade we read "The Lottery Rose" together as a class. A young boy that grows up in an abusive family wins a rosebush in a grocery store lottery. As he tends to this rosebush he is able to deal with the negative outside influences in his life. The book ended well and all of my fellow classmates were into it just as much as I was.

After we finished the book, my teacher surprised us with a rosebush. She instructed all of us write our names down on a piece of paper, and then she would draw the lucky winner out of a bowl. The name of the person that was called, got to take the rose home, plant it, and then keep the entire class updated on the rosebush.

I wanted the rosebush so bad. My desire to win this was almost tangible. I needed it. As I sat at my desk and wrote my name on that piece of scratch paper, I focused all of the cosmic energy I could muster into somehow winning this "lottery rose." I told myself, God and any other heavenly being that winning this rosebush would complete me. I promised whoever was listening that I would find the best place to plant it, and I would be out there in the driving snow, tenderly taking care of this helpless (without me) beautiful rosebush. I would start being nice to my little brother. I would help around the house more. I would even stop stealing my sister's clothes out of her closet after she left for high school, if I could only win this rosebush.

The time of reckoning soon came. After the last student put their name in the bowl, my teacher put her hand in, shook the paper scraps around for a bit and then drew the winner.

It was as if time stopped. I can still see her so clearly. Standing in front of the class and unwrapping the piece of paper that would decided my fate. I was in the second row, close to the door and ringing my hands and tapping my feet. I just knew that I would win that. I just knew it.

"And the winner is Ashley . . . . . . . " I heard my name! As I started to scoot off my chair to claim my prize, my teacher continued talking: ". . . . . . Green."

Wait, what? Ashley Green!?!? That stupid Ashley Green stood up and walked to the front of the classroom, gloating the whole way up. Why did Ashley Green win the rosebush! Ugh! She probably doesn't even like roses. There was no way she was going to give the rosebush the attention it needed and deserved. Why? Why?

I felt so cheated. Of course there had to be two "Ashleys" in the class. Of course. Stupid! I felt a little embarrassed as well. It was totally obvious that I was on my way up to claim my prize before my teacher finished saying the winner's name. And why does my teacher have to talk so slow anyway? She should have said the winner's name real fast. That way, I wouldn't have had half my butt cheek off the chair.

I laid my head down on my desk and tuned out the universe for the rest of the class period. When the bell rang, I trudged my sorry loser self down the hall to my locker. The injustice was killing me.

Ashley Green never did keep us updated on that rosebush. To this day, I have my doubts that she even ever planted it.

Fast forward 7 years. After getting engaged to my husband, we were at a family get together at his Mother's house. The doorbell rang. And to my total amazement - my 7th grade teacher walked in the house. For a moment, time stopped. Just like in 7th grade. I thought to myself - Finally! Mrs. _________ has realized that the rose should have belonged to me, and she's tried to hunt me down the last 7 years so I can claim the prize that is rightfully mine. No. That wasn't the case. Apparently, J's Mom and my 7th grade English teacher have been best friends for 30 years and it was just a total cosmic, in-your-face, coincidence.

I've seen Mrs. ________ many times over the last 10 years that J and I have been married. I've never told her the heartbreaking story of the day my life changed - because of her. I will spare her the horribly awful details and let her remain in her sheltered innocence. Because that's the kind of person I am. I'm a survivor. Just like that little boy who took care of the rosebush. Damn! I should have won that rosebush!