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We went to the dentist today. It was a family affair as neither J nor I felt comfortable enough taking both girls on our own. Actually we were pretty petrifed at the thought of taking that on and figured one-on-one defense was a better plan.

This was Ava’s 432nd trip to her pediatric dentist, Dr. Bobby. Dr. Bobby is great and has shown untold amounts of patience as we have gently coaxed Ava along this process. Ava still deals with some oral aversion issues and trips to the dentist have always been, ummmm, let’s just say dramatic. Under Dr. Bobby’s care she’s come a long way even though we’ve still never actually managed a cleaning or polishing. Fortunately she has (mostly) good teeth so there’s never been a reason to force the issue. Every visit is a little better and we take another baby step in that direction. Today we started out with a full floss and a tooth brushing by the hygienist AND she allowed her to use the water spray and the suction tube in her mouth with no tears. Had we stopped there I would have been thrilled and called the day a complete success.

Merry went for the first time today. She did fine. Laid back on the table, put her sunglasses on, opened her mouth and was totally chill with the whole experience. That’s Merry for you. Pretty much how she approaches everything.

But back to Ava.

The lead hygienist was around today and seemed to take an inordinate interest in how Ava was doing – to the point of hovering a bit and even interrupting our regular hygienist as she worked. After Ava was done then we decided it was time to try for the x-ray again so lead hygienist takes Ava off to do the x-ray while Merry took her turn in the chair. Ava was hesitant but wasn’t outright fighting this yet so both J and I were coaxing her over (to include dangling my iPhone in front of her like a carrot). We got her into the x-ray room (again, I count this as success) when she finally balked. Lead hygienist tries gently talking her in, as were J and I, when she suddenly not so gently spouted out, “If you don’t go in here and do this then I will make your mommy and daddy and baby sister go up to the front and they will leave you back here all by yourself.” I amazingly didn’t smack her but quietly stated directly to her that no, we would not be leaving Ava alone. I did walk away at that point to deal with Merry but J stayed right with Ava and they managed to get the x-ray after all (special thanks to Apple and my iPhone and some free app that looks like a Spirograph).

In the meantime Merry is happily swallowing the bubblegum flavored toothpaste and holding onto the dentist provided sunglasses – occasionally putting them on and then taking them off and then putting them on while the regular hygienist cleans her teeth. Lead hygienist pulls up a chair beside her and lifts Ava on to her lap to hold her while we were waiting for Merry. (At this point I’m like all WTF are you all over my kid but I couldn’t do much about it being that I had my hands full of other kid.) She proceeds to sit there for the next 10 minutes playing with Ava’s hair, holding her on her lap, and trying to talk to me about what it’s like raising girls (she has all boys), telling me how much she wants little girls like mine, and calling both my girls ‘sexy little mamas’ with their sunglasses on. Yes. She really did say that – repeated it 3 times actually – to my 5 year old who repeats every.single.thing she ever hears. I’m sure the other kindergarten parents will be delighted when their kids come home with that new phrase. I relocated Ava from lead hygienist’s lap onto the chair with Merry as soon as I could

Dr. Bobby came out about this time and did a quick exam and fluoride treatment for both girls. Ava has a tooth we’re watching that may need treatment in a year or so and Merry’s teeth look pretty good (condition wise) with what looks to be only one missing tooth related to her alveolar cleft (we hope it stays missing and doesn’t show up since it would be *IN* her cleft if it does. Merry is getting ready to teethe her last two (lower) incisors and we should be good for a couple of months – or at least until the two year molars show up.

But then lead hygienist strikes again. She’s got her hands all over Ava again (playing with her hair) when she asks me if they are sisters. I answered in the affirmative. “Yes, they are sisters now.” That answer didn’t suit of course so she asked a second time. “But are they real sisters?” My answer is yes (again) which is when she asked for the third time, “No, I mean are they actually sisters?”. I think J started to realize that I was getting geared up to lose it big time so he answered. “If you are asking if they are sisters by birth the answer is no but they are sisters now.” I’m not sure if that is what shut her up or the daggers shooting from my eyes found their mark.

This whole experience just bugged me. A lot. So I thought about it and waffled over it and talked my co-workers’ ears off mulling over how I could have better handled it and I finally decided to call the practice office manager and tell her about our experience. I laid it out pretty calmly and stressed the following:

1. Ava has a relationship with her regular hygienist. She knows just how much she can push past Ava’s comfort zone and the lead hygienist was interrupting and disrupting that.

2. Calling my 5 year old a ‘”sexy little mama” just isn’t appropriate in my world. It’s just not.

3. Threatening my child with the loss of her parents’ presence to frighten her into doing something is not okay with me. Especially my adopted child who is already scared to death of losing us in any way, shape, or form.

4. The lack of personal and professional boundaries in the way she was talking to and touching my child (playing with her hair, etc) icked me out and irked the hell out of me. I am doing my darndest to teach Ava stranger danger and how people that we don’t know (or even those we do) shouldn’t invade her space or touch her. This lesson isn’t exactly reinforced when a person she perceives to be in a position of authority is doing things like that. (It did show me that we need to have more discussions on this based on the conversations I had with Ava after the fact).

In hindsight, I feel like I failed a bit. I wish I’d spoken out more firmly or more directly to the lead hygienist at the time – but then again I didn’t feel it was the proper space or time to do it since we had both girls right there with us. We have discussed some of the things that happened with Ava – we told her it was wrong of the lady to say we would leave her because we would never do that – and we now know that there are a few holes in our stranger/friend/acquaintance danger lesson plan that we need to patch.

The office manager was appalled, by the way. Seriously appalled. She apologized a million and eight times at least and seemed very concerned that this could be indicative of a bigger problem. She thanked me over and over for calling and I think she was genuine and didn’t think I was just a hysterical, complain-y parent. My only request to the office manager is that they mark the girls’ charts that their hygienist should always and only be K and that I don’t want lead hygienist working on or anywhere around either of them at any time.

So – what would you all have done? Would you have let it go? Not gone back? Called and complained? Did I overreact?

Oh, I do want to let you know that because Ava was such a big, brave girl and didn’t cry even one tear she earned herself a trip to Build-a-Bear this weekend to pick out any bear she wants. She didn’t manage to earn an outfit though (that would have required the cleaning) so it will be a naked bear for the time being. Next dental appointment is in 3 months so she might earn it some clothes then.

This one loves Elmo even more than Ava did – if that’s even possible. (This is Ava’s old Elmo that she decided to give to her baby sister.)

Photo date: 8/24/12


Welcome to the first installment of myPhone Friday. Since my iPhone is my most used camera these days (sad, I know) I’m going to try and post one of my favorite phone photos taken sometime the previous weekend/week. Sounds easy enough, right?

First trip to one of our many local splash pads. And yes, she did go through the big fountain all by herself (and showing up her big sister in the process since Ava has been too scared to do it…until now, that is).

Photo date: 12 August 2012

We’re alive. All is well.

And apparently I have writer’s block. Or maybe it’s that I have so much to say that it seems overwhelming sometimes so I capture it in Facebook status updates or notes to myself on my iPhone and hope that those will be enough to trigger the memories that we’ve been making this summer.

Because that – memory making – is something that we for sure have been doing. And that – – that has been fabulous.

I’m back at work now so time is even more precious than it was before. Merry is in daycare with Ava but not for much longer since my little big girl starts kindergarten in just a few short weeks. She is beyond excited (mostly because of her new lunchbox) while I am angst ridden and traumatized about it. I can’t help but feel it’s the beginning of the end – and yes, I do realize how melodramatic that sounds – but in reality it’s true. This is the beginning of her school career and will culminate in her leaving my house for college (hopefully) when she’s done. But she’s ready so I will hide my anxiety (and tears) from her and I will be her biggest cheerleader the day she walks into kindergarten. Then I’m going to weep in the parking lot, of course.

Merry is adjusting well to daycare. The first day was horrid (she cried, I cried) but she’s found her groove and things have gotten a million times better. In just two weeks we have already seen a huge improvement in her speech and she’s just about caught up with her motor skills. She is in speech therapy with Early Intervention and that has been good – but the day to day exposure to her teachers and the kids in her class is really doing it for her. We have a cleft team appointment in September so I imagine we’ll come away from that with a tentative roadmap for the next year or so.

In other news: My house is dirty. My kids eat too much processed food. I have gained a ton of weight (but I haven’t quite figured out a way to work exercise back into my life yet). Laundry is piled up everywhere. My garden only produced basil and watermelon this year. This is my life. And you know what? It’s all good. Because we are building bonds and shared experiences and that is way more important to me than a clean house, unwrinkled clothes, or a small(er) butt (or an updated blog apparently).

I know there are a few folks who have been waiting for a Merry update. I apologize for not getting to this sooner but we are just exhausted and are making it through this (barely) one day at a time. She is improving every day but that doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly difficult. I theoretically knew this but it’s way harder when it’s your baby who’s going through it.

So – I’m taking the easy way out and copy/pasting my updates from FB. I have a million thoughts that I want to share about the whole process but I am so very tired and cannot make myself do anything more tonight (or probably anytime soon).

Tuesday, May 8 at 12:49pm via mobile
Game on, folks. Merry has cleared all the pre-op requirements (and has gained almost another full pound in 1 week) so we have to be at the hospital at 8AM for a 10AM scheduled surgery time. She will have her lip, palate, and nose repaired and ear tubes inserted. Surgery should take 3-4 hours. I’m already fretting but I really like and trust our surgeon’s plan so I think (hope) all will be well. She will be admitted to the PICU immediately following surgery so it’s going to be a rough couple of days for all of us

Tuesday, May 8 at 9:48pm
I know not everyone will understand this but when I (and J) look at Merry we don’t really even see her cleft anymore – we just see Merry. We fell in love with this face just as it is and I can’t imagine a more beautiful smile than this little girl has. She just lights up a room when she grins and it is truly captivating.

I know this surgery has to be done and it is the best thing for her – – but I am going to miss this face soooo much.

Wednesday, May 9 at 10:35am via mobile
Still waiting — with J at Children’s Hospital of King Daughters (CHKD)

Wednesday, May 9 at 12:28pm via mobile
First update: Palate is halfway done and things are going well. We have been inundated with much appreciated updates and information from both her nurses and her doctors. Next update should be within the hour. The ENT doc came out to talk to us and said things are going great so far. I am no longer weeping in the corner thanks to the amazing folks here at CHKD (and a Xanax).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 1:49pm via mobile
Second update: palate is done and Dr. Magee is just starting her lip and nose now. Ears will be done last. Nurse says everything is going just fine.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:05pm via mobile
J shouldn’t have let me go to the gift shop alone. The chocolate was calling me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:26pm via mobile
Hates playing the waiting game…. I never was good at this. (Posted by J)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:38pm via mobile
Update 3: SHE’S DONE!!! We should be able to meet her in recovery soon!!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 4:16pm via mobile
Resting in the ICU……. — with A at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD). (Posted by J)

Wednesday, May 9 at 5:42pm via mobile
Update 4: Merry is ensconced in ICU for the night (precaution – no problems so far) and looks like she’s been in one heck of a barroom brawl. She’s mostly sleeping off the anesthesia but I suspect this is going to be a long night.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 6:31pm via mobile
Watching my little girl sleep.… She stirs a little, looks at me and will attempt a smile when she sees me then she will roll over and go back to sleep. Hate hate hate that she can’t tell me what hurts but I know she’s at least happy to see me when she opens her eyes and I’m just there….. (Posted by J)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 8:28pm via mobile
Update 5: This super sucks. J went home to stay with Ava and I’m staying here with Merry. She’s eaten a tiny bit of carrots and had some Pedialyte so far but is understandably cranky and tired and annoyed by all the monitors she’s hooked up to. She’s sleeping now and hopefully will for a while. Poor baby – wish I could take all of this pain away from her.

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 12:21am via mobile
Update 6: Hours rocking a sick baby and I was rewarded with a laugh, a quick game of Where’s Merry, a toy trade, and she smiled at me with her eyes. That was worth every minute I spent in that (hard wooden) chair. And now I’ve rewarded her by requesting pain meds since she’s clearly starting to hurt and that’s why I’m here – to help the nurses know what she needs.

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 3:49am via mobile
Being up at nearly 4AM was a whole lot more fun 10+ years ago and when there was a club involved. Now? Not so much.

Thursday, May 10 at 5:05am via mobile
Does this just break your heart or what? Note how she’s holding on to the blood pressure tubing and that she won’t fully relax her legs. This is pretty much the only time she’s been in the crib all night. She’s not sleeping but she’s tolerating (but grouching) me laying her down for a minute.

Thursday, May 10 at 12:43pm via mobile
Update 7: We can go home (as soon as our ride arrives which may be a couple of hours). Yay for home. Boo for me not bringing my car in preparation for Merry to be a rockstar and blow this joint earlier than expected.

Friday, May 11 at 12:55pm
Update from home 1: Merry perked right up once we got home last night and played for a bit. J propped the pack and play up on some books to elevate it and she (according to him) slept okay as long as he kept up with the pain meds. I wouldn’t know since I was dead to the world by 8:30PM. She’s taken a little formula and pureed vegetable soup today by medicine dropper – – all the while glaring at me if I so much as put anything that looks like actual food in mine. This liquid/soft diet for 3 weeks is going to be super fun, I can tell.

She’s very clingy and is sleeping a lot as long as she’s laying on one of us or in the Ergo carrier. The bruising and swelling looks much worse today (which we were warned to expect) and the Surgicel pack in her mouth is making her (understandably) cranky.

I miss her smile. We can tell she wants to laugh and smile but it hurts so she doesn’t. Her eyes still smile at us, though.

Saturday, May 12 at 5:08pm via mobile
Update from home 2: Rough night – poor Merry and poor Mama. She’s eating/drinking enough but not a lot and I can’t eat because she’s a Velcro baby that I can’t put down without her melting down. And then…

Saturday, May 12 at 5:14pm via mobile
Update from home 3: J and I both noticed this afternoon that the packing in her mouth – the packing that isn’t supposed to be out until next Thursday – was slipping. A frantic phone call to our surgeon’s cell and some video texted to him had him sending us immediately to see his partner at his (closed) office to remove the Surgicel now (to make sure it didn’t obstruct her airway). It’s now out, she’s happier and can breathe more easily, surgeon says repair looks fine and this shouldn’t affect proper healing, and I’m still freaking out and worrying about it anyway.