Hoping for health

Oof!  These past few weeks have been reminiscent of three years ago.  G was a baby and in a childcare center, and he was sick ALL the time (his exhausted, sleep-deprived parents didn’t fare much better).  That was followed by two winters of relatively good health (which is the norm for us) — first, the year G was home with me, and then last year, when he was with a small, home-based caregiver.  Nothing like jumping back into the germ pool that is lots of little kids together in one place!

First we had the flu virus that [likely] led to the secondary pneumonia infection.  Matthew and I had milder versions of the influenza-ish virus — no pneumonia, but it did linger in our sinuses for a bit.  Time, rest, and regular neti-ing seems to have finally done the trick for us.

We no sooner recovered from that than G was hit with a 24-hour stomach bug.*  I’ll spare you the details.  We ramped up hand washing, and I did more loads of laundry in two days than I usually do in a month!  Matthew and I had vague, “don’t feel great, but not really sick” symptoms during those 24-48 hours — headache, low appetite, and intermittent, low-level nausea.

To add to the fun, on Friday, when G was with my MIL, she called and said she was concerned that he might have a UTI.  Ugh, not what I wanted to hear!  Based on the symptoms, we went ahead and made an appointment with the doctor.

UPDATED: Just realized I forgot to finish this . . . .  The UTI scare turned out to be a false alarm.  Instead of antibiotics, we left with a diagnosis of irritated skin at the tip of his penis and a “prescription” for daily warm baths, sans soap.  We made the most of the doctor appointment by confirming that his lungs were, indeed, clear of pneumonia (he was much more cooperative this time!).

We thought we were out of the woods, and, where January had been “the month of sick,” I [prematurely] declared February the month of health.  We made it three days into the month, and then it was Matthew’s turn for the full-blown version of G’s stomach bug (or maybe it was a different one, who knows???  There are so many fun options from which to choose!).

Now that M and G have both had a stomach bug, I feel like there’s a dark cloud over my head.  I’ve felt a bit “off,” but it may just be the power of suggestion.  I won’t make any more declarations about us being healthy, but I’m sure hoping for a better month!

*It’s a pet peeve of mine when people talk about the “stomach flu.”  It’s a common phrase, but there is no such thing.  There are a variety of organisms (viruses, bacteria, and parasites) that can cause gastrointestinal issues, with various symptoms and durations, but these have nothing to do with influenza. The general term for these illnesses is gastroenteritis, which just means inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (that inflammation leads to the characteristic symptoms, which may include nausea, cramping, vomiting, and/or diarrhea).  These “stomach bugs” are usually transmitted by eating contaminated food (people often blame the last thing they ate before they got sick, but in reality, many of these bugs have long incubation times), or by the fecal-oral route.  On the other hand, influenza is a respiratory virus (think nasty cold, with body aches and fever).  End rant.


Diagnosis and drugs

After some debate mid-week last week on whether or not Gabriel needed to see a doctor, I decided to call our pediatrician’s office and run things by the nurse.  It turned out they did want to see him.  I hesitated, expecting I would spend a decent bit of money and time (sitting in a place full of other sick kids) just to be told that it was a virus and would clear soon.  But we were headed into a weekend (a 3-day weekend at that), and I didn’t want to end up in the E.R. if we were dealing with a secondary infection, so I made an appointment for that afternoon.

I arrived with a rather chipper little boy who had not had a fever all day.  When we finally saw the doctor (I really like our pediatrician, but I really dislike the wait times in that office!), he spent a loooooooooong time listening to G’s lungs.  Or, rather, trying to listen to G’s lungs, while the patient squirmed and wriggled.

In the end, the doctor couldn’t get a great read on things, due to patient non-compliance (in retrospect, the behavior might have been partially due to pain he experienced while taking a deep breath).  After coughing, G’s lungs mostly sounded good, except for one spot in his lower right lung, which was maybe okay, but maybe not.  Based on that, our ped made a “soft diagnosis” (his words) of pneumonia and sent us home with a prescription for azithromycin (Z-pac, except the liquid, kiddy version).

[When I had pneumonia in middle school, I’m pretty sure the diagnosis was confirmed with an x-ray, but an x-ray was never raised as a possibility here.]

I was less than thrilled with the uncertain diagnosis and the prescription of a pretty hard-hitting antibiotic, especially given Gabriel’s seemingly-improved state.  I filled the prescription, but we decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

All was good for the next 24-hours: no fever, improved mood and energy, and improved appetite (still a runny nose and a cough, but coughs often linger for quite awhile).  We were able to get outside and take advantage of the beautiful weather on Saturday morning, and I thought we had dodged the antibiotic bullet.

Not so fast.  Late Saturday afternoon, Gabriel’s temperature spiked again, and we decided it was time for the drugs.   He spent the evening on the couch, feeling rotten, and ate next-to-nothing for dinner.

We put him to bed, and there was some coughing in the first few hours, but he settled down to quiet sleep, and then, miraculously, 4:30am came and went with NO coughing! (He’d started coughing around that time every morning for the previous seven days, semi-asleep, but unable to stop coughing until he got up.)

Since then, he’s been fever-free and more-or-less cough-free at night.  He’s clearly feeling better overall, and his appetite is back.  [He barely ate at all last week, which is not his usual, and he wasn’t even interested in noodles (as much as he’s a great eater, under normal circumstances, he would eat noodles day and night if we let him.)]  This is enough evidence for me that there was something bacterial going on and that the antibiotic was warranted.

He took his final dose of the azithromycin yesterday (PSA: If you start taking antibiotics, finish the whole darn course).  Other than some loose stools, his body seems to be tolerating the drug.  In general, I think antibiotics are still over-prescribed, but it’s good to have them there (and effective) when you need them!

Pumpkin time!

Matthew grows a lot of delicious winter squash this year, but he’s never grown a “jack o’ lantern pumpkin.”  He plans to correct that next year (especially after dropping twenty dollars on “squash we can’t even eat”), but this year, we visited the pumpkin patch.

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We visited Braeutigam Orchards two Sundays ago.  I posted these photos on Facebook that evening, and I felt like a bit of a fraud, because this perfectly illustrates the Facebook effect: the pictures people share often give an unrealistic view of events (and if you compare your own REAL life with what everyone is sharing on Facebook, you’re likely to not feel too great).

So, in the interest of full disclosure, while there were some good moments, this happy little family outing was anything but.  It started with stress about keeping someone halfway quiet on a Sunday morning while we tried to get out the door, my own anxiety about returning in time to avoid the dreaded car nap, and getting lost on the way to our destination, to the constant chorus of, “Are we at the pumpkin patch yet?”  (“Yes, kid, why don’t you get out of the car and wander around East St. Louis looking for a pumpkin.  Knock yourself out!)

Anyhow, I don’t want to dwell on the bad, but it was what it was.  I went into yesterday with a plan to have a better Sunday.  I started with some mindfulness practice (while Matthew and Gabriel made pancakes), followed by a quick jaunt outdoors with Gabriel, to run and shake off some energy.  After a quick Skype chat with my mom, we headed outdoors to carve the big pumpkin (an 11 pounder).


Matthew and I handled the knife work.  Gabriel helped scoop out the seeds and goop, and drew on a second pumpkin.


He also enjoyed running around with the sword from his Peter Pan costume and playing with some Halloween figurines (while sporting tiger whiskers).


In the end, we had a lovely Sunday morning, and we have a pretty great jack o’ lantern (to be revealed on Friday, along with some costume pics).

Raising a child in an apartment

There must be thousands (millions?) of people raising kids in apartments, but among my friends and acquaintances, we’re somewhat of an anomaly.  I can think of exactly one other apartment-dwelling family-with-kids that we know in St. Louis.  Other than that, it seems that by the time children enter the picture, there’s a house involved.  While in many ways, I’m in no hurry to buy a house, raising a kid in a multi-family building presents some challenges, mainly involving noise.

We live in a two-family duplex/flat with wood floors.  We intentionally chose a second-floor space, in part because it tends to be quieter on top, compared to living on lower levels with people walking around above you.  That said, there is very little up-down sound insulation, and sounds carry both ways.

In the beginning, when Gabriel was younger, the challenge mainly came from noises below, and my concern that they would wake him.  As he’s gotten older, the noise he makes being an energetic little person — walking, marching, running, jumping, dancing, knocking down blocks — has become an increasing issue.  The sounds don’t bother me at all, and would be a complete non-issue in a house, but I totally get that, for our neighbor downstairs, they are loud, unpleasant, and annoying.

The question is what to do about it.  We ARE actively looking to buy a house, but given our land and location requirements (and the fact that we’ve already been looking for years, since before G was born), it doesn’t seem that that will happen anytime soon.

We could look at rental houses, but I imagine that a rental house that is similar size and quality as our apartment would be out of our budget (and the cost and hassle of an extra move — oof!).

If the noise downstairs is really as bad as I imagine it to be, I’m somewhat surprised that our neighbor hasn’t moved, but that would not solve anything for us, because there would just be another tenant.

Measures to minimize noise

  • Using area rugs might help somewhat, but they’re not going to cover everything, and I don’t want the hassle of keeping them clean (cleaning wood floors is soooo easy).  So we probably won’t go this route.
  • We’ve been trying to keep Gabriel out of the bedrooms (which are above our neighbor’s bedroom) in the morning, especially on weekends.
  • Now that it’s cooler, we’re encouraging Gabriel to wear his slippers, which might offer some sound dampening.

Kids will be kids? 

While we discourage blatantly loud, unnecessary activities, like repeatedly banging his wooden blocks on the floor or shouting inside the house, we’re not willing to suppress or discourage the normal sounds that come with being an exuberant, happy, active child.

Focusing overly on the noise, e.g., asking Gabriel to walk quietly, is stressful for us, and it often seems to produce the opposite behavior.  We try to explain that we’re doing this “to be respectful of our neighbor,” but at three, he just doesn’t quite get it.

Still stressed

Overall, our neighbor has been patient and understanding (and we try to respond in kind to sounds that travel up to us).  We’ve talked with her about the accommodations we’re trying to make.  Still, the ongoing worry about the noise we’re generating makes me feel stressed and “yuck.”  The fact that our neighbor is being bothered by sounds that we can’t totally eliminate also creates a dynamic where it’s very hard for us to bring up reverse concerns.

Having a little person means that we are not ideal neighbors.  I wish I could magically create a sound barrier between the first and second floor units, but short of that, I guess I’ll just have to make my peace, as best as I can, with the situation.

I’d love to hear from others who have been in similar situations, whether you were the one with kids or the one living with sounds from other kids in the building.


Done with diapers!

With any luck, for you and for me, this is the last blog post I will ever write about my child’s potty habits!  There are some things I’ll miss about the first three years of G’s life, but changing and washing diapers, and washing the poop out of his little potties, is not one of them!

Just to recap, G has been waking-time diaper free for well over a year now (since right around 22 months).  For a few weeks last August, I thought we might be nearing the nighttime dry point, but it was not to be.

I finally figured out that most of our problems with nighttime cloth diapering were due to diapers that were too small.  I hemmed and hawed over buying bigger cloth diapers or cloth nighttime training pants while I ate through my reserve of disposable diapers (that were supposed to be for travel or GI issues only), wondering if I would invest in something only to have him start staying dry at night.

[At other times, I wondered if he’d still be wearing diapers to bed when he was seven.]

At the end of May, I finally bit the bullet, and ordered two types of overnight training pants, the Flip [One-size] Training Pant and the Best Bottoms Potty Training Kit.

When Matthew and Gabriel returned from Florida, Matthew reported that G had woken with a dry diaper on about half of the nights.  Two days later, these arrived.



At that point, I started making a concerted effort on the liquid intake and output fronts in the hour-ish leading up to bedtime.  Instead of just offering the potty right before bed, we started encouraging him to try 30-45 minutes before bedtime, and then again one last time.  I focus on keeping him well hydrated up to and through dinner (about 80 minutes before bedtime), but then really limiting drinks after dinner — usually just a small sip of [unsweetened soy] milk and a small sip of water right before bed.

All-in-all, it’s gone quite well.  In almost two months, we’ve had just three or four nighttime bed wettings (of course, last night was one of them — hopefully I haven’t jinxed things before even hitting “publish”) and a similar number of wakings in the middle of the night to use the potty, but, mostly, he’s sleeping all night long and waking up dry!  Knock on wood, but I think we’re there!  (And I still have some disposable diapers!  All I needed to do was drop fifty bucks on the cloth training pants.)

Unfortunately, those training pants I bought don’t do the trick for larger amounts of liquid output.  The Best Bottoms don’t fit tightly enough at the legs to prevent leaks (though the XL size fits him well otherwise).  The Flip fits pretty snugly, but the included inserts just aren’t particularly absorbent (note: I’m lazy and have yet to follow their “maximum absorbency” washing instructions), though it does work for little leaks.

Since he’s staying dry over 90% of the time, we gamble on using the Flip training pants most nights.  If our schedule has been slightly funky, or there’s some other reason I think he’s less likely to stay dry on a given night, I’ll go ahead and use a disposable, because changing sheets in the middle of the night is no fun.  We’ve used the same disposable diaper on five or six different nights now — even though it’s stayed 100% dry, it’s showing signs of wear and might be retired soon.

Number 2
G has been consistently pooping in his little potty since last fall.  He will pee on the big potty, but has been very resistant to pooping there.  I think this is one part comfort and one part, “If I use my little potty, I can locate it wherever I want to play.”

In general, it’s great that he’s pooping in a potty, and pooping regularly, but a bowel movement that I have to rinse and wipe out of a training potty is a lot messier than one I can just flush, so a couple of months ago we started encouraging him to try to poop on the big potty, going to far as to offer him a treat.*  Many times he refused to try.  Other times, he would try on the big potty with no success and move back to the little potty.

IMG_4915[1]And then last week it finally happened — poop in the big potty, twice in a row!  Since then, he’s gone back and forth between locations, but this is definite progress.

*As a rule, I don’t like using food as a reward/bribe because of the risk of creating an unhealthy relationship with food, but I have made a few exceptions in the potty training process.  We used raisins as a treat for peeing in the [little] potty early on.  For this round, we’ve been offering a small cookie or a few chocolate chips.  The treat is coupled with lots of verbal praise and reinforcement, and, with the raisins, we phased them out pretty quickly once he mastered the behavior.