Falling Dominoes

I’m guessing you’re exhausted.

After these holidays, most of us are reaching for that extra cuppa, or maybe just breathing a little deeper, trying to revive after all the excitement and fun of the holidays. If you’re like me, you’ve finished load 2,345,949 of laundry because everything in your home has been thrown up on. Several times. By several different people.

Welcome, 2013!

Approximately infinity popsicles were eaten in the past 2 days

So that’s how my family spent the break. Shepz began the throwing up festivities on the day after Christmas. I knew that obviously Smitty would follow suit, because they practically lick each others faces for twelve hours out of the day. Sure enough, at midnight the unmistakable sound of our child losing his everything woke Anson and me up.

Trying REALLY hard to play with zero energy

Trying REALLY hard to do homework, with zero energy

A few things about toddlers throwing up:

First off, it’s one of the rare things they do that no matter what, it’s not cute. It’s sad. Shep was absolutely horrified the first time he threw up. This is the twins’ first experience in that genre of being ill. So he was just totally surprised at the whole of it. Smith watched Shep a few times and would sort of laugh, then mimic in a way that felt more mocking than sympathetic, then got bored with it. Until it was his turn. At that point, he shared the horror that Shep had felt, probably to a greater extent. Turns out that Smitty is a heaver. From the moment he began until the moment I could get him back in bed, there was about three hours of sad sad sad heaving in about ten minute cycles. Poor kid. I ended up sitting with him on the couch, holding his head to my chest with one hand, with my other hand on a plastic bowl, singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a loop because if I tried to stop he made the sign language symbol for “more” frantically. This lasted, as I mentioned, for around three hours. At one point I reminded myself that what was happening was actually one of the more delicious times a mother can have with her child. Not the vomiting part, but having her baby (ok, toddler) snuggled up on her like a little ball, with his hands wandering up and down her arm. The weight of a sleeping baby is exactly Heaven on a mother’s body. It feels warm and just perfectly heavy enough. I decided I could sit here with Smitty for hours and be happy. Even if it was occasionally broken up with the violent heaving.

Post-Christmas tree, Post-Christmas Smitty

Smith, doing his best to stay awake

I did begin to despair because there was nothing I could do to help him. I wanted to keep him upright, hoping that would be a small assist. I wanted him to be comfortable so we cuddled under the weight of our coziest blanket. I wanted him to know I wasn’t leaving so I kept singing, even after his breath slowed down to a rhythm that suggested he was asleep. But that’s all I could do. Smitty couldn’t keep down even a drop of water so when he begged for water I had to distract him. Not that easy at 2:30 in the morning.

Smitty, Bear, Shep

When I finally got him to bed, I collapsed in my bed and then realized that I was next. I was going down. There was no doubt that it was my turn and I spent the next three hours going from my bed to the bathroom with my own horrible episode of this illness. When the sun came up and Anson woke up I told him about the night, that I was sick as well, and then Roan tore out of his room, racing to the bathroom…and…well you can probably guess the rest.

He was in rough shape.

A precious few moments when things felt ok

Smith + Shep

For those of you keeping track, that is four out of five Nelson Calls taken out by a stomach bug in less than twenty-four hours. Ridiculous. Anson was the last man standing and had the weight of many sick and needy people on his shoulders for that day. I disappeared downstairs for a good chunk of the day, just hoping that all was well. A few times I would resurface and do what I could, but honestly, I just wasn’t able to do much. Roan and I cuddled together in his bed for a while and I slept while he texted with his cousins in Utah. When I finally was able to get my feet under me I bathed the twins and put them down to bed. When I came back upstairs to recap the day with Anson, I knew there was trouble. Roan was asleep on the couch and Anson was just staring at the ceiling, clutching his stomach and looked the color of grey that isn’t pretty.

I grabbed Roan, locked the front door, shut the house down and wished Anson good luck with the next twelve hours. We all knew what was coming. That is the earliest the house has ever closed down for the day. Roan and I went to bed at 8:00. Anson was up all night, throwing up all night.

The miracle we all needed happened – everyone slept in. By our house standards that means anything past 7:00 AM. Nobody woke up before 8:00. I felt well enough to take on the sick kiddo-s, and told Anson to stay in bed. Other than a night-time relapse by Smitty, we were all on the mend by nightfall that evening.

New Year's Eve. After 24 hours of feeling healthy we three stayed up to welcome 2013

As Anson and I finished tucking all the boys into their beds and headed upstairs a weird almost euphoric feeling hit me. We talked about the past 48 hours like a war, one we had come back from as victors. It was overwhelmingly strong, this feeling that we had gotten through something together. I realized I had been on constant alert, trying to figure out who needed me the most, without a break for the last two days. And that we were all ok, almost back to normal, was such a giant relief, it felt like a gift.

Having a sick child, or having sick children, is one of the most stressful things a person can go through. This episode was trivial, I know. No one was ever really in danger, we all knew it would pass. But the vulnerability of being so invested, so tightly wound up with a person’s well-being is brought to light when that person is suffering. But it also shines a light on how a partner eases the burden. It made me so grateful that I am with a person who is equally invested, who is ready to dig in as deep as possible to keep them safe and well.

Roan: January 1, 2013

Being sick as a family, going down one-by-one like dominoes? Not the family vacation I would have planned. But Roan remembering his mama sleeping next to him while we got well, Smitty and Shep possibly being able to recall the comfort they found being close to their Dad and Mom when they needed us, and me always remembering how my husband shines at the times I need him to? These are the bricks of our family, our home.

Relax. It’s Only Bed Bugs and/or Lice.

Children are filthy beasts. I unfilth-ify them to the best of my ability each night but for the love of Loretta Swit I cannot keep it together entirely. I am just one woman. I am just one woman living in New York City. And there are just way too many people living here in this fair city which has created a pesky pesty situation. Along with all the exciting things offered to us as citizens of Gotham, is the opportunity to have all manner of bugs and insects and rodents and crawly parasitic things surrounding us. And, uh…on us.

It’s kind of just better to not think about it. Usually I try not to perseverate on such unpleasantness. I cannot control it so really, it’s just a much better life to ignore it. I’m a huge proponent of denial and ignorance being potent healthy coping mechanisms.

But then little Mister Smith got a rash. And then Mister Smith got hives. And then Mister Smith got a wildly itchy head. And then Mister Smith got these crazy looking scab/scars. And then Mister Smith got these blisters. And I had five late-night telephone conversations with doctors, three visits with two pediatricians, and two visits with a pediatric dermatologist.

All to come to the conclusion that my boy reacts pretty dramatically to mosquito bites. And the heat. And he might have had a virus. But the path we took to these conclusions included the suggestion that he was being subjected to bed bugs. This sent a frenzied little spark from my soul to my heart to my brain. Not in a good way.

I immediately discounted this suggestion because nobody else in the house was having any bite problems. But even then the doctor off-handedly remarked, “Well it wouldn’t be the first time I saw only one person in a family react to the bugs.” Hey, doc? That’s actually not helpful. I prefer to believe otherwise. Thanks.

So we did a major meticulous sweep of the bed mattresses, bed frames, sheets, carpet surrounding the entire bedroom and found…nothing. Ok, we did find one bug and took a picture of it and sent it to my dad, a world-famous entomologist. He told me to stop it. Stop worrying. It’s not bed bugs. We have common household bugs and maybe I should stop sending him pictures of insects and just relax? Riiiiiiight.

I can think of one-million things I'd rather spend four-hundred dollars on

So one bottle of $400 prescription lotion later (I kid you not. FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS for a bottle of lotion and it’s not even a pretty bottle. It’s an ugly plastic bottle.  Thankfully we have insurance and only had to pay $75 but that’s still way more than I can even believe.) we are trying to get to a zen-like state and believe that bed bugs are not in our lives, for now. Nor are scabies, chiggers, ticks or flesh-eating ants.

And as I am getting into bed, reading the last of my emails for the day….along comes….dun-dun-dun dun! A message that one of Roan’s classmates has lice, and I should probably check him. And just to prove that all things are relative, I just laugh it off, knowing that dealing with lice is in my own personal toolbox, it is known and manageable and about as troublesome as having a cold. Kind of an imposition, but nothing I’m afraid of. After all, Madonna herself  had an infestation of lice in her NYC home. Lice is the new black – anyone can pull off handling it. Bed Bugs are the new more complicated patterns. I don’t know how to deal with them but probably will….one day after being forced to embrace them in my beautiful overcrowded infested Gotham.

Pimples? At MY Age??

Recently my Real-Life and also Facebook friend, Lola, had this as her status:

Lola: Dear powers that be, how about crows feet or acne, not both.

HA!  Poor Lola, getting a zit….oh wait….what’s that?  On my face?  AGAIN?!  Puh-leeeez.  Seriously, when I was thirteen I was promised that this would end at age eighteen, and I planned my future accordingly.  I don’t know how becoming an acne-free super cool rock star actress astronaut artist got away from me.  Totally unfair.  But here I am, with none of those occupations under my belt, and with the occasional break out and I am thirty freaking eight years old.  That’s twenty freaking years longer with the freaking zits than I freaking planned, for youse who aren’t doing the math.  And yes – I am getting the crows feet and yes, a grey hair or two.  I am totally ok with getting older really I am but only if I get to leave the downsides of my youth behind.  I’ve traded in hangovers for moderation, night-time snacking for a no-eating-after-7 rule, all-night parties for 8 hours of sleep.  And you know?  I’ll happily take the smile lines and little wrinkles in the place of acne so what’s up?

I know I am not alone in this battle but I have to say it bugs me to no end.  And what’s worse?  In my years of experience, I still don’t have a plan or technique to deal with these things.  I’ve read everything – tried all the topical approaches, steaming, pushing, washing, pulling, leaving them alone – all with pretty similar results.  A red taunting and haunting blob on my face that makes me want to hunker down indoors.  Is there an app for this?

So my question to the world: what do you do when you have a breakout?  Anything you’ve tried that makes it better? Anything that makes it worse?  And most importantly: any idea when the madness will end?

Pneumonia Vacation Weeeeee!

We’re on day three of Roan’s Mid-Winter Recess Epic Illness.  I guess it could be called day six since he actually started being sick Sunday night, but I’m going to stick with three because I let him out into the world for a few of those days, and if as his mother, I didn’t notice he was sick, well then partner, that’s just lousy parenting.  I can’t bear the guilt.  So to clarify and so our stories are straight: Roan has been sick since Tuesday night not Sunday, see?  Moving on – the poor kid is pale faced and glassy eyed and has a wicked fever.  At the fever’s height, he reached 104.8 at which point he said that he could do better, make it go higher, and began to wonder outloud how high his friend’s fevers had ever been.  Roan didn’t eat anything yesterday and so maybe his competitive dementia is a combination of starvation + fever.  He began wondering if there were a literal battle, with gunfire and rockets and explosions happening in his body.  A real and true and righteous battle, which would produce a fever.  Stay with me here.  Gun fire on the inside would make a person hot, no? That’s a fever.  So his feverish thought process took him to the final and obvious question any six-year-old would have, “Have any of my friends had a fight like this, or better than this, inside their bodies?”  High score is determined by fever.  So Roan’s personal best: 104.8.

Yeh Yeh Yeh I took a picture in the X-Ray Room. I'm THAT mother. Oy.

I did warn him that a score like that, if it lasts too long, lands us over at the docs office.  Which it did yesterday with a follow-up today.  Some blood work, and a chest X-Ray later, he’s been diagnosed with Pneumonia.  Roan has now ingested his first round of antibiotics, and is sleeping right next to me under three blankets which he demanded through chattering teeth.  He’s been going back and forth between extreme chills and extreme hot.  He’s very confused by this and actually?  I am too.  I haven’t been able to explain why that happens.  I may have to turn to Google here soon.


We’ve watched about one-thousand hours of TV and read through two Junie B. Jones books.  Not the vacation I’d imagined for him, but one where he’s needed me a bunch, and I’ve been happy to be available.  I would trade in the vomiting option of this illness for the non-vomiting option, however.  Tell a friend.  And as I just finished typing that last sentence, the Universe played a little joke on me and Roan sat up from the couch like the girl in “The Exorcist”, and projectile vomited, just like her!  But my boy…I’m adding 200 to his overall score because he hit the bucket which we have strategically placed on the floor.  Whooosh.  Ok, I’m getting all my electronics away from this situation.  Have a great weekend everyone!

I’m Gonna Fix that Rat that’s What I’m Gonna Do

I woke up at around three in the morning, because my mom-conscious heard Roan.  I don’t wake up for many things, but if Roan so much as changes his breathing pattern from three rooms away, I log it – even as I chase dinosaurs drinking whiskey naked, with teeth falling out all over the place.  The dream doesn’t stop, I don’t wake up fully, but I know the boy is out there, and is being kept track of in part of my head.  So I heard some rustling around in the kitchen and my body obeyed the rules I’ve set in place, that I must continue to be that child’s mother, even at three in the morning.


My apartment here in Brooklyn is gigantic, so it took me a while to get to the kitchen.  It must have taken me a good eight seconds to walk the seven steps from my bedroom through the living room and finally into the kitchen.  It was empty, no sign of a child causing mischief, and in fact his door was closed.  I walked into Roan’s room and he was snoring.  He’s not quite clever enough yet to fake-snore, so I walked out, and began the long journey back to the north wing of our estate.


Once my head hit the pillow, I heard the same noise.  This time I didn’t have to disconnect from the whiskey-drinking dinosaur.  I was up and in the kitchen and still no child.  Then the sound again….scratch, scratch, rustle, rustle, SCREAM!! No, no, there was no scream but I freaked you out a little, right?  Anyway, these sounds were coming from the wall or the ceiling, I couldn’t really pin-point them, and wasn’t inclined to because there was a drunk dinosaur waiting to play strip-poker with me in my dreams.


When we all woke up the next morning and were eating breakfast, the sounds came again, from exactly the same place.  Roan was fascinated by the noise, and I told him I thought an animal was trapped in there.  He quickly named his favorite choices.  Perhaps we have a chicken in the wall?  No?  An alligator?  No.  Is it possible a lost kitten or puppy has found its way into our wall and we could keep them?  I didn’t have the heart to venture my guess that a mouse, rat or squirrel is trapped in our wall and that it is going to die and stink up this place. Instead I offered that our upstairs neighbor has possibly gotten a new pet, and they are keeping them in a cage on their floor, and that is what we’re hearing.


So now Roan has begun a campaign to contact every neighbor in the building and find out if they have a pet.  He has started drawing pictures to post in the foyer of animals trapped in walls, and using his magical s
pelling, writes, “Ho evr had u pet” (Who ever had a pet), implying that you had a pet, and now your pet is in our wall.


I don’t really know what to do about this.  I asked our Superintendent about it and he offered that maybe an animal crawled in from outside, but little else.  I’m all for collecting information, but I’m more interested in where is it going? More specifically, where is it going out of my house?? Is there a solution?  Do we start cutting holes in our walls?  And if we do, what other carcasses will be in there?  Or will some crazy rabid animal jump out and then what??  Who in the room is going to be the hero?  Not me, homie.  Possibly the wall is exactly the right place for the guy. 


Stay tuned for further adventures of Life in the Wild, Brooklyn style.  Any ideas or advice is welcome.  Please do it before this things dies.

Does Your Head Itch You Filthy Beast?

                                        This could be the very moment we became afflicted.


The phone rings and it is Friday 8:00 AM.  Lori tells me apologetically but matter-of-factly that Boone has lice.  Oh, poor Boone he has…hang on! We were hanging out two days ago, at their place.  And the boys did the boy thing where they disappear into the room and apparently rub their heads together. I get off the phone with a promise to call back in five minutes to accept or decline her invitation to visit Lice Busters NYC, (www.licebustersnyc.com) the “LadyBug”,Dalya Harel herself.  I turn on the No-No light (the florescent light in the kitchen that sucks the life out of my body) and coerce Roan onto his knees. I don’t know what to look for really.  I’ve been to the workshops but his hair is white and silky smooth and straight and all I can see is Heaven in there.  So I call Lori back to say, “no, looks like it’s your affliction not mine”, but before I get it out she mentions that she’s made an appointment for Roan.  So what the hell, really?  Let’s go do this.  It is a day out of school for the boy, and an education for me. 

Lice are disgusting and intended for awful people who have the audacity to let themselves get it.  These  kinds of people look like they’ve got it together on the outside, but clearly don’t because let’s face it: they let themselves get lice.  I suppose I could have been in that head-space had I not known a few key players in my life who have had lice and they are indeed, cleaner than most natural human beings. I will not name check them publicly, so to hide identities I’ll call one ShKara, one ShLola, and one ShLaura. I mention these cleverly disguised individuals because they all have much higher standards than I do in keeping order and cleanliness in their lives, so I suppose they were crucial in me not looking down upon my lousy sister and Roan’s favorite cousin as they met us on the train to get de-loused.  

 We arrived at the Avenue N stop on the F Train, and walked a few blocks to a residence at 306 Avenue N with a sign that read “Head Checks in Back”.  Back we went, and were greeted by Dalya Harel, who has over twenty-years in this business.  She immediately made us feel at ease as she pointed us down her stairs into the clinic, as she went up stairs to finish cooking breakfast in her home.  It felt like someone’s home, because it is. She has an area downstairs specifically to check and treat lice.  It is clinical but not off-putting enough to kill the spirits of two boys who, despite being buggy are happy like crazy to be missing school, no matter the reason.  When she came down to us, she wrapped the boys in capes, put them in the chairs, and within 10 seconds on Boone, knew he needed treatment.  She was a little cautious saying so with Roan, but strongly suggested we comb him out, saying if she didn’t find anything she wouldn’t charge us.  


Bucket-fulls of Pantene were poured on the boys’ heads, and the combing began.  Dalya had a helper there named Rozie and they had these boys right as rain within about forty minutes.  Sure enough it had to be – my boy had the eggs on his shiny blonde totally clean hair.  Dalya guessed they were about two days old, and said that because they found nits (eggs), we didn’t have to alert the school.  Thank God, right – I don’t want anyone finding out about this!  Dear readership, you won’t tell, will you?


They then cleared the way for Lori and me to get checked.  I figured I needed to show Roan that you know – it’s all good brother! – mama gonna show you that I’ll step up and get checked too!   

Dalya: “You have more eggs than your son”.

Me: “……………………” (let’s keep in mind that I’m in the home of an Orthodox Jewish woman, and I am truly using my good words today!) 


Me: “hmmm.  Really.  I. Am. Surprised.  Please. Get. Them. Out.Please. OK?”

About forty-five minutes of really and truly in all seriousness the most meditative and rhythmic combing I’ve ever been lucky enough to sit through, and I got the “All Clear” from Dalya.  Lori received the same treatment for her egghead, and on our way out I do believe we looked like we just stepped out of a salon. 

There is a time-tested process that Dalya uses, which is very lo-tech.  No chemicals.  All manual.  The Pantene serves to immobilize lice so they can be caught with the specialty comb.  Then it is a matter of going over the scalp and through the hair to remove each bug, each egg, one by one. She also uses powder after her initial comb-through to thicken things up. After being rinsed and dried, she again goes over each strand of hair with her super-power eyes, and when she’s done will give you a verbal and written “100% guarantee” that you are “all clear”. That includes nits.  That is a very big deal. Dalya encourages you to re-comb your hair to look for any new nits or bugs in two days.  If there is anything, she will do the entire process over, free of charge.  She will also give you great tips on how to get your house in order.

So, listen up citizens.  Having lice sucks.  But you can get it OVER within one day.  I now get to be in the club of the slightly crazy mum’s who are more-often-than-not checking out her child’s scalp.  So be it. My nephew Boone has been very therapeutic in helping me getting over the inherent shame we wear when we lower our voices to say “eh….Roan had….and I had…you know…eh…lice”. Boone is fascinated by the fact that he had lice, and that all of us had it at the same time.  We traveled from Dalya’s home to Ikea to buy all new pillows (part of my crazy is manifesting in throwing out lots of soft stuff. Hey, we all have our limits).  When Roan and Boone were checking into the play-area in Ikea, the working-woman asked playfully “well, why aren’t you fine boys in school?”  

Boone didn’t miss a beat: “Beause WE HAVE LICE”.  Proud: like “WE WON THE LOTTERY.”  Or triumphant: like “WE BEAT CANCER!”

And then again, as we all were eating lunch, in a somewhat quiet cafe: 

Boone: “Man, I just can NOT believe WE ALL HAD LICE”.

Instead of shrinking or quieting him, though – I’m just proud, and think Lori should be too.  The less shame there is associated with getting lice, the better. Because yes we are all filthy beasts, but some of our heads itch for a reason – and that reason just may be your reason next, suckah.