Quarantined Until Further Naps, I mean, Notice

We’re not even one month in, yet, and 2015 has already gone viral.

Two Saturdays ago, poor Sunny went uncharacteristically lethargic, lost her dinner,* and spent Sunday sleeping.

That evening, Jane experienced a non-triggered panic attack. I know that’s not a virus, but the symptoms looked a lot like sudden-onset pneumonia, especially with her history of bronchial mishegaas, so my husband took her to the hospital, where she was given a Xanax and several tests to make sure her heart and lung were clear, which they were.

On Monday, she fell asleep in the middle of math class—in the middle of giving an answer in math class, according to the school—and came home to sleep off the residual effects of the adrenaline spike and/or benzodiazepine.

I had a blinding sinus headache on Wednesday, but powered through on Advil, caffeine, and hope until all three gave up on me around lunch on Thursday.

We enjoyed a day and a half of relative good health.

Then on Saturday, Sunny developed a mild fever after swim class and voluntarily slept through the day. She went downhill on Sunday—her fever hit 103F just as the medical clinics closed—and started bark-coughing between refusing to eat anything “scratchy” and complaining that her empty tummy hurt.

She and I spent a miserable night—she trying to breathe, me making sure she didn’t stop—and when she woke up Monday, she swallowed twice, tried to say “ouch!” and burst into tears. So instead of spending our day off at the museum (or writing), I took her to the pediatrician. He said she had nothing more dire than a severe sore throat and gave her a prescription for steroids to soothe the throat swelling.We also went the homeopathic route with chocolate pudding, Gatorade, and the final two episodes of The Librarians.Unfortunately, either the steroids or the chocolate made Sunny just a tad manic, so none of us could catch up on some much-needed sleep.

We all went to bed last night—from my text history, I was asleep an hour or two before I hit the pillow—hoping that the Time of the Virus was finally behind us . . .

. . . and then, about ten-thirty, Jane threw up.

If this continues, it’s going to be an interesting year.

How’s YOUR health?


* I cannot overemphasize the sincere joy of having children old enough, and savvy enough, to clamp their own hands over their mouths and run for the nearest acceptable receptacle.  It’s right up there with pitching out the last plastic potty and retiring the diaper bag.

Parenting is Hazy, Try Again

Ear ThermometerWhen I was a kid and complained that my head hurt or my stomach hurt or I just plain didn’t feel well, my mother gave the thermometer final authority over whether I went to school or stayed home.

If I didn’t have a fever—101°F or above—and didn’t throw up before the bus arrived, I went.

This was partially because perfect attendance was a bragging point among parents back then—far more important than keeping one’s germs at home—and partially because I had a habit of visiting the nurse’s office every Monday morning with all the symptoms of a kid who did not want to spend another single second in school.

Jane often doesn’t want to be in school, either.  So when she complained yesterday morning that her head hurt, I did as my mother did before me and turned to our thermometer like a magical, medical 8-ball, while quizzing her about any tests or assignments or boys she might be avoiding.

Her temperature was absolutely normal.  Mine was higher than hers.

So, again in the family tradition, I dosed her with Tylenol—I didn’t doubt she had a bit of a headache, since we share DNA and it was starting to rain—and dropped her off.

A couple hours later, while I was at the library helping several of my co-workers to wrestle general fiction back to its permanent home, the school called and told me that Jane had complained about having a bad headache, though their thermometer also claimed she didn’t have a fever.

I sympathized, glanced at the clock, and asked them to give her a half dose of the Tylenol I’d sent along with her inhaler at the beginning of the year and send her back to class.

Thirty minutes later, as I was struggling to get an overloaded cart into the elevator without tipping it, the school called again to report that the meds hadn’t made a dent and Jane seemed pretty out of it.  It was suggested that since she wouldn’t be able to concentrate today, she might take her lack of concentration home, in case it was contagious and/or suddenly invaded her digestive system.

Jane came on the line.  I told her, as my mother had told me, that if she came home, there would be no TV, no electronics, and homework would be completed.

Her “Okay, Mom.” was subdued.

My guilt warred with the distinct feeling that I was being played and joined forces with the guilt over suspecting my own devious spawn  beloved offspring of trying to play me.

And succeeding.  Because when the thermometer lets you down, what other avenues do you have?

My husband had classes all day, so I told them to gather her homework, threw myself on the mercy of my boss, assumed custody of the patient from the school’s administrative assistant (who did not seem overly impressed by my apparent lack of parental sympathy), took her home, and stayed with her.

Jane fell heavily asleep for four hours, woke up, had some soup, did her homework, welcomed her little sister home with the customary noogie, and was her usual delightfully obnoxious self for the rest of the day.

Was she actually sick? Or just sleepy?

I don’t know.

Had I actually been sick, all those years ago?


Does it really matter, in the greater scheme of things?

Not a clue.

But it’s clear that parenting paradigms have changed and maybe my parenting methods–and attitude—should change with them.

To start, I’ll be swapping our thermometer for a magic 8-ball for the tough calls.

If Jane doesn’t shake it more than once to get the answer she wants, she’s definitely sick.

Reply Hazy


Nothing Funny Happened on the Way to the Hospital

Oxygen Mask Tube - this portion stays outside ...
So . . .

Janie spent last night in the hospital for observation.

She spent all Sunday evening and part of Monday morning coughing and sneezing and being miserable, and while she didn’t have much of a fever, she was clearly staying home from day camp.

When a kid agrees that she isn’t well enough to go on a field trip to the water park, there’s something going on besides the cat’s newfound preference for sleeping on her pillow—add a midmorning fever spike and labored breathing and we stopped being concerned about allergies and started worrying that it was Return of the Son of Pneumonia, which was so much fun for everyone involved the first time.

My husband took her to the pediatrician, who didn’t think that was the problem, but her oxygen levels were worrying and her breathing was labored, so he ordered an x-ray, just in case.  While they waited, she was given breathing treatments, which seemed to help both her breathing and the family’s mental state.  My husband’s texts after that were mostly about how long it was taking to be called for the x-ray and then to find someone to interpret it.

It was my late night at the library, so I left my phone in my bag while I was on the public desk.  When I checked it at the end of my shift, I had twelve messages.

The first one that popped up was from Watson: Okay, we have Sunny taken care of, so don’t worry about us.  You need anything for Jane?

The second was from my husband, They want Janie to stay in the hospital overnight for observation. She’s being transferred . . .  The room number followed.

The rest of the texts were reassurances that didn’t help much, under the circumstances:  Her breathing was better, but her oxygen was still too low.  They’d given her steroids to open her air passages.  She wanted to see me.

The feeling was mutual.

She’s in the same hospital where she was born, just before they built the new maternity wing at the east hospital across town, which seemed, as I drove there,  more ironic than nostalgic.

It’s an old, venerable building, and no amount of renovations can hide that the rooms were not designed to be comforting or comfortable, but the pediatric nurses are the good ones, the ones you want there if, for example, your ten-year old stops breathing in the middle of the night.

One of them directed me through those big double doors that must be closed at all times for reasons I never want to contemplate, and I found the right room with no trouble.

Janie was sitting up, surrounded by the remains of her dinner and having an friendly argument with her father over the television remote.  Her doll, Penelope, had been tossed aside in favor of a couple of sugar cookies.

If her whole body hadn’t been jittering in place, I would have thought that this was a monumental waste of a good maternal anxiety attack.

“Hi, Mommy,” she said.

“How are you feeling?” I said, feeling her forehead out of habit before rolling my eyes at myself and giving her a hug.  She vibrated in my arms, a sure sign of the steroids and the breathing treatments.


I stayed with her while my husband went home to gather up toothbrushes and jammies and clean clothes for Jane and himself, and to put Sunny to bed.

“Did you get any sleep today?” I asked, \noticing the dark pink rings under her eyes.

“I took a really long nap—Grandma was worried.”

Yeah. “Do you think you’ll be able to sleep tonight?”

She held out a shaking hand and grinned,.  “Probably not.  I have to breathe through the thing every three hours, anyway.  I’m gonna watch Food Network really late.”

“Your Dad might have something to say about that.”


The nurse came in, checked her levels, and stuck an inhaler in her mouth.  She told me that Jane’s oxygen was borderline, and kids’ level usually dropped during the night, so they might put a tube in her nose.  Jane didn’t seem to care about that—another sign she was less herself than usual, though she did take out the inhaler to complain that the announcer had mispronounced Guy Fieri’s last name.

My husband arrived with his duffel and I hugged her again.  “Try to absorb a little more oxygen, okay?  For me?”

She nodded, took a deep breath, and started to cough.  “Sure, Mom,” she croaked.

“That’s my girl.”

And I went home, checked on Sunny, and lost myself for an hour in one of my time management games—if I couldn’t help my daughter breathe, by heaven, I’d  keep my dream-hotel customers happy while vanquishing the nightmare-monsters that were breaking their little satisfaction hearts.

According to my husband, who called early this morning as I was launching my fifth attempt to get Sunny to brush her teeth, Jane’s oxygen levels were normal this morning—but they want to run tests to find out exactly what she has and why an otherwise robust, non-asthmatic kid keeps getting hit with all these respiratory problems.

We don’t know if she’ll come home today, but regardless, it’s my turn tonight and tomorrow to stay with Jane and apply/witness the round the clock breathing treatments.

Under the circumstances, I really don’t mind a bit of sleep deprivation.

Especially since I was miles away when they tried to get a blood sample this morning—according to witnesses, it took three nurses and my husband to get it done.

Looks like she is feeling better . . .

Breathing with the Panda

Thank you all for your kind words and wishes yesterday, both here and on Facebook, and for all the generous offers of George of the Jungle—I’ll let you know.

Sunny and I are fine now, or at least ambulatory and of normal temperature, and for the most part have stopped coughing mauve and chartreuse.

But, as some of you heard and some deduced, Janie has pneumonia.

Not a mild case, either—by the time the doctor saw her, she was at fifty-percent oxygen and her parents were at an eighty-five percent guilt/worry mix.  A few hours and a breathing treatment later, she and my husband came home with a vast assortment of meds and this guy:

She named him Po and breathed with him  for fifteen minutes every three hours from six yesterday evening to six this morning—thank God for Watson, who took care of the midnight and 3am sessions* so my husband and I wouldn’t be total zombies this morning.

Janie started out with the mouthpiece you can sort of see in the photo, but soon switched to the facemask with the elastic band, since the medicine makes her so jittery, she can’t hold onto the reservoir part—a fact that damn near broke down her mother.**

In fact, all the meds make her jumpy and intense and holy cow awake, which meant that telling her to sleep between Panda visits was a complete joke.  When I checked on her one last time before I went to bed, I could almost hear her buzzing under the covers.  But she was already breathing as if it was a normal activity instead of forced labor, which made up for a lot.

And she was in good humor this morning—for the twenty minutes I watched her through her mask, before she brushed her teeth and fell asleep on the couch, twitching like a dreaming puppy.

Wonder how she’ll feel when I arrive home with a week’s worth of school assignments for her tonight?

Is it wrong to hope that she’s too weak to struggle?


*Seriously, lady:  you, me, the new Russell Crowe movie—or just pick one —and as many concession items as you can stand.  Or the Millenium Falcon bottle opener—your choice.

**Though we soon found that rubbing her back soothed both of us.

There’s a virus inside us

Yesterday, the kids and I woke up with slight fevers and sore throats.  We stayed inside and did chores in the effort to bore the virus to death.

In retrospect, this might have been the wrong strategy.

By evening, Jane—who is given to bouts of bronchitis—was doing her dreaded seal impression, I was trying to cough the tickle out of my throat, and Sunny, who is normally a coloratura soprano, was clearing her throat like Isaac Hayes.

I was caught up in edits  and e-mails and went to bed a little later than was wise, only to be woken  at 1:30am by Sunny, who wanted a drink of water.  Since my husband had abandoned the various tweets, hoots whistles, and bear calls of my slumbering respiratory system for the couch, I did my motherly duty and stumbled into the kitchen to run cold water over my empty hand because I’d forgotten to pick up a cup.

After a hydrated Sunny was retucked into bed, I went back to my own pillow and wrapped myself and the cat into the quilt and the comforter.  It was pure bliss.

Until 3:45am, when Jane pulled off my covers and, in a way that let me know she’d been trying to get my attention for several minutes, said, “Mom, I can’t sleep.”

In one of those masterful strokes of Perfect Parenting for which I am so well known, I whined, “That doesn’t mean can’t—go back to bed.”

Oddly enough, this worked.

Two hours after that, my husband came back to bed and snuggled close, like my own personal heating pad . . . and my alarm went off.

I got up, stuck the thermometer in my ear,* looked at the readout and called in sick.  Then I went back to bed, asked my husband to take the kids to school, and slept until ten.

When I woke up, both kids were in their footie pajamas watching old Hanna Barbara cartoons in the living room.   I made peppermint tea, commandeered a corner of the sofa, and was soon enmeshed in the ongoing Perils of Penelope Pitstop, who is, in our family’s considered opinion, dumber than hair but fun to watch.

Jane is breathing with her entire body when she’s not trying to expel a lung, refused cheese toast and cocoa.  and is taking a voluntary nap.  Our parental alarms went off, and she has a pediatrician appointment in an hour.

Sunny has a fever and a cough, but no perceptible loss of energy—naturally.  She’s drawing pictures and bouncing around  to show them to everyone.

I myself am not entirely present on this plane of existence, but am holding down the fort, more or less—with the help of my MIL, who is in her element, with sick children to cater to, and Watson, who spent an hour trying to track down a copy of George of the Jungle though libraries, bookstores, and the four Best Buys within reasonable driving distance, because we all agreed that it was the perfect thing for a houseful of sick people to watch and none of us own it—while my husband takes a deserved pre-pediatrician nap

Five minutes after he’s awake, I won’t be.  So I thought I’d write this up and tell you why there won’t be a post today.

How’d I do?


*I don’t know who invented the ear thermometer, but may great bucketfuls of good karma fall upon them for gifting us with something that has two buttons, a big digital readout, takes all of two seconds, and can be easily used by someone laboring under minimal sleep and coordination, even on the squirmiest kid, without risking physical or psychological trauma.  I salute you, ma’am or sir.