Maxon in Kindergarten

School started on August 24th and we are now two months in. He has been having a blast since Day 1 and he is still excited to get up and go everyday! It has been quite the adjustment, and to be honest, we are still trying to smooth out the new rhythm but it has all been positive. He has biked or walked most days to school, he is thrilled to pick what he has for lunch (usually either a peanut butter-and-jelly or ham-and-cheese sandwich), and looks forward to whatever classroom “jobs” he’s assigned for the week.

According to our parent-teacher conference (for real), Maxon is settling in very well in the classroom and is quite the teacher’s helper when other kids need help with reading. He’s made a lot of new friends and has requested playdates. And he’s already gone on a field trip to a farm out in eastern Boulder County, which marks the first time Maxon has been somewhere that neither Mike nor I have been. I love that he is building and filling his own little part of the world!

One Arm Strong

Brought this artwork from last month home after finding out his arm was broken. Ominous.

Brought last month’s artwork home after finding out his arm was broken. Ominous.

HOW IT HAPPENED

So there we were. A boring typical Friday night at home. We had already finished dinner and doing the countdown before bedtime and the kids were running around like banshees. On what was to be the final lap through the dining room, we hear a thump from the doorway to the playroom and immediate crying. No strangers to this sequence of events, Mike and I gave it a few seconds and then proceeded through the usual spiel, “Uh oh. What happened? What got bonked?” Maxon emerged from the playroom crying, giving the recap through sobs and hitches. Nothing sounded out of the ordinary and when we inspected his elbow and didn’t see any cuts or scrapes, we figured he at least needed some ice since he didn’t seem to immediately spring back up to play again. He calmed down shortly afterwards and was ready to go to bed.

The next morning, I asked him about his arm and he said it still hurt but was better than the night before. The area right below his elbow was definitely swollen but not bruised and that was about it. We continued to give him ibuprofen for the swelling and iced it whenever he was sitting for a while. We went to the playground and Cooper’s swim lesson that morning, although he didn’t do very much and most certainly didn’t use his arm. I asked him again if his arm really was OK because if it wasn’t, we would have to go see a doctor. Maybe that was the wrong approach but we went about the rest of our day with zero complaints from Maxon.

The arm didn’t look any different on Sunday morning but Maxon said it was feeling a little better. We continued with the ice and ibuprofen, hit up another playground, and spent the rest of the day with a friend and her daughter. He still tried to swing the bat, catch and throw the ball, all with his left arm. He ran around, but was a little slower. Still no complaints from Maxon, but Mike and I started to get concerned. He never seemed to forget about not using his right arm and that swelling just wasn’t going anywhere. We decided to give it one more night’s sleep and if it didn’t look any better on Monday, we were calling the doctor.

THE FOLLOWING DAYS

Arm was still swollen the next day. Mike spoke with a nurse at our pediatrician’s office and before he could even get the whole story out, she tells him without a doubt that he should be seen by Urgent Care, and in fact, go straight to the Urgent Care department at the closest branch of Children’s Hospital. Right about that second, we felt like the most foolish parents ever. Of COURSE he should be seen by a doctor. We should have gotten the clue at least by Saturday morning. What the heck were we thinking?

Maxon and I arrived at Children’s Hospital as soon as we could and were checked in quickly. I had never had occasion to be at any Children’s Hospital before and I am still quite impressed with just how perfect it is for children. Colorful and bright waiting areas with very patient staff and relatively short wait times. We saw a doctor a few minutes later and he didn’t hesitate to send us over to get x-rays, where they confirmed he had an olecranon fracture, a fracture at the head of the ulna. The doctor seemed genuinely surprised that he wasn’t in more pain and that he was going about his kid-ness with no complaints. He was splinted and issued a sling with instructions to call the orthopedics department for a follow-up in the next few days. We headed home shortly afterwards, with a quick stop for a milkshake for Maxon, partially paid for by mommy guilt.

I called the next day to set up a follow-up appointment at orthopedics and was relieved to hear that not only could we come in the very next day but that he could be seen by a doctor from Children’s right here in Boulder. As soon as we got in the room at the ortho’s office, I could tell that the doctor was worried about something else. Several more x-rays later and a second opinion from the head of trauma surgery at Children’s, the doctor informed me that not only was his ulna broken, but the radius, the other lower arm bone, was dislocated. Before any bone-setting could be done, the radius had to be forced back in place and that could only be done in surgery. At that point, there were no decisions I had to make as he had already secured a spot in the trauma surgery agenda for Thursday.

Since he was scheduled for surgery and going under general anesthesia by 1pm, the typical no-eating rule was enforced starting at 5am. We made sure he had his favorite dinner that night and let him snack all the way up until bedtime. We explained the no eating and drinking rule and all that was going to happen the next day and he accepted it in his usual Maxon matter-of-fact fashion. He woke up the next day and was “treated” to apple juice and Gatorade for breakfast and he was ready to roll.

THE BIG DAY

We arrived at Children’s as scheduled at 11:30am, two hours before surgery and were quickly assigned a pre-operation room. And that’s where things came to a halt. It was a good hour before a nurse came in to see us and that’s when we found out that his surgery got bumped and he wouldn’t be taken in until 3pm. But since it was already about 1pm at this point, he still couldn’t have anything to drink. Again, Maxon was a complete rock star. No complaints of being hungry or thirsty. No word of being bored or scared. Heck, I wanted to cry a little at how thirsty I was but I did not dare complain about my own discomfort, or even worse, drink or eat anything in his presence. He spent all his time waiting working on his math workbook and word searches. All with his left hand, mind you. I finally convinced him to take a break to watch TV and possibly even nap, which of course is when all the doctors started rotating through to get all the paperwork signed and go through what was going to happen during surgery.

And then it was time. According to the surgeon, once the radius was back in place, and assuming no other problems found, they were going to place pins to set his ulna and then put him in a cast, of which Maxon could choose any color he wanted. Surgery should take less than an hour, most of which would be making sure he was completely under anesthesia. I accompanied Maxon to the operating room and got him settled on the bed. I saw my first glimpse of fear and anxiety on his brave little face but the nurses quickly picked up the energy and started chatting away with him as a distraction. As they gave him laughing gas to relax him and put him to sleep, the nurse tried this little joke on him:

“Why did the skeleton not want to go to the scary movie? Because he had no guts!”

Maxon didn’t quite get the joke, but he was well on his way to sleep during the punchline and it was my cue to leave the operating room. It’s the second time I saw my child go under, and while a bit easier this time having a little experience under my belt, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t need a couple of minutes to compose myself before I went out into the general waiting room.

Forty minutes later, the surgeon came out into the waiting room to tell me everything was done and it all went very smoothly. I was able to see him once he started to wake and they didn’t there was any bad effects from the anesthesia. I appreciated that everything in Children’s Hospital seemed to be children-sized because I think it would have been heartbreaking to see his little-ness in an adult bed but there he was, my big brave boy recovering like a champ. He was extremely groggy and reluctant to stay awake, which is just so unusual for him! He seemed comfortable enough, although not entirely sure where he was. He took a couple of hours to sleep off the remaining anesthesia but once it started to leave his system, he was back to our lively, happy Maxon.

We settled back at home after an hour-long drive with Maxon eating almost the entire time. We were armed with typical over-the-counter pain medication but also had a prescription for a stronger painkiller if Maxon was having a hard time. Not surprisingly, Maxon didn’t need it and once the weekend passed, he didn’t even need Tylenol. He was back to running and jumping the next day, much to our dismay. Seriously, couldn’t he stop for like a minute?

THESE DAYS

Maxon goes back for a follow-up on July 6th and I’m hoping that we can bid adieu to the pins and cast that day. In the meantime, we have gotten into a rhythm of the new normal. He can wear pretty much any of his shirts, although there is a specific order in which his arms and head enter or exit said shirt. He takes showers just as often, but we now wrap his casted arm in a plastic bag plus a washcloth wrapped around it to catch any errant drops. Utensils and his drink are placed on the left side of his plate. He swings his bat with his one good arm. He writes and colors with his left hand.

This is how you heal gracefully

This is how you heal gracefully

And he tells jokes. Like the one about the skeleton that didn’t want to go to the scary movie. He tried that one the day after his surgery, completely unprompted by me. Actually, he muddled the question, couldn’t remember the punchline, and to this day, still asks me what “guts” are.

Maxon, my baby. It’s what you are made of.

T-Ball

(Insert usual apologies for lack of blog posts)

This spring, we decided to try Maxon’s hand at T-ball. We weren’t sure how it was going to be received since we were coming off of a hot season of college basketball and, at the time, there was little interest in anything else. Mike and I tried to boost it up by getting completely decked out in gear and equipment and watching all the early-season baseball games on TV and soon enough we were seeing real interest growing.

We missed the first two games of the season because of our April vacation and then the next game got rained out (a pattern to be repeated throughout most of the season) so by the time the next game rolled around, Maxon was on point. While his batting was a little tentative, he was all in for going for the ball. To be fair, along with half of his team. A grounder would dribble towards first base and wouldn’t you know everyone from first, second, and third base would come running for that ball. Of course, the other half were busy playing with dirt or spinning in circles. But clearly, Maxon was the most attentive player with the most effort because at the end of his very first T-ball game, he got the game ball.

Here we are, almost two months later, and it’s all baseball all the time. Batting and throwing practice in the backyard, before and after a broken arm (yep, that’ll be another post), and almost daily games on TV plus replays in live-action in the living room. He knows almost all the Colorado Rockies by name and has a game schedule he references often to remind us when to set up a DVR recording. He has already told me that baseball is WAY better than basketball and football.

Puzzling

Maxon was introduced to word searches during our vacation by watching his cousin make sense of a big block of letters on the back of the kids’ menu. He diligently worked on his word search despite the fact that he can’t actually read the words he was looking for. The ambitious kid just matched each and every blessed letter in the word. We tried to find a word search book in the airport shops on the way home but we ended up with a more grown-up version that would be far too difficult for a 5-year-old. Or so we thought. During one of Cooper’s ski lessons, we sat out to the side and tried to find at least one puzzle that he could start with. On this particular one, not only did he have to match the letters, but they would not be in a straight line or diagonal. Not even backwards. These were in a square.

To be fair, he did get a fair amount of direction and clues. But, you know... he's five.

To be fair, he did get a fair amount of direction and clues. But, you know… he’s five.

The other “word searches” that he could do were equally laborious. One had international city names that were so unusual that I first thought the letters themselves were mixed up and had to be solved before you could find them in the puzzle. As it turns out, literacy was probably a hindrance since Maxon just doggedly matched each letter the same way he did more common words. The other word search was missing all the vowels in the puzzle so he would have to pick a word from the list and then guess which vowels fit in the space… after a brief lesson on what a “vowel” is and a quick-reference key written at the top of the page.

He also got into doing some simple math last year by way of an Android app and significantly improved his addition skills in the last few months with his obsession with basketball and keeping accurate running totals of his 2- and 3-point shots during a “game.” When watching real games, he would constantly ask the difference between the two scores to see how big the lead was. One day while getting ready for bed, he was giving me two 2-digit numbers and asking me to add them together. I’m not too shabby in that department but he blew me away when he gave ME the answer before I figured it out! I asked him how he knew, say (because of course my 37-year-old brain doesn’t remember the actual numbers), 47 and 39 added together is 86 so quickly. At first, he said he “just knew” but after asking again, he said something like 47 and 40 would be 87 but then he subtracted 1. Such a proud and terrifying moment to know that my ability to help him with his math homework might just end well before high school.

Mike has been trying to introduce more advanced math skills since Maxon was so interested. Well, advanced for a pre-kindergartner. Since Maxon could add single and double digit numbers together, he taught him how he could do really HUGE numbers. It has opened a new door for Maxon’s entertainment. So much so, he entertains himself by making his own math problems!

The concept of comma placement is still in process. He also doesn't actually know how to "read" the total amount. Slacker.

The concept of comma placement is still in process. He also doesn’t actually know how to “read” the total amount. Slacker.

Just Like Riding a Bike

Mike and I thought it would be no big deal to teach Maxon to ride a bike. After all, he’s been on his Strider bike since he turned 2 years old and was easily balancing on it shortly after and taking it all over the bike path. When he began outgrowing the Strider, we got him a big-boy bike to start making the transition on his fourth birthday. First of all, the Strider bike weighs roughly the equivalent of a feather so imagine our surprise and Maxon’s difficulty in keeping a sturdy, heavy-framed bike upright. Second, it quickly occurred to us that Maxon hasn’t had much experience in pedaling much of anything. He had no idea how to coordinate moving the pedals with his feet on top of keeping his balance. This was going to take a bit longer than we thought. We reluctantly put the training wheels on his new bike so he could at least get used to the weight and pedaling his bike. Over a year later, he was still schlepping his bike with the training wheels around with no interest in taking them off. Because of Maxon’s cautious nature, we realized the battle cry to remove the training wheels would have to come from Mommy and Daddy.

We picked a warm sunny day for Maxon’s first lesson and headed down to the large parking lot at the Justice Center down the street. I took Cooper down to the creek to kill some time and Mike got Maxon started with the typical holding-the-seat approach, also what I call “the Back Breaker.” Maxon was definitely having fun but he was definitely not doing any actual work. Mike’s tall frame was begging for mercy. We traded on-point duty with the kids but really, at the end of that first session, the only progress made was that Cooper discovered a stash of really awesome rocks to throw in the creek. We called for a lunch break and vowed to come back later that day.

Disappointed by how little ground we covered that morning, I decided to totally geek out and Google “how to teach a kid to ride a bike.” Don’t laugh; it was useful and so simple. One of the sites I read said to start off on a small hill so that the kid could get used to balancing without having to move any pedals. That made total sense to me and lucky for Maxon, he already knows how to balance on a bike. He just had to remember how.

After lunch, he and I went back down to the parking lot and I outlined my “lessons” for him. Lesson #1 was riding down the small hill that went into the parking lot. It was short enough not to be daunting but steep enough to get a little momentum. I told him he could use his feet at first but when he was ready, he could lift his feet up so that he could balance on the bike. On that very first run, his balancing instincts kicked in and he sailed down the hill with glee. He did half a dozen more runs, starting a little higher on the hill each time. For the next run, I told him he was ready for lesson #2. I suggested that while he was rolling down the hill, to try to find the pedals on his bike with his feet. If he didn’t, no big deal; we’d do it on the next turn. It took another half a dozen times but he eventually got his feet smoothly on the pedals and started to turn them!

Now that he had a little confidence plus the concept of balance back in his brain and the motion of pedaling, he was ready for lesson #3: putting it all together for distance. We headed down to the parking lot and I went back to “the Back Breaker” position where he worked on trying to pedal fast enough where he could keep his balance after I let go. There was much trial-and-error, frustration, and some tears, but at the end of that day, I only had to hold him long enough for him to gain a little speed and off he went!

Lessons #4 (starting off by himself) and #5 (making turns) came the following weekend. I think these lessons are going to take a little longer but look at this kid go:

When Your Dad is a Tarheel

…he will build you a Dean Dome. Finally, a game that doesn’t come with a billion pieces to lose or step on!

Preparing for free throws have gotten elaborate.

Practicing some defensive moves.

And when a little monkey brother sees and he also wants to do, you try to give him his own space.

Maxon assigning hoops

Maxon assigning hoops

Maxon has also come up with some snazzy names for the people on his basketball team. He’s even named those that are on the opposing team and some have specific positions. Generally, these are one-and-done players but some have had some significant time on the court. Here is the list as of today (spelled phonetically; Maxon didn’t specify spelling):

Delicate Shawner
Minijae Edgar
Harold Mirage (plays for Louisville)
Fist Bonner
Alex Neader
Mark Forner
White Brown (plays for Georgia Tech. Usually assigned to Daddy)
Sallin Michael (call him “Sal”)
Crist Bonner (plays for Louisville. No relation to Fist, curiously)
Michael Graver
Oscar Grover
Kyle Blake (plays for NC State)
Cobb Cabber (plays for Georgia Tech)
Miles Calisto (on the bench)
Scott Stillman (plays for New York)
Earthorn Marson (plays for Lousiville)
Clam Slibber
Junior Cactus (plays for Michigan State)
Rattle Justin (plays for Stanford)

A New Allergy

And it’s not who you think. Did you know that a person can be allergic to over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment? No? Join the club.

It all started when a certain two-year-old decided to take a bite of his big brother’s shoulder late last summer. Maxon was wearing a shirt and the bite didn’t break the skin so we thought that was the end of it. After tears and ice, of course. But a few weeks later, Maxon complained that his bite still hurt. Upon closer inspection, the area was still a bit red but it still didn’t seem that it had scabbed over or any indication that his skin had broken after all. Just in case, I decided to put a little generic Neosporin on it and stuck a band-aid on it so that Maxon wouldn’t be able to scratch it.

A few days later, the little bit became a blistery mess. Worried that it was not infected, we headed straight to the doctor. It did not appear to be infected and he seemed more puzzled that more redness was actually more under the adhesive of the band-aid than the bite itself. He concluded that he was having an allergic reaction to the latex in the band-aid or the triple ointment itself. He recommended getting an allergy test to confirm which one was the culprit and to not use either product on Maxon until then. And ooh, ooh, lucky for us (read: “lucky”), we already have an allergist on staff and we made an appointment for the first availability, which was not until this past week. I probably would have shrugged off non-food allergies in any other case, but I have heard a latex allergy can be a big deal considering medical and hospital personnel primarily use them. We wouldn’t want the scenario where an emergency causes another emergency.

We started off with the same “scratch” test we did for Cooper but this time, less for food allergies and specifically for latex and the triple ointment and also common environmental allergies. The scratch test yielded very little, but most notably positive for a moderate allergy to cat hair. Oops. Suspecting this may be the case, the allergist recommended doing a “patch” test for latex and triple ointment since these kind of contact allergies tend to show up days later, while the scratch test results are checked after 20 minutes. We left the office with a dime-sized sample of both products stuck to his skin and secured with a large bandage to keep them in place and had an appointment to remove them three days later.

And his skin was absolutely perfect prior to this test.

And his skin was absolutely perfect prior to this test.

What we found three days later was that his skin was reddened and blistered under his bandage, even extending past the dime-sized sample into an area about 1.5 inches in diameter. There was even a spot at a corner of the bandage where there should have been nothing but the doctor concluded it was cross-contamination from when they applied the original patch and a smudge must have been left on the nurse’s glove. What’s alarming about that one was that he had taken a shower and worn several sets of different clothes by then but that first instance of contact was enough to disrupt his skin. Here we are four days later and his skin still boasts a wide red patch, although not blistered anymore.

While this is not a food allergy, it is still a cause for concern. The antibiotic components that make up the triple ointment can be found in other antibiotics, whether in oral or injectable doses. This was just applied to his skin. Who knows what havoc it can wreak when broken down into the bloodstream? We may go back in and test for each specific kind of antibiotic just so we know for sure which one(s) is the culprit and which one may be safe. I’m not sure which one is better: not dealing with the everyday realities of another food allergy or having to remember at some point in the future when I want to apply first-aid or he has to take an oral antibiotic for sickness (he never has) that we need to take to check and double-check the ingredients in the medication. Either way, my brain is already maxed out!