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You’ll Be Okay

 

 

Congratulations!  You have welcomed a new baby into this world.  You are excited, happy, terrified, uncertain.

And that baby looks nothing like what you expected.

If you, too, have been surprised by your perfect newborn’s unexpected face, I can perhaps offer some insight into the things you’re worrying and wondering about.

You already knew that you’d have to navigate the challenges of raising a child in this complicated modern world, but you weren’t prepared to do it with a strange-looking face.

You may be torn between calling your perfect little infant “perfect” and wondering what to do about this looming flaw.  Should you call it a flaw?  Will she think she’s not perfect?  Should you mention it to her at all?

You will Google this condition, and when you see all the ways these errant blood vessels can invade the brain, the eyes, the nose, and the gums, you will start watching for every daily milestone to make sure all systems are working the way they should.  At least, for now; those vessels will keep growing.

You will feel guilt at your concern over your baby’s face while other parents are dealing with issues so much more deep, painful, and immediate than this ‘cosmetic’ issue; yet, when someone else tells you to be thankful that you have “only a cosmetic issue” to deal with (and maybe even that “it’ll go away”), you’ll want to cry.

You will worry over every contact sport, every scratch, and every nosebleed, along with her eyes, gums, tongue, teeth, brain, and anything else these overgrown blood vessels touch.

And then, you will wonder what you’ll eventually say to her.  How will you talk to her about it?  And it will feel a lot like vanity, worrying about her looks, and surely, you’ve never been this vain before…

When it comes to her looks, you will struggle in the balance between truths – the truths that other people tell you, and the truths you discover for yourself.

People will tell you your baby is beautiful, and that’s true.  They will tell you that your child will be absolutely fine sporting a birthmark in our enlightened modern era, and that’s true.  They will tell you that beauty is so much deeper than skin, and that’s true.  They will even tell you that people hardly notice it after they meet your child, and that’s true, too.

But it’s also true that the uniqueness of each birthmark means that your child may never see another human being like them, and that’s isolating.  It’s also true that your decision to treat, eliminate, remove, or otherwise ‘fix’ this error will haunt your parenting conscience whether you choose to leave it or not, and that’s sobering.   It’s also true that our human instinct to spot aberrations in nature means that your child’s errant face will never not be spotted, and that’s overwhelming.

It’s a worrisome thing to raise a child with a strange face.  It’s okay that you’re dealing with those worries; it doesn’t make you a shallow person.  And you may not feel validated when people encourage you with all the truths about how cool it is to have a birthmark now; they’re not wrong; it just doesn’t feel validating.  That’s okay, too.  Take their encouragement; consume the truth they’re giving you.

You will think ahead to the first day of preschool, and the first day of kindergarten, and all the other firsts that she will walk into.  How will she carry herself into the room?  What will she say?

You will find yourself noticing all the unique features in other humans now.  And every time you see another human with a Thing on their Face, you’ll devour every hint that might give you clues to your own daughter’s future, all the way down to the way that one birthmarked guy orders his ice cream, and the way that one birthmarked girl slouches into her hoodie.   Ashamed?  Is that what your perfect, brilliant, precocious infant daughter will become?

People can assuage you all they want, but let me tell you, when you think ahead to all the things you have to prepare a daughter for these days, and then plan on having a weird face on top of it, it’s overwhelming.

You may not know what to do with all the overwhelmingness.  You may be quick to feel indignance: How dare Disney not have a princess that looks like my daughter?  You may be quick to feel offense: How dare that ignorant idiot ask my daughter what’s on her face?

Take a deep breath; be patient with all the other flawed humans around you.  They may not validate your concerns; they may not accommodate your daughter’s face, or even anticipate it.  They may ask loud questions.  That’s okay.

Have grace for other humans; give them room to err, because they’re imperfect, too.

Have a sense of humor; dress your baby up as a Dalmatian puppy on Halloween and call her ‘Spot’, because you only live once.

We’re reluctant to embrace vanity, but when we’re honest, we would admit that we desperately want to conform, we want to look “like”, and we want to be seen as pretty.  This is our vanity, and we feel guilty for it, and a facial mark rocks that guilt.  It may feel better to preemptively blame other humans for not accommodating your daughter in their princess lineup, but I think it’s healthier to admit that a natural dose of vanity comes with being human.  It doesn’t make you a bad person.

It’s okay to worry about all of this, and then it’s okay to let it all go and take “Spot” trick-or-treating.

Parenting is always uncharted territory.  Every child is unique, and every day is new.  I can give you advice, I can tell you what we’ve learned; but, ultimately, you will make your own path.  I’ve walked some of your steps, but not all of them.

And as I learn from each of our steps, I will continue sharing what we’ve learned with you, here.  But in the meantime, please know that I’ve felt what you’re feeling, and I can tell you, after more than a decade of parenting a Kid with a Thing on her Face, that it’s all okay.

Addy may not remember being dressed up as a Dalmatian puppy named ‘Spot’, but she thinks the pictures are hilarious.  She’s fine.  It’s all good.

You’ll be fine, too.

The Stranger in Macy’s

It’s good to be back!  For the last year, I’ve been writing more for my mother than my daughter over at CaringBridge (FYI — she’s doing great!).

But Addy’s EBC speech (below) brought me back here, and I’ve been wanting to share a sweet story with you from a recent outing.

Keith and I were walking with the kids through a Macy’s department store one afternoon.  We move slowly as a herd, and passing all the shiny things in the jewelry department slowed us down even more.  With plenty of time to glance around at the other patrons, I saw a woman standing with her husband at the jewelry counter.  As she turned her head back and forth in conversation between her husband and the employee helping them, I noticed a big, dark, red splotch on the front of her face.

I stared, like any good 5-year-old would do, but tried to be at least a little bit discreet while I determined if it was a birthmark or a burn scar or something else.  With each mark being so personalized & unique, it can be hard to identify from a distance; you just know there’s something big there.

She didn’t notice me staring, thank goodness, but I quickly realized that it was because she had locked in on Addy.  She was staring at Addy.

I nudged Addy to get her attention from the shiny things for a second, turned her toward me, and whispered excitedly, “Don’t turn and stare, but I’m pretty sure there’s a lady over there with the exact same stain you have.”

Whenever we encounter someone else with a unique feature, like the darkness of a birthmark, the baldness of alopecia, the stature of dwarfism, or the gap of a missing limb, I treat it like a celebrity sighting.  It’s all in the attitude – a combo of “Ohmygoodness they have something super-unique too!  Agh!” and “Be cool, be cool.”  With that, my children have learned that people who ‘stick out’ (like celebrities, or Addy) are totally positively awesome, and that they might (like a celebrity) not want to be disturbed.  With small children, one can never teach too much discretion.

So when I told Addy there was another person just like her nearby, her eyes got big and excited and she got twitchy as she itched to turn and look but knew better.  She stage-whispered, “Where?”  “Behind you.”  Addy turned naturally as if to look at more jewelry, glanced at the woman discreetly, then played it cool, turning to me, “It’s even on the same side!”

I got the impression that the same thing was happening between the couple buying jewelry.  I thought about introducing ourselves, but hesitated; this woman was a bit older than I was, which means she had grown up before the unique-is-awesome attitude pervaded the culture as widely as it has by now.  People from Generation X and earlier don’t always have good memories of growing up with their unique feature; some came from families that never spoke of the birthmark at all.  They’ve made reluctant peace with it, but they’re sick of being noticed in public; in their experience, being noticed isn’t a good thing.

There wasn’t much time to think about it, though, because the next thing I knew, the woman was leaving her bag with her husband and walking toward us.  I turned expectantly, as if we were going to engage in the usual polite grown-up introductions, but she walked right by me and, without saying a word, engulfed my daughter in a bear hug.

Addy hugged her right back.  They stayed there for a long, long moment, and I heard this stranger speak quietly into Addy’s hair: “You are so beautiful.  You are so beautiful.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.  You are so beautiful.”

And that’s how we met.  After detangling from Addy, the woman said to us, “I’m so excited!  I mean, I often see other birthmarks, but it’s really rare to see someone with a stain, just like mine, on the right side!”  We talked about how pretty it is, the way it ‘sweeps’ up to the hairline.  Addy told her proudly that she’s had forty-something surgeries, and the woman nodded: “I had thirty-seven.”  I just about fell over – this woman’s stain was really dark!  These two birthmarks were similar even in their resistance to treatment.  “Keep zapping!” she encouraged.  Addy told her about having a tube down her eye, and getting checked for glaucoma, and the woman nodded, “Yep! Me too.”

I’m so grateful that this woman came over.  I’m grateful for her confidence.  I’m grateful for her willingness to bear-hug a stranger’s kid.  My daughter got to meet someone like her, someone she could identify with, someone who’s walked in her shoes first.

Addy talked about it afterward like she’d been personally approached by a celebrity.

And, in a way, she had.

 

 

Conversations with Millie

Over a year ago, a gorgeous young woman from London named Millie found my blog and sent me a wonderful note. We corresponded a bit and I’m copying excerpts of that correspondence here, because it’s context for the beauty you’ll see below.

But the real reason I’m sharing Millie with you, dear reader, is her beauty, her creativity and her confidence.

(And her incredible ART PROJECT.  You’ll see that below.  READ WHAT SHE SAID ABOUT IT.  All the rest is context.)

Enjoy.

 

Here is Millie’s first note to me last year:

“Hi,

I’ve written out three different messages and failed to send them but I will send this one!
Your daughter’s confidence and smile have been the light in my life when I’m feeling low about my port wine stain (uncannily similar as mine covers also my right cheek, lip, nose and forehead slightly!).

Regrettably, I have covered my birthmark with makeup since the age of 11 (starting high school – now 17) but previously felt no real qualms about my appearance; I was a confident, happy, feisty little girl.

Hitting such a low of wanting facial reconstruction surgery a few months ago, the beauty of your daughter has been my inspiration to accept myself and use my suffering as a tool for creativity and awareness.

Turning 18 in May, I’ve decided I won’t let something which I have no control over determine my life, and have been practicing looking people straight on and in the eye (something unthinkable less than a year ago). I am trying to diagnose my reasons for hiding part of myself and my consequential shame of my appearance.

I am using my final A-level art project to look at changing society’s perceptions of physical differences. Your website and Adelaide have been a huge inspiration for this. I hope to someday meet my role model!

My sincere gratitude,

Millie, London”

 

Even without ever having seen Millie, I grabbed the chance to point out the beauty in a birthmark like Addy’s  (after all, I know the shape of that stain by heart):

“… Parenting [Addy], and pondering her stain, I’ve come to appreciate that every human, no matter what their appearance, struggles with their uniqueness. None among us is anatomically perfect; some simply have more obvious imperfections. Slender runway supermodels wish that they had Sofia Vergara’s curves, while Vergara-esque curvaceous babes wish they had Heidi Klum’s legs. Even the greatest beauties can point to another human’s unique features with envy.

…Or, said a different way, any beauty can point to her own unique features with contentment. I wish more would; so few do.

I want to share with you something that occurred to me shortly after Addy was born: look at the*sweep* of her (and your) port wine stain. The way it starts in the middle, then sweeps upward as it goes toward the hairline?

Now look again at all those makeup advertisements in magazines and on billboards. Look at what they tell you to do with your blush, your bronzer, your eyeliner, your eyeshadow, even your hair: “Sweep up” for the most flattering effect on feminine features.
Look for “the sweep” in other places, too – the shape of a basic Venetian carnival mask, for example; it sweeps away from the eyes, out and up toward the hairline. Instant glamour.

Everyone else needs masks, makeup and hairdos to approximate nature’s flattery; you and Addy were born with it.”

 

After Millie’s final art project was complete, she sent us THIS:

“…I have just handed in my A-Level art sketch book and final piece, and, as I mentioned, decided to look at changing society’s perceptions of beauty. I ended up using this as a tool for experimenting with my own appearance and difference: my port wine stain.

I played with typically beautiful images in society (BAFTA awards, the cover of Vogue, art work, etc. that we automatically accept as beautiful) to display differences. I played with the idea of symmetry, using a butterfly, and used makeup to emphasise rather than hide my birthmark.

I decided to do a final piece which celebrated my birthmark, using the artists Gustav Klimt and Chris Ofili as decor inspiration.

This was a strange, terrifying and liberating experience, but I am so glad I have done it. Your blog really was a turning point for me; rather than crying about my mark and wishing it wasn’t there, I am now seeing it as an opportunity. I think about what you said – the upward swish complementing natural beauty where others need makeup.

When I went for my last laser, I couldn’t wear makeup; so even in the car to the hospital I didn’t allow myself to make eye contact with anyone for fear of seeing them stare… Every time I do this it’s very strange but again, liberating, especially this time because I didn’t try to hide… After a few weeks (of not wearing makeup while the bruising went down) I actually went for a no-makeup run with my sister — the adrenaline made me run faster!

… I have grown in the sense that I now wear makeup for society rather than for myself… When I’ve cried to my mum, she said ‘patrons and people who change the world don’t have it easy.’ I want to somehow help society see that different doesn’t automatically mean bad.

Millie-young2

Pre-butterfly…

Butterfly

Wow.

After picking myself up off the floor at the gorgeousness of her face and Klimt-inspired work, I replied:

“Thank you so much for sending!! …I’m thrilled, inspired, and humbled to have served as any sort of encouragement on your journey! It can be hard to forge something new. So many people tie beauty to perfection without realizing it, and even those who are trying to embrace imperfections make the same mistake by hushing any admission of ‘error’; it feels quite liberating to admit that something’s an error, and still see that it’s beautiful.

I’d love to see more of your project!”

 

Luckily, she obliged, and explained her project in a bit more detail:

“I have [attached] a photograph of the BAFTA award I made using a cast of my face, then sprayed bronze and filled in my port wine stain with gold leaf. (I purposefully made the birthmark worth the most).

[BRILLIANT, no?! Read that part again – she made the birthmark worth the most…

She continues:]

There is a picture of my final piece: a mixture of oil painting, collage, gold leaf and mosaic. I included the butterfly picture I worked from as well.

…The theme set by the exam board was ‘Flaws, Perfection, Ideals and Compromise’ which basically set up a stomping ground for me to play around with this, which I’ve wanted to before in my art but couldn’t out of fear and shame. This time it felt a little different…

 

BAFTA (2)

Project

WELL DONE.

(We’ve enjoyed more correspondence since then, but for the sake of brevity I will leave this exchange as is here.)

Enjoy Millie’s art, dear reader. She is a treasure!

Millie-young1

Please Ask!

For all those lucky folks out there who encounter my gregarious social butterfly Adelaide and her Port Wine Stain, I tell you: Go ahead, Ask.

Seriously, mention it.  Ask about it.  Don’t worry about ‘shush’-ing your kid when they ask Addy what’s on her face.  It’s good for her, and, honestly, my favorite topic in the WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD is my offspring, so, naturally, anything to do with them is a fabulous topic for me to talk on.

I want to talk about it.  I want to tell you about Addy.  To tell you what it was like to see her face for the first time.  To share all my rookie scientific knowledge of those blood vessels and nerves and treatment options and research.  And how awesome Children’s hospital has been to us.  And how we’ve navigated her self-esteem so far.  And what I’m afraid of in the future.

Because in my experience, all my chattering will prompt you to remember some long-forgotten relative or acquaintance with a port wine stain or something like it, and when you tell me all about your uncle, I’ll learn just a little bit more about how to raise a kid whose face carries a mutation, and how to do it better.

So please, ask.  I want to answer.

Addy Flying Port Wine Stain Baby

 

Addy Wired Port Wine Stain Baby

Addy Mommy Port Wine Stain Baby

Addy Playing Port Wine Stain Baby

Addy Daddy Port Wine Stain Baby

Addy Laughing Port Wine Stain Baby

Addy Kitty Port Wine Stain Toddler

Addy Festival Port Wine Stain Toddler

Addy Dancing Por Wine Stain Toddler

Addy Playing Port Wine Stain Toddler

Siblings

SocialAddy

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“Another port wine stain! Sshhh…”

Confession: As you’ve seen here, I get excited when I see someone else with a port wine stain.  Really excited.  But suddenly, I face That Dilemma, now from the other side: do I ask them about it?

Running through my head: Will they think I’m too forward?  Am I touching on childhood trauma?  Do they hate their port wine stain and hate their life and hate their bullies and hate their parents?  Will I bring all that up by being one *more* person to remark on it?  Or, worse, will they think I’m a backward hick who’s never seen someone different?  Will they patronize me and give me a lecture about how we’re all alike inside in spite of our physical differences and I shouldn’t even notice differences like that?

But… I’m on your team, man!  I want to know about your stain!  What’s your story??  What have you learned?  What should I tell my daughter?  Did you treat it?  Why?  What was it like?  Would you do it again?  Do you ever cover it up?  What else do you know about it?

Usually, all this panicked thinking takes too much time and I just end up casting long, meaningful glances in their general direction while we’re standing in line, and hoping they’ll look up and suddenly notice a comrade in my daughter’s lovely similarly-port-wine-stained face, but instead they pay for their latte and walk out, perhaps vaguely aware of some stalker-like presence nearby.

Maybe next time.

Siblings & Classmates

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We have three children: Addy is 7, Clarence is 5, and Eloise is 3.  The younger siblings’ awareness of and reactions to Addy’s port wine stain are amusing: a combination of childhood oblivion and concerned observation.

When Clarence was younger, he’d point to Addy’s baby pictures: “That me!”  “No, sweetie, that’s Adelaide.”  “NO! That ME!”  We’d point to the rather obvious port wine stain plastered on the baby’s face: “Clarence, look at that stain – you don’t have one of those, only Addy does.”  He’d stare at it for a minute, think about it, then firmly shake his head.  “No, that me.”  Okay, dude.

Eloise did the exact same thing when she saw family pictures.  It wasn’t until they were about 3 that either one showed any signs of recognizing the port wine stain’s existence in the picture and connecting it to their sister.

Two or three days after her latest surgery, which left her cheek quite bruised, we were sitting around the dinner table when Elly (age 3) suddenly stopped eating, stared at Addy for a long moment,  pointed to her cheek and asked, “Addy, what that?”  Yes, it took three years of life and three days of bruising for the youngest sibling to notice anything out of the ordinary.

When Clarence was three, he saw Addy’s bruised face after a particularly intense laser treatment and became quite concerned: “Addy! That blood!”  She laughed it off and shrugged, “No, that’s just my port wine stain.”  He stared.  “No, Addy, that blood!”  It took some work to convince him that his sister was fine, and that such bruising had, in fact, happened regularly in his first three years of life.  He’d just never noticed it before.

Clarence recently told me, “I want to have a port wine stain, mom.”  “Really?  Why is that?”  “Because port wine stains are good.”  Awww!  My mommy heart swelled with pride knowing that clearly, I’ve done such a stupendous job parenting tha–   “And because Addy gets toys like her new Olaf toy and her new Olaf blanket when she goes to the hospital, and I want an Olaf blanket.”

Priorities, right?  He just wants the goodies.  I can’t blame him; that new Olaf blanket is pretty sweet, as you can see in the picture.  (By the way, on that thought: A million thanks to the volunteers and donors who keep Children’s Hospital stocked with the awesome toys that comfort & distract kids during medical procedures; it’s stuff like that that keeps our Addy looking forward to her hospital trips!)

As far as classmates go, whenever Addy has a surgery, we prepare her for the fact that, because she’s going to school with a newly dark-purple face, people will probably notice it and ask her about it and that’s totally okay, because it means they’re concerned, and that’s awesome.

But recently, no one has asked.  And I realized something – it’s old news already.  She’s at a small school; all the K-12 class sizes are 10-20 kids each, she knows upperclassmen by name, and they know her.  In other words, pretty much everyone in that building has seen her bruising before.  She walks in with a purple face?  Nothing new.  She gets more double-takes when she leaves Children’s hospital, which makes sense, because those strangers have never seen her before.  (In fact, one little girl in the lobby gasped excitedly, “Mom! Look! That girl has a painted face!” like it was the coolest thing she’d ever seen.  I love kids.)

While familiarity may sometimes breed contempt, it can also breed boredom; in our case, that’s a very good thing.  As long as Addy is small, surrounding her with the same people regularly for whom her suddenly-purple face is ‘nothing new’ minimizes the stares and questions she gets throughout her day.  I will always be happy to expose her to the world, to empower her to answer strangers’ questions with grace, and to build her confidence in facing society with a unique face, but I’m also relieved that in her daily routine, she can relax among a few friends and family who know her face so well that there’s nothing left to ask.

Unless she comes home with a sweet new Olaf blanket and stuffed toy.  Apparently, that’s enough to pique brother’s curiosity all over again.

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Talking to Others

A dear reader (whose daughter has a similar stain) asked me the following question:

“…I do struggle with how to respond when people ask questions about her face, especially after a treatment. I want to educate them, but at the same time, I don’t want to be judged. I don’t think the average person understands how extensive these port wine stains become with age and without any treatment. Do you have any advice on how you respond to these types of questions?”

Why, certainly. 🙂

First, don’t worry; there will always be people who disapprove of your decisions. They can’t do anything about it, so let them stew.

Second: my rule of thumb is to always (always!) strive to make the other person feel comfortable. Not only is it kind, but in our cynical culture it’s also unexpected, and therefore disarming to any potential jerks. (In other words, if they’re expecting me to be defensive and I’m not, they soften up immediately. Works like magic in most of life, actually.)

So, kindness is key. But how do we make others comfortable when we’re toting a small child who looks like she’s been in a barfight? And in only a quick minute or two of passing conversation?

I’ve found myself using the following lines the most – they’re simple, they sum up the problem quickly, use imagery that people understand, and are casual & humorous enough to put people at ease. Sprinkle them into the conversations as you wish:

• “Oh, she’s fine, she just had another laser treatment for her port wine stain.”
• “It’s a proliferation of blood vessels – basically, they never got the signal to stop growing in utero, so they just keep growing, and growing, and growing.”
• “The laser zaps them – they heat up, explode and die. So then we can zap the next layer – there are a TON of them.”
• “It’s like weed-whacking – those vessels are constantly growing, we’re just beating them back. The sooner, the better.”
• “Yep, as she grows, the blood vessels keep growing with her. The whole thing will get thicker and darker and even nodular over time. It’s crazy!”
• “It’s not a big deal, we just have to keep weed-whacking for a while, that’s all.”
• “We’re going in for another zapping next week.”
• “I think it’s pretty much the same thing they do for varicose veins.”

The ‘weed-whacking’ analogy clicks with people – they suddenly ‘get it’ that this is a long-term process against constant growth, and it makes them smile. (Who hasn’t battled weeds in their yard?)

‘Zapping’ also sounds casual and surprisingly noninvasive, and makes people smile. (What kid hasn’t shuffled their stockingfeet on carpet and zapped a door handle?).

Pointing out the relation to cosmetic surgery seems to make people more comfortable that this is a simple, noninvasive procedure.

When you speak with easy confidence and a smile, rolling your eyes at how these blood vessels just keep growing (and growing, and growing), waving your hand when you tell them “Oh, she’s fine,” and shrugging when you tell them she’s going in for another zapping soon, they’ll usually relax. You’re cool with it, they can be cool with it, too.

When you’re with your close friends and confidants, you can relay your anxieties, fears, and worries – after all, this is your daughter and there’s a lot to worry about. But as long as you’re in casual conversation, just make people comfortable, and you’ll find that most respond with kindness.

Keith’s Summary of Last Week’s Dropoff:

As promised – the following is a quick summary from Keith, which he wrote after dropping Adelaide off at kindergarten with her purple-bruised face.  (And by the way, Happy Thanksgiving, all!)

Yesterday, Adelaide had her first laser surgery for her port wine stain since kindy (kindergarten) started. Jennica and I have been warned that kindergarten is when kids “become more aware” (polite code for “get nasty”) of port wine stains.

This morning I dropped her off.  I really wanted her to be her normal happy self. I thought, “if she can just do that so that the other kids are comfortable, and therefore more willing to engage her, she might have a much nicer day.”

And, I thought that I would cheat a bit. I opened a Halloween-sized pack of M&Ms and handed it to her, hoping to pump her up on chocolate-released endorphins. (Don’t judge.) She ate two and handed the little packet back to me saying, “No thanks, Dad. I don’t want to have too much sugar before kindy.”  

Yes, my five-year old is now more responsible than I.

Her first two interactions were in the hall before class. The first was with a tall girl who stood staring at Addy Rae, with a forced ‘I-like-you’ smile, while she listened to Addy talk. Then, she nodded politely and went into the room without saying a word. Addy had a ‘that-was-odd’ face, but wasn’t at all bothered. (Later, the teacher told me that she had prepped the class on how to be polite. Good effort, sweetie!)

Her second interaction was with Mikey (alias).  Mikey stumbled down the hall to hang his coat up but stopped when Adelaide accosted him with a bombardment of words. He stood staring at her with the same ‘it’s-morning’ scowl that he had been wearing the whole time. Then Addy said, “Mikey, I look different today. Can’t you tell?” Mikey smiled, nodded, and they both laughed while he put his coat on the hook.

Man, I love that kid. (Addy, that is. Mikey’s okay.)

Ask? Better not…

A few weeks ago I took my two youngest kids on a routine trip to Wal-Mart. (Don’t judge – as soon as Trader Joe’s offers carts with locking straps for multiple kids and enough inventory to render further errands unnecessary, I’ll be the first one in the door; until then, it’s Wal-Mart.)

As I was saying – I took the two little kids shopping and, as usual, one of them had to go to the bathroom halfway through the shopping trip. So we made our way alllllllll the way to the back of the store, past the bikes and kid toys (seriously, I know your game, Wal-Mart), to the Family Bathroom right next to the employee break area and the “Apply for a Job Here” kiosk. While I was unloading my offspring from the Awesome Multi-Kid Cart, I noticed that the guy at the computer kiosk applying for a job had a port wine stain JUST LIKE Addy’s. But darker. It was pretty cool. And I wanted to know more.

But wait… I don’t dare ask about it. But, man, I WANT TO. I really want to know about this guy and his port wine stain, and on a scientific side I’m FASCINATED by the resemblance to Addy’s – this must be what Addy’s would look like if it was never treated… and it’s dark… really dark… which means it was never treated… So, I wonder if he suffered through it before treatment options were available, and therefore hates the very mention of it… or if he chose to keep it even after treatment options became available, and therefore loves it…?

Ahh, crap. Never mind, kid’s gotta pee; we disappear into the restroom, and when we see him sitting there a few minutes later, I still have no idea what to do, so I just keep walking and say nothing, leaving him there to click away at the kiosk alone.

I wonder what his story was.

Close Call

In Wal-Mart today, we passed a little girl, maybe a year or two older than Addy. My little social butterfly gave her a smile and a small wave from our cart, and the little stranger returned the favor, studying Addy closely as we passed by. Before we had completely passed, the girl turned to her mom and said in a loud, excited stage whisper: “Mom!! Did you see her face?!”

I kept pushing the cart nonchalantly, watching Addy closely to see if she had heard. Seemed not to. Just to be safe, I casually said to her, “Addy, you really are a beautiful girl. I’m so glad to be seen with you.” (We compliment our kids a lot, so this wouldn’t be unusual.) She smiled: “Thanks.”

I wonder how she would have responded.

Funny – the port wine stain is so much lighter than it was when she was born, I’ve just assumed that no one really notices it. But over the last year, those blood vessels have grown along with her, making the port wine stain a bit darker (and wiping out some of the fabulous progress we’ve made with all those laser surgeries). So we’re getting more comments than we were, say, a year ago.

Speaking of surgeries, I’ll post soon about the awesome treatment we got at Children’s hospital last month. 🙂

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