Exciting Eleven

Once again, another birthday has rolled around for Liam and this time he turned eleven. Each year goes so fast! Eleven! Already!

Liam’s love of Star Wars and Legos lives on. He also enjoys video games, rolling around the house on his hoverboard, watching TV, not cleaning his room, and hanging out with his friends. He and Jamie have reached detente (at least most of the time) and play together happily (again, most of the time).

Liam is still a good student. He enjoys math and science but only tolerates English and reading. He gets along with other kids and makes friends with lots of different kids. I love this about him. He’s not afraid to befriend the kid that maybe has a harder time fitting in as well as the kid that is popular.

I’ve said before that I love having big kids and it’s still true. Being eleven is pretty awesome. Liam cracks jokes and helps with his brother and is slowly, but surely, becoming a tiny adult. He still gives hugs (and asks for them in return). I keep expecting that to change but I’ll happily accept them for as long as he’s willing to dole them out.

In short, Liam is a great kid and I’m grateful that I get to be his Mom.

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Concussion Recovery Continues

Liam has been home full time for about 2.5 weeks now. We’ve been homeschooling during that time and allowing him to rest and recover at his own pace. For me, it’s been exhausting living this way and my house is DESTROYED (crap everywhere).

But Liam is getting so much better.

With the time away from school, he has finally been able to make real progress in his physical therapy and that has meant a great reduction in his symptoms. They’re not completely gone nor are they likely to be for weeks yet but they are much improved. You can see it in Liam’s demeanor; he’s much more chipper and much more like his old self. It is a relief to see.

His physical therapist is very pleased with his progress. His neuropsychologist is less enthused; I am less enthused with her. She seemed to think that Liam’s recovery should occur in a linear fashion and that’s horseshit. She also made it very clear that she wasn’t particularly pleased with us pulling him out of school and she basically made me feel like I was doing everything wrong despite his progress. I was livid when we left that appointment.

Yesterday we finally saw the Pediatric Rehab doc. She listened to us carefully, she looked at the WHOLE picture of his recovery thus far, she took into account family history and notes from the physical therapist. Her assessment agrees with ours – Liam is doing much better, it’s time to go back to school, and we should look to control symptoms as much as possible as he readjusts.

To that end, she has started him on a very low dose of medication that will help with his difficulty sleeping and staying asleep as well as the headaches and nausea. She is also referring us to a neurologist for migraine evaluation.

Because we’re pretty sure that’s a large component of what’s going on here. With Scot’s history of intractable migraines, we knew there was a good chance that Liam would have a more difficult time with recovery. We’ve also come to learn that in children and adolescents, migraine can often manifest as nausea or stomachache instead of a blinding headache. This would explain why the Zofran Liam was given in the ER didn’t help his nausea. We were treating the wrong thing. It would also explain why nausea instead of headache has been his worst symptom. The Rehab doc also told us that in kids like Liam, with this strong family history, a concussion can trigger the migraine issue and bring it to the fore.

So, that’s where we sit. Liam went back to school today. The district is on half days for the next three days for parent teacher conferences so it’s a good time to try to transition him back into the building. We don’t expect perfection – and neither does his doctor – but it’s time to work on getting him back to school.

I didn’t want to pull Liam out of school. I didn’t want to homeschool. But it does seem like it was the right choice.

 

Home School

Liam isn’t getting better.

In fact, his symptoms over the last week seem to be getting worse. It’s been almost six weeks since his injury and he’s still not in school full time and he’s still dealing with constant symptoms. Monday, he woke up so sick to his stomach that we kept him home. Tuesday we sent him to school only to have them call by 8:45 am. I went to pick him up and he was white as a sheet, dizzy, nauseated, unsteady on his feet – in short, a wreck.

We have another follow up with the concussion center next week. I have an appointment with Pediatric Rehab Medicine on November 3rd. Hopefully these two appointments can help us get the symptoms under control enough for the physical therapy to actually WORK.

In the meantime, we’re pulling Liam out of school for a couple of weeks and I will be temporarily homeschooling him. (eep!) Scot’s Dad, a retired elementary school teacher, has also agreed to help us.

The teachers are being incredibly helpful and meeting with me to go over curriculum and lesson plans and give me materials for him to work with. I’ve got to get the doctors to give me a long term absence excuse – which is proving a little more frustrating as the maze of voice menus at the doc offices makes getting an actual person on the phone problematic. If worst comes to worst, I will physically go into the office and track down a nurse.

This is the last thing I wanted to have to do but I don’t see any alternative. I can’t even seem to keep him in the building for half a day much less a whole one. He’s missing classroom time that is essential for certain subjects (for example – science is almost ALL in-class lab). I’m afraid if this goes on for too long he’s going to need to repeat fifth grade.

I had a blubbery, weepy, hand-flappy meltdown about this yesterday morning. I’m just so worried about him. I don’t know how my parents survived my multiple hospital stints as a child. But, now that I’ve started the ball rolling on this and the teachers have been SO fantastic about being willing to help me out, I feel a little less insane about it all.

I hope this is the thing that helps him really make progress.

 

On Concussion

You know how sometimes you hear someone has been in a terrible accident or fell and hit their head and “only” got a concussion? Then everyone says “Well, thank god for that!” and acts like it’s not a big deal?

Yeah, it’s a big deal. Actually, it’s a huge deal. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently.

Liam was injured on Sept. 17th. He was hit in the neck just below his jawline with a rubber ball thrown with force. Since that day he’s had exactly 3 full days of school. Every other day he’s been on a half day schedule or needed to come home early or not made it to school at all.

We are struggling to keep up with his schoolwork. He’s had deadlines extended but not really had much in the way of work taken completely off his plate. I feel like I’m constantly managing homework. 20 min here. 30 min there. Try to do 10 min of trumpet practice. Oh, wait, he’s feeling cruddy, better stop now. Oh, but what about those PT exercises he’s supposed to do everyday? Gotta try those.

We’ve been to Children’s ER. We’ve seen the doctor at the concussion center. We’ve seen the physical therapist. He’s got PT every Monday afternoon for the whole month of October. We have a recheck with the concussion doc on Wednesday. She may refer us to yet ANOTHER doc.

His eyes and his brain aren’t talking to each other very well right now. His brain can’t really tell his eyes how to move correctly. They don’t move in concert the way that they are supposed to. So one may look one direction while the other struggles to catch up. It’s not a lazy eye issue because it’s not one eye that is consistently asynchronous. They both do it at random intervals. So his brain is constantly trying to compensate for this. No wonder the kid gets nausea and headaches.

We’re over 2 weeks out from injury and I feel like he’s no better than the was the day after it happened. He might be less dizzy and unsteady on his feet but that’s it. The rest of it is just as bad or worse than when he started.

He’s irritable. More so than I would expect. He has trouble getting to sleep. He has trouble staying asleep. This makes him more irritable, decreases the length of time before symptoms begin to show, and makes him generally all around miserable.

Let me remind you: My kid didn’t take a head on tackle. He didn’t take a hockey puck to the head or a hard check to the boards. He didn’t bounce the soccer ball off his head during a soccer game. He took an injury during a grade school gym class. And yet here I am juggling multiple doctor’s appointments, begging the school to let up on the work load, trying to figure out how we get him through fifth grade, wondering if he needs to drop band (please no!), and on and on and on.

Take it from me. It’s never “just” a concussion. I don’t know why medicine brushed it off as such a minor thing for so long. It’s not minor. It’s a brain injury. And it sucks.

Continued Forward Motion

This morning I had my meeting with the new principal at our elementary school so that I could discuss Jamie and his issues with her.

Short story: it went really, really well.

Long story: we talked about his anxiety and how it manifests in the classroom. We discussed strategies to help him and she asked really intelligent questions. She told me who his teacher would be and was very open to having Jamie come in to meet her and see the classroom prior to the first day of school. The principal will be discussing all of this with the teacher and will let me know when the teacher has some time in the schedule to let us come in. We also talked about Jamie being in therapy and what the school can do to work with that. It was everything I hoped the meeting would be.

While I was there I also brought up a couple of problems we ran into in terms of Liam and his academics last year. First, this year we will be opting Liam out of all standardized testing, including the three week long PSSAs in the spring. It’s just too much for him and tells them nothing they can’t learn about him in the classroom. Last year, he broke down into tears at dinner two days before the tests started because he was so worked up about them. The teachers say that there’s no pressure and that the tests don’t count for their grades but then they spend six weeks prepping the students to take the tests. My sensitive kid takes all that in and realizes that “hey, wait a minute, they ARE important and this stresses me out.”

She was completely understanding about this and I said I would give her whatever the state wants for us to opt him out. So. No standardized tests for Liam this year.

Second, I brought up the issue of study habits. Last year, the teachers would say “You have X test on Y day in two weeks. Make sure you study.” And then leave it at that. These kids were 10 and had never been taught how to study for anything. They were baffled by how to prep. I took Liam in hand and began to teach him ways to study for exams he was taking but I was really angry that the teachers handled it this way. You simply can’t expect 10 year olds to have this set of skills if they’ve never been TAUGHT them.

The new principal immediately saw the disconnect. I told her that, of course, we would continue to work with Liam this year because we knew that there were increased expectations. I also said that I know that there are things that parents are going to need to work on with their kids and I’m happy to do that but they need to be covering it in the classroom, too. My hope is that by the time I have a fourth grader again they will have gotten their act together a bit more.

I’m feeling more optimistic about this year than I was. Two more weeks and we’ll find out how misplaced that optimism might be. 😉

Liam, Fall 2014

Because I have been so severely slacking in my blogging duties, I now have to go allllll the way back to October 2014 and start recapping stuff that’s happened. In this post, it’s all about The Spud.

In late October, he tested for his second degree black belt in Tae Kwon-Do (E-Dan). In what came as a surprise to absolutely no one, he passed with flying colors. So now his belt has two stripes on it with red writing instead of yellow. He also got a new do bak which has black stripes on the pants as well as black edging on the shirt.

Bowing to Grandmaster Kong

Bowing to Grandmaster Kong

Having his new belt tied on

Having his new belt tied on

New E-Dan!

New E-Dan!

Look out, the Spud is gonna get ya.

Look out, the Spud is gonna get ya.

As always, we could not possibly be prouder of him.

In December we attended his first band and chorus concert. This year he has chosen to sing in chorus as well as play trumpet in the band. He really likes trumpet and I have to say that the kid is picking it up really quickly. He’s reading music and playing tunes and it all sounds like real music.

As for chorus – well. I think it is perhaps not his favorite musical thing in the world. His teacher is not what I would call ‘great’ and it’s evident that the class is very little fun with her in charge. Still, Liam stood there in the front row, opened his mouth, and sang his heart out. Even when they sang “Let It Go.”

Band, on the other hand, was a whole different story with a whole different vibe to the room. The teacher clearly enjoys teaching music and it’s obvious the kids like him and have a lot of fun with him. So, the band portion was much more relaxed and fun, I thought.

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Victory cheer after rocking his part.

Victory cheer after rocking his part.

As for his grades, he did very well in the first quarter bringing home mostly A’s and two B’s. Fourth grade has been a real challenge and he’s working hard. We’re very proud of him.

Still to come in forthcoming posts: Christmas! Quick Takes!

Hello, Again

This has been the longest month EVER. I keep wanting to blog and I keep running out of energy.

I’ve spent the last month finishing my semester of school that I got waaaaaaay behind on over the summer. It turns out that trying to do schoolwork with both kids in the house full time is an exercise in futility. By the time I had them both in school and a set time each day to work, I had to cram 7 weeks of course work into about 3 weeks. And then study for and take finals.

As you can imagine, that’s basically what I’ve been doing when I’m not feeding my children. (Always, CONSTANTLY, feeding someone. I fear the teen years.) You can just imagine how trashed my house is.

But I managed to power through the work and took my finals on Monday. I ended up with B’s in all three classes. I wanted A’s – oh how I wanted A’s – but this is what happens when you shove that much work into that little time. Lesson learned. I am now halfway through; 2 clusters down, 2 to go. I did finish all the hard science stuff which is good. It’s interesting to me and not hard but it is A LOT of information and my poor brain wanted to ooze out my eyeballs. From here on in it’s coding, medical office procedure, and professional experience. My plan is to take several weeks off and then start on the next cluster. I aim to finish the next cluster in late Jan/early Feb of 2015 and then tackle the last cluster. This should put me done with schooling just before code change in October 2015 and since I’m training on the NEW code system, this is good for me. Now I just have to hope Congress doesn’t pass ANOTHER delay to code change. (I know, I know. Good luck with that, Cari.)

The kids are doing well. Fourth grade adjustment has been a bit of a bear for Liam but I’m told it’s very normal and his best friend is going through it, too (though worse). We’re getting in the groove now and he will be fine but it’s a big change.

He started trumpet a few weeks ago. After a single lesson he was getting noise out of it. I wouldn’t necessarily call what goes on “music” (and neither would Molly, who hides when Liam practices) but he practices every day and he seems to really like it so I know that it’s only a matter of time before disjointed blats become actual notes and music. I am so proud of that kid. Talk about a well-rounded education; he excels in math, he’s loving music, he’s a black belt in Tae Kwon-Do. He’s also taking Chorus this year.

Jamie is LOVING kindergarten. He hops in the car everyday at pickup so excited to tell me about his day and all the things they did. It’s really a change from Liam who has never been chatty about what he does at school all day. Jamie just seems so happy to be learning and it’s already making a difference with his speech. I think the review of letters and the sounds they make has really made some things click in his head and certain sounds are coming a bit easier now. He’s also started working with the school speech therapist who is just fantastic. He gets one on one time with her twice a week and I am so grateful for it.

In other Jamie news, a couple of weeks ago he came up to me with his nose bleeding all over the place. This isn’t exactly unheard of with him – he seems to be prone to getting them – but he was clearly distressed about this one. So, I did what I could to staunch the bleeding and calm him down and then started to ask him questions about what happened. He refused to tell me. I explained and explained that I wouldn’t be mad at him and that I needed to know so that I knew whether he needed a doctor. Nope. Wouldn’t tell.

“Jamie,” I finally said, “did you put something up your nose?”

“Yes,” he whispered.

then…

“It’s stuck,” he said.

“What’s stuck?”

“A lego,” he replied.

I burst out laughing. I couldn’t help it. The kid stuck a lego up his nose and it wouldn’t come out. I had him blow hard and it didn’t budge so I got a flashlight (thanks, smart phone!) and looked in the nostril. The lego was visible so there was a chance I could get it with a pair of tweezers. I had Jamie lie down on the bathroom floor and I veeeerrrryyyy carefully went after Mr. Lego.

It came out easily enough but I have to say I was a little shocked and just WHAT was up there. When I saw it with the flashlight, I thought it was just one of those small round bricks.

Oh no. THIS, is what I pulled out.

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Friends, that is the handle to a lightsaber blade. All I could see in his nose was the round bottom end. He shoved that sucker waaaaay up there.

So, we had a little chat about how legos don’t go up our noses and that maybe we shouldn’t do such a thing again. Oh, and don’t put them in your mouth and swallow them either. You would think I wouldn’t have to tell a 5.5 year old this information but apparently I do.

Now that life is returning to a less hectic pace I want to spend the next few weeks getting some things done around here. First, I need to clean the place top to bottom. Christ, it’s a hovel. Also, I would like to put my plans for Project Playroom into motion so that I can reclaim my family room to some extent. I had also signed up to do The Subtraction Project in September but that was just a bit much for my overloaded plate. So, I’m saving all the email prompts and I’m going to do them in October. I should also try to get Jamie’s room painted while it’s still warm enough for open windows.

I should probably stop being such a lazy ass and get my butt back on the treadmill.

And on that note, to the treadmill I go!