Jan 5, 2014: Happy New Year!

Well, I could’ve titled this blog post “Booger Fest 2014!” or “Continuing Adventures in Snot!” But I figured I’d be somewhat more conventional and simply wish you all a happy new year…at least to start. So there you go: Happy New Year!

Our ringing in of the new year was decidedly anticlimactic. Chris and I attempted to watch a movie, made it halfway through, and went to bed at 10:05 p.m. Pathetic. But our children are tiring—one of the two in particular. So we value sleep above all else. 🙂 It is kind of pathetic, though, because New Year’s Eve happens to also be the anniversary of our first exchanging words (nine years ago this year!!), so we really ought to celebrate in more grand form. But yeah…we’re tired. (And by the way, this is not a commentary on the movie we watched—we finished it the next night, and it was actually quite good. We’re just tired. In case you’re curious, it was Silver Linings Playbook. I’ve wanted to see it for quite a while, and while it wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, we both enjoyed it.)

We did have fun earlier in the day, though. We had chiropractor appointments in the morning (excitement, I know…) and then headed across the bay to CuriOdyssey, a little zoo (populated by rescued/rehabilitated animals) and science center. You’ll notice a lot of pictures of Sam this week (at CuriOdyssey and at other places). The reason for this? He’s still stick, so he wants me most of the time, and I’m the one with the camera, so…he got a lot of pictures taken of him. Theo was off playing with Chris much of the time.

Sam’s illness is the same one he’s had for three weeks. The same one producing waterfalls of snot. Super fun. He was on a five-day course of antibiotics for a sinus infection, which seemed to clear up 75% of the illness…but not all of it. Now, a week later, it’s getting worse again. He’s pretty good in the afternoons and early evenings, but he stuffs up badly when he goes to bed, and he wakes up often in the night, unable to breathe out of his nose. Which means he also can’t nurse, because he can’t nurse when he can’t breathe out of his nose. Fun times. And there’s no way to suction it out because it’s all just plugged up in there. It’s not until morning that it starts to drain…and drain…and drain. In grand form. Again, good times. I hope you weren’t eating when you read this.

Lest you worry too much, let me say that I have another doctor appointment for him on Monday. His doctor said we didn’t need to bring him back unless he has a fever or his cough lasts more than four weeks, but I decided not to listen to her. I really like her, but I know my kiddo, and I know he isn’t going to kick this on his own very easily. It’s far from the worst cold he’s ever had, but it’s certainly the most persistent. His doctor told me, via email, that it could be RSV. If that’s the case, I’m patting myself on the back for still breast-feeding him, because almost every kid with Down syndrome who contracts RSV ends up needing to be hospitalized, and Sam certainly isn’t at that point. And although I have no scientific proof for this, I suspect the continued breast-feeding and the transfer of immunities that goes along with it may have lessened the severity for him. The only other baby I know with DS who didn’t require hospitalization for RSV is also still breast-fed. So my theory is utterly nonscientific, but what the heck—I’m going to give myself a pat on the back and say that the fact that I’m apparently going to be nursing him until he’s 30 years old has a nice side benefit of lessening the severity of this bug!

Anyway, my awesome online group of Rockin’ Moms, all of whom have kids with DS around Sam’s general age, gave me some useful suggestions for the nasty congestion problem, and I’m going to talk to the doctor about them tomorrow. One that several people mentioned is having the doctor write an order for hospital-grade suction—several of them have to use that on their kiddos because their tiny little nasal passages stuff up so badly, and nothing else keeps them clear. (I’m already using Vicks vapo-rub, a humidifier, saline nasal drops, a regular nasal aspirator, etc. Nothing seems to help get him through the night without him plugging up badly. Ugh.)

Why do I ramble on so long about snot? If this blog was anything other than a stream of consciousness, I would edit that down for you. But I write this on Sunday nights, when I don’t have a whole lot of time, so you get my unedited words as they flow from my brain—which is uninterrupted, sort of like how things flow from Sam’s nose. (Ha ha, sorry—couldn’t resist that lovely comparison! Next week, less snot! I promise!)

As long as we’re talking about illness, how about how I poisoned my older son this week? Not intentionally, of course. Theo supposedly had a dairy intolerance of some sort, but it’s very difficult to pinpoint. He recently had food-sensitivity testing that showed no problem with dairy (but oddly, a problem with soy!), but the reality is that if he eats yogurt, he immediately breaks out in hives. And as a baby, he had a lot of problems digesting any sort of dairy. And Chris has a dairy allergy, and I did as a baby, so…it’s very likely that he does indeed have some sort of intolerance. But there is some dairy that he can handle. He recently had whipped cream on a school field trip, and he had no problems afterward. He eats pizza with no problem. Last week, he asked to have a small dish of soft-serve ice cream, and he had absolutely no problems with it. But as I said, yogurt makes him break out in hives. So anyway, I gave him a few sour-cream-and-onion potato chips on Thursday, when we were in the car on the way to the Bay Area Discovery Museum. And he ended up spending the rest of the afternoon in the bathroom, getting sick to his stomach. I suppose it could be something other than the chips, but I doubt it. He ate the chips and promptly started getting sick—and he was fine before that. The chips have nonfat dry milk powder as an ingredient. So yeah…not trying that again. What a weird allergy, though: whipped cream and ice cream are okay, but not yogurt and sour-cream chips?? Bizarre. It shouldn’t surprise me, though. Chris’s dairy allergy is weird, too. Things with powdered cheese, like Cheetos, get him right away—his throat tightens up and he starts itching. Same thing with ice cream (in the United States). Same thing with soft cheeses like blue cheese and gorgonzola. But he can eat hard cheeses, like cheddar and parmesan, and pizza (with mozzarella) with no problem. And he can eat ice cream in France with no problem. Weird, right? Food intolerances are so hard to pin down….

Anyway, Theo didn’t have such a great time at the Discovery Museum, since he kept having to head to the bathroom, but Sam enjoyed himself, despite being slightly under the weather himself.

Early in the week, we made a trip to Sacramento to see my mom and sister and exchange Christmas gifts with them. Theo is very into his new tool set and tool belt from Auntie Lynnie! And he has been leaving me notes on his new light-drawing thingy from Grandma Diane.

We also had a few quiet days at home this week…though they weren’t really so quiet. We have two very different children: Theo is like a caged animal if you keep him home all day, and Sam would be perfectly happy to stay home and play with his toys all day. It’s an interesting balancing act. Most of the time, we end up going out somewhere—even if it’s just to the park. Really, trying to keep Theo from driving us crazy when we’re home all day is just exhausting. The kid needs to get out and run. But a few days this week, we stayed home and attended to chores. Sam was perfectly happy puttering around, and Theo…well, let’s just say that Theo ended up earning early bedtimes. 🙂

Saturday was definitely not a stay-at-home day. We started out the day at Home Depot, for their once-a-month kids’ craft workshop. Theo has been asking for weeks to go again, and it’s free, so why not?! Chris loves to wander Home Depot and daydream about home-improvement projects, and I like doing hands-on stuff, so Chris and Sam wander and putter while Theo and I do the kids’ workshop. This month, we built a desk calendar. (Next month is a race car, which I think will be really fun!) Oddly enough, we sat down and started to build, and I heard a voice next to us that I recognized. Looked up, and it was Gavin and his dad! We had sat down right next to them without even realizing it.

Theo and I had a good time building, though it was a somewhat chaotic hour. Theo had paint all over his hands, so I took him to the bathroom while we waited for his project to dry. Unfortunately, airheaded mama strolled right into the men’s room, surprising some man at the urinal! And then we went into the ladies’ room, and Theo freaked out from the sound of a hand dryer. (He’s paralyzingly afraid of the sound.) He immediately started screaming hysterically and clapped his hands to his ears, which meant he got green paint all over his hair and ears. Thankfully, it was washable. Then, we went back to put the finishing touches on the project, but the Home Depot forklift was nearby—another thing that terrifies Theo. So I sent him off with Chris and Sam, and I finished up the last bits. But still, it was fun overall. Just chaotic. 🙂

After that, we stopped at a nearby kiddie amusement park to meet up with Auntie Jeanette and Justin for an hour. The boys had a great time riding some rides, and Jeanette and I had a good time visiting.

I was hankering for Indian food, and Sam needed a nap, so we drove over to Berkeley, picked up some chaat, and had a picnic in the car (so as not to wake the sleeping baby!). Then we went to a park on the Berkeley Marina that I had heard good things about. And wow, wow, wow! Kiddie wonderland!! I have no idea how it hasn’t been shut down from a lawsuit yet, given that we live in sue-happy California, but I’m glad it hasn’t. It was awesome, and I haven’t seen Theo have such fun in a long time!

In short, it’s sort of a hippie paradise—perhaps no surprise, given that it’s in Berkeley. 😉 It’s a huge lot filled with scrap wood and structures built of scrap wood and old playground parts and such. And kids can help clean up the playground to earn tools that they can then use to build whatever they want. If they find five nails, then can trade those in for a hammer, saw, nails, paint, etc. If they find five pieces of trash, same thing. If they find a board with a nail sticking out (called a “Mr. Dangerous”), same thing. And they can build whatever they want—a new item, or building on to an existing structure. Want to go nail some old 2x4s onto the play structure? Go ahead! Want to slop paint on the slide? Go ahead! Anything goes. The only two rules are that (a) an adult must be with his/her child at all times, and (b) no bare feet are allowed. Other than that, anything and everything goes!

This was like playing when I was a kid! When you found stuff and created with it, without worrying about rules and safety regulations and such. The opportunity for imagination and creativity was awesome! There were a few plastic barrels that kids were using to climb in and roll down a hill. There was an old boogie board that kids were using to slide down the slide. There were pieces of wood that kids were using as drumsticks on huge metal barrels. It was a creative heaven!

Theo actually didn’t know what to do at first—he was completely surprised by an area where you could just paint wherever you wanted. (Paint was his tool of choice—which made me happy, because I don’t necessarily trust him with a saw yet!) We aren’t a very rule-heavy house—we aren’t the type to insist that he always color in the lines, always use a toy in its intended way, etc. We have basic rules that involve common courtesy and respect (for people, animals, and possessions), but as long as Theo lives by those rules, we try to give him a lot of freedom to create and explore. But even so, he was completely confused by a place where he was allowed to paint wherever he wanted or nail boards wherever he wanted. I can only imagine what a kid from a rule-heavy household would feel like—no rules!! Anyway, it took Theo five or ten minutes to stop asking me what he was allowed to paint, but then he really took off and had a blast! After a while, he met another little boy who declared that they should be pirates, and so they were—they were all over the playground, playing pirates together. So neat!

The only downside to this playground is that because of the wood and building materials all over the place, it’s not a good place to put Sam down. But there’s a traditional playground right next to it, as well as a big grassy field, so Chris just took Sam over there to play while Theo and I stayed in “No Rules Heaven!” (Okay, it’s called Adventure Playground, but my name is equally appropriate.)

Interestingly, given that we live in sue-happy California, as I mentioned, the place was packed. Clearly, there are a lot of parents around who share a similar parenting philosophy to us and don’t mind taking responsibility for making sure their own kids stay safe. (You have to sign a waiver going in, saying that you accept responsibility for your child’s safety.) I guarantee we’ll be back—it was great to see Theo just let go and create and explore.

Our Sunday also allowed the boys to explore, but in a less free-for-all area: We went to the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, at Theo’s request. It wasn’t at all busy (thanks to a football playoff game, Chris thinks), so Sam and Theo were both able to play with anything they wanted. Sam stayed in the toddler area most of the time, while Theo tried some of the difference science experiments. My favorite today was building “jitterbugs,” where we used AA batteries, wires, and other building materials to create a little creature that would then “jitter” when the circuit was completed. Fun stuff!

And now, our two-week “staycation” is coming to an end, and we are mourning it. Although Theo has been very off-kilter because he hasn’t had the predictable routine of school, it has still been nice to wake up as a family every morning, spend the day together, and go to bed every night without the stress of work or therapy obligations. I think we may make this an annual event. Genentech is closed for a week at this time every year, and I think I’ll take time off, too, so we can have a family “staycation” at the end of the year. The time to recharge our batteries has done us good. 🙂

Well, I’ll bid you adieu for now. Next week, look forward to tales from my 40th birthday trip to San Francisco—assuming we can get Sam healthy enough for us to go. (As long as he doesn’t get any sicker than he already is, we should be fine.) Yep, that’s right—I turn 40 on Wednesday. Truly, though, I don’t mind. My thirties were definitely the best years of my life so far—I wasn’t a big fan of most of my twenties, and my teens were nothing stellar. I loved my thirties, so I’m looking forward to my forties being a continuation of my thirties. Here’s to the big 4-0!

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