31 July 2010

3 Weeks Later: A Surgery Update

I am sure that you have all been waiting on tenterhooks (you have, haven't you?) to hear an update after Eamon's frenula surgery. Well, there have been several results, some strongly hoped for, some quite unexpected.

1. Eamon is saying a lot more sounds and "words." I put "words" in quotes because you sort of have to know him to know what he's saying. He has this habit of dropping the last sound off most words. Therefore, "Doh!" means anything from "dog" to "door" to "the sound that you make when someone bumps into something." BUT, Eamon has started babbling more in general. We had read about how most kids talk to themselves for half an hour or so when you put them in bed, practicing sounds to themselves. Well, Eamon NEVER did that before his surgery. About a week afterwards, though, he suddenly started having long, in-depth (if unintelligible) conversations with his stuffed animals. There is, of course, no way to prove that it was because of the surgery, but the timing is awfully coincidental.
He will also attempt more sounds. For instance, it used to be that if you made a sound, he would try it once. If he couldn't get it right the first time, he would rarely try again. But now, we read books like Mr. Brown Can Moo, and he will actually say "muh" for "moo" and "zzz" for "buzz."
Sunday mornings are fabulous
2. Eamon can stick out his tongue past his lips! There is no doubt that this is because of the surgery. He still has a faint heart-shape where his frenulum holds his tongue down (they can only cut so much, after all), but his tongue definitely goes out past his lips now.

3. He can kiss more normally...when he feels like it. All Eamon's kisses used to involve him opening his mouth wide and sort of enveloping as much of your face as possible. If you were lucky, you got tongue too. They were wet, to the say the least. Now, when he chooses, he can pucker. We still get the sweet and sloppy kisses when he's feeling particularly loving, though.
Yell loudly and carry TWO big sticks

4. The pacifier is gone! I admit it--Eamon was a pacifier baby. He was SO orally fixated as a baby. I never wanted a kid who took a pacifier, but when he was first born, the nurses kept shoving one in his mouth. Family members did, too, and I was so tired and it made him stop crying, so I decided maybe that wasn't the battle to fight. And he loooooved sucking on things so much, that I figured a pacifier would be better than his thumb because at least we could take that away eventually (it is frowned upon to take away their thumbs). Our rule was that he could only have the pacifier when he was in bed or particularly stressed (such as going the doctor, sick, or on long car rides). Nevertheless, I was NOT looking forward to the inevitable pacifier weaning.

BUT! We didn't have to do anything! Apparently, after the surgery, the pacifier just felt wrong in his mouth. Or maybe it hurt? Who knows? Regardless, he just sort of stopped using it. Then he started chewing on the pacifier to the point that he was pulling off the plastic and making it a choking hazard, so we had to take his pacifiers away. AND--he didn't care! Not one bit. When he was sick a few days later, we tried to give him the pacifier just to calm him down and get him to stop crying, and he took it out of habit, but didn't keep it long. He just didn't want it anymore.

5. The oral fixation, overall, has ended. FINALLY. It seemed like Eamon kept putting EVERYTHING in his mouth a lot longer than most kids. EVERYTHING. If he picked it up, it went in his mouth. We had to watch him just about every second. It could get exhausting. But again, I guess because his mouth was hurting for awhile, he just kind of stopped. Things occasionally go in his mouth now, but not nearly as often--mostly just when he's teething and feels like chewing (as opposed to using his mouth to actually examine objects).

SO, for what's it worth, our opinion of the frenula surgery is a positive one. We wish we'd gotten it earlier, but I suppose in terms of the pacifier and the oral fixation, having it at 18 months wasn't too bad, either. Mostly, I'm just glad that Eamon is excited about making new noises and trying to talk so much more than he was (but it's nice not to always get my face washed with kisses, too).

So happy...we could just dance!

27 July 2010

Thoughts on (and in) a Box

Introducing the many uses of...The Box.

First, step carefully into The Box.

Use The Box as a chair...or a nest...or a Time Machine!

Then, glare at anyone who tries to disturb Quiet Time with your duck.

You can also use The Box as a home for your Lion, should have a Lion, and should he need a home.

Sometimes, drumming is in order. Another great use for The Box!

Without a doubt, The Box is one of the best things your parents can ever give you. Just ignore them when they wander around muttering, "Why did I spend all this money on toys, anyway?" When you are in The Box, you are in your own little world, and nothing else really matters.

23 July 2010

All Boy

So, I'm sure that there are some quiet toddler boys out there who would prefer to stay inside and read a book rather than throw themselves here and there and everywhere.

And I'm sure that there are some girls who are non-stop bundles of energy.

But I also know that stereotypes come about because they are more or less true (even though there are exceptions to the rules) and I'm also sure that Eamon is All Boy.

Eamon loves to run. Why would anyone walk anywhere ever?--that's his philosophy. Even when he doesn't know where he's going, he's getting there as quickly as humanly possible. He is loud. Always. He is curious. About everything. Sometimes he just starts dancing and screeching with wild, carefree abandon, as if life is simply too wonderful to not break out into a jig in the middle of your well-child check-up.

The doctor was, thankfully, amused.
During the appointment, Eamon did sit nicely for the doctor to examine him. He even let Dr. Bolduc poke around in his mouth, because quite simply, Eamon loves Dr. Bolduc. He always has. With other doctors, he will be reluctant, he will fidget, he will fuss. But he seems to idolize Dr. Bolduc just a bit.

After the examine part was over, and we were discussing, I don't know, sunscreen or something, Eamon ran (because he always runs) up to Dr. Bolduc and took a hold of the bottom of his stethoscope. Dr. Bolduc had used it briefly with Eamon during the physical exam, and Eamon had seen something about doctors once on Sesame Street the week before. Eamon took the bottom of the stethoscope and breathed into two times. One, two, check. Then he held it up to Dr. Bolduc's tummy, and pointed to his ear, like he wanted Dr. Bolduc to listen.

Once again, thankfully, the doctor was amused.

And Eamon, he's a BIG boy. Well, a tall boy, anyway. He's at the 95th percentile for height (34 1/2 inches), 90th percentile for head (this explains why we have such a hard time getting his shirts on and off), and 50th percentile for weight (25 1/2 pounds fully clothed). I would like to be jealous of Eamon's metabolism, but I know exactly how he maintains such a slender physique: Eamon never stops moving, unless he's sleeping (and often, not even then).

Eamon doesn't just idolize his doctor, either. While he lurrrves pretty girls, Eamon wants to be a Man. Anything his father does, Eamon has to do, too. One time...ONE TIME...Aaron brought Eamon and Nesta (the dog) back from my parents' house, and to make everything easier, he put the leash around his neck instead of carrying it...and now Eamon is obsessed with the leash. He wants to wear it around his neck. All the time. We don't let him, of course, because that's a choking and tripping hazard, but if the leash accidentally gets left where Eamon can find it, it immediately goes around his neck. Because Daddy did it. Once. Months ago.

This isn't to say that Eamon doesn't love the female presences in his life, and we're doing our best to acclimatize him to the quieter things in life as well. I am doing my part by trying to dress him nicely every day, so that at least he'll be a well-dressed wild munchkin. I have him help me pick out my jewelry, which he does by either shaking his head and saying, "No," or clapping wildly (granted...the child has no taste, but at least he's getting into the spirit of things). We've finally gotten him interested in books, which require sitting still for a few moments.

I think the difference between little boys and little girls was most poignantly illustrated over the July 4 weekend when we went to visit Eamon's second cousin, Kala, who is three months younger than Eamon, and obviously, a girl. I observed Kala's mother stand Kala on the ground, turn around, fix a plate of food, talk to someone for a minute, and then turn back around...and Kala was still in the same spot, even though something like TWO MINUTES had passed.

I looked at my little boy, who during the same amount of time, had tried to empty out the cooler, thrown a stick, run into the pool locker room and had been brought back, and was currently trying to see how rocks tasted.

One of the other mothers there, another mother of girls, laughed as I tried to keep up with my little boy. "He keeps you busy, huh?

Yeah. You could say that.

21 July 2010

Testing, Testing

Well, we all knew that it would come sooner or later. Eamon’s always been a curious boy, and now that he’s almost 19 months old and has discovered that other people have buttons, he can’t help but see what happens when he pushes them.

My mother, who watches Eamon each day, had been making noises about his occasional defiance for about the past month, but I never saw it. It wasn’t until summer started and I was home more that he started really learning what annoys me, and could therefore capitalize on it. Over the past week, it seems, Eamon went from wanting nothing more in life than to please me and make me happy to wanting to see what happens when he smacks me in the middle of the Bed, Bath, & Beyond (he was angry because I had the audacity to move his hand away from some knives that he was reaching for).

We’ve certainly had our moments at home, but the Bed, Bath, & Beyond episode was new. He hasn’t tried those things in public before; he’s usually a darling too busy trying to get everyone to love him.

And, of course, the question is: what do you do? My 19 month old just hauled off and smacked me. And there are people watching.

Well, there are probably a hundred different reactions, but I went with one somewhere in the middle: I leaned in really close to him and explained in no uncertain terms how there was a corner, right there, that corner, where he could go sit in Time Out if he ever hit Mommy again, and Mommy didn’t care who was watching, do you understand me, young man?

He was strangely well-behaved the rest of the time.

So I guess that solved the problem. This time.

17 July 2010

A Most Determined Flirt


Are you female? Are you young? Are you pretty? Then allow me to introduce you to Eamon Wolfe, who is truly, madly, deeply in love with you.


Eamon is a flirt of gigantic proportions. He’s friendly to everyone, but the kid totally loses his head for young, pretty girls. (And by young, I mean late teens, early twenties. He has no interest in women his own age.)


Instance the first: Swim lessons Last Week


Eamon usually looooves swimming, and nothing can distract him. When the other kids cry or scream, he just ignores them. He is there for a purpose, and that purpose is swimming. But last week? Last week, the lifeguard who stands on the side of the pool…she was a pretty young girl. It’s usually a guy, and Eamon never notices. But last Saturday, Eamon insisted that we swim to the side of the pool I don’t know how many times, over and over, and then he would point and smile at the young lady. She tried to dutifully ignore him at first, since her job is to watch all the babies, but after enough shrieks and award-winning smiles from him, she finally gave in and smiled back.


Eamon was over the moon. But he wasn’t satisfied. He now wanted to get out of the pool. I thought he wanted to practice his jumps, but no—he wanted to walk over to her so that he could…I don’t know? Get her phone number? Ask if she was tired from running through his thoughts all morning? Propose?



Instance the second: Olive Garden


Everything was going fine for our Father’s Day lunch. Eamon was eating his chicken fingers, dipping his French fries in my chicken marsala sauce (why not?), and everything was quite pleasant. And then, two young ladies, barely in their twenties, sat at the table beside us.


Eamon continued eating, but in a distracted way where he was actually turned towards the girls and absent-mindedly pulling food off his plate and putting it in his mouth without actually seeing the food. We probably could have fed him Brussels sprouts and he wouldn’t have noticed. He was instead smiling and waving constantly. The girls were not immune to his charms. At one point, one of them stuck her tongue out at Eamon and made a funny face, and so the rest of our meal was spent watching our child stick out his tongue and shriek at the young ladies to get their attention. I don’t think the girls talked to each other for the first 20 minutes of their meal, since they were far too busy being distracted by our girl-crazy son.



These are not the only instances, by far. Anytime we go anywhere and see a pretty young girl, Eamon ratchets up the charm to the nth degree. The few times that he has been ignored (very few), he is completely befuddled. You can almost see it on his face—“But I’m cute. Why won’t you pay attention to me? All the other girls do!”


The upshot of all this is that I get to meet many pretty young girls when I apologize for the ridiculous attention that my son pays them. It’s silly, really, because I’m not really in the market to meet pretty young girls, so all Eamon’s talents as the World’s Best Wingman are completely wasted.


Of course, nothing really comes of these innocent flirtations, because, well, Eamon is 18 months old and most of these girls are about 18 years old. As I said earlier, Eamon really isn’t interested in girls his own age…but they are interested in him. At his gym class, there are a couple of toddler girls that chase him around all the time, trying to kiss him. Eamon finds them highly annoying, and runs away…straight into the arms of the gym class instructor…who happens to be about twenty, and you guessed it, quite pretty.


13 July 2010

Free Frenula

Everything went fine with the surgery. Turns out that Eamon's upper lip frenulum (the labial frenulum, also called the labial frenum) was also tied down. This can also cause speech problems and delays, as well as really significant orthodontic issues down the road. If you're really interested in frenula releases (and why wouldn't you be?) and you don't have issues with looking at mouths, you can learn a lot by visiting this website.

Here's some fun pics to document the surgery:

Eamon on the way to surgery, completely baffled as to why his mommy was so gosh darn mean and wouldn't give him any breakfast. Or water. What was up with that? Only Lion really understands his pain.

Eamon, the young Jedi, awaits surgery in possibly the most fabulous playroom ever.

I see London, I see France...

Eamon recovering from surgery by cuddling Bert and watching Sesame Street.

Eamon assuring us that really, he'll be fine.
And that concludes this portion of the blog.
Now for the public service announcement for all those people contemplating having babies in the future. This PSA is not for the prudish, as it involves breastfeeding and words like "nip*le," so if that weirds you out, just go back, look at the pics one more time, and X out like nothing ever happened.
Here's the thing everyone kept saying when I started asking about Eamon's frenulum: "Did you have any problems breastfeeding?" And I would answer "yes," and then all the doctors said, "Why didn't you say something?"
And I took a deep breath and restrained myself.
Because folks, I DID say something. I told the lacation consultants and nurses and probably even the custodians at the hospital that something was wrong, the baby couldn't latch, it wasn't working right, and everyone told me there, there, we'd get it, and it would all be fine. Well, Eamon and I tried and tried (and cried and cried) and eventually, we sort of got it. He latched, though only in one particular position.
But it hurt. It always hurt.
And when I mentioned it to doctors or lactation consultants, I got told that well, it was supposed to hurt. Try some nipple cream.
So, okay, I tried the nipple cream. It still hurt, and Eamon had a lot of trouble with acid reflux, and it got to the point where neither of us particularly enjoyed the entire experience...so we went to bottles. I say that easily enough now, but at the time, it felt like a huge, massive failure. I pumped for awhile, but breastfeeding was over at about 6 weeks.
I read the literature on tight frenula now, and I realize: yeah, that was the problem. Pretty much the entire problem. Everything fits. Eamon couldn't latch right, so he was compensating by tightening his jaw. This made him tired, so he kept stopping feeding in the middle to rest his poor jaw--which is why breastfeeding took forever. Because his latch wasn't right, he would gulp down too much air, and that gave him the acid reflux. When we went to bottles, latching was so much easier, and everything was more or less fixed.
At the time, I didn't get it. He was my first baby, so I had no idea what breastfeeding was supposed to feel like. I just kept thinking that I was being a wimp and needed to toughen up. I was also terribly sleep-deprived, so I just wasn't coherant enough to put together the his tight frenulum with the breastfeeding. And moreover, I desperately wanted everything to just be okay, so I didn't push Eamon's regular pediatrician, who just keep telling us to wait and see.
So, okay, there's some guilt about the breastfeeding. I don't care whether there should or shouldn't be--whether anyone thinks it's my fault or not--because I still feel like Eamon and I missed something pretty special no matter how much I logically tell myself that I did the best I could at the time.
Which I think, maybe, accounts for my pushing the pediatrician this time for the surgery. Like, I had gone with the "wait and see" approach once, and while Eamon didn't actually suffer, this all could have been fixed awhile ago. Newborns recover so much more quickly from frenula releases than toddlers because the frenulum itself hasn't thickened yet. It's a 5 minute procedure and the kid can breastfeed immediately afterwards. There's no general anesthesia, and no stitches.
I screwed up. I did the best I could, but it was a mistake not to push for the surgery right then and there.
So when it became apparent that Eamon was having trouble talking...I couldn't do it again. We already missed out on breastfeeding because I wanted so much to just believe that everything was okay. I couldn't wait and see. It was time to finally make the right decision for my baby.
The public service announcement is this: Ladies (and gentlemen), if breastfeeding hurts, and your doctor tells you to just use nipple cream, try it for 2 days. If it still hurts, then go back. Find a lactation consultant, and tell them. Tell them nipple cream doesn't cut it. Tell anyone and everything until someone finally does something about it.
And if someone says your child has a tight frenulum, for heaven's sake, just get the thing snipped then. Bully your doctor if you have to, bully your insurance company. Because even though Eamon is okay and recovering, this surgery was still a lot more traumatic than it needed to be (though not nearly as traumatic as it would have been if we'd waited any longer).

I love you, kiddo. Sorry your mouth hurts.

03 July 2010

Tongue Tied

Eamon and I have this game. It’s a strange kind of game, but one that suits us perfectly. We take the entire stuffed animal menagerie out of his crib (which currently consists of Lion, Elephant, Giraffe, Dog, Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Blanket) and we put them on the floor. I get a pillow and he gets a pillow and we lay them side by side. He takes off my glasses and then I lie down on the floor while he artfully arranges his stuffed animals around me. He then selects two or three stuffed animals for himself (and Lion is always one of them), and then we lie down and pretend to nap.

We pretend for about a minute, then he gets bored, and we have to sit up. We have to choose a new spot in the room and move the menagerie, the blanket, and the pillows over there. I put my glasses back on so that he can take them back off, and the entire process repeats. He finds this game hilarious, and I like it because it allows me to lie down while playing.

So this morning when we were in his room, Eamon really wanted to play this game. Communicating this was not an issue—he just bumped his fists together (it’s supposed to be “more,” but he interprets the sign as “I want”) then slid his hand across his chest (“please”) then growled (“Lion”). I asked, “Do you want me to get Lion out of your crib?” He ran to the crib and excitedly wagged his fists in the air (“Yes, yes, yes!”).

So that’s why I’m not really worried about his language, even though up to this point, the only words he can say without fail are “Mimi” (for Mommy, which I think I actually prefer; we will certainly never have that problem at a party where he called for his mother and twenty moms turn around), “Da!” for Dad, “Ma” for Grandma, and a weird sort of puckering noise that means “Grandpa” (I think he’s trying to do the “p” sound, but instead it comes out like a really exaggerated kissing sound). Occasionally he says other words, but even his “No” comes out most of the time like a weird D-J-M hybrid.

Well, I say that I’m not worried. I am worried, but not about his ability to understand and use language. I know that other kids Eamon’s age talk, talk, talk, and Eamon says very few words. But he understands almost everything that you tell him (even when he’s pretending that he doesn’t because he doesn’t feel like doing it), and he signs about 30 different words.

What I am worried about is his physical ability to talk. Eamon was born with a frenulum that was very far forward—the frenulum being the little piece that holds the tongue to the bottom of your mouth. The doctor who examined him two days after he was born noticed it and told us it could possibly be a problem later…but then we met with our regular pediatrician and he said that it didn’t look that bad and we should just wait and see. So we decided we would go along with his opinion.

Until recently. As soon as Eamon was old enough to be interactive, we noticed something peculiar. We would stick our tongues out at him, and he would stick his tongue back out at us—and it didn’t go past his lips. It made this weird little heart shape where his frenulum was holding his tongue down. And we noticed that he couldn’t make a ton of different syllables—especially not the ones that involve moving your tongue a lot. Vowels, he has down, and he’s pretty good with the sounds that you just use your lips for (“mmmm”, “buh”, etc.)

So we went back to the pediatrician. He looked at Eamon’s tongue, poked around in his mouth, and said that it should be fine and we should continue to wait and see until Eamon was about two. At least, that was his professional opinion, but he would give us a surgical consultation if we really wanted one.

Well, I’m not usually one to push for things. My mother was a pediatric nurse practitioner, so I’m pretty good about believing doctors most of the time…but a kid should be able to stick his tongue out past his lips, right? And this “wait and see” attitude…I asked what would happen if it turned out that his tongue really was a problem, and the doctor said that we might be able to try surgery at a later date…or speech therapy.

Whoa…speech therapy? I’m an elementary school teacher, so I know how much kids love to get pulled out of class for speech therapy. They love it this much: not at all. In fact, most of them hate it, and one of the happiest days of their lives is the day they “graduate” from speech therapy.

I asked for the surgical consult. Just to see what the surgeon would say.

So a few weeks later, we went. The surgeon was very nice, and even though we couldn’t get Eamon to stick out his tongue, the surgeon poked around his Eamon’s mouth with a tongue depressor and said that yes, his frenulum was way too far forward, and yes, it was going to cause problems with speech. If we decided to wait until Eamon was two or three, just to see, Eamon would learn to compensate, but there would be some sounds that he just wouldn’t be able to make. He could probably learn to be more or less effective after having speech therapy for awhile. Then again, he might not learn to make those sounds with therapy, and then he might have to have the surgery anyway, and then we would really have to have lots of speech therapy because he would have to learn to talk all over again.

The surgery itself is an out-patient procedure. It takes 20 minutes, though Eamon would have to be put under general anesthesia. It would make it hard for him to eat really hot things for a couple of days, but he would be able to eat and drink within an hour after the surgery.

So…20 minutes…or an indeterminate amount of time in speech therapy? That might end up with him having to have the surgery anyway? When he’s older and will definitely remember it? And will end up with more speech therapy afterwards, too?

Well, this is definitely one of those times when you just have to make the best decision that you can with the information that you have at the time. It’s possible, of course, that if we played the “wait and see” game, Eamon would learn to compensate and mostly speak okay with just a few odd sounds here and there, and maybe he’s so personable that the other kids wouldn’t make fun of him for it, or maybe it could be fixed with just a small amount of speech therapy.

That seems like a lot of maybes.

As the surgeon said, “I can’t guarantee that he won’t have speech therapy in the future, but I can guarantee that it won’t be because of his tongue.”

So we finally came to the decision that a 20 minute procedure that would definitely rule out his tongue being his problem with language—yes, that was worth it. We have a surgical appointment on Monday, July 12. Until then, we’re just going to watch a lot of sign language videos.