WHY Take Your Child To Work?!

Seems to me that whomever thought up the idea of Take Your Child To Work day was a narcissist! At home we fight the morning rush to get up, dressed, teeth and hair brushed, and some semblance of food into our children before racing out the door with thrown together lunch sacks and still full backpacks, just to get them off for the day before having a few minutes of head-clearing quiet in the car on the way to work.

At work, I get to enjoy other people’s amazing children. They show up to my therapy room on schedule, stay and play for their short but all smiles and fun-filled time. By the end of my day I am tired, but have had the opportunity to take a different outlook on my day.

Today, for Take Your Child To Work day, I went through the mad rush, packed lunches and headed out the door with my youngest, a Kindergartener. He was ecstatic to get to come play in my therapy gym, like he had the opportunity to do a few times before while I worked on a Saturday getting plans and equipment together for my weekly sessions. He had never, though, spent an 8-hour day at work with me.

Holy hell! It was torture. Not because it was MY kid, ALL DAY LONG. I do that all summer, and school breaks, and on vacation. It was because my kid wanted all of my attention, around all of those other kids who so desperately needed it, too. I had never seen that side of him before…jumping the line, always going first, telling the other kids what to do, ignoring instructions just do he would be the winner. He took apart everything. Left parts of games and toys strewn around the room. Defied all rules! Yikes! The kids in my room looked sideways at me for how he was behaving, which was totally the opposite of which I always instruct them to do. I had always upheld my standards and rules with my students. They knew that they could not get away with disobeying or disrespecting my space.

Lucky for me, the kids I have been working with are pretty forgiving. They noticed he was younger, not quite as mature, and was obviously looking to be in the spotlight. They allowed his bad behavior to happen without engaging with him. More so, they did it call me out on it. They shot me the wink on their way out–the signal that they knew it wasn’t easy, but it would be OK.

My sweet little boy went home absolutely exhausted, but more in love with his Mom because he got to steal the show all day long. He got to show Mom who was the big man on campus. He got to play to his heart’s content. Me? I came home a frazzled mess, so tired that I opted for drive-through on the way home and allowed him to doze off in front of the TV. He woke up, briefly, before getting ready for bed and asked, “Mommy, can we do that again next week?!”  Um…..no! Maybe, just maybe, next year will be different?!

Does watching TV count as school?!

Today my 3rd grader was sick right before school was about to start. I allowed him to stay home. He was curled up in the fetal position on the floor with his dog by his side, and I was half expecting him to go back to sleep for a while. Isn’t that what *sick* kids do when they stay home from school?! Nope, well not mine at least.

After several hours of repetitive and forceful vomiting all my kid wanted to do was watch TV. Not just TV, but he wanted to watch his TiVo’d sports shows! Ugh, how many times can one watch the same exact sporting event/game…I could call the fouls, memorize the scores based upon what inning it was, and make the substitutions myself after an hour of sitting with him. When he began chanting and yelling at the TV, I asked if he was feeling better and was well enough to go to school. He looked at me puzzled, and then said, “Watching TV IS school: I have been keeping track of the scores as my math, the language from the commentators have helped me with vocabulary, and when I read the scroll at the bottom of the screen from ESPN I worked on my reading speed and word fluency. Did you know that there are games played in so many states and capitals…?” And he proceeded to rattle off the states, their capitals and even pointed out on his map where they all were.

So, is watching TV as good as going to school?!

Episodes. They used to just be 30 minutes on TV!

Remember back when episodes were shows that lasted 30 minutes at a time on TV? They were entertaining shows like “The Cosby Show” or “The Brady Bunch”. Well, an episode in my house is not a reference to TV shows. It is referring to a medical event which is triggered by many variables, and can last as long as a TV show, or even for days on end like a syndicated marathon of shows. An episode is not entertaining nor enjoyable; We do not look forward to the next episode’s previews either!

You see, my oldest son has a rare disorder, a medical condition called Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. It is characterized by nausea, dark circles under the eyes, extreme belly and musculoskeletal pain, headaches, pale or flushed skin and intense vomiting. I mean INTENSE–upwards of 100 forceful and projectile-like vomits a day, for several hours at a time. It sometimes lasts a few days in a row. After the vomiting stops there is pain, dehydration, nausea and light/noise sensitivity, too.  There is no end date, no season of episodes strung together, no guide as to when they will come or end. There is also no effective treatment, or known cause or cure.

These episodes sometimes come on with regular schedules (like birthdays, holidays, start of school and/or school vacations, field trips, and during testing)–but other times they are interruptions to life (like during sports events, with an onslaught of seasonal allergies, before a fun play date with a friend, after a day at the water park, or when Mom/Dad get a babysitter so they can get a few hours out), and we get a message “PARDON THE INTERRUPTION” or “BACK TO THE REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING” after it has inserted itself where it was not planned.

As you can imagine, an event like this one is quite debilitating, exhausting, anxiety provoking, and unsettling. From a medical perspective it is scary because dehydration is the least of our worries, with other issues such as heart failure, kidney failure, liver damage, internal bleeding and a torn esophagus as a reality. From a school perspective it is quite isolating, because of missed school days, early dismissals, multiple medical visits, symptoms that keep you from playing at recess, and kids/teachers that do not understand the disorder. From a family perspective it is quite difficult, due to sleep deprivation, multiple loads of laundry and carpet cleanings, worry about health and wellness, and angst that the episodes bring (Not knowing when the next one will be). Watching your child suffer from horrible effects, over and over again is the worst as a parent!

Many people recall the old episodes on TV, and if not, they watch re-runs on syndicatation. We keep hoping for the day that the old episodes disappear, and new, fresh and exciting shows take their place. Until then, we plan for the next episode….but no TV guide will be necessary.

Up to my elbows in sugar

This week I made 2 dozen brownies for a school bake sale, 3 dozen individually frosted basketball and star-shaped cookies for an end of season party for a basketball team that my husband and I coached, and three cakes for my younger son’s birthday and school-friend party. Did I forget to mention I also worked? And took my kids to swim lessons, twice. And, took my oldest to Scouts for a regatta race (oh, yeah, I also put together–I mean assisted him with–his boat, too.)

I started on the easy cake first–a rectangle field. Easy–a few colors of frosting, straight lines and straws for field goal uprights. No bronco logo.

The "easy one"!
The “easy one”!

I moved on to the basketball cake next–rectangle,  again. The lines and symmetry of the court were a bit harder to accommodate for since I was using very low tech tools (frosting in a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off! No logo, but it wasn’t for his team anyway so he didn’t care much.

image

The one item that really took me for a ride was my son’s Broncos jersey cake. He REEEALLY wanted a fondant jersey with a bronco, his name, and a giant “6” on it as his player number. We looked at many photos online of cakes, and THIS ONE was the apple of his eye, the touchdown of the Super Bowl of cakes. This was it! Until…My marshmallow fondant came out too sticky, the colors weren’t right, and after several hours and a few bags of powdered sugar, mini marshmallows,  food coloring, and choice words later… it all ended up in the trash.  Being that my son’s party is TOMORROW, I couldn’t quite order a cake and call it done. I busted out the butter and made some fabulous buttercream frosting, smoothing it out as much as possible before adding his name, the giant “6” and a few stripes. (Not totally finished in the photo).

image

No bronco logo, no fancy lines, but my little birthday boy was happy none the less. Simple gratitude from my sweet almost 6 year-old. The biggest problem of them all? I was covered in food coloring and sugar up to my elbows and he wouldn’t even give me a hug!!

Tomorrow the kids will be up to their elbows in sugar, too, and we will all be smiling by the time they’re done.

Survival Mode. Is this your life?!

A few weeks a go, a woman commented that my family was “living in survival mode”. For a relatively uninvolved person to make that comment, the perfect comment in that moment, I couldn’t help but believe how obvious it was. Right then, at that very second, tears filled my eyes and warmly melted down my cheeks. She was so right, but I didn’t want her to be.

You see, survival mode has become a way of life for my family. Always on the go, trying to keep up with life’s demands for school, work, extracurricular activities that include physical fitness and social engagement, and of course fitting in the obligatory medical visits.

Survival mode means sleepless nights…lots of them. It looks like 4 people and a dog dragging around, usually 5 minutes late, to all sorts of places while eating dinner in the car on the way. It sounds like pleading, tantrums, whining and a whole lot of NO’s. It smells like a mixture of carpet cleaner and peppermint oil. It tastes like salty tears that silently stream down my cheeks at night. It feels like hell, mixed with the strange comfort of home. Survival mode. It’s how we live.

I can’t help but wonder how many other people live this way, but look so “normal” that it isn’t as obvious to bystanders.