Friday, April 13, 2012

Sweet Tooth.

Spring Break.  A collective sigh from all school children.  A departure from the classroom monotony and lessons.  Fun.  Sun.  And, for the lucky kids, a trip somewhere with family.

Spring Break for the parents of preschool age children is feared.  All moms who adore their sweet little toddlers are quaking with nervousness as the time approaches.  An entire week with my kids -- now, what to do?!  How will I keep them occupied?  One answer.

Doctors appointments.

Well a couple appointments anyways.  We kick the week off with some fun RAST testing for Dylan's food allergies.  It's almost an ironic reminder leading into a holiday weekend of the seriousness and regard for Dylan's food allergies.  I sometimes forget the whole food allergy thing...  seriously.  It may sound insane.  We have Epi-Pens and the whole sha-bang.  But my brain has hardwired CF to the top of the list.  I run everything through the "CF filter" so to speak.  So the annual trip to allergist to be reminded of how much more diligent I should be in is definitely just what I need.  (Laying sarcasm on heavily here.)

The new allergist is located in New York City at Mt. Sinai on 5th Avenue off of Madison Avenue.  Funny how years ago, 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue had very different meaning for my young, shoppaholic self.  A lifetime ago.  A wardrobe ago.

My entire morning starting at 6 am battling New York bound traffic over the GW bridge... obliterated.  The allergy test results prove what we already knew.  Yep.  Allergies.  You bet.  Stay focused.  Read labels.  And be vigilant.  Repeat.  My heart sinks and my hope for another year of peanut butter gluttony has - poof! - disappeared.

The remaining days leading up to Easter weekend are spent with my boys building forts inside and playing in the yard outside, when they are not in fist-fights and screaming matches, that is.  Well, until Friday, more specifically Good Friday.  Weeks back I scheduled the boys' regular dentist visit for the week of Spring Break.  We had been needing to find dental care in New Jersey, but other things have trumped seeing the dentist.  But now it is time.  When scheduling the appointment, I guess that I didn't connect the dots that I had scheduled the appointment on Good Friday leading into Easter weekend.

With my husband off work, it is ideal.  On this day, the parent to kid ratio is 2 to 2.  Thankfully.  We are game on with our man-to-man defense.  Our family walks into the beautifully decorated family dental practice.  Lovely ivory wainscoting paneled walls.  State of the art gold digital frames on the wall cycle kid's artwork they have gifted the office.  The reception area has a museum feel to it, but warmer and more inviting.  There are bright red mod sofas and a TV with kids shows.  I sit down at a funky white table and coordinating chairs to begin sifting through the pile of paperwork and my pen scribbles furiously.

NAME.  DOB.  ADDRESS.  INSURANCE.  BLAH BLAH BLAH.  I wish I had a dollar for every piece of medical paperwork I have filled out in my life.  I'd be rich.  The next thing...   LIST ALL MEDICATIONS OF PATIENT.  Ha ha.  They must be joking.  I didn't even think of it since we were at a dental office...  not a traditional doctor's office.  I should just carry around a medication list so I never need to scribble furiously again.  My hand begins cramping from my wrist to the heel and through my palm.  As I continue through the sheets of information, I realize I have to write everything all over...  TWICE.  Groan.

As we are waiting in the brightly lit, immaculate office, Dylan loudly asks for COOKIES.  Then he demands FRUIT SNACKS even louder.  He makes his wants clear in such a billowy voice, the message reverberates harshly off the dark wood floor and the walls.  I could swear I heard an echo.  Completely awesome.  My kid in a dental office, meeting a new dentist for the first time, is DEMANDING sugary cookies and candy.  My husband I laugh and tell him no, not now, he has to visit the dentist then we will think about it.  It's a superhuman feat, but I finish with the necessary forms and hand them over to the receptionist.

After some time, my husband steps out for a work conference call.  Now it's the dreaded Zone Defense.  The dentist comes out greets us and walks us into his office to talk first.  We discuss the boys' Cystic Fibrosis in-depth and my keen awareness about the need for critical dental care.

You see, CF medications and nebulized treatments can sit on teeth and cause greater risk for staining teeth.  They can also erode surfaces of teeth and create an ideal environment for cavities and tooth decay.  Layer on top of all of that the CF high-calorie diet including milk products that can sit on teeth, the sugary "crap" calories just to pack some calories in finicky tots, and the super busy schedule "it's easy to forget the morning brushing ritual".  Those little mouths are a cavity's dreamland.

Dylan and Michael play with the dentist's calculator and shiny silver lamp while we talk.  I can't help but shake the Willy Wonka images that are floating in and out of my head as the dentist scans the paperwork.  Monstrous rainbow lollipops.  He reviews the medication list gently tracking each one with his index finger.  Gooey taffy gum drops.  He looks up through his glasses, smiles tautly, and looks back down at more family history.  A chocolate river.  He finishes reviewing their lives in black and white medical paperwork as I rub my jaw anxiously.

My husband meets up with us again as we arrive at a room with an empty dental chair.  Michael pleasantly hops up in the chair and listens to all the directions from the dentist.  He kicks back with his feet crossed casually at his ankles and watches TV while the dentist works away to clean and examine his teeth.  Dylan climbs around the room and plays with the stuffed animals.  He glances over at Michael occasionally.  Then Dylan tries reaching for things on the counter.  It's a close call as I grab for his little hand trying to reach into the 'hazardous materials' garbage hole in the counter.  He is anxious, bored, and trying to find anything to entertain himself.  My husband and I look at each other knowing that Dylan's turn is coming next.

And it won't be pretty.

When Michael finishes, he hops out of the chair and into my lap.  My husband tries coaxing Dylan into the seat.  "Look at the cool TV you can watch"...  "Look at the monkey on the dentist's lamp"...  "You can hold the lady bug"...  You can hold Mommy's necklace..."  All to no avail.  Dylan begins to resist when Daddy tries to pick him up and put him in the chair.  He goes limp.  Then he slides off the chair.  Then he hits, kicks, whatever he can even the dental assistant.  The topper is when he starts crying and throwing a full-blown tantrum.  He screams and begs for fruit snacks.  Or cookies.  Or both.  "I want froo nacks.  Froo nacks.  Cookies!!  I want Mommy!  Froo nacks!!"  These were often used for bribes to get the boys to stand on the scale at the Pulmonologist's office to get weighed.  It has come full circle to embarrass me in the dentist's office.  I can feel myself flush and I hug Michael.

It takes the strength of my husband and some delicate work by the dentist to get an abbreviated flouride treatment in Dylan's little mouth.  Poor kid is still screaming for fruit snacks through the entire 4 minutes.  The scene is laughable and insane.  As hard as it is, the dentist tries to console me as my face is contorted probably conveying a freaked out mom expression.  He explains Dylan is not the first with this reaction and unfortunately there are certain cases where they stop and others where they proceed.  Clearly, in Dylan's situation it's best to proceed.  Let him experience a dental visit once to understand he won't be hurt, it isn't that scary and he'll then have some time to process it.  I can't tell if it's scarier for sweet Dylan.  Or me.

As tough as it is, I know that the dentist is quite possibly right.  As we leave, Dylan is heap of tears and frustration.  A consolation prize of a tooth sticker is just not acceptable.

*  *  *

Two days later, I wake up Easter morning to use the washroom.  I am groggy and stumble out the door into my dark bedroom.  I see Michael's light turn on.  I peak through the crack of my bedroom door and watch him appear at his bedroom door.  He is standing on the verge of his Easter morning adventure in the doorway to the hall.   His messy hair is standing straight up on one side and he is staring down at the floor.  I can tell he sees them.  He looks back and forth and smiles.  His amazement becomes clear across his face.  I bolt into bed so he won't see me.  He bounds into our room.  "He came!  There are tracks on the fwoor.  Come see!"  I grab my camera and head out with him.  My husband right behind us.  I start snapping pictures as he follows the trail of tiny white powdery rabbit prints.

He beams a beautiful smile that would make any dentist proud when the tracks lead him to two brightly colored empty Easter baskets.  This four-year-old knows exactly what to do.  He starts right to work searching for his treasured eggs.

After Michael has located all of his eggs and then some, he helps smiley, groggy Dylan to find all of his.

Michael points and excitedly shouts, "Wook there Dyl!  Wook there!"  and "Aww, siwee Bunny.  That one is tricky.  Wook.  He hid one there!"  In no time, a collection of plastic eggs litters the floor with goodies, coins and toys.

It is a day of a full-on assault of sugar.  A candy bonanza of the Easter Bunny's doing.  A family tradition of Fannie May Chocolate Foil Wrapped Eggs and Bunnies.  Followed by Sweetarts.  Skittles.  Starburst (or as Dylan calls them, "StarZurst").  Tic Tacs.  LolliPops.  Mentos.  And who knows what else.  A pastel mosaic of bubble gum pinks, lemony yellows, spring greens, blissful blues, and pleasant purples.  What that bunny thinking?!  By 8 am I make both of them brush their teeth from the onslaught of sugar already in a tepid bath in their kid mouths.

All throughout the day, Dylan hoists himself up onto the counter to retrieve his bowl o' candy.  This child needs no help.  Just plants his hands on the counter above his head, engages his core strength, and pulls himself up and onto the counter.  His strength and agility have always astounded me.  We discourage him from doing this but it doesn't matter.  The treasure chest on the black granite counter is just too tempting.

Every holiday I dump the boys' candy into a bowl (or two)... this goes for all the kid-sacred holidays.  Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's, Easter...  This way, I can monitor how much they are eating and when.  With chocolate and other high-fat goodies, I need to give them enzymes beforehand so they don't get belly-aches.  With peanut and nut allergies lurking, all candy monitoring in the kitchen is a must.  And while we are liberal with candy dispensing and eating, I do want some sort of control over knowing what they are putting in their mouths.  That Damn Easter Bunny.

By the end of Easter night, bedtime has been delayed a good hour.  Treatments take longer to get underway and I haphazardly turn on a new Backyardigans show...  Michael points out that the show is really long.  I check the DVR and realize that I teed up an hour long Easter special.  So I let them enjoy the rest of Easter night and stay up a bit later than usual watching their show.  The machines roar and they listen intently through their headphones.  I watch the show with no sound, just the whirr of the machines helping my boys with clearing their lungs.

It is bedtime and the whole family is exhausted.  Time to brush teeth one last time...

The boys are sporting their new pajamas, quite possibly the only practical gift left in Easter baskets and are ready to brush their teeth.  They discuss the colorful dragons that adorn their new jams.  I gently help Dylan scrub all his teeth as he sings octaves, higher and higher of "ah.  Ah.  aH.  AH!!"  I remind him to spit.  Same old story.  He swallows and then blows a raspberry into the sink.  I shake my head and laugh.  I know that some day, not very far off, I will miss his inability to spit.  It's only a matter of time.

Afterwards, I ask the boys to take a photo together to commemorate the day together.  Dylan cheerily agrees, Michael has different thoughts.  We spend time disagreeing about taking a simple photo.  He digs in and doesn't back down.  He's like a teenager that just doesn't want to cooperate.

After a total disagreement and then a Mommy-Michael make-up of hugs and "I'm sorry's", all is right as the boys settle into bed on Easter night.

I collapse into bed.  I am feeling exhausted and not surprisingly, I feel like I am coming down with something.  I realize that I haven't yet brushed my teeth.  Bah!  That Easter Bunny.  My mind slows.  I get distracted thinking about that Easter Bunny and all the magic of the day.  Michael's smiles and their cheers.  The excitement of each colored egg and the treasure revealed each time.  The hustle and bustle of the week.  And I try to settle into my bed brain with the same blessed perspective of our lives.

Before I know it, I am drifting off in a pleasant slumber.  The last thoughts stroll through my head before I fully fade away...  Yeah, pretty sure I didn't brush my teeth...  Damn Easter Bunny and tooth decay...  Well, at the very least the boys brushed theirs...

Even with the food allergies.  And the tantrums.  And the doctor appointments.  Even with the arguments.  And the regimen of CF treatments.  And the stressful spring break week.  And all the insanity of each sunrise and sunset.  Even with a likely few cavities along the way...

Most days, being a parent is a pretty sweet deal.
This much I know.