One day Anni was twirling and singing one of her original compositions.
"It's my gift!" she declared.
Dizzy, she fell with spectacular gracelessness.
Laying on her back on the tile floor she began flapping her arms and legs
as if she were making a snow angel.
"Falling down is also a gift!" says she.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Story hour saga. Plus more mommy guilt: there's lots to go around!

So here's the rest of the library story. After getting turned down by the library staff to do a story hour, (see two entries ago) I decided to see if the community room was available to do it independently. At first, I was told that it was unlikely, but then it turned out that there was exactly one evening in April that was available. The next day, I called our local Gift of Hope volunteer leader to give him the rundown. His feeling was that, without the support of the library staff to make it an official "Bloomington Public Library event," that we were unlikely to have much turnout at all. We talked for a while about it, and about my feeling that it was simply a topic that scared the librarians away, and we agreed that this is a project worth pursuing, but that we might have to sneak up on it a little bit. In other words, I should have started working on this last October instead of a few weeks ago. However, we also agreed that this was not something that absolutely had to be done in April, just because it's the big month for organ donor awareness and all. Being as I'm all obsessive and such, I've been asking friends of mine who have 10- and 12-year-old kids whether talk of transplants and organ donation would be emotionally and mentally distressing for them. Most of them have said that their kids (as I suspected) do already know about death, and that they think that they would be interested (in that irrepressible kid way) to know that organs could be used after death, and maybe even comforted to know that life could be brought to others even after someone you love has died. On the other hand, these people are all my friends and so are already people who respond positively to organ donation talk. And they also know me well enough to trust that I wouldn't go in and scare the bejesus out of their offspring. So I think what I need to do is to make a full write-up of what I would plan to say and include a copy of the book I would read, as well as a complete schedule for the whole 30 minutes. Maybe having it spelled out so clearly will help me convince the library staff that this can be talked about. Meanwhile, Glen (our leader) has pointed out that the month of April is already jam-packed with local activities, and so I shouldn't feel bad that this isn't getting done this month. He and his wife are just great people. They lost their son several years ago, and decided to donate his organs. Their son gave a liver to a little boy about Annika's age, but they haven't heard from that family in a very long time. So I hope seeing Annika happy and enjoying a second chance of life helps them know how much good they did, even while mourning a horrific loss.
On my on-line support group/message board, there has been some discussion about the latest case of deadly E-coli infections contracted at petting zoos. Quite a few of the first commenters were in the "hell, no, keep those things away from my immunosuppressed kiddo!" camp, and, as I've done countless times before, I squirmed a bit wondering if I was being a bit irresponsible when I let Annika go to every single animal-petting-opportunity that arose last summer. And let's not even talk about the petting zoo at our local zoo, which Annika went to at least twice each week. But always, always, with one of us following her around with a bottle of Purell. Thankfully, some other parents piped up to say that their kids were also addicted to the petting zoo experience, and that they even had their transplant team's blessing. I haven't actually asked our transplant team about this, but I certainly know what they would say. Our team is adamant that our kids should try to lead normal lives. Every time I have asked about something (doing gymnastics with an enlarged spleen, going into a McDonald's playland, etc.), they have always replied back with their mantra: "The only restriction we put on post-transplant kids is that they should not be in close quarters with someone who is sick, and to be especially careful of chicken pox and measles. Otherwise, just wash hands, wash hands, and wash hands some more." That's it. It seems like that should be a pretty simple rule to follow, but life, of course, is always making things more difficult than they should be. Keeping Anni away from kids who are sick is a mammoth undertaking. Kids are always sick in these winter months. And with the new asthma epidemic underway in these parts, it makes it even harder to know when a cough is a cough or just a cough. So when our little neighbor came over to play with Annika with a bit of a cough, I wasn't quite sure what to do. Anni hadn't seen her older hero/playmate for 2 weeks, and she was more than ecstatic to see her. On the one hand, I trusted that her parents would not send her over sick. After all, they knew Anni had just gotten out of the hospital for one of those all-kids-get-it kind of illnesses. But, still, it was a definite cough. On the other hand, she was amazingly good about always coughing right into the crook of her arm (the new preferred method) and we were playing outside rather than in the house. In the end, I decided just to fall backwards in one of those everyday living type of trust exercises, and hope that all would be well. And it was. I do have to say, though, that there are some weird social conventions about illness out there. Here's one: when Anni went to her swim lesson this week, there was another little girl getting changed with her mom in the locker room. Again, a juicy cough was coming from this little angel. Everytime I saw her chest rise with that big intake of breath before she would let one loose, my spine would give a little jerk as I tried to move my girls out of range. And every time she coughed, the mom looked at her and said, "Well, Bless You!" as if she were surprised every time - as if it were a sneeze and this was the properly polite thing to say. But of course, my mommy voice is screaming (inside, of course), "Tell her to cover her mouth. Please, please, please!" But, no, just those cute little bless you's. We work so hard at teaching our kids to be polite members of society, but teaching them to keep their germs to themselves is fairly low on the list of politeness points. Of all the very many potty books I bought when trying to convince Annika that all the cool kids loved to use the potty, only one mentioned anything about washing hands after using the toilet. One! But we're still sending Annika out into that big world. She went with her preschool class to the zoo today, and they got to touch some of the zoo animals as part of their special class. Before they went into the classroom, her teacher showed me the big jug of hand sanitizer she had brought, even before I asked her about it. I do like that woman. After their class, the kids got to run around the zoo together. Frankie and I came back to join the class on their "free zoo" time. With all her preschool friends there, Anni was very excited. But when it came time to choose someone to hold hands with as they headed off to see the animals, Annika chose to hold Frankie's hand. Even when the rest of the class was running far ahead of them, Annika tried to get Frankie to walk a little faster on her tubby little loveable stubs, but she never let go of her hand, and never left her behind.


Blogger PPB said...

oh my goodness, look at those little legs.....

4/02/2005 12:04 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I'm glad you're going to persevere in finding a forum for your transplant story hour. We have an 11-year-old, so we also know lots of other 11-year-olds, and believe me, these kids would not be traumatized by that subject. I think it's more likely that they would find it a little exotic, since it's such a foreign subject to so many of us. Plus, they'll probably be excited by hearing about how people literally give pieces of themselves to make it possible for other people they don't even know to live.

Good luck putting the event together!

4/02/2005 12:27 AM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

You have the most gorgeous children in the world, Moreena.

It must be really, really hard to negotiate the anthropology of sick-child playdates in winter. We've cancelled at least 20 playdates over the past 4 months because our kids had viruses. But we've undoubtedly still passed on some of our germs. And had plenty of germs passed to us. I don't know what we would do if the consequences of infection were higher, as they are for Annika.

As it is, we have Purell in every room in the house...

4/02/2005 9:13 AM  
Anonymous sue said...

I spoke to my daughter and son's 6th grade class last year. She was waiting for a liver and another child told my son(her twin) to tell others who asked that it was "none of their business". I being an emotional time bomb went into school told the principal I'd like to tell the students what was going on. I felt it was their business(and I am a very private person) and the more prayers the better. They were quite glad students and teachers. I only spoke for a few minutes. I touched on her jaundice, lethargy and the wait. Answered a couple simple questions. I look back and am so glad I took the opportunity to address these kids. I hope it took away some of the misconceptions they may have had.
I hope you get to present this topic soon.

4/02/2005 4:50 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

Kids are never as fragile as we think. The mind of the average 10 year old is way more disturbing than any talk about organ donation could be.

4/02/2005 6:23 PM  
Blogger ocelot said...

Annika's my hero! That's so sweet about her keeping ahold of Frankie's hand.

4/02/2005 10:43 PM  
Blogger liz said...

Our special story book for potty time is called Wash Your Hands! Honestly, I can't understand how people don't think it's important.

the DVD, Potty Time with Bear in the Big Blue House, also emphasizes hand washing.

5/10/2005 2:25 PM  

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