Archive for the ‘Alden’ Category

Bedtime Routine

I’m on a business trip. That means Damon’s on his own with the boys for a few days. He just texted me to let me know that Alden’s bedtime demands were epic. When I asked him to tell me more, this was his transcription of what Alden wanted:

— to spin around while music played

— two separate glasses of water

— Elliot to leave

— Damon to leave

— Breakfast bar

— Pirate story

— unlimited access to iPad

— Elliot to leave

— a burger

— unlimited amount of time to climb the blanket box

— Damon to leave


It is no small wonder that Damon’s hauling them to his Mom’s house as soon as school gets out tomorrow.

Upper GI Studied

The big event of the day was an upper GI study, which differs in value from the endoscopy Alden’s already had because they can watch him swallow something other than a camera.

As far as hospital tests go, we rate this one a “must try.”

Alden, the child who acts like I’m poisoning him with my disgusting bananas and peanut butter and cheese sticks, protested when the nurse pried the nearly empty cup of barium contrast fluid out of his paws.

Lead Gonad Shield

Today was all toys and lights and cool pictures of innards. Which are all normal.

Monday at oh-my-god in the morning we report for the MRI of his brain. The nurse asked me if he could lay perfectly still for 45 minutes. I told her that he cannot lay perfectly still for four to five minutes. General anesthesia it is. If anyone has a four-year-old who can hold any position for nearly an hour, please tell me so I can block you and your perfecty perfect kid.

In the spirit of “Eat, Drink and Be Merry; for Monday We Get the Needle” we’re going to spend a long stretch at the Children’s Museum this weekend.

Doctor Eve

Late last night Alden whispered in my ear, “Please don’t take me to the doctor.” I did what I’d been promising myself I would not, which was to make him a guarantee. I told him that they would not put another tube down his nose. I didn’t make any promises about needles or hospitals or anything else, but if one thing has come to represent the most miserable parts of his passage through the Knoxville medical system it was that NG tube. The inserting it. The having it. All of it. I can’t see why we would need to do that again, and if I’m wrong they may need to tranquilize us both.

He’s symptom-free right now, although we have decided not to give him the Zofran tonight so that may change. We’re not trying to instigate anything, but it seems wise to make sure there are no medicines onboard when they see him for the first time.

I don’t know what to expect. Will they give him an exam and then shrug and tell us to come back if he starts vomiting again? Will they admit him to the hospital and wait to see what happens? Will they schedule a series of tests that will keep us in Cincinnati for next week or even longer? I’ve lived with the uncertainty for two weeks, so I’m trying to parcel this off in my brain and wait patiently for 16 more hours or so. I’ve packed up my computer and work notebook, counting my lucky blessings I have the kind of work and the kind of boss that makes it possible for me to set up a remote office.

The 2am Zofran works. I’d really like to wave a “Nothing to see here” hand over Alden and just commit to doing this forever. Except for how that’s crazy.

The doctor we’re seeing tomorrow got his MD and his PhD in the same year (I Googled him, naturally). Surely he can figure this out.

Alden has no intention of eating hospital food. The empty spot on his plate was the toast.

Faring Poorly

We’ve all had that rush of adrenaline when a car on the highway get misaligned and a collision looks inevitable, at least for a moment. It doesn’t happen, though, and we drive away shaken with the knowledge of what could have so easily been. No reason it shouldn’t be me this time.

Last night a doctor said that Alden was showing red flags for some very serious diseases. The word “leukemia” came out. That’s where I’ve been for the last three weeks. A busy, pleasant Christmas led right into a gastrointestinal storm that has had our 33-pound Alden laid low for weeks. He gets better; he gets worse. We spent the night in the hospital. He improved with a solid 24 hours of IV fluids. We went home and about our lives, until a few days later when he was as sick as he’s yet been. I’m writing this from the little sleeper couch in his hospital room.

I feel like I’m behind the wheel of that car. Multiple invasive tests today allayed the doctor’s concerns around cancer, around Crohn’s Disease and other chronic intestinal horrors. But between this night and last night all we had was an endless stretch of that oncoming car. I rattled back and forth between a disassociative blankness where I stared at the murmuring television on the wall and breathless panic where I crouched over Alden and imagined his silky hair falling out, imagined losing him. I wondered grotesque things like whether we would let Elliot wear Alden’s clothes. I ground my teeth in frustration with myself for going to such horrible places in my head. Sufficient unto the day was the evil thereof.

We’re still dizzy with the adrenaline release of hearing that the MRI, endoscopy and colonoscopy all showed a healthy digestive system. The doctor is betting on a crazybad infection that he hasn’t been able to clear. Some things still fail to add up.

His white blood cell count was 30,000 (very high) when we brought him to the ER on Monday morning. No fever. 24 hours in IV cipro and flagyl knocked it all the way down to 11,000 (almost normal). Apparently this count and absence of fever is a possible leukemia indicator. Our nurse tonight expressed her skepticism that the antibiotics could have such a dramatic effect so fast, but had no other theories to offer.

Whether viral or bacterial, he’s been extravagently sick for almost three weeks. No one else in the house has been affected despite lots of exposure.

All the cultures, and there have been many, have come back negative.

Paging Dr. House, please. Except, you know, for how all his patients’ skin falls off or their eyes fall out or they spontaneously combust. Please let us always be too boring for a genius diagnostician.

Alden has been so, so brave. He has tried to cooperate even though he does not remotely understand what’s happening. He went without food or water for 36 hours as part of his testing prep. He cried and begged everyone he saw to please get him something to eat. He screamed for me to protect him and make them stop when they put the nasogastric tube in. This morning he was so defeated he went mute, refusing to respond to anyone for hours, tears standing in his eyes.

Alden will spring back, I know. Now that the hardest parts of this visit are behind us his personality is peeking out again already. I’m expecting them to send us home tomorrow and he’s going to perk right on up once we’re out of here. We’re going to put this right on behind us, as we should, but this is me making a mark in this time that Alden truly suffered and we were so frightened of what can so easily be taken away. A quick walk down these hallways reminds me that there’s no reason it couldn’t be us.




Merry Christmas!

Wishing your family a warm holiday with no sketchy Santas.

Oedipus at Our House

Last night Alden said, “I’m going to take Daddy’s ring.” He explained that would make him married to me. He’s a sort of Gollum/Oedipus combo these days.

Poor Alden can’t understand how his only girl, his mom, can have three dudes in her immediate orbit. It’s so unfair. Poor Damon can’t understand why his eldest son can be such a turkey sometimes.

While we’ve always tilted a little bit in the “Mommy do it!” direction, things got pretty pronounced there for a while. Even on the hallowed ground of Disney World, there was no peace to be made. I called my mom to break the news that only one of them was coming back and she just said, “Oh, he’s Oedipal right on schedule.” Which was some much needed perspective, and also kind of rhymes.

Understanding the why always helps with the what, and tensions decreased almost immediately. Damon and Alden are buddies again, dedicating afternoons to the monster truck dinosaur ball game. The whole bad business actually left a charming afterglow. Now Alden likes to end his days by telling me the various ways he loves me — “a million”, “to the moon” — and that I am “the sweetest girl” and “so kind.” He puts his hand on my cheek and tells me we will stay together forever. And I say, “Yes. We will.”  Every once in a while he will wake me up in the middle of the night to say, “Mommy, can you turn so I can see you? I love to look at your face.” Gah! I cannot resist! When he asks if we can get married, I tell him we can. By the time he is old enough to call my bluff I suspect these days of uncritical adoration will be long over. From his side, anyway.

Parenting Tip: Say Yes to Everything

One of the unintended consequences of nine days (NINE DAYS!) of all of us living in one small hotel room is Alden’s exposure to commercial television.

Do not misunderstand. We love TV. I’m not going to even pretend. Our kids watch at least some TV almost every day. They watch Nick Jr and PBS and Disney Jr. They also watch Monster Truck Jam and Dancing With the Stars. Through the magic of Tivo, though, the knuckleheads almost never see a commercial.

It would take a mother made of much sterner stuff than I am to deny my kids the TV while we were on vacation. Not only did I let them watch, I encouraged them to watch. An hour of Jake and the Neverland Pirates was sometimes all the stood in the way of me forcibly turning them into Lost Boys and hightailing it back to Knoxville.

So, commercials. To Alden, this was information on countless ways to make his life more wonderful. The first few days I spent a lot of time belaboring points about equity and privilege, thrift and values. Every 12 minutes I delivered a new lecture.

Then, as I tried to reason a 4-year-old out of Dragonball Z or Transformers or Robot Killers from Space, Damon just said, “Sure! You can totally have that!” And the conversation was over. Then another commercial. Another request. Another approval.

That was the key. “Yes” to everything. Every. Single. Thing. Just hearing that he could have that toy discharged his interest, and we were on to the next thing. He was so happy, and he instantly forgot each toy as it vanished off the screen. I tried the same thing as we flew home, with the Sky Mall magazine. To everything he liked, which was everything, I said, “Sure, you can have that.” We got off the plane, and he left the magazine behind.

I absolutely cannot believe that worked. I know it won’t forever. It sure does buy us some peace, though, at the moment.