Friday, July 24, 2015

Dentist woes, and hope.

In 4/2014, I took BBZ, who was 5, to a popular and busy pediatric dentist office because one of his teeth looked broken. It turned out to be abscessed and needed to be pulled. He also had issues with his teeth in all 5 sections as they define them.  They created a treatment plan that included baby tooth root canals, silver crowns and fillings that would take 5 different visits.   (side note, why don’t doctors explain when a child should go to the dentist for the first time? I follow most recommendations, and the early dental visit was not on my radar, apparently)

This was our first experience with a dentist for one of our boys, so I took their word on basically everything. We did 3 of the 5 visits, and then he just couldn't do anymore. He fell apart during a visit and refused the treatment. I felt the dentist was not patient, and did not give him the respect to be involved in his care. Yes he is a child, but once I asked when he began to cry if she could give him a break, and she said that if she did he would learn that if he cried she would stop, and she didn’t want him to learn that. To me it felt as though she needed to stay on her schedule. They pressed me to have the final 2 areas of his mouth addressed, and finally talked me into doing general anesthesia to address the rest of the decay all at once. I researched it and contacted my insurance company, and determined that this would cost our family more than $1000.

Feeling apprehensive, I decided to wait. In the mean time, I took LBZ who was 2 for his first cleaning without x-rays and they found no cavities.  Then in 11/2014, when I took LBZ for his second visit, they did x-rays and found decay between the teeth and wrote a treatment plan for crowns and fillings, which would happen over 2 visits.  I made the appointments, then cancelled them out of fear of creating the same kind of dental fear my oldest experienced.

I went for the follow-up to LBZ’s visit and they were very pushy about treating the cavities. I held my ground, but they were clearly questioning my choices for my child, and adamant that I schedule the appointments to place the crowns and fill the cavities. It reminded me of the fear mongering that happened in the hospital when I was making my own choices about birthing them.  I made the appointments for the work again to avoid the issue, and then I canceled them.  Frustrated and hoping for another option, I asked around to some friends who recommended a small private dental office that had treated their child since he was small.

I went to that office with BBZ today, and brought the entire file, which included x-rays, treatment plans, behavior notes and all.  This new dentist did the cleaning herself, and they also did their own x-rays. She used a tool to check the teeth for cavities, rather than relying on the x-ray alone. She said that the cavity on the tooth that they hadn't treated yet did not change much since the original x-ray last year, so she wants to watch it and wait. She did not mention fluoride treatment, and said we could talk more about the recommended sealants as he gets more comfortable with her. The whole experience felt calm, and patient, and comfortable.

I do not think that the original office I went to was necessarily wrong, but they treated me as though their plan was the only option, and anything besides that was basically me neglecting the dental needs of my child. The other dentist was not a naturally-minded dentist necessarily, but she was a second opinion, and one that I feel much more comfortable with.

She also has a more laid back approach to meals and snacks. We have avoided juice and fruit snacks and candy since his first appointment over a year ago. When I told her this, she said that people are exposed to naturally occurring as well as processed sugar when they eat meals, so limiting the frequency of snacks in between meals can make a big difference in the longevity of the exposure.  That makes so much sense!  My boys are snackers, too.

I feel so much better about the state of their teeth.  Sure, they will both likely need some kind of treatment in the future, and I hope that she is patient with them when that is necessary.  I have a strong feeling that she will give them the time they need to feel comfortable, which is what personalized care looks like to me. Even if they don’t have fancy TVs in the lobby or cartoons on the ceiling.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Letter to BBZ's Kindergarten Teacher

Dear Mrs. M,

Thank you so much for all you have done for BBZ, and for our family, during his first official school year.  Thank you for being a key part of establishing what I hope will be a strong desire to be a life-long learner.  Thank you for seeing all of the things we love about him, and recognizing his talents and his areas of improvement.  He has really enjoyed this year, and I know it is because of you.  He will have many more years of school, and many more teachers, but you will always hold a special place in the hearts of our family, as someone who encouraged him, challenged him, had high expectations of him, and loved him in our absence.

So thank you for being such a welcoming aspect to his schooling career!

Have a wonderful summer with your family!

Anna and all of the Z Family

P.S. I hope you will have our LBZ in the fall of 2017!

Last Day of Kindergarten 5/2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It just keeps getting better. (and LBZ is 3.5!)

I often hear parents say that they miss when their kids were little.  I don't.

I love reminiscing about when they were small.  When they needed me so much.  When my breasts were their biggest comfort.  But miss it?  I do not.

Each time my boys do something on their own that they needed my help with yesterday, something inside me just bursts with pride.  Look at him!  I had to do that for him, or with him, just yesterday!  My boys are growing less and less in need of my help, and I love every single minute of it.

Because each and every day, life with our boys keeps getting better.

BBZ is so tall!  He is growing out of his clothes faster than I can keep up.  Something will fit him fine, then 2 days later, his little ankles are showing or his arms seem 3 inches longer.

LBZ is coming into his awn as well.  He sometimes becomes frustrated with himself, but with some encouragement, he will persist to master his challenges.  He is a sweet and simple soul.  He needs very little to feel fulfilled and satisfied.  I love that about him and hope that he continues to possess this trait as he grows into a young man.

BBZ is doing so well in school.  He qualified for the gifted program, and we are so proud of him. I know most parents want their child(ren) to be special and grow up to do wonderful things, and I suppose I do too, but doesn't that seem like so much pressure?  What I want for both of my boys is for them to grow up to be exactly who they are, and to be completely comfortable with that.  If BBZ enjoys the extra challenges the gifted program offers, then we'll take it.  He has been struggling with talking too much in class.  We hope that the extra challenges will help with that, but that's no guarantee.  We just keep pushing on, and are so proud of the young man he is becoming.

I love the way he shows his gentle heart and empathy for those around him.  We took a short weekend trip to the Lake of the Ozarks in February, and decided to hike near one of the caves before we took a tour.  As we walked down some stairs to the entrance to the cave, BBZ asked how people with disabilities would be able to access the cave.  I'm so proud of him for noticing that!  Then I explained that there are some places that just cannot be made accessible, and how disappointing it is that some people are able to enjoy this type of recreation and some are not.  Then we talked about another cave we visited that was accessible, and how people with disabilities can still do the same things we do, just differently.  Or in this case, at a different cave.

These boys.  They sure do have my heart.
We have been spending a lot of time outside.  I still haven't posted about my incredible love for running.  I'll have to get around to that sometime.  We just started a new challenge called 30/30 where we will hike 30 trails that should take about 30 minutes each scattered around our community.  The picture below is from our first one, which took much longer that 30 minutes with two curious boys in tow.  But we had a great time.

N loves to hike and be outside, so he was really excited about this challenge.  Spring is around the corner, and spending free time outside, unplugged and close to nature is such a wonderful way to stay connected to the Earth.

BBZ asked us on our way home from the hike, "why do people who are Jewish take their holidays so seriously"?  It isn't a surprise that he asks something like this, considering where he went to preschool and where I work.  Jewish holidays and traditions are about all he really has been exposed to since we don't really practice religion at home.  So I explained the Jewish culture, and also the importance of Christian holidays to those that practice them.  We talked about God, and nature, and encouraged him to continue to think about religion, and philosophy, and to always seek to answer his curiosity about why we are here, where we came from, and what we can do to bring positivity to the world we live in.

Then we listened to a great new song that thanks God for the beautiful world around us.  Or maybe that song prompted the question.  I can't remember now :)

These boys bring so much joy to our lives.  Seeing them grow is like happiness wrapped in a big present that I get to open every day, multiple times each day.  I get to see them do something new that they needed my help with yesterday.  What a wonderful way that is to spend this life.  And it just keeps getting better and better and better.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Big Brother Z is Six!

Well, another year has passed, and you, my sweet eldest boy, are growing up to be such a wonderful young man.

You have begun kindergarten.  Beginning school is something I have been thinking about for you since before you were born.  I wanted to be in a good district, so you could grow and learn in an environment that supported you and loved you the way we do at home, and I have certainly found it.

You have grown so much emotionally in the short time you have been in grade school.  Your teacher is kind and gentle, yet tough and has high expectations of you and how you behave while in school.  It has been a growing experience for me as well, as you move out of preschool and into the "real world" of grade school, where you will spend the next 5 years developing as a young man.

You fill my heart with such joy, my sweet BBZ.  You are kind and generous, and use your mind to think of things in such a special way.  Your brain is constantly thinking.  Constantly trying to figure things out.  And while we love to encourage you, you press one with or without our direction, as your curiosity guides your exploration.

You did't care much for soccer a few years ago, but your friendship with S in class has spiked your interest again.  We often play in the backyard, which has been so fun!  You also are a very strong swimmer.  We signed you up for swim lessons, and the teachers thinks you are ready for a swim team!  There's one at the community center, or one through your school district.  We've backed off of extra activities as you adjusted to your new school, but are excited to get those things going for you again soon.

Night time with you is our special time together.  You still like for me to stay with you until you fall asleep, and it is during this time that you confide in me about your hopes, your fears, and when we talk about what went well in the day and what we could do better.  This time is so precious to me.  I hope you always find a time in your day for this kind of connection for us.  It really means so much to me, my little love.

So happy birthday, my sweet big brother Z.  The past six years as your mama have been some of the best in my life, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for you.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My sweet LBZ, you are 3.

It's so hard to believe that you, my sweet littlest boy, are now the same age your big brother was when you were born. I cannot picture you as a big brother, which I suppose is a sure sign that we are, in fact, complete with our family of 2 boys.

Not that I don't think you would be a fabulous big brother, I'm sure you'd rise to the occasion, but you are a typical youngest bro, and fit into the role quite well. 

You are such a sweet and beautiful soul, Lu-bug.  I describe you as a big ball of blonde sunshine.  You are forever happy just to be alive.  You sing when you wake up, and talk to your stuffed guys as you fall asleep.  You have your moments of sadness, but you are full of positivity and light, and are an absolute joy to be around.

You say some of the best things.  Such as:

"I'm juss kidding"
"Well, that didn't work"
"You said the wrong word"
"Are you kiddin' me?"

Someone recently said that you talk as though you've been here before.  And that sure seems true.  You are an old soul, and will entertain yourself for hours playing with your toys.  You particularly love minifigures of any kind.  You like Dora and Diego, Handy Manny and all things boy.  Although you do love the color pink, which I think is wonderful.

You are a boy's boy and love roughhousing with your brother and your daddy.  You like wrestlers like Brock Lesner and John Sena, and really love music.  You love "Airplane" by Widespread Panic, just like your mommy.

Being your mama brings such joy to me, my sweet littlest boy.  You are my little sunshine, and I can't help but smile when I am with you.  Even when you are challenging, you are full of love for life and a zest I haven't seen much in this world, and I hope you hold onto that for your whole life.

I love you buddy.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Until we meet again.

I went to a funeral today.

She and I were inseparable when we were in middle school. The typical BFFs. We had sleepovers, talked on the phone for hours on end, and were each other's world. A long time ago. 

She was a drug addict. 

I remember when we began to drift apart. We all enjoyed alcohol, even as young as we were (sorry m&d), but that wasn't enough and soon she was snorting powders, and I began to move away from her and her drug use. 

I never judged her. I almost always felt sorry for her, and wished things would be different, but judge her I never did. I never saw her as different than me. Sure she made different choices, but her opportunities were limited in many ways, and she was choosing to live her life differently than me.

I randomly stopped by her house a few times and found her still using, as in snorting meth while getting ready was a typical part of her morning routine. 

She would call me when she was doing well. I remember a call once when she had a great job. She bought a nice car and her own condo. She was so proud of herself, and I was really happy for her. Looking back now I think she was trying to prove she was going to be ok. I honestly thought that somehow she would be.

Our last conversation was through text about 18 months ago.  I only know that because her daughter was 6 months at the time, and she is now almost two.  My friend wondered if my number was the same, and it was.  We talked about parenthood and how she was feeling.  I wanted to meet up with her, but I hesitated.  Admittedly, I was afraid of inviting her into my world.  I can't really pinpoint what I was afraid of, but I have wondered since I found out she died if there is something I could have done in that moment.

When we were 12 years old, another friend and I snuck out of my house and some boys she knew drove us to her house. It was after midnight and her mom knew we were there. We didn't cause too much trouble and eventually the boys took me and my other friend home. 

I had a pager back then, and it started blowing up with my home phone number. I knew my parents found us missing and were frantically looking for us. Being a parent now, it must have been terrifying. I remember once we got home and my parents said what they needed to say to make me see the wrong I had done, my father wrapped his arms around me in a way I'll never forget. Again, being a parent now I understand. I'm guessing that he imagined the worst possible outcome to us missing, and in the midst of his anger at and disappointment in me - was love. Absolutely irrefutable love for me.

My parents loved me so much, they locked me in. I was grounded for the rest of the summer, which was at least two months. 

I had my fair share of trouble making after that, but that summer was a turning point for me. As much as I didn't want to admit it then, I really did learn something, and I truly believe that it changed the course of my life.  My friend, however, did not have the same experience.

My friend's mom was an alcoholic. When we were kids, the kitchen cabinet that held the liquor had written in red nail polish "we hate you when you drink". And yet, drink she did. Her mom was a bar tender, and I remember her coming home after work and getting us up out of bed during a sleepover. She'd be talking strangely and apologizing for the death of her baby brother, who died when she was 6 or 7 from a heart condition he had since birth. Her mother blamed herself for his death. 

When I heard about my friend's death, I wasn't really surprised, and I wasn't even sad. I was sort of...numb. The sadness has come since then, as the reality sets in that I will never see her again. That I will never have a random Sunday lunch where we will catch up and share stories of parenting. She will never see her daughter grow. She will forever be known as a drug addict, and people will say what a sad thing it was that happened to her. 

I will not miss her everyday, as it had been years since I last saw her. I will not miss her as a best friend, which we once were, but it was many years ago.  I will miss what could have been, if things could have been different for her, and for us. And hope that they will be different for so many others out there like her. 

I'm sad that she is dead. I wish she could have done something different. I wish there was something I could have done, or could do now. I explained to my boys tonight that my friend died from taking drugs. They are almost 6 and almost 3 and wondered why I was sad. As always, I was honest with them about my pain.

I gave LBZ a bath tonight, and I began to cry.  Concerned, he asked what was wrong.  I told him that I was very sad.  That I missed my friend very much, that I would never see her again, and that made me sad.  He said "well me and daddy and BBZ are here".  What comfort they give me today, and always.

I posted this on my Facebook page today:

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.” ~William Martin

Substance abuse is an escape.  A dissatisfaction with the way things are, to the point of altering reality in a way many of us can never truly understand.  If there is anything I hope to teach my boys, and myself for that matter, is to accept life the way it is, and to find peace and happiness in the here and now.  To stay present, and to rejoice in the simplicity of the ordinary.

Life is full of sadness.  It is full of uncertainty, darkness and pain.  The local news is difficult to watch and digest, and escaping it can be so incredibly hard.  I visited her dark world today.  I got a very small glimpse into what life may have been like for her.  It felt like a dark place of mistrust, substance abuse, child endangerment, family courts, alcoholism and just...darkness.  Yet, at the end of the funeral, I emerged, and reentered my life of success, positivity and light.  But my friend, she never had that out.  She was buried in darkness.  It is all she ever knew in her adult life.

Finally, old friend, you are at peace.  Rest there, dear friend.

Until we meet again.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I wish the world was different, but it's just not.

What a sad, but necessary truth for an almost 6-year-old to learn.  BBZ has been struggling lately in the world.  In May, he moved from his predictable, 3 teacher staffed preschool to a day camp run mostly by college students and attended by kids going into kindergarten through age 14 or so.  He went from the typical daycare setting to a laid back, less structured play time.  I suppose I should have known this would cause some struggles, but I guess I didn't really know, since this is my first experience outside of daycare for my boys.

He immediately found out about Pok_mon cards.  This was pretty exciting for us because he seemed to have made some really great friendships because of these cards.  He used some of his money to buy some, so he could trade them at camp.

It didn't happen immediately, but we began to notice through his story telling that kids were swindling him.  They would trick him into trading a card that was worth more, or they would do other unfair trades.  One day, he came home so excited about a card he got in a trade that he could barely contain his excitement.  When I asked him if I could see the card, he explained that the kid didn't have it that day, but that he would bring it the following day.  When I asked him if he gave the kid his card yet, he said yes (of course he had, my sweet and honest boy had not yet learned that people can be cruel and untrustworthy).

So I explained to him that he would probably not get the card.  He had such a hard time understanding this.  I explained that sometimes people will do things that don’t make sense, to end up getting what they want.  I gave him the words to use the next day if the kid didn't bring the card.  I suggested he tell the kid that he wanted his card back unless he had the card that day.

Truth be told, I wasn't sure what he would do.  When he came home the next day and I asked what happened, he said that the kid did not bring his card to school.  When BBZ told the kid that he wanted his card back until he brings the one for him, the kid and the others boys said there was no trade-backs.  I then said to him that I guess this boy is a person he won’t be able to trade with again.  If he has shown that he cannot be trustworthy, then maybe he shouldn't play cards with him anymore.

What a sad lesson to have to learn.

Next, BBZ was having a hard time during the aftercare program.  He was crying a lot, and having trouble having fun.  I can see why, really.  It’s just a big room with some games and teachers, but very little structure.  I think it is probably a typical aftercare program, as I understand them.  One day, he was barely able to tell me why he was so sad.

It turned out that his favorite camp counselor wasn't there, and the sub refused to have the kids put sunscreen on before heading out in the afternoon.  We apply sunscreen at home, and then the teachers do a second application in the afternoon.  BBZ heard the regular teacher say to the sub “hey, we need to put sunscreen on the kids” and the sub apparently said something like, oh its fine.  This really bothered BBZ.  At first I was kind of surprised by how much it bothered him, but it didn't take long for me to understand.
N and I are both rule followers.  It bothers us like crazy when people don’t follow the rules.  It makes sense that this would bother BBZ too.  So I explained that people won’t always follow the rules.  We cannot control what others do, we can only learn how to cope with a world that can feel very disappointing sometimes.  He was confused, and it broke my heart.

A few days later, his aftercare teacher said that he was very sad during his time with her.  He had told me that the teacher instructed the kids to leave their P cards at home, so of course we did, because we follow the rules.  Well, apparently the other kids didn't, so he was feeling sad and left out. (that doesn't seem like his problem as much as theirs for not enforcing the rule across the board, but whatever)  So again, I had to explain that some people follow the rules and others don’t.

I then began to really struggle with how to support him.  He was sad every time I picked him up from aftercare.  He talked about how much he didn't like it.  I even thought about not working anymore so he wouldn't have to deal with this.  But then it hit me.

This is the world we live in.

My sweet, innocent, naive little boy is growing up, and will soon be in a world where people are not kind.  Where they take advantage of others.  Where they want their way, no matter who is in their way.  While this was a sad revelation for me, it was also one that showed me how important my role as teacher is for my young boy.  He needs to learn how to cope in this world.  He needs to be able to stand up for himself, and to know that he can choose how he wants to live his life, even if he sees others breaking the rules.

Oh how I wish I could protect him from this place.  When we were making the decision to start a family, this is what I didn't want.  I was so unsure about bringing a child into this broken and dysfunctional world.  But as a baby and young toddler, I could shelter him and show him only what I wanted him to see.  He’s past that now.  I could change things to continue to shelter him, but I don’t think I want to do that.  As hard as it is to see him learn the truth in the world, what I tried so hard to keep him from so far in his life, he needs to learn and understand how to get by and cope with the way the world is.

It’s such a sad realization to know that I can no longer protect my child from the big bad world.  If he doesn't go toward it with tools and coping mechanisms, it will find him, and he will not be prepared.
I still get frustrated with this world.  I have to make a conscious effort to see the things I want to see, and leave the rest behind.  Hopefully, my boys and I will travel this path together, and see some great things along the way, too.