Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Of Determination and Headaches

I know, I know. It's been forever since I've blogged. Well, a lot has been going on in this household. I have so much to tell, but it's hard to know where to begin. It's a story of a boy who is so smart and has so much determination, that he's fooled a bunch of professionals. It's a story of a boy who wants to always do his best and gets frustrated when he's not doing as well as he should. It's a story of a first born who wants to please all the time. It's a story of a boy who is worried and frustrated and stressed and he's only seven years old.

It's a story about R....

R historically has loved school. Then came the night before school started this year and he cried because he didn't want summer to be over. But, to his surprise, school is fun (remember, "it's even more fun than first grade!") He has lots of fun in school and generally wakes up happy and ready to go to school. However, this year, he's had either a headache or stomach ache every night. Some nights are more severe than others. Some nights, he just mentions it in passing and then goes to sleep. Other nights (like last night) he's up really late -- past 10:00, which is two hours past his bed time. Sometimes his neck hurts; sometimes his jaw hurts; sometimes his chest hurts. He has great descriptions too -- a tornado in his tummy, a fire in his head; a magnate has a hold of his jaw.

As these seemingly random pains progressed, I thought maybe it was stress. I'd ask him about his day -- everything was fine. School was fine. I'd ask about friends. He had friends that he plays with. I'd ask him about hockey. Yeah, hockey is cool -- he loves it. We thought maybe it was his eyes giving him a headache because he reads a lot, but he passed the school vision screening with flying colors. Sometimes I'd give him Tylonol if his head was really bad; sometimes I'd give him Pepto Bismo if the "tornado in his tummy" felt like he was going to vomit; once I gave him Tums because he had a "fire in his chest and throat." Eventually, he'd fall to sleep.

On what seemed to be a totally separate front, we had R seen by an occupational therapist (OT) at school for his horrendous printing skills. We suspected that he had slow development of his fine motor skills. He has horrible writing. He also hates to draw and does it poorly. At first glance, the OT thought he was fine, but then dug further and found some issues. We were dismayed and elated to learn that he has issues with his visual-cognitive integration, or as I explained to him, his two eyes and his brain don't work together as a team. One easy thing that she showed us is that if you put your finger out in front of him and then move it to his nose, he doesn't cross his eyes. One eye crosses and the other doesn't. Some of the issues he has are with teaming, tracking, and visual motor integration. Here is a great website that shows you how he sees sometimes and explains it a bit more: http://

This was a bummer to learn because my poor boy has a really hard time on doing pretty normal stuff. I was elated to learn this because there is a solution: vision therapy. The OT would work with him each week and he should progress and be fine after two years. If we wanted to, she said, we could take him to a vision therapist outside of school and we would get faster results. She also said that it would help him with his sports (how did she know that poor R can't catch a ball for the life of him?)

Great. I did lots of research on this and read lots of testimonials from other parents that have gone through this. I was super excited! Oh, and when kids have these problems, the very often get headaches from the disconnect between their eyes and their brain, and sometimes they get stomachaches from the stress of not performing up to par. Allelluia! We might have an answer. Let's get this thing going!

By the way, the OT was absolutely amazed that R can read and likes to read. She was very proud of him, saying that he is very smart and has so much determination to persevere despite his problem. It just warmed my and M's hearts.

Of course, this news didn't stop the headaches and stomachs and other various pains. One day last week, we actually kept him home from school one day because his stomach was hurting so bad. M and I thought that it might be stress still, but decided to eliminate anything medical just to be sure. So, M took him to the doctor that day and I made a slew of appointments. I made appointments with the: vision therapist and eye doctor (they won't do vision therapy without a complete eye exam), allergist, and dentist. The pediatrician made an appointment for him to have a CT to check out his brain and sinuses to rule out anything that might affect his headaches. M and I felt a lot better -- we were on the road to a solution. We would talk up everything that we were doing to R and sometimes he was okay and some nights he wasn't.

Fast forward a couple of days to last Saturday when R had is VERY thorough eye exam. T and I were in the exam room too. The doctor would ask R to read the first letter of the third line: F, R said. The doc would ask, Is that the first letter of the third line? Oh, it's an E, R would say. T looked at the board an looked at me and said, "that's a T, Mom." I know it is. Shhh. We have to be quiet.
I would say that R missed about 40% of the letters. The final word: he is farsighted and has astigmatism. The poor boy can't see!

The doctor asked again, How is his reading? Great, I'd say. He's very good and loves to read. Wow, he said, he is a very determined boy.

Then the doctor did some more tests to check out his visual-cognitive integration and confirmed the OT's diagnosis. R's eyes don't work as a team and don't transmit the same image to his brain. The doc gave R a paper that had a small outline of a circle on it and asked R to take a pen flashlight and move it under the paper so that the light was right in the middle of the circle. Each time he did it, the light was always about a half an inch outside of the circle. When the doctor cover one eye, R could do it no problem. Crazy, huh?!? The doctor had me look at R's eyes when he was doing some "center line" tests (making R look right in front of him) and showed me that his left eye moves from side to side very slightly in an effort to focus and work with his right eye. I was amazed. The doctor put his hand on my arm and said, R is making his eye focus. He's trying to get it in the middle. He does this every second and every minute of every day. He is working so hard just to see. I nearly burst out crying! My poor baby!!

The good news is that glasses will help the farsighted and astigmatism, which will make it easier for him to see and should lessen his headaches. We still had to get him to the vision therapist to get going on the whole working-as-a-team issues. (did you count that he has THREE things wrong with his vision! Can you believe it?)

So, here's this week's appointment schedule:
Tuesday: 2-hour vision therapy evaluation, get fitted for glasses
Wed: Total physical by pediatrician
Thurs: 7:00 AM CT scan

Next week is the allergist; the dentist is in three weeks. I think he has allergies similar to mine and I think that he clenches his jaw at night like I do when he's stressed. Stay tuned...

By the way, I'm looking into doing the vision therapy at home. There are some books, software, and kits that I can buy online. I'd like to work with him everyday for 30-minutes on it at home instead of twice a week for an hour at the office. R already feels like he "has no time to play" between hockey and Cub Scouts. I don't want to overschedule him. He'd have no free days if we go to the vision therapist. However, if I don't think we can do it at home or if we start and it doesn't look like it's working, we'll march him right over!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Thoughts from T

T had just finished his skating practice (he doesn't go to hockey practice because he says that he doesn't like hockey -- but he does go to skating practice...which just happens to be hockey practice for everybody else except him.) So, we were sitting in the bleachers watching R at his hockey practice (he loves everything about hockey) and T said to me out of the blue with his cute little smile and his loving eyes with the beautiful long lashes:

T: Mom, you're the best mom any boy could ever have.
Me: Oh, thank you T; your a great son too.
T: Well, that's because you're such a good mom.
Me: Ahhh, thanks T. You are such a good son.
T: You deserve it mom.
In the car on the way home from practice, T said:
T: We learned all sorts of things about the letter "A", mom. Things I never knew before!
Me: What did you learn?
T: So many that "A" makes two kinds of sounds -- a long sound and a short sound. And lots of words start with "A" and lots of more things that I can't even think about now.
Me: That's pretty great, T. Mrs. Edwards is a great teacher.
T: She's the best kindergarten teacher I've ever had!
At dinner tonight, T said something that makes me wonder if he gets a finder's fee or something:

T:Mom, don't you hate it when you try to fit everything in your closet and you can't fit it all?
Me: I suppose, but I have a nice big closet now.
T: Well, you can have even more room in that closet for the low price of 19.99.
Me: Really?
T: Yeah, you can buy this thing that you hook up to an ordinary vacume...and they'll give you two large bags, three medium bags, and one extra large bag absolutely free! Can you believe it? It's not available in stores, though.
Me: That sounds pretty cool, T
T: Yeah, are you going to get it. It is a low price....
Me: I'll have to think about it

Thursday, September 07, 2006

T's Big Day

I took the day off so that I could accompany R and T to their classes on the first day of school. T kept making sure that I really wasn't going to work.

T: Mom, you're taking me to kindergarten, right?
Me: Right, T. I'll hold your hand and walk you into the classroom.
T: Right. Good.

Two hours later....

T: Mommy, you're not going to work, right? Because, you know, today is the first day of kindegarten and you told me you'd take me in.
Me: You got it, T. I'll be right there with you.

So, it came time and we loaded up in the car (me, M, and T), drove to the school, parked the car, and walked hand-in-hand-in-hand into the school. We waited outside the classroom with other slightly nervous kids and their parents (some of the parents were slightly nervous too, I could tell.) We parents introduced ourselves to each other and tried to introduce the kids to each other..."Oh, hi Jimmy, it's nice to meet you. This is T, he's in your class too." T looked down at the ground; Jimmy looked down at the ground; the other mothers and I just smiled and shrugged (what are you going to do?)

When it came time to charge, I mean walk into the room, it was a bit chaotic. There were moms, dads, kids, backpacks, newly purchased school supplies, and papers to turn in everywhere. It was a bit chaotic. All the moms and dads were carrying their kids' backpacks and the teacher was announcing that the Children Should Carry Their Own Back packs. It's Their Responsibility Now Moms!


After the backpacks were hung up and the papers handed in and the school supplies put away, the kids were told to get a book and sit on the carpet and look at the book. M and I took that as a cue for the parents to leave. We gave little T a kiss and told him that we'd meet his bus after school. He had a bit of the deer-in-the-headlight look on him, but I knew he'd be fine.

He had a smile on his face after school and even sang us a song about an acorn, along with this question:

T: Mom, do you know what the part of the acorn that a squirrel eats is called?
Me: No, what is it called?
T: The "squirrel meat!" Isn't that crazy? I learned that in kindergarten!

Yes, that's crazy...and I love kindergarten.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New Beginnings

T and R started school today. T started kindergarten ( I know, I can't believe it either!) and R started 2nd grade. I took the day off so that I could see them off to their new classes. R starts at 8:09 (mind you, it's not 8:00, not 8:15, and not even 8:10, but it is 8:09). The parking lot was mayhem, so M and T stayed in the car, while I took R in.

We had to walk through the parking lot and I have a you-must-hold-my-hand-in-the-parking-lot rule, so R grabbed my hand. After we crossed the parking lot and started seeing some other "big" kids, he looked at me and pulled his hand away a bit. I said, "you don't have to hold my hand here if you don't want to." He gave me a little smile and a nod and held on to my hand firmly. As we walked into the foyer of the school, we saw two kids from hockey and cub scouts... Hmmm, I thought, what will happen now with the holding-hand thing? He looked up at me with a little smile as he pulled his hand out of mine, and said "Hey, Andrew, Hey Zach!" We all chatted a bit about the summer while we waited for the principal to let us in the hallway. As soon as she let us in and we joined the crush of people, R grabbed my hand again as he strolled past his old kindergarten and first grade classes, confidently saying Hi to his teachers of years gone by. He's a big kid now, my boy. (But he still needs his mom.)

After school, I asked how it went. "It was great. I love it. I can't wait to go back tomorrow!"

That's what I like to hear....

More tomorrow about T's big day at kindergarten.