The Ballad of Nearly Headless Noah, or How to Give a Kid Hair Stitches.

I have paranoid, careful children.

They get it from their father.

I mean, while growing up my family made fun of me for being too paranoid, but next to Chris, I’m basically tightroping across Niagara Falls every dang day.

Having such a careful family does much to mitigate our injuries.

(Other than mine, as I am not as careful when I sleepwalk. But that’s been a while, so there’s that.)

But every now and then, things go awry. And if things are going to go awry, of course they’re going to go awry at bedtime. Such was the case a few Saturday nights ago.

Noah was quite hyper right around bedtime. He was acting the fool in our bedroom while Chris and I were laying in bed taking a moment to zone out before the time came to put the kids in bed. 

…And we were doing the same after the time came to put the kids to bed – because bedtime is Chris’ job and sometimes Chris lets the kids stay up late.

(So obviously, we know who to blame for the forthcoming catastrophe.)

Noah fell purposefully on the (carpeted) floor laughing, but his laughs quickly turned into screams. It took me a couple wails to realize the changeover had occurred, at which time I hopped out of bed and sat down to comfort him, assuming it was just another one of those bumps.

It also took me a minute to notice that his head was bleeding. Somewhat profusely. Not quite dripping-on-the-carpet profusely, but definitely at the level of I-can’t-begin-to-tell-where-you’re-injured profusely. Apparently, his head had found the corner of the rocking chair when in downward motion.

There’s always one parent that is panicky in a crisis, and one parent that becomes more calm in a crisis. In my experience, the Panicky In A Crisis Parent is also the Let The Kids Stay Up Late Parent. So I took over the situation of calming the child and the husband and giving the husband jobs to do to keep him from bashing himself on the head repeatedly for not putting the children to bed two minutes earlier.

(The PIAC parent also constantly analyzes and optimizes every situation to mitigate unnecessary risk, while the CIAC parent has taken all of the ER trips in our 18 years of marriage (dang you, sleepwalking and avocado), so personal experience in a crisis helps.)

I waited until the crying subsided, checked for any signs of concussion (it was obviously a flesh wound and his brain was in proper working condition), ordered a comb be brought to me from my panicky servant, and carefully combed the hair away from the general bloody area, desperately trying to find the offending fault line.

I still couldn’t tell.

I took a picture of the now neater-brushed but still quite bloody head and texted it to two friends: a Pediatrician (that just so happened to be working in Children’s ER at that moment), and a nurse, hoping that one would check out my bloody pictures and tell me whether it was an ER-Worthy head bleed or not.

The Pediatrician called. He confirmed that there were no signs of concussion and said that he thought I could handle it with a bit of careful braiding (“Braiding??” I said, thinking of my son’s short and fine hair, and he said “Well, knotting would work.” Yes, as if that makes it easier.), but he was going to need to see the depth of the wound first – which meant I was going to have to wash that head.  

Thankfully, Noah had calmed down from the initial shock, and was even calmer still at the realization that me handling it saved him from the ER, so was impressively amenable to his head being flushed in the sink. He watched as the bright pink water went down the drain, adding his own squeamish commentary.

“OH! That is DISGUSTING!! That is the NASTIEST water EVER!!”

Wash,

Rinse,

More combing,

Another round of iPhone pictures and texts.

Yes, the Pediatrician definitely thought the cut was such that hair stitches could hold it in place.

“We even do them in the ER sometimes. You just take a little bit of hair from either side of the cut and tie it together. It helps if the hair is coarser…but try it and see what you think.”

So I sat in the floor with my son, carefully grabbing tiny tufts of his silky fine hair from each side of his bleeding brain crevasse, and began tying them together, therefore forcing the two sides to come together and join as one. But the second I let go of the knots, no matter whether I single, double, or triple knotted them, they immediately unwound themselves, reopening the Canyon of Blood.

I knotted. I reknotted. I thought. I sighed. And, uncharacteristically, Noah found himself full of gratitude and encouragement.

He rubbed my arm and said “Thank you for trying to fix my head, Mommy. I know you can do it.”

This kid did NOT want to go the ER and endure real stitches.

Chris suggested bobby pins, and found my stash. As I suspected, they didn’t have enough grip. I dug around in my hair supplies and found two hair clips, but Noah didn’t have enough hair to keep those in place. So Chris fashioned a thickener of rolled-up toilet paper, which acted also as a blood mop, and we placed it across the sealed crack, pulling the two clips, holding the ends of my two hair stitches, in the opposite direction.

It. Was. Perfect.

Hair Stitches IMG_4795 s

Now all we needed was a device to keep it from coming undone in the night. Because by now it was 10:30pm and we would very much like to see our son in bed.

We borrowed a cloth hairband from Ali, and our masterpiece was completed.

Hair Stitches IMG_4798 2 s

Hair Stitches IMG_4799 2 s

We had medically cobbled together our son, ALL ON OUR OWN. Albeit with some incredibly helpful expert advice.

The next morning, all was still in place. Not wanting to disturb the lovely healing process going on under that TP, we left the contraption in place – despite it being Sunday – and stuck a beanie (with light-up Christmas lights – which is very distracting in January) on top of the whole contraption. And we threatened him within an inch of his life against any movement in Sunday School other than raising his hand to say “Yes ma’am”, “The Bible”, or “Jesus”.

At the recommendation of the doctor, Noah’s lifelong dream of not having to wash his hair came true (at least for a week), and then we resumed normal life, other than us calling him Nearly Headless Noah on the regular.

Last night, upon the fourth washing of his hair, I inspected the situation and discovered that the scab was fully separated from his head and just hanging out in his hair.

So I sat him down and began carefully removing it, then placing the bits of scab, entwined with clumps of hair, in his hand. He was not nearly as thankful as he had been that first night. 

“Why do I have to hold the scab? It’s disgusting!!”

“Because I don’t have another hand. But you know if you put the scab under your pillow, the scab fairy will come.”

“Why bother? I know it’s you.”

“What?? Do I LOOK like a scabby fairy?!”

“Well you’re the Tooth Fairy so you’ve gotta be the Scab Fairy too.”

“Have you ever noticed that pepperoni looks like a scab? We should call it scabbaroni.” 

I finally got it all out, then inspected my unbelievable, gorgeous, lovely, stunning work. He had a small pink scar, perfectly aligned, with no lumps or bumps. I was definitely ready to be a brain surgeon.

Hair Stitches IMG_5355 s

So what did our family learn through this experience?

…Hair Stitches are amazing and will save you hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours in ER visits.

…Put the kids to bed on time so no one splits open a head.

…And Pepperoni Pizza is not a recommended meal right before removing scabs.

To see allll the pictures of the whole process, click here. Bloody pictures are only for people who like that sort of thing.

The Difference Between Girls and Boys.

My birthday was last week.

As always, I woke up to an array of handmade cards from the children. Every year, they’re getting more detailed in expressing their feelings.

Ali created this lovely card,

ALI BIRTHDAY CARD FRONT IMG_0700
With these even lovelier sentiments.

Ali birthday card inside IMG_0701

And even drew me a bonus picture.

Ali birthday drawing IMG_0703See Mom, that’s Dad away from the nest working and bringing home food.
(Note: He does bring home a lot of takeout.)
And that’s you, staying home with us and homeschooling us.

She checked all the boxes of creating motherly affection and warm fuzzies. She should consider going professional, hiring her skills out to other children.

Because other children can tend to be….otherwise inclined.

Speaking of, then I opened Noah’s card.

birthday card from noah IMG_0568

I asked him if the three-eyed monster was supposed to be a portrait of me.

He laughed.

Then told me the monster’s name was “Momster.”

momster birthday card from noah IMG_0568

It’s good to have a variety of personalities in your house.

I think.

Die Like You’re Living.

I wrote this on September 4, two weeks before my dad passed away. 



“Live Like you’re dying.”

We’ve all heard it and nodded thoughtfully at the platitude. Yes, yes yes, we should do all the things you would do if you were dying. Like appreciate life more, even if the garbage disposal just vomited in your face. And hug your children more meaningfully, even if they just flushed your favorite earrings down the toilet.

But now that my own father has been told that he has days or weeks to live, I’ve realized that there’s an opposite sentiment that I never knew existed: Die Like You’re Living.

Pop-and-Noah

Weird thoughts go through your head when you’re processing grief and watching someone you love walk slowly toward death – or at least they have mine. Like, what would I do if I were the one who had days or weeks to live? My first thought was that I definitely would quit flossing my teeth. Second, I would want to go on a world tour and see all the things. And third, I might like to do something irresponsible and ridiculous – maybe even something that was illegal but not harmful to others that I might enjoy, knowing I wouldn’t live long enough to make it to my court date and face the consequences of my breaking of the law. Might it be fun to go 120 mph on the interstate? Might I like to commit Insider Trading so that my family could benefit from my crimes after my death? Perhaps I’d like to hack Amazon and send all my friends their entire wish lists. Then again if I could do that, maybe I already would have. (Right after I sent myself my own entire wish list, of course.)

But my dad has done none of these things. Instead, he’s dying like he’s living. He’s doing all the things I most definitely would never put on the top of my list of Things I Might Like To Do If I’m Dying.

He’s working, for one. He’s finishing up an antique engine rebuilding project that he committed to and has worked on for the last two years. (The thing is a massive antique firetruck engine.) He spent five days in a row, despite feeling generally awful and having no energy due to a failing liver, working in the 90 degree heat – to finish a job. (Thankfully, he had two fantastically wonderful friends travel from Florida to help him, and they were doing all the heavy lifting and hard labor since Dad couldn’t – bless them.)

He’s wrapping up loose ends. My Dad is, after all, in the middle of an 18 year house-building project. He’s trying to finish things and get things out of Mom’s way so that it will be easier for her to finish the house after he’s gone. He’s going to the attorney’s office and making sure all his paperwork is straight. He’s ensuring that my mother has everything she needs to make her future journey as easy as he can possibly make it.

He’s keeping his commitments in all shapes and sizes. He’s sitting in Sunday School, incidentally, the Sunday School class he started to share what he’s learned about death and dying. Over the past several months, he has wanted to make sure the wisdom he’s learned through this journey could help others who are or will be coping with the reality of death – both those of us coping with his death, and those coping with their own or other loved one’s deaths. His insights have been painful, beautiful, and so practical and helpful.

He’s being the most responsible possible version of dying.

He’s not sitting around feeling sorry for himself while slowly slipping away, nor is he out high-speed racing in downtown Birmingham (which, for the record, my dad has been known to go over 100 mph on the interstate on multiple occasions, so it’s not like it’s something he wouldn’t enjoy.) He’s not touring the country to see the things that I know were on his bucket list, like Mount Rushmore, Alaska, and the Aurora Borealis.

These are the things I want him to be doing (aside from the first one.) I want him to live these last few weeks for himself, in the manner that would make him happiest. But he’s choosing to live them for others, in the manner that will make others most comfortable when he’s no longer here.

He’s dying like he’s living, and dying like he has lived. Doing what he said he would do, choosing responsibility over fun, and doing what needs do be done.

180406 Cheaha State Park 6 IMG_0034 S