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Children’s Hospital Emergency Services Visit

Cinco de Mayo, a Super Moon and an ER Visit

Ever heard of a “SuperMoon?” Don’t feel astronomically challenged if you have not, over forty years old and I am just now hearing of this myself. In short, a “SuperMoon” is a term used to signify when the Moon appears to be closest to Earth. This past May fifth was one such astrological event and what I thought would be a fun Saturday night star and moon gazing activity with Kim and the kids but my good intentions turned eerily disastrous.

I’ll have to rewind the story to earlier in day… Not too far back tho… Early evening, I had mixed up a frozen batch of margaritas, it was Cinco de Mayo after all, and I had mentioned to Kim the coincidental fact that a super moon and the traditional south of the border springtime celebration coincided. (I’m not sure the history of Cinco de Mayo. Perhaps Mexico’s independence day? What I am sure of tho is that on this day we drink margaritas and eat Mexican cuisine). A plan was hatched to enjoy a couple frozen beverages, down a few tacos, dust off the telescope and find the binoculars for a fun night of sky watching. Harmless, right?

Around 8:30pm I scouted for the best spot to set up the telescope. The luminescent glow of a big bright moon was breaking the horizon line behind a row of tall trees directly across the cul-du-sac from our house. Attempting to find a decent lunar gazing location was frustrating, finding a clear shot of the ascending moon was impossible and it would take at least thirty to forty minutes for the moon to rise above the trees.

Higher ground is what we needed and I told the family that we must walk up the street to the elementary school for a clear unobstructed view, (ie, I begged Kim). Mobilizing quickly, the kids stayed in their pajamas and flash-like found flashlights. I cautiously disassembled the telescope and gently placed it in our green and red Little Tykes wagon with Sophie who was playing flashlight tag, my face being her target. Everyone except Hailey was excited for our sky watching expedition. She sometimes has issues with unanticipated change of plans, her main complaints being that she was in her nightgown and didn’t want to walk up the ‘big’ hill to the school. She had many other grievances as we marched toward our destination and I’m not even sure what those grumblings were; I let her cries drown in the bask of an ever brightening moon-lit sky.

Keeping track? It is now 9pm, we have four tired (one incendiary) yet excited little girls, a gargantuan full moon, Kim and I had consumed a pitcher of frozen Margaritas. What could possibly go wrong?

With flashlights brazened, we trudged up the “big” hill, (something we do almost every school day morning) to a steep narrow staircase that leads to a side entrance of the elementary school grounds. As we crested the last cement step the SuperMoon came into full view and it was strikingly magnificent.

Olivia (8) was fascinated, pressuring me to immediately get the telescope setup and I hastily chose a dark location, (better for viewing stars, but not so great for watching children) right behind the school at the apex of three terraced fields. Hailey (7) and Kim coldly bickered. Elizabeth (4) blasted into an elliptical orbit around Olivia and me while I was focusing the telescope on the oversized moon and in her exuberance she inadvertently enticed Sophie (2) from the Little Tykes wagon to join her in ring-around-the-telescope. Worried that the two little rockets would de-orbit and crash-land into the telescope I informed them that they were in a no-fly-zone and to jet “over there” gesturing with wave of my hand to a non-descript location.

In an instant, it happened: I had focused the moon into view and was making a slight adjustment for Olivia to have her first look. Hailey and Kim were still squabbling. Elizabeth darted down a steep shadowy incline that abruptly ends at a three foot retaining wall which drops down onto a black asphalt playground. Kim had hollered at Elizabeth as she was in mid-sprint down the hillside, “Elizabeth! Get back up here now!” Indifferent to Kim’s clear direction, Elizabeth defiantly did not stop, lunar crazed she kept on running down the hill with Sophie following closely in her contrail. Even with the reflective light of the massive moon they were both essentially flying blind. Elizabeth instantaneously stopped directly on top of the retaining wall, however Sophie did not stop and careened off the top of the wall disappearing into the darkness.

Silence, for a brief moment, frozen, for a split second and then an ear-splitting wail. My feet grew wings and carried me swiftly to Sophie. The crying was a good sign but she laid on the blacktop in a crumpled heap. I approached her cautiously reminding myself not to instantly scoop her up knowing that I could damage her little body even worse. She lay motionless for a minute and her cries were felt throughout the neighborhood. Rapidly scanning her body I couldn’t see anything dreadful although even with the radiant moonlight, it was too dark to see. She reached up for me and slowly drew herself into my arms. As she cuddled closer I softly felt her entire body for any breaks and gingerly carried her to the meager glow of the outdoor light fixture above the back door to the school. Using one of the kids flashlights, I noticed right away a large goose egg forming on her forehead, both elbows badly scraped up and her knees a bit scuffed. Intensely scrutinizing Sophies injured little body, if anyone had been talking to me I didn’t notice or acknowledge. I’m not even sure that I explained what my intentions or plans were to Kim or the kids, I didn’t speak a word, they instinctively followed my lead.

With Sophie cradled in a one arm football hold, I picked up the telescope, threw it into the wagon and pulled it behind me. “I got this. I got this.” Kim was trying to tell me she would tend to the wagon, but we still needed to get down the steep staircase so I pulled the wagons’ front two wheels over lip of the first step and waited for Kim to pick up the rear and we carried the wagon down the steps in silence listening to our baby scream.

Briskly walking home I still hadn’t said a word.  Sophie’s cries remained a constant ear shattering high pitch. Rapid fire questions from the kids were being ignored, “Will she be ok? Is she hurt? Is she bleeding? Does she have a broken bone? Etc. Etc. Etc.  I wanted to scream, “I don’t F-ing know! Shut the F-up!” Instead I bit my lip. The short walk back home felt like one of those dreams where you are running as fast as you can but going absolutely nowhere. Then Elizabeth asked, “what happened?”

“I’ll tell you what happened! Someone didn’t listen to their mother and now Sophie will probably have to go to the Hospital!” I regretted saying this as the words involuntarily exploded out of my mouth because at that moment, Elizabeth bared the blame and her older sisters let her know this too. “Yea Elizabeth, its all your fault Sophie got hurt!” Oye, sometime I say the worst things at the wrong times and this was definitely one of those moments. Elizabeth hung her head and slowed her pace. I wanted to tell her it was not her fault that Sophie fell, yet that would have to wait because I needed more than a flashlight to examine Sophie’s injuries.

Once home Kim and I quickly determined that an ER visit would be wise. Utilizing a couple stretchy hair/head band thingys I secured an ice pack to Sophie’s swollen head, made sure I had my ID and insurance card then strapped her into the five-point safety car seat. She was bewildered and crying but not as vocally. Before departing for the hospital, I talked to Elizabeth and told her again that what happened was not her fault, however by the look of regret and sadness in her eyes, our brief chat didn’t matter, she felt responsible and worried about her baby sister.

Hospitals are second nature to me; hockey injuries, childbirths, surgeries, illnesses, etc. I have plenty of expertise with emergency rooms although this was the first ER visit for any of my children. Fortunately, our home sits within a five mile radius of at least a half a dozen hospitals .Smartly, I chose (ie, Kim directed me) the children’s emergency room at the hospital where Sophie was born. Her medical information was already in the computer system which expedited the admitting process. All that I had to do before she could see a doctor was to fill out one standard medical history form, show my ID and insurance card.

This was my first experience with a Pediatric Emergency Center and the Children’s ER at St. John’s was great. The staff was quick and friendly however I was asked the same questions from the admitting attendant, the head nurse, Sophie’s nurse, an anesthesiologist and the physician. “Explain what happened?” ‘Umm… parental negligence.’ “Did she loose consciences?” ‘Umm… I almost did.’ “Did she vomit?” ‘Umm… pretty sure my wife hurled when she saw our baby disappear over a wall or maybe it was when she saw this nasty lump growing on her forehead.’

The doctor was confident that Sophie was going to be alright. The scrapes on her elbows indicated that she shielded herself and deflected some of the impact. “Better out than in,” is what the Doc said about the swollen bump on her head and “Better in then out,” regarding our taco dinner. No x-ray, no MRI, no CT scan. The prescription; Ice for the contusion on her noggin and elbows, ib profane for the pain and  polysporin for the abrasions. We were at the children’s ER for almost three hours, it was around midnight and before we departed Sophie was her inquisitive self again, playing with the toys and games that were available to us.

Kim was still awake when we arrived home from the hospital and overwhelmingly relieved to hear the optimistic prognosis. One odd coincidence tho; Elizabeth had vomited a few times while Sophie and I were at the pediatric emergency center. Strange, was Elizabeth sickened with grief? Or was it a metaphysical ‘twin-like’ sibling connection where the side effects of the accident transposed from one sibling to the other? I believe the former rather than the latter, although it was an ominously monster sized full moon and perhaps there is something supernatural about a SuperMoon.

 

Good Sister Awards – Parenting Tip for Sibling Rivalry

If being mean spirited to your sister was an olympic sport then my girls would take the gold, silver and possibly the bronze. Expecting arguments and bickering, they aren’t immune to disagreements, but lately the hurtful things my children have been saying to each other, truthful or not, needs to be addressed and nullified. Yesterday, a Daddy Day, the teasing, squabbling and screaming eclipsed to the point where I wanted to say, “If you tell her three times to stop and she doesn’t stop then go ahead and hit her.” I’m not even sure what that specific issue was about, but I was not interested in solving every tiny argument between Olivia and Hailey, I was looking for a solution to the main problem which I might have solved or I may have made the problem worse, probably made it worse, you tell me.

The sibling rivalry between Olivia and Hailey is severe. Nothing Hailey does measures up to Olivia’s expectations. Hailey’s artwork is “worthless scribble scrabble.” Or, Hailey “doesn’t even know that.” Or “Hailey’s not even good at that.” Attempting to belittle Hailey’s accomplishments, Olivia feels more important and smarter about herself. I have tried to explain to her that this is a bad thing, “Making her feel bad doesn’t make you feel good.” It drives me crazy because among many things Hailey is quick minded and anticipates what is expected of her. And god forbid, if I ever try to praise Hailey for something, without Olivia whining, “What about me!? I am too!? or I did that too!? or I’m good too!?” And Olivia gets plenty of credit and praise when it is deserved. She just can’t stand to see Hailey succeed at anything.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not all Olivia, because Hailey can be just as mean to her sisters too, “I’m never going to play with you!” is her signature threat when she doesn’t get her way. Or storming off to her room to sulk when she doesn’t win or is losing at a game. Or screaming point blank in Elizabeth’s or Olivia’s face not to take her stuff. Or Hailey shaking her tooshie and teasing Olivia, to the tune of naner-naner boo-boo’s, “I have a play-date and you are a poopy-head.” Hailey’s raspberry song has been rattling around up there for a day or so.

Elizabeth is competing with her two older sisters too. For instance she jockey’s for a seat in Kim’s lap during story time throwing elbows to get the most comfortable spot. She complains at the dinner table feeling left out of conversations and tonight swiped the last pear slice from Olivia gloating as she gobbled it up. She can’t share or take turns with any of her six or seven prized baby dolls. But I guess this is all normal for a one year old.

After a busy daddy day morning of refereeing I had devised a rudimentary plan; use my princess’s competitive nature to enlighten them in good sisterhood skills. My bright idea: ‘Good Sister Awards’ and the timing could not have been better because as I was hashing out PB&Js for lunch Olivia noticed an Elmo cup at the top of her place setting. A simple mistake on my part really, because for the past year anything sesame street has been unacceptable, “that’s for babies” I should have known by the disdain for sesame street, except for when the show is actually playing, not to set the Elmo cup anywhere near Olivia and she whined and complained about the cup. I told her, “it is a cup with your water in it” she persisted and I replied, “you git what you git, and you don’t throw a fit.” Hailey joining chorus on the last part.

Olivia kept going on and on about the Elmo cup. I repeated “no” a half a dozen times, each “no” pushing me closer to going Alec Baldwin on her. I considered that for a split second before deciding to cave-in and offer her the opportunity to pick her own cup when suddenly Hailey volunteered to switch cups. The parenting gods had chosen this moment to merit the first “Good sister Award” right there on the spot to Hailey for her unselfishness and she was proud of herself. And what does Olivia do? She fusses, “What about me… I’m a good sister too?”

“Show me, don’t tell me.” I replied to Olivia which spurred her to break her string cheese precisely in half to share with Hailey. “That deserves a good sister award” I said finally pleasing her. During lunch we discussed how we were going to track the awards and came up with a plan to fill decorated plastic jars with ‘good sister award chips’. Then those chips could be cashed in for special prizes.

Good idea?  I’m not so sure yet myself, it may be a bit too competitive in nature, I’ll let you know how this one turns out.

The Chicken Dance

Among all the titles parenthood bares ‘referee’ suits me. More specifically a Hockey ref. I often find myself shouting, “Hey! (A loud ‘hey’ is my whistle), that’s two minutes for high sticking.” Or “Hey! Two minutes for roughing.” Or “Hey! Two minutes for instigating.” Hockey refs are physically and emotionally tough too. Sometimes I’ll take an elbow while breaking up a tousle or get popped with a flying ‘puck’ if I’m not quick enough to move out of the way. Just as a Hockey ref would, I attempt to let the ‘game’ unfold unimpeded, interrupting only when the balance between fair competition and unjust play needs to be defined and resolved. Determining that equivalence is a delicate and dynamic aspect of the job, inaction may bring jeers and boo’s from the ‘spectators’ and exacting unfair punishment may harbor resentment from the ‘players.’

This past week, while at our school districts’ learning center playroom, a mechanical dancing chicken that, of all things, plays the ‘chicken dance’ song sparked a ‘dance’ between Olivia and Hailey. Coincidently this is the same ditty that blares at some point during every NHL game in our town. The toy bird was at the epicenter of the brawl being stretched tug-of-war-like and spun as the girls used gravitational momentum to fling one another off the chicken. Fake feathers were flying everywhere all while its’ tune playing, “da da da da da da da… da da da da da da da… da da da da da da da…daa daa daa daa.” The result of this ugly battle involved screams, laughter, tears, hydrogen peroxide and a few band-aids. Although I think the chicken got the worst of it.

Instinctively, I wanted to jump in between them and stop the fray but when they started giggling and laughing it reminded me of myself when I play Hockey. I’ll be battling for the puck, in the corner, along the boards or in front of the net chuckling and hyperventilaughing the whole time. Some of my teammates find it obnoxious and irritating, they think I’m not competitive enough or serious enough. “It’s not like we’re playing for the Stanley Cup,” is my repartee. I like to play recreational Hockey for several reasons; one, because it’s fun, two, for exercise and three, to healthily alleviate stress.Both my girls have stress in their young lives. It’s true. Olivia is weighted by carrying heavy leadership responsibilities. Hailey lives in the giant shadow of an older sibling whom she must compete for everything with. Not to mention the pressures of daycare, dance lessons, swim lessons and two over baring parents. One reason they bicker and wrestle is to vent their stress.

First born, Olivia is the one who has to figure things out, toys, puzzles, games, rules of conduct and then must be a good role model and teacher to Hailey. Olivia cares about the affections and well being of people close to her, “are you happy daddy?” And when I come home from ‘playing with the other daddies,’ she meticulously scans my body for injuries, “do you get any boo-boo’s daddy?”

Being the second child Hailey has scrapped for everything since conception and has dealt with; a womb that had just been vacated, stained bottles, collapsed nipples, frayed clothes that hadn’t even been stored, worn toys with failing batteries, soggy edged books, half-soled shoes, even her teachers at preschool are hand-me downs. She is a competitor, “watch dis (this) daddy!” Probably doesn’t help when Kim and I say things like, “first one inside the car wins!”

Back to the crazy dancing chicken: Looking-on, I realized they weren’t fighting over the toy; this is something they always do. They argue and grapple over everything and nothing. It could be an object or a word or an idea, it doesn’t mater. Digging deeper I couldn’t help but think maybe they constantly fight to gain Kim’s and my attention. This is probably true but there seems to be something more involved going on between them and I never saw it until ‘the chicken dance,’ Olivia and Hailey fight because they trust one another with their emotions and feelings; letting it all out, battling, arguing, laughing and crying in the same instant without trepidation, assurance that they truly love each other.

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 11/02/06

 

Sibling Protection

A spontaneous bonding experience for Olivia and Hailey placed me in an awkward and morally conflicting situation. It all went down on ‘Daddy Day’ at our local public library. The newly remodeled children’s wing was completely packed. The rainy day drew quite a crowd and the ‘reading castle’ appeared more like the mall playground than a quiet place for children to indulge in book perusing. To avoid the vigorous mass of little bodies I had quickly devised a plan for each girl to find a book for me and I would read aloud to them. They each acquired a book without hesitation. We found a cozy corner, a couple of big round rainbow-colored pillows to settle into and all was going well for about three pages of the first book, however the loud chattering and all the action was just too distracting for them. So they set off on a glorious campaign to conquer the castle.

 

Ten seconds later, my girls were completely oblivious to my existence. So I decided to reserve a book for myself through the library’s computer catalogue, only twenty feet from the castle. Five minutes pass and suddenly my daddy radar went off, code red. I overhear Olivia’s bossy voice “No, you can’t come up here!” I assumed she was talking to Hailey. I downgraded my alert status to orange. Olivia was standing at the top tower of the multi-level apparatus. I could see her through the plexiglas window but I couldn’t see Hailey. Olivia continued to shout, “I said no. You! Can’t! Come! Up! Here!” Time for a daddy intervention. My mind raced for the right thing to say, ‘Olivia the castle is for everyone to share’ was the best I could think of. As I approached the freshly painted faux-stone palace I saw that Olivia was not yelling at Hailey but rather a young boy. I was somewhat confused; confronting a stranger with such nastiness was completely out of character for Olivia. The wiry boy was a bit taller than Olivia I guessed him to be about three maybe three and a half years old. I had noticed him and his older brother, probably six-ish, when we first arrived at the library. The two brothers were there with a young Russian nanny, who at the time of the altercation was indulged in a hair brushing from big brother. She was teaching big brother the proper technique. Her heavy ascent was a dead giveaway of her place of origin. She was clueless and aloof in her duty to the young three year old.

 

The poor little guy, he whimpered, “bbbut I wwwant too” and as I moved closer, I could see Olivia obstructing his passage to the top level of the castle. For me to climb-up inside the play fortress and get in between them was impossible, the custom crafted play castle was definitely designed for tykes. I was just about to give the top level plexiglas window a solid tap to get Olivia’s attention when the little boy gave up and turned away. But Olivia was not finished with her maliciousness, she followed him down level by level, soon I saw the little guy come down the exit slide on the other side of the citadel. Olivia flew out right behind him and blasted him with her feet. The two of them start jawing at each other as I made my way over to them. “You kicked me!” The little boy finally stood up for himself. Olivia quickly shouted back, “No I didn’t!” Just as I’m about to put the Vulcan-death-grip on her, out of nowhere, Hailey comes at the boy fists clenched with the velocity and quickness of a bolt of lightning, striking the unsuspecting little guy right in the gut. He doubled over, stumbled, almost fell down and then ran to the safety of his nanny and big brother.

 

Honestly, and this was my moral dilemma, I wanted to congratulate Hailey for her bravado and rushing-in to defend her sister. It took me a few seconds to take in the whole situation. The boy was crying and shaking while hugging his nanny, so distraught he couldn’t verbalize what happened. Hailey, with steely confidence and fists still tightly clenched had her eyes locked on the young boy waiting for any retaliation. Olivia was indifferent to what had just transpired or rather tried to look innocent. I didn’t congratulate. I didn’t scold. I simply pulled them into a corner and said that it was time to settle down and take a break. I told Olivia that I saw what she did and stressed the importance of, “no kicking and you hurt that little boy.” I also calmly explained to Hailey “no hitting.” I gave them both a warning and that any more hitting, kicking, pushing, and/or shouting would result in us having to leave the library.

 

After a minute of rest and reflection, they were very good for the duration of our library visit. They sketched with the library’s miniature golf-scorecard sized pencils, they searched for interesting books and they even sat down with me for a whole book reading. Olivia had found two Disney Princess books, carried them along with her library card up to the librarian’s desk and check-out. Hailey got her own card made and borrowed two Sesame Streetbooks. I noticed that the victimized boy eventually calmed down and had kept his distance form my girls. Can you blame him? So I assumed he was physically ok.

 

Even now as I write this, the ethical question still rolls around in my head; Is it wrong for me to feel proud of Hailey for sticking up for her sister the way she did? Obviously I don’t want to encourage her hitting little defenseless strangers, but I really wanted to reward her for protecting and defending her sister.

 

Originally Posted on BabyCenter, 09/09/06

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