Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fevers, And a Manifesto, Of Sorts

So today is Tucker's third day of having a low-grade fever. Myk & I are going about our daily routines, and yesterday he even drove Lily out to a family birthday party in Long Beach, but we're worried over him and watching closely for any other symptoms. There aren't really any others, besides a sluggish, sketchy appetite and the need to cling and whine a little more than usual. Of course, as small children always seem to do, he came down with the fever on a Friday, right at the start of the weekend, when I can't easily call the doctor.

Four months ago, we probably would've just gotten him dressed, despite the fever, and we'd all have gone to that birthday party, and we'd all likely would've had a good time and that would have been that. But now, we're a little more cautious, a little more prone to worry, and so Tucker and I hung out here and puttered and played in the backyard after his nap. And he was fine -- fine as far as being whiny with a fever of 99.5 goes, at least.

Tuesday, the 26th, will mark 3 months since Tucker came home from the hospital. This is his first fever since then, although he's had a couple of colds, and really we've been pretty lucky, as it's damn rare for either of the kids to go for three months without a fever. They're not sickly kids by a long shot, just little kids who tend to get all the sniffles and colds and weird 24-hour bugs that children are prone to, especially since Lily goes to preschool and brings all of that crap right back into the house. And I admit to being one of those parents on the pretty laid-back end of the worry spectrum, who only tends to call the doctor when a fever hovers above 103 for a couple days, or if puking persists for more than a day and turns the kids into little pale, zombie-like versions of themselves. Usually, I just hang back, watch, and wait, and eventually, they get better without a call or visit to the doctor's.

But back in June, Tucker again had a low-grade fever, was a little peevish and off, and also had a cough that only seemed to bother him in his crib at night. It wasn't a scary, chest-rattling, tuberculor sort of cough -- just a little cough. Again, it seemed to hit over the weekend, but I have pictures of him from that weekend, looking healthy and laughing and being his usual monkey-self. (See Above.) But by late Monday morning, he'd thrown up and was inconsolable, and by that afternoon he was ordered to get a chest x-ray because his breathing was labored and by the next afternoon, a Tuesday, he was being admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at Children's Hospital of Orange County. After numerous chest xrays and 2 CAT scans, and a few hours when the the doctors thought maybe it was his appendix, we were told that he had a pleural effusion -- fluid gathered in his chest cavity, next to his right lung. This automatically also meant a diagnosis of pneumonia. And then a big, blond, handsome doctor who looked more like a linebacker came in and did an in-room procedure that inserted a tube into Tucker's chest to drain out that fluid. And then, eventually, results from the cultures of those fluids came in, and we learned that Tucker had not just the typical, viral kind of pneumonia, but the bacterial kind -- staph pneumonia. Then they put him in isolation, until they could grow out the cultures a little bit more, to make sure he didn't have the resistant form of staph. (Resistant to antibiotics, that is.) Thankfully, he "only" had the regular kind of staph. Even so, bacterial staph pneumonia is rare, and potentially deadly, as it often was to young children before the right drugs were found.

To make a long and depressing and scary story short(er), we were there at CHOC for just a day short of two weeks. Tucker ended up requiring a 2-hour surgical procedure to clear the infected gunk out of his chest cavity, and to insert a central IV line for his meds. Did you know that after about 48 hours, a regular IV line will deteriorate and fail, and they have to choose a new location and re-insert the IV? Do you know how hard it is to find a viable vein on a sick 18-month-old, whose veins are even harder to find because he's screaming at the sight of more nurses, with more needles? I certainly didn't know, or care to think about, any of those things, 4 months ago. Anyway. After a lot of strong antibiotics, and morphine for his post-surgery pain, and enough chest x-rays to make the child glow in the dark, Tucker came back home with us. A little paler, a little thinner, but a healthy little boy again, thanks to the wonderful doctors and nurses at CHOC. Watch him, they advised. Oh, we do.

All of which brings me to my manifesto, of sorts, of why I'm on the internet, with this blog, taking time away from my family and books and housecleaning to create this cozy little spot of unapologetic domesticity. (Okay, so maybe I wouldn't otherwise really be cleaning house.) Because, three months after the most terrifying stretch of days I've ever lived through, I find that I've have changed, and my interests and priorities have shifted, just ever so slightly. That sounds deadly dull and serious, but really, the truth is that all those things I loved and valued before -- my home, the look of its interiors, good novels, baking, nesting, curling up on the couch with an old movie -- well, now I value and hold even more dear. I feel that I'm not so much nesting these days, as burrowing.

Since I'm a writer, it would be easy to tidily wrap up this little essay with a metaphor about fevers: how Tucker's illness burned away some of the extraneous stuff in my head, and left me with a clear distillate of Important Things. Or even how I'm suddenly in a fever to create this space and explore some new territories and interests that beckon. But -- yuck. Not only is that too simple and pat, it's also pretty self-obsessed, don't you think? After all, though I lived through their effects, the fever and sickness didn't happen to me. I won't co-opt their language and imagery to dovetail with some half-baked thesis.

It's just this: for two weeks, my child was seriously ill. Now he is better, and I am thankful. So thankful, in fact, that I'd like to live my daily life paying some small tribute to that, by giving attention to the details and background roar and blur that comprise our blessed and happy and noisy home.

And tomorrow, if the fever persists, we're going to the doctor's.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Beautiful Monkeys

Here they are, my beautiful monkeys. There are many reasons behind my creating this blog, but really, it just boils down to these two. My sweet, whip-smart, noisy, affectionate, demanding, precious children. Lily and Tucker, I love you so. (And they love each other, too, can you tell? That is, when Lily isn't grabbing her brother's toys away, shoving him, slamming her bedroom door in his face, or otherwise exploring her inner dictator.)

No, the nights aren't cool enough around here to don footie jammies yet -- this picture is from back in April. Now Tucker is five months older, and starting to give his sister a little what-for right back. I'm not supposed to take sides in this sort of epic blood struggle, but I can't help but root for the little guy.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Another Marvelous Writer

I've been re-reading some Laurie Colwin this week. First was Home Cooking, then A Big Storm Knocked It Over, and now I'm about half done with Family Happiness. She creates such specific, East Coast worlds, that for me, it's almost like reading a travelogue, since I'm just a native Southern California heathen who has never even been to New York, or anyplace more than 100 miles east of the Mississippi. (Unless you count the East, capital E.) I like the people in her books very much, yet I'm also a little intimidated by them, as they certainly don't talk or dress or live like anyone I've ever sat and shared a soda with. Her women wear knife-pleated grey skirts and tweeds and thick woolen stockings, or creamy silk blouses with peter-pan collars. If married, they sport thin gold bands, or tiny estate diamonds. Anyway, I'm quite sure they wouldn't be caught dead in my bright Target tshirts and denim capris.

But I love Laurie Colwin because of the descriptions of her character's domestic lives, and how the women heroines all seem to revel in the comforts of home. There are lots of details about clean sheets, warm quilts, and hearty veal stews on blustery winter nights. Or pancakes with fresh blueberries and rich coffee, made whilst looking out the window at one's Park Avenue neighbors of a Sunday morning. Or baskets of good wine and goat cheese brought up to one's cabin on the lake -- the cabin that's been in the family for a generation or two, of course. So I've turned to these books over the last couple of weeks, to not only revisit the happy (for they are always happy) love stories and tales of family politics, but also because I'm just in that nesting kind of mood that the end of summer always evokes for me.

I admit that I got a little resentful with Home Cooking this time out. I think it's because I was actually reading more for the recipes, not the anecdotes, and since she was such a good, natural cook herself, she tends to take some of the details for granted. For example, more than once she gives recipes for puddings that require baking in a "kettle." Now, I have made a bread pudding, so I know about a bain marie, or water bath, but a kettle? I'm not quite a novice in the kitchen, but close, so I require recipes to take me by the hand a little more firmly than hers tend to do. Still, I laughed aloud again at some examples in the chapter titled "Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir." I can't say for sure which of her novels or story collections is my favorite -- probably the linked stories in Happy All the Time, featuring that wife who spends her afternoons reading through the entire works of Proust and then removes herself to a convent when she becomes pregnant. Before that happens, though, she handily whips up a complicated croquembouche for her brother-in-law's wedding. And without Laurie Colwin and her tours of the interiors of these exotic (for me), well-heeled New York apartments, I'd probably never even know what the heck a croquembouche is.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

One of THOSE Saturdays

So, it's been one of those kind of Saturdays. One of those weekend days when all the routines go to hell, when the children watch way too much Noggin and don't get dressed until after noon. At least they're dressed. Me, I'm still in the white t-shirt I slept in, and the only reason I changed out of the pj bottoms was because it got too hot. God, I hate these kind of days. I feel grimy and grubby, distracted and dazed.

It's all the blogs fault. It's taking most of my attention today, as me and the hubby work on making it look somewhat unique and presentable. I picked my color scheme (I know that the aqua and red is trendy right now, but I'm a high-contrast kind of girl, and I rilly, rilly like it.) Picked out the font for the header -- spent over an hour combing the web for a free retro font. I already have Font Diner's Sparkly on my web site and wanted something more elegant, and less "pink-elephant-martini." Besides, I see that font everywhere now, so it's hardly as unique as it was four years ago. Anyway, in the end I surprised myself and chose a standard Word font. You'll see. Give the hubby a couple of days.

In the meantime...the poor ragamuffin children need to be fed and washed and paid some attention to. And me, well maybe I'll even brush my teeth before it's all over.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Good God, I Have a Blog

After sitting on the fence about this for the last month or so, I've finally gone and got hitched here at Blogger, and good gosh a-mighty, I've got a blog. Yet another thing to feed and care for and tuck to bed at night. Why blog? Why me? Why now?

I'm not sure. All I know is that it was keeping me up at night, this sudden need for my little plot of the 'net. It's not like I didn't have a website, that poor, ignored, and no longer even aptly named
thing. But a blog...a blog! Well I wanted one, and now I've got one. Heaven knows I'm miserable now.