Top 8 years old!

The day finally arrived.  It was time to get Kalvin's top braces.  The reason for Kalvin's braces is not to straighten his teeth, but to help move his bottom teeth and jaw back a bit.  He has a severe under bite and we are hoping the braces will adjust his jaw.  As we hoped,  after about six months, his bottom teeth have moved back a bit.  The orthodontist will adjust the treatment plan as we go along to assure his jaw is correcting as expected.  We are hoping to avoid jaw surgery which I hear is very long and painful. We chose the braces first thinking that Kalvin has a lot of orthodontic work in his future.  We didn't want to traumatize him out of the gate-at age seven. So far, the plan is working.

Kalvin, anxiously waiting the procedure to start.
The bottom braces have been easy peasy to deal with, but the thought of the top braces seemed to cause a lot of anxiety.  Kalvin was worried about the application process.  "Will I throw up (overactive gag reflex)?  Will it hurt?  Will I have to wear head gear at night? Head gear to school?"

So many worried thoughts running through his little mind. 

He is ready to get this over with.

Things moved right along.  Very little gagging, even with all the tools in his mouth.

Here they are drying the glue.  Kal was so patient.

I could not believe what I saw next.  Never, in all my days, have I ever seen one of these contraptions.  When the doctor held it up, I thought there was absolutely no way it was going to fit into Kal's mouth without an abundance of gagging.  I sat silent.  It turns out, I was so wrong.  The doctor plopped it into his mouth and wallah...

We stared in disbelief.  Finn, nor I,  could believe what we were witnessing.  We were stunned.  One just never knows.

No problem, even with this all going on simultaneously!
Kalvin was still as could be.  Just chillin'.
He couldn't wait to sit up and check out his new wires.

 He really wasn't sure what to make of all the new hardware in his mouth.

The top braces have turned out to be just as easy peasy as the bottom braces. 
Thank you all for stopping by.  Please feel free to ask us any questions in the comments or via email.  This previous post on bottom braces has been one of my most popular posts.  I see that people are reading it every day so I wanted to be sure to keep you up on our braces journey.  Thank you.

Leave My Hand in Your Hand - CHD and Siblings

Kalvin had his three month ultra sound and visit with the doctor following the blood clot in his left leg.  As we approached the room, Kalvin began whining and complaining about the visit.  Nerves I imagine.  "You know how many ultra sounds I have had?" he asked no one in particular.  I looked at him and smiled and replied with an answer I am not too proud of, "Not as many as I have had."  I know it wasn't the answer a young boy who has undergone more medical procedures than any one person should have endured well into their adult years, but it fell out of my mouth.  He was just looking for a little sympathy.  He was suffering from a sinus infection as well and just wanted to be home already. 

He jumped up on the gurney in his usual cheery fashion, put a smile on his face and said to the technician, "Let's get started."

I tried to save face by commenting on what a good patient he is.  But on this afternoon, the most mature encouraging words were coming out of the mouth of a babe.  Kalvin's three year old brother.

Some days it feels like Finn has endured just about as much "medical torture" as Kalvin.  He is dragged along to witness a lot of it.  He is usually very upbeat.  Keeping us all on our toes.  We try to make it fun.  It is a good thing Finn is fascinated with the elevator buttons and kinda sad at the same time that he knows exactly which floor to push depending on the elevator we are in.

We try to spare Finn any appointment that may involve a needle or a lot of hours in a hospital.  But he likes to be with us and come along for the ride. I thought an ultra sound certainly was innocent enough; after all, Finn has been to quite a few by now.  On this particular afternoon though, Kalvin had been teasing Finn that he too was going to need an ultra sound.  As much as I reminded Kalvin not to tease his brother and reassured Finn that he was in fact not having any procedures, he was still very nervous.  When we went to sit down beside Kalvin's bed, Finn practically leaped into my lap. 

"Mommy hold me so Kalvin won't take me in the bed with him," he pleaded gripping my arm. 

"Hold my hand so Kalvaan won't get me in the bed." 

Kalvin went on in a playful brotherly way giggling. 

"Kalllvaaan, don't harraaasss me!" Finn yelled as he grabbed hold of my hand.

Once the technician began the ultra sound, Finn relaxed and even whispered in my ear, "Mommy, Kalvaan is a good patient." 

"Yes Finn, he is always such a good patient just like you are," I reminded him.

"Leave my hand in your hand mommy."

I whispered in his ear that he was being very brave just like Kalvin. He tightened his grip just a little more. 

"Finn, you are doing a good job, just like Kalvin," I reminded.  He smiled. 

It is so nice to be able to comfort him.  That just being there and holding his hand is enough.

"Mommy, this is fun."

Everything looked great for Kalvin's leg.  No sign of a blood clot.  The blood is still flowing nicely through his femoral artery.  Next appointment...six months!

We headed across the street to the pediatrician to get an antibiotic for Kalvin's case of sinusitis.  But not before stopping to pause at the ball drop. The boys love to follow the ball.

He watches so intently.

I love how his hand is on the glass.  Look at these little hands.  They grow so fast.

You can just see it all over Kalvin.  His face.  His posture.  He is not feeling well.  Kalvin has suffered with sinusitis his whole life.  Adenoids out.  Little help.  But a dose of Augmentin fixes it immediately.  The cases of sinusitis are also becoming fewer and farther in between as he grows. Thank goodness. We headed across the street to the world's best pediatrician!

Where Kalvin had a little fun with mirrors.  I think we were all delirious at this point.

Look at how big Kalvin's hands are getting.  They grow too fast.

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For What She Did For Me-success with cognitive behavioral therapy for kids(CBT)

Back in July,  we started Cognitive Behavior Therapy at Boston University's CARD (Center For Anxiety and Related Disorders).  The program was magnificent.  Our coach, Meredith, and Kalvin quickly bonded and he was really ready to conquer his fears head on.  The therapy begins with a lesson in how our brain and body work when we are scared.  Kalvin learned that stress is normal.  Everyone needs a bit of fear to survive.  Fear is what keeps us from running out into traffic.  These simple teachings really resonated with Kalvin.  I think it comforted him to know that everyone experiences anxiety to some degree.  Everyone.  He knows that when anxiety stops you from doing things that you want to do, that it is not healthy.

CBT is about exposing yourself to your fears one step at a time.  A ladder approach.  Knowing that your fears are keeping you from fully experiencing life seemed to propel Kalvin forward.  We put our fear ladder together, rating our fears and listing the easier exposures at the bottom and the really scary goals at the top.  As we began our exposures, Kal would get anxious, experience physical symptoms and then suddenly something would take over and he would say "let's just do it.  Come on, drop me off.  I can do this!"  It was amazing to watch the transformation. 

Anxiety is becoming a regular part of society.  Just think of the tragic events that have unfolded over the past year.  As much as we try and shelter these traumatic situations from our kids, anxiety is still becoming part of their daily lives.  After we completed the cognitive behavioral therapy, I read this article in the Huffington Post and thought, wow, here it is in black and white...exactly what we did.    I will say, having a Coach as wonderful as Meredith really made a difference.  Not all of the techniques Kalvin learned at CARD were new to us and;  in fact, we have practiced some of them before, but going weekly and having a coach guide us and assign us homework, made it work for our family. It wasn't me, the nagging mom, telling him this is what he should do, but a trained doctor working with him and assuring him this was going to work out, things were going to get better for him.  And they did.

The results have been amazing.  Kalvin has done things he has never done before.  Some of his feats were listed on his ladder.  Others are the result of the overall confidence he has gained.  You may recall a post back in May where I talked about what a day at the park can reveal about brothers. Kalvin does not like slides and wanted no part of going down a large one on this particular day at the park, but peer pressure from his two year old brother convinced him to give him it a try.  Kalvin followed his little brother up the big ladder and down the loopy slide.  The look on Kalvin's face revealed that he was stepping outside of his comfort zone.  Sliding was not fun for Kal.  Not even the second or third time.  

This December we took a trip and stayed in a hotel that had a small water park with two huge water slides.  I almost fell over as Kalvin dropped his towel, looked up at the top of the slide and headed up the stairs never looking back.  All alone.  Finn was too short to go on the big slides.  Kal was going to go down the water slides all by himself.  No talking himself into it.  He acted as if he had done this a million times before.  Up he went.

And then he came down.

With a big splash.  And went back up.  Over and over again.  He went in the tunnel slide.  He went in the water slide that was completely covered over and over again.  L O V I N G  every minute of it.  It is something I will never forget.  The look on his face.  The pure excitement.  The fun he was having.  He never once mentioned that it was a tall slide.  Or a slide that was completely enclosed.  He has barely been down a slide since last May and now he was acting as if he had never feared it.

No one said a word.  We just stared in awe.  No one mentioned that this was his first time coming down a water slide.  We all reveled in the joy.  In the fun.  In the excitement.  And maybe one might think he has just matured.  He is older now.  Kids outgrow these fears. But I tell you, it is so much more than that.  Look at the expression on his face back in May. (below) Pure panic.

And then look at him here.  Pure confidence.

Kal is so proud of the work he did with Meredith.  He started slowly,  at the bottom of the fear ladder.  We used a Fear Thermometer (0 being no fear and 10 being I can't do it) to rate our anxiety level when we started an exposure and then again when we were done. We went to stores and separated briefly.  Kal's fear would be rated a five on the Fear Thermometer which is right where you want it to start.  Then he would come find us-don't worry we had someone watching the door. And his Fear Thermometer rating would go right back to zero.  It was amazing to watch his confidence grow with each exposure.  We would do it again the next day.  Over and over until his thermometer rating started at zero.  Then we would move on to more challenging exposures like walking to the soccer field from the parking lot by himself, promising we would meet him in ten minutes.  We had a friend's mother drive him home from an activity while I followed in the car.  One ladder rung at a time we worked our way to the top. 

We also practiced exposures during our CBT sessions with Meredith. Kalvin actually went in a elevator by himself and tried to find what floor Meredith was on.  Riding the elevator alone. Elevator tag she called it.  But you see, this is a boy who would grab on to you for dear life as you approached an elevator,  afraid the door would close and separate us.  For life.  And now he is playing "elevator tag" with Meredith?!?  It was a great combination of home and classroom exposures that helped Kal climb the ladder and make it all the way to the top.

At the end of our twenty weeks, we had a little celebration with Meredith.  Kalvin received a certificate from Meredith and a card from us with

B RU I N S    T I C K E T S  in it for New Years Eve.  He was giddy.  I thought he was going to burst into tears he was so excited for the tickets.

Sorry for the blurry picture.  He was so excited he was jumping up and down!

 Kalvin and Meredith.  What a team.

Saying goodbye to Meredith was really tough.  She really helped our family.  We knew this and we knew that her special bond with Kal really helped him, us, succeed.  We can call Meredith whenever we need advice.  We can go back to the Center for a "booster" anytime we feel anxiety creeping back in control.  That is comforting to us all. 

It is really hard to put into words the gratitude we feels towards Meredith and the CARD's CBT program.  I think Kalvin said it best as we were riding the elevator down from our mini celebration with Meredith.  He held the Bruins tickets up in his hand and said, "I really wanted to give these tickets to Meredith for what she did for me."