Monday, May 18, 2015

The measles and the mumps, a gash, a rash, and purple bumps

In my entire K-12 career, I remember going to the nurse's office once and only once. I was in fourth grade. I was in gym class. We had a linoleum gym floor in the basement of the elementary school (GREAT IDEA, because THAT won't result in ANY INJURIES!) and we were playing a friendly game of dodge ball or pin guard or whatever we played when we rolled around on those little wooden scooters ...

 All I can think is PINCHED FINGERS!
and I wiped out and smacked my head against the floor. My gym teacher didn't notice. My friends didn't say anything. I stayed in phy ed because I didn't want to draw attention to myself. I went to my next class like nothing had happened. I should have told that teacher—a substitute—when I started feeling dizzy, then started seeing stars (just like the cartoons!), but I waited until the teacher noticed me looking weird and sent me to the nurse's office. I felt lightheaded and nauseous, and just as the nurse was dialing my parents' number to pick me up—I threw up in her lap. She was not happy. I didn't tell her that I had hit my head, and I'm sure she thought my parents had sent me to school with the flu. When my mom came to pick me up, the nurse gave her attitude. I still didn't mention hitting my head. I didn't mention it until we were home. When my mom heard that I had hurt my head in gym class, she called the crabby nurse back and told her that I had thrown up because I had a concussion. (You know, like a mild brain injury.) She said the nurse was MUCH nicer to her after that. That was my one and only trip to the nurse's office. 

Adam is in first grade and I can't count the number of calls I've received from the nurse (mostly for head pain/vomiting, twice for a concussion that wasn't really a concussion, one alarming voicemail message about a "gash" on his eyebrow that occurred when Adam took an elbow to the face playing basketball during recess, a message that scared me half to death, only to have the nurse call back and say it was more like a "bad cut" and she put a band-aid on it and he was fine). At the end of his kindergarten year, I was getting calls twice a month—he wasn't eating his lunch, then he would feel lightheaded, then he would feel nauseous. At preschool, they call this "the Mondays" when it happens (there is a definite pattern, always following the weekend) and the preschool/summer school teachers just go with it. If Adam feels sick, he'll tell them his head hurts, make it to a bathroom, most likely throw up, rest/sleep for a bit, then feel ok.
The rules are different at school, though, especially if vomit is involved.  A few weeks ago the nurse called me at noon, left a voicemail saying that Adam was in her office, he didn't eat his lunch, said his head hurt, didn't have a fever, and he had thrown up—could I could pick him up as soon as possible? I was stuck. My first bus wouldn't leave downtown until 2:45, and Aaron was interviewing candidates for an open job position all day. Thankfully my parents were free. Same thing happened a week and a half later and once again my parents picked him up. Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to have helpful, generous retired parents who live 30 minutes away from his elementary school?! They have rescued us more than once.

If only he was ALWAYS this happy around food.

I hate that he struggles so much with eating his lunch and I hate that the migraines seem to be triggered by lack of food. How do you make a kid eat?! You can't. We've been trying. (And trying and trying.) Last year, the nurse had Adam eat in her office. She would count his bites and record it for us. It worked ok, but wasn't really ideal. I mean, she's a busy lady and her office isn't that big. Plus Adam was missing out on social time with his friends. There had to be a better way.

Early this year, Aaron, genius dad that he is, came up with a "courage chart" to address Adam's eating issues/food battles. On the days that he likes the hot lunch (pizza! brunch for lunch! burgers!), he doesn't get any courage points because he likes the lunch, and it doesn't take courage to eat something you already like. On days that he doesn't like the lunch and brings a cold lunch, he gets courage points for bringing a cold lunch. If he tries a hot lunch that he has never tried before, he gets the most courage points because it takes the most courage to try something new (he has to eat a certain number of bites in order to cash in the points). Adam is awarded prizes based on his point accumulation: Chipotle, a movie, a trip to SkyZone trampoline park. Because of this invention, Adam will finally bring a cold lunch to school this year—something he refused to do last year. (A few bites of a sandwich is better than dumping a tray of untouched hot lunch into the garbage.)

We know part of the equation is getting him to eat, but we also worried that there was more to it than that. The first time we brought him to the doctor for this "pattern" was last year. I thought maybe he was allergic to something he was eating (after all, he was allergic to cow's milk protein and eggs when he was a baby, so not outside the realm of possibility). His pediatrician ruled out allergies without testing him, explaining that allergies don't "present" as vomiting. If he was allergic, he'd get a rash or a stomachache or start wheezing, but wouldn't feel like throwing up. Instead, she prescribed medication for acid reflux (acid reflux?! The kid rarely ever even spit up as a baby). I never had the prescription filled. 

We saw a different pediatrician at the same clinic. This time, we moved away from the food connection and focused on the anxiety. I tried explaining Adam's anxiety in detail, but must not have done a very good job because that doctor (who was seriously rushed) basically told me that all kids worry to some degree. I'm not sure what I expected from that visit, maybe a referral to a psychologist? I left feeling frustrated. (And by the way, I know doctors aren't always miracle workers, but man oh man do I appreciate a good doctor who takes the time to really listen, even if she or he is taking a shot in the dark with the diagnosis.)

The next time we saw Adam's regular pediatrician, we brought up the anxiety factor to see how she would interpret it. She was very helpful, suggesting ways to help him "take control" of scary new situations. We put a dry erase calendar on the refrigerator so he can see what's coming up. We talk about new situations and experiences just enough but hopefully not too much.

And yet, the pattern continues. The calls from NURSE'S OFFICE were practically non-existent the first half of the school year (mainly because Adam would somehow keep it together until I picked him up from school and then complain that he didn't feel good), but just recently the afternoon calls returned. We saw another doctor. We came prepared with a list of symptoms and possible triggers and questions. After some discussion and a few tense moments when we didn't really think the doctor was "getting" what we were saying, Dr. "K" had a theory: Adam feels a migraine coming on, gets anxious about it, and his anxiety causes him to lose his appetite. Adam was in the room with us, shaking his head "yes, yes, yes" to everything the doctor said. Aaron argued that the migraine is a RESULT of Adam's food strike, not the other way around. Wasn't there anything we could do to help him? No, not really. Blame it on genetics. But, but, but ...

The last time I got a call from NURSE'S OFFICE I hung up with the nurse and called Adam's pediatrician again. This time, I want a referral to a food psychologist. I want to understand why he's not eating lunch. I want to know what it is about a mozzarella cheese stick that disgusts him to the point that—if his friends are eating that for lunch that day—he can't touch his own food. The thought of it revolts him. He can't even look at a photo of a mozzarella cheese stick without feeling like he's going to gag. This, to me, warrants food therapy. I was able to get an appointment with his pediatrician in five weeks (seriously, that was her FIRST AVAILABLE appointment!!) and at that appointment, I'm going to insist that she refer us. We can't keep going on like this. Fingers crossed that, by the end of summer, he'll be going into second grade equipped to EAT HIS DANG LUNCH!!


I helped my dad celebrate his birthday at Stout's Pub, had dinner with my parents and my sister's family at Louis in St. Paul (Cossetta's high-end and, in my opinion, somewhat overrated restaurant), worked another Food & Wine, co-hosted a baby shower for my sweet coworker Jeanne, read the book "The Life We Bury" for book club, helped my MIL celebrate her 60th birthday at a surprise dinner at Grumpy's, went to the annual family sleepover at Patti's, helped Lane celebrate his 10th birthday, went with Kelly & Alex to visit Anna & adorable Baby Inga, had drinks (and a good conversation) with Kelly on the patio at Barrio, signed the kids up for another swimming session at my old junior high, celebrated my niece April's 22nd birthday at Hell's Kitchen (Alex & Jeremy babysat), celebrated Easter with both families, toured 13 "luxurious" homes, stayed at East Bay Suites in Grand Marais, went to various Design Week events, celebrated our 10th anniversary with dinner at Manny's (we had $175 in gift cards and our bill came to $176!!) and drinks at Surly, helped my dear friend Karla celebrate her 40th birthday at a lovely little bonfire party at her house, had dinner with two of my CAKE girls, A & Em, went to Adam's first musical, went to his school carnival (and volunteered in the room with the penny drop ... not a single kid came in the last 20 minutes I was in there, next year I wanna do the cake walk!), had brunch with my mom at the Lake Elmo Inn, went to a Women in Leadership Conference and left feeling empowered and inspired, helped my dear friend Amy celebrate her 40th at a girls' night out in Stillwater (dinner at the Green Room, drinks at Charlie's, Smalley's, dancing at Rafters), enjoyed a laidback Mother's Day bbq in Forest Lake, and poured my favorite beer, Alaskan Amber, at GrillFest (and got completely drenched while doing so, but still had a blast). Aaron's been in Michigan with three of his best guy friends for the past few days, and I can't wait to have him home again. Even though the boys and I stayed with my parents Saturday and Sunday night, I am exhausted. Mad props to all the single parents out there.

Little sib, big sib - so much love and respect
Hurry up and take the photo so I can move off this pink couch.
This girl is one of the reasons I don't mind coming to work every morning.
April celebrating birthday #22 at Hell's Kitchen

We made it to Grand Marais!

So many rocks, so little time.

Pigeon Falls (still partially frozen), Grand Portage State Park, right next to the Canadian border.

Sadly, the donut shop was still closed for the season. (And it was RIGHT ACROSS THE PARKING LOT!)

Do you want to buy a rock at my Rock Shop? My name is Austin.

Rocks for sale!

Shadow family

This anniversary felt like a big deal. 10 years!!
This is what happens when you leave your lip gloss within reach of a toddler.

We stayed out until bar close!! Old but not DEAD!

First backyard bonfire of the year.

They both passed to the next level. Adam can even SWIM now! I so look forward to the day when I can trust them both to "hold their own" in water over their head, so I can relax a little bit around lakes and pools. TG for lifejackets!