Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Age of Awareness

Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs. ~Christopher Morley

Since Scootch's diagnosis, I can't even begin to tell you how much reading I have done. Knowledge is power, right? I should be able to supply energy to the entire neighborhood with how much power I've accumulated. And yet, I still feel like I'm learning something new everyday.

I recently joined another website community for help regarding Scootch. They lured me in with a feature on managing anxiety associated with food allergies. (I think they just should have named it, "We're Doing This Feature For You!") The entire presentation was helpful, validating, and enlightening, but there was one point in particular that has been worrying me incessantly. They talked a little bit about empowering your own child by letting him/her become their own advocate, and most of the mothers listed how well their children do asking for permission to eat things, and knowing to tell strangers that they have allergies. One mother even said her son has known his food limitations by 2 1/2.

Huh. Scootch is almost 3. And I have never taught him to say he's allergic to eggs and nuts. Why this never occurred to me I can't say. Somehow in reading to him, teaching him his colors, numbers, alphabet, and how to go potty, I never have actually sat down with him and explained TO HIM that he has food allergies. He's always been present when they were discussed, I've told him he can't have certain things because they will make him itchy, but I've never actually filled him in on it. I found myself unsure of how much he actually knew and comprehended about his condition. Until last Saturday.

Last Saturday was Easter Eve. And Easter Eve in our house involves dying Easter Eggs. I actually remembered to buy the contraband eggs the night before while I was out at the grocery store (and then promptly forgot to buy the egg dye), and hard boiled them in the morning to prepare them. So by afternoon, after lunch, I had everything set up and announced we were going to dye eggs for Easter, and Scootch told me he couldn't. "I no do eggs, Mom. I don't wanna be itchy." Dumbfounded. That was my reaction. It became blatantly obvious that Scootch had grasped a great deal of his condition by himself, even though I didn't have a whole sit down talk with him. He obviously remembered how horrible he felt back on New Years Day when he was exposed to nuts and broke out in hives. He obviously has been listening when his sister has been integrating mini lectures about his food allergies into their play kitchen sessions. And he obviously is old enough to comprehend and internalize the stuff I have been talking over his head to others for the past 2 years. A big "DUH" to Mommy for not thinking he would simply absorb this information just like he's picked up everything else in his short life.

To tell you the truth, I think the whole reason I haven't had the food allergy talk with him is that I didn't think he was that self-aware yet. My first clue should have been that he has grasped the awareness concept of potty training, but I think in some respects, I've been short changing him a bit by thinking he is still pretty much a helpless baby. In actuality, he'll be 3 in less than two months, and is as opinionated and bright as the Monkey was at that age. He confounds me again and again, day to day, with the observations and queries that come out of his mouth with no provocation. As much as I can sit here and rationalize that I didn't do it because I wanted him to still be a carefree little boy, I'm now kicking myself in the head and feeling guilty for insulting his intelligence by not thinking he could handle the information sooner. He obviously has some knowledge about his food limitations, and it hasn't dampened his carefree attitude one bit. So instead of sitting here worrying how much information is too much information, I'm going to start giving him the basics to go on for now. Hopefully by the time we get to his 3rd birthday, he'll know his full name, his address, and his food allergies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Luck of the Draw

"Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered." ~William Shakespeare

Sometimes I wonder why my husband agreed to have kids with me. Its obvious I have defective genes. Although my wonderfully recessive traits allow for beautiful strawberry blond children, they also allow for all kinds of havoc in the immunity department. Monkey and Little Bear resemble each other the most in looks and coloring. Both have that pale roses complexion with the ruddiness lying just below the surface of their cheeks, and that beautiful reddish blond hair like their Daddy. Scootch resembles my coloring more, with the obvious cool complexion palette and invisible platinum blond locks I sported as a baby. But all three have inherited my allergy problems. Lucky them.

Monkey scared the crap out of us at 3 months old. New parents, new baby, and we were taking all those cold winter precautions about not taking your baby out in public since the mall and grocery store is such a blatant place for epidemics to spread. But she still got the sniffles. So when what we thought was just our little Monkey battling a cold landed us in the ER at the hospital with breathing problems, I immediately fell down a hole of guilt and self blame. Her Daddy didn't have any problems with his lungs, but Mommy and half of her family sure did. I was diagnosed with asthma at 8 years old when I passed out cold on the marble floor of a church from lack of oxygen. And as they hooked up my little Monkey to a face mask and started the nebulizer treatment, I sat through the flashbacks reeling in the back of my mind of breathing exercises, steriod pills, oxygen tents, and that bitter, bitter, taste of the asthma medication that bites the tip of your tongue with every use.

With Scootch, we never went down that road. He's had coughs from time to time, and a leaky nose since forever, but nothing the good old Vicks Humidifier couldn't cure. Of course, we got slammed with food allergies instead. Which, if you think about it in a morbid way is still a breathing issue, since anaphalaxsis causes your throat to swell shut. But his infancy was a whole 'nother ball of wax between his skin condition that would never heal, his swallowing issues that made him constantly gag on food and sent me through the trials of Early Intervention, Swallowing Specialists, and an ENT. Oh, and that whole Immobilizing Anxiety Disorder I was battling because I thought that if I left the house alone with my kids we were all going to die in some terrible accident. Goodtimes.

So now we're onto poor Little Bear. I have been watching him like a hawk for any indications of food allergies, like the eczema Scootch endured, or the discomfort after I binge on certain types of food. He did have a bit of a rash on his elbows I was freaking out about, and a problem with spitting up that I was afraid was turning into a reflux issue, but thankfully the skin was cured by a simple change in lotion, and the spitting up lessened with time. Then last Friday he started off with a little cough and some sniffles. And over the weekend, it was increasing to him having small coughing fits and lots of sneezing. Monday he was just irritable and altogether miserable, and his cough was sounding worse. The common cold. At least that's what I kept hoping. And praying. But then when he woke up at 4:30 in the afternoon screaming and inconsolable and his breathing sounded like there was something fluttering in his airways, I was slapping myself for not taking him into the doctor's in the morning. Thankfully the doctor's office has evening hours on Mondays. I scored a 6:30 appointment after waffling back and forth and finally calling the hubby at work to see what he thought of me taking Little Bear in. Of course, it meant picking up Monkey from school with her brothers in tow and shuffling all three of them with me to the doctor's office until Daddy could meet me there after work and take them home for dinner and bedtime. And then waiting the usual hour after my scheduled appointment time to be seen. But score two points for Mommy when the doctor took one listen to his chest and clucked her tongue in pity. Bronchiolitis. The kind that would definitly have landed us in the ER at 3am if I hadn't brought him in for an appointment. So we had our first nebulizer treatment right there in the office. Little Bear was true to form and did not like the breathing mask, but I got to show off my non-squirm headlock skills to the nurse (who was very impressed.) The bad news is him having lung issues this early clearly points to him developing asthma later in life, just like his sister.

And am I a bad Mother for thinking he'd be lucky to have this and not allergy issues with food?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hold On Tight

To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another. ~Katherine Paterson

Panic. I think panic lives in my throat, because that is where I feel it first. My neck gets tight and my throat starts to feel like there is an invisible vice around it, prepared to tighten if I don't get it under control. Then come the spine tingles. They prick in the back of my neck, and the bottom of my spine, and then slowly fill in the space between. Fight, flight, or freeze. Sympathetic nervous system overload. Clammy hands, cold sweat, the rushing noise in my ears, they all pile on the panic train and start pushing it over the hill until my stomach feels like its dropping to my toes. Have you ever tried to move quickly when your stomach is in your feet? And I haven't felt panic in so long until it sprang upon me again last night. It was almost funny how the feelings were coming over me and a separate section of my brain was going, "What is this? It's kind've familiar. I've gone through this before. Oh, yeah. I remember now. PANIC!"

I've been doing exceptionally well since Little Bear was born. Considering its been a whole year and change since I stopped taking my anxiety medication, I have been pretty optimistic with how even and level my feelings have been. I've even managed short trips with my entire brood alone, and have yet to feel anything close to that crippling day in June 3 years ago when I couldn't make myself get out of the car for fear we would all be killed in the parking lot. Maybe it helps that I'm more cautious now, more prone to asking for assistance or for someone to come with me that has been helping. Or even that I seem to have slowly developed the ability to force back and tune out the anxious thoughts of death, separation, and disaster to a dull hum in the back of my mind, instead of letting them break through and dominate my thoughts. Or maybe Little Bear just found the reset button while he was in there and I got a free system restore for all the trouble he's put us through.

Either way, last night started out well. I went out shopping with Monkey for an Easter dress for her, since the store had them for 50% off. I even left Scootch and Little Bear at home with Daddy so she could have some undivided attention. I figured this would be a piece of cake, going out with the oldest. She's not allergic to anything, doesn't need to have her diaper changed. And we did have fun. She ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the prom dresses that were in the adult section, got giddy and giggly around the plethora of lace and flowers that adorned the dresses in her size, had a ball spinning the skirts out in the dressing room in front of the mirror, and even managed to put back the matching purse, hat, gloves, and headband she wanted without too much of an arguement. And I'm sure it was only 5 minutes of the entire excursion that went awry. 5 minutes that made me realize how matter how much I think I'm doing good, this will always be with me. As long as I'm living and breathing, I have the potential to freak out over my kids.

After checking out, we were walking towards the doors when something in my size got my attention and we went over to investigate. I let go of Monkey's hand to see the price and she walked away from me, around to the other side of the rack. I didn't think anything of it. I was done, turned around, and she wasn't there. I bent down to look underneath the clothes, since she likes to hide inside the clothing racks like I did when I was little (you know that curse from your mother about having a kid JUST LIKE YOU?), but I didn't see any legs under there. Checked the surrounding racks, and nothing. At this point I was still at annoyance level. So I called her. Twice. And nothing. Tried again, lifting my voice up so she could hear me over the larger part of the section we were in. Nothing. No "What, Mom?", no giggle because she's hiding, no feet running in my direction, and no helpful stranger telling me "She ran past this way." So I walked the length of the 5 aisles in the section scanning each one, hoping to spot strawberry curls, or a red jacket. Still calling her name, and still nothing. There is doubt at first. Am I sure I didn't see her? Maybe she's just hiding in another rack? I go back to the beginning to check again. No Monkey. And that's when it starts, the panic feeling in my throat. The irritation eroding and being replaced by that imaginary vice. I'm scanning the store as my throat is tightening. No Monkey. I'm feeling spine tingles as I take to inspecting other people in the area, looking for someone trying to hide a little girl under their arm as they bolt from the store. Still No Monkey. I'm jogging as the cold sweat breaks out, moving through clothing racks, weaving through people. I can't even tell you what I'm seeing, except that it's not the one thing my eyes are looking for. One final time before my throat closes up I yell her name again. Heartbeat. Silence. Heartbeat. What do I do? Heartbeat. But then there she is, popping out of an aisle and running straight at me. I'm grabbing her as she's chattering about some pretty shirt with sparkly flowers on it that she wants me to see. I don't care about the shirt, I care about her not coming to me when I called her, or at least saying something in response when I was yelling her name. I'm trying to cool down, and I'm trying to not scare her by squeezing her so tight I disrupt her air flow. My hands are still shaking a little, but the sound of my heartbeat is finally draining away from in my ears. I take her hand again. "I want to show you the shirt, Mom," and she's leading me away.

We go see the shirt. We get in the car. The whole way home I try to explain that if she wanders too far and doesn't answer my call I get scared because I can't find her. I try to practice with her what she should say if she ever hears me yelling her name. That I can yell for her for another reason besides the fact that she's in trouble. "Okay, Mom" is all she says. Okay. We're okay. I'm okay. It will probably happen again, but it should be okay.

But in the meantime, she damn well better learn to come when I call.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chubba Love

Everyone tells me I look like my kids. And its true, so I usually take it as a compliment since I think they're all darned cute. But one issue I'm sore about is how much I look like Little Bear, specifically in the leg portion. How cute do all those dimples and rolls look on his legs? For me, as it nears shorts and bathing suit weather, I don't think anyone would manage to find my version of chubby legs as attractive. (And if anyone tried nibbling on them like I do to Little Bear, I might research restraining orders.) But I have to confess, as addicted as I am to the cheesecake and ice cream that brought on those rolls while I was pregnant, I'm also sort of addicted to the Zumba classes I'm taking to hopefully work it all off.

I've been trying to lose weight for a few years now. I tried Yoga, then an Interval class, then weights, then Jillian Michaels DVDs. It helped shed a few pounds, but not as much as I liked. I took the Zumba class on a whim because it was new, and involved dancing (which I love) and was supposed to have great results. And color me surprised when I lost 10 pounds after two sessions. So I was well on my way to my weight goal when I got pregnant with Little Bear, only to gain back almost all my progress and more within the next 9 months. And my body parts with pregnancy weight like static cling on a pair of fleece pants. Won't.Let.Go.

So I just started back up with the Zumba classes last week after spending almost a year on workout hiatus, and I have to say, it was so much fun. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed bouncing around to Spanish music I don't understand, and feeling that endorphin rush from working up a sweat. My knees have been complaining a little ever since, but I'm hoping I can take care of that with a new pair of shoes since mine are ancient. When I'm in class, and going with the music along with the 30 other ladies present, I feel like I can do anything. I have little fantasies that I could take up biking or running, or do a 5K. Or maybe get back to my pre-pregnancy weight from before having the Monkey. It's important to have dreams. ;-)