Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Easy Peasy Queasy

I live in fear of puke. I know it’s silly, but I do. I once went 10 years without throwing up at all. I have yet to vomit from drinking too much, but only because when I get that horrible queasy feeling I deep breathe – for hours if I have to – until the food begins to move through my system. There’s nothing worse than the cold sweats, the shaking, and the certainty that you are about to taste your last meal again, with a side of bile. I’ll do just about anything to avoid it.

So it’s no surprise I am a total wimp when it comes to other people puking. Dear friends, I wish I could say I'd be glad to hold your hair back and rub your back should you ever find yourself in this situation, but the reality is that I will probably be halfway down the block before you even start heaving. I mean, I once switched subway cars because I thought someone looked a little too green for my comfort. And the Canuck knows that he can torture me by pretending that he’s about to hurl. He does it all the time. Oh, we have good times, don’t we?

Ever since I got pregnant, and maybe even before then, I dreaded the day that my child would puke. Would she throw up all over me? Would I want to run away instead of comforting her? Would I be able to summon the inner fortitude to clean it up? I crossed my fingers that when it finally happened, the Canuck would take pity on me and expunge the evidence before I even got a whiff.

As I mentioned, the unimaginable happened when Muffin had her virus (fortunately, I was not within spewing distance). And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. I was happily surprised to find that my first instinct wasn’t to bolt but to reassure her that everything was ok. Not that she needed my comfort – she just nonchalantly popped the binky back in her mouth and went about her Elmo-watching business. And although I smelled phantom puke for hours after I mopped it up, really the clean-up was well within the boundaries of stuff I can handle. As someone commented on that entry, I consider myself initiated.

Like the Girl Scouts, motherhood should have badges that signify notable accomplishments. Getting pooped and peed on? Check. First public tantrum? Been there. Inaugural vomit? I’d wear that badge with pride.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Muffin pats the seat next to her. “Mommy.” She turns to the other side. “Daddy.” She loves nothing more than to be the meat in our sandwich. We give her a bath, the Canuck sitting on the toilet, me perched on Muffin’s step stool, our knees knocking against each other in our tiny bathroom. So often we tag team it but tonight we are ignoring dinner prep and doing it together. After a week and a half of almost non-stop travel, it is heaven to have him home. Muffin’s mouth forms a devilish O as bubbles flutter out of her bum. “Oh, it’s a Jacuzzi bath, is it?” laughs the Canuck. I can’t stop laughing either, and then Muffin starts giggling at us, and we crack up even harder at her. There’s a tiny bit of magic that happens when we are together, my dear family and me, if only I take a moment to notice.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Devil Wears Baby Gap

So the big bad mystery virus turned into bronchitis. A regimen of doctor’s appointments, PediaCare, Motrin, Amoxicillan and eye drops has finally worked to chase the sickness from Muffin’s little body.

However, there’s something else that needs expulsion. And we might need a priest, a crucifix and some holy water for this one.

I knew that I was spoiling Muffin while she was sick. But what else can you do when they are feeling so terrible except try to distract them from their discomfort? If Elmo will put a smile on her face, then she shall have Elmo, even though Mommy will still be humming his irritatingly catchy rap about the number 5 a week later. If a binky will soothe her, bring on the overbite.

Of course, she can’t understand why the rules are different this week than they were last week. And she expresses that confusion in a series of unfortunate behaviors that range from mild whining to full-blown, could-result-in-complaints-from-the-co-op screaming fits. “Yogurt!” she sobs as if I’ve said no, even as I am reaching to get it for her. I tell her to ask nicely, and so she yells “Yogurt please!” even louder.

I believe that one of the hardest but most meaningful ways to love your kids is to place limits on their behavior. So the wild west days have to end. But how to get control again? Since she was sick, she wants her pacifier all day long, but since we are trying to eventually wean her from it altogether, the rule is that she gets it only when she is going to sleep. As she stood near her crib, trying to grab the pacifier I’d placed out of reach, I decided to wait her out. “I’ll be in the living room ready to read some books when you’re ready,” I told her, and then settled down to wait, sure that this episode would be over in 5 minutes or less. I am the boss, I am the boss, I chanted to myself. A half an hour later, with me offering everything but the kitchen sink in the paci’s place, she was still bawling and her breathing was ragged. I couldn’t take it any more, and I gave in. Exhausted from the bronchitis and pink eye I’d developed myself, my resolve was just too weak. Elmo was on less than 15 minutes later.

My nanny had an idea. “Elmo is taking a nap,” she told Muffin. It worked, so I’ve been using it ever since. I don’t really love the idea of lying to her but I’m desperate. And I’m proud of myself for not taking it further. I could have told her Elmo is dead – and I killed him.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sick and Tired

Did you know that they have the Golf Channel on Demand? If you live in New York and have cable, cruise on up to channel 1009 and see for yourself. There’s also NY1, Court TV and National Geographic on Demand.

I demand National Geographic immediately! I must have it!

You know what they need? Elmo on Demand. Because I have a toddler who’s spent the better part of the last three days seeking the pleasure of his company. I’ve DVR’d some Sesame Street, and we have a few videos, but even she – she of the marathon Baby Einstein watching – is getting sick of the same old skits. Of course, if I have to listen to that overly precious puppet talk about himself in the third person one more time, I just might completely lose my shit, so maybe it’s just as well.

Muffin is sick, the sickest she’s ever been. On Saturday she had a bit of a croup-y sounding cough, but we were able to go about our day. On Sunday she refused to eat and had a fever of 102. By midnight it was 104 and her breathing was raspy. By 5am, she was at 105 and I placed a semi-hysterical call to my doctor’s answering service. She seemed unsure if I should go to the ER, but in the end advised me to just wait the four hours until her office opened. At 9am I was there, waiting to see Dr. Feelbad. Although she suspected it was a virus, she took a blood sample to rule out something more serious. She was visibly annoyed when I had a hard time keeping Muffin’s arm steady to get the needle in. She made a second attempt with the other arm, muttering under her breath how much better the first vein had been. I’m sorry I’m not better at holding down my fever-delirious, whimpering child as you try to shove a needle in her arm. My bad. I'll practice so I'll be better at it next time.

I have stayed home with her since she became ill. The Canuck is on a business trip, so I’ve been on night duty too. The first day it was a treat to be home with her, basking in the glow of feeling needed and stroking her soft back as we lay on the couch together. Today has been, to say the least, a trial. I think the tide might have turned around the time she vomited yogurt all over the couch. Maybe it was when she fell off a dining room chair as I cleaned up said puke. Or perhaps it was when she started secreting pus from her eyes, adding pink eye to her list of ailments. She is miserable, and miserable to be around. She barely napped. She asked for yogurt all day long despite the hearty "no thanks" her gastrointestinal system gave it earlier. She screamed “all done” after less than a minute in the bath, which I had banked on eating up at least a half hour of this very long day. She whined Elbas (her name for Elmo) on, Elbas on until I turned on the TV and fast-forwarded through any non-Elmo segments. I fear the constant tube-watching and pacifier-sucking habits I’ll be working on breaking when she’s better. I exercised the emergency early bedtime parental option; I told myself it was for her own good, but really it was for mine.

I feel so utterly alone, exhausted, frightened and patience-deficient. I could have asked my nanny to help out, as I am paying her anyway, but I am too proud to admit to her that I am having trouble handling this on my own. I’ve already told the Canuck, who returns late tonight, that if she’s sick tomorrow it's his problem. I feel angry that he left me alone with such a sick child, even though, had he asked me, I would have insisted that he go. Unfair and irrational, I know, but there you have it.

It’s 9:30pm, and in the 2 hours since I put her to bed, Muffin has woken up 4 times. I’ve finally just bought her into my bed and am singing "You Are My Sunshine" on loop as I type this. Every once in a while, her little head pops up and croaks, Elbas on? before falling back into a fitful sleep.

I have a feeling it’s going to be another long night.


Thanks for all the kind words, phone calls and offers of help. I'm feeling more than a little embarrassed, because after a day off sick duty (at work) and after a decent night's sleep, I see now that I was being a total prissy drama queen. I think of the dignity of parents dealing with serious illnesses and disabilities, and single parents who are always doing it on their own, and I kick myself for not thanking my lucky stars every single second.

When I came home last night, Muffin's eye were bright, she was running around as she usually does (so much to dismantle, so little time) and she slept 10 hours straight. We even went two hours with no Elmo! She still has a fever but I think she is finally beating this thing.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Christmas Miracle

Because there is something seriously wrong with us, every Christmas the Canuck and I travel to both Chicago and Toronto to visit with our families. You might think that having a child would make us rethink that plan, but we are pretty thick that way. I hate the idea of not seeing my niece and my nephew (and oh yeah, my parents and siblings too, of course!). Muffin is the only grandchild on the Canuck's side, and I don't think the Canadian postal system could handle the delivery of all the gifts she gets from her grandma, uncle, great aunts and cousins. Although I fantasize about a holiday that does not involve packing, security lines or turbulence, a Christmas without family wouldn't be much of a Christmas at all.

We planned to fly out the evening of the 21st. When we got to the aiport and tried to check in at skycap, the man in charge informed us casually that all flights to Chicago had been cancelled. His delivery was so deadpan that I thought for sure he must be pulling our leg, which was not very Christmasy. We went inside, and were informed that there would be no flights to Chicago that evening, and the best thing to do was to call the reservations line. We did just that and were informed by the airline that they could not get us there until the evening of Dec. 24 -- and that was with a stopover in Raleigh. We were planning to fly to Toronto on Christmas Day, so obviously this was not going to work.

Christmas Miracle Part One: Despite the fact that far less trying situations have completely undone us, neither the Canuck or I combusted upon hearing about this snafu. I don't think I even smoked. We simply took another cab home (now $70 poorer), and then hopped in our car. We drove 14 hours to Chicago over Thursday and Friday, then 10 hours to Toronto on Christmas Day, and then 11 hours home to New York on Saturday. It all went very smoothly, aside from the fact that there were no rest stops in Michigan, and all the restaurants off the highway were closed on Christmas. The Canuck peed behind a 7-Eleven. I ducked into a dodgy donut shop near Detroit, where I had to be buzzed into the blood-spattered bathroom.

Christmas Miracle Part Two: Despite 35 hours in the car over the course of a little more than a week, Muffin was a joy. I'm not saying it was easy to keep her occupied, and my back is still sore from twisting back to attend to her. We spent much of the time playing eye-spy with Christmas lights and trucks; every time she'd see one, she'd ask me for more, which -- well, thank you for seeing me as that all powerful. On the last leg of the trip we had a portable DVD player, and I believe she watched Baby Einstein seven times. She now imitates the puppet characters, which I'm sure will prove embarrassing in my crunchy, never-let-my-kids-watch-TV neighborhood sometime soon. I felt awful to keep her immobile for so many hours when she's so anxious to explore, but she didn't cry or even whimper at all. She was as merry as I could have asked her to be, and that was a merry enough Christmas for me.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes

The cousins, this year and last: