Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Take a sick baby to a hotel? Yes, that's a GREAT IDEA.


One of the perks of running a blog is you can take two days to tell a story about your children getting sick at the precise time you are supposed to be leaving for your beach vacation. I'm fully enjoying that perk right now as I conlcude the exciting story of . . . Coxsackie Family Vacation!!!!

Terza's high fever broke after twenty-four hours. We decided that we should wait another night just to be safe and also because staying in a hotel and driving ten hours would probably not be terribly fun with a still-sick-though-no-longer-feverish child. We decided we'd spend the night at home and then get an early start in the morning.

And then, after listening to the baby scream for thirty minutes on the couch, we changed our minds. We decided to get the hell out of Dodge.

Terza was clearly going to be miserable for at 2 to 3 days. Her throat was covered in ulcers and after having a 103 degree fever, she felt like shit in general. All she was going to do was watch Caillou and Clifford and Daniel Tiger for 72 hours, with brief breaks only to sleep restlessly. By the time she felt fully better, our vacation would be over. And we'd have spent it in our tiny, messy apartment, listening to her howls.

I explain this part so you understand why we thought it was a good idea to take the kid, with two other kids, in the car and go to North Carolina. It was obviously an idiotic idea. But the alternative was pretty heinous, too.

We figured that since her mouth ulcers had appeared, her diagnosis was confirmed. There was nothing you could do about Coxsackie and once the fever had broke, it wasn't dangerous really, just a pain in the ass. We were going to be miserable either way - it was only a question of whether we'd be miserable on our way to a beach or whether we'd be miserable at home. The beach called.

So, at about 5pm, in a snap decision, we grabbed all our stuff, which was packed and waiting, and got in the car, bound for DC, where we'd spend the night, en route to North Carolina. It being a Saturday, we enoucntered no traffic, which was one huge, glorious mercy. Because had we encountered traffic, I think one if not all of us would have jettisoned ourselves from the vehicle.

As soon as we secured the baby in the car seat, she started howling. Poor thing, who could blame her? I mentioned before, there is regrettably no such thing as Pediatric Percoset Mouthwash, so she was stuck with Motrin for pain relief. If she'd known about morphine, I'm pretty sure she would have asked for it.

We did the unthinkable and gave her the paci. That, along with endless cartoons on the iPad, bought us about 15-20 minutes at a time of Non-Screaming. This was useful because the other children needed a chance to vent their problems where were, as always, plentiful. But eventually Terza had to swallow her saliva and when she did, she bellowed. Which, not to put too fine a point on it, probably didn't help her throat any.

Every so often, I turned around in the front seat and tried to give her a sip of water or juice or milk and every time, she batted it away, snarling and angry, like I was trying to kill her. Frequently, this sent liquids flying all over the car. Oftentimes, it caused David to yell at me to stop forcing drinks on her. Always, I yelled back at him that if the baby did not drink anything, she'd surely get dehydrated and then we'd be forced to bring her to the hospital. Which prompted me to investigate what medical facility we should bring her to in the DC/ Maryland area, should push come to shove.

I think that when you start lining up hospitals for possible dehydration, you can probably admit that you're not having a great vacation.

At about 9pm, we got to the hotel and there, David redeemed himself with a genius idea. He thought to offer the baby water from the sygrine we used to administer her Motrin. Shockingly, this worked and I was able to squirt a sufficient amount of ccs into her parched body.  She went to bed really late and the big kids didn't fall asleep until even later. David and I enjoyed our usual Bathroom Date Night -- we retired to the only room not filled with sleeping children, to stream Netflix on my iPhone. And about midnight, I decided to turn in. At that EXACT moment, the baby woke up. It couldn't have been my footsteps since a ninja could not have treaded more softly. It was just rotten luck.

She woke up and started crying and didn't stop for about three hours. There were lulls, to be sure -- periods of time where her crying subsided to a whine, and then even a soft sniffle, like it was near extinguishing, but then it would renew itself and grow in strength until it was a full-fledged sob.
It was not the most pleasant way to spend the hours between midnight and 3am. Esecialluy in a room was paying over a hundred bucks for the pleasure of "sleeping"in.

I turned on all the lights.

I turned them all off.

I played her Caillou and Clifford and Daniel Tiger.

I told her stories and sang songs and tried to pick her up and took her in bed with me and nothing worked at all.

Finally, I realized that she was bothered by the throat pain, sure, but she was also terrified. It occurred to me that she probably had no earthly idea what a "hotel" was or what we were doing in a totally unfamiliar space. She kept looking around with wide eyes and scurrying away from my arms, into the far corners of the room.  She was wildly disoriented. And the piercing throat pain didn't help, either.

So I tried my hand at toddler whispering and basically narrated what had happened that day in excruciating detail, like I was trying to convince her with a barrage of details that I was her real mother instead of some impostor. Then I described what was going to happen in the morning. She still wouldn't let me pick her up but at least her crying slowed to a soft moan. Then I lured her in with photos on my cell phone and eventually, she let me scoop her up and bring her into bed with me where we scrolled through pictures of things we'd done and places we'd been for another hour until finally she was quiet and I could drift off to sleep too . . . for about two hours, at which point she'd decided enough was enough and it was time for Round 2.

David and I had the foresight to bring an air mattress which we put in the "living room" where the kids were sleeping on a fold-out couch. Normally, I'd have fought David tooth and nail for that air mattress but seeing as he'd be driving us five to nine hours the next day, I figured he needed the sleep.

In other words, I was a Christian martyr. It was not fun. I do not recommend it.

Eventually, we arrived at our destination and eventually, the baby cheered up and we all had a pretty wonderful time near the stunning Atlantic ocean.  We were glad we'd powerhouses through.

But next year, come vacation time, I'm putting everyone in surgical masks and gloves. We're battening down the germ hatches. One Coxsackie Family Vacation makes for a diverting story band blog post, Two? That's just wrong.




Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Coxsackie Family Vacation!


Four.

That's the number of times I've had to cancel a trip because a child fell ill the day we were supposed to depart. We don't take a lot of trips, so this is a pretty high percentage of total trips ventured. The most memorable of these trip cancellations was when Primo got appendicitis the night David and I were supposed to leave for Iceland. The car service came to take us to the airport but instead we had it take us to the ER where my son got an organ removed. Fun times.

Of course, all's well that ends well. And the most distressing thing about that cancelled trip was that, had my son grown sick just a few hours later, we'd have been in Iceland when he was taken to the hospital. Thinking about him in pain and me far away, waiting for hours for a flight to take me back to him, fills me with tremendous dread. It's enough to make me never plan a vacation again.

But that's no way to live! So we plan. And we inevitably cancel, too. Because, guess what? Kids get sick all the damn time and very inopportunely, I might add.

Two Fridays ago, we were all set to drive down to North Carolinw for our annual family vacation. We meet David's parents and his sister, with her all kids, and grandmothers and family friends and it's a rollicking good time. Sand and surf and sweet tea. We look forward to it all year. The vacation can never come quick enough.

We were all packed. Swim diapers and thermometers and reading material and sunblock and snorkel masks and everything you could possibly need was organized into suitcases and the suitcases were zipped up. Sandwiches were made for the ride down and wrapped in tin foil. Reservations had been confirmed at the hotel in DC where we stay to make the trip a bearable two-day one, instead of an intolerable blur of misery that is concluded in one day.

We were all set. All we had to do was attend the kids' culminating performance at theater camp at 1pm and from there, we'd stick the kids right into the already-packed car and zoom off. But about a half hour before we had to leave to see the performance Terza did something profoundly disturbing.

She fell asleep.

Whenever my kids fall asleep without a fight, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are sick. It happened when Primo had appendictisu and it was the deciding factor for us to take him to the ER.

"He doesn't have fever or vomiting or the other symptoms," I told David. "But he says his stomach hurts. AND HE JUST FELL ASLEEP. At 7pm. Without a struggle."

"Shit," David concurred, "You're right."

So when I looked over and found Terza lying in the middle of the living room carpet, on her stomach, dozing off, I knew. I knew the trip was a goner. I shot David a panicked look and then he knew too.

But we deluded ourselves because sometimes life requires a little delusion.

"It's not THAT weird," I reasoned. "I mean, it's nap time and so she fell asleep. Kids DO that. I've heard they do that."

David nodded. But he didn't looked convinced. Sure, kids do that. Just not our kids.

A half hour later, after slinging the diaper bag over my shoulder and slipping my sunglasses on the top of my head, fully ready to go to the kids' show and then after that, DC, I picked the baby up from where she'd been sleeping on the living room floor. And of course she was blazing hot.

Now, I don't usually call the doctor immediately after the kids first spike a fever because I know they are going to tell me to wait until they've had the fever for three days or until other complications arise. But in this instance, I needed a prognosis, in order to ascertain if we'd be able to leave for NC soon. So I brought Terza into the doctor who took one look at her throat and made an educated guess that I did not want to hear.

"Looks like Coxsackie," she said/ "Everyone has it. It's going around big-time."

I pumped her for details and as soon as I heard them, I regretted it. High fever for up to 3 days? Ulcers all down the throat making eating and drinking very difficult? Blisters forming afterwards on the hand, feet, mouth and BUTT? Oh, and yes, highly contagious.

"But she might NOT have that, right?" I clarified.

"Sure, she might not," the doctor replied. "But she probably does."

Terza is a very charming feverish baby. She gets positively luminescent. She is super chatty, not unlike someone on coke. She talks about a mile a minute and runs to and fro, until suddenly, she'll crash and then she lies on the couch, eyes all glassy, and says stuff like "I love you my darling." And you just want to beat the germs senseless and send them packing. So she did that and we consoled the kids who were positively miserable that our trip was on indefinite hold. You can say, "Think about your poor sister for God's sake!" but, come on, they're kids.

So we watched TV and ate ice cream with chocolate syrup and waited-and-seed. The inevitably of waiting-and-seeing is the number one reason I will never be a doctor. There are many other reasons, but that's top of the list.

And just about twenty four hours after she'd fallen asleep on the floor with a fever, her fever broke. Mercifully. We would have definitely luxuriated in relief had that not been the exact moment that the mouth ulcers began to bother her. Did I say "bother?" Hmmmmn. There must be a more exact word I can use to communicate the effect of the sores on my daughter. "Tormented" gets a bit closer.

Because while Terza is a dreamboat Fever Baby, she is a nightmare Mouth Ulcer Baby. Not that I blame the poor kid. If there was some kind of morphine mouthwash I could safely use on her, I'd have used it. Interestingly, the pharmacy doesn't have Pediatric Percoset Mouthwash over the counter. So we were forced to go it the Old-School-Suffering route.

And, we figured, since we were all already suffering at home, why not take the show on the road? With her fever completely gone, and a diagnosis fully confirmed, we decided to take Coxsackie Baby on a ten hour drive to the beach!


 . . . . Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of the Coxsackie Family Vacation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Coxsackie Mouth

I have thought of the best ever band name. Are you ready?

Coxsackie Mouth.

It would have to be a death metal band, involving MUCH SCREAMING AND HOWLING.

Yes, this is the work of genius, born of much suffering.

More Coxsackie Family Vacation story to follow.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Yep, he's mine all right


On a recent lazy afternoon, I asked the kids:

"So, should we go to the playground or the library?"

"The library!" Primo piped up.

"You like the library, huh?"

"Mom, of course!" he exclaimed,  "I mean, can you believe someone invented libraries? A place where you can get books for free? As many as you want? That's, like, the best thing ever,"

And I had one of those, "Yep, he's mine, all right" moments.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Potty training: not for the faint of heart


I wasn't the one who started the potty training experiment. It was Terza. She's a real self-starter like that. Mainly, it's because she's in day care part of the week so she sees her school friends using the potty and she thinks, "Hey, that looks fun. I wanna give it a whirl." And she comes home and says, reasonably enough, " wanna use the potty Mommy."

What Mommy would stand in her way?

But here's the problem with Terza's potty training. It's spotty. Really spotty. Her success rate at present is near to nil. Now, obviously, I understand this isn't a pass/ fail thing, I understand there's no "failing" that whatever she does is great and it's all a learning process and a journey and the journey is beautiful.

I get that.

Here's what else the journey is: messy.

You could nickname our apartment Urinetown. I'd be insulted but I wouldn't dispute you. Th skid pisses EVERYWHERE. Her favorite place to pee, though, is my bed. And her favorite time to pee in my bed is riiiiiiiiight after I change the sheets from the last pee accident. Those sweet-smelling, crisp linens must be a siren song to her, whispering, "Coooooome. Do you have to go pee-pee? This is the puuuuuurfect place. Just sit on down and let it all gooooooooo."

The best part is she will run to me, all proud, and announce, "I went POTTY Mommy!" My heart sinks and I ask, "Where, honey?" and she proclaims, 'On your BED! Like a BIG GIRL!"

Occasionally she will even clap her hands, gleefully, as if she's a prompter and I forgot my line.

Then I will sigh, suppressing the urge to reprimand her, because hey, she's a baby after all, and yes, it's all a learning process. And I'll strip the sheets and the mattress paid, AGAIN, and wonder how do you wash a quilt and calculate whether I have enough time to launder all the bedclothes before I have to go to sleep, and I will consider canceling potty training.

Because the Urinetown aspect of this experience isn't even the shittiest part, no pun intended.

One day last week, she was wearing her diaper and she said, "I have to go potty" and a minute later, she had - the stink was unmistakable -- and she rushed over and announced, "I DID IT!" and to prove it, she pulled down her underwear and showed me. I was confused, because I'd thought she was in diapers, just a minute ago, but she explained that she had changed into her underwear so she could poop in there, "Like a big girl."

That's when I said to David, "I feel like she's not getting this."

So, I've removed the underwear from the drawers and reverted to Pull Ups. I've run out of detergent, to say nothing of patience. I figure once I replenish both, in a few days, we'll resume.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Tips for the (Secretly) Blind


Some helpful advice from my new memoir, Now I See You, on bookshelves now! To hear more tips, watch the book trailer!






Sunday, June 29, 2014

And then THIS happened . . .


In the July 7th issue of People, on stands now!!