Category Archives: sick kids

Sick children: a balanced view

Good things about sick children:

  • Having sick children provides a break from the quotidian, a change from the ordinary, and makes you once again appreciate the pleasant routine of normal life. To which you will never return. DOOOM.
  • They nap. For hours. Bliss.
  • They’re too tired to be naughty, so they’re sweet and adorable all the time.
  • They love cuddling. They just want to be close to you. You feel needed and special.
  • Bedtime is so easy. They conk out on the sofa, you put them in bed, the end.

Bad things about sick children:

  • Prime puking and/or fever time is in the middle of the night, exactly when you’d most like to be getting some rest and girding your own immune system against falling prey to the same thing.
  • Whichever spot you haven’t quite covered with a waterproof sheet or a precautionary towel is exactly where they’ll manage to barf every time. They will also get their pyjamas and their hair on the way, and probably some totally different area you won’t even notice until tomorrow.
  • All that napping in the middle of the day means that at some point you will be faced with children who are convinced that 2.30am is when they need to get up and go downstairs to play. Both at once.
  • You are the only person who can make them feel better. You can never leave. Don’t even try.
  • They love cuddling. Especially just before they throw up, or at 4am when you’d really like an hour or two alone in your own bed.
  • They still wake up at 6am.
  • Even when they’re better, they’ve completely upset their eating and sleeping patterns and may never return to them. DOOOOM.
Sick, baleful Mabel says you are doooooomed.

Come a little closer

Dash is sick (which is entirely my fault for stupidly – stupidly! – bragging that my children were disgustingly healthy) and I have two posts half-written that have been running round my head for a while now but it turns out they’re not very good, or very interesting, or need photos I don’t have, or something else unsatisfying, and maybe it’s just that I’m unnerved by having my rudely healthy six-year-old completely flaked out on the couch all morning which is just so very uncharacteristic of him that it makes me twitchy.

I think I’ve mentioned before how becuase my children are rarely sick, I tend to get all melodramatic in my head when they are, and feel like they’ll never be well again. On the outside I’m a competent and non-panicky mother, all adequate fluids and keep you warm and no need to call the doctor but I am aware of peritonitis as a thing that exists (and nearly killed my father at the tender age of 5 all those years ago) and check for a rash and so on. But on the inside I’m looking tenderly at his sweet face, so innocent and non-combative in quiet repose, and feeling like Jo in Little Women watching Beth breathe her last. (Okay, not her last. Not just then.) Phrases like “The fever has finally broken” and “galloping consumption” and “youth stolen away” wander across my mind, even though he doesn’t have a fever or even a cough.

Mabel seems to have an ear infection too, though it’s not in the least bit debilitating except in the middle of the night. Last night after my bringing her a tissue and a waffle and a drink of water (and the boobs, of course, always the boobs) she was still throwing shapes all over the bed instead of falling back asleep, and having wide-eyed conversations with me about totally unrelated things. (Which would be adorable, if it hadn’t been 3am.) Eventually she said “Mummy, come closer to me.” I was already right there on her pillow, but I put my arms around her and she burrowed her head into my hair and pressed her lips right up against my ear – which tickles, you might know – and whispered “My ear hurts.”

Which was great, because then a quick dose of ibuprofen meant she was out for the count and I finally went back to my own bed for a blessed two hours or something of sleep before everyone woke up again for the day. I sent her to school, though, because she’s no more contagious with a slight runny nose than she was yesterday, and I dosed her again so her ear definitely won’t hurt.

So, sick kids for the win. Remind me to keep my big mouth shut next time, okay?


There has been some backsliding on the night-weaning issue.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, becuase it was going so well. She hadn’t had a boob in the middle of the night for so long that I was sure she’d forgotten it was even a possibility. But hey, I was wrong. How ’bout that?

When we were in Chicago, Dash was just getting over his almost-croup, and I was convinced Mabel was about to come down with it. One night she seemed warm, to the kiss test, and I suspected she was running a low-grade fever. She definitely had a cold. She woke up in the night, and I decided to hell with my principles (such as they were, the no-boob principle is always fighting against the why-shouldn’t-I principle) and gave her the boob. It sent her back to sleep quickly, it gave her antibodies, it kept her hydrated, it was just the ticket. In the morning her fever was gone and she only coughed a few times.

So I said, “It’s only because we’re away, and you’re sick.” “Once we go home, there will be no booboo at night, you know?” I said. “Only in Chicago,” I said.

Yeah, right. She’d broken the streak, and she knew it. Also, she’s still sick with a very runny nose and a crackly cough that doesn’t worry me because it sounds productive, as the pharmacist would say. I have not had a lot of luck denying the midnight boob since we’ve been back. And I can’t tell whether it’s because she’s found my weakness (you know, liking sleep) or because she really does need it because she’s sick. But I’m teetering on the edge of sick myself, with a runny nose and an incipient sore throat that never gets quite bad enough to bother about, and telling the long version of Cinderella at 3am is really not something that appeals to me when I know there’s another option.

I do try, though. Last night. Ugh. Last night she woke at some horrible hour and I recounted all of Cinderella (slightly abridged, with breaks whenever I dropped out of consciousness). Then she wailed at me for 20 minutes until I gave her one boob. Repeat for other side, even though she’d promised she’d go to sleep after just the one. (She’s like an alcoholic. I wonder has she an addictive personality, perhaps.) Then the other side, or a Mabel story, or I don’t remember what. Finally, two hours later, she said she was hungry.

One waffle and one more bloody Mabel story later, she was asleep. For, I dunno, an hour, until it was morning.

I’m a bit tired today. I’ll night-wean her again when I have the energy. Don’t hassle me, man.

In short, Chicago

I could just sit down for two hours – if I had two hours – and spew out a spool of words about our long weekend in Chicago, but I think I need to use my editorial function a bit more wisely than that. Here, then, are the posts you might or might not be seeing in the future, in no particular order:

The one about how small children don’t like going from mild to cold weather in the space of a 40-minute train trip, and will continue to refuse to wear a coat, even when they already have a cough that sounds like one hound of Hell, for days afterwards because if they do not bow to outside influences like parents, what chance does Weather have?

The one with all the photos.

The one about six-and-a-half and whether that’s a thing or not, the way three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half are recognised Horrible Stages, because I hope to God this here thing with the 6.5-year-old is a Thing because it’s Horrible and it’s as if I’ve just been handed an entirely new child whose ways I have to figure out double-quick before he kills us all or vice versa, which I was not expecting, frankly.

The one about how we nearly didn’t go at all because Dash nearly had croup, and then on Saturday night I was convinced that instead of supporting the marathon runner the next morning we’d probably be busy taking Mabel to the emergency room because she coughed twice and that was enough, but it all turned out okay in the end except for that one other little coughing fit that made the nice airline lady come and tell me about her granddaughter who had a cough that sounded exactly like that and it turned out to be pneumonia, and then I felt like I was the one getting pneumonia for the next hour, but then she didn’t cough again and now they’re both back at school praise be to the holy deities.

The one about how getting a suite instead of just a room with two beds really didn’t make any difference because Dash refused to sleep with Mabel so it was still one adult and one child to a bed and the door in between was quite pointless though I suppose maybe I was spared some sounds of snoring, perhaps.

The one about how your priorities have to change from getting decent food into them to getting any sort of food into them because when you’re away from home and held hostage to the hotel restaurant and the crappy little hotel gift shop full of cookies and dollar-fifty apples you just need the children to eat and suddenly a plate of french fries sounds like a perfectly good dinner option if he would only damn well eat it when it’s there rather than refusing it and getting hungry half an hour later.

The one about how parenthood changes you because when the small child asks you if there’s a bathroom on this train, instead of holding her out at arm’s length, you hold her closer on your lap and wonder how bad your jeans will look if they get soaked with pee; but how happy I was – I cannot express just how happy – that she managed to hold it in every time and make it to the bathroom so my jeans were unscathed and so was Chicago’s public transport system.

The one about how all American cities look the same at first until you look a little closer and get to know them, but all airports really do occupy the same unchanging point in time and space and it makes no difference where you are because it’s like being in a vortex of expensive food choices and pleasingly sanitary bathrooms until you finally get to leave. But Mabel won’t keep her shoes on there either.


I think I’ll just do the photos.


Three of the children in Mabel’s class, one of whom was at our party on Sunday, are now ridden with some horrible plague-like virus, and I find myself already looking at her with that nostalgic indulgent expression reserved for pathetically ill children. When I picked her up from school one of the parents involved (who was there, but without her ailing offspring) apologised profusely and said that she thought Mabel’s eyes already had the glazed I’m-getting-sick look. I’m hoping against hope that she was wrong, but I can’t tell. I thought she looked preternaturally pale with oddly pink cheeks, but she was probably just warm from running around inside, as it was raining in the playground.

She’s acting perfectly normally, and this is one of those times when I’m really glad we’re still nursing, because I will continue to tout its amazing immune-boosting properties until the moment she comes down with a horrible rash and a fever of 104.

Still, today is her last day of school for the week, so she won’t be marinating in the Petri dish that is a classroom full of two- and three-year-olds, so maybe the clanging chimes of doom won’t sound quite so loudly in a few days and we’ll be spared. Maybe.

We have absolutely no plans for Thanksgiving, and I like it that way. I have no intention of thinking about it till next Wednesday at the earliest (since my mother-in-law will be here from this Friday till Tuesday), though I did see a recipe I wouldn’t mind trying.

Sorry, I was distracted there. Dash sat down at the table beside me to do his homework, except that he wasn’t so much sitting as jiggling furiously on the chair in deep denial of his need to pee. Twice he stood up to go, and then sat down again, and my last nerve was busy shredding itself on the cheesegrater of infuriation as I waited for him to finally give in. (I’d love you to think that I sat calmly by, letting him figure this out for himself, but I’m not that saintly. I exhorted him vehemently several times to answer the damn call of nature before nature ran down his legs and onto my kitchen floor.) He’s gone now. Hang on a minute while my blood vessels return to their normal size.

┬áDum-de-dum… Anyway.

One day last week the kids were playing outside on their bikes, as we have been doing every day after school in the lovely autumn weather that has now given way to persistent rain, and Dash was singing-counting to himself as he circled round and round and round. He got to the highest number he could possibly conceive of (probably having skipped a few on the way):

“What’s after a hundred and eight, Mummy? Is it a million?”
“No, it’s a hundred and nine.”
“Wow. And what’s after that? Is it a million?”

That’s optimism right there. I don’t know where he gets it from.

The best laid plans always involve spending a lot at Target first

For lunch, I have had several pretzel crisps and some trail mix, a rolled up slice of ham inside a rolled-up slice of cheese, some of yesterday’s roasted cauliflower straight out of the fridge (and very delicious it was too) and a cup of tea. That hits all the major food groups, even if it isn’t very pretty.

What happened was, I spent an hour at Target picking up bits and pieces for our upcoming Very Busy November: new towels because we’ll be having a guest, snacks and notebooks for the kids for our road trip to NYC this weekend, last-minute birthday presents for her highness, who just happens to be turning three in Two! Days!, a loaf of bread and a pair of cosy pyjama bottoms for me because they were there and I need cosy pyjama bottoms. I didn’t even find the storage bins I was looking for. (They can’t be wicker, becuase B hates wicker with the passion of a thousand firey suns. I believe he averts his eyes every time the laundry hamper comes into view. And they need to be smaller than the canvas ones they sell in Target, because those are just a tiny bit too tall for my purposes.)

Then I rushed back to pick up Mabel from school in the nick of time, running into a set of roadworks on the way to slow me down, of course – I imagined myself being pulled over for speeding once the road was clear again (not that I was speeding, Dear, of course) and whether I would get into even more trouble if the first thing I did, rather than reaching submissively for the registration details in the glove compartment, was to grab my phone and dial a friend to go and retrieve Mabel from the playground in time; luckily, no such thing came to pass, but it was a close run thing – but Wednesday is the day we usually take lunch to the playground with a group of friends, and I hadn’t brought lunch. So I rummaged in the Target bag and realised that I could purloin some of the road-trip snacks, and we took juice boxes, pretzel chips and trail mix along the wooded path to the picnic tables.

Five minutes later, Mabel said she wanted to go home. So home we came. She’s now asleep and has spent enough time coughing without waking up that I’m convinced she’s about to come down with some horrible lurgy just in time to (a) make her birthday miserable and (b) stop us from going to New York.

Here’s hoping not. I have new crayons, new notebooks, and a couple of those invisible-ink colouring pads for the kids for the journey. What do you bring to keep your children happy on a road trip? Also, any tips for things we should definitely do in New York on Saturday – assuming we get there? The weather should be pretty nice. Fingers crossed.

Not lupus

Mabel has decided she’s not taking a nap, and my feeble attempts to leave her in her room for quiet time worked about as well as you might predict, so now she’s doing something with Duplo and monologuing about Thor. (She and Monkey have been watching The Avengers cartoon series, which is only partly completely unsuitable television for an almost-three-year-old, and she knows all her superheroes better than I do. Anyway, I like that she knows about Thor because I can pretend it’s mythology rather than superhero-ology.)

She didn’t really go to school today because I decided to take her to the doctor instead, and between the traffic and the waiting room, we finally squeaked into the playground with 15 minutes of the morning left. We went to the doctor because she’d had an odd red rash on her hands last week that was itchy at night, and which Dr Google told me might be eczema. I got some cream and it seemed to be improving, but other, different, rashy bits were popping up on her torso. So, just to be on the safe side, we went.

I’m glad we did, because, just to be on the safe side, she’s now on half a teaspoon of amoxycillin three times a day for the next 21 days, to make sure she doesn’t have Lyme disease. One of the rashy patches (these are tiny patches, just blips really) is suspiciously circular in shape, and when I said that I’d pulled a tick out of her leg several weeks ago – not where the rash is at all – the doctor said it’s much easier to just treat than wait and see. I don’t think she’s showing any other symptoms, though I suppose if she’s extra tired that might explain her reaction to school last week, but I’d much rather be on the safe side with this one.

The doctor said the rash on Mabel’s hands is something else, possibly hives, and told me to give her Benadryl for that.

I’ve also decided I have arthritis in my thumb. Getting old is terrible. Monkey needs to hurry up and make his anti-ageing machine.


Remember last week, when I told you that one of the things cluttering up my kitchen counter was the eye drops from when Monkey last had pinkeye?

I’m sure you can see where this is going. (See. Heh.) After blogging about it, I did a modicum of tidying on the counter contents, including bringing the eye drops upstairs and stashing them in my medicine cabinet. That probably happened on Thursday. On Thursday night, Mabel slept until 11.00 instead of the usual 10.00 for her first post-bedtime wake. I jokingly wondered if she was coming down with something. On Friday afternoon, Mabel seemed somewhat moist around the eyes, and she sneezed a few more times than I liked.

On Saturday morning, Mabel’s nose was streaming liberally, and her left eye was bright pink. Damn you, blog, I thought, if only I hadn’t taken that stuff upstairs, I clearly wouldn’t have had to bring it down again. Since I had it to hand, I decided to dispense with such formalities as doctors and diagnoses and cut straight to the chase. (I’m something of an expert in pink eye at this stage.) Mabel was not impressed with eye drops. In fact, eye drops are right at the top of the list of things Mabel hates with the passion of a thousand firey suns. It took two of us holding her down, and I still barely managed to pry her eye open enough to drip a drop in. Mostly over the past couple of days I’ve been dripping on to a tightly shut eyelid and hoping some goes in when she finally opens up to see if I’ve gone away. They need to invent some better mechanism for this stuff.

So Saturday evening was supposed to be a Moms’ Night Out. She had a good nap and seemed in happy enough form that night – we’d even gone out to eat, at somewhere kid-friendly but still with real wait-staff and menus that are not on the wall behind a counter, and it had gone much much better than the last time – so I thought I’d risk it. She was asleep at 8.20, and I told B that if she woke before 9.30, he could call me. Otherwise, I’d leave at ten. (The venue was five minutes’ drive from home.)

The local local, if I can call it that, is a clattery cafe by day, albeit with some impressive Middle-Eastern cuisine on the menu, and a hopping joint by weekend night. I was sent from the brightly-lit safety of the outer counter, where falafel and baklava reside beside apple pie and coffee, back to the bar to order my drink, and the dimmed lights and loud live music (live! music!) were an enormous shock to my system. For a moment, I couldn’t really remember how to function in this night-time environment. I felt there was probably a huge flashing sign over my head saying “Out of Practice” – or maybe I just wanted there to be, so that if I suddenly lost all control and started wibbling manically, everyone would understand. Fortunately, I didn’t have to fight my way through hordes of drunken rugby supporters or defend myself from the advances of smitten gigolos, and it was a fairly simple process to order a drink, pay for a drink, and remember to leave a tip on the bar.

I returned to our outside table victorious, and relieved to be back in the fading daylight, and we all discussed how we felt like saying, “But I have a baaay-beeee” to excuse ourselves in such situations. (I don’t know. Maybe they were just claiming they felt that way too to make me feel better.)

Halfway through my beer, the phone rang. Of course. As I’d predicted, Mabel had slept for exactly 40 minutes before coughing herself miserably awake. I bequeathed the rest of my amber liquid to the table (they said they’d see it didn’t go to waste) and vroomed home to find a teary, snotty child, momentarily lulled into calm by the soothing tones of Curious George as read by Daddy.

When the story was over, I took her up to bed.

[Amusing tanget regarding Mabel being up when she shouldn’t be: One day last week she woke soon after going to sleep and seemed to have had a bad dream. She was unhappy in bed and wanted to leave her room altogether. So, since we had been watching The King’s Speech, which (a) I was very much enjoying and (b) I thought would be nice and low-key for her to watch as well, I brought her down without much ado. She sat nursing and watching with us for about forty minutes, and I was just congratulating myself on the choice of such a baby-friendly movie when Bertie, at the urging of his speech therapist, let rip a long and mellifluous stream of cursing, ending up with a rousing, “… fuck, fuck, fuck, shit. Tits!” Mabel, who had been listening despite my hopes that she might be drifting off, let out a shout of laughter: “Mummy! That man just neighed like a horse! That’s funny!”

We agreed that it was indeed funny, and decided it was probably time she went back to bed.]

She’s much better now, thank you. And so far, no swearing.


Last week when five of Monkey’s classmates came down with the same vomiting bug on the same night, I felt a bit like the Israelites must have on the first Passover. Except that, unlike the Isrealites, I was fairly sure we wouldn’t get to escape our nasty fate for ever. (Not that they did either, really. Maybe this is a bad simile. I don’t want to get embroiled in religious wars here.)

The days went on, and my Facebook news feed informed me that others had fallen prey to the evil virus, and still we were standing unscathed. I tried not to talk about it, lest fate clobber me – especially as we’d avoided the last round when it hit the two-year-old cadre too.

You can see where this is going. This morning we were looking for Monkey’s shoes (really – have you seen his other red sneaker? I have no idea where it is) when he groaned and held his tummy in a way that had us sprinting for a big bowl and some towels. The moment passed, and he said he still wanted to go to school, and I was contemplating handing the whole sorry mess of potential over to someone else for the morning (as if I would have) when he had another spasm, and I shelved that idea pretty quickly. I called the school (who wished me good luck) and Monkey was set up on the sofa, over towels, under a duvet, beside the Bowl of Doom, in front of the TV. He and I and Mabel settled in for the morning.

I was in a unique position to sympathise since, while I wasn’t afflicted by the same thing, Mother Nature had decided to throw some period pain my way at exactly the same time, so while he was moaning about whatever was going on in his stomach, I was downing ibuprofen and drinking tea and being all pummelled about by my uterus. (Which is better, in this instance, than the alternative, which had been no. 2 on my list of things to worry about yesterday.)

Mabel was a bit discombobulated by all this, understandably. But irritatingly. Every time Monkey shuddered and looked like he would really like to be curled up on my understanding lap, Mabel would jump on me and demand to nurse. I gave in, as I didn’t really have much choice and I thought the antibodies might be helpful if she has any chance at all of not getting this too, but poor Monkey had to make do with just holding my hand. He wasn’t feverish, but was red-cheeked and sweaty and said his head was cold and his chest hurt and so did his tummy and his bum. I wasn’t really sure which way to jump (literally) with all that information.

Eventually, around noon, he called a code red to be taken the bathroom, where things came to a head (or a tail), and in very short order he was feeling much better. Coincidentally, my own aches wore off around the same time, making me a much happier camper.

He’s just had five slices of dry toast and a glass of water for lunch. (It’s hard to follow the BRAT diet when your kid only eats one of those four things, but at least he does eat toast.) I know this isn’t necessarily over – and this particular virus seems to have a really nasty recurring phase a day or two after you think you’re in the clear – but for now he’s feeling much more like his regular self, and I think we’ll be able to go out and get some fresh air this afternoon. Which is a relief to me, and to Mabel, who had been reduced to making Lego machines that would help her brother not vomit.


I know I’m not the only mother who sometimes feels like she gave birth to the Duracell bunny. (That’s the Engergizer bunny in America. For some reason, even though Duracell batteries exist here too, the bunny – still pink, still banging a drum – belongs to Energizer. I don’t explain these things, I just tell you about them. Anyway.) There’s Mabel tonight, after a mere 20-minute nap from which she coughed herself awake, to my dismay – dismay much more at my lost naptime than her coughing – lying in bed the very picture of giggly awakitude, all kick-a-little, talk-a-little, and when I say I have to leave, the howls of anguish and clutching hands and promises of eye-closing force me to stay a little longer, though I know that really she needs a bit of a cry to reset her system and let her relax. Eventually I leave the room, she wails, “Mummy’s not here” piteously for 30 seconds, I go in and try again, and she was lying still in my arms, mostly asleep, within a minute. Of course, it took me another ten to extricate myself from that situation. Thus:

I sit up and start to move away.
Mabel’s eyelids flutter open: “Where are you going?” Curious, not accusing.
“Nowhere. Just … moving over.” I adjust my trajectory and lie down on the other side of her.
Two minutes later I slide myself off the bed. She looks up, betrayed, but a little sleepier.
I lean on the bed and stroke her hair. “I’m here.” Making no promises about staying, mind.
Two more minutes, and I can stand up and tiptoe away. Lucky I’m not wearing my creaky leather belt tonight, or I might still be there.

I had both children with me, at times directly on top of me, all day today, apart from those blessed 20 minutes wherin I started to make my lunch, started to bake some apple bread, started to put on the kettle for a cup of tea, and (all right) probably started to check Facebook again. Monkey had woken up with a suspicously goopy and pink eye, so I had to keep him home. Pinkeye, as I have mentioned before, is not the sort of illness you can hope to fly under the radar with. I did take them both to the supermarket for milk (vital) and applesauce (I suddenly got a hankering for the aforementioned bread), but he was under strict instructions not to touch anything.

What’s more, he had woken up at 5am, but luckily that falls beyond my purview as I was sleeping with Mabel. I opened one eye when I heard his stage whisper to B down the hall, thought how strange it was that it was still pitch dark, and went back to sleep. When Mabel and I emerged in daylight, at 7.30, I was congratulating myself on finally getting up “on time” for the first time this post-time-change week. I looked at B and asked if Monkey had woken up in the middle of the night. “We’ve been up since five,” he said, both weary and longsuffering.

So I’m tired now, because spending all day with two overtired children does that to you. We had a nice trip to the playground, where they mostly spurned the slides and swings in favour of a waterlogged hole in a tree stump that could be satisfyingly filled with soil and other goodies, and stirred around with sticks. They cooperated excellently on this project, though the end result was somewhat up for debate:

“It’s a potion to stop the criminals from stealing Mummy’s money. And Daddy’s money. And yours and mine, if we had any,” announced Monkey to Mabel.
“It’s for the babies,” replied Mabel, decisively, adding more fruits and vegetables.
“Not vegetables. Gregetables.” She likes to subvert your expectations.

Then I took them home and dumped them in the bath. And thence, after some manner of dinner, to bed. Which brings you up to date. The end.