Archive for the ‘sick’ Category

Toes poking through the snow


“Oh, I just wish I could get back into bed and sleep for the whole day.”

Rowan said that this morning as he stared out of the frost-covered window in my bedroom. We’re doing our best to hit the ground running after Christmas break, but this is hard, because the ground is frozen solid and covered under several feet of snow, and, frankly, all I want to do is crawl back into bed and sleep until winter is over. At least, I want to crawl back into bed and sleep until the mass of freezing air from the Arctic that has descended over Northwestern Ontario has found somewhere else to settle, taking with it the -45°C-with-the-windchill temperatures that have become the norm over the past couple of weeks.

At least the sickness slowly subsiding. We were a viral/bacterial buffet here over the holidays: me with that double-ear/sinus infection (I am pleased to report that I have caved only once — once! — to a Q-tip craving in just over a week!), Rachel and Isaac with head colds, and Rowan with, oh, pneumonia (although, really, if you ever saw poster child for pneumonia, it would be this kid; barking cough aside, he tootled around the house as usual, making every stray bit of detritus on the floor into his own personal soccer ball. I twigged into the fact that he actually might be sick for reals when Rachel took the boys tobogganing one day over the break and Rowan lay down at the bottom of the hill to catch his breath. We have been known to occasionally be a wee bit too lax when it comes to taking the kids or ourselves into the doctor, and after our latest round of ignoring what turned out to be impetigo, I managed to squeak him in to see the doctor on the Saturday before New Year’s. Say what you will about antibiotics, but I am grateful for them and for a doctor who works on Saturdays.)It’s cold. We are blow-drying the frozen pipe in the basement bathroom. That is not a euphemism. The car doors have frozen shut, as have the seatbelt buckles. They just won’t pop up. That is not a euphemism, either.

To survive, I am cooking food in mass quantities. In a fit of organizational fervour, I sketched out a two-month meal plan for January and February, one that relies on cooking a big batch of something each weekend. On Sunday, to kick things off, I prepped eight meals’ worth of chicken souvlaki and roast chicken, and whipped up a huge batch of tomato sauce — the freezer is full, although this didn’t stop us from making pizza bagels yesterday for dinner (with said homemade sauce!), which Rowan deemed not a “real dinner” before eating his in its entirety as I mostly did my best not to engage him in that particular argument until his stomach was full and he dropped it.

Yes, lists and plans and cooking. I found this in the bottom of the cereal cupboard this morning, a written reminder of every single thing that had to get done before school.


I’m also surviving by remembering what lies underneath all the layers of winter. Like the garlic I planted in October — it’s getting ready to burst out of the ground in a couple of months. I’m counting on that. And sure, on the surface I’m wearing a toque in the house and four sweaters plus microfibre long underwear (oh yes, top and bottom). But underneath all that, I am here to tell you (well, all of you except my father and my brother, who should stop reading this paragraph right now) that I am choosing, every day, the laciest, prettiest, least practical and sexiest matching sets of lingerie I can possibly find. (This, of course, is the upshot of my online lingerie shopping binge of February 2011, and my slightly more restrained online lingerie shopping binge of last month, about which I will write more here one day.) I painted my toenails yesterday, because even though nobody except me in the shower will see my feet outside of wool socks for the next three months, I want to know that something pretty — something bright red — lies in wait.

Spring will come. It will. Until then, we are eating soup and souvlaki and cuddling up against the cold, with the bright red of our toenails keeping us just a tiny bit warmer.

Grace at the walk-in

As you may recall, I went to the walk-in clinic a couple of days ago, where I was gently chastised for my over-clean ears. You will be pleased to know that I have been Q-tip-free for three and half entire days now. It totally sucks. But I’m going to push through.

But this post isn’t about my ears. My waxy, crinkly, itchy, unsatisfied ears. This post is about the walk-in clinic — surely one of the least happy places on earth. Especially in Thunder Bay, during what has turned out to be a record-setting cold spell, two days before New Year’s. If you are at a walk-in in Thunder Bay in December, you already feel like crap, enough so that you will brave the cold and the waiting and the other sick people just to get some relief.

I have been amping up my meditation/mindfulness practice of late (a whole other blog post, or series of posts in itself; on the other hand, maybe no blog posts at all — you know, the first rule of meditation practice is that one doesn’t blog at length about meditation practice), and I decided to do my daily practice at the walk-in. Put away the phone, my borrowed copy of Blue Is the Warmest Color, and just sit up straight with my eyes open and be in the room, observe the people and the goings-on without judgment, with compassion. The attractive man sitting next to me, accompanying his elderly father; the young couple in their 20s, she with stomach pains each morning; the teenaged boy and his mom; the coughers and the hackers and the snifflers and the grey-haired man directly across from me burying his head in his hands and sighing. I did my best just to observe them all.

And then an elderly woman approached the young couple.

“Excuse me,” she asked them, “but do you by any chance drive a Honda Civic?”

They nodded.

“I just backed into your bumper,” she said, miserably.

The couple looked at each other, and then at her.

“Don’t worry about it,” said the young man.

The woman shook her head, uncomprehending.

“We just bought a new car,” said the young man. “It’s okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well,” he said, “… is it bad?”

“There’s a hole in it.”

He shrugged. “Enh. Don’t worry. We’re good.”

The woman looked like she was about to cry. “I’m shaking,” she said.

“Happy new year,” they told her.

And then she went back to her seat and the doctor called in the young woman, and I thought about how lucky I was to have seen that happen, how lucky I was to have been right there, right then.


Rowan is home sick today. Just before midnight last night, our bedroom door opened and he appeared, backlit by the light in the hallway, and then … well, you don’t need to know the details except for thank God hardwood floors and not carpet. I love kid logic: I think I need to barf. I’ll go see my moms.

Today, he’s home, bopping about the house in his pajamas and seemingly perfectly fine, if slightly low-energy. He’s kept down food, he has good colour, he’s practicing his tae kwon do patterns and creating bigger and better Pokémon decks and revelling in the pile of books we picked up from the library and the extra iPod time. He’s totally happy — a quiet day at home, both parents to himself with , dare I say it, no sibling to dilute the attention.

It’s so rare to have just one child around the house with both of us. And despite the extra laundry and the nagging worry that we haven’t seen the last of this gastro bug (why, why, why did I decide it was a good idea to finish off his uneaten oatmeal yesterday?), I do like it. One minimally ill kid is so cozy, so happy, so easy. He wanders into my office and hugs me, offers me trivia tidbits. We lie down on opposite ends of the couch with our reading material and his bare foot nudges my thigh. I sent a couple of e-mails, write a couple of paragraphs, fold a couple of sheets, ruffle his hair, and revel in this sweet, quiet, stolen day.


I would have written sooner, but I’ve been having all these medical tests, don’t you know. Neurologist, check. Ophthalmologist, check. Sleep deprived EEG, check. Still left: head x-ray and MRI.

And guess what? So far, everything is checking out as normal — and consistent with (ta da!) migraines. Let the Internet be your doctor, say I. I mean, I don’t say that to my actual doctor, although I may check in with her soon and find out if I really have to take the MRI, given that all the other tests have come back negative and I haven’t had any bizarre neurological symptoms in weeks, now. Weeks! Like they never even happened.

Which is how I’m starting to feel about summer, now that I mention it. We are literally and figuratively packing away the last of the season, pulling on jeans and hoodies, pulling out the rest of the gardens, except for the cherry tomatoes, which we try to remember to cover up at night against the threat of frost. The night before my sleep-deprived EEG, I washed and halved and roasted 25 pounds of Roma tomatoes with onion and garlic and spices, a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of sea salt per pan (just like Rachel over at 6512 and Growing said), programming the oven to turn on at midnight so that I woke at 2 AM to the smell of caramelized garlic and tomato.

And I can tell you, there are worse ways to wake up, even at 2 AM. Even when you can’t drink coffee.

I had planned about eight hours’ worth of activities in the four hours I had to myself in the wee hours between waking and leaving for the hospital. (I used the word “hours” three times in the preceding sentence! I am amazing!) I had movies, and several seasons’ worth of old TV shows (Mad Men and In Treatment; slightly skeptical of the latter: I’m not sure that watching other people’s tortured, albeit fictional, therapy sessions qualified as the healthiest way to spend my bonus time). I journalled. I folded laundry. But mostly I made sauce, pulling the first batch of tomatoes from the oven and losing myself in their richness. I admit that I ate several of them right out of the pan, stopping only when I started to feel slightly queasy. Then I slid the second round of baking pans into the oven, and even managed to fit in a third round before walking to the hospital at sunrise , listening to This American Life on my iPod.

(I had planned to split that box of tomatoes between the sauce and some other stuff, but did you know that 25 pounds of Roma tomatoes cooks down to about seven containers? And so of course I had to go back to the vegetable guys who set up a makeshift market each year at the corner of High and Algoma, and pick up another case. Next up was bhaighan bhartha, an Indian eggplant curry that reduced my 11 (admittedly smallish) eggplants to a couple of duelling saucepans on the stove. Never even made it to the freezer. Next year, I buy a bushel.)

All in all, not a bad way to spend a few hours. And although I had been thinking that, really, sleep is overrated and I should just get up at 2 AM every day, because I would get so much done and the sleep-deprived postpartum psychosis wasn’t really so bad after all, I nearly wept with relief when the technician told me that, “ideally,” I would be asleep for the test. And then she stuck about 8000 wires to my head with rubber cement and covered me very gently with a blanket and I lay down on her gurney and crashed while she mapped (originally typed “napped” there; how Freudian) my brain for seizure activity. Of which I believe she found none. I’m thinking that if I ever have insomnia I’m going to find a gurney and some rubber cement and a scratchy wool blanket and I will be JUST FINE.

Already am.


If you know what’s good for you

A couple weeks ago I kept smelling this burning smell. Burning like singed hair or like on that day in October where you finally cave and turn on the heat even though it’s not November and you are constitutionally opposed to turning on the heat before November but you do anyway because damn it’s cold, and then the house smells like burning dust for an hour? Which is kind of comforting? That kind of smell. Except that it wasn’t comforting. It was disturbing, not so much because, well, you know — burning — but because nobody else in the house could smell it. Instead, they just gave me funny looks. At which point I, mainly out of spite, consulted the Internet, even though at this point that’s basically a cliché, but I had a few minutes to kill, and of course the Internet told me that my choices were either a pituitary brain tumour or that I need use a neti pot more often. Check.

Just as the burning smell died down, though, I lost peripheral vision in my right eye for a few hours. This happens to me about every eight months, where people’s faces seemed to melt away as I talk to them or I try to read but the words on the right side of the page flicker and disappear. It’s happened often enough that I’m used to it, but it did strike me as a little odd that it happened right on the heels of the burning thing.

And then, on the heels of that little episode, I came down with some weird kind of sinus headache, wherein my head felt as though it was filled with ball bearings encased in viscous, fiery fluid. And anytime I bent over, the ball bearings slammed across my brain’s pain centre and into the side of my skull, and that was not so pleasant.

So, I finally went to the doctor. I had resisted going because partly I felt like a dork and partly because my doctor is not a particularly “wait-and-see” kind of person. Which is why I now have, in addition to antibiotics and nasal corticosteroids, referrals to a neurologist and an ophthalmologist, and appointments pending for an MRI, a head x-ray, and something called a sleep-deprived EEG, which I’m particularly excited about because it will force me to stay up till 3 AM without caffeine and I will finally get to catch up on all those episodes of Mad Men I’ve been meaning to watch.

And so, I am torn. All my slightly bizarre neurological symptoms are probably nothing. And yet, even the phrase “slightly bizarre neurological symptoms” should be enough to give me pause. Still, I have a feeling that I will go through all these expensive, vaguely inconvenient, diagnostic tests just to be given a clean bill of health. Perversely, it’s enough to make me wish for — and yes, I know that I shouldn’t say things like this — some kind of juicy diagnosis in order to justify costs of the tests (borne by the Canadian taxpayers, of which I am, happily, one). Which I realize is stupid. At the same time as I am immensely grateful to live in a country where I don’t have to choose whether or not to take these tests based on how much they will cost.

And around and around I go. Am I being responsible by getting thoroughly checked out, or is the responsible thing to adopt a conservative, wait-and-see kind of approach? Is my doctor overreacting, or am I — conditioned by all those messages aimed at women not to take their own health too seriously — underreacting?  Are these merely academic questions, or am I focusing on this kind of philosophical frippery in order to avoid imagining the worst?

Don’t answer that.


P.S. Okay, actually, feel free to answer that.


I got a call from the school the other day.

(That’s a whole genre right there, isn’t it? Documents that begin, “I got a call from the school the other day”? That’s about as writing prompt-y as you can get, full of rich imaginings involving truancy and vomit and broken limbs and suspensions and lice. I mean, no one’s heart grows just a little bit lighter when they see the name of their child’s school on call display before picking up.)

Anyway, so I picked up (like I’m going to ignore a call from the school), and there was Rowan sounding very small and far away. “Mom?” He sounded as though he was at the bottom of a well. “Mom? My neck is bleeding.”


Turns out that a stick was thrown by an unknown child and caught him in the neck, giving him a nasty gash. His teacher came on the phone to say that while it looked ugly, it didn’t seem to be too serious. But that he didn’t want a Band-Aid on it. “Mm-hmm,” I said.

“So,” she said, “do you want to come get him, or do you want him to stay in school until the end of the day?”

Um, guess?

“Well,” I said, hedging my bets and weighing my deadline. “If he can manage to stay in school until the end of the day, that’s fine with me.” But I knew it wouldn’t fly even as I said the words: once the option of going home was introduced, the option of staying there fell to the bottom of that same well. I overheard the discussion in the background and then the teacher came on the phone again. “Okay,” I said, “I’m on my way.”

And I went, meeting him in the office where he sat, big-eyed and forlorn, on a bench, holding a piece of paper towel to his neck. When he saw me, his lower lip began to tremble. I got a look at the cut: jagged, slightly deep, about an inch long. Nothing pretty, but nothing too serious. Apparently, his teacher told me, he’d gone right back to class and hadn’t even noticed it until she pointed out.

He agreed after much convincing to put a Band-Aid over it for the walk home.

“You’re going to want to put some Polysporin on that,” a bigger kid, probably in fifth grade, said to me as I went to sign out Rowan.

“Great idea,” I said. Because I would never think to put Polysporin on my kid’s cut.

But he was just warming up. “It’s a really good thing that didn’t get him even 1 INCH over,” the fifth-grader continued.

“Uh-huh,” I said. “It wouldn’t have been good if it had hit his face.”

“His face?” the kid said. “I’m talking about his CAROTID ARTERY. If he had cut open his CAROTID ARTERY, he would have been dead in like six seconds flat. Blood everywhere!”

Rowan stood next to me, his eyes growing bigger and bigger. I pulled him closer to me.

“Yup, that CAROTID ARTERY is a killer,” the kid continued. What, are you 70? I wanted to ask. Instead I smiled and thanked him and gathered up my lucky-to-be-alive son. Who skipped the whole way home, and then, when Rachel came home with a movie for him, ran to the door to meet her him practically shrieked with glee, “Guess what! If a stick had hit my CAROTID ARTERY, I would’ve DIED!”

Busywork for child home sick

So far today he has read two books and ordered eight more from the library, learned how to use a level, watched two videos, and spent long intervals resting on the couch in between coughing fits. Rachel’s shift commences starting now: they’re making cookies. Don’t eat any if you want to stay healthy.

Could be worse… could be lice …

Has it been a week? It’s been a week. I would have written something by now, except that every post I could think of writing began with the line, “I’m the only person in the house who has not yet come down with the barfing sickness.” And that just seemed like tossing fate a big, shiny red apple and saying, “Take a bite, baby.”

Three… two… one…

Okay, still not barfing. We’ll see how long that lasts.

I invited me and the boys over to a friend’s house last Saturday evening for dinner and trampolining. At about 10 p.m., I got the phone call every parent dreads: “Anyone at your house barfing yet?” No, not yet, but on Monday morning I stumbled out of bed and was greeted by Rowan, who said, by way of good morning, “Isaac was throwing up in his bed all night.” Rowan, however, seemed as healthy as an apricot, so we sent him off to school. By midmorning, however, I had arrived at the school to collect him — a miserable, slick little package of a child — from the school’s office. “He’s been very brave,” the principal called as we left. By the next day, both kids were fine, just in time for Rachel to succumb.

Next in line? The babysitter.

My current goal is not to come down with the summer cold that both boys seem to have picked up. And to catch up on the various deadlines that went whooshing by à la Douglas Adams as I pulled extra shifts on barf-watch duty and childcare last week.

Fortunately, Dana Rudolph over at Mombian is picking up the slack, with the second of three giveaways for And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents and Our Unexpected Families. Visit her and leave a comment (by midnight today) about how you have created (or plan/hope to create) your family, or the language your family uses to describe itself, and you could win a copy. The lovely folks at Insomniac Press will mail you a copy directly, so you don’t have to worry about us infecting you.

Good luck!

Look! An airplane!

So, it’s been a week. Or two. I would offer an excuse— but look! Boys in matching dinosaur pajamas!

Summer 2009 167

I’m guessing that distraction doesn’t work so well for those of you over the age of eight or so, but wouldn’t it be nice if it did? Like if, instead of trying to explain to a client why that press release won’t be coming today or to your significant other why you haven’t yet — even though you said you would last week — made an appointment to have the snow tires put on the car, you could just say, “Hey, look! A raisin! Do you want one? No? How about two — one for each hand? Yummy raisins!”

Yummy raisins. Whatever.

In my defense, my doctor told me last Saturday that my gunky sinuses and fluid-filled ears were the worst specimens she’d seen in the past six months, which made me feel sort of proud, in a warped kind of way. I like to overachieve, and the past few weeks have not felt so stellar in that regard. Not being able to hear or breathe or sleep properly will do that to a girl, I suppose.

Honestly, possibly my biggest triumph in the last few weeks has been ridding the fridge of several near-empty Tupperware containers, thus contributing to the overall organization of the house. I’d eat that final half-square of polenta or Isaac’s container of rejected cottage cheese and I would feel a disproportionate sense of accomplishment.

Hey — did you notice that the dinosaur pajamas glow in the dark?

Summer 2009 216

I thought about blogging. Really, I did. I had lots of half-formed ideas, imagined how I might have turned a dozen just darling things the kids did into full-fledged posts, and then I went to bed. In, of course, the basement, every second night, so that Rachel wouldn’t keep me awake with the hacking sounds of her, oh, pneumonia. (Which, unlike my ear/sinus infection, did not respond so well to the first round of antibiotics and inhaled corticosteroids. Now I’m mostly better and she’s, well, not. Thank God for socialized medicine; you guys in the States should try it sometime.)

Thank God, also, that my mother-in-law arrived yesterday. With matching dino PJs in tow. She spent much of today bustling about and tidying things and making cups of tea and comfort foods (including custard and chicken soup; yes, really) for her daughter and then accompanying me to various children’s end-of-year activities. Like Rowan’s class play — an inspired, French-language rendition of Chicken Little. (‹Oh, non! Le çiel tomb!› But you have to clutch your face like you’re in Edvard Munsch’s The Scream while you say it VERY SERIOUSLY.)

And now Rachel’s mom is asleep in the basement, and the boys are asleep in their beds, and Rachel is asleep in our bed, and I’m going to turn in on the couch. So as not to be awakened by the coughing.

I’ll be back — I promise. The sky isn’t quite falling; it’s just that it’s taking a little bit more work than usual to hold it up.