posts tagged with 'illness'

that's more like it, winter

snow on the trees and everything else in the yard

sticky snow

The groundhog was right! Over the last week it finally started looking like winter around here, and we've been enjoying it to the fullest—or at least, as full as we can manage in between bouts of illness.

It started last Tuesday with a brief but intense fall of wet snow that caught us as we biked home from a mid-morning outing (to pick up some hot bar bacon from Whole Foods, if you must know). By the time we finished our lunch of bacon sandwiches the snow had changed to light rain—light enough that we didn't think twice about heading out to play in it. Even Lijah! The snow was amazingly sticky, and it was no work at all to put together a good-size snowman. He came out looking pretty cheerful despite the damp.

our snowman smiling

our genial snowman

I told the boys about a snow chair I made last time I'd experienced such great packing snow—long before any of them were born. Of course then we had to make one for ourselves. Because Lijah was getting tired of eating snow cakes we limited ourselves to a Zion-sized model.

zion sitting in a snow chair

cool and comfortable

As I put Lijah down for his nap the other boys spent some time using the snowman as a swordfighting dummy. I was pretty grumpy with them when I noticed—that was my snowman too!—so when they took their rest I rebuilt him out in the front yard. Those balls were so big I couldn't get them on straight, and when the temperature shot up the next day I was sure he wasn't long for this world. But he managed to hold on, and it turns out his lean was just the thing to prepare him for Thursday's blizzard.

our snowman through the blizzard

leaning against the blast

Folks talk about how summer is the best time for getting to know your neighbors, but I find snow storms are fine too. Tuesday evening Harvey helped the neighbors with their snowman, and on Thursday, with everyone home for the storm, parents and kids alike enjoyed playing together in the bitter blast. We shoveled with the neighbors on one side (then tossed a football around for longer than you'd expect given the conditions) then took a lovely adventurous walk with the family on the other. In a blizzard construction sites become magical wonderlands.

Harvey and friends climbing up a giant snow-covered pile of dirt

Harvey leading the pitch

On our way back from that walk we stopped in at another neighbor's house to say hello—they were surprised and charmed to see us, and it was just too bad we were too wet and exhausted for a proper visit. Too bad too that Zion and Lijah were to sick to venture outside at all... though on the other hand, snow days are also great for cuddling on the couch and watching shows!

The next day was Friday, and all the school kids had to go back to school; so it was a perfect day for us to go sledding. The wind was whipping the fine snow all over the hill and the trails were far from broken, so we were glad of our new-to-us giant snow tube, which glided wonderfully over all the powder. It was also a great place for Zion to rest when his post-illness tiredness caught up to him.

Zion relaxing in our giant snowtube

taking it easy

His fatigue and the biting wind meant we didn't stay too long out on the big hill, but on the way back to Grandma's house we found that the path in the woods offered some promising terrain for the toboggan, so we spent half and hour or so there. Harvey worked hard to get the plastic sled down, but it was our five-foot wooden toboggan that was best for the job: we managed a couple runs with all three of us of a hundred feet or so, around two big sweeping turns. It was great!

Harvey sledding down a path in the woods

where you have to steer

Saturday Harvey and Zion got to play with the neighbor we visited Thursday—a small investment in relationship building pays off big! They had a great time until Zion bumped his head and had to be brought home, then he and Harvey had a great time. Harvey was gone from 10:00 until 4:00—now that's a playdate!

With more snow in the forecast for Sunday we were a little nervous about getting to church—and more importantly getting home. The snow in Cambridge was wet and not really accumulating so we thought we were fine when we started towards home at 2:00, but as soon as we headed up the hill away from Cambridge things took on a more dramatic aspect.

snowy conditions on Rt 128

not so bad I couldn't take a picture...

It was pretty scary, and we were glad to get home and cuddle up for the rest of the day. Monday was another snow day, but the sun was out by mid morning so despite the whipping wind we could have had yet more snow fun... but there's only so much of that you can do in a row! Instead we visited a library.

The last couple days have been warmer again. I meant to write all this Monday, but Harvey finally came down with the stomach bug that got us all in sequence: Lijah and Zion Thursday, Leah Friday and Saturday, me Sunday night, and Harvey Monday night. So now we've all had it, and it's done. Quick, let me have some time to write before the next sickness strikes us! Zion had a fever at bedtime so we might not have long to wait...

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a stroke of heat

It's been really hot here the last couple days: hot enough to take over our lives—our entire theory of existence. But we put the air conditioner up in the bedroom (to make napping possible) and I figured out how to open most of the stuck windows, so I think we're going to pull through. I got to the windows this morning when I went downstairs to discover it was maybe ten degrees warmer inside the house than outside—too much to fix with the doors open before the sun got up and the outdoor temperature raced back up again. So the house was warmish today, and we didn't know what we were going to do with ourselves all day; until the boys solved our dilemma by coming down with a debilitating fever. Then they were happy to lie on the couch with the fan on them and alternate between sleeping and watching movies!

Two of them, anyways; Lijah has escaped so far, so he spent his time at home jumping on his brothers, messing with the iPad, and putting the vomit bucket on his head as a helmet. To defend them he got to go on errands with Mama and Dada, and enjoy AC and samples at stores as diverse as Whole Foods and Costco (no points for guessing which outing goes with which parent). Here's a picture of Zion sleeping on the floor this morning; he dropped there on the way to the breakfast table for pancakes, and if Lijah hadn't sat on him he probably would have been there all day. As it was he transitioned to the couch where he stayed all day—until maybe 7:00 when he got up to have a pancake at long last.

Zion asleep on the kitchen floor

needs his rest

By that time the heat had broken (after a terrific windstorm with only a little rain). Yesterday it never broke at all: terrible hot well after dark. And we were all healthy, though less raring to go than we would have been in more temperate conditions. Though in retrospect, maybe the early warning signs were there. We certainly took very well to the news that it was, apparently, National Hammock Day.

Harvey in the hammock reading an Asterix book

celebrating in style

Just the thing when the heat index is over 100°.

I have no problem with it being hot in the summer. It's to be expected. And I think with the AC and the windows (and the hammock!) we're all set for a couple more days of this craziness—all set, that is, as long as the other three of us don't get sick!

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cold weather

It was really cold here this weekend.

a screenshot of the weather report, showing -33 wind chill

see? cold.

In response, or just through sympathetic resonance, all the boys in the house came down with colds. Lijah is worst hit being smallest, which means Leah is really worst hit: when he can't sleep due to a stuffy nose and croup-y cough, she's the one that suffers. Zion looks the worst, with red irritated skin under his nose and one eye and all round his mouth.

Zion in his carseat looking like death

not sad, just tired

Today, though, just as the weather turned dramatically warmer—a 60° swing in under 48 hours—the big boys and I are clearly on the road to recovery. If he can manage a little sleep Lijah is sure to follow, and we'll all be ready to enjoy whatever this crazy winter throws at us next!

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sick days

School is dangerous. We had a homeschool gathering here this past Friday, and illness entered the house with one of the visiting children. Harvey went down first, slowly collapsing Saturday evening and throwing up all night. So the rest of us kind of knew what to expect, which is... something of a relief? What's surprising me know is how long it's taking Zion and me in particular to recover. Neither of us have gotten our appetites or energy back, and four days is an awful long time to go without eating real food. Leah's managed to mostly escape the plague, but at least one of the other kids who visited Friday also got sick, and I fell pretty bad about letting an event I planned become such a disease vector.

I'm not going to let it stop me doing something similar in future, but I might wait for the next one until it gets a little warmer, so the kids can spend a bigger part of the time outside. It's hard, hard to stay indoors this much from an activity standpoint—we've all had enough of indoor activities and indoor voices by this point, I feel—and now I think the germs need room to spread out too.

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our day at the surgery

We have been waiting for this day for a long time now, the day that Harvey could finally get his "teeth fixed." For over a month I have been making smoothies, offering apple sauce, and when that failed using a toothpick to extract tiny pieces of food from inside the cavities exposed on two of Harvey's molars. After the dentist's attempt to fix Harvey's cavities in an office visit failed (if you consider failure Harvey's complete refusal to get into the chair) we had to wait over a month for an O.R. date, when Harvey could be put under general anesthesia to properly fix the problem. This tells you a little something about his stubbornness. Or his pain to don't-mess-with-me ratio. Both are high.

Harvey was looking forward to eating regular food again, and for many days he was asking how soon he could get his teeth fixed. So we proceeded to the hospital in a spirit of bravery, and it wasn't until we got into the pre-op room that he remembered: 'Holy Shit.' There he acted the way he does when he gets anxious, by completely shutting down and hiding in a corner.

the dinosaur is showing how to bravely sit on the gurney, while Harvey wishes he could become a fossil

Thankfully the team at Franciscan Hospital for Children is used to this sort of behavior, and the child liaison talked to Harvey for half an hour until he calmed down enough to have his vitals taken. She won him over by gifting him a red flashlight that he could wear on his finger. She actually offered him up to ten flashlights, one to wear on every finger of both hands, but Harvey's anxiety blinded him to negotiating clearly and in the end he only took the one.

very pleased with a very small toy. I wish he'd taken more for his brothers.

I had to forcefully remove him from the corner, but once I held him on my lap he calmed down and even extended his arm for a blood pressure. This is less than I've had to restrain him for vaccines, and his compliance was quite a relief. Perhaps a little bit of physical pressure from me reassured him that he couldn't control the events of the day with his own will. Which, you know, is a good thing if you're about to get knocked out by heavy drugs.

stickers make everything better

The child liaison then led Harvey through a very impressive social story about what was going to happen next.
"Do you know why you're here today?"
Harvey's answer: "mmm."
"Are you here for your teeth?"
"mmm" but with a head nod for Yes.
"Do you know if you're going to be awake or asleep while they fix your teeth?"
"mmm."
"Do you think you're going to be asleep?"
Head nod Yes.
"Do you feel sleepy now?" (this made Harvey giggle.) "Do you usually fall asleep in the middle of the daytime?" (Now he was downright chuckling.) "No? So how are you going to fall asleep?" (mmm) "The doctor is going to give you some sleepy medicine, and I have a special mask right here just for you."

She showed Harvey how the mask would go over his face, and she let him pick stickers to decorate it. She told him that sleepy medicine in the form of gas would come through the mask, and it's kind of smelly, but bravely she said, "It's okay, I have a plan!" Then she let him pick his favorite flavor of chap stick and she spread some of that on the inside of the mask, for a custom olfactory experience.

Then with an iPad in hand she showed Harvey a series of photographs to illustrate what would happen after he got changed into his pijamas.

"This is a picture of the hallway outside this room. Once you get on your pijamas we will take a ride in this bed through the hallway to this big set of doors (next slide). On the other side of doors is this hallway. You can see there's a trashcan and a sink, it's just a hallway. (next slide) Then we will go into this room which is your special room while they're fixing your teeth. This is the tube your mask will attach to, and in this canister is the sleepy medicine. Your mom will stand right here next to you while you breath in the medicine, and you can play a game on this ipad while you're breathing. Now is there anything in this picture that you have a question about?"

(He shakes his head no.)

"Some kids your age wonder what about these two big circles, and I'll tell you that they're just lights and they won't even be turned on."

Suffice it to say that I was very impressed by how above and beyond this was from 'don't be scared.' Really, this woman had me at 'free finger flashlight.'

But if that wasn't enough, she gave Harvey a book with stickers in it, and we spent the next half hour reading and putting stickers in the book. Interspersed with waiting for the doctors, of course, and talking to them about the proper release forms.

being at the hospital requires a high degree of Disney brand exposure

The dentist wouldn't know the extent of damage to Harvey's teeth until he got in there, so he had me sign off on several possibilities. These included fillings, caps, extraction, and spacers, all the way up to nerve repair or removal. I wondered how we had come to this, massive dental surgery for my healthy eater who likes salads and only gets candy at parades and Halloween. Then I remembered that even our paleo ancestors suffered from tooth decay, and some things are just out of our control. As evidenced by the posed photo below.

rawr. our black teeth will cut you

Finally it was time for the surgery. Harvey was not at all nervous getting wheeled down the hall and into the O.R. because his friend was holding an iPad game over his face the entire time. Press press press, he put virtual food in a microwave in anticipation of good things to come, and soon his lids blinked heavily until he was asleep.

the best numbing agent

I gave him a kiss and was then escorted to the waiting room where I was eager to see how the rest of my family had been keeping busy for the past hour. They seemed to be doing fine.

little brothers both fit in a little car

We had decided to come to the hospital as a family so that I wouldn't be away from the nursing baby for 7 hours, and also so that Dan could deal with the driving/parking aspect of the trip. Dan says the boys were great when I was with Harvey, and Zion only became a complete pain in the ass when I came back into the room, when he screamed that he wanted a diaper and/or he had suddenly become unable to move his legs. He's like that at home too, though. Heaven forbid Harvey get something that he doesn't get, even if it's dental surgery.

Meanwhile Elijah wrecked up the room. Like you do.

survey suggestion: fewer surveys on low table.

It wasn't long though until it was time to wait with Harvey waking up. The total damage (or fixage as it were) came to: two white fillings, a silver cap on one tooth, and an extraction dash spacer deal-y on the other side. No nerve work which, I guess, is a relief. Also, the x-rays revealed an extra tooth coming in on the top. But that, the dentist told me reassuringly, is not something we have to worry about for another year.

Thank God, because this whole process is rather tiring.

waiting to wake up

I don't have any more pictures from the hospital, because Harvey liked waking up from anesthesia about as much as he likes waking up in the morning, except perhaps a million times LESS AS MUCH. There was a lot of moaning and coughing and moaning, and he wasn't really himself again until he got a nap in the car and woke up to a bowl of chocolate ice cream at home.

Then he demanded all the meals he'd missed on account of fasting. So we called his ice cream breakfast and after that served him yogurt and jam (lunch) followed by clam chowder (dinner) and another bowl of ice cream for dessert. It sure felt good to have my happy eater back again. Now fortified with bionic teeth!

silvery. On his cheek is both chocolate and blood, because that's how we roll super hardcore

I also feel like I earned some silver myself (albeit in my hair) for surviving my first hospital parenting experience. Altogether we've had an extremely healthy six years. We had three home births, no major accidents, no allergies or illnesses or hereditary conditions. As I listened to parents on the other side of the curtain rattle off daily medications, prior surgery dates, reactions to anesthesia, and behavioral concerns, I was reminded how truly easy my lot is. Even if Zion did scream half the ride home that he wanted the remainder of Harvey's blood-soaked drug-covered popsicle, and Elijah spent the pre-dinner hour playing with a biohazard bag. Most days our hardships are few and our blessings many. And for the harder days, there's ice cream.

ED UPDATE: In between finishing this post and publishing it I came down with the worst stomach flu I've ever experienced (though to be fair, I say that dramatically about every time I get a stomach flu.) Poor Dan, after spending a day at the hospital watching little kids, had to sit on the floor outside the bathroom watching me get sick because I was afraid I would pass out. As with every time I get sick I immediately started to wonder where I was at fault. Worrying so much it suppressed my immune system? Processing my post-surgery anxieties through chocolate? Or maybe it was completely psycho-somatic, and my reaction to seeing my child in pain and vulnerable was to VOID EVERYTHING.

There is something else. When Harvey was recovering from the anesthesia, and totally pathetically bewildered in pain, ("I thought they were going to FIX my teeth! Why do they hurt?") I cried out to God in the fashion of my foremothers, saying "If there's any way for me to take this pain from him, Lord, I'll do it." Now it may be all coincidence or the workings of my mind, but Harvey felt fine and nausea-free once he got home, and after the kids fell asleep I was writhing in pain on the bathroom floor.

When I shared about my prayer of transference (between sobs) Dan asked, "Is that allowed?" My imagined answer was, "Only for Jews."

Now after six hours of torment I am finally recovering and dreaming of Gatorade. The moral of the story is: don't do that guys. Ask Jesus to take your burdens like a good Christian would. And wash your frickin hands a lot when you go to the hospital. Lord have mercy.

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camping 2014: beach day

Harvey in his camping chair reading a Tintin book in the early morning sunlight

early reading

Harvey and I woke up early after our first night in the tent. He did some reading while I cleaned and organized; our late arrival meant that I left things in a pretty chaotic state when we went to bed. As other folks started to wake up the kids played together, and our friend Taya did a wonderful job of keeping Lijah happy.

Taya talking to Elijah as he sits outside in his baby seat

she's good with babies

Our friends wanted to stay in camp to cook breakfast over their new propane stove, but we persuaded them they had to give the Cafe a try. Ominously, Zion fell asleep in the car on the way there; and when he woke up he was not happy.

Zion crying in Mama's arms in the restaurant

poor sick baby

Harvey had been sick with a high fever a couple days before we left, and it was clear that Zion had come down with the same thing. Luckily he has a fantastic Mama, who took great loving care of him, even though doing so kept her from being able to eat any breakfast herself (but don't worry, she did have four cups of coffee). We figured Zion would do as well being pushed around in the stroller as anywhere else, so we decided on a little post-breakfast walk around town and harbor. Harvey embraced the touristy nature of Bar Harbor.

Harvey sitting in the lap of a big wooden lobster holding an ice cream cone (the lobster has the cone, not Harvey)

tourist lap

After a long bathroom stop and the purchase of some overpriced batteries to keep my picture-taking habit going, we took to the shore path. The big kids were happy to get off the crowded sidewalks.

Taya and Harvey walking hand-in-hand along the shore path

vacation friends

Everybody wanted to get as close to the water as possible, mostly to throw rocks, but also to take pictures.

Leah taking a video of herself holiding Elijah, standing on the cobbly beach

our vacations are well-documented

Zion recovered a little bit, and even ate a little bit of his take-out oatmeal, but he wasn't healthy enough to really enjoy the seaside (I tried to get him to reprise some previous rock pictures, but he wasn't having it).

Zion sitting on the cobbles with a rock and a serious expresion

not having too much fun

Our friends were eager to visit Sand Beach, one of the two most popular locations in Acadia National Park (along with the top of Cadillac) and one that we hadn't visited for years. With Zion not up for hiking we thought that sounded fine (it's also something that we can only do without Rascal along; no dogs allowed on the beach) so we bought our park pass and headed out that way. Unfortunately, so did everyone else on the island, so we had to park quite a ways away; and the rocky path beside the road wasn't exactly conducive to maneuvering a three-wheeled stroller. But we made it!

Harvey in the foreground, a thousand people on the beach in the background

a popular holiday destination

We found we didn't have cell phone service down in the cove, and we didn't find our friends, so we settled in to enjoy ourselves until the fates should bring our two parties together again. As its name suggests, Sand Beach is famous for being one of the very few sandy spots to swim north of Portland, so of course the Archibalds—contrary as we are—found a shady spot on the rocks to set up. Sick Zion needed to sleep and soon so did baby Lijah; Mama was just along for the ride.

Archibalds sleeping on a shady rock: Zion wrapped in towels, and Leah lying with Lijah in the Ergo

sleeping in the shade

Harvey and I enjoyed playing in the medium-sized waves (I stole all the good wave-playing from Leah), and he only got knocked down a couple times. As the tide went out the rocks and tidepools were beautiful in the clear water, but Harvey was less interested in them than he was in the excitement of the open beach.

Harvey looking at the seeweedy rocks revealed by the receding tide

littoral world

Eventually our friends, delayed by wrong turns, bathroom stops, and naps, made it to the beach, and thanks to the near-constant vigilance I was keeping on the stairs down from the parking lot I spotted them on the way in. The dads and oldest children played some more in the waves, then Harvey and Taya settled in for some focused digging.

Taya and Harvey playing in the sand

digging a well

Too soon we had to head out—on a longer vacation Sand Beach would definitely be a great place to spend a whole day. I was so tired I skipped the bumpy path and took the stroller on the road itself; the cars just had to go around.

We got back to the campsite at dinner time and started a fire. Harvey and Taya were once again great helpers.

Harvey and Taya feeding the campfire with twigs

fire helpers

In the past we've had a little competition about what we can cook on the campfire, with each couple trying to brings something a little more special; last year we saw campfire pizza, chicken pot pie, and pineapple upside-down cake (also something boring that we made). The friends who came up with us this year didn't know about that, but their hot dogs and baked beans were as tasty after our beach day as anything else could have been, and wonderfully abundant. Plus the leftover chili let me make one of my three hot dogs a chili cheese dog!

the picnic table with a skillet of hot dogs and a cut-up tomato. and Harvey

hot-dog-licious

Then more smores provided a perfect ending to the meal. Well, perfect to everyone but Zion: after sleeping on the beach, in the car, and in the tent, he woke up feeling considerably better and looking for a hot dog, mere moments after the last one had been eaten. Happily he allowed himself to be consoled with marshmallows and chocolate-chip cookies. That's just what you need when you're getting over an illness, right? And it worked, because he slept fine that night, too!

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take the first step off a five-inch step

On Wednesdays and Saturdays I go to the gym to take a muscle conditioning class. It's a combination of weights and cardio using a step, and I look forward to it every moment that I'm not doing it. I look forward to it the way a drug addict looks forward to his next hit. Which is to say, I look forward to exercising with a mixture of excitement that it'll come soon, and sadness that it can't be right now, and underlying fear and anxiety that maybe it may not happen at all.

Because given the actual demands of children and church that "twice a week" is sometimes only theoretical.

I really wish I could go to the gym every day, not only because exercising makes me happy, but because staring at myself in the mirror while I'm exercising connects me to a personal identity I've forged over the past 15 years. It's like if I can see myself exercising then I remember I really exist. I know it doesn't make any real sense, yet it seems to be true. I joined the gym last February after a two-year hiatus, and the first time I took an aerobics class I looked at my moving reflection and said, "Oh, there you are, Leah, an individual with goals and feelings that matter. I haven't seen you since you had that second baby."

But there are bad things about going to the gym too.

As a person who has worked out A LOT in my adult life, I can easily fall into curmudgeonly habits. I get into an exercise groove that I like, and I get really mad when anything about it changes. I like MY SPOT in front of the mirror, and I get cranky if someone else takes that spot before me. I like getting the same locker every time, and I'm peeved if "my locker" isn't empty. I like peeing one minute before I go into class. It's like my time at the gym is "my special time" and I want it to be especially perfect.

I am not alone in this, people. I see you other women at the gym. You with your weird routine with the towel - how you drape it over the step just so until it's precisely even. We are all in our little worlds aren't we? Making everything perfect in order to make ourselves perfect?

But this morning I was waxing a little philosophical. I got to class 20 minutes early to set up my equipment in MY SPOT. I went downstairs to put my bag in my locker, but I didn't get MY LOCKER, because that one was already taken. I got a locker 5 spaces down from that one and felt a twinge of irritation. Then I thought, "Is this it? Is this all your life amounts to right now? Happy about your spot, unhappy about your locker? Happy because the happiness about your spot outweighs the unhappiness about your locker? Is this all in the universe that matters to you these days? You're happy or sad based on whether things go according to your arbitrary little routine?"

And then I peed and went up to class and forgot about my little philosophical moment because I had a lot of energy and I was really kicking butt. The warm-up went awesome, I was jamming to the tunes, I was thinking I looked like one of those professional fitness models who work out in the background of exercise videos. I mean, one of the the token fat fitness models, but still...

Then something unexpected happened. The teacher demonstrated a new move, I turned my head to look at her, and something happened to me that has never happend in my 15 years of taking step classes.

I fell off the step.

It was not like I kind of slipped and lost a beat and then shuffled to regain my balance. It was like gravity suddenly attacked me and I completely wiped out. My foot went on the step but not all the way on I guess. My entire body came crashing down to the floor while my foot stayed on the step. My first thought was, "Wow, that was embarrassing and I just missed 8 counts." I tried to stand up but found that I couldn't. My second thought was, "Oh, I really just sprained my ankle, didn't I? Well, that was a waste of a morning; I only worked out for TEN MINUTES!"

The spot, the locker, the bathroom stop, the weights all lined up in front of the mirror. Not to mention the hour-and-a-half of freedom I negotiated with my husband. All for what? Someone else will have to put my weights away, I will have to get ice, I will have to hobble down two flights of stairs and out to the car and go home to put up my foot up. I will have to sit in my semi-damp work-out clothes and figure out how I'm going to run my life for the next few days, and I haven't even gotten a break of half an hour. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

The teacher looks over at me sitting on the step and asks kind of incredulously, "Did you just hurt yourself."

I mouth the word "yes" over the techno music, nodding my head up and down with an expression that I hope conveys brave resignation. I put on a steely face and hobble towards the door, slowly dodging the healthy, youthful, alive looking people still getting a workout.

Oh God it hurts so much to put weight on it. I am doing mental calculations. Like maybe if I rest it all day today and tomorrow I can get back to laundry on Monday? Dan can keep the house out of chaos until Monday. And maybe if I only walk the dog and don't do any running I can be back in class on Wednesday. I can't go next Saturday because I have a church thing, but maybe I can take it easy and still come on Wednesday. If I don't work out for seven days I might mentally cease to exist.

Taking a rational perspective, sports injuries happen. Falling down happens. People fall down and twist ankles all the time, both at the gym and at home on their front steps. Dealing unemotionally with these sort of set-backs is what grown-ups do. It's part of being a mature person. You say, "Oh, here is the situation now" and you get ice and find an ace bandage and take it easy for a few days to prove you know how to exercise common sense.

There is one side of my brain that thinks like this. Then there is the other side of my brain which is like a crazy fight-club-inspired saint-in-training who reads too much Old Testament while simultaneously being influenced by the theory of karma and random postings on Facebook. And this insane side says, "This is probably God punishing me. Because of my pride. Or because of my vanity. Or because of my faith in exercising over my faith in Him."

"Or maybe it's God HELPING me become more unattached from my pride and vanity and faith in exercising over faith in him. Maybe He wants me to care more about other things, to break free of my myopic obsession with my favorite spot and my favorite locker and my favorite feeling inside of my body feeling a particular way."

Because it could neve be just a sprained my ankle, could it? It's always "whatever happend to me just now is a bigger part of a bigger story. A story in which I'm at the absolute center. A story in which my smallest routine up to and including my thoughts at the gym is ever so celestially important."

I should have realized this morning when I closed my locker door that THIS is what I'm fed up with. Not the smallness of my life, the smallness of my hopes and desires, but the crippling impossibly bigness of it all. I started going to the gym because I wanted my feelings to feel important, but maybe being important is too weighty as task for my feelings. Maybe my feelings are too fleeting and changeable to focus on. Now I'm up, now I'm down, now I'm spectacularly down and someone else is going to need to put my equipment away.

That's too much pressure (psychologically, not physically speaking.) I'd like to be mature for once and act like a sprain is just a sprain.

But oh, what an indignant pain.

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developments

I don't want to speak too soon, it could be just because Dan's been home for a miraculous four-day stretch thanks to hurricane school cancellations, but it seems like our children are entering a new phase where they actually play together. Well. In the house.

Even with competing illnesses vying for space in my lymph system, even with an extra impulse to lie down whenever possible, I found myself thinking at various moments this week, "What am I supposed to be doing now?"

Did I already put in laundry?
Yes.
Did I already empty the dishwasher?
Yes.
Did I fill the dishwasher?
Yes.
Did I pick up toys?
Everything except what they're playing with.

What am I supposed to be doing now? They usually interrupt me every few minutes and I spend all day trying to finish the most basic of chores. Now I'm, um, sitting around wondering why no one is asking for a book. Wondering if I should go scrub something.

I thought this was the moment I'd been waiting for for the past 17 months... the moment I break out and pursue hobbies, or find something to do for money, or self-actualize some other way. Why am I not more excited? Maybe it's because I've spent the last 17 months telling myself, "I don't need anything else. I don't like hobbies, or working, or working out. I don't like anything but being with my kids."

But my kids were playing fine on their own today. Dan was reading a book. I stood in the living room and shouted, "Doesn't anybody NEED me?

A few minutes later Zion came over to ask for nursing. So there's that.

Of course my kids do still need me, specifically at night, at least every two hours. Maybe this can be my new scapegoat. If my mantra is no longer "I can't get a break during the day" maybe I can complain, "I never get to sleep at night and that's the reason I don't have energy to scrub the toilet."

There's an insanity in spending months and months dreaming of putting the baby down, and then when he gets up on his cute little legs I only scream, "come back! come back!" What I mean to say is, Dan has this wonderful ability of saying "This phase is nice," and then "This phase is nice," and he's really happy with whatever way things are, while I only find things to lament and fear. Maybe this is an illness thing, a bad attitude caused by constant nagging discomfort. But more likely it's an illness of character, like I never learned to be happy on my own and now I'm taking it out on my family.

I no more know how to fix a character illness than I know how to fix my ear infections. Constant berating myself does not seem to be helping, event though I suddenly have more time for it.

Oh, and since we're talking about developmental milestones, I should mention that Zion has started to smile on command. Here he is posing in a hayride he made in our our red wagon. The hay was purchased for the chickens and the garden but in an effort to recreate the haunted hayride a lot of it ended up in the street.

Zion in his own hayride

cheeeeeese

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an update on my health and a charming word from Harvey the prophet

I first got sick in January of this year, ten months ago now. I felt rundown and my face always hurt. After several inconclusive doctors appointments ("You're a mother, you're probably just tired. I took a class in medical school called Women are Whiners.") I developed lumps on the top of my mouth. Of course, I thought I was dying from mouth cancer. The doctor didn't send me to an oncologist, however, but figured the lumps meant I was not fibbing, I probably had a sinus infection. After antibiotics it was like the skies parted and I was a different, lighter, happy person.

That lasted about a month.

Then I got a string of sore throats. I got antibiotics for Strep but it didn't take the problem all the way away. I would feel okay for three days and then have a low-level fever and sore throat for a week. This lasted all spring and into the beginning of the summer. Then I had about a month and a half of lovely summertime when I thought I was cured.

Then the ear infections started.

Lately I have felt a bit desperate. I have started eating two cloves of raw garlic a day. Last night I tried putting garlic in my ears. Normally my husband says he likes the smell of garlic, but on the way to church yesterday he opened the windows and said, "Um, can you turn your face that way? away from me?"

As unhelpful as it is to be sick, the worst thing is my attitude about being sick. The running tally of my sins includes:
Blaming a fever for impatience with my children.
Blaming a fever for untidiness in my house.
Blaming my family, friends, and amorphous set of responsibilities for making me sick.
Using my sickness to act like a big whiney Jewish martyr.
etcetera etcetera.

Last night at church I prayed that God would make me better. That he would make me better physically or that he would make me a better person to deal with being sick. Because, really, either one would work right now. I want to be healthy but more than that I want to be a human.

I had this vision while I was praying of a giant God holding me on a giant fork. Like Jack and the Beanstalk kind of scale. Fee Fi Fo Fum.

And the idea I had was that God is going to somehow EAT this crappy body of mine. And that that would be a good thing.

And then I thought, WTF? That's not even just gross it's A-BIBLICAL! That's pagan kind of shit. God doesn't eat people; he says in psalms that he doesn't need to eat at all. That's devil-worship madness sneaking into my consciousness. Devil, stop speaking to me in Jesus name.

Then today at the lunch table, I hear Harvey making up a song:
"He ate the sickness
and He ate the deadness
that's cuz God is a rescuer.
I WANT MORE KETCHUP!"

(The Ketchup part is per Harvey, not God, by the way. Harvey likes a massive amount of ketchup for his grilled cheese.)

I would like to see this as a different spin on Isaiah's prophesy: "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:4) Surely He ate the sickness. Surely He ate the deadness. Because God is a rescuer.

I want more ketchup.

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puppy dog eyes and puppy love

It was kind of a slow day for us here today. Harvey is sick with a fever, so he spent the day lying on the couch with me sitting next to him stroking his head. Zion ran around the house in circles and sometimes threw books at me. Of course we read a lot of books. We also played blocks and trains but more subdued than usual. The house was eerily quiet for the three of us being in it together. At times Harvey just looked up at me with his big droopy fevered eyes and groaned: "I love you Mama."

I usually try not to let my emotions get the better of me (anger excluded) so the tenderness of Harvey's sentiments caught me off guard. It's not to say I don't believe he loves me, of course that's why he pulls all the whiney baby crap that makes me so angry. It's just that mostly I hear "I love you" from Harvey as a response of courtesy or to get something that costs money. I felt like today was the first time I heard in his voice: I appreciate your presence. I actually like it when you're near me. I want to be with you. You know, "I love you."

Which is not to say I like my child pathetically ill, but it was a nice sentiment to isolate from our normal more boisterous lives.

I don't know what was in the air today. When I picked Zion up from his nap I smelled his hair and he smelled like a new puppy. All of a sudden I got that feeling I get around puppies, like, I am so lucky to share this moment with this amazing crazy little creature. A puppy is a fleeting concept; puppies exist for just mere weeks before they shed their youthful frivolity and morph into dogs. Dogs are fantastic, don't get me wrong, but the way a puppy will stomp his two paws in front of you when he wants to play, it's like this heroin shot of joy, it's almost too much because it hurts to know it'll soon be gone. Babies take soooo much longer to turn into dogs. They're helpless and needy and rewardingly adorable for many more months than puppies. But as I picked up Zion and smelled his puppy-smelling head, I had this baby Rascal feeling: I am holding an amazing, fleeting, ball of joy, and the love is almost too much to bear.

The smell on his head was pine shavings, by the way, which is used for litter at many kennels. We also use it in our chicken coop, where the boys were helping me out yesterday.

spreading new bedding in the chicken run

spreading new bedding in the chicken run

They are already helping with chores - they won't stay babies forever. When they're loud and pushy it's easy to wonder: how soon will they grow up? When will they stop needing me to fill their juice cups? But today when they need me more than juice cups, when they need me to be their Mama, I want to say: I like it when you're near me. I want to be with you. I love you guys.

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