Scary parenting moments: When should you see the doctor?

Photo by Rußen

My son had RSV when he was 4 months old and the doctors warned us that he was at increased risk of asthma and other respiratory problems. Fortunately, he didn’t develop asthma, but he did develop a mom who’s terrified of breathing problems.

Since then, I’ve had trouble figuring out when we should go to the doctor.

See, the day he was diagnosed with RSV, our day care provider told us she thought he was pretty sick and should go to the doctor. Of course it was Friday at 5:00 and we had dinner plans. And the two previous times she’d thought he should see a doctor, he’d been fine. But we took him. And on the way over, I commented to Frank that this was it. Third strike and she was out. If he wasn’t sick, I wasn’t listening to her advice again. I now take her advice very seriously. When we got to urgent care they immediately attached a device to him to test his blood oxygen levels. One look at the readings, some xrays to eliminate pneumonia and they told us to go immediately across the street to the hospital. There would be a room waiting for us. (Instead we had to go and sit in an office and show proof of insurance, but that’s a different story.)

Since that day, I’ve called the doctor’s office numerous times and held the phone up to my son so they could hear what he sounded like. Several times they have sent us in to the doctor or urgent care. One memorable morning his breathing was so loud it actually woke Frank and I up – and we were in a different room. When I called the doctor at home and held the phone up to my son’s mouth, he told me to go the emergency room immediately. We decided that I should go alone so we didn’t have to wake up our older son. While going 75 mph down the interstate, the terrible breathing noise stopped. My heart stopped too as I put on my hazard lights, pulled over to the edge of the freeway and leaned over the backseat to see if he was still breathing. He was. The terrible noise had started again by the time we got to the hospital and the hospital staff was so sure he had swallowed something, they took xrays. Nope, just a throat infection that was closing his throat up.

But I also took him to the doctor for a number of common colds that didn’t really merit a doctor’s visit – except to calm my nerves. So I no longer trust my judgement.

This morning he sounded terrible. And Frank told me he should go to the doctor. (And usually Frank thinks I’m too quick to go to the doctor.) And when I called the doctor’s office and described what he sounded like, they didn’t think I should wait until 2:45 to see his regular doctor. They told me to come right in. So I was scared. And imagined all the worse.

Luckily, he only has croup and the medicine they gave him to reduce swelling in his throat kicked in within a few hours.

But I continue to be regularly terrified because I simply don’t trust myself to know if it’s serious or not. I mean I would have brought him home with RSV and he might have died that night.

At the doctor’s office today, I anxiously waited the reading of the oximeter (it was a nice 98) and decided I should have bought one of those a long time ago. Turns out you can get one for less than $100 on Amazon. (For the record, I spent 4 days in the hospital staring at an oximeter reading, willing it to stay above 80.) So maybe with an oximeter of my own I’ll know when it’s really serious … but probably not. I’ll probably keep calling the doctor’s office.

(For the record, you are supposed to take kids into the doctor – urgently – if they have stridor breathing sounds, wheezing, stomach breathing, blue lips or gums, … or any number of other terrifying symptoms.)

Lake Powell

In case you were wondering where I was the week of August 2nd, here are some pictures. 14 of us spent the week on this boat. (The one in the background!) 6 adults, 4 teenagers, 3 ten year olds and 1 three year old. We had what we’d brought along and the lake and the surrounding country side for entertainment and subsistence. I was really excited to be going as it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I moved to Colorado 15 years ago.

We had an absolute blast. The scenery is beautiful. All desert colors. Lots of cliffs and canyons. Even some Indian ruins – which after our hazardous climb up we wondered how in the world they got food and water to their cliff dwellings.

The favorite activities of the week were fishing and combat tubing. (And just hanging out talking and taking in the scenery.)

If you haven’t seen Lake Powell, I highly recommend it. If you aren’t into boats, there are parts you can drive to. It was absolutely beautiful.

In an ironic twist of fate, my cell phone was the only one that didn’t work on the lake, so I really was on vacation!

It’s a conspiracy to get Stormy offline

Photo by Nautical9

I’ve noticed a trend in my family vacations. We are going to more and more remote locations with less and less cellular connectivity. I have been suspecting a conspiracy to get me offline.

My three year old confirmed it this weekend. While camping in a remote corner of Wyoming he announced:

I take a nap when you check your email. No computers at camping. You can’t check your email.

(And therefore he can’t take a nap.)

What’s funny is that he doesn’t normally take a nap when I check email. (Or he’d have to take a lot of naps at home!) But he was bargaining with me.

So it’s proof. These beautiful, remote locations are all a conspiracy to get me offline. It’s a good thing it’s so much fun to hang out in these places with family that I don’t miss the internet. Not too much anyway.

One humongous snowman

The kids had a snow day so Frank stayed home to watch them.

Here’s what Dads and kids can do with 10 inches of spring snow!

Biggest snowman ever

I survived 30 days without sweets

A month ago I set a goal for myself: no sweets nor alcohol for 30 days. In this post I'm primarily going to discuss the sweets part. I'll address the alcohol part in another post.

IStock_000011166708XSmallHow did I do? I did excellent sticking to my goal. (That doesn't mean I felt excellent just that I stuck to my goal well.) I did quit the alcohol part on day 25 for Superbowl weekend. But I didn't have any sweets, not even a bite of birthday cake, for the entire 30 days.

Best side effect? The whole family is eating better. I have been buying a bunch of fruit to take care of sweet cravings and the whole family has been loving it. We've discovered that our 3 year old will eat all of his dinner, including spinach salad and broccoli, just to get an apple or some grapes!

Did you feel different? Not really. I was really hoping that I'd feel different, i.e. better, if I ate less sweets. Other than craving sweets every day, for the most part I felt the same. With one exception – on day 3 I felt miserable. My whole body ached. I have no idea if that was from giving up sweets or alcohol or if I had a one day flu. Thank goodness it was over in a day.

Did you ever get over craving sweets? Not really, I had one day where I did not crave sweets – day 12. It lasted only a day. And the last week was better – I didn't crave sweets, I just really wanted some. It makes me think I'm still addicted and perhaps I should continue with the no sweets for a while longer.

How did you cope with the cravings? I ate a ton of fruit for the first 5 days. After that I just ignored them. (Or complained about them on identica, twitter and Facebook. 🙂 I also drank a lot of carbonated water.

Were you hungry? I was very hungry the first 5 days and then again on days 21 and 22. Unusually hungry. Other than that, I think I was less hungry than normal.

I was surprised to discover that it is possible to not be hungry between meals. I always thought people were really hungry between meals but just holding out for the next meal time. It was a new thing for me to be able to go from breakfast to lunch and from lunch to dinner without snacking. I don't think I've done that in several years.

Did your energy levels change? My initial response would be no. But I think my running suffered a bit. And at bedtime I was more than ready for bed. Nothing I can prove though.

Did you lose a lot of weight? I lost 4 pounds. As I wasn't doing it to lose weight, I ate whenever I was hungry. The problem (or advantage) is that most of the snacks I enjoy are sweet, so often nothing appealed to me. I think I ate a lot more at meal times but snacked less.

Did you exercise? I did my normal exercise which is running 1-3 miles a day.

What qualifies as a sweet? Candy bars, cookies, anything with chocolate in it, cookies, flavored yoghurt, chocolate chips, pudding, … I interchanged saying I gave up sweets and saying I gave up chocolate. To me a sweet isn't worth eating if it doesn't have chocolate in it. Except maybe marzipan. And even marzipan is better with chocolate.

Did you give up bread, rice or pasta? No, I did not give up bread, rice or pasta. I did not have any of the yummy cinnamon bread we had though. I thought the added sugar on top turned it into a sweet. And I didn't make any banana bread during this time as I consider it a sweet too.

How many sweets do you normally eat? I estimate about 600 calories a day. But I never really counted.

How come you don't talk about the alcohol? I didn't crave wine or beer. I craved sweets. I only really missed alcohol when I was having food I thought would be better with a drink, like beer with pizza or red wine with pasta. And even that went away after a while. The second time I had a pub hamburger without a beer, I decided maybe it was ok that way. I do have some insights about the alcohol though that I'll share in another post.

What's next? I think I'm going to continue to try to eat less sweets. Maybe not no sweets, just less sweets. I don't know what that looks like yet. And I will start drinking wine again with my pasta.

What was the hardest moment? I'm not sure if it was not eating sweets while sitting at home by myself or if it was the cooler full of ice cream bars that they wheeled into a conference room and left right next to me … on day 30. I couldn't think of any way to take an ice cream bar to keep in my room until day 31!

What have been your experiences giving up sweets?

30 day trial: no alcohol, no sweets

IStock_000008800699XSmall For the next 30 days I am abstaining from alcohol and sweets.

Why am I telling you this?

I'm telling all of you about it because I realized that I didn't really
think I'd do it. But if I tell the world, I know I'll do it. (Or at
least I'll try much harder. 🙂

What am I really giving up?

By sweets I mean things like cookies, candy bars and chocolate chips.

I think the alcohol part is self explanatory but I mean beer and wine. (I don't really drink anything else although that Amarula stuff that Frank picked up before Christmas is pretty yummy …)

I know you should only give up one thing at a time, but for a multitude of reasons (including a lack of patience), I'm not doing that.

Will you have to listen to this for the next 30 days?

No, I won't be blogging about this again during the month unless something unexpected happens. (Like I have an amazing amount of energy or need 3 hours less of sleep a night or start losing 2 pounds a week. Not that I expect any of that.) I probably will be twittering about it so you might see updates on identica, twitter and Facebook.

Why 30 days?

I want to see how I feel without alcohol and sweets. 30 days is enough time to figure out if I feel different. It's also enough time to establish new habits but a short enough time it doesn't seem too daunting. A 30 day trial allows for success where as "giving up sweets forever" probably doesn't. (And I am not giving up sweets forever. No way!)

So I encourage you to do your own 30 day trials. They don't have to be about food. 30 day trials are a good way to start any new habit or break any old habit.

How do you make all your days productive?

I used to think that some days just weren't productive. And I wished I could figure it out at the beginning of the day so that I could spend the day reading or hanging out with friends. Then I realized that each day is different. (Or I'm different each day.) And the key is figuring out what I'll be productive at today.

(I also realized that reading and hanging out with friends is a productive use of time too!)

The problem is I haven't figured out how to tell at the beginning of the day what kind of day it is. So I start out trying to work on what I believe is most important or urgent, and if I don't get anywhere I start switching task types. Maybe it's writing, maybe it's catching up on email, maybe it's crunching those numbers, maybe it's making all those phone calls, maybe it's something mindless like filing expense reports. Usually I find it pretty quickly – or at least by lunch time – but I wish I could some how take my temperature and know what kind of day it is …

How do you figure out what you'll be most productive at on any given day?

Book Review: How to improve your marriage without talking about it

I'm not sure I believe everything Patricia Love and Steven Stosny have to say in How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, but while reading the introduction, I decided they might have a point:

If you were to say to the man in your life, "Honey, we need to talk about our relationship," what do you think would happen?

If he would answer this question with something like "I thought you'd never ask!" or "I've been dying to share my feelings about our life together, and I especially want to hear how you feel about us and what you want for us," then neither of you needs to read his book. Most women would expect their men would get distracted, defensive, irritated, or fidgety, or roll their eyes or shut down completely; and most men would feel like they were being punished for a crime they didn't commit."

Since every time I say "we need to talk", Frank says "what did I do wrong now?" and nothing I say can convince him that he didn't do anything wrong, we just need to talk, … well, I was interested in hearing what the authors suggested.

Their reasoning is that men feel the need to protect and by saying something isn't going right, they feel shame. So the minute you say "we need to talk", they get flooded with hormones that make them anxious and shameful. Women, according to the authors, feel the need to connect and when something isn't going right they usually feel fear, primarily fear of abandonment. They go on to explain how this drives couples further apart.

They offer a number of concrete suggestions for how to work better together without getting into the same ritual every time. (Women are supposed to try connecting and emphasizing without talking or criticizing, and men are supposed to try helping and talking.)

I found many of their points useful to think about in terms of my kids. I seem to spend a lot of my time telling my kids "no" and while reading this book, I found myself thinking a lot about how that must make them feel.

So while I don't agree with everything the authors say (there was a lot of gender stereotyping), they did have a lot of really good ideas and things to think about. I'd recommend reading, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.

How I learned not to procrastinate

Carmen I’m not much of a procrastinator. And I owe that to Carmen. (Montse, be sure your mom hears this!)

When I was 12, every day after school we went to Carmen’s house. We all sat around the table and, after eating a snack, we sat there and worked on homework until we were done. Carmen either helped us with our homework, or if we didn’t need help, she sat with us and knitted or ironed. (And before my sister and I learned Spanish, she’d spend time teaching us new words and reading books.) That habit of sitting down and just doing it has stuck with me. When you have a lot to do, you sit down and do it.

Some background.

We moved to Spain when I was 12. Although I was born in Spain we moved away when I was 2, so at age 12 when we returned, I spoke no Spanish. My parents put us in a Spanish speaking school. Then they got jobs teaching English in the evenings and arranged for us to stay with Carmen and her family after school. The first day I ended up in the wrong classroom. The first month, I got a zero on a homework assignment I didn’t even know I had. And I couldn’t even tell the teacher I didn’t know there had been a homework assignment. (For someone used to getting all A’s, that was traumatic!)

After school Carmen patiently spent hours working with us in the evenings. First helping us to do our homework, pantomiming all sorts of words and looking them up in the dictionary when that failed. Then when we were done with our homework, she’d bring out kids’ books and have us read them.

Over the months, we got better and faster at our homework and had more time to play. And eventually my parents got jobs teaching during the day. But for years afterwards, I still stopped at Carmen’s house after school just to sit at the table and chat. I still do, whenever I get to Barcelona!

I didn’t realize until recently that she had taught me how not to procrastinate. Don’t get me wrong, I still procrastinate, especially when I’m not sure how to do something, but it’s nothing like what it would be without the habit of sitting down and doing it. And it was a fun, friendly environment. One that I returned to even when I didn’t have homework. We all sat together at the table, Carmen, her two kids and my sister and I. We ate, worked and talked together.

Now I just have to make sure I pass that on to my kids. I guess I’d better start sitting at the table when my son is doing his homework!

How did you learn how not to procrastinate?

And here’s how I deal with the times I do procrastinate.

My Grandpa: An Outstanding Record in Hauling Live Stock

GrandpaAwardNewspaper In 1945 my grandpa received a citation for an outstanding record in hauling live stock by truck to the Sioux Falls Market. (It's the emblem on his truck in the background of the picture.)

I was excited to find this 64 year old article and the letter that accompanied it not only for the glimpse into a part of my grandpa that I never knew, but also because my grandma had deemed it worthy of keeping. (And my grandma could have taught classes on clutter free living.)

By the time I was old enough to remember my grandpa, alcoholism and emphysema had taken their toll. He spent most of his time at home leaning on the banister at the top of the stairs. He usually had a moment for us kids – either to complain that we were running through the house or to stop us and tease us – and to tell us that the sandbox behind the house was his. (The sandbox wasn't his I discovered. Although I staunchly defended my grandpa's claim to the sandbox, it belonged to the neighbor kid. The neighbor kid and I settled the sandbox dispute with an agreement. I agreed to play toy soldiers – my first and last game ever – in exchange for a game of tag and we quickly became friends, running around the neighborhood playing made up games that enlisted all the kids we could find. Grandpa teased me about that as well.)

There's one memory of Grandpa that made an impact on my adult life. One of my older cousins brought her infant daughter by to visit. When my grandpa held the baby, his whole face lit up. The baby was soon snatched away from him but I promised myself that when I had a baby I'd bring him by for Grandpa to hold. Unfortunately Grandpa died 22 years before that could happen, but every time I visit a nursing home – with my dog before and now occasionally with my kids – and watch people's faces light up, I remember that promise.