Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A (Fishin') Hole in One

So my mother lives in a very nice, upper-middle class neighborhood in Goose Creek complete with golf course, country club, swimming pool, playgrounds, beautifully manicured parks, tennis courts, etc. It's a typical "plantation" community down here (which they all are, by the way), and very quaintly landscaped. This includes the many duck/goose ponds that pepper the golf course and are regularly visited by a variety of cool water fowl including ibis, egrets, and heron. Being an animal person, I know that egrets and heron are fishing birds which leads me to believe there are fish residing in the ponds. Where they came from or how they got there I have no idea. However, we do live in the, "lowcountry," and in a wetland, who knows which way the water's flowing. For all I know, the fish could be residing in drainage ditches that seem to connect up to the ponds on one end and local rivers on the other. In any case, the existence of fish is readily apparent from the birds I often see perched in beautiful statuesque style, wings spread open, beak poised for spearing.

But if there were any doubt in my mind, the presence of fish would be made all the more clear by.....the GOLFERS WHO STOP TO FISH! Yes folks. We are truly in South Cackalackie when a round on the back 9 includes a stop at the "fishin' hole". There are actual, "fishin' holes," straight out of a Mark Twain novel down here...and on an upscale golf course no less. AND PEOPLE FISH IN THEM! Imagine, you're driving by the fairway, catching a glimpse of what appears to be a golfer pulling out a 9 iron hoping to get his next shot on the green, when you realize that what he's actually pulled out is a fishing rod. He's got a fishing rod in his golf bag! And because this is an upscale neighborhood, the fisherman is a lawyer, and his fishing rod is made of fiber glass. But I'll be damned if when Doug and I were looking for real estate in some of the less expensive first-time-home-buyer communities we did not see people fishing at the local "fishin' hole" holding poles whittled out of sticks.

Ok. I exaggerate a little here. But come on. They are decorative, landscaped, planned community ponds. Some of them have fountains. Why on earth would people fish in them, let alone EAT what you catch? Apparently, it's a very popular pastime down here, as many a real estate agent tried to use it as a selling point with Doug and I in our search for a home. I finally had to point out to one that I not only thought it was stupid and somewhat "redneck" to fish in the pond marking the entrance to your development, but that if he brought it up again, he'd be fired (of course I put it more subtly and tactfully than that). This is the same person who offered to show us a "double-wide" because it was just such a steal. I quickly pointed out that Doug and I were not interested in any dwelling which came apart with ease or was mobile in anyway. But hey, this is South Cackalackie, and apparently the "yocals" think high-end trailer living (translation, a new double-wide) is akin to at least a luxury condominium elsewhere.

Anyway, I was pondering the hillarity of the local "fishin' hole" and laughing at the thought of seeing something like this back home in New York. And then I realized, I had. People fish out of the East River in Manhattan ALL the time. Granted, it's a naturally existing body of water, but if you live in a high rise just off FDR Drive, then I suppose it's the next best thing to the local "fishin' hole." I guess New Yorkers and Cackalackians are more alike than I realized.

Anyway, the moral of the story: if you're ever invited over to a South Cackalackian's house for dinner and they're serving fish, be sure to check and see if there are any ponds in the landscape architecture. You might be eating one of the neighbors.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Like the Energizer Bunny,

It just goes on, and on, and on, and on....

So Nick is now on the baby version of an inhaler, a stronger antibiotic, prescription strength cough medicine, and ibuprofen as needed. All this for a kid whose mother HATES the idea of using medication. I'm all about the natural, homeopathic remedies, or just plain letting the body do it's job. But when you take your son to the doctor and the letters RSV get kicked around, particularly if you know how serious this can get, you concede to the medications. My poor baby. My little peanut. I hate overwhelming his system with all this gunk, but I have to admit, that since he's been on them, particularly the inhaler, there is an obvious improvement in his condition. So much for my tree-hugging, herb-taking, immune-boosting homeopathy. The inhaler did the job in two doses. My little boy can breathe comfortably again for the first time in 3 days. Score report: Pfizer = 1, Galluccio homeopathy = 0.

Incidentally, although it doesn't feel that way to me, Emma took a turn for the worse today. She still is no where near the severity that Nicky was this morning or a couple of nights ago, but she's pretty miserable, despite her few attempts to rally during the day. This virus is a sneaky one. It's lulled me into a false sense of security twice now, thinking that I was over the worst of it, only to find, "worst," comin' 'round the bend.

So the beat goes on. But I am DETERMINED to write something more positive in this blog about my kids and their health in the next few days. I've already got some great photos lined up, and thoughts on bedtime rituals shared between Emma and myself. But seeing as how it's my bedtime, and I haven't slept well lately (I wonder why), it'll all have to wait for another quiet evening when the drugs have been administered and everyone is able to sleep soundly through the night....or at least until I can finish a blog entry.

In the words of Emma's bedtime song, "Time a' go nite-nites. Time a' go nite-nites. It's time for (Mommy) to go to bed! See you tomorrow."

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Barking" Baby

Quick update. After the ER, Nicky, Doug, Emma, and I found ourselves in an urgent care center less than 12 hours later. Nicky had grown increasingly worse and was in obvious respiratory distress. He had developed a croupy, barking cough with a loud stridor on inhalation. For anyone who's not familiar with that sound, imagine trying to breath in to cough and having someone grab you around the throat and squeeze. The resulting gasping sound is what a stridor sounds like. And in an 11 month old infant, a gasping stridor followed by a spasmodic, croupy cough is not a sound you want to hear. Besides, Emma was coming down with it at this point as well. So, Doug and I figured we might as well have them both checked out again before one of us would have to head back to the ER in the middle of the night. Sure enough, the doctor gave both of them a prescription strength cold medicine (which worked like a charm), and Nicky got a steroid to open up his airway. His pulse ox. was ok, but beginning to drop, so it was clear that he needed something to help him breathe.

We came home, and I managed to get Nicky to fall asleep for a couple of hours on my lap in the rocking chair, after which he woke up having yet another coughing fit. He was miserable and gasping off and on for another 45 minutes or so when he finally fell back asleep from exhaustion. This time, we were camped out downstairs in our oversized chair, snuggled under a blanket. He broke out in a cold sweat (which I usually do when I'm about to "break" a cold or flu), so I figured he might be turning the corner on this one. And despite the sweat-soaked jammies, he slept soundly on my chest for about 4 hours when I finally mustered up the courage to put him in his crib and try to get some sleep myself. With the exception of an occasional coughing fit and some tossing and turning, he slept like a rock until 5:30 this morning. And boy, he needed it. He's still VERY congested, but he no longer looks as though he's in distress, so I'm relieved.

In the meantime, Emma appears to have a mild case of whatever he has, and I'm hoping it stays that way! For this cold and flu season, the score is viruses 3, Galluccios NOTHIN'!

Incidentally, his fall from the diaper changer was nothing but a bad bump on the head. The ER doc and pediatrician said he was fine. Probably more of a bruise to my ego than to his head.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

For Worse and In Sickness....

Seems that in the, "better or worse, in sickness or in health," departments, Doug and I have been handed a super-sized, not-so-value meal of, "worse," and, "sickness." Just read the previous postings if you don't believe me. My family has now been sick with one illness or another since December 30th. Doug, amazingly, has not gotten sick yet.

But aside from a remarkable immunity to the common cold, stomach viruses, and other bacterial infections, I feel compelled to mention what a great help he has been to me, and that I realize I haven't given him enough credit lately. As I mentioned earlier, he is, at the moment, on his way to the ER with our 11 month old son. And while the responsibility of getting up with the kids in the middle of the night, catching vomit, going to the pediatrican, etc. largely falls on me as the, "stay-at-home-mom," he always knows just when to step in to ease the load. It's a bit like tag-team parenting, as I suppose parenting should be; when one of us needs to retreat to our respective corner, the other tags in. I'm just glad he's on my team.

"Peanut's" First...

...trip to the ER. My poor little "peanut" Nicky is on his way to the ER with Daddy as I type. Since I last posted, both kids went to the pediatrician for their follow up appointments and got the "all clear" for their respective ear infections and stomach viruses. Now, Nicky and I have ANOTHER cold. And this one is bad. I've already been to urgent care and been put on antibiotics last Thursday. Nicky is headed there now because he is inconsolable and grabbing at his ear again. He's been irritable all day, unable to sleep more than an hour or two at a time. So tonight, I gave him a decongestant/expectorant combination to alleviate his symptoms enough so he could sleep. It worked for about 2 hours, then he was up again at 8pm. He chattered away to himself for quite awhile and coughed a bit, so I didn't make much of it. But by 10:15pm, he was obviously uncomfortable. So I gave him some motrin, but to no avail because at 3:25am, he's headed to the ER one very uncomfortable baby.

To make matters worse, on Wednesday night, while I was changing his diaper, he rolled off the diaper changer when I turned my back to reach for something. And I feel HORRIBLY guilty about it. And what gets me most is that I knew better than to ever turn my back on my especially squirmy son even for a second since the same thing happened to Doug awhile back. Yet I did it anyway. Luckily, he was never seriously injured, and I suspect that's the case this time as well (as the pediatrician reassured me). Nevertheless, tonight, while he's moaning with discomfort from what is most likely a raging ear infection, my mind is racing with thoughts about him having a head injury. There are no symptoms to suggest that he has a head injury and every symptom to suggest that his ear infection is back, but I'm a mom, and I'm worried. And he's my little "peanut". So, better to be safe than sorry. Oh. And I'm changing his diaper on the floor from now on.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Notes on REAL Motherhood

I recently found out that some dear friends of mine are expecting. And after coming off of the childhood plague that hit my house for the start of 2007, I was finding it difficult to rally the enthusiasm to get really excited. Now wait, before you all call me a bad mother, or an ingrate, or a general grinch, read on.

I was finding it difficult to rally enthusiasm in the midst of the worst childhood illnesses that have hit my children since their respective arrivals because I was EXHAUSTED and kind of down on "mommy-hood." My kids have never been as sick as they were for the past 4 weeks, yes, that's 4 STRAIGHT WEEKS! And caring for them throughout all of this has been exhausting in every way. So naturally, after a month of caring for vomiting, coughing, sneezing, infected, diarrhea spewing babies, I was feeling a little down on the joys of motherhood....or at least wondering where they'd gone.

The kids are starting to get better finally (we have a check-up tomorrow - keep your fingers crossed), and I'm beginning to enjoy my time with them again. We were able to play together for the last couple of days without me having to run for a bowl or a tissue or a rag to wipe of the multiple carpet stains that document the last 4 weeks' trials. And I'm enjoying my kids again. They are amazing!...and adorable...and fun...and lovable...and I love squeezing them tight. And I am SO LUCKY to have two beautiful, healthy, thriving children without any major illnesses. But in the midst of "the plague," as I now like to call it, I would occasionally vent to someone about how awful taking care of two sick babies was, and I found myself getting the "look." Those of you that are honest mothers know the one I'm talking about. It's the look that says, "How can you complain? You should love your children and care for them without complaint." And to these Martha-Stewart-of-motherhood-moms I say, "PHOOEY!"

Motherhood is wonderful. And I love my kids dearly, more than I love myself most of the time. But I, and anyone else out there, would be a fool to think that I'm always going to love doing it. It's hard. It's dirty. It's taxing. And some days, you just don't want to get up and do it again. But you do. You love your kids more than life itself, so you do what you have to do, even when you don't want to. Yet if you look through the "mommy" books, and read the discussion groups and visit the mommy and me classes, and all other mommy-clique-venues, it seems that no one is willing to admit to the fact that sometimes being a mom just plain stinks! Nope, rather, we're all expected to glow about motherhood as if it's nothing but roses and sunshine. And when you don't, when you go so far as to mention the slightest bit of unhappiness or boredom, then you are judged as a bad or ungrateful mother. And in my opinion, that's unhealthy, totally and utterly unhealthy, and COMPLETELY unrealistic.

Why isn't anyone HONEST about motherhood, and pregnancy for that matter. Yeah, pregnancy, and especially birth, was miraculous. I'll grant that. I'll never forget the experience of giving birth to my children. It still blows my mind! But pregnancy was also awful at some points. There were excruciating hemorrhoids and heartburn. There were disabling back pain and migraine headaches. There was constant nausea followed by insatiable hunger with no room in my stomach to hold all that I wanted to eat. And the after effects of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding have left me feeling less than positive about my physical self-image. But if you read books on pregnancy, all they talk about is the good stuff; how "glowing" you'll be, how thick your hair gets, how voluptuous you become, etc.etc. Why is there no HONEST account of the other side as well.

And the same holds true for motherhood. As I said, it is wonderful, most of the time. And all the books talk about that until they've run out of ink. But there doesn't seem to be any honest account of the more difficult aspects of motherhood, and there certainly doesn't seem to be a place to vent about it. And frankly, I think both one-sided accounts of pregnancy and motherhood are insulting to women. It's as if the world is saying, "Here is your opportunity to fulfill your womanly duty. It's wonderful. You should love it. And it's your responsibility as a self-less mother to put aside all the not so pleasant parts." Furthermore, in sugar-coating the truth about motherhood, I think all the books and discussion groups leave new moms grossly underprepared to handle the hard stuff. If I had had an honest account of some of the trials of pregnancy and motherhood BEFORE I went through them, I know I would've been much less neurotic and stressed out. Presenting a balanced account of both life experiences EMPOWERS people. It prepares them to deal with the trials and tribulations of life so they can focus more energy on the positive aspects.

Frankly, the one book I found most empowering and enlightening during pregnancy was called, "Pregnancy Sucks!" It was honest. It spent equal time on the wonder of pregnancy and miracle of birth as well as the less than comfortable aspects. And in those moments when I was having a rough time, I referred to this book more than any other for advice and guidance. It was comforting to know the truth, to know what I was really dealing with. And the truth helped me understand when there was really cause for concern and when I was just being a little "nutso!" There should be such a book for motherhood as well....perhaps I'll write one one day.

Beyond books, I think it's unhealthy to discourage the truth about motherhood being discussed in any way as well. A happy mother is a balanced mother. And how can anyone who has gone through a rough time in anything feel balanced and happy if they're repressing feelings? There should be room in our culture for open, healthy discussion about the good AND bad parts of being a parent. Again, I think the discussion would be empowering and foster healthier, more capable parents.

So here I am to say to Tom and Sara....congratulations! I love you guys dearly. I think you're going to be AMAZING parents. And I am SO excited for you! I really, really am! Pregnancy is AMAZING! It's like nothing you'll ever experience again. So enjoy it as much as possible because it goes by so quickly (although around 8 months you'll think it's not quick enough). But know that it is also rough sometimes. And when you hit those patches, please feel free to call me and vent. I will listen and be supportive WITHOUT judgment.

The same holds true for parenting. It's AMAZING watching your child thrive and grow. It's also the HARDEST and most tiring thing you'll ever do. So on days when you feel like wriging your kid's neck because they've written on the wall again, or slapped you in protest of a nap one too many times, take a deep breath, put them in a safe place, and take what I like to call a, "mommy-time-out." Then call me and bitch and complain all you want. And rest assured that I will listen supportively without judgment because I know that even though in the moment you may want to kill him/her (figuratively of course), you love your child so much you'd give up everything you have for him/her, and you are AMAZING parents. Every mom and dad has frustrating, bad days, and long, sleepless nights. In the end, your job is to focus on the great days...the days when they talk for the first time, take their first steps, go down the slide by themselves, go to school for the first time, etc. Remember the hugs, the kisses, the bedtime stories, the trips to Chuck E. Cheese, the birthday parties, and the wonder in their eyes the first time they play in snow or feel rain or see a bee drink from a flower. And when the hard days start to outnumber the great ones, call a friend or your parents, or someone who will understand and tell you whatever it is you need to hear to get through it.

You guys will be amazing parents, and you are in for the ride of your lives. Strap yourself in and hold on because you never know what lies around the bend. But most importantly, be honest. Be honest with yourselves and with each other. Don't be afraid to speak up when it gets hard. Sometimes speaking up and asking for support or help is the only thing that makes it easier. And I'm always, always here to help in any way that I can.
I miss you and love you. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! And I can't wait to see the new baby!!!

P.S. Here's a picture of one of the great moments for a little inspiration.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Passing of the Plague

Ok. After two more nights of vomiting and continued diarrhea on Nicky and Emmma's part, I think we may FINALLY be out of the woods. Or at least, we've found the path out of the woods and are chopping away at it with machetes.

Emma has regained some semblance of an appetite (translation: dry waffles, dry toast, and dry cereal), and Nicky...well, he's got a bit more substance to his product these days. Don't get me wrong, both of them still have diarrhea, and Emma is still queasy, but we're going on almost 24 hours with no regurg., so I'm finally a bit hopeful, not to mention exhausted. Of course even though I've been up with Emma every night, several times a night, often until 3 in the morning or longer, Nicky still needs to be taken care of and continues to wake up bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and full of diarrhea at 6:30 or 7am. So, (and Sara, this one's for you) anyone out there who's a mother knows, there's no sick days for mommies. There's no saying ot your 10 month old, "You know, I didn't get much sleep last night so why don't you go make yourself some breakfast and I'm just gonna' catch up on some z's." It's a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job. No rest, no breaks, no sick days. And this week has reaffirmed for me that this is the absolute hardest job I've ever had. Some days it's physically demanding, others it's emotionally or psychologically demanding. Given the age of my kids, it has yet to be very intellectually challenging, but I know that's coming soon. In any case, I've learned that motherhood requires an endurance, a perseverance, and a level of patience that NOTHING else on earth rivals. And that is the truth. are some recent photos that I managed to snap in the last few days. And I know it sounds a little sick that I took pic's of them while my kids were sick, but I wanted to document this all for their sake and for mine. I'm a firm believer in taking pictures of all the parts of their lives. I want them to know their stories, good and bad. I want them to know their history, and to know that throughout it all, they were loved deeply, even if it meant being coated in vomit.

One of Emma's first attempts at eating after 28 hours of absolutely NO food. The poor kid looks emaciated, and I know from taking her to the doctor that she's lost at least a pound and a half. That's almost 10% of my poor 28 pound toddler's body weight. Also note that Nicky is in his diaper. This is just following one of the several diaper changes that involved cleaning up the mess that exploded out of his diaper and up his back and down his pants. Sick children are so much fun.

During one of the diarrhea episodes. I think the picture speaks for itself.

Since everyone was feeling better this morning, rather than camp out on our vomit/diarrhea-proof blanket on the couch, the kids and I played together this morning. Nicky took a liking to our bunny ears. And now I CANNOT wait for Easter! Those are gonna' be some good pic's!

Playing with his new ride-on/walker from Aunt Dixie, Uncle Greg, and the cousins. Again, you'll notice he has no pants on. I finally got sick of changing his pants after his diaper would leak and decided it was just easier to let him go pantless.

Believe it or not, this was one of Emma's better days. Note the silver mixing bowl. Ninety percent of the time, the child REFUSED to aim for the bowl, hence the quilt and towels. I swear, I'm a pro at this now. Anyone out there want to get stomach sick, I dare ya'. Bring it on. I'll have you cleaned up, washed up, and smelling like roses before you even know you got sick.

Emma serving me tea this morning after a good night's sleep. She is SO much better today, thank goodness.

And this is what happens when Doug plays with the kids. "Pregnant" Nicky. And in case you're wondering, that's a plastic bowling ball from their bowling set. What scares me is how proud and happy he looks. Oh well, that's my boy!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Something's Gotta' Give

(WARNING! This post not for the faint of heart.)

***Actually posted at 9:28am on January 18th. I'm not sure why the time stamp reads yesterday at 4:28pm. I was knee deep in diarrhea diapers and toddler vomit at that time. On with the post...***

If pediatricians offered frequent flier miles, my family would currently be on its way to Fiji, then to Europe, a quick stop in New York, and back home....FIRST CLASS! Yes, we've logged a lot of hours at the pediatrician lately, and something has GOT to give here.

It all started December 29th when Emma came down with a fever and bad cold which turned into an ear infection 7 days later. This occasion marked our first trip to the dr. from which we returned with a 10 day dose of Amoxicilin for otitis media (middle ear infection w/ fluid). Two days later, we were in the dr's office again with Nicky who was also given antibiotics for the same ear infection. Two days after this visit, and two somewhat sleepless nights on Nicky's (and my) part, we were BACK at the pediatrician only to find out that his ear infection was not responding to the antibiotic at all and that he would now require antibiotics by injection. Two pokes later and we were on our way home, only to return in two more days for the follow up shots. In the meantime, Emma was progressing nicely on her own course of antibiotics, her infection obviously responding to the therapy. Monday marked her last day of a 10 day dose. I administered her medicine and put her to bed at 7:30pm. At 12:45am, she awoke vomiting violently. This went on EVERY 20 minutes until 8:15am at which point it slowed to vomiting every 40 or 50 minutes. Finally, 7 loads of laundry and many unsuccessful attempts to hydrate later, she fell asleep at 9:45am dehydrated and exhausted. She awoke an hour and fifteen minutes later vomiting again. But at least at this point, the intervals between these episodes were getting longer, so I was becoming hopeful that we were out of the woods. I should've known better.

I feel compelled to mention here that while Emma is expelling every possible fluid from her body, Nicky is suffering from a mild but annoying case of diarrhea brought on by his antibiotics.

Anyway, at 2:15pm the day after the night-o'-exorcism-pea-soup-revisited we found ourselves at the pediatrican again. At this point, the nurses and receptionists know us and our children by first name, despite the fact that the practice services upwards of 500 patients or more. As predicted, Emma was diagnosed with moderate dehydration and acute gastroenteritis. Oh, and her ear hasn't completely cleared up yet. Nicky, who we brought in tow figuring, "What the hell, we're going anyway, we might as well bring him and get his ear checked and tell them about the diarrhea," was also diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis since his diarrhea had now worsened. Oh, and his ear is still infected too. Fabulous. The doctor, a very sweet woman with an incredibly warm and kind bedside manner, sent us on our way warning us that if Emma exhibited any more signs of dehydration or wasn't able to keep fluids down by 6pm, she would have to be admitted to the hospital for hydration therapy. Great.

So, home we went, praying for a wet diaper and her stomach to calm itself enough to keep down a couple of teaspoons of pedialyte. Over the next 3 hours, I fed her 1 teaspoon of fluids every 15 minutes by medicine dropper. She kept it all down until 6:15. But by then, she'd had one slightly wet diaper and had gone 3 straight hours without vomiting. So, according to the doctor's criteria, she wasn't hospital bound yet. Thank God.

In the meantime, Nicky managed to soil about 6 diapers and 3 pairs of pants in 3 hours. This, in and of itself, is of course no big deal. However, when coupled with a vomiting toddler who refuses to aim for the designated bowl for fear of having to see the contents of her stomach in front of her face, makes for a harrowing evening of figuring out who to attend to more immediately.

Anyway, the evening wore on, and we managed to get Nicky to sleep, and eventually Emma. Both slept through the night. Emma woke up looking less gray, and Nicky woke up looking more so. So, yesterday was Nicky's turn. Obviously, his diarrhea-due-to-antibiotic had turned into diarrhea-due-to-Emma. We were now changing diapers, 2 or 3 at a time, approximately 2 minutes after giving him a bottle. It went something like this: bottle, 2 minutes goes by, diaper change, followed by diaper change, followed by 2 or 3 more for the next 30 minutes. And throughout it all, he appeared listless, exhausted, and dehydrated. Great.

Meanwhile, Emma was slowly sipping away at her pedialyte cocktail on the sofa, watching television, and now I was SURE we were out of the woods with her. Shhaaa! Right! She went through the day, only vomiting twice, consuming a bit of banana, a half piece of toast, and about 20 oz. of fluids. Despite her limited intake, she looked 50% better. (see below)

I should also mention that Doug is working the 2nd shift at the moment which has him "on the job" from 5pm to 3am. The night that Emma got sick, he was up with me, doing laundry and helping all night. Neither of us slept. So, needless to say, the next day, he took the night off due to exhaustion. No one needs or wants a cop walking around with his loaded weapon, falling asleep while trying to keep peace. It was a safety call on his part, and a good one since both of us crashed after Emma fell asleep at 8pm. Anyway, the next night, when Emma appeared to be getting better, Doug decided he'd better go into work. So, he left the house at 4pm. That's when all hell broke loose yet again.

At 4:15 (as Murphy's law would have it), Nicky started having another bout of diarrhea. I managed to get some rice cereal in him which seemed to slow things down a bit, only to have them pick up again while he was IN THE BATHTUB! Yup. That was a lot fun. I'll spare you the fabulous details and just say that by 6:15 he was in bed with a little pedialyte in his belly, and on his way to sleep.

After scouring and bleaching the tub, Emma was then bathed and in her own bed at 7pm. Drained, I went into my room to fold one of the 15 loads of laundry I've done in the last 48 hours and settle into some bad reality tv. At 8:15, I was beckoned by the familiar coughing wretch that preceeds one of Emma's episodes. Here we go again. I walked into her room to find her projectile vomiting the day's fluids all over her newly changed bed. Being a pro at handling this now, I swooped her up, dropped her in the tub, stripped her down, washed her, tore off her sheets, remade her bed, and had her back in it smelling like a rose by 8:40pm. She calmed down, and appeared to go back to sleep. And I went to sanitize the tub yet again.

Ok. You know how the back of a shampoo bottle says, "Wash, rinse, repeat." Yeah. If Emma had instructions, they'd say, "Vomit, wash, repeat." At 9:15, I was in her room again, this time in time to catch the 8 or so oz. that came out of her. We vomited, washed, and repeated again at 10:15, 10:45 and 11:15pm until she finally fell asleep, stomach empty and exhausted.

This morning she awoke crying hysterically for water. Of course I gave it to her, but again, only one teaspoon at a time, every 15 minutes. And of course, she got more upset when I wouldn't let her guzzle the whole cup at once. Try explaining to your hysterical, dehydrated 2 year old that if she drinks a whole cup of liquid all at once after vomiting all night, that she will likely bring it all back up again moments later, making her dehydration even worse. So, this morning has been a lesson in moderation for both Emma and myself.

At the moment, she is sipping her cup and eating another half piece of bread. She begged me for both. And since she's kept her moderate fluids down since 6am, I figured what the hell. At this point, if she does vomit, at least the laundry is caught up, so I have something to clean it all up with.

Oh, and Nicky has only had one episode of diarrhea this morning. But if there's one thing I've learned in all of this it's not to even suggest that I might be out of the woods with either one of them. So, I'm just gonna' call it a fluke for now, and if it turns out that he's on the up and up, well, then, I got lucky.

One more thing. In the midst of all this, I started having diarrhea as well. At least I'm not vomiting...yet. Motherhood. No job like it on earth. And no "sick days" for mommy.

When I worked with animals at the zoo, people used to ask me all the time if I got pooped on and which animal produced the most foul substance. Let me tell you, NOTHING I cleaned or saw at the zoo even comes close to what I've dealt with in the last 72 hours. I'll take explosive monitor lizard poop over kid vomit or diarrhea any day.

Anyway, if you haven't heard from me in the last few days, or seen a post in the last 2 weeks, now you know why. I'll be back in communicado as soon as the viruses around here die off. Until then, buy stock in whatever companies make Purex laundry detergent, Pedialyte, and Huggies diapers. We've gone through enough of each in the last few days to single-handedly keep them in business.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Working World Nostalgia

So I used to have this AMAZING job! I got to spend my days teaching kids and adults all about the natural world using one of the greatest zoos in existence as my resource. I took them on tours through gorilla exhibits, simulated rainforests, snow leopard country, Siberian tiger habitat, etc.etc.etc. I got to go behind the scenes and see animals up close and personal, and was often treated to a viewing of feedings and enrichment sessions. And to top it all off, part of my job description was to be trained on the proper handling and use of a collection of exotic animals for education purposes. These ranged anywhere from birds of prey to snakes to alligators to kinkajous to porcupines, etc.etc.etc. Oh, and get this! They paid me to read books I would read anyway and surf the net doing research on topics I loved. It combined most of my passions: teaching, animals, ecology, psychology, and anthropology to name just a few. It didn't pay so well (teacher's salary), but it was a GREAT JOB! And when you're single with no kids, you find ways to live a little leaner for the sake of passion and happiness. Besides, when you feel like you're making such an enormous contribution to and impact on the world everyday like I did, money was just somethin' you needed to keep the heat on. Anyway, I find myself nostalgic for my old job these days, more than ever. I'm not really sure why. I stopped working 9 days before the birth of my daughter who is now 2years and 4 months old. So you'd think I'd have been hit with the nostalgia bug awhile ago. But I suppose the back to back pregnancies, sleep deprivation, MOUND of dirty diapers, endless breastfeeding and bottles, not to mention the move to another region of the country, has kept me a little distracted...until now.

Don't get me wrong, raising kids is rewarding in its own way, and quite a bit like my old job; dealing with animals, teaching, psychology, etc. But, it's just not the same. I'm starting to wonder if I'm one of those stay-at-home-mommies who's not really at stay-at-home-mommy. I might be more of a part-time-stay-with-the-kids-part-time-stay-at-the-office kind of person. Problem is, zoo jobs don't pay so well, and when there are kids involved, well....the stakes are a bit higher these days. Anyway, here's a glimpse at my former life. You'll actually see some "before" and "after" photos here of me skinny, then REALLY, REALLY pregnant. Check out the face! Sheesh!

That's me holding a juvenile American Alligator for the Girls for Planet Earth educational summit at the Bronx Zoo. (newly engaged and obviously not yet pregnant making this a "before" photo)

A mere year later and I am now holding an American kestrel (bird of prey) and am NOTICABLY pregnant (the "after" photo), 8.5 months to be exact. My supervisors were actually fearful that I'd go into labor right there. MAN...did you ever see anyone get so pregnant in the face!?!

Finally, another "before" photo. This is Jungle World at the Bronx Zoo, my favorite exhibit. It is an encolsed replica of an Asian rainforest and contains a variety of exotic and amazing animals. In this picture, I'm the one in the pink shirt way off to the left, looking noticably older than the teens that surround me, and we're looking up at fruit bats, a blood python, and white cheeked gibbons hanging in the trees above us. I'm telling you, it was an AWESOME job! How many people get paid to go hang out with gibbons and fruit bats? Then again, my current "job" sometimes feels that way. (wink)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Eastern Infirmary

So far, both kids are on antibiotics for ear infections, I have been sick for almost 14 days secreting green mucus with ear and sinus pain (and should probably resign myself to seeing the doctor at this point), and Doug has been sick for 4.

Moral of the story: stay away from us for the time being.

Apparently there is some RIDICULOUSLY strong strain of cold virus ciruclating around the Eastern United States. I've spoken to friends from New York all the way down to Florida who describe the same exact symptoms as my kids and I have experienced. And the stupid virus just HANGS ON! As I said, both kids are now on antibiotics for secondary ear infections due to the volume of mucus that has decided to take up residence in their poor little eustacian tubes. And Doug and I are popping the cold medicine like it's going out of style. I also happen to know that my girlfriend Karen's daughter Marcie was sick with the same thing and suffered from a double ear infection herself. And of course she got it....when she came to North Carolina! So...stay away....stay away from the entire East coast if you can. Everyone I know is either suffering or on antibiotics. Blech.

Bonobos Among Other Things

This post is just for Jason.

The bonobo, or more commonly known as the pygmy chimpanzee, is one of the five great apes (gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons, and bonobos) that inhabit the natural world. Being apes, they differ from monkeys in two major ways. First, they lack an external tail. I specify, "external," because anyone that has broken their tailbone knows that at the end of our spine exists a vestigial bone piece known as the cocyx. This bone represents what is left of a tail after millions of years of evolution deemed that it was unnecessary for us as upright, bipedal animals. Apes also share this morphological characteristic. Monkeys, on the other hand, have an external and obvious tail, with the exception of a particular species of baboon. Second, apes, in general, are much larger than monkeys. Again, as with anything in science, there is one exception to this rule, and that is the gibbon. Gibbons tend to be on the smaller side, while their tail-bearing baboon relatives often outweigh them.

One could add a third distinction here, but truthfully, it is much more debatable than the others. This of course is intelligence. Having the largest brain to spine ratio, apes have developed complicated mental structures that allow them to perform such remarkable tasks as using tools and establishing rudimentary cultures. In particular, the bonobo and its larger relative the chimpanzee are well-known for their use of twigs to retrieve termites from the otherwise impenetrable mounds that they inhabit.

The most notable distinction about bonobos however is their DNA, particularly the amount of it that is found to be similar to our own. Recent studies suggest that the bonobo shares as much as 99.4% of the DNA that our own species does. This makes the bonobo more related to our species than to gorillas, orangutans, or gibbons.

There are a number of remarkable facts to be learned about this amazing animal, but I'll just leave you to google them if you'd like to learn more. I would like to leave you with this thought however. The bonobo, like a number of other species on this planet, lives in one particular location (in this case, the Congo rainforest). It's existence is currently classified as endangered, threatened by both habitat loss and the bushmeat trade (increasing lately due to the civil unrest and presence of heavily armed militia in the forests). Because it inhabits a specific habitat, once that habitat is gone, the bonobo (our closest living animal relative) will be lost forever as well. Just something to think about.

And Jas....tag, you're it. (wink)

Monday, January 8, 2007

Bearek the Apprentice

So I NEVER watch the Apprentice as I find Donald Trump generally revolting. And there really wasn't anything that could ever get me to watch his ridiculous tv show....until now. You see, one of my best friends from college is ON THE SHOW! Yep. Check him out. Derek Arteta.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Sound of Silence

Imagine spending an entire day taking care of a 2 year old toddler, who's into everything, and a 10 month old bulldozer baby boy, both with colds which make them more irritable than usual, while you're sick yourself with the worst cold you've had in years. Then imagine doing it with NO voice. I mean NO VOICE WHATSOEVER. The coughing fits that kept me up several nights ago have also had an unforseen side effect. They have left my larynx so sore and swollen that yesterday I woke up and could speak no more audibly than a whisper. Today was a little better until about 5 pm when I lost it again. Nevertheless, try commanding the attention of your excitable and enthusiastically curious 2 year old, who is in the family room plotting to lock her 10 month old brother in the adjacent powder room, while you've been fixing breakfast for everyone in the kitchen. A little side note here, the door knob covers that we purchased to keep her diabolical hands from executing her devious plans to entrap her brother are about as effective as the "baby gate" that she figured out how to open and close in 2 days. But I digress. Needless to say, that particular episode elicited a lot of sharp clapping on my part to get her attention. She responded by exclaiming, "Yeah mommy! Clap, clap, clap!" while trotting around in triumph. That was effective.

Anyway, I have been literally speechless off and on for the past two days. And upon waking yesterday with nothing but a breathy whisper to my voice, I was terrified at the thought of having to face Emma for the day, sure that she would take advantage of the situation and run all over me and my imposed silence. But the kid NEVER ceases to surprise me. When she creeped into my room in the morning asking for her usual milk and vitamins, I pulled her into bed and whispered that mommy wasn't feeling well and that I couldn't talk today. I told her that I needed her to listen to mommy especially well today, and that she had to try and be patient with me (not that she has any idea what patience is, but one can hope). And you know, the kid LISTENED! She was basically a DREAM child for the rest of the day. She even sympathetically whispered with me at times (either that, or more likely, she just liked the game that it grew into). But my point here is that she surprised the hell out of me. This is a child that I regularly have to yell out her name in a loud voice to get her attention over whatever gibberish song or thought she's currently spouting at the top of her lungs. Yesterday and today...not so. I guess because she was listening extra attentively for the whispered call of mommy, she was on point all day. I swear, I could've whispered from 4 rooms away, and I think she would've gleefully come trotting in saying, "Yes mommy?" So, I have this new theory.

I yell to get her attention too much. I'm too loud with her and Nicky. And I don't mean that I yell at them for doing something that they shouldn't, although admittedly I do yell at them every so often despite my best efforts to control my temper (hey, I'm working on it - lately that's included self-imposed time-outs to prevent the yelling from happening at all). But rather, when we are happily going through our day, and the two of them are making a ruckous in the play room that resounds like a jack hammer in my head, I am prone to raising my voice when calling for their attention, in an attempt to be heard over the din of bongos, musical books, singing dump trucks, and talking Elmos. My experience with enforced silence however tells me otherwise. I don't need to raise my voice over their toys and toddler noises. They apparently are just as tuned into me as I to them. And sometimes the most commanding thing to be said need only be as loud as a whisper. So, I'm vowing to quiet down. Their world is already so full of noises and stimulation and action, etc. The last thing they need is more noise coming from someone with whom they should be able to find a quiet, comfortable, peaceful place to rest their weary heads.

Here are some photos of our days learning to appreciate the sound of silence....
Shhhh. and enjoy.

Emma "lounging" (if that's what you would call it) as she watches a few mintues of her favorite DVD, "Annie." (This is particularly unusual since she's usually in the middle of the family room singing along and dancing around for the duration of the movie.)

The kiddos dining together at their playroom table and chairs. This was Nicky's first time eating at the table without the assist of his usual strapped down booster seat.

We'll just caption this with, "Hey ma! I can yell and you can't! Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!" Actually, Nicky is usually a pretty loud baby (much louder than Emma was). And I can't help but wonder if he's a product of his environment since my own volume has increased during the course of his 10 months in direct proportion to Emma's increasing age.

Finally, this is what I got after asking Emma to, "smile for the camera and say, 'Cheese.'"

Thursday, January 4, 2007

New World for the New Year

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. To be quite honest, I've always found them silly. Why does the turning of the New Year necessitate false promises (to be better people, or lose weight, or save money, etc., etc.)that most of us won't or can't keep anyway. I mean, why is improving oneself or one's relationships tied to the passage of time? Why wouldn't you try to be a better person in the middle of June, or September? And why not watch your weight earlier than Dec. 31st, BEFORE you've binged on egg nog, cookies and pumpkin pie? For that matter, why not resolve to save money BEFORE Christmas and perhaps it wouldn't be quite the commercialized circus that it's become. Call me cynical, or perhaps it's hopeful depending on how you look at it, but I don't see the point of waiting until the end of the year to reflect on your life and resolve to make it better. In my mind, that's something that should be done every day. Whether or not we live up to it is another thing.

Anyway, I bring up resolutions because I think I've stumbled on to one that I highly recommend to those of you searching for something noble to latch on to for the New Year. It's something I resolved to do years ago, and has been an ongoing ambition ever since; to reduce my ecological footprint. "What's an ecological footprint?" you ask. Well, check out Ecological Footprint and you'll see what it's all about. But for those of you that don't want to bother clicking, here's the skinny. According to the website, "This Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates how much productive land and water you need to support what you use and what you discard. After answering 15 easy questions you'll be able to compare your Ecological Footprint to what other people use and to what is available on this planet." Basically, your ecological footprint boils down to how much of the planet is required to support the natural resources you consume and discard, and then estimates the number of earths required to maintain your lifestyle if everyone on the planet lived as you do. The results can be quite surprising!

Ok, now I know some of you are thinking, "Enough with the tree-hugging, veggie-burger-eating, save-the-whales, Al-Gore-movie-toting hippy thoughts." I know the quiz and my resolution sound like yet another want-to-be environmentalist's promise to do their part, but trust me, it's more sincere than that. For the past several years, I have made a conscious effort to reduce my level of consumption in the interest of the planet's health. My family lives in a modest home, we only own one economy sized, gas efficient, low emissions car, we use public transportation (at least in NY - SC leaves something to be desired in that regard) or walk to reduce the use of said car, we limit our consumption of meat, specifically red meat (cows are raised in pastures that have been clear-cut in the heart of rainforests across the globe, not to mention the destruction of the American prairie habitat), we recycle, we reuse, and we try in every way to reduce our rubbish output (with the guilt-ridden exception of disposable diapers which rank highest in percentage of single items occupying American landfills). Granted, some of these choices are also financially motivated as we are a one income family. However, even when my husband and I had no children and were both working, we still maintained an ecologically conscientious lifestyle, and perhaps even more so than we are able to now that we do have children. Yet, even with all the small things we do that add up to a lot, we still had a much more significant "footprint" than I'd like. According to my results, if everyone on the planet lived as we do (1 car, energy efficient appliances, public transport/walking, limited meat consumption, recycling everything we can, reducing waste, reusing products as much as possible, modest home, etc.) we would still need just under 3!!! earths to support the world's population. That scares me.

It brings up a whole host of thoughts concerning the American lifestyle and our need to consume not just the world's natural resources, but everything else we can get our hands on as well. We're like junkies heading out in our over-sized, gas-guzzling SUV's to the Wal-Mart or Target (or as I like to call it, "the red dot boutique," or pronounced with a French accent "Tarjjay") to get our latest fix. It begs the question, "Do we really NEED all of this stuff?" And do we have to get it in the largest, most fuel inefficient vehicle we can find loaded with seat warmers and DVD's and a whole host of other stuff? Don't get me wrong. I think that stuff is cool too. I like the idea of going out to my car in the cold morning and getting a warm Starbuck's mocha to go with my equally warm tush. And indulging in some of life's eccentricities IN MODERATION is fine I'm sure. But I just can't help but wonder if the American interpretation of the word, "need," and how we act on it isn't just the least bit responsible for the current planetary condition.

As animal residents on this planet, and yes, we are ANIMALS by definition despite our arrogant suppostion to the contrary, we NEED only 4 things: food, water, shelter, and a little bit of space (enough to sustain our basic needs). The rest of the animal kingdom gets that (as did many indigenous people for that matter); living harmoniously with the world, taking only what is necessary to survive. Perhaps if we thought of ourselves more as guests of this planet rather than rulers hell-bent on controlling it, we'd treat the world and its natural inhabitants with a little more respect. Think about it, when you're a guest in someone's home, you don't go in and eat up all their food, throw your scraps all over the floor, fill the place up with noxious gas, and then leave. As guests of this planet, perhaps we should behave a little more graciously, wiping our feet at the door as we enter and leave, being sure to leave little to no "footprint" behind.