Let me tell you about some bullshit.
If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably remember that Penelope was hospitalized a few months after she was born and blah blah blah, a kidney thing. A year or so later, she ended up having surgery to resolve the defect. However, during that year in between, we had to be on ridiculously vigilant watch for UTIs. Not that all parents shouldn’t keep an eye out for UTIs. But the structure of her body made it so that the infected urine from the bladder would be able to travel backward – something that should not and does not usually happen – to her kidneys and damage them before we’d know what was happening. We actually don’t know the extent of kidney damage she might have suffered from the first incident, but that’s something for future Kelly to worry about. Anyway, any fever over 100 degrees – even if she was clearly otherwise ill – required an immediate trip to the emergency room for her to be catheterized to get a urine sample, just to make sure. Fortunately, we only had to do that twice.
After her surgery, I think it was another year or so of watching, though the fever threshold got raised to 101. And then after that, a couple last tests and she was released from her urologist’s care entirely. Of course we still have to watch for UTIs, because UTIs are no good, but no more than any other parent. A UTI is no longer an emergency. Still, you also remember the kidney lady?
Okay, if you don’t, this is a story. I got a UTI, and I knew I had a UTI, but it kind of went away? I don’t know, I was stupid. I thought it was gone, but it wasn’t. It went underground for a few days, and then I was sick. I was so sick. I was so sick that when Phil and I decided to get married, one of the things I made him promise me was that as a married lady, he’d never let me sleep with my own puke bucket, because I was so sick all I could do was lean over and throw up and I couldn’t even remove my bucket from the bed. Like almost 105 fever, thought for certain I was going to die kind of sick. Anyway, it was a kidney infection, because of course that UTI didn’t just go away, you absolute walnut (me, not you). I got some crazy antibiotics and it took a while, but eventually I got better. And it took a long time for me to tell this one particular story about that incident, because it was embarrassing, so it took me a while to be able to tell it in such a way that it was kind of funny (but it was not actually funny). On my first day back to work after being sick, the medicine was still messing up my stomach pretty badly, and I was stuck in traffic at the 270 split in Maryland, and I had to get out of my car to throw up, and I only made it as far as the hood of the car before I leaned over to puke so hard I wet my pants. And I was still STUCK IN TRAFFIC, so I then had to get back in my car with all the same cars who were right there the WHOLE TIME all around me.
So I tell this story, and one of the comments I get is something like, “Hey, be glad you can even wet your pants. Some of us would love to wet our pants, but we don’t even have functioning kidneys.”
And. I just.
So if you see someone bellowing at someone else in my general circle of interaction on Twitter, “AT LEAST YOU HAVE KIDNEYS,” that is why that happens.
Oh, wait, here you go – I forgot for a minute the other site still exists and I can just take things from it whenever I want.
Needless to say, even though Penelope is cleared by her surgeon to not worry about UTIs as much, we still take them very seriously in this house. So when she was up and down every 10 minutes all night long to use the bathroom on Friday night, frustrated that she wasn’t actually peeing, and saying when she did pee that it was hot and “shocked” her, we knew we’d be going to urgent care first thing Saturday because no, we are not messing around with that shit. I mean, her kidneys may possibly be damaged, but at least she HAS some, and I have be soundly scolded by a random stranger on the Internet for taking that for granted one time when I was telling what was actually a really kind of sad story.
I will spare you the details about trying to get a urine sample out of a five year old who can only pee a drop at a time but wants to attempt it every seven minutes.
We go into the exam room, we go over her history with the VUR, the surgery, etc. Kind of irrelevant but also relevant, because you never know. We go over the symptoms – classic UTI stuff, minus any kind of fever, but then, when she was first hospitalized with a kidney infection as an infant, we had no idea what was going on, because she had no fever. It was kind of her UTI MO. So the doctor checks her out, basic exam, looks everywhere.
“I think she’s got strep.”
The fuck you say?
The doctor even had me look down Penny’s throat to see her tonsils, enormous and red and angry. She said it definitely looked like strep. But but but. No sore throat, I said. No fever. No nothing. Just the UTI. The doctor said, well, strep’s been a little weird this year. I’ll do a rapid test.
She does, and takes the test out of the room, telling us it will be five minutes, and the door swings RIGHT back open, and she shows it to me, explaining the clear positive that came up in like, 30 seconds. STREP.
Okay, I’m thinking, she’s got a UTI and we also found out she’s coming down with strep, coincidentally. NOPE. Zero sign of infection in her urine sample. NOTHING. She only has strep.
What, may I ask, the fuck?
And the doctor tells us, strep has been weird this year. They’ve had an epidemic not just of strep, but WEIRD strep. A kid came in with knee pain, walked out with a diagnosis of strep. Back pain, strep. Three people had been in THAT WEEK with UTI-like symptoms, no UTI, but a positive strep test. Penelope got one of their last two rapid strep tests. There’s no more left in the county at the moment. Five day courses of antibiotics haven’t been treating this well, so she was prescribed a 10 day course, and the pharmacy could only give us enough to get us through until today, because they were totally out. (They’ll get more today.)
I guess a lot of the cases the doctor was talking about could be coincidence. Maybe a kid did hurt his knee, and while there, they discovered strep. But three others with UTI symptoms and no UTI? And she also told us that in a ton of the cases they were finding, they were like Penelope – no fever, no sore throat, no signs of strep at all until you look down at the tonsils and then, hey, there you go.
So how many kids did Penelope take down with her, since she was in school all last week, since SHE WASN’T SICK as far as we knew? How many kids are walking around with this stealthy strep right now, passing it around and around, with no earthly idea it’s happening?
Having a kid is hard for a lot of reasons, because you know nothing and everything changes all the time, but you’re supposed to be able to COUNT ON STREP. Annoying, painful, yes. Basic childhood illness? Also yes. It sucks, it turns around within a couple of doses of antibiotics, and it’s a generally predictable and standard part of childhood.
IN A WORLD WHERE WE CAN COUNT ON NOTHING, I THOUGHT WE STILL AT LEAST HAD STREP THROAT.
In conclusion, this goddamn giraffe better make with a giant giraffe baby already.
Fridays are a good day to talk about Penelope, right? I don’t know, maybe she’ll do fun stuff during the rest of the week, but I feel like we’re past the age of daily check ins for her. There’s less “oh god oh god oh god am I doing this right?” from minute to minute and more of the unchanging every day slog of trying not to fuck it up. Not that I’m calling parenting a slog or indicating at all in any way whatsoever that I do not cherish every single moment because of course I do. Just look at me. I am filled with cherish.
Also, just look at Penelope.
Just look right at her. Do I expect you to believe that’s really Garlic Bread? Am I pulling some kind of elaborate hoax where I’ve replaced my tiny baby with a full grown adult? No, and I’ll tell you how you can tell. One, that’s a four year old right there, not an adult. And two, it’s been just a bit over four years since she was born. If you remind yourselves of these things, you’ll see that it is indeed the same loaf.
On a not related note, that picture is by Brittany of Wibbly Wobbly Photography and I’m going to have it put on a canvas to hang in my kitchen because how could I not.
I told these two stories on Twitter yesterday, about this thing Penny has been doing.
Story one: I was getting Penelope ready for bed the other night. We were in the bathroom together, doing teeth and face washing, etc. We’d just gotten started when Phil called up asking if I’d taken his phone. Why would I take his dumb iPhone? I wouldn’t.
“Why would I take your dumb iPhone?,” I yelled down the stairs.
I didn’t hear his response, but I assume it was acknowledgement of my fine point. I kept getting Penny ready for bed, doing final potty and getting her changed. Phil yelled up the stairs again to ask if Penny had taken his phone upstairs.
“Why would she take your phone? It’s not up here.”
We yelled back and forth a few more times and I suggested he look in the couch again, because our couch just swallows things, and also, I’d seen it in his hand just a little bit earlier.
I kept getting Penny ready for bed, and I assume he kept looking. Then after a couple of moments of silence, Penny suddenly says to me, “I slid his phone weally far under the couch.”
I just looked at her for a minute, then walked out of the bathroom to the top of the stairs to yell down to Phil. “PENNY SAYS SHE SLID YOUR PHONE REALLY FAR UNDER THE COUCH.” Then I went back to getting her in bed. Later, I asked Phil if he’d found it. He had. It was really far under the couch.
Then yesterday morning, I was trying to do Penny’s hair for daycare/school (whole other thing, solved the driving problem but introduced an entirely new self-questioning crisis, standard stuff). I was trying to get it done quickly because I didn’t have to be up for another two hours and I need the full 11 hours of sleep I allot myself (another whole other thing, I still sleep a lot. A lot.). She asked for pigtails – wait, did I tell you Penny CUT HER HAIR? Not like kids cut their hair, I mean at a salon. I don’t know if you say it that way for a 4 year old. She got her hair cut. That’s what I should have said. Anyway, it’s short, her request, and it’s adorable. Here she is making a real angry face, but she was pissed at me, not her hair.
I was looking for the one where she was angry at me, and I also found this one exhibiting how hard she has to concentrate to do a thumbs up. Oh, also one of her smiling. Anyway, that’s the hair. She’d been talking about how she wanted it short, and I have to say, I was really against it. I spent a long time waffling between “BUT WHAT IF IT’S TERRIBLE? I WON’T ALLOW IT” and not, you know, crushing her spirit and her individuality and her right to do what she wants with her own appearance. Eventually, as you can see, I did give in and she really likes it, though we found out after the fact that the haircut she actually had in mind was a buzz cut. Which, no. Send your kids over if their spirits need a little squashing because I am totally ready to do that.
Right, anyway, I was putting pigtails in her hair, and there was this black… stuff all over her scalp. Like black grit all over. The more I looked through her hair, the more alarmed I was because there was a ton, right up against her scalp. No idea what it was. I was thinking all kinds of stuff like, I don’t know, lice poop or something. She just started going to full time care. That kind of stuff can happen, right? I called Phil in to look at it. I asked him what he thought it could be. I asked how her head could possibly be so dirty between washings. I mean, we wash Penelope, but her hair is fussy and we don’t wash that as often, so I guess I could see something happening, but this was extreme.
I eventually decided I had to get out of bed and wash her hair before we could send her to school. I mean, she’s gone to school dirty before, but not visibly dirty. I do draw a line somewhere. And apparently that line is visible head dirt. So I got up and I got in the shower WITH her and used real adult shampoo on her head, TWICE, all the while wondering what the hell was going on. Flesh-eating brain chiggers? I was rinsing it out the second time, and she says to me, “I put wood chips in my hair.” Totally casual. Just letting me know.
I just. PENELOPE.
So normally I’d have some shame about telling the same story twice in 24 hours, but after I’d told it on Twitter and been away from the computer for a bit, I came back to find Maureen’s interesting question – what exactly is going through her mind during the time she’s watching us try to figure out what the hell is going on? And these are just two examples of what’s been happening frequently.
I should note that she doesn’t really do this with things that would actually get her in trouble or that she at least thinks will get her in trouble. Those things, she can’t stop herself from fessing up immediately. (“If I tell the truth about something, will you not be mad?”) This smaller stuff, though, she seems to be able to hold in her secret for just long enough to see her parents completely baffled, then it pops right out. I need to know what’s going on in that lag time.
I don’t actually have an answer. I’ve been thinking about that all day. It’s alternately cracking me the hell up and making me question the vastness of the preschooler brain and just what all kinds of calculating is going on in there.