So on the morning of October 29, Penny’s school called me to let me know she was just inconsolable. It was just a “courtesy call,” they said, and they said that right up front, which I appreciated. We’d had some stuff going on at home over the previous few days, so I wasn’t totally surprised. I had to work later, though, and I had an appointment I didn’t want to miss, and kind of feeling like a dick, I asked them to give me an update in 15 minutes or so. That’s normal, right? Whatever, it’s what I did.
I hopped in the shower and before I even got out, my phone was ringing again. She just could not calm herself down. Ok, no big deal, she needs to be at home today. I got out and went and got her. Once I had her home on the couch, she settled a bit and fell asleep. I was chatting with my friends on base and with Jess while I sat on the couch with her, and fortunately managed to make arrangements for one of my friends to come over and sit with her for a couple of hours while I went to the appointment. In the midst of talking to Jess about suddenly inconsolable children, I reached out to re-cover Penny with her blanket and WHOA HOT. HOT HOT HOT. I felt like a giant idiot for not suspecting anything and got the thermometer. 105. Eep. Okay. Big dumb idiot me. I immediately called the doctors on base and they could not get her in. I debated waiting to get an appointment the next day, but by then Penny had woken up and was crying and crying that her neck hurt. Nope. Noooope. So we got loaded up in the car and headed to the ER on the ped’s recommendation.
We were at the ER all. day. Not because they were backed up or slow, that’s rarely a problem here. But just because they were so intent on getting her fever down and figuring out what was going on. I had medicated her before we left and they kept on rotating Tylenol and ibuprofen to bring her temperature down, but it never got under 101. They were fortunately able to determine it was not meningitis, though they had to call in another ped to do it. Despite the rapid strep test being negative and another test not back yet, that doctor determined she had strep and mono. We left with a prescription for antibiotics and instructions to work on keeping the fever down, etc.
Here is a picture of my sad baby that I took for Phil, because I should have mentioned that he was away at the time and was actually away for the entire duration of this story.
The next couple days were rough, as you might expect, because she developed a gastro thing as well and was up over and over all night, every night. Not once or twice, but running to the bathroom once or twice an hour all night. She was not getting any rest and it was just dragging the whole thing out, and she was so miserable.
In the middle of the fifth night of fever, I called the nurse advice line about the fact that her fever just would not go away. Continually above 103 unmedicated and only down to about 101 medicated. Penny didn’t get sick a lot in previous years so I don’t have a ton of experience here, but I do try to keep a reasonable head about fevers. It’s just the body doing what it does, medicate for comfort, all of that. But day five seemed like a long, long time.
So the reason I called the nurse line is a weird thing with our insurance and the way the clinic works on base. We only have one urgent care in town and it’s kind of terrible and I don’t like it, but there are others in Las Cruces that are good. We need a referral to go there. Which is ridiculous. Especially because our insurance is INCREDIBLY STINGY with referrals to urgent care. To get a same day appointment at the clinic, you need to call at exactly 7:00am and hope. Well, if you call the nurse line while the clinic is closed, they go through a series of questions and use their information or program or whatever to make a recommendation. Usually, it’s something like, “we recommend she been seen within the next X days or hours.” If you time your call right and they recommend something like, say, 12 hours, they’ll transfer you over to the appointment line and make you an appointment at the clinic on base if they can find one, and that’s if the recommended window of hours line up. Well, I timed it stupidly or at least expected they’d give us a big window, but they didn’t and said she needed to be seen within 4 hours. Which, no. It was the middle of the night. The only urgent care in town only works limited business hours. They said to take her to the ER. I said I’d already taken my sleeping pills, so I wasn’t going to do that. But they refused to make a next day appointment for me because it would have been outside their recommended 4 hours. So basically, take her to the ER or we can’t help.
NOPE. Come on. I’m not going to get into a whole thing about abuse of the ER, because you know what, that is what it is. But it would probably be HELPFUL if insurance would WORK. WITH. ME. There was a nights, evenings, and weekends urgent care in Las Cruces I could have taken her to if they’d authorize it, but flat refusal to do that.
So, 7am on the dot, I called in for an appointment. This was Monday morning, I think, and all they could get me was an appointment for Wednesday. But could I hold on? They talked to the ped team for a minute and then asked me to take her to the ER. FINE.
So we went up there and got seen quickly. We went over what they’d done the last time. This time, they claimed they never did a mono test, which was INFURIATING, because they’d come back to take extra blood from her for it and she was bruised up and down each arm. But whatever, I don’t care what she HAS, just fix it. This time, they said she had an upper respiratory infection and a stomach thing. They gave her some steroids to help with this insane cough that seriously, just developed on the way there. We went back home and she continued to lay around like a sad, miserable sack.
I had taken the appointment on Wednesday at the clinic anyway, because I was supposed to follow up with her regular doctor. She looked decent at that appointment. Her stomach was still gross, but the doctor advised me that it would probably be like that for up to two weeks, based on what was going around at the time. She passed it to me in the next day or so, so I have great sympathy for how miserable she must have been. Surprisingly, the doctor also had information on the tests that had come back – the long strep test was negative, and so was the mono test, which had miraculously been found. We decided to finish out her antibiotics anyway, and fortunately, she was back to school later that day.
The night of November 16th, she had still been up all night every night coughing, and finally, at that point, had started coughing until she threw up. Okay, gross, but I can handle it. It’s just that she was getting NO SLEEP AT ALL during this whole thing, and I felt like it was making it difficult for her to get her feet under her in terms of finally recovering. The cough had been going on for two weeks at that point, so I was sitting in my bed debating waking up to call and fight for an appointment the next morning when she came in crying about her eye hurting and leaking. She kept getting out of bed all night to wash her leaky eye.
So, next morning, back to the clinic we go. I felt like her doctor must be sick of my stupid face by then, and got that weird paranoia about looking like a crazy paranoid parent, but ever since my paranoia about my infant CRYING TOO MUCH lead to us discovering her raging infection and kidney defect that ended up requiring surgery to repair, I kind of go with that feeling. I mean, I try not to let it get out of control, but that kind of paranoia only needs to pay off once for an already slightly crazy parent to decide she has supernatural sick-deciding powers.
Fortunately, her doctor said I did the right thing. A cough that goes on that long needs to be checked out. He looked at her and decided at this point, we were dealing with a new infection – probably a sinus infection – since she’d already done a full course of antibiotics. Oh, and also, pink eye. So we got another round of antibiotics for the new infection. If she was still coughing in ten more days, he wanted to see her again to see if maybe it’s allergies. She already takes Zyrtec, but I guess you never know.
And she went back to school again. (Her doctor did say it was viral pinkeye and she was free to go to school as long as it wasn’t weeping all over.)
All went fine. For a bit.
On the 23rd, at about FOUR OH FIVE PM. right after the clinic closed, she tells me she has a mosquito bite that is itchy.
OH, DO YOU NOW?
She’s never had a rash, so I called the nurse line to ask what to give her. Take her to the ER, they said. There was no lead up to that because I’m sure you’re not surprised. I was furiously consulting over text with all the other parents I know and it just didn’t seem very ER-y. But they refuse to give any advice other than what their thing says. So I called the clinic, hoping MAYBE someone was there? And they connected me to the after hours doctor, who was actually my doctor. He agreed that it didn’t sound emergent, but if it suddenly got worse than what it was, I should take her, but bring her in to the clinic the next day. Good. That’s what I like to hear.
OMG PENELOPE THURSA WORK WITH ME.
And it continued to worsen from there. When it started crawling up her throat and onto her face, I decided to take her in. Now having seen it, I probably wouldn’t make the same choice again, but at the time, I was freaked out that it was going to crawl down her throat in the night and choke her.
Fortunately, we were in and out very quickly again, and the doctor kept coming back in the room to tell me that if I couldn’t get her an appointment with her doctor the next day, he wanted to see her back there to take a look at her again. He gave me a card with when he’d be there and all of that. I appreciate the reassurance that I’m doing the right thing, but these doctors are totally encouraging my belief in my own spidey-penny sense and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
She got a lot of Benadryl and some more steroids and once she was asleep, she looked like this.
We saw a ped the next day and it was mostly down to just some red bumps, but we were only part way through the most recent course of antibiotics and she was still coughing, so we had to determine if she was going to keep taking them, assuming the rash was viral, since a newly developed allergy to penicillin was a possibly culprit here, or move on to trying to treat the allergies, since she’d finished half the course with little improvement in the cough.
During this appointment, Penelope was INSANE. IN. SANE. Even the doctor was like, can I please just talk to your mother for a second? She was flinging herself off the walls. I assured the doctor that she’s kind of crazy, but not like THIS. Steroids, the doctor reminded me. STEROIDS. She was HULKING OUT.
Anyway, we decided to go with a nose spray and ditch the rest of the antibiotics. When was this? I’ve lost track. Penny started finally sleeping through the night again right before Phil came back home December 1, which was so convenient for him. Then she threw up the other night so I just. You guys.
I was talking to Jess because apparently that’s what I do when everything is terrible, because she has more kids than me and knows more things and is very calm in a crisis, especially one that is not her own and not actually so much a crisis as a parental breakdown in sanity, really, and she told me that there’s some research that most kids get the same amount of illnesses between birth and five, and since Penny just started daycare/pre-k, she was finally getting her share.
It seems weird to say this, since she was in the NICU and hospitalized several other times and has had kidney surgery and has a digestive condition and allergies and reflux, but she’s really been a very healthy kid her whole life. So I am kind of bowled over by all of this, but I do understand that it’s totally normal childhood stuff. She’s just getting hers in a pile and I was not conditioned to know what to do with a sick kid through her earlier years. And I get that it’s not all been anything major. But we’re going into the winter now, her first winter in day care, and she just cannot seem to get her feet under her, health-wise, for a gottdanged second, and I’m concerned that it’s just going to be one thing after another while her immune system gets kicked around by all the other germ balls in the germ aquarium where she spends her days.
I’ve been trying to make sure she gets a lot of sleep, since it’s still broken up and restless most nights and has been since the end of October. Making sure she’s eating well, too. But what else can I do to kind of give her a boost through the rest of the winter. Vitamins? Do they work or just create expensive pee? What do probiotics do? Can they help here? Should I make her wear a blanket and eat soup? She already washes her hands until they chap. Should I just perform a full hose down when she comes in the door from school? I know she’s going to get sick more, but if I could just cut her a little break, that would be great, and any ideas you have or ways you help your own children through snot season would be helpful.
IN OTHER NEWS, I’ve recently taken to onesie pajamas and I encourage you to get on board, and look who is being delivered to Penny on Christmas Eve:
Obviously, growing up, we all have ideas of what adulthood will be like, and some of those things end up turning out to not be things at all. Like, oh, shit, when I grow up, I’m going to have to pay bills and it’s going to be terrible. Except that’s not how it is at all. I mean, it’s not like bills are fun and it’s not like there aren’t 800 things I’d rather spend that money on, but the standard moan and groan about the adult responsibility of bills hasn’t so much come true. Sure, it would have sucked a lot to pay all of those bills when I was 14 or 15 or 16 because I had no money. At all. Because I was a child. Just putting gas in my car with my waitressing tips when it was less than $1/gallon seemed like the biggest chore, so obviously adding on shit like, I don’t know, electricity, seemed like the most enormous downer in the world. Ugh. Adults can’t do anything because all they get to do is pay bills. Two things I did not really factor in: one, I have more money now and paying bills, while not enjoyable, is not some life-ruining, adulthood-destroying burden. And two, I was kind of right. I don’t get to do anything now. Except it’s not that I don’t get to do anything. I don’t want to do anything. I just want to lay here quietly, and I’m entirely okay with that. A long time ago Swistle had this post (link) about how when we were kids, it was so puzzling that adults just wanted to sit around and talk to each other and HOLY SHIT COULD ANYTHING AT ALL BE MORE BORING except it turns out that children are actually a sort of idiot who are surprisingly incapable of predicting and understanding what adult versions of themselves will enjoy. Like lying around doing nothing. Children generally have no idea how much they’re going to love that and not really care all that much about paying bills.
Well, except surprise bills, but that’s a whole other thing. Did I mention Brinkley is going to the vet tomorrow? Surprise.
Anyway, there are these things like bills that turned out to just be a kind of normal fact of life that don’t really destroy it in the way I casually predicted. (Yes, I know there are people who can’t pay their bills.) And other things, like oh when I’m an adult, I will eat dessert after every meal, not just meals when my parents FEEL LIKE GIVING ME SOME BASED ON ABSOLUTELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE WHIMS. Except no, no, I don’t actually do that. Not because I hate dessert or because of some guilt-based issues around food or whatever. I just don’t want to. Small me did not anticipate that could even be a possibility. It’s there and you just don’t want to? Yeah, that’s not a thing, except it turned out to be one.
TO MY POINT (I assume you knew it was eventually coming). There are things that I just never in a million years could have anticipated would be a negative issue for adults. Things that as a child, not only would I never have disliked, but never could have even imagined it would become a problem sometime in the future. One of the major ones, the only one I can think of at the moment, actually, because my distaste is just SO STRONG it is blocking out everything else, is balloons. I cannot fucking stand balloons.
If we’re walking up to a store or something and someone is handing out balloons, I will try to find a different way to go in. I will say they’re for sale and I don’t have any money with me. I will say the person is taking them home to tie to his house so he can move somewhere nicer. It’s impossible to control my expression at the end of a birthday party or event when Penelope comes running out with her very own balloon. I will elbow a clown in the gottdanged throat if he so much as glances my way with his fistful of aggravation.
Growing up, I had no idea balloons were such a pain in the ass. There was this restaurant we went to when we were younger that always gave balloons to kids at the end of a meal, and there were three of us, and now that I’m an adult, I have a whole new perspective on those fun car rides home with three kids and three balloons in the back seat of a sedan. Oh, sure, bopping each other and bouncing them around and sucking out the helium was a blast, but now I can imagine it from the other side. “Hold your balloons. Hold your — HOLD YOUR BALLOONS. PULL THE BALLOONS DOWN. I can’t see around — shit! I can’t see around the balloons. GUYS YOU MUST HOLD YOUR BALLOONS DOWN. WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE IF YOU DO NOT CONTROL THE GODDAMN BALLOONS AND WE WILL GO TO HELL AND IT WILL SURELY BE FULL OF BALLOONS.”
And that’s if the balloon even makes it from Point A to Point Car. Never do I have such a death grip on Penelope’s fist as I do when she’s insisting on carrying her own balloon to the car. We are a fraction of a second from wailing heartbreak and I am on guard the entire way. I don’t know if you know this about four year olds, but they do not have the attention span required to keep their fists closed. Every step between us and the car is the potential for the whole rest of the day to be IRREPARABLY RUINED because the stupid balloon GOT AWAY and on top of that? Now we’ve littered. Double tragedy.
And if we get it to the car and we get it home without spinning out into a ditch due to obscured vision, then the balloon is IN MY HOUSE. High ceilings. Ceiling fans. DOGS. It’s either not going to last, which leads to drama, or it’s going to become a task for me, constantly requiring retrieval from this location or that location. Is there anyone among us who hasn’t had to form a long, sticky-ended poking device to rescue a balloon from the absolute most inconvenient location in the house? One that additionally requires perching precariously on something? I’m risking my life for $0.005 worth of latex.
And sometimes! You think you can wait for the kid to go to bed and then pounce on the balloon, usually by then half-deflated and hovering around corners to scare you shitless in the dark, because she has taken absolutely zero notice of the balloon for days, so you can get it in the trash without incident. Now, if you don’t make the absolutely ROOKIE IDIOT MISTAKE of leaving it on the top of the trash for the kid to discover the body in the morning (“J’ACCUSE, MOTHER. J’ACCUSE.”), then it’s a guarantee that tomorrow morning, first thing upon waking, she’s going to ask for that balloon for the delightful day of play she’s got planned out for the two of them.
I just had no idea. Growing up there was no way to know or predict that balloons were one of the most dreaded parenting ordeals on the planet. I guess a lot of things become clear as we get older, you know?
So this is a lot of stuff wrapped up into one.
One of the last posts I wrote on my previous site was about how I was spending so much time in the car and it was slowly crushing my will to live. The whole day was broken up into small, barely usable chunks and I was in the car too much, Penny was in the car too much, and I just hated it. I wasn’t getting enough sleep or enough time to do a single gottdanged thing and it just wasn’t a sustainable arrangement. Well, it’s all different now.
Instead of Penny spending 3 mornings a week at an in home care and also 3 hours, 5 days a week in pre-k, she now goes to the daycare attached to the pre-k, 5 days a week. Phil drops her off in the morning, leaving me sleeping (well, it rarely works out that way, but that’s the intent) and she goes to daycare from whenever she arrives – usually around 7 – until 11:30, when they send her in to pre-k. After pre-k, at about 2:30, she goes back to daycare until we pick her up. As a result of this, I’m able to get the 11 hours of sleep per night that I require (I know, it’s a lot, but it’s a whole thing that’s not worth getting into) and I also am able to work a more reasonable schedule as well. I’m happy to be working, we have more money, and she has tons of friends at both daycare and pre-k and is enjoying spending all day playing with other kids.
Of course I’ve had the standard mental crises over the whole thing, alternately being thrilled with the whole arrangement and devastated that I’m going to MISS HER ENTIRE CHILDHOOD because she’s away for the whole day, but it really is for the best. Everything is working much more smoothly, aside from the small detail that a full day of playing is a little much for Penelope, so the couple of hours we do all get to hang out every night are kind of full of tired four year old, and I’m not going to go into any uncharitable descriptions, but you can imagine for yourself a small, hungry, tired person with poor impulse control.
She’s getting to do all kinds of fun things in pre-k and in daycare. She’s gone on some field trips and she has learned all kinds of songs that she sings non-stop, all day every day. Lots of art projects and the like and hey, I’ve found out I’m not sentimental about my kid’s daily art projects, so that’s a positive point in the future of my household and its risk level for saved art avalanches. She also has a Halloween carnival coming up and Phil is going to volunteer to help out with it. Leading up to the Halloween events, they’re having 5 days of themes, you know, the usual stuff. Today was Crazy Sock day.
We picked up some crazy socks for her the other night. They’re knee high Rainbow Dash socks, except they’re for bigger kids, so they’re actually thigh highs on Penelope. Since I like to stay asleep in the morning until I have to get up to work, I try to lay her clothes out the night before. If I don’t, she’ll go to school dressed, but there’s no guarantee she’ll look like a non-hobo. So it’s just easier if I set it out. Last night, I chose an outfit especially to go with the high socks – a straight navy cargo skirt in a heavy sweatshirt material, and a cute lighter blue striped shirt with a little bit of a puffy detail on the shoulders. It was adorable and was going to be super cute with the socks.
This morning, before I started work, Phil messaged me to tell me there was a big spider in the laundry room but he couldn’t get it because it ran under the washing machine. While I was accusing him of leaving me here asleep and alone to die, an email came in from him. As I was opening it, he said, “I saw the clothes you left out for Penny, but I picked out a different skirt instead and then the shirt looked weird so I picked a different one. I sent pictures.” As he was saying that, I opened the email.
I have to tell you, I felt faint. I said to him, but I laid out clothes. And he reminded me how Penelope said that one of her teachers said to always wear shorts under your skirts. I remember her saying that, and that’s one of the reasons we own so many skorts, but I picked out her clothes knowing that. I picked out a straight skirt that doesn’t fly up, and her socks come up to her butt anyway. I don’t know if I was more bewildered by his choice, or aggravated that he second-guessed what I’d laid out, as if I hadn’t considered all the information and Penny’s needs. Obviously, neither a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but I did remind him that the way she is dressed reflects on me, not him, whether that’s fair or not. And I know most kids that age dress kind of nuts, and Penny does do her fair share of dressing kind of nuts, but I wanted to tone it down a little for Crazy Sock Day, so that the crazy could be focused on the socks. Instead, it’s just full on crazy child day.
BUT WHILE I WAS SAYING ALL THIS TO HIM, a second photo arrived. There had been additional changes made to my choices before they got out the door.
What. Phillip. Ok, you know what, fine. Today is just crazy day, full stop. Yes, I do totally understand this is not a big deal. Really. I do. I’ve sent her to school dressed kind of questionably myself. But like I reminded him, if someone’s going to think something weird about it, they’re going to think it about me, not him. And he was in her room last night when I laid out her clothes. I pointed them out to both him and her multiple times, because they’re the exact same person in two different sizes, people who need to be reminded of basic things over and over because they’re just entirely too busy thinking big complicated thoughts about fun things to remember little details like where their underpants are. And that’s just them, it’s who they are and I kind of like both of them just the way they are, so again, fine. But when I’m going to all the trouble (well, “trouble”) to lay things out and create schedules and make arrangements because it’s just not their style (well, his, as he’s the adult and she’s a child) to focus on those kind of details, I kind of really need him to stick with my plan. Like when I was doing all the driving with our one car and had to get everyone to where they needed to be at the right times as well as work around my own inconvenient work schedule, I’d give him EXACT TIMES when he needed to bring the car to me, based on the complete schedule. Say I needed it at 10:45 so I could make a stop before I picked up Penny to take her to school. He would show up at 11, knowing that I had to be at the school at 11:30, and deciding that would be plenty of time. WHY DO I MAKE THE PLANS IF YOU’RE JUST GOING TO FLAUNT THEM If only one person is going to make the plans, YOU MUST STICK WITH THOSE PLANS, PHILLIP, OTHERWISE YOU LOSE PRIVILEGES.
In this particular case, Phil has lost the privilege of patterns and if he wishes to dress Penelope, he can choose a plain, solid color skirt and any blessed t-shirt he wants. But the dots and stripes are now off limits to him. He’s totally fine with this.
This isn’t really a huge annoyance. And like I’ve told you before, no real husband and wife fights would ever be posted on this site, because why would I do that? This is just a thing about his personality and I think it’s so funny to see how it’s reflected in Penny and the way her mind works. The two of them, seriously. I’m going to be following them both around forever carrying lost shoes and a meticulously filled in day planner in full on nag mode for the rest of my life, while they just think about… you know what, I have no idea. They’re not detail people, but they’ve both got a lot going on in their heads. I wish they would dedicate some small part of all that brain power to remembering what day of the week it is and what I just said two seconds ago, but you get what you get and you don’t get upset, right? Also, they’re both cute and I like them, so I’ll keep them and keep following them around.
So here’s the last thing. Penelope’s kind of a bit of a class clown, we think. We don’t get to watch her while she’s in pre-k, but we do watch her gymnastics class, and she is really invested in making other people laugh. I think she’s right on the borderline of being a good listener and maybe not being so appropriate in class, but she has a parent teacher conference coming up next week, so we’ll probably talk about that right after I tell her teachers that my husband is the one who dresses her. She’s very chatty and very social and very funny, and it’s possible she might need to tone that down in a classroom setting, but she’s only 4 and there’s plenty of time to work on that if necessary.
One of the things she does – and we think it’s to make people/other kids laugh – is that she smacks herself in the forehead. When she started doing it, we didn’t think anything of it, but she’ll do it over and over, like four or five times, usually laughing or making a joke, and we’ve started asking her to not do it. Well, if you look at those pictures above and you can tear your eyes away from the shoes – oh man, the shoes on top of it all – you can see that there’s actually a little bruise on her forehead. At first it was just a sore spot, and when she mentioned that, we started being a bit more serious in asking her to stop hitting herself. But now she has an actual bruise.
She usually whacks herself with the heel of her hand, but sometimes if she has like a lid or a little plastic plate in her hand, she’ll use that. And even though we’ve asked her to stop, it seems now that it’s become a kind of habit. She does it almost reflexively in certain situations. It seemed harmless at first, but now she’s gone and left a dent in herself. Also, we were pretty sure it was just to be funny and get a laugh from other kids when she started, but then why would she keep on to the point that she hurt herself? Phil especially is on her to get her to stop doing it, but scolding her doesn’t seem to be working. I’m not quite sure how to handle it from here – I feel like if we get TOO mad/yelly about it, she might just, you know, hit herself in response. But if we’re too gentle/laid back about it, we might not be able to help her break the habit. Also, there’s that underlying concern about her hitting herself and why she’s doing it.
If you’ve got any ideas on these topic, I’d love to hear them. Did your kid do it? Did you? How did you make it stop, or do you have suggestions on what might work even if you haven’t dealt with it? Is it something to be concerned about, or just a passing thing? Passing things are my favorite kind of thing.