Saturday, February 23, 2013

Raising my *precious*

About a month ago, I was awakened around 5:30 by barking coughs from my sons' room.  The little one (the usual cougher) was sleeping.  It was the big one. 

"I can't breathe," my eight-year-old rasped between hacks.

I dragged him to the bathroom, propped him up on the toilet lid, and turned on the shower. The steam quickly fogged my glasses and the mirror.

The big one shook his coughing head vehemently.  "I don't want a shower!"

"You're not getting a shower," I said, still squinting in the sudden brightness of the over-the-mirror lights.  "Just breathe in the steam."

He did his best to breathe it in, but his lungs seemed unwilling to open their gates.  In spite of the croupy bark of the cough, I started to bet that this was asthma.  So, having an albuterol inhaler from his brother and knowing that he'd been treated with albuterol in the past, I gave him two puffs.

Moments after the first puff, his cough became productive.  Fifteen minutes after the second puff, and his breathing was near effortless.

But we had a new problem.  Albuterol makes a person jittery.  It raises their heartrate, increases anxiety, and makes it very hard to sit still.  Apply those side effects to a child that's already hyperactive.  Can you picture my living room at 6:00 AM?  If you're visualizing the walking dead in close quarters with a ping pong ball on crack, you've done a pretty good job.

Two hours later, we were at the doctor's office.  The big one was still very hyped up.  It was hard to catch what he was saying as he announced to the receptionist as I was signing in, "I'm BJ and I'm home sick today because I can't breathe and Mom says that means no video games and only educational shows like math ones and National Geographic and I hate that breathing medicine and Mom says I don't have to go back to school today even if I can breathe now because she doesn't trust it and do you have a bathroom because I need to use it now and it's really hot in here did you know that?"

They led us back to an exam room quickly, which was good because it was easier to contain the ping pong ball in there, even though it meant that he hit the walls more often.  Divested of his winter coat, he was freer to move and was over the chair, under the chair, spinning on the doctor's seat, checking out how the computer cords wound through the garrotte and plugged into the power bar, and hanging off the end of the examination table to study (upside down) how the sanitary paper was wound and attached.

"Where is he?" the nurse asked as she entered the room.  I pointed below the table where the big one had locked his body up underneath.  He jumped out.

"Gotcha!" he shouted as he danced around her.  The nurse tried to face him for a bit, but after rotating a time and a half, she gave up and just turned her head.

After originally doubting my reports, the doctor did confirm it had been asthma, and, somewhat exhausted after our visit, he sent us on our way visibly relieved.

And so began a beautiful day spent with my sick-at-home eight-year-old.  We read together (Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and Scene of the Crime), went over math facts (multiplication), and watched those educational shows on TV. 

"Do you remember the first time I ever watched Mythbusters?" he whispered in my ear.  "It was magical."

And that moment--the one I was spending cuddled with my son, not the first time he watched Mythbusters--was magical.  And I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it.

But it also brought something home to me, something that I fight all the time both with myself internally and externally.  It is so easy for me to apply descriptors to my son:  the big one, asthmatic, hyperactive, ADHD, boy, fantasy-loving.  And sometimes the labels seem to take a life of their own, either demanding special treatment or special griping.  But in the end, what is most important for me to remember is that these descriptors do not even come close to encapsulating my son.  While they help me to deal with aspects of his personality, I don't ever want that ping pong ball on crack to be confined by the walls of the house or the restrictions of a label.  And I need to draw back from them as often as I possibly can.

When all is said and done, I am raising my precious one, and that is the only thing that matters.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sometimes You Just Need to Laugh

I don't usually do posts with pictures, but this one requires pictures to understand.  It is the story of my life.

A year or so ago, my big one went to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and walked out with the most beautiful picture of himself from the sketchbook picture machine.

See?  Amazing.  Beatific.  Somehow the machine captured his fleeting angelic side which now has permanent residence on our refrigerator door where I sigh every time I put away the milk.  Could I really be this blessed?

So this past December my friend scheduled her daughter's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and invited us.  Immediately, I made up my mind to acquire more of these inspiring portraits, which also happen to be nearly instant at approximately two minutes from start to finish and reasonably priced at two tokens apiece.

So away we went.  I instructed both boys to stop by the machine at some point during the party and to bring their pictures back to me.  The big one immediately complied, and this is what I got.

Once again, it was gorgeous.  My active, bouncing, perpetually noise-making son had been reduced for one breathtaking moment to the air of open-mouthed wonder and curiosity that generally fuels his frantically roving, weaving, diving, heaving body.

I reminded the little one about the machine.

He didn't want to waste his tokens there.

"Fine," I replied.  "I'll use some of these."  I snatched a few from a cup of extra tokens that my friend helpfully proffered.  I motioned for the big one to follow.

When we reached the machine, I turned around and realized that only the big one had come.  Fine.  I wanted a picture with the big one, too, so the two of us posed together.  Since he turned his body at the last minute, it was not as lovely as the big one by himself.  Instead of the camera catching him with his mouth open in wonder, it caught him ready to snare a bug with his tongue.

Still, this version of the big one is also fairly accurate.  So we added the picture to the pile and went in search of the little one.  We caught him steering a pirate ship.

"My turn isn't up!" he protested, even though we could clearly see the "Continue?" countdown blazoned across the screen.

"Yes, it is!" the big one cried.  "You are such a liar!"

"I am not!  I want to play!"

"Tough noogies."  I interrupted the two, grabbed the little one by the elbow, and steered him toward the machine.

"Can I be done?" called the big one now grasping the pirate ship's wheel himself.

"One more picture and you're done," I told him.  Moaning loudly, he traipsed after us.

We arrived at the machine, and the big one dutifully sat down.  The little one squirmed and attempted to twist his elbow from my grip.  I forcibly plunked him on the seat next to his brother only to discover that the red "picture" oval that marks the camera's area of focus is too high for the little one when he's sitting down.  When he's standing up, however, his forehead is cut off by the upper limits of the oval.  I tried to adjust him to a knees-bent stance.  Meanwhile, he tried to escape toward me.  His escape was aided by his brother, who decided to use his head in the same way that a steer does during mating season.  With great force, he pressed his skull against his brother, trying to force him out of the circle.  I intervened, shoving my hipbone against the little one's head, preventing his escape and pushing the big one's head in the other direction with my right hand.  With my left hand, I gripped my little one's left arm and attempted to keep him the right height for the camera to catch him.

Do you know how long two minutes can be with all of that going on?  But the picture turned out okay.

If I hadn't told you, would you really have noticed my hip and right hand?  I did manage to keep my left hand out.  One of three is still better than none, right?

The picture dropped into the little receptacle, and the big one grabbed it out to check that he had really made it into the picture (as if the red oval was somehow lying) and promptly dropped it on the floor before racing off to play.

Now I may have neglected to mention something important.  If there is something to be kicked, stepped on, or in any other way easily touched by foot, my little one will kick, step on, or otherwise touch it with his foot.  So the instant that picture landed on the ground, all I could think of were footprints.

I immediately snatched it up, held it between my fingers to prevent wrinkling, and used that same hand to pin the little one to the back of the machine for his solo picture.  The solo picture dropped into the receptacle, and without the big one there to remove it, stayed there.  Without looking at it, I seized the little one by his waist, hauled him onto my lap, and deposited our last two tokens for the final picture.  Despite his squirming and face-making, the picture didn't turn out half bad.

Who am I kidding?  The computer even agrees with me.  I've tried turning this picture in all the image editing software I have, and Blogger still won't upload it right.  I'll never show that picture out in public.  But it does live in my purse because I have no picture covers in my wallet and no pictures on my phone.  No one has ever asked me to see a picture of my boys, but now I don't feel like such a bad mother.  At least I carry their pictures with me now--even if they're not pictures I intend to show.

But now that the whole ordeal was over, I shuffled my picture with the little one to the back and looked at the little one's solo picture for the first time.

I had had no idea that my hand had made it into the shot.  With the white background of the paper, you can easily see my fingers woven back and forth, although it's not at all clear why I've done it.

Sometimes a picture really does say it all.