Category Archives: Recuperating

The Ill Timing of the Ill Child

Nothing can cramp the status quo day of a working parent more than a sick kid. I wake up in the morning eager to greet the world and earn my much-needed paycheck when my little angel stumbles into the kitchen.

“Mommy, I don’t feel good.”

The Virgo in me wants to immediately correct his grammar.

Well, Sweetie. You don’t feel well.

But because he don’t feel good, I hold my tongue and touch his forehead.

Damn. It’s warm. But I tell myself otherwise. It’s not a fever. Perhaps he was just too bundled up while he slept.

He coughs.

Ditto damn. I try to ignore it. He’s almost 6. Maybe his voice is changing.

Then I hear the gag. I try to pretend I didn’t notice it. I instinctively jump out of the way as he vomits all over my jammies.

Crap. I guess he really is sick.

Some working parents earn a salary and can take time off work. Others get an ample amount of sick pay and can take a day off with pay, then take the second day off after they catch the nasty bug from their bedridden babe.

The unlucky working parents who don’t get compensation or time off have a lot of choices, but they’re all between a rock and that place that’s even harder than the rock: stay home with the kid and miss work, pay, and possibly jeopardize their jobs; sneak their sick child into work and risk contaminating the whole office; pump the sick kid full of medicine and send them to school with fingers and toes crossed; or let their little Typhoid Mary stay home from school alone, risking dire consequences and the possible wrath of a Child Services intervention.

Unlike most working parents, I have one big advantage.

I work from home, so if my kids are too sick to school, I put them back to bed, turn on the tv, and plan on taking a few more breaks playing nursemaid – serving soup and medicine, and sucking up to lots of whining. I can stay home and cuddle with them because although they’re sick, what really makes them feel better is to just have their Mommy. I fantasize about wearing a surgical mask and latex gloves and protecting myself with a 10 mil full body bubble, but since I don’t wear protection when I’m hugging and kissing their sweaty foreheads, or wiping their green snot, or double-wiping their diarrhea butts (thankfully the girls are older and I make them do that themselves) there’s a chance that all those abnormal bodily fluids pouring from my kids’ orifices today are going to be leaking from mine tomorrow.

I don’t think childless adults can possibly comprehend the sheer panic that goes into the instantaneous schedule juggling that goes into effect when your child suddenly takes ill. Any plans you might have – work, social or otherwise – must immediately be cancelled. The problem is, it’s hard to find the time to cancel those commitments because your child has a bowl resting in his lap while you race for the pediatrician’s office before the small window of drop-in hours closes. The minivan careens through early morning rush hour traffic with the parent voice-dialing her iPhone, and in between business calls she shouts in the direction of the back seat at her ill little imp:

“Aim for the bowl! Aim for the… DAMN!”

And as Brando himself would pine:

“The horror! The horror!”

You can spend 200 bucks on an auto detail, but that putrid puke stench is never going to completely come out of your carpet.

Jake at the pediatrician’s office not looking all that sick.

Last Friday, Jake woke up crying. He said his throat hurt – so bad in fact that he couldn’t even eat Cookie Crisp cereal, so I knew it must be bad. I tried to take his temperature, but our thermometer is a little off, so what I have to do is take my own temperature and assume it’s normal, then take his and add or subtract. I was 95.1˚ which would normally mean that I was already dead from hypothermia, and Jake was 98.4˚ which would in Goldilocks terms seems just about right, but by making me 98.7˚, Jake was actually 102˚ which means that he officially had a fever. This combined with the sore throat could possibly mean strep throat, which apparently is incredibly painful and therefore would explain Jake’s tears.

Call me Sherlock Holmes. That was exactly the doctor’s diagnosis.

After the pediatrician visit, a trip to the pharmacy for an antibiotic, 2 oz. of cough medicine and 1-1/2 oz. of Children’s Advil, Jake was happily clutching his favorite blanket and looking forward to an entire day watching SpongeBob.

And after walking about 30 feet away, I went back to work.

Thank you God for my work-from home job, for walk-in hours for pediatricians, for children’s liquid antibiotics that taste like bubble gum, for Otter Pops, for fluffy blankets that are machine washable, and for husbands who will eventually come home from their jobs and take over nursing duties.

But thank God mostly to Nickelodeon for SpongeBob. Now I can get some work done.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Family, Humor, Illness, Kids, Parenting, Recuperating

Red heads have more fun

I finally dyed my hair last night.

I don’t have the time or money to do it the right way – sitting for two hours in a vinyl chair reading a weekly magazine featuring a bunch of 20-somethings I’ve never head of since I don’t watch reality tv. Someday I dream of being flush, with time on my hands and I will have a standing appointment every five weeks with Jennifer at Suburbia Salon. I will be one happy woman.

Instead, I stock up red hair dye when it’s on sale and buy even more when I have a coupon. Every month or so, my grey roots start rearing their ugly heads on my hopefully-not-so-ugly head.  After putting the kids to bed, I throw on my old dye-covered tank top and boxer shorts, put on the cheapest plastic gloves ever made and start soaking those roots.

The problem is, I’ve now had shingles for seven weeks, and my scalp is still burning. I assume that hair dye is a big no-no since the last thing you should throw on a burning scalp is ammonia.

Since last week when I was finally well enough to get out, I’ve been hiding three months of grey roots under a Santa hat, but now that Christmas is over, it’s kind of like floating that heart-shaped mylar Valentine’s Day balloon well after the Easter bunny has delivered his goodies. It just looks sad and desperate.

So I was extremely excited to find among my hair dye stash a product I bought a couple years ago by mistake – Clairol Natural Instincts in #22 cinnaberry with antioxidants and vitamins C & E! (they have the exclamation point on the box… I‘m excited, but not excited enough to add extra punctuation).

Why haven’t I used it? Because when I bought it I didn’t realize that it was non-permanent color and washes out after 28 shampoos. Granted, I could be cheap and lacking in hygiene and let that baby last for a good seven months, but frankly if I didn’t mind if my hair got greasy and nasty on the 5th, 6th and 7th day, I probably wouldn’t be so anal about my grey roots.

I did the math. If I wash my hair every other day, then my cinnaberry hair would be gone in less than two months. And that means completely gone. By the end of the first month, those stubborn grey roots would be three inches long and stealthly peeking their way out of my head, slowly materializing every day of the second month like an overly long magic trick.

I had forgotten to exchange my Clairol Natural Instincts and eventually lost the receipt, so it sat at the back of my hair dye collection, waiting to get thrown out as soon I planned to de-clutter the bathroom.

Until last night. I pulled it out and found two wonderful words on the box: ammonia free! (exclamation point mine this time). I could apply the dye to my raw scalp and it wouldn’t hurt, and it would tide me over until I was well enough to get the real thing.

I can now go out in the real world and tie one on at a New Year’s Eve party, although I never know who or what I should be tying. I just know that red heads truly have more fun than three-inch grey heads.

I’m in the process of clearing away clutter and other needless stuff. I’m happy to have my red hair back, but unfortunately I’m re-thinking about throwing things out. You never know if I’m going to wish I kept that stained “Happy Millennium” t-shirt.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Illness, Recuperating

Cathy, the Red Head Mommy

Grey roots

I am an inherently grateful person. Every day I recognize that I’m thankful for my health, my family, my job, the roof over my head – which I know sounds like some syrupy religious freak, but it’s true.

So it surprises me that I am well enough to celebrate Christmas with my husband’s and my family, and yet I’m a little pissed off. The onset of shingles occurred over six weeks ago, and I still have low-grade constant pain and raw, sensitive skin. But I’m no longer bed-ridden, and lucky to be able to enjoy the holiday. However there’s one teensy concern – my vanity.

I apply a shiny layer of Aquaphor to my nose and forehead, which means it’s impossible to wear makeup. I tweezed my eyebrows too much in high school, so now I only have scraggly hairs attempting to cover my brow like a bald man with a bad comb-over. Eyebrow pencil won’t stick to the greasy skin. My left eye is still puffy and red and I’m afraid to put on mascara and eye shadow for fear it will hurt to take it off.

The worst part is my roots. I’ve dyed my hair red for over 20 years, so almost no one knows me as the blonde I grew up as. I started turning grey in my 30’s, and now my natural hair is almost completely grey and white. The left side of my scalp is still burning, so I can’t dye my hair and my roots are now over an inch long.

When did I get to be so vain? I’m excited to spend the holiday with my family, but I’m dreading the photos. This is the time I take photos that will be blown up into 8x10s with a frame that says “Family” on it. I’m afraid I’ll look like Lily, the mom from “The Musters.”

My plan is to wear a big Santa hat that will cover my roots and forehead and avoid cameras as much as possible.

My vanity inspired me to write a little Christmas song to the tune of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” If you can carry a tune, you’re welcome to sing it out loud:

Cathy, the red head mommy

Had a very harsh disease

And if you ever saw her

You would want to laugh and tease

Shingles – they covered her face

Set her head and scalp aflame

She couldn’t put on makeup

Like all them other classy dames

She was groggy from the meds

Her roots had turned to grey

Cathy with her hair so white

Got AARP’s invite

Now with the family photos

Taken throughout Christmas eve

Cathy, the red head mommy:

I’m burning every shot of me!!!

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Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Recuperating

Shingle Bells

My shingles are actually healing now

It’s been two and a half weeks since my last new post and I’ve been busy sitting on my pity pot. It’s actually somewhat justified since I’ve been recuperating from shingles to my eye, face and head, and the pain has been excruciating. I felt a little better when I was released from the hospital and was well enough to blog about how I was hibernating, but a few days later the pain returned full force.

I started drafting a blog that was paragraph after paragraph of pain and sleep and missed events and how my world had gotten very small.

Boo Hoo. Poor me. Poor me. Pour me another painkiller.

I was too tired to look at Facebook, so I missed a message posted a couple of weeks ago by my friend Amy: “Tonight Gary asked me if you were going to write a song called Shingle Bells for your next blog.”

You can thank Amy & Gary for sparing you my dismal ramblings of recuperation. Instead, here’s a song to the tune of Jingle Bells:

          Shingle Bells

  • Shingle Bells! Shingle Bells!
  • Shingles! Go away!
  • It’s no fun, I have to hide
  • The blisters on my face
  • Shingle Bells! Shingle Bells!
  • Shingles make me pray
  • Take a gun and shoot my eye
  • To take the pain away
  • Gnashing like Van Gogh
  • With a full force of a plague
  • This time to heal is slow
  • I’m crying all the way
  • Yelling from the stings
  • Shaking from my plight
  • It’s no fun to writhe and fling
  • From shingles in my eye

(Repeat)

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Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Illness, Recuperating

Hibernating

I'm in here somewhere

I’m hibernating.

It’s not my natural state of being, so I am completely out of my comfort zone.

I’m typically the whirling dervish Mama Bear nabbing a teddy for Jakey Bear, collecting warm fur blankets for Mary Beary and gathering wheat and dairy-free nuts and berries for Emily Bear so the den will be sweeter smelling for all of us during our long winter’s nap.

But somewhere in the midst of my busy-ness I hear Papa Tom Bear pathetically pleading:

“Sweetie, just stop. You’re sick. Go to bed.”

My husband normally doesn’t have a pathetic bone in his body, and he don’t beg fo’ no one. But he’s worried about me.

After two ER visits, a 9-day stay in the hospital and a diagnosis of shingles to my eye and left side of my head, I am finally home with strict orders to rest.

The sad thing is, rest is the only thing that makes me feel better. The pain in my head ranges between 1 and 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, it looks like I’m wearing a Star Trek Klingon mask over half my head, and the IV on my left hand gave me phlebitis, a blood clot that made my hand and arm bruised, swollen and unable to move without a boatload of pain.

phlebitis

My husband tells me that the phlebitis is God doing for me what I can’t do for myself. It forces me to stay away from work, typing, and chores. It also teaches me humility as I ask for help with simple tasks like tying my pants, fastening buttons, and opening lids. My mother-in-law drove me home from the hospital and took care of me my first day home. In the middle of my first hot bath in forever, I had to call her in to ask if she would shave my right armpit. I’m not sure if I was more grateful or embarrassed.

I am tired all the time. I stumble out of bed around 9:00, eat a couple of bites of something and park myself on the sofa. By noon I’m back to bed. I get up again around dinner time, then return to bed a few hours later.

I don’t always sleep. At 3:00 in the morning they call that insomnia, but at 3:00 in the afternoon it’s called… I don’t know what. During the wee hours I grab my iPad, which doesn’t seem to know if it should be horizontal or vertical while I’m lying down, so the screen often resembles a prop plane in a tailspin. I post my progress on Facebook and I’m amazed at the outpouring of well wishes. My friend Gabe responded that Facebook saved him while he was recuperating from back surgery. I read about everyone’s Thanksgiving dinner, their Black Friday shopping experiences and how they’re now setting up their Christmas trees. I press the “Like” button often. It’s comforting to virtually experience their lives, even if it is only in a sentence or a photo.

The afternoons I lie in bed in and out of sleep and listen to the sounds of my family going on with their lives without me: Emily chatting and giggling on the phone with her friend; Mary singing Adele’s Rolling in the Deep at the top of her lungs; Jake dragging his 3×3 foot plastic waffles across the living room floor, building an elaborate house; Tom yelling at the dogs for snagging his lunch. Even though I’m not participating, I love being home to experience it, even if it is just audibly.

The phone rings a lot, mostly with people offering to help. We’ve received two roasted chickens, baguettes, a variety of salads, tuna salad, two turkey roll ups, a dozen deviled eggs and a pumpkin pie. I tell people we’re fine with meals, but when my friend Sam offered to bring baked ziti for dinner tomorrow night, I caved. I love a good ziti. We’re still accepting rides to and from school, and it’ll probably take me all spring to make up the car pool commitment.

My friend Lisa offered to spend a couple of hours cleaning my house. It is a testament to a very good friendship for her to not only sincerely make such and offer, but for me to actually take her up on it.

Mary gave me a hug the day I came home from the hospital. “You’re so skinny, Mommy!” she remarked. I’m embarrassed to say that I was thrilled by that comment. I lost 10 lbs., and I still don’t have much of an appetite. But I would definitely trade the reduction of two dress sizes to get my old life back.

About a week ago, I started to become a little more lucid and asked my husband to bring my laptop to the hospital. I spent about two days drafting my blog Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth and somehow thought that it would magically transpose itself from my brainwaves to the Internet. I didn’t really factor in the effort of actually typing the thing – especially with one hand.

I typed a little. Slept a little. Typed some more. Slept longer. I finally finished it and was just checking the typos when my body shut down.

I remember my husband telling me a story of how he was watching a women’s triathlon with his ex wife, and there were two contestants running neck and neck more than a mile ahead of any other runner, when only a matter of yards away from the finish line, both their bodies shut down. My husband imitates something that looks like a headless chicken flailing, rolling, and flapping its limbs helplessly as the other participants ran past them to win.

This is how I felt on the last few typos:

Small i. Need capital I. Where’s shift? Hold shift. Keep holding. Where’s I? Hold shift. Tap I. Almost. Almost… got it.

I uploaded the blog around midnight, then slept through the night and most of the next day. The day after that I was released from the hospital, and I slept most of that day as well.

So now I sit here, my first time typing longer than a few answered emails. I’ll upload it, have a few bites of dinner, then go back to bed.

This post is longer than I would have liked, but I just don’t have the energy to go back and edit it.

It might be a while before I post another blog.

I’ll be busy hibernating.

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Filed under Anxiety, Friends, Humor, Husband, Illness, Parenting, Recuperating