Friday, February 27, 2004

How could I forget this?

Rebecca's check-up was on Monday, and she is in the clear! No more amoebas to be found.

Can it really be as simple as a gas bubble?

Nicholas is having a problem, maybe someone can give us suggestions.

2/27/04: He's been saying for a while that he has a persistent tummy ache. I figured it was an offshoot of the Mono and the inflamed spleen and what he was describing as a tummy ahce was actually a general ache affecting his abdomen. Yesterday though made me wonder. He starting crying hard and saying it hurt. He said it hurt to cough, it hurt to talk and it hurt to breathe. I had him sit on the toilet since that often eases Rebecca's similar complaints. Instead he cried all the harder. Thoughts of heart problems, lung problems and all sorts of issues sprang to mind, but when he showed me specifically it was the area between his belly button and his rib cage. That seems to nix the heart and lungs concern, so what gives? It's too high to be his intestines and not centered over his appendix. Did he do damage to his spleen when he fell off the bed last week and it's only now developing into a problem? That seemed a stretch. It left the stomach and Ian guessed he's having gas issues. It's plausible, but what's causing it, why are the pain triggers so varied and what can I do for it?
After sitting on the toilet and not having much luck, he layed down on the couch and the pain eased. Enough so, he jaunted off to the playground with his sisters. Not 10 minutes later he was bawling back at home in great pain again and laying down eased it after several minutes.
Today, all morning he was fine while riding his bike, eating breakfast and then lunch. Naptime came with no issues. Near the end of naptime he woke up crying and pain. This meant that playing at the playground caused pain, and laying asleep caused pain. What gives? Could it really be gas? Neither of us are heartburn/gas bubble prone so we don't really know what he's experiencing and with that, don't know how to help.
From his nap he moved to the couch, propped up and began to feel better. He decided he didn't need to go to the doctor and that he was thirsty. Down to the kitchen he went and the crying began again. He barely made it back up the stairs. This had me thinking again that there was an issue with his lungs and breathing. Stairs seem to be a significant trigger. Even getting into and out of the car brings on the tears. Does this ring any bells with anyone?
This afternoon after the water incident, we went to the clinic. The nurse said his abdomen was very noisy and concurred that it was probably gas even though his stomach went from distended and painful to soft with no pain, in a matter of minutes with no gas released as far as we could tell. He received a dose of Maalox but a couple hours later back at home he was in pain again. I'm just not convinced.
We'll try the Maalox a few more times over the weekend. The next time he hurts I'll put a warm rice sock on his tummy. I guess I can also try to keep him from getting too physically active.
Yeah, right.
But if this pain keeps coming back, mommy's spider sense tells me something else is up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Anyone keeping up with Port Au Prince?

2/24/04: P-au-P was in the Top 5 of our list last year. Someone was watching over us when we didn't get that posting. Families were on ordered evacuation last week. The rest we know there have all been evacuated out and are making their way to D.C. now.

Elections here are in May. Keep us in your thoughts, ok?

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Pill known as Rebecca

We bribed her with a Swan Lake Barbie, and she failed.

I guess the fact that I couldn't find one in the toy stores on Saturday was an omen.
All she had to do was take every one of her pills, the least amount of screaming the better though we didn't ask for that, just for her to take it when we placed it in front of her. She pushed the envelope a few times by "swallowing" while she was drinking some water, except bit and pieces of gelatin and medication would end up at the bottom of the cup. How that can happen I just don't know.
Her last pill was to be Sunday morning, with a follow up doctor's appointment this afternoon to see if she's clear. As we were getting ready to go to church, I asked if she'd taken it since I'd put it next to her breakfast. She readily replied Yes, then ran upstairs to get what she needed for church. I looked at Ian and said that she'd been a little too quick with the answer and I wondered if it ended up in the trash.
See, the past week I would sit and stare at her until she took it. I don't trust her one iota because she will lie straight-faced about things she doesn't want to do. Sunday morning, I didn't do it. Perhaps in the back of my mind I didn't think she'd do anything quite as stupid as throwing a pill away.
Katherine ever observant for chances to make her sister look bad, ran to the kitchen trash and lo and behold, there lieth the pill that Rebecca had readily stated she'd ingested.
I was livid in a calm cool way because this was so out of the realm of believable I didn't know what to say. Turning to Ian, I asked "What do we do now?" He thought for a while. "No Barbie."
Oh you should have seen the waterworks and the loud proclamations about taking her pill now (after it had been in the trash!) and on and on. Sorry kid, there's no going back from that one. You wasted your medication, threatening your own health. And you lied about it, straight-faced to both of your parents. Your made your choices, and they were the wrong ones.

Overview of the past week.

It's been a busier than average week, and had nothing to do with going to the doctor!

Tuesday: Ian went to an evening get-together to celebrate a successful American/Philippine collaberation. Wish I could say more, but not sure how much I'm allowed to repeat. Anyhow, he was out.
Wednesday: I went out in the evening to an AmeriKids board meeting. I'm not on the board, nor do I have kids at AmeriKids, but I'm planning on putting the boys in starting in April and perhaps will have a board spot next year (depends on how long we'll be here. Don't want a job for half the year and leave people hanging). Either way, I've taken over the AmeriKids website and really need to find the time to sit down and study it.
Thursday: I went out in the evening to dinner at Sala's in Malate (an excellent restaurant huddled between loud bars and other restaurants, it took 3 tries down the street to actually find it) with 6 other women as a going-away/baby shower for a friend. Three hours of great food and plenty to talk about. Best thing, I didn't feel like a complete outsider.
Saturday: Ian went flying so I took the kids to Glorietta for a musical stage performance of "Beauty and the Beast". We had lunch out at KFC. We're going to miss our balls of rice when we leave the Philippines. In the evening went to the Maclaren residence in Essensa for a party celebrating the success (and completion) of the Entry Level convention held in Manila last month. The party started at 7 p.m. and by 8 p.m. Katherine was saying she was tired and ready to go home. I think that had more to do with having fed the kids at home already, but she still ate a hotdog and cake. We had to wait for Ian to come back down from the rooftop where he was taking an informal tour of the helipad. Bonus: I didn't feel completely lost and clueless.
Sunday: Another birthday party (3rd in 3 weeks and another scheduled next weekend), done in grand Filipino style at a Homes Beautiful house (OK, not really but I was afraid to touch their art gallery walls or anything in their home theater... and I mean a REAL theater, forget the spiraling staircase, full-sized outdoor fountain and half-sized indoor statues). We had reason to leave because that evening Ian was to go to the Charge'/DCM's house for yet another function.
Side note: I need to be careful what I write here. I've always known that "you can't know who's reading this stuff" but that's usually applied to nutcases around the world who might want to fly here and take off with kids because they've seen their photo. In fact the true danger is hearing from someone at the Clinic "Hey, I was looking at your site the other day..."
It's then that I have to think back to make sure I didn't say anything bad about the doctors!

Quick comment on the rain.

It rained yesterday for about 10 minutes. It rained today about the same.

We have a drying line in the back of the house, and when it's hot and dry, no problems.

But here's a reminder if you're moving here and love to hang clothes to dry like I do. Watch out for the rain clouds. Most of my line is under an overhang, but some is not and gets direct sun. I hung towels on the exposed lines this morning figuring the sun would dry them faster than plain tropical heat. The only hitch in this plan was that it rained. Not generally a problem in the U.S. if you don't mind a longer drying time. But we haven't had a good storm in a long time, and the pollution haze hanging over the city has been extreme.

I collected the towels to throw them into the dryer (they were more damp, not soaking) and every one of them had a long black strip where they'd hung over the drying line.

Dasmarinas Village may be a haven in this town with its tree-lined streets but nothing says it clearer than newly laundered items turning black from the rain.

We breathe this stuff. When's our trip to Hong Kong? And until then, when are we getting OUT of this city for a break?

Friday, February 20, 2004

This is Manila.

So I wanted to order Thai food from a good restaurant just a couple miles away. No biggie, right? Wrong. This is Manila.

"I'm sorry sir, we can't deliver so far."
"Why not? You've delivered to me before. I'm just in Dasmarinas Village, right across EDSA from you."
"Sorry sir. The boy with the motorbike is on leave. Our boy would have to take jeepney and then walk."
"It's really not so far."
"Sorry sir."
"Big tip?"
"It's too far for our boy, sir."
"When is the boy with the motorbike coming back?"
"I think Sunday sir."
(Resigned) "OK. OK. Salamat."
"Bye sir. Thank you for calling Dusit Thani."

We had to call California Pizza Kitchen instead. They have California Pizza Kitchen in Ouagadougou, right? Right?

Stopped in National Bookstore today.

I needed an additional 4X6 photo album since I'm rescuing all my photos from the sticky pages they are in now. I figure they'll be more portable and easier access this way, and more of a chance we'll look through them if they aren't in big boxes in the closet. I'm also looking for scrapbooking supplies for the kid photos. They don't exist in this country as far as I can tell, so I'm looking on-line for nice books and -basic- supplies. I'm going for preservation here, not masterpiece layouts. Katherine's First Two Years book is done, but honestly, I don't like the book the pages are in and it's spiral bound. I feel bad that it's so cheap. Rebecca's book has been started, as has Nicholas's. Jonathon's I never started so I know I can do his right with proper supplies. Isn't that always the way... the youngest gets the benefits of the experience from the others.

Anyhow, it's always a bad idea to go into bookstores. They have discount shelves. Of kid books. OK, we're stocked up on Arthur books now. But my goal had been to get a guide for Hong Kong. It took asking a couple employees to find the shelves, but wouldn't you know that practically the entire section was on Disney and bed&breakfasts in the U.S. Big surprise there. Not. But not a single book on Hong Kong. Granted National is not known for organization or supply, so I think we'll have to get to Fully Booked at Poweplant (our favorite bookstore) to pick up something useful.

What I would give for a library. I good, English, public access library. I miss our library back home very much. Amazon loves us. Fully Booked loves us. Our bookshelves and weight limits do not love us.

One more note. Remember my frantic search for something for the ECLC kids attending our Harry Potter party? We'd bought sticker books without realizing they were books and the stickers were sold separately in packs. Useless for us, and tossed out. Today on the discount shelves were stacks and stacks of 30c Harry Potter books. Some were for coloring, and included colors. Some were reuable sticker books with 4 pages of large stickers. But no matter the style, there were plenty for Rebecca's class and more. All this 2 weeks after the party. I bought some for my kids.

I know these go around all the time, but...

This will be me someday, and it's already making me cry.

On Being a Mom
by Anna Quindlen

If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the blackbutton eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin.
ALL MY BABIES are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: two adults, taller than I am. Two women who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves.
Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.
Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.
What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.
Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout.
One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.
I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk,too.
Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did-Hall-of-Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I included
that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and
then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I included that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?
But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, 2. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the
getting it done a little less.
Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.
The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me.
I was bound and determined to learn from the experts.
It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

You've been waiting with bated breathe, haven't you?

Rebecca is on the mend. She's still taking her meds 3 times a day, but jell-o jigglers have come to the rescue. For a child who could swallow items larger than specks of sand, this would be absolutely perfect as the gelatin completely encases those nasty pills. Seeing as she still can't swallow them, it still aides in making them slippery. She chews but it seems to go down a bit quicker. Oh, every pill is still a battle with me counting to 3 and threatening a spanking. Yes, seriously. I understand that she's 6 and beyond spanking. I also know that she's able to comprehend the need to take medicine whether it's icky or not and whether you feel better or not. But since every single pill is a chance for her to screw her mouth shut and stamp her feet and cry, well, I do what I can to get it over with and if a threat works then so be it. It's been a very long 3 weeks.

It's hard enough eating here......

There are so many big name brands here that are manufactured locally, and therefore do not have to adhere to the same standards I expect back home. It's frustrating that I can buy Pampers and a Coke and get items that resemble neither. It's bad enough that the contents and standards are different, I can read labels and figure things out most of the time to figure out what we're using (like if there's a ridiculous amout of artificial colors added).

But then Ian insists I read an article on Philippine products, and I just want to knock my head into the wall.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Aside from Rebecca.....

What a great day it's been. Actually, the past 24 hours have been really enjoyable.

2/14/04: It started last night when Ian and I went out for a Valentine's Day dinner. We chose "Soleil" at Greenbelt for its French menu and outdoor seating around a fountain. The music was iffy. At one point it got so loud we couldn't hear each other, but a couple complaints to the manager and the plug was finally pulled. The way it's designed at Greenbelt 2, there is a row of restaurants side by side and they all have outdoor seating adjacent to one another. So the music was shared by all and the only thing that distinguished one restaurant from another was the table setting and chair style.
We both had the softshell crab. Pass on the softshell crab. As Ian said, once you've had Chesapeake Bay crabs, nothing else is worth eating. The rest of the menu was excellent, of course the dessert was divine.
Post dinner we did some window shopping and found a small store that specialized in... well, we're not sure. They had a lifesize Darth Maul, some brain teaser books, classical CDs, refrigerator magnet games, and les pieces des resistances, signed limited edition light sabers. One was Darth Vader's from A New Hope, signed by both James Earl Jones and David Prouse. Count Dooku and Darth Maul were the other featured lightsabers. Each of these could be ours, for only $700 each! Or the more affordable options for $400 that were just as cool, but without the signature.
Oh, I admit I lingered. I lingered long after Ian had decided this was not a worthwhile purchase and rattled off all the reasons we couldn't buy one. Not the least of which was, What would visitors to our home think of us? I told him we could cover the case with a patch of velvet and prop up a crystal figurine on it. Wouldn't that work? Of course he also had to bring us Nicholas's obsession with Star Wars and how quickly he'd try to make it light up. Or how Jonathon would love the signatures and scribble right on over them. What a party-pooper. Will those items run off the shelves? Probably not. Ian's birthday is in July. Shh. Yes I'm nuts. You might say another prayer (once Rebecca is healthy) that I'll forget about it, or that the store mysteriously moves without notice. It's been known to happen.
*sigh* They were gorgeous and I had a moment of geek weakness.
We went to the bookstore instead and bought a bunch of books. I figured we saved ourselves hundreds of dollars, it was worth it.
This morning was our weekly chat with my mom, followed by letting Rebecca play at the playground with a new arrival and her 2 kids (one of whom is in Rebecca's class and came to the party last weekend), a frantic run to National Book Store to pick up a birthday gift for a party Katherine was attending, and then dropping Katherine off at said party.
Side Note: When the MMDA traffic patrol is out, do not break the traffic laws. I realize that many of the traffic laws aren't posted, and several are simply imagined by the MMDA, but do not break them. It wastes a lot of everyone's time.
Ian went home with the boys, Jonathon napped, they invited Tina and her kids over for a bit, and then had pizza before picking us up.
I decided to stay with Katherine and it was a great choice. With Michelle and David Blue and Tiffany Gilroy, we sat on the patio and chatted while the kids swam, ate hot dogs and burnt off plenty of energy playing inside and out. Michelle and David are from New Zealand, so I've promised Michelle that once we have our dates and our general plan outlined for the R&R trip, I will be picking her brain to make sure we're not missing anything and what we have planned will be good for all ages. I figure we can't go wrong with some Auklanders on our planning committee.
As parents came to pick up kids (the party was small, about 8 kids arrived), we moved inside for cake and coffee and I just can't say enough about how nice it was to be an adult with kind and fun new people without focussing on the kids for 3 hours. My circle is expanding. Being the last to leave (again... I think we need to do something about this), we went home where I promptly layed down on the couch to read and fell asleep.
Time alone with my husband on a nice dinner out. Time with other adults and the opportunity to chat with popcorn and pleasant skies. Quiet time to nap on the couch. Is there any better way to rejuvinate one's soul? After the past 3 weeks, I desperately needed time to focus outside the house and med schedule.
And to top it all off, yesterday a gorgeous 2+foot bouquet of roses arrived at my door, from the back of a motorcycle delivery. Ian knew it has been a rough time for me, and I love him all the more for noticing. The chocolate and cookies didn't hurt either.

OK, we're back.

2/14/04: Thursday was a decent day. We dropped the Flagyl suspension and went back to the crushed pills in applesauce. It wasn't a great day, but Rebecca took all 3 doses, none of them came up, she even ate some plain noodles and kept them down. She's understandably famished. She lost 3 pounds this week.

Friday was a different story.

She threw up first thing in the morning. She threw up 1/2 way through her applesauce dose. Off to the doctor we went.
After 3 hours there, we left as we had come, but with some new ideas to try like splitting the dose over several minutes, mixing it in jam, peanut butter, or yogurt. PB is out, she won't eat it. Yogurt we didn't have on hand. So, I started grinding to mix it into jam.
For the first time when grinding I had some pill powder on my fingers. And I licked.
Let me just say that I've had to take a hardline with Rebecca about these pills. If it were me, I'd need someone with a bullwhip telling me that I had to take them under pain of death. Because she feels better and doesn't understand why she has to continue, I have had to get extremely forceful in my insistence. It wasn't pretty. They are worse than anything, and I only had a taste. She has chewed entire pills. She has complained and gagged and cried, but she has taken them. I don't know that I could do the same.
But I've come up with an idea that just might get us through the next 5 days. A couple years back my mom had bought a Jell-o jellybean mold. I have a pack of Jell-O. What these pills need is a way to get them down with minimal taste. They need a slick coating. Jell-o.
So I prepped a Jell-o jiggler recipe, filled up the mold then dropped in the dosage into several Jell-o beans. They are too big to swallow whole, unfortunately, but I think we've made them a smidgen more tolerable. Not to say that she doesn't throw a royal fit every time med time comes around.
We have promised her a Swan Lake Barbie when she completes this course.
Of course her question at bedtime was "What if this medicine doesn't work?" I told her we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, but right now our goal it to take all the medicine she has to as that's the best way to ensure that the amoebas will die.
If you're reading this, can you say a small prayer that come Thursday we are done with the entire episode? I know in the grand scheme of things our problems aren't truly significant. After all, no one is going to die. But it's been a long 3 weeks and we could use some healthy household vibes.
Oh, a side effect we didn't expect from this. Her hair seems to be falling out. A case of the cure being so violent on her small frame as to be almost worse than the disease. As her mom, I cried.

Friday, February 13, 2004

The universe.

Rebecca: Are people small?
Mom: Small comapred to what?
Rebecca: When I was in the car I looked up and looked down. Are people small in the universe?
Mom: Yes, in the universe people are small.
Rebecca: Even when we grow up, we're very very small.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

In other news....

Well, if you're not sick of my posts lately, I sure am.

On the back of a city bus: "Leave the Cursing to Us"

On the back of a company truck: "Are You Happy with my Driving or Grooming? Call ***-****"

On a billboard for adult diapers (yes, that's what it says): "Even if traffic is pissing you off...."

Where was I? Oh right, everyone's sick.

Actually, everyone isn't sick anymore. Katherine has been doing very well. Nicholas (aside from his slightly enlarged spleen due to Mono) is doing well. Jonathon has diarrhea and I want to have him checked out but can't fathom how to get him to poop in a cup at the doctor's office so I've been putting it off. He cries periodically that his stomach hurts and I have no doubts that it does. No fever anymore.

But this update is about Rebecca. Again.

The nurse called from the school clinic. She threw up in class.
Now, we have a problem. Rebecca has her dose of Flagyl to take 3 times a day. It's a doozy too. Either 1 1/2 pills, or 3 tsp of liquid. Neither goes down easily, in fact sometimes neither goes down at all. I think she's gotten herself so worked up over the medication that now she's simply rejecting it entirely. I should have known how this would play out. Rebecca is the sort that if she has one bad taste or bad experience with something, NOTHING will get her to try it again. I can't hide this stuff either, it tastes too awful and now she's shying away from anything she thinks might have med mixed in. Shying is too gentle a term. Lots of screaming, crying, arguing, stamping of feet and general misery. Oh yeah, from her too. This medication has been a nightmare.
Last night she took her liquid dose, and promptly threw up. Well, she has to have her meds, so I let Ian hash it out with her in the bathroom and after much crying and threats flying around, it went down and stayed down. This morning I told her she had the option of taking it and going to school or not taking it and staying home. Staying home would be worse, she realized, so she took her medicine with much theatrics and went to school.
At 11:30 the school clinic called. Rebecca had thrown up in class. I made sure to ask if it was before or after taking her med (the clinic gives her the 12:30 dose daily), and it was before.
Now I'm stuck. She's either really sick with something else (and what that something else is is anyone's guess) or she has worked herself up so much that idea of the medication is making her ill. The latter is very plausible, no matter how ridiculous it may seem.
Obviously we have a serious problem here. If it was just diarrhea, I wouldn't worry. If it was just vomitting, I wouldn't worry. If it was just fever, I wouldn't worry. But put it all together and add in a good dash of amoebas (and the accompanying cramps and pain when off the meds), and the inability to take medication... dehydration is a big concern and her overall health is causing me worry.
Please give me ideas on how to make this easier on everyone. I'm getting so tired.

Sunday, February 8, 2004

A note before the Doctor's office, and the verdict after.

I'm having Nicholas get a blood test today to rule out or confirm Dengue Fever. Rebecca went to bed last night with 103.4 fever and woke up with the same, so we'll possibly find out something new about her. My neck has swollen up which is a common symptom when I get ill. Oh, and Nicholas just smashed his finger in a drawer and it has swollen up, so depending on how it is in 1/2 hour, he may get an x-ray to see if it's fractured. Jonathon seems to be mostly OK (at least he's acting OK), Katherine went to school and Ian went to work.
Want to know what happened?

Well, 4 hours later we were heading home. That's a long 4 hours with 3 kids in a rather small clinic. But it was worth it.
Jonathon: Fine. Didn't get him checked out. He's not bleeding from anywhere.
Me: My temperature was 95.8. No typo, really. My neck is swollen. No news. Can't do anything for it. The nurse did a throat swab for strep, came back negative. One of my tonsils has a sore so she recommended gargling but seeing as I can't move my head and it hurts to swallow and talk, I'll just wait it out like I do every other time. Maybe I'll take some tylenol though.
Rebecca: Her temperature was 103. Amoebic cysts still present. She's on a stronger dose of Flagyl for 10 days and this time I went to the pharmacy to get the liquid. 3tsp per dose/3 times a day means 8 little bottles of Flagyl. Tomorrow I get to go to the school and give them her noon doses for the rest of the week. She had blood taken from her finger. Her white blood cell count is high. Sign of an infection obviously. They wanted to check for a UTI, but Rebecca has issues with peeing in a cup at the doctor's office.
Nicholas: He gave blood like the biggest champ ever. I attribute much of it to the stellar phlebotomist we have here who can make a needle go in and out and you won't feel a thing. Seriously. She's awesome. Anyhow, not even a scrunched face from him and the draw was done. Drum roll please. The test for Dengue Fever was....
So, what is up with him? The doctor had an idea and had the tech run one other test and guess what. Nicholas has Mononucleosis. I can wipe the sweat from my brow now. The doc explained that Mono is widespread among little kids and most peds don't bother checking for it in the States. I asked why it's such a huge deal for high schoolers then and apparently it hits the older kids harder. We've all heard of people being hospitalized for it. Here's my theory. Kids have these viruses that are chalked up to "just another virus" when they're actually carrying Mono. If those same kids get hit up again in High School, it hits that much harder and is a greater risk. But since most people don't know if their kids had Mono initially when they were little, the connection isn't made. Well, that's my theory anyway. What they were specifically looking for in his blood test was his platelet level. Normal rage starts around 140. Dengue patients have low platelet counts. Nicholas's was over 700. That's what tipped the doc off to possible Mono. It should go down as he gets better. Of course I'll watch him for signs of fever or anything else odd. At this point he has to be missing a limb. The doc did ask if he'd said anything about a sore throat, but honestly, with everything else that was going on I don't know that he would have even noticed a sore throat.
So there you have it. Nicholas just needs TLC as he works his way through this for the next 4-6 weeks and Rebecca will survive. As will I. Just don't ask me to talk, or eat, or make me laugh. It hurts too much.

Saturday, February 7, 2004

The Wizards have Dispersed.

2/7/04: I'm exhausted. Probably has something to do with being up until past 1 a.m. last night and I blame the bid list. And guess what, the girls' party was a success, but better than that it's over.

Ok, I didn't really mean that. The Harry Potter party went all too quickly, and I believe the kids had a good time.
This morning we did the final touches. Cutting out the rest of the wizard hats and putting yarn through the holes for tying, blowing up decorative balloons, filling Hedwig water balloons, setting out plates and napkins, turning on the Harry Potter soundtrack and making sure all was ready for the guests.
The invitations were scrolls written in purple ink, and clearly encouraged parents to stay and help out. About 10 did which helped immensely. A couple of newcomers to Manila fit right in and helped out too.
The first guests arrived right around 11:45 and eventually the floor was covered with kids, black paper, silver paper, pipe cleaners, star stickers and wand sticks. The crafts took way longer than I anticipated as the stickers wouldn't stick (!?) and the kids needed help to twist the hats and wrap the sticks. The floor was covered in glow in the dark star stickers by the end. Everyone knows how to make a wizard hat, but I wanted to mention how we did the wands.
Our trees drop these perfect wand sticks, so over the past month we've been collecting them and letting them dry. We then trimmed them to all about equal sizes. I'd bought some rolls of thin silver paper and had cut them into strips about the length of the sticks. Also part of the craft were long multicolored pipe cleaners. Here's how to put them together... get a stick, a piece of silver and a pipe cleaner. Wrap the stick in the silver strip (either roll it or wrap it on), then while holding it on, take the pipe cleaner and twist it around the stick. Voila. That's it, and they look pretty cool if you ask me. No glue, no tape, no mess and inexpensive. Some kids used several pipe cleaner colors, others added some to the end of the stick then made them curly so it looked like magic sparkles coming out from the end. Nifty, huh?
So, the wands were made, the hats were made, kids lost their hats, new wands were made, hats were retied, stars were glued, balloons popped and amidst the chaos, 5 large cheese pizzas arrived. Blankets were layed out on the patio and everyone hunkered down and had some lunch. Time was passing while parents made chit chat and the kids magically split to the girls blanket and the boys blanket. Insert *sigh* here.
Time to head to the playground with all our gear. A sorting hat (provided by Elise) split the kids into their 4 houses, and parent volunteers led their "students" in the games. First up, broomstick races. Racing and weaving between evenly planted palm trees was the hit of the party from my perspective. We did it in heats, with Ravenclaw racing against Hufflepuff (Ravenclaw won) then Slytherin vs. Gryffindor (Gryffindor won). The race between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor ended with Gryffindor just barely taking the prize. Everyone earned Quiddich stickers and they could all be proud of running a good race. Even the little girl who would run but refused to use the broomstick.
Following the broom rides, we had a Hedwig water balloon toss. Whitish balloons were markered with owl eyes, ears, beak and feet and were tossed between the two rows of kids. Now, I'm guessing that kids here don't quite get a water balloon toss because it was a mess with balloons flying everywhere at all times until everyone's feet were soaked. It was worth it to offset some of the heat though. While it had been raining through the morning (it hasn't rained in weeks, and before that in months), the afternoon proved to be quite a scorcher with plenty of humidity. Next time (what am I saying!?!), we'll have 80 water balloons and just let the kids throw them at each other.
A short break at the playground (more about that later), and we had the spider game. Earlier in the week we finally discovered how to make nifty little spiders by putting 2 mini tootsie rolls together (yes, still wrapped), cutting some black pipecleaners into little legs, then electrical taping (hey, it's black) the whole mess together. The treat at the end of the game for all the participants would be, of course, the tootsie rolls. OK, I made this game up myself, so bear with me while I explain how it went. We had our four teams. In the center I'd put down a large doily that looks remarkably like a spider web and in the middle was a foam tray trimmed with cotton balls in a spider web shape. Think of it as a spider receptacle. Each of the teams was at a compass point, in a line facing the web. Crab crawling, they would put a spider on their tummy and crawl it to the bowl, drop it in, then run back to their team to tag the next person to carry a spider in. Kids from all 4 sides moved at once and it didn't take long to fill up the bowl. The only thing was it went so fast!
Granted we didn't even have time for our final game, a Catch the Snitch game involving multi-colored bouncy balls and more kids on broomsticks, but time just flew. By now it was 1:30 and parents were planning on picking up their kids at 2 p.m. We had to have our cake and eat it too. Harry Potter cakes were not to be found, so I had let the girls pick their own specialty cakes from the Red Ribbon bakery. Katherine chose a fancifully decorated Rocky Road concoction and Rebecca chose a chocolate cake with chocolate icing. The kids who had turned down pizza didn't think twice about cake, so after a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday we dug in, outside on the patio again. Cool! Paper napkins! Empty pizza boxes! Empty cake boxes! Paper and plastic plates and cutlery! Disposable cups and bottles! We were a landfill nightmare! But an easy to clean house dream. All but those blasted stars stuck all over the floor.
The end of the party arrived and everyone was ready. As party favors, I'd gone a little overboard. For the 2nd graders I'd purchased boxed sets of J.K. Rowlings other 2 books _Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them_ and _Quiddich Through the Ages_. OK, lest you think me mad, I bought 10 boxed sets then split them so that each child got one book. For the younger set, I'd bought out the toystore of their Scabbers the rat stuffed animals and some Mrs. Norris stuffed keychains. For all the kids, I'd bought a pound of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, counted them out into mini candy bags so each kid got about a dozen, photocopied the flavor guide and included those in the bags, then tied the bag around the rats' necks and tied them onto the books. Got all that? So when the kids were leaving we handed everything out, and are left with several extra books. There weren't 20 older kids, but even so, everyone wanted the rats. Go figure. Elise had also included with her costume hat and cape that I wore for the day, a gumball machine with fortune gumballs. The fortunes were much like a magic 8 ball (fortunes like "time to chill"), but edible, and were quite the hit. Katherine was rather protective of the machine.
Even though I'd included in the invite that we did not expect gifts and just wanted the kids to have fun, gifts came anyway. Puzzles, snacks, origami paper, backpacks... you name it, the girls got it. Thank goodness some of the parents listened otherwise we'd be swimming.
Several of the parents commented that we'd put a lot of work into the party. It was more organization than anything. We kept it all extremely simple. I had no intention of cooking anything, and ideas were nixed relative to how complicated they were. Initially I'd planned on having the kids paint glitter glue on their wands. Can you imagine? I was going to create a scavenger hunt for the kids. Ugh. I tossed out the idea of making robes from oversized black t-shirts... the kids would have died from heatstroke and I didn't need the hassle. The party could have been much more elaborate, but it wasn't, and that was the point. My whole idea was to make it nothing like the Filipino way, and everything like the American way. I think we succeeded. Ian did loads today and there was no way I'd have survived without him stepping up and doing everything that needed to be done while I was doing the other half of what needed to be done. Kudos to Ian.
So, for anyone contemplating any of this for their own party, want to know roughly what I spent?
Hats: $5 for the black paper, $30 stickers (easily the worst idea, glitter pens would have worked just as well at well below the cost), yarn from my stash, staples and tape.
Wands: free sticks from the yard, $3 silver paper, pipecleaners I had.
Spiders: $2 for tootsie rolls, pipecleaners I had, tape
Spiderweb: tray, cotton balls, doily.. all I had already
Pizza: $50 for 5 four-cheese
Plastic plates: $4 for 75
Plastic cutlery: from our move here
Water: $10 for 40 bottles
Cakes: $16 for 2
Balloons: $5
Brooms: $5 for 4
Rats: $30 for 11
Bertie Botts: $25 for a pound (I -really- wanted chocolate frogs too, but I wasn't going to pay the shipping fee and I couldn't find a frog mold)
Cat keycahins: $5 for 5
Rowling books: $70 for 10 sets
There's a rough guess, as I don't have receipts anymore. Grand total of $270. Figure that's for both my girls, to treat about 30 kids and 10 adults. It's more than I thought, but in the grand scheme of things, not too shabby.
Things I'd have changed:
I'd have allotted specific time to just let the kids play at the playground. Several of them kept wandering off to the moneky bars and slides that letting them have 30 minutes before the games to run around would have done wonders for keeping them focussed on the activities.
Had more water bottles and made sure to label them all, not just have the intention of doing so. I'd bought 40 individual sized water bottles to be drunk and reused, but after lunch loads of them had been "cleaned up" and tossed mostly full directly into the trash. I appreciated the help cleaning up, but what a huge waste. My fault though, I should have insisted on the labelling. Kids love having things with their names on them.
Had each of the teams run through twice for the spider game. It was a good game, but over too fast.
Had loads of water balloons instead of just enough. Water balloons are fun and who needs a game to use them?
I'd highlight the party times in the invite to avoid the child who joined 1/2 way through at the playground and the other who walked in the door as most of the people were leaving. Honestly, he came at 2 p.m. thinking that's when it started. And he'd brough his 2 younger sisters too who we were told were extremely excited about coming. He had some cake and got his favors, but what a bummer for him. Oh BTW, that was Wendell Macapagal. Remember the kid who had Katherine invited to his birthday party in May but we had NO idea who the heck he was, and we didn't go? He's in her class this year.
Was it fun? Yup. Was it worth it? Yup. Will I do it again? Uh....
Next year... maybe a sleepover.

Friday, February 6, 2004

OK, I call a do-over

It's been one of those days. I didn't get enough sleep last night and that just started the ball rolling.

Nicholas has a rash on both of his arms.
Let's recap. Last week he started with the high fever. Then over the weekend he added a headache that wouldn't quit. He had a tummy ache and no appetite, but also no diarrhea or vomitting. Monday morning he went to the doc for a check on amoebiasis and came back negative. The doctor said he had a virus, we'd have to wait it out. The fever keeps coming back, it's unpredictable, but it ebbs and flows. We get home from the doctor, he throws up all over the kitchen. For the next few days, he has trouble walking because his knees hurt too much and the vomitting continues, one time with specks of blood. He had no energy and spent most of his time resting on the couch or sitting on the bench at the park. Wednesday, a spark of life and he begins to play again and eat a bit, but tires easily. Thursday, a rash appears on his arm and today, Friday, the rash is fading from one arm and appearing on the other.
Now, look up the process of Dengue Fever and I am seeing things in 20/20 that were difficult to connect day to day.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

I am the mother of an 8 Year Old.

2/5/96-2/5/04: Eight years ago today, I gave birth to our first child, and our lives have never been the same.

I guess that's a Duh statement, huh? I mean, who's life stays the same once you introduce a child into it?
We were the typical new parents. Unprepared but for the basics, and even then it was the basics of stuff and not the basics of exceptional parenting. Afterall, there's not much growth to be had when the only resource book regularly perused is _What to Expect When You're Expecting_. We were emotionally too young, still stuck in the self-centered "I" moments of life. I was clueless about attachment parenting, putting nursing on the backburner a few too many times or getting annoyed when she would demand my time. We were impatient and careless. I didn't have any idea about myself as an individual, much less as part of a team as a spouse and a parent. She was our guinea pig, not only in parenting, but in figuring out who the heck we were, and what the heck we were doing. If one thing didn't work, try another. If that didn't work, get upset. Frustration abounded amidst the wedding preparation, newlywed living, moving, angling for a job, struggling through and then dropping out of grad school.
OK, maybe we weren't so typical.
And yet, here she is. Through all our fits and starts, and the continuing use of her as the firstborn guinea pig, we have a stunning 8 year old, with compassion enough for her entire class, an amazing sponge for knowledge, and a power that extends beyond her visible musculature. Sure, she has her moments of impatience with her insufferable family. Oh fine, let's be honest, she can make us truly miserable when gets into a snit. But as a whole person, Katherine is amazing. And dare I say, inspirational? One might ask how I can use such a big word for such a little person. The truth is I'm not sure what it is, but while I see so much of myself in her (yes, all those mistakes I've made), I also see more of what I'd like to be, which extends from her naivete, joy of life and natural curiousity. Granted, I can't gain the naivete, plain too old for that. But the rest... well, I think we could all take a lesson from our children and their joy in the ability to Be in this world.
I'm a different person today than I was 8 years ago, the day she was born. That goes without saying. Even without our marriage, our four kids, and our move 1/2 way around the world, I would still be a different person. But, moving 8000 miles from home is a great excuse to become introspective and figure out who you really are, where you are and what you want out of life. After all, every day here is something new. Every day provides us with opportunities to explore. You can't get stuck in the doldrums of going to the grocery store and phase out from your surroundings, because even that trip is an experience that requires your senses to be sharp and your mind to be open to the possibilities. Being forced into this mindset has done more than just open us up to a new culture. And having Katherine has done more than just shape me into a different person, she has enriched my life in ways I didn't even know until recently. They aren't even aspects I can explain that would make any sense to anyone but me. Just believe me when I say that I'm a better person because of who she is and the way God made her.
I know that Katherine has taught me as much as I have taught her. I have grown right along with her. But I have only come to realize these things over the past few months. I wish that I'd been awake the first years of her life. Awake to the miracle of who she is and all she is becoming. I give my little girl this promise: for as long as you are with me, I will take joy in being your mother.
I know that I am blessed for being able to call you mine. God has given me a gift beyond understanding. You are extraordinary.
Happy Birthday.

Are you sick of us yet? Because I sure am.

2/5/04: A quick health update. Katherine is up to snuff. Rebecca is up to snuff. Nicholas is still periodically feverish and has a funky rash on his arms and his face. What is THAT all about? It's not a Dengue Fever rash. Could have just been the heat today as the temperatures are going up and the humidity is rising. We spent a lot of time outdoors as well, both at the school playground and our own. Now, Jonathon is sick. He didn't eat much yesterday and had some toast this morning, french fries at lunch time and bread at dinner. He's been saying his tummy hurts all day. Maybe it's the carbohydrate overload? At bedtime he had a fever of 103.2 and yes, he's had diarrhea. Do I spend my morning at the clinic? I don't know if the diarrhea is from being sick or the raisins he ate yesterday. They do weird things to him. I guess time will tell. If he throws up tomorrow I know that I have several more days of sickness to handle. He's the last one. Woohoo! I have all my fingers and toes crossed that it's a 24-hour bug as the party is on Saturday and I really want him to feel well enough to participate. Yup, time will tell. And I've got plenty of time on my hands.

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

When it rains, it pours.

2/3/04: When it rains it pours, and I wish I was talking about the weather. Nicholas has been absolutely miserable the past couple days. And all the other updates.

Yesterday Nicholas complained a good part of the day that his knees hurt and it hurt to walk. This morning he woke up drenched, whimpering and stiff as a board, fell asleep on the couch at naptime, and spent a good bit of time resting. His own choice. At the playground yesterday he sat with me the entire time, except for the trip home for Motrin and then the clean-up when he threw up all over the picnic table seat. Today, he was better but still sat for a while on the bench. He's sick, he's tired, he's achey. But he's not vomitting anymore. His fever fluctuates all day giving him headaches. My first thought this morning with the extreme aches... Dengue Fever.
Thankfully, no spreading rash has developed. That's not to say I won't be watching him like a hawk. His most common phrase today was "I hope I feel better for the Harry Potter party." Today is Tuesday and the party is on Saturday and I sure hope that whatever this is has high-tailed it out of here well before then.
It might be over reacting to have considered Dengue Fever, except that this evening a DVA rep came by the house saying that the results were in from the mosquito traps that were done a while back. Our house had come up positive for Dengue Fever. You know, you can't win. Malaria mosquitoes like cesspools. Dengue Fever mosquitoes like clean puddles. And the water doesn't have to be still either, a steady drip (say, from an a/c unit) is all that's needed to encourage them to breed.
Katherine was home from school again today. While she's not vomitting any longer, she also hasn't eaten enough to keep a hamster alive, and has lost weight and all her energy. She did better today, keeping down toast, applesauce and some plain macaroni noodles. Her fever comes right back whenever the medicine wears off, but Motrin keeps it under control. Tomorrow, she'll be back in school, provided she's not covered in a rash, is bleeding from her ears or has a second head growing. At this point, I don't know what's coming from around the corner.
Tomorrow is Rebecca's last day of her meds. I'll be glad to see the end of those, and I know she is too. Liquid meds from now on, no matter if I have to go to the pharmacy to get it. Pills are NOT worth this hassle.
Oh, and Jonathon? He started in tonight saying his stomach hurt. Something is up with him as he bursts into tears at just about anything. How does anyone separate the fact that he's Two from potential illness symptoms? I guess I'll just have to wait for him to burn up or throw up.

Monday, February 2, 2004

Sickness Update

2/2/04 Rebecca’s Update, and now Katherine and Nicholas

Rebecca is taking her medication, but I've had to smash them and mix them with bananas. Three times a day is tough to get her to choke down. She is so dramatic when it comes to taking them and her gag reflux is on overdrive, so swallowing is out. Chewing works, but she insists on chewing every tiny piece instead of the minimum before swallowing which leads to extended grimaces and hacking. I only hope the school clinic has better luck, since she has 3 to take each day and one of those falls smack in the middle of the school day. She did miss her pajama party at school on Friday being moderately contagious, but everyone was feeling OK to go to the Family Fun Day at school on Saturday for about 1 ½ hours. It was enough for Jonathon to get a bit pink on his neck and shoulders.
Katherine is day 5 of her fever at home. It seems that she had a headache at school for a couple days before her temperature rocketed up to 103.5 on Thursday afternoon. This is the same girl who took the activity bus home because she didn’t want to miss gymnastics that day. Her eyes hurt quite a bit last week at school as well as at home, but it seems to have been an extension of the headache/fever she was carrying around. She had some abdominal cramping over the weekend, but I can only imagine that's from not having much of anything to eat since lunch at school on Thursday. Both she and Nicholas were at the doctor today. Nicholas woke up and said his stomach hurt and he’s been dozy all morning. It seemed to be going well as they both were negative for the amoeba culture, but Katherine thew up in the parking lot right before the visit and Nicholas threw up in th kitchen at home right after the visit.
It’s a “sleeping bag on the floor in front of the TV” kind of day.