Monday, July 16, 2018

A Heluva Day

The day dawned bright and full of promise. Our plan was to ride our bikes to the library. Danielle had an appointment with a sixth-grade teacher from her school. Gabi and I were going to practice math by playing a rousing game of Dragon Wood.

The ride was lovely. The game was the most fun I’d ever had playing with Gabi. She was focused on her game strategy and did all her own math. She captured both dragons, but I ended up with more overall points. She took the loss in stride. It was great fun.

At the end of the hour we checked out a few books and collected a happy Danielle. Then the girls got their obligatory donut holes and we headed back outside to our bikes.

The sidewalk down from the bike rack has a gentle curve on a gentle slope. Near the base there is a sharp turn connecting the sidewalk into a wheelchair ramp from the library. Gabi got going to the corner, panicked and didn’t turn. She ran smack into the railing jolting her whole body forward. She didn’t fall but let go of her bike and sat down. Then started crying out in pain, “Owe! Owe! Owwwwee!”

Oh crap, that’s the hurt cry. The real one.

I propped up my bike on the railing and ran over to her. She’s was flat on the sidewalk writhing in pain.

“What hurts, baby?”

“My wrist!”

“What about your pelvis?”

I remember the pain of slamming into my handlebar joint well.

“No, just my wrist and my arm! It’s broken! I need an ambulance!”

She is holding her right wrist with her left hand. Her right-hand looks limp and useless.

“Owwwwe!!”

What to do. What to do. I need a sling. What will make a good sling?

I rooted through my bag.
Nothing.

I thought about my shirt and ruled it out as I am wearing a nude colored bra-let… I’d look naked. I thought about Dani’s shirt and imagined her horror.

No...Maybe Gabi’s shirt?

Then I noticed my para-cord water bottle holder. Perfect!

I popped the melt joints, and, with no small effort, unraveled the weave. It’s nice and long. I made a loop around the back of her neck and under her wrist being as gentle as humanly possible. Then I wrapped it through her fingers (at the Spock V juncture) and around her chest, nestling her hand into her chest at a slight upward angle. I made a few more wraps and knots and Gabi says it feels good. She stood up—reluctantly, and it’s fairly secured. Dani and I helped her onto her bicycle. I held on to her bike to balance and push her home.

I told Dani to leave her bike near the path and to push my new one home. (Her’s is an old hand-me-down.)

“No, Mama. I can get them both.”

“Danielle, no. Just leave your bike and push mine.”

“No, I can get them both.”

Gabi and I wait and I make a phone call to her pediatrician’s office. They have an opening with a Nurse Practitioner that Gabi likes at 1:10.

“Perfect, I’ll take it.”

Gabi and I got moving again are getting quite a bit ahead of Dani as she fumbled trying to get both bikes rolling. I kept going. I expected her to come running up any moment with my bike or riding her own bike. Either way would have been fine, but she didn’t.

I kept pushing Gabi. Dani fell out of view.

I worry.

Isn’t this how things went bad in The Shack? The parent was helping one child and the other one… Oh God. No, she’ll be OK. She’s old enough to handle herself and the path is busy with parents and kids and dog walkers etc. Nobody could get away with nabbing her even IF a weirdo was around.

This I said to myself as Gabi sobbed in my ear as I pushed her on her bike. I pushed faster. I started to trot then slowed to a fast walk again when Gabi got scared of falling again. Sweat soaked into my clothes and ran in my eyes.

I got Gabi home and carried her into the house and placed her on the sofa. I got her a bag of ice and the TV remote. I told her I was going to go get Boonie and that I would be back in less than ten minutes. She says, “OK.”

I planted a kiss on her head and dash out the door.

I was grateful that I’m was already dressed in running clothes because it’s too dang hot outside. I took off at a brisk lope. Worry pushed me on faster even though I’m burning up in the sun. As I passed a garage saler for the third time I briefly wonder what he’s thinking...She comes by with two kids on bikes. An hour later she’s pushing one kid on a bike and then five minutes later she barreling down the road on foot...WTH?

I kept on.

As I crested the hill there was a very red-faced little Boonie holding two bikes. She saw me and started to cry.

My worry made me say, “Why didn’t you just do what I asked? I was so worried.”

“I’m sorry, Mama. I just wanted to be strong for you and make you proud of me that I pushed both our bikes. I didn’t want one to get stolen!”

Tears mingled with sweat and ran rivulets down her red cheeks.

“I can replace a bike, but I can’t replace you!”

The last of my angst dissolved in the midst of her pain.  I gave her a big hug and told her how brave she was to try so hard to manage both bikes. I took my bike and noticed my lock was missing. I told her to stay put. I rode at Mach 3 back over the path looking for the lock. I found it in the grass about a quarter of a mile away. Then I barreled back to her.

Dani was not where I left her.

Arg! That kid!

She’s waiting in the shade about 30 yards from where I left her.

OK. Whew. I get that.  

“Let’s go home.”

We hurried home and parked our bikes and went in to see Gabi. She’s upset—Netflix isn’t working.
My arm hurts AND Netflix won't work!


I popped in the movie she borrowed from the library and checked the time on my phone.

Missed call. Voicemail.

“What?!”

I listened to the message. Someone scooped our appointment. I called back and talked to the receptionist. They had another opening at 1:50. After some unsuccessful cajoling to keep the 1:10 slot, I took it.

Gabi gets upset again.

I got her some food and she dialed back into her show.

 I rooted through our closet looking for one of their old slings. I find Gabi’s from when she was itty-bitty. 

Darn, too small.

I kept rooting and found Danielle’s.

Perfect. Wow, my kids have hurt themselves a lot… Ug.

I took off the paracord sling and slide on this one.

“Ah, that feels much nicer, Mama. Thanks,” Gabi says.

“You’re welcome, Baby,” I said and gave her a kiss.

I downed a glass of water and it all flowed right out through my pores.  I'm soaked.

I offered Gabi some medicine—that we don’t have—and drove to the store to get some. I also picked up a bagel and cream cheese for Dani for her lunch. I zoomed back home and get food and medicine to my girls.

I managed to cram a little food into my gob too, then it was off to the pediatrician.

The doctor was kind as she asked questions and worked over Gabi’s body checking for injuries.

“Oh, you already had a sling?” the doctor asked.

“Yes, from an old injury of Danielle’s,” I reply.

The girls piped up with their stories, “Mama, remember when I fell off my bike and knocked out my tooth! I didn’t hurt my head or my chest, but it right I smashed my mouth right into the sidewalk!”

Danielle, “I broke my arm too! I fell off a shelf! Oh, yeah, remember when I crashed my bike so hard it bent the tire?”

Oh God. You guys!

The doctor broke in, “Are the knees from the crash too?”

“Uh, knees?" I saw the band-aids on her knees and said, "Oh yeah. Uh, no. That was yesterday. She crashed on her bike going from the road up a driveway.”

The doctor raised her eyebrows.

I wondered if she’s seeing air-quotes around “crashed her bike.” I felt (feel) about two inches tall.

She turned to Gabi, “How long have you been riding your bike?”

“Um, like a minute or two.”

I butted in, “She started riding a Strider bike at 2 ½ years old. She’s been on a pedal bike since she was three.”

“Oh, OK,” the doctor says.

The doctor worked her way to the hurt arm and Gabi cried out a few times when she found the tender spots. Gabi did all of the maneuvers she asked her to do. The doctor decided that it was likely not to be broken, but thought it’s bad enough that she’d like to see x-rays.

“If it’s not broken, keep her in the sling over the weekend to remind her to be gentle with it and to also remind her to stay off her bike,” she said.

“Yes, of course. Good idea,” I said, nodding vigorously.

“Then if she’s not using it somewhat by Monday or Tuesday, we might need more x-rays. Sometimes a break won’t show on an x-ray until 5 days or so after the injury,” the doctor said.

Off we went to the imaging center for x-rays. (When did doctors stop doing x-rays? Has it been like a really long time now?)

A short, stressful drive later, I’m ready to expose my little daughter to a significant dose of radiation. I stand behind the safety glass and wonder why they don’t put lead helmets on the kids in there getting all the radiation. She initially says there will only be two “pictures” but end up taking three.

Do we need three? Like, really, need, three? If the doctor did the x-rays she’d stop at the first one if she could see conclusive evidence. But no, gotta make sure the radiologist has all the angles he/she might need even if the first would have done it.

“Please step behind the glass with me.”

Sigh. “OK.”

Bzzzt.

“OK, that’s it. After the radiologist has a look, they’ll call your doctors office,” the technician said.

Seems like a lot of middle people here… “OK, thank you.”

We headed home. I stopped and treated the girls to Jamba Juice. I parked Clifford the Big Red Truck in a spot designed for a Smart Car. I got out and squeezed in between vehicles to help Gabi get out.

We got home.

I felt woozy.

Overheated. Overstressed. Still recuperating from a cold virus I picked up last week. Carrying no small load of guilt that yet again one of my kids injured herself on my watch.

I long to call my dad. He always had a simple way of breaking things down.

“You had a heluva day, kiddo,” floated across my mind in his rugged voice.

A heluva day indeed. Miss you, Dad.

**

The doctor called. It’s broken. Damn.  They put a splint on it and told us to come back in a week.

Poor kiddo.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Review: Little Legends The Story Tree

By Tom Percival © 2018

I led a group of very bright First Graders in reading The Little Legends: The Story Tree.

This book is humorous, relatable, and action-packed. At the end of each chapter, we stopped to work in our Study Guide and the kids groaned. Not because the study-guide was overly onerous—it wasn't—I wrote it so it was awesome and fun (wink), they just couldn't wait to see what would happen next. They laughed in all the right places and felt conflicted and tense at times as they tried to figure out who were the good-guys and who were the bad guys. It's complicated...

For kids this young, reading this book in a group is best as some of the concepts and some of the vocabulary was challenging. But with proper scaffolding in a group setting the kids learned a lot while having a ton of fun. The discussions they had were fantastic!

The strength of this book is how it made the kids think deeply...

E.g.:
The Mayor of Tale Town is a tyrant that is selling selfishness and self-aggrandizement as safety by building a wall around the town and keeping all non-humans out and away from the Story Tree. The Story Tree was planted by humans and trolls centuries ago. This provokes a war. Our young heroes are caught in the middle, banished by the mayor, but trying to stop the war and find a better way to end the Mayor's tyranny.

The Troll army, consisting of all banished races, are ready to fight to regain control. The troll leader, Hurrilan, could become the new leader of Tale Town. But they ask themselves would that be any better? He resentful and distrustful of humans. Would he end up as tyrannical against humans? You'd be astonished at the ideas from six and seven-year-olds on the topic.

Mayor Fitch also presents the idea of "history is written by the victors" which spurred a lively discussion.

Pretty heady stuff for First Graders.

However, there is also a courageous chicken. And a half-blind dragon. And super-smart gorillas. And a quirky magician that accidentally turns himself into a bowl of pasta. So. Much. Fun.

We started with this volume (6) which came with a couple of challenges. There are a lot of characters, and there are some references to the other volumes. We overcame the abundance of characters by photo-copying the pictures and cutting them out and pasting them on popsicle sticks as puppets. When they were introduced, we found the puppet and wrote the name of the character on the back. The kids took turns animating the puppets when it wasn't their turn to read.

When the book referenced an earlier volume, we'd stop and speculate as to what happened in that story.

The vocabulary was challenging too, but it was a fantastic opportunity to learn new words, and I was always right there when the reader got stuck.  At the end of the chapter we'd write three new words in our study guide and each person would choose their favorite.

A great read for kids. It was chock full of fun, adventure, and seeds of wisdom.

Now for the fun part. Each reader wrote their own review:






Friday, April 13, 2018

Ways I’m Making My Kid’s Anxiety Worse


Before leaving for school this morning my daughter had a level eight meltdown. She’s ten, which generally makes her too old for meltdowns but anyone with an anxiety disorder will tell you there’s no age limit on meltdowns.

Why, did she melt down? She couldn’t find the right pants.

She ran around the house crying and yelling and screaming in her underpants and a shirt. It would be funny, except it wasn’t.

She ended up wearing day-old-pants and I put her on the school bus with a blotchy-red face and a look that said, "My insides itch and I hate everything."

As my own frustration and anger drained away I reflected on the whole situation and realized it was me that got her train rolling to Meltdownville, because yesterday I asked her, “Are you sure?”

Are you sure? 
This stupid question is right up there with What If scenarios in their anxiety-inducing effects on people.

Are you sure?
Yeah, of course.  Well, I think so.  Maybe.  I don't know. Maybe I remembered it wrong.
Who is really sure about anything? We can delve into the metaphysics on this for hours. No, I’m not sure, because what is reality? Do you want the blue pill or the red pill?

This, I asked her yesterday when she casually informed me that she had a field trip the next day. I had seen neither a message from her teacher nor a permission slip. So naturally, I pass my doubts on to her when I ask, “Are you sure?” I’m effectively telling her, “I don’t believe you. I doubt your ability to relay a simple message, and the consequences for getting this information wrong will be dire, e.g. you could be left behind, excluded, displaced, or worse yet embarrassed in front of your peers. So tell me again. Are. You. Sure?”

The change in her was visible. I just spooled the poor thing up. I softened my tone but continued peppering her with questions like, “Where are you going? What time will you be back? Do they need chaperones?” And I said, “It’s so weird that I haven’t heard about this.”

Why didn’t I just say, “OK. Do I have anything to sign?

Arrrg!  Hindsight is a bitch sometimes.

Worse case, she is wrong and doesn’t have a field trip. So what? Or she doesn’t have a signed permission slip, then she has a choice to make, ask to call me or do whatever kids do that don’t go to field trips. Stay in the library or the computer lab, maybe mentor the little kids? So what? She can handle it when/if presented with the actual situation. Situations are never as bad as anxiety says it will be. And anxiety lives in the future—rarely in the present.

She’s feeling agitated now and fires off answers, “It’s a concert in Portland. I dunno, when the bus takes us. Oh! I have to wear nice clothes with no writing on the front.”

She’s getting worse now, “I don’t have any clothes without writing! Can you get me a new sweatshirt without writing?”

I try to be helpful and point out a few things she has that might work, all of which are not the normal comforting attire she prefers.  (Think portable security blanket.)

“I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

This is code for I’m getting overwhelmed and I need some space to calm down. I take the hint and give her some space. She calms down, but the trip is never far from her thoughts.

She has an uneasy sleep and wakes up grumpy.

I suggest a shower to make her feel refreshed.

She says, “I don’t have time! They don’t want kids with wet hair at the concert.”

Uh-oh. She’s on the brink…

She takes a shower anyway and wants to blow-dry her hair immediately. She puts on one of the shirt combinations I mentioned and a pair of underpants and starts looking for the one pair of pants that will make the outfit tolerable.

They’re missing.

And...she’s lost it.

I finish making lunches and try to help, but the cacophony is too much and I get agitated too. We check all the usual places, drawers, dirty laundry, machines, under her furniture… No pants. Her sister’s drawers, nothing, nothing, nothing.

Total. Epic. Meltdown.

Are you sure?
In telling my husband about our morning, he felt my use of this question to be justified.
In a way he’s right, a kid without anxiety might have said, “Yep.”

My response to him was that I wanted all of these answers to make me feel comfortable. I should have just emailed her teacher rather than grilling my kid. Which I did this morning and her teacher sent me a short reply that they were indeed going to a concert, and then to a park for lunch afterward. No signatures required.

Oh, sounds nice.

This incident got me thinking about other ways I’m sabotaging my kid.

Here are a few I came up with:

1. I Never let her Forget she has Anxiety

Nope, I’m right there every time she begins to struggle to point out that her anxiety is getting the better of her and she should do A. B. and C. to get right again.
<sarcasm> Thanks Mom.</sarcasm>

Why this is a Problem:
It reinforces the idea she’s less. Kids born with challenges like missing limbs will find astonishing ways compensate if given the space to find them. Kids without arms brush their teeth with their feet, and paint, draw, write, and feed themselves. This probably wasn’t a smooth process. It probably required extraordinary struggles and plenty of trial and error. But their parents wisely gave them the space to learn their own way and refrained from doing everything for them that they would normally use hands for.

My kid needs the same latitude. She knows she has anxiety, if I let her struggle her own way through, she’ll learn to manage, better than if I’m there telling her she struggling to brush her teeth because she has no arms and that should try using her big toe and long toe instead. "Here let me show you." If I don’t rush in to the rescue when she gets upset at her struggle, she’ll eventually learn that it’s because I know she can handle herself.

Why This is Hard to Change:
When my child is in pain, she's really, really vocal about it.  I have a biologically driven response to want to help and comfort her...and get her to be quiet.


2. I Remember her Past Struggles
Each of her epic meltdowns had burned an indelible video into my brain. Watching my kid suffer like she suffers hurts—a lot. When we come to a similar situation, I automatically start running an offense to clear the way for her.  The way a parent with a wheelchair-bound kid might ensure there are ramps and sidewalks.

Why This is a Problem:
It doesn’t account for growth. She struggled the last time, so may or may not struggle again. Struggle is the precursor to growth. I need to allow her to do that, even if it's to the detriment of my own sanity.

Why This is Hard to Change:
Sometimes I’m not even consciously aware of what I’m doing. Usually, it’s my husband that points it out, and I stop and reflect and find it’s almost always connected to a past meltdown. Her pain hurts me too.

Also, today’s world is ruthless in their judgment of parents. If I get all the obstacles out of her way, she won’t melt down and I won’t look like a bad parent.

You’re doing it right now—you’re judging me. See what I mean?


3. It’s on My Mind Constantly
If it’s on my mind and she knows. She can read me just as well as I read her.

Why This is a Problem:
She feels bad for making me feel bad.
My younger child gets the short shrift because I’m emotionally preoccupied with my explosive child, which expands the rift between them.

Why This is hard to change:
I love her. She’s a shining star in my life. I accept her as she is and love all of her. I just want to help.

I struggle to walk the line of taking care of my kids and giving them the space to grow. That line is elusive.  My girls have such different needs that present themselves in totally different ways that are both similar and dissimilar from me and my husband, and the lines changes continually as they grow.

It’s my version of the Schrödinger’s Cat paradox. The line is both there and not there until I open the box to see if I screwed up again.

This time, I killed the cat.

Sorry, kitty.

Sorry, kiddo.