The Day Sensitive Santa Came to Town

A few weeks ago I saw on Facebook that a local hospital was having a Sensitive Santa event.  Children who have sensory issues and/or autism could schedule a special time to visit Santa.  No waiting in line at a crowded mall.  This is amazing.  I decided I was going to call the next morning and make an appointment for Mikayla and Hope to meet Santa Claus.

A very nice lady named Mary answered the phone.  She began to ask questions about the girls.  Is there anything they needed to be aware of that might bother the girls?  Do they have any food allergies?  Is there a special snack they would enjoy?  She said there would be a photographer and we would receive a flash drive with pictures free of charge.  Santa would be giving each of our girls a gift.  Mikayla and Hope would meet Santa on December 17th at 1:00.

The girls were super excited when they woke up on the 17th.  Hope kept saying “Santa’s gonna give me a present!”  I asked her what kind of present she thought he would give her.  She said “A candy cane!”  I knew Santa was going to give them something much better than a candy cane.  But it was nice knowing Hope would be happy with just a candy cane.

We were met at the front door and a nice man led us to Santa’s private suite.  I told Mikayla and Hope to go first and we would follow them.  The girls were acting a bit shy but they were brave and went through the door first.  Santa gave a jolly greeting.  “Well…….Hello Mikayla and Hope!”  Santa had a jolly laugh that made all of us giggle.

Mikayla marched right up to Santa and sat on his lap.

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He told her that he had a present for her.  Mikayla’s eyes lit up with excitement.  Santa helped her open the package.  It was a set of Melissa and Doug stainless steel pots and pans for her play kitchen.  dsc02094

Hope got really excited as she watched Mikayla open her present because she knew that Santa was going to have a present for her too.  What did Santa get for her?  It was finally her turn.  She quickly ran up to Santa and jumped in his lap.

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And sure enough Santa had a present with Hope’s name on it.  She grinned from ear to ear as Santa helped her unwrap the package.  It was a Melissa and Doug Mixer set.

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The girls stood and gazed at their new presents.  They talked excitedly about their new toys and what they were going to cook in their play kitchen. Santa asked them to make him some cookies.  He said chocolate chip cookies are his favorite.  The girls thought that he was funny.  The ladies  who were helping Santa kept saying “They are so cute!”  Yes they were.  Our girls were absolutely adorable.

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They hugged Santa and thanked him for the presents.  Then we went to the snack room.  The girls ate goldfish crackers and drank milk and juice. All four of our girls were given a gift card to McDonald’s.  A lady printed out some pictures of the girls with Santa for us to take with us.  I was so thankful for such a wonderful day with Santa.

This day wasn’t just about our girls meeting Santa Claus.  It was so much more than that.  Kids who have sensory issues are often overwhelmed by the world they live in.  They spend every day of their life trying to adapt to a world that is too loud and overwhelming.  Standing in a long line to see Santa in a loud, crowded mall can end with tears, a meltdown. and a lot of disappointment.  But on this day the world adapted to our girls.  We didn’t wait in a long line.  We were escorted to see Santa as soon as we entered the building.  Santa booked a quiet, private suite.  He set aside 20 minutes of his time just to be with our girls.  There was chocolate milk for Mikayla and white milk for Hope.  Our older girls were recognized and given a gift because someone who planned this day understands that having 2 sisters with special needs isn’t easy.  Taylor deserves a couple of frappes from McDonald’s and Brynna deserves some french fries, an apple pie, and a large Sprite.

This day brought hope back into my life.  The hope that there will be more days like this in our future.  That our future won’t always be spent adapting to an overwhelming world.  But that maybe, just maybe, the world will find moments to adapt to our girls and help them to not be so overwhelmed by their world.  I’m so thankful for this day.  This day when we didn’t have to stand in a line.  This day with no tears.  This day with no meltdowns.  This day when our girls found total acceptance.  The day that Sensitive Santa came to town.

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He’ll Make the Crooked Places Straight

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Hope was a teeny tiny 7-year-old when she and her crooked little smile walked into the orthodontist’s office for the first time.   We were told it was important for her to get braces before she turned 10.  I couldn’t picture our little spitfire sitting still long enough for them to put braces on.  They took her into a room to get a panoramic x-ray. It sounded simple.  Put your mouth around this piece of metal and stand still for 20 seconds.  Wait a minute.  Stand still for 20 seconds?  I’ve never seen her stand still for 20 seconds.  But maybe I’m about to witness a miracle.

They brought her up to the machine and there was a problem. She was too short to wrap her mouth around the metal piece.  The nice lady asked her to stand on a stool. Balance on a stool?  She has trouble balancing while standing on the floor.   I was getting a bad feeling about this.  But maybe she’ll surprise me. Hope tried her hardest but she couldn’t balance on the stool.   The x-ray was blurry.  We had to try again.  Hope was tired of trying and she started acting goofy.  She put her mouth around the metal piece and started fidgeting.  The nice lady told her that she could break her teeth if she didn’t stand still.  Hope didn’t stop.  Ok.  We’re done.  I would like to leave here with her crooked little teeth still inside of her sweet mouth.  They scheduled an appointment to put the braces on.  If she couldn’t sit still for a 20 second x-ray how’s she gonna sit still long enough for them to put braces on?  I went ahead and made the appointment because I believe in miracles.

I was nervous as we walked into the office the morning of her appointment.  Hope was 7 years old and she has ADHD and sensory processing disorder.  Will she sit still and let them put the braces on?  Or will it be too much for her?  The first thing they did was put a contraption in her mouth to pull her gums away from her teeth.  She started gagging.  We’re 2 minutes into this and it’s not going well.  Once she gagged she was done.  They made a note on her chart to not use the gagging contraption in the future.  The orthodontist said that her sensory issues were going to make it harder for her to withstand having braces put on.  They decided we should wait 6 months and try again.

Life got out of control during the 6 month wait and I had to cancel Hope’s appointment for her braces.  We finally took her back in when she was 9 years old.  We told her if she would sit still and let them put her braces on then we would take her to Toys R US and buy her a prize.  Hope sat very still while they put her braces on.  Is this really happening? or is this just a dream?  Is she really letting them put braces on her teeth?  If I didn’t already believe in miracles I would’ve started believing in them at that moment.   Hope walked out of the orthodontist’s office that day with braces on her teeth.  I was dancing as we made our way through the parking lot to get in the van.  Well, not really.  I was dancing on the inside anyway.  We danced our way into Toys R Us and Hope picked out her prize.  I don’t remember now what it was but I’m guessing it was a dinosaur.

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September 2014

The estimated treatment time for Hope’s braces was 9-12 months.  She had appointments every 5 weeks to have her braces checked.   She never once complained that her braces hurt.  She had to give up popcorn, caramel, peanuts, gum, and so many other things that she enjoyed eating.   But she never complained.  12 months passed and it wasn’t time for her braces to come off.  The doctor was waiting on some of her permanent teeth to come in.  He decided to do another panoramic x-ray.  Hope marched up to the x-ray machine.  Well, would you look at that.  She’s tall enough to reach the metal piece without standing on a stool.  And she stood still for the whole 20 seconds.  A lot can change in 3 years.

Hope’s 9-12 month treatment time turned into 2 years.  September 26th was her big day.  The day for her braces to come off finally arrived.  And she was excited.  The night before her appointment she was naming off all the foods that she was going to be able to eat.  I can eat peanuts.  I can eat caramel.  I can eat popcorn. At bedtime she wouldn’t stop talking about peanuts, popcorn, and caramel.  The excitement was getting to be too much for her.  She was over the moon as we sat in the waiting room listening for them to call her name.

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Her excitement escalated as we waited on the doctor.  She’s usually really quiet when the doctor is in the room.  But she talked his ear off this time.  He thought it was pretty funny.  It didn’t take long for the braces to come off.  Ok Hopey show us your smile.

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Very funny, Hopey.   Now show us the smile that we paid for.

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She had to have an impression made for her retainer.  She gagged the first time.  The second time she wouldn’t open her mouth because she was afraid she would gag. The stuff for the impression got hard before they were able to get it in her mouth.  The third time she cooperated and they got the impression.  The doctor handed her a bag full of all the stuff that she hadn’t been able to eat for 2 years.  Cracker jacks, snickers, tootsie rolls, and laffy taffy.  The smile on her face as she gazed at that bag of goodies was priceless.  The cracker jacks were almost gone before we even got out the door.

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We ended her big day with a trip to Toys R Us.  Because any girl who wears braces for 2 years deserves a prize from her Mommy and Daddy.

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Isaiah 45:2 says I will go before you and make the crooked places straight.  This verse has come more alive to me now that my little girl’s crooked teeth are now straight.  God is with us as we go through all the crooked places in our lives.  He’s with us as we go through things that we don’t understand.  He’s right in the middle of our chaotic mess.  It seems like most of the time our trials take longer to get through than we want them to.  We hope it will take a year but it will actually take two. We look around and we notice that some people are able to get their braces off after only a year.  But we still have to wear ours.  Everyone else gets to have the things we long for.  They’re eating caramel, peanuts, taffy, bubble gum, and popcorn.  But we can’t eat those things right now.  We want to feel sorry for ourselves and start complaining about how hard life is.  But then we stop and we look at a little girl.  A little girl who didn’t let sensory processing disorder keep her from getting a brand new smile.  A little girl who never complained even though her trial took twice as long as it was supposed.  She inspires us and she reminds us that we can overcome some hard stuff too.

As our journey comes to an end God reminds us of how far we’ve come.  We see that moment when it was impossible to stand still and balance on a stool.  Time went by and we grew up a little.  The day came when we marched into the room for the x-ray and this time we left Mommy out in the hallway.  The stool we once needed sits in the corner because we’re tall enough now.  And after what seems like forever we finally make it to the end of the race.  There’s a bag of gooey, crunchy goodies with our name on it.  The race was definitely long and hard.  But it was worth it because of the new smile we now have on our face.

Sensory Processing Disorder: A Day At The Dentist

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Mikayla and Hope were irritated with each other from the moment we stepped into the dentist’s office.  I was hoping they would call one of them in quickly so they could get away from each other.  They called Mikayla back for her cleaning and Hope started playing a game on her iPad.  Wow.  This is going smoothly. But after only a few minutes Hope became restless.  And she started talking.

It’s my turn!

No it’s not your turn.  They will come out and say your name when it’s your turn.

She went back to playing with her iPad.

It’s my turn!

Have you heard anyone say your name?

No.

Then it’s not your turn.

She played her iPad some more.

It’s my turn!

No.  It’s not your turn.  They will come get you when it’s your turn.

After 30 minutes of listening to Hope say “It’s my turn” the hygienist came out.  She had finished Mikayla’s cleaning.  She explained that Mikayla’s molars have deep pits.  She said that she could put sealants on them to prevent her from getting cavities.  She had some extra time and could do it while we were there.  I told her to go ahead.  She went back in with Mikayla and Hope went back to her same routine.

It’s my turn

No.  It’s not your turn.  They’re still working on Mikayla.  When they get done with Mikayla then it will be your turn.

It’s my turn.

Have you heard anyone say your name?

No.

Then it’s not your turn.

30 minutes later the hygienist brought Mikayla out and a strange odor filled the room.  She said Mikayla did fine with the sealants until they tried to do the ones on the top.  She gagged and then she vomited.  It was all over the front of her dress.  And it was in her hair.  They had cleaned her up but she gave me a moist towel so I could work on her some more.  She said she would be back to get Hope as soon as she cleaned the room.  I left Hope in the waiting room while I took Mikayla in the restroom. I cleaned her up the best I could but she still smelled.

When I got back to the waiting room I was very happy to find that Hope was the only person in the room.  Maybe we’ll get out of here without anyone having to smell the vomit.  Mikayla started eating the sucker they gave her.  Hope got upset and started yelling because she didn’t have a sucker.  Then she went back to the routine she’d been doing for the last hour.

It’s my turn

They’re cleaning the room.  They will come and say Hope when they’re ready for you.

It’s my turn.

Did you hear anyone say Hope?

No.

Then it’s not your turn yet.

20 minutes later the hygienist came out.  It’s finally Hope’s turn.  Hallelujah.  Mikayla and I start playing a game on her iPad.  I’m feeling very thankful that we’re still the only ones in the waiting room.  Then the door opens and a lady comes in.   A couple more people come in.  Then another.   I wondered if their noses were picking up the scent of my smelly little sweetheart.

After 2 hours had passed I was really needing to go home.  Hope finally came out.  I walked up to the window to make their next appointment.  Mikayla took her Despicable Me umbrella and hit Hope with it.  Then Hope took her My Little Pony umbrella and hit her back.  I told them to stop it.  They didn’t.  You stand here.  And you stand over there.  Don’t touch each other.  But they did.

The receptionist asked if I would like to make their appointments on 2 different days next time.  Yes.  After the way today went I would like to bring them on different days.  The receptionist apologized for it taking so long.   The computer was being slow.  Hope started eating the sucker they gave her and it made Mikayla mad.  They started hitting and kicking each other.  I suddenly felt as if I couldn’t breathe.  A panic attack began to take over my body.  I told the receptionist that I had to leave.  The printer finally spit out the appointment paper.   As my trembling hand reached for the paper the tears started to come like a flood.   As I turned to leave I didn’t look at any of the people in the waiting room.  I felt ashamed. What kind of mom can’t control her own children?  As soon as we got outside Hope started yelling because she dropped her sucker.  It’s stuck to the front of your shirt.  Peel it off and let’s go.

I cried the entire 25 minutes that it took to get home.  Why does going out in public have to be this hard? As soon as I got home I told Brett I was going to bed.  I didn’t care that it was only 3:30 in the afternoon.   I went in the bedroom, put on my nightgown and crawled in bed.  All I wanted was to forget that this day had ever happened.   And there’s no way I will ever write a blog post about it.  That’s for sure.  But here I am writing about it.  Crawling into bed and trying to forget the day wasn’t the end of the story.  A few days later I found a card in our mailbox from the ladies at the dentist’s office.  They each wrote me a personal note of encouragement.

Just a note to let you know we think you are great!  I hope your day got a little better.  

I enjoyed seeing your girls.  I can tell you go above and beyond taking excellent care of them just by looking in their mouths.  What a wonderful mother you are.

I was stunned.  They didn’t look at me and see a bad mom.  They looked at me and they saw a good mom having a bad day.   As I closed the card God whispered in my ear.  He said That’s how I see you.  I look at you and I see a good mom having a bad day.  And He loves me.  Even when my attitude stinks and I’m impatient He still loves me.  He gently reminds me I need to work on some things.  And I nod my head and agree.

The next day I took the girls to appointments at the eye doctor.  Guess what?  They were complete angels.  They didn’t yell at each other.  They didn’t touch each other.   I told them I was proud of them and I wanted to buy them a prize for being so good.  They wanted ice cream sandwiches.  I don’t understand why life can be so different from one day to the next day.  Or from one moment to the next moment.  But perhaps next time I feel tempted to carry shame out of the doctor’s office I’ll remember the ladies who looked at me and just saw a good mom having a bad day.  I’ll shake the shame off and walk out the door with my head held high.  And I’ll trust that tomorrow will be a better day.