Ear, Ear

Ear infections have been the bane of my parenting experience.

I suffered from them as a child, and so did Dan (plus colic — thank goodness that wasn’t passed along to our progeny), and we have definitively passed them on to our children.

I distinctly remember that Flora’s first ear infection coincided with her first birthday. Kate started sooner, I want to say at about nine months, although it may have been as early as six. She got ear tubes shortly after her second birthday.

Michael was diagnosed with his first ear infection this week. I’m glad I posted all those nice things about him recently because since Tuesday night, he has been a complete bear.

He was restless as hell Tuesday into Wednesday. One of the rules of the Interwebs seems to be: If you post about how your child is sleeping, either well or badly, he/she will do the exact opposite at the earliest opportunity.

But he didn’t wake up crying or anything, nor did he seem unusally warm. So I got him dropped off at daycare on Wednesday morning. And DCL called by the time I was sitting down at my desk. M was crying and running a temperature. He had been congested for a couple of days (Kate, too, had been sick and congested, the week before). I called the pediatrician’s office, and off we went.

On the way to picking M up that afternoon — I couldn’t get an appointment until 1:30 p.m., and DCL reported that after some acetaminophen and a bottle, M had settled down — I had black thoughts. Most of them about RSV and trips to the hospital. I just was incredibly worried, and let my mind kick into overdrive.

The pediatrician who saw us (whom I think of, with apologies to my very handsome husband, as HotDoc) is familiar with our family history of ear infections. He was the one who eventually referred Kate for ear tubes.

HotDoc seemed a little grim when he first came into the exam room. He’s usually a much friendlier guy, easy around the kids, and I just thought maybe he was having a bad day. The doctor’s office seemed to be quite busy.

But he warmed up and deftly checked Michael over, even taking special pains with the ears. After a thorough examination, he declared M had an infection in his right ear. Antibiotics were ordered, and he told me to make an appointment to have M for a recheck in two weeks.

I mentioned I already had an appointment for two weeks; it was Michael’s four-month well baby visit. I said, “That can serve as his recheck, right?” HotDoc agreed and then burst out, “Vaccinations can prevent this sort of thing.”

I raised my brows at him, and said, “Michael will start receiving vaccinations at his next visit.”

We left it at that.

Dan and I have talked with our peditricians extensively about the vaccination schedule. We have decided to follow a less aggressive schedule, and the peds have agreed, with their usual disclaimers. I’m not fazed; my children will be and have been appropriately vaccinated.

But I do find myself with a lot of “what ifs”. What if Michael had breastfed longer? Both the girls BF’ed for nearly 10 months, yet they were still plagued with ear infections. What if I take away M’s binky? Flora was not a binky baby, and had fewer infections than her sister, who was a binky baby. But they both still got infections. What if Michael had gotten shots at 2 months? Would he still have gotten Kate’s cold/flu, and gotten an ear infection? What if I hadn’t had to go back to work — would me being a SAHM have prevented M from getting sick because he wouldn’t have gotten exposed to as many germs?

I know there are no good answers, especially to the first one and last two questions. I will ask the ped about M’s binky on his next visit. Let’s also be clear: I’m not blaming myself for M’s ear infection. Well, aside from blaming my genes, and there’s not much I can do about having passed those along.

As of today, he is definitely feeling better. He slept better last night, although not perfectly, fussing up through 10 p.m., and waking at 3 a.m. His temp is down and his pleasant personality has reasserted itself. I feel bad that he felt so bad, and I wish I could make it up to him.

A Modest Proposal*

Last weekend, Flora complained of ear pain. I gave her some ear drops and some Tylenol, and heard nothing the rest of the week. (She didn’t run a fever, either.)

Both the girls have colds; some runny noses, some coughing.

Thursday, Flora’s coughing stepped up a notch. She went to day school; she didn’t complain of a thing.

I picked up the girls yesterday; we had sandwiches for dinner, put on costumes (okay, THEY put on costumes), headed out for trick-or-treat (why not on Saturday? I DON’T KNOW.) Flora was still not complaining. And she’s a drama queen, but she’s no actress. While I wouldn’t put it past Kate even at her tender age, Flora doesn’t fake being well. Even for candy.

We got back from trick-or-treat with lots and lots of treats… and Flora was suddenly shivering. Hard. She crawled under a blanket, shivered some more. Said her ear hurts. In the space of 20 minutes, I watched her temp jump from 98.9 to 99.9. By 2 in the morning, it was 100.5, and she was telling me she needed to throw up. (She hasn’t barfed yet.)


If I don’t get to go into work tomorrow morning (yes, that would be Saturday), I will have to use the rest of my whole 7 hours of vacation time, plus an hour of personal time. When I factor in Thanksgiving day, that leaves me with NO holiday/personal time until the end of December, and NO vacation time until the end of March.


Additionally, my girls seem to find it convenient to get sick on a Friday or a Monday, which undoubtedly makes my work ethic look just fantastic. (Yes, Virginia, that is sarcasm.)

I know that I’m going to have single and/or child-free parents and/or SAHMs jumping down my throat (play nice in the comments, please), but I honestly feel that there are certain situations that require another 40 hours of time from employers. Call it “sick kid time”.

(This is, of course, assuming employment with paid vacation, holiday, and/or personal time in the first place. Which can be assuming a lot, I know.)

If you are a single parent, whether or not you live near family, you get an additional 40 hours a year.
If you are the working spouse/partner of a spouse/partner without paid time, you can apply for the extra 40. This clearly would require a certain “proof of income” level — on the lower end.
If you are a caretaker of any dependent person (child or parent or spouse/partner), you should get an extra 40 hours of time.

This discounts FMLA time (which, really, America, the best we can do is 12 weeks of unpaid time? But you get to keep your job?). While I think FMLA is an excellent program, for these little dribs and drabs of sick kid time, it is worthless. FMLA doesn’t even kick in unless you’re out for five days.

Other options that simply do not exist — or are so very rare as to not exist — are four-day weeks, telecommuting, part-time work with health benefits. I mean, Flora has not moved from the couch since we got home from the doctor’s at 11 a.m. She’s currently napping. If I had server access, I could be doing some work!

What other other family-friendly options can you think of? The American workplace is, generally speaking, not family friendly. In some industries, dads are punished (implicitly or explicitly) for wanting to spend time with their families. I directly lost a job at a small employer (with no FMLA) because I couldn’t (and was unwilling to, I’ll admit it) find a daycare for my six-week-old baby.

And I say all this coming from a very generous workplace. When we thought Nanny was leaving us, my boss, in so many words, said, “Get lost, and don’t worry about the time.”

I know that there are a lot of untenable aspects to handing out 40 hours of paid or unpaid time to certain employees. But I really wish it were at least a consideration.

*With apologies to Jonathan Swift, as this is not at all intended as satire.

You Wouldn’t Believe Me If I Told You

I vaguely remember going downstairs at 2 in the morning today to get DearDR off the couch from where he had passed out, watching TV (I’m regretting cable). I told him to turn off the TV, and heard Bun start to moan in her room.

Bun had felt warm to me the day before, but I did not take her temperature. I wanted to be in denial.

After stumbling back upstairs, I tried to get Bun settled back in her own bed. She kept drifting off, but would cry whenever I attempted to leave the floor next to her bed. Finally, I scooped her up and brought her into bed with me. DearDR had not made it upstairs.

I woke up with Bun pummeling my back with her feet.
I woke up with Bun snoring and pummeling my back with her feet.
I went into the guest room.
I woke up with Bun crying for me in the hallway. We went back to my bed where she pummeled me with her feet. And snored.
I woke up to the phone ringing. At 5 a.m.
I woke up to DearDR standing in the doorway of the room saying something about his grandmother (Nanny).

This was the morning that my MIL (with whom Nanny lives) needed to leave at 5 a.m. to go to the hospital in Beaver to be there when her husband (my FIL, obviously) went into surgery for a triple bypass.

Well, Nanny was hemorrhaging. Nanny has diverticular disease, and she does bleed from time to time. But she wasn’t *just* bleeding this morning.

Bella (MIL) did get off to the Beaver hospital. DearDR and his sister were left to get Nanny to the hospital (and clean up). After trying to get Nanny to his car, DearDR decided it would be better to call an ambulance. (Nanny is very, very frail, and she had lost a lot of blood.)

In the meantime (and in ignorance of Nanny’s condition) I had dragged my exhausted ass out of bed and gotten ready for work. DearDR called at 6:30 a.m. with the update on Nanny, and what he was going to do.

I packed lunches. I gave the girls their breakfast. Bun didn’t eat hers. I started getting the girls changed.

Bun was still warm to the touch. I steeled myself and took her temperature.


Looks like I was staying home from work again.

The ambulance was still in my in-laws driveway when I left. Everyone seemed to be okay, albeit worried and groggy from lack of sleep. Monkey wanted to stay home, and Bun wanted to go to day school. Tough luck on them.

The updates rolled in around noon: FIL out of surgery and doing okay. Nanny staying at the hospital so they could locate and deal with the bleeding, stable condition. DearDR and SIL torn in many different directions (work, kids, two hospitals, other obligations).

Once Bun started napping, I channeled my Italian grandmother. I made a huge batch of pesto sauce; I made some no-cook tomato basil sauce; I made a baked vegetable strata. If you can do nothing else for people, then you feed them. It is very simple.

Oh, and I edited something for Dr. Sis. Yer welcome, Dr. Sis!

Things to look forward to: Beer (as always). Going to work on Friday. The Pizza-Off on Saturday. Ice cream with my brother and his family. The Dark Knight and Bottle Shock.

I’m thankful that everyone is doing fine. Now I just want everyone to be doing fine at home.