Flu

Tuesday morning I went to the doctor’s hoping I had caught strep from the boys. Why was I hoping for strep? It is treatable. I’d be back on my feet pretty quickly. Nope, not strep. Not an ear infection. Not the common cod. She told me I had the flu and that I needed to go to bed for the week. She offered to write me a note for work. I laughed before I started crying. “I’m a stay at home Mom! Sick days aren’t part of the benefit package!”

“Oh, so you won’t need a note.” She was missing the point.

“I cannot stay in bed for a week.”

“You’ll just have to let them watch a lot of movies. How old are they?”

“Four and a half and two and a half.”

“Oh…..well…….good luck.”

Before you go feeling too sorry for me you should know that Z went into full-on Super Dad mode, getting the boys from school, putting C down for nap, all that jazz. We started to line up sitters for the rest of the week. And then my Parents called. Mom would arrive at 10:15pm that night.

I might have the flu, but I’m beyond lucky.

Yesterday I felt so much better. If I stayed still. The minute I started moving around the coughing that makes my lungs feel bruised and my head ache started. The fever and chills seemed more pronounced. The soreness that enveloped my skin returned. But my Mommy was here. Taking care of the boys, making dinner, checking on me.

The truth is I thought I’d wake up this morning feeling better still. How long could I really feel extremely bad? I was probably overreacting to this whole thing, after all overreacting is what I do best. Mom probably didn’t need to rush up here after all.

I feel awful.

Clearly the high of knowing I get to rest for several days has dissipated. I am not going to magically be better tomorrow. The flu sucks. Having C sidle up to me and tug on my blanket while saying, ” Mama! Cuddle me! Please!” sucks balls big time. Z sleeping on the sofa sucks and makes me feel lonely. I don’t want him to get this. And I’m glad that my wheezing and snoring and hacking is not keeping him awake. But I hate reaching out with my leg in the middle of the night only to connect with nothing rather than the reassuring bulk of my husband.

And yes. I did get the flu shoot. We all did.

And yes. I still think it was the right choice. Am I pissed I got the flu anyway? Sure. It impacts the whole family negatively and frankly it feels terrible. But I am not shocked. (Ok, I am feeling too shitty to verify at the moment, so this is from memory and I might get some stuff wrong-let me know in the comments and I apologize in advance for bad info) The flu vaccine varies in efficacy from year to year. This year’s shot was a pretty good match to the strains out there right now-think it was about 70%. Which means there is a 30% chance the recipient of the shot will catch the flu. Decent odds, but not fantastic.

Why am I not angry the vaccine didn’t protect me?

Who says it didn’t protect me? Who knows how many time I or a member of my family has been exposed to the flu this season and didn’t get sick? Also, having the vaccine might protect my family even though I am contagious. It might shorten the duration of the virus for me.

I’m sick. I’m pissed. I’m exhausted and need to wrap this thing up so I can rest. But the flu has not changed my mind about vaccinations. Z and I got educated before we got vaccinated. We understood the risks and benefits. I believe we made the right choice for our family.

someone found his halloween costume

T found his Halloween costume the other day. He’s been wearing it a lot.

love his sweet face

This kid’s sweet face melts me. So hard not to cuddle with him. Not touching my family is definitely the worst part of being contagious.

flu no filter

This is what the flu looks like. Scary. I know.

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The Bitch Loves Vacation

Anxiety disorders don’t just melt away when you go on vacation. My bitch climbed uninvited into the rental car when we left my parent’s house. Evidently she also booked a seat on the flight down to Miami. She snuggled into the king size bed in our hotel room, pushing her way past me to settle in next to Z for the night.

It was pretty naive to think she’d stay at my folk’s house.

Z finished with his work event at 3pm this afternoon. He has been looking forward to checking out the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Perez for weeks and he was pretty close to the museum already. The traffic in Miami is fierce. Four and a half years of Syracuse living has made us soft. Instead of killing an hour and a half by coming to pick me up just to drive back across town he suggested I take a cab.

I begged off because there was school work I needed to attend to that was time sensitive. Which was the truth. But I was also relieved I had an excuse.

After he enjoyed the exhibit he called to see if I’d cab it out there for dinner-there were some restaurants on the water. And the one thing I’ve said I want to do here was make it to the beach, just to look out at the Atlantic for a bit. I couldn’t do it. My stomach was clenched, the fear made my mouth taste bitter. I just couldn’t.

What is it like? How does it feel to be able to move around in this world without fear? To not worry that your bowels will betray you? To drive in traffic without feeling panic at being surrounded by so many people?

Am I going to spoil every vacation for the rest of my life? Am I going to teach my boys that fear is natural? Am I ever going to relax and fucking enjoy myself?

That’s not quite fair. Wednesday was my day. Mostly because I didn’t leave the hotel room much. Z had a work event and was gone from before I woke until 5:30pm. I slept in. I fucked around on the computer. I goddamn ran the fastest mile of my life (8:35) and finished three miles in under 30 minutes for the first time. I fucked around on the computer. I napped. We went out for dinner at an excellent sushi joint. It was perfection. Except for the drive to the sushi joint. That was tense. But otherwise the day was glorious.

Tomorrow is our only day together. We are going to go look at the ocean and eat good food and nap. I am telling that bitch to back the fuck off and let me have a day with my husband. Here’s hoping she is in a listening mood….

fam hot tub

Family hot tub time during our last day at my folk’s. Holy shit, do I miss those boys. I have needed a break and am grateful for it, but I cannot wait to squeeze them tight on Sunday morning.

coconut

Z brought a coconut he found on the ground into the room.

fastest mile

After several weeks of struggling in the freezing cold and wind, after several weeks of tackling many hills doing a dead flat run in 60 degree weather basically guaranteed I’d beat any previous personal record. But I didn’t expect to beat my mile record by almost a full minute! Think I can now officially stop calling myself a jogger and start calling myself a runner.

Risk

Early this week a friend from high school posted this status update on facebook: “Friends who are parents, especially parents of children still in car seats: Would you leave your toddler, strapped into their seat while you ran into the post office? Car is turned off and your quick dash is at least 4 minutes long. It’s 55 degrees and you’re in a suburban/city area very close to a major highway. I’m especially interested in (names removed for privacy) thoughts as they live in very similar areas.”

Eventually 40 responses were typed. I’ve read them all and haven’t been able to get the thread out of my mind. In fact, my thoughts are so scattered that this is my third go-round in trying to write a post about it. The responses were given with an assumption of some sort of privacy, so I’m not going to name or quote anyone.

Two parents copped to doing it. Most everyone else said no. What surprised me was the number of people who cited their parental love or the preciousness of their children as motivation to not leave them for several minutes. The implication was those who made the choice to run into the store loved their kids less, were inferior parents, were exposing their child to a catastrophic risk.

A staggering 258,000 children were kidnapped in a single year according to an oft cited report issued in 2002. The vast majority of those children, 200,000 of them, were abducted by family members. 58,000 were taken by people they knew or strangers, but according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children non family member abductions were least common. Of the 258,000 kidnappings in the report 115 were “stereotypical” kidnappings, which means “the child was held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently“.

I am not trying to make light of kidnapping. As a parent the idea that someone would take my child from me is my absolute worst nightmare. It does happen, it is real. In 2002, the year the kidnapping report was released, there were 72.9 million children in the United States. Less than 115 of them were killed by a kidnapper.

In 2010 approximately 171,000 kids were injured in car accidents and more than 1,200 were killed.

Yet, I don’t break out in a sweat when I’m strapping my kids into the car seat.

Fear distorts risk.

Do you guys know about the blog Red Wine and Applesauce? The author is a mother and a journalist who specializes in vaccines, parenting, and prenatal and child health. Last week she wrote a post about the flu vaccine in pregnant women. According to the latest peer reviewed scientific studies health benefits for mother and child were found when the mother was vaccinated against the flu. She also included an anecdotal account of a friend who lost one of the twins she was carrying after contracting the flu. I had never commented on her blog before, but the inclusion of an anecdote bothered me enough to voice my opinion.

I am pro vaccine. Even after C experienced an adverse reaction to the chickenpox vaccine that eventually snowballed with other illnesses to land him in the hospital I am pro vaccine. Based on the results of varied research studies conducted within the academy and published in peer reviewed journals I believe the risk of disease is greater than the risk of the vaccine itself. I believe in herd immunity. I believe that it is my responsibility as a member of this society to vaccinate myself and my children in order to help protect the vulnerable who are unable to be vaccinated due to health or age.

The anti vaccine movement often relies on anecdotal evidence to prey upon the fear of parents. The “studies” produced by the movement are not published in peer reviewed journals, which require adherence to scientific method and ethical data collection and use. It bothered me that a writer that I respect would also use anecdotal evidence to bolster her point.

I’ve been to the anti vaccine sites. Not going to link to them here, but you could find them with a simple google search. I’ve read the heartbreaking stories of families affected by adverse reactions to vaccines. Those reactions can’t always be conclusively linked to vaccines, but sometimes they can. They are not to be dismissed. They are tragedies and my heart aches for the families. Still, I vaccinate my children. Because the risk of disease is higher than the risk of injury. Because although I fall prey to fear on a regular basis in this case the science and statistics speak louder than the anecdotes.

Back to the kid left in the car. Would I do it? No. But I’m sort of envious of the person who did do it. I honestly don’t think it is a big deal. My parents did it with us as kids. My Mom tells a story about running into the dry cleaners with a baby me in the car in which I stole her fries from the bag of fast food and chowed down.

I wouldn’t do it mostly because I know you can get in trouble for doing it. And do you know what I do fear disproportionately? Authority.

***Kidnapping, vaccines, issues that get us hot under the collar as parents…if you disagree with me I do welcome your comments, if you agree with me I welcome your comments. I am going to ask if anyone decides to comment that that we all keep it respectful. It doesn’t do a lick of good to name call or act superior. Whether you agree with me or not.

overalls

There should be a law that two year olds are required to wear overalls.

new slippers

Amazing alpaca slippers from Uncle A and Aunt B! Perfect for Syracuse winters.

Vignettes

We were on our way to Target to get T his reward for handling the pain of a flu shot. Yep, I bribe my kids in order to make a scary event more bearable. I’m not even going to apologize. Yes, I vaccinate my children. Because I believe in science and herd immunity and I’m really not going to apologize.

I let an old lady’s car in front of me as we inched towards the intersection and out of the business park. Old lady put on her left turn signal and I cursed inside my head. We were going to be stuck waiting for her to turn forever. Sure enough there wasn’t a break in the traffic for ages. Finally one came. She did not pull out. I was biting my tongue to hold in the string of expletives that were flashing through my head. Another break came. “Grandma! Come on!” I shouted. She went.

From the backseat T was furiously craning his neck to try to see the other driver. “Mom? Do you have two grandma’s?” Yup, little man thought my actual grandma was in the car in front of us.

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C was in the front of the shopping cart as I walked down an aisle at Target, concentrating on the task at hand rather than my children. He shouted, “Socks!” as he grabbed a pair from the hook. Might seem like nothing, but when you kid has a speech delay and only a dozen words at 26 months old it felt like the fucking most amazing thing that had happened in ages.

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The boys were nearly out of patience as I herded them into a dressing room with five bras in my fist. I got permission from the attendant for each boy to take something into the room to occupy themselves. Play doh for C and T’s little transformer figurine flue shot reward. I stripped down to my waist as I begged C not to scream and T to get out from under the bench. I stood there in an ill fitting leopard print bra, flesh spilling from the sides of the cups. I’m sure to make that extra flesh feel less lonely my muffin top poofed luxuriously from the top of my jeans. I started laughing hysterically. Leopard Print. LEOPARD PRINT! Fat spilling everywhere. Muffin top. What was I trying to do? I’ve never quite felt so much like a Mother in my entire life.

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We all were ready to go home, but we were 5 stores away from LL Bean. And T has started to tell his teacher that he didn’t bring a hat so he can wear the awesome one in the classroom. The one he deemed much cooler than his own. The one from LL Bean. I figured we could get him one of his own as he’s worn his current chapeau for two years. As we left LL Bean hat in hand we passed a Mom with two kids, each probably a year younger than my own. I was trying to wrangle C who was throwing the great tantrum of ’13 so I didn’t get a close look, but the very young toddler was in a stroller. “That little fella was excited to go to the store because he thought he was going to play with me!” T exclaimed. And suddenly I was laughing again.

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At some point we are going to have to face the music and potty train C. We’ve promised ourselves that we will put him on the toilet first thing in the morning, but we’ve been too lazy to actually do it. This morning I sat with him on the bathroom floor and gave him two choices-the little potty or the big potty. He wept and raged and shook his head and said, “uh-uh” which means no over and over. We sat quietly for a minute and he pointed at the big toilet, so I put him on. Nothing happened, but I told him he did a terrific job. T called me out of the bathroom. I shut the toilet lid and left. A moment later I returned to find C standing at the commode on tiptoes, lid and seat raised, desperately trying to hold his penis above the edge. Guess he’s been watching how Daddy and T do it. I held him off the ground so he could “aim” properly, laughing hysterically and telling him what a clever monkey he was. Looks like we are going to have to get a stool.

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Parenthood is frustrating and exhausting and just when you think you have figured out every way possible to screw it up you surprise yourself with creative new ways to make mistakes. Admittedly I bitch about it nonstop. But the small little moments above? They all happened in the last 18 hours. No matter how bad my days are there is always a counterpoint of hilarity and delight and wonder. You know what I’m talking about. The moments of silliness or absurdity or parental pride that might bore everyone else on the planet to tears. The moments that will either be a part of your family lore forever, or be forgotten the next day.  The moments that actually make it possible to slog through your day. They are the reasons I wouldn’t exchange my kids for a million mornings of sleeping in, or lazy weekends reading the Sunday Times cover to cover, or nights out at the bar with friends.

Ok.

Maybe I’d give them up for a million of those. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve read the Sunday Times? But surely not for a hundred thousand.

cream cheese mustache

His luxurious cream cheese mustache is rather fetching.

New Hat

New hat on this delightful creature.

HPV No More

Remember when I had an irregular pap smear which led to a colposcopy and biopsy? And then two weeks later I got the fancy call to tell me I did, indeed, have HPV?

That was a lot of fun.

I kid, I kid. I handled it with the grace and maturity of an eleven year old girl who just got her period for the first time.

Six months after all this went down I was scheduled to have another pap smear. That’s standard procedure with an HPV diagnosis. I had it done in early May, right before we left for the trip down south. I was nervous, but it was totally ordinary. If you can call being cranked open and swabbed with an extra large mascara wand ordinary. At least there were no coffee grounds, no vinegar, no fancy mustard. I know, how boring!

The doc told me if the results were normal I wouldn’t hear from them. He also told me if the HPV was still in my system it was not a big deal. I was worried about being gone for a month and a half and he said if it was still an issue we could basically wait until fall for next steps and nothing bad would happen.

Hold on just a second. The results could be normal?

Yup. Seems like they are still figuring out a ton of stuff about this pesky virus, but when you have mild dysplasia the virus can clear on its own. It might come back in 6 months. Or in 10 years. Or in never. But it probably will come back. You got to keep your eye on it.

I never heard from the doctor. So I felt happy and hopeful although deep down I was sure they’d made a big mistake and just failed to call because the results were that it actually got worse. I kept wanting to write about it here, especially if the virus cleared because Yay! Happy good news post! And because if there is a good outcome maybe someone who reads this won’t be so scared when they find out they have HPV. But I didn’t want to write until I’d called the doc’s office and double checked that I’m in the clear. I couldn’t bring myself to call because I was so scared. For two months I couldn’t call.

Yesterday I tricked myself. I dialed the office before my brain could shout at me to stop. And to quote the nurse I spoke to, “Your pap was perfectly normal.” Hallelujah motherfuckers. Hallelujah.

Ladies. Get your pap smears. This was a really unpleasant experience, yes. But cliche or no, knowledge is power. I’m glad I know that HPV might be an issue for me moving forward. I’ll be more emotionally prepared and can inform my future doctors that I have a history. If we head down the cervical cancer road we’ll probably catch it really early.

Seriously, friends. Take care of yourselves and get a yearly exam at the lady doc. Don’t have insurance? I’m furious on your behalf. Go to Planned Parenthood, they have a sliding scale based on income. When I was broke and living in NYC without insurance it is where I went. Find out if there are free clinics in your area. Call your local doc and explain you don’t have insurance and ask if they will cut you a deal or recommend a low price option. I know all that is a pain in the ass. I know you shouldn’t have to do it. I know it is easy for me to say because I have insurance and don’t have to do a ridiculous dance to try and get myself to the doctor’s. I used to be there, though. And I might not have gotten regular physicals or gone to the dentist, but since I was 16 I haven’t skipped a year at the Gynecologist. This is your long term health we are talking about. Take care of yourself. Figure out a way to make your yearly exam happen.

And if you are a young woman get the vaccine! If you are a parent make sure both your daughters and sons get it as well. You better bet my boys will get theirs. Men transmit this virus. They can be part of the solution.

Ok, slouching off the soapbox for now.

workout

In other very crazy news I’m working out. Here is some very honest, very unfiltered before and after action.

flashdance

Channeling the 80’s. He’s my flashdance boy.

daddy love

Early morning Daddy love.

….And Happy Fucking New Year’s

At my parent’s family practice office yesterday I filled out new patient forms for myself and suddenly realized it would probably be the last time I wrote ’12 as the year, which was kind of cool. I was diagnosed with another sinus infection, and trudged off to the pharmacy with a prescription for nose spray. The older boys were out with my dad and sister. Back at home the younger boys, Z, and my mom were my lunch companions. Before we ate Z told me he was bushed and planned on going to bed right after the boys went down for the night. Because you just stop giving a shit about New Year’s when you have young kids and know you will be up at 5:30am no matter what.

Things get a big blurry after that. C started vomiting and having diarrhea. I was on the phone with our pediatrician’s office back home at one point. The practice rocks and has a nurse hotline. The nurse who was helping me was so kind. I brought her up to speed with C’s health-he has had a rough December-and she said, “Oh! You are on the vacation from hell! I’m so sorry, but don’t feel alone-we have all been there.” She was so supportive and gave great information, but the upshot was if the kid didn’t pee we had to take him in to be seen. And being seen on New Years Evening meant taking him to a pediatric ER. And the closest pediatric ER to my folk’s home is an hour and a half away in Augusta, GA.

By 4pm it was clear that we were going to Augusta. We got here at 6. They pushed fluids via IV for hours and my sweet little man who hadn’t had a wet diaper since 5:30am just wouldn’t pee and the diarrhea got worse and worse. They decided to admit us just before midnight and got us up to the room around 2am. Z and C were cuddled up asleep by 2:30am. I was a wired, frightened, anxious mess. At least I remembered I have chill pills for moments like these. I finally fell asleep at 3:30….and C was up at 5:30. Because Z was right. No matter what happens on New Years Eve your kids will wake at 5:30 in the morning. I think it’s actually a law. And I did end up scribbling ’12 a bunch more times when I met with the billing person at the ER. What’s the old saying? When you make plans for the future god laughs at you? I guess it is true even if that future is less than 24 hours away.

Our sweet, brave little trooper is fine. Or he will be fine. He’s just had a terrible month health-wise. Chicken pox vaccine (we’ll come back to that in a minute), ear infection, staph infection on a pox mark on his nose, eye infection, several high fevers, diarrhea, vomiting. Happy December! Turns out a small percentage of kids who get the chicken pox vaccine have an eruption of the pox marks. They get around 50 rather than 100-300 the kids who actually get the illness have. C didn’t technically have Chicken Pox, but there was a minuscule chance he could have infected someone who hadn’t had it. Um, like my dad. Who we’ve been staying with. Do not get me started on how guilty I feel about that. It was our first adverse reaction to a vaccination. The only really bad part was that initial pox mark got a staph infection. It’s on the side of his nose and he scratched it. And I’ve got to say the whole thing has been a bummer, but it in no way swayed me from believing in the imperative nature of vaccinations to protect our population.

A concept that I’ve read about on-line that is supported by many anti-vaccination folks is the belief in following the “natural course of life” when it comes to childhood illness. I’ve got to say I don’t get it. If I followed the “natural course of life” when it came to my health my boys wouldn’t have a mother. Now, I recognize I’m often prone to hyperbole, but not in this case. If the retained placenta had not been removed 5 days after T was born I would have eventually hemorrhaged and died. Already the amount of blood I was losing was impressive. And if the doctors hadn’t treated me to stop the actual hemorrhage that happened after C was born I would have died. As it was I lost more than a liter of blood in about 10 or 15 minutes. In both cases I was grateful for invasive western medicine. If we get pregnant again (which isn’t going to happen) my doc assured me that preventative steps will be taken to make sure my uterus does what it is supposed to after the baby comes out.

In my mind “natural course of life” leads to a lot of dead people. If that is the decision you make for your family it’s one thing, but when we are talking about communicable disease we are not talking about one family. That unvaccinated child who becomes ill can infect other children who are not protected because of age, or a compromised immune system that precludes them from receiving a vaccine. Herd immunity works. We all need to participate.

So yes, I’m in the hospital with my amazing and wonderful 16 month old. The Chicken Pox thing is a small piece of the puzzle of why we are here. It certainly wasn’t the driving factor, but even if it was I would still make sure he received it. The last two days have sucked balls. I’ve cried a lot. My sweet boy has cried a lot. But this is fixable. He is going to be fine even if we have to spend another night here (and we might-the earliest we’ll be out is this evening, if the diarrhea doesn’t get figured out we’re definitely here till tomorrow morning at least). I’m grateful to our access to steller medical care (seriously, if you find yourself in Augusta, GA with a critically ill kid I can’t say enough good things about this place), I’m grateful to western medicine, I’m grateful to my folks and sister who are caring for T. I miss him so much right now, but I don’t have to worry about him. I’m grateful for my partner in crime who is taking a much need nap with our sweet little baby right now. This might have not been the best New Years Eve of our marriage, but we spent it together. And all things considered I still feel incredibly lucky.

Sad sweet boy before he had explosive diarrhea all over the fetching green hospital gown.

Yellow gown, IV fluids, feeling like utter shit.

He finally peed! A little early morning reading. 

Much needed Daddy cuddles and naps. 

Z truthfully informed me this morning that he loves me, but I look like hell. He doesn’t look so hot himself. But I figure that all you folks who went out and partied last night also aren’t at your best this morning. So how different were our nights anyway?