Nov 2, 2014: Have MRSA!

Okay, this week’s blog title will only make sense if you know that MRSA is pronounced mur-sa. Get it? Have mercy! Have MRSA!

So now you’re wondering who has MRSA. Or maybe first, you’re wondering what MRSA is. It stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. In other words, it’s that nasty antibiotic-resistant staph infection that humans get really, really sick with. Thankfully, in our house it’s not a human who has it—it’s the dog. And evidently she has a very unusual strain of it—but the good news is that the strain isn’t commonly passed to humans. That’s not to say that it absolutely can’t be, but it’s unlikely, as long as we wash our hands after picking up her poop and whatnot. Which we always do anyway…

This was a surprise! Luna has been on bladder medication for about a year now, because she’s almost 12 years old and having a bit of a problem with incontinence. So I called to get a refill on her bladder medication, and the vet said she hadn’t had a routine urine check in over a year, so we should do one. Fair enough—she’s had bladder problems in the past (stones), so it’s good to check in every once in a while. I expected the test to come back normal, but the vet called a couple of days later and said the test showed bacterial growth, and given her history with bladder issues, we should start her on antibiotics. She started an expensive prescription while the vet sent the sample to culture, just to make sure we were using the right antibiotic. And as it turns out, we weren’t—the pricey antibiotic won’t touch MRSA. So now we’re on a two-week course of some specialized antibiotic for MRSA (which, oddly, is actually cheaper!), and we’ll recheck her urine when that’s finished to make sure it wiped out the infection.

From what I’ve read and what the vet said, dogs usually only get MRSA if they have an open wound. The last time she had an open wound was when she had her surgery in early August, so I expect she picked it up then and has been harboring it for a couple of months! I feel terrible that we didn’t know it, but any odd things she’s been doing, we chalked up to her age and the fact that she’s a bit of a dottery old fool now. As it turns out, this all may have been due to MRSA. I guess we’ll see whether she’s still doing her odd behaviors once the infection is cleared up.

On a side note, I’m very glad this strain isn’t often transmitted to humans. A friend of ours had MRSA sometime back, and he was in the hospital on IV antibiotics for three weeks! Yikes. Luna spends much of her time sleeping now that she’s an old lady, so the boys don’t play with her very much. So I suspect there’s not much concern about any of us contracting it. But yeesh…scary stuff!

Speaking of scary: Halloween!! One of my favorite holidays! I love dressing up, though I rarely do it. (Instead, I live vicariously through my children.) I love all the spooky decorations, and I love trick-or-treating! Our old neighborhood was completely dead on Halloween, and I didn’t think there were still neighborhoods that did it up big, like back when we were kids. But as it turns out, we moved to one! Halloween is huge in our neighborhood! In fact, people drive from some distance to come trick-or-treating in our subdivision, partly because one of the large cul-de-sacs puts on a big Halloween party in the street every year.

So you can imagine how bummed I was that the forecast called for a substantial amount of rain all day on Halloween. And I didn’t think the boys’ costumes would hold up well, given that they were made of cardboard and paper. But we got lucky, and the rain cleared up by evening. The streets were even mostly dry, so it wasn’t too slippery.

Theo was adamant that he wanted to be a coin for Halloween. But not just any coin would do—he wanted to be an unusual coin. So first he wanted to be a fifty-cent piece. But then he changed his mind and wanted to be a wheatback penny. I had seen online a coin costume where the person just took a high-resolution image of a quarter she had seen on the Internet, printed it out really large, and glued it to cardboard. Seemed easy enough, but I couldn’t find a great image of a wheatback penny. I finally found one that would do, uploaded it to Shutterfly, and ordered the print. It came a week or so later, and I realized it was too small—it wouldn’t really show very well on Theo. So then I thought about the obvious—I have a good camera, and I can take a high-resolution image! So I grabbed one of Theo’s precious wheatbacks, took a picture of the front and back, and then put it on a thumb drive and took it to Staples to have them print it. (They could print larger than Shutterfly—and quicker.) By the next day, I had a nice, large printout of the front and back of a wheatback penny.

I got some spray adhesive, glued the images onto an old cardboard box that Theo’s desk came in, cut it out, and voila! A wheatback penny front and back! Finally, I used duct tape to create the straps so Theo could just slip it over his head.

It turned out very cool, I thought, so I decided I’d use the smaller Shutterfly image to make a costume for Sam. Sam was going to be a piggy bank, but then he kept ripping off the hat when I’d put the pig costume on him, so he was just left looking like a cute toddler dressed in a pink suit, which isn’t really terribly festive. Penny it was…

Surprisingly, given how easy they were to make, the costumes were a huge hit! I walked Theo to school wearing his, and I could hear the kids behind him saying, “Hey, look—he’s a penny! That’s so cool!” I didn’t expect kids (other than my quirky son) to find a penny to be a particularly “cool” costume, but evidently they did. And when we went trick-or-treating, the boys got a lot of compliments on their matching costumes. The coolest thing was when Theo went up to one house inhabited by an older couple. Sam and I stayed on the street, talking to a woman I know from Odyssey of the Mind (who I discovered lives on the street behind us!), and Chris and Theo were gone up to this house forever. When they finally came back down, I asked if they’d gotten lost. Nope—turns out the husband at that house is a coin collector, and they loved Theo’s costume! When they heard that Theo collects pennies, the wife went and got two commemorative pennies and insisted that he have them. Theo was very excited!

Theo loves trick-or-treating, but it’s interesting—it’s clear that it overwhelms him, even though he loves it. He gets kind of catatonic—that is, you can’t really break through to him and talk to him. He’s just 100% focused on whatever is going on in his head, and he’s completely off in his own world. It’s kind of like he shuts down all the chaos around him, even though he enjoys going out into it. I guess that’s his way of coping with a situation that he simultaneously enjoys and is stressed out by. Anyway, Theo was his usual semi-catatonic self while trick-or-treating, but Sam was hilarious! This was the first year he could walk, and he was unstoppable! It was amazing to me how quickly he figured out the drill: run up to a house, wait for brother to ring the doorbell, yell “Hiiiiiiiiiii!” at the top of his little voice the minute the door opened, grab as much candy as his two tiny hands could hold, sign “thank you,” and then wander into the person’s house for a little visit. We, of course, would grab him and guide him back out, and he would yell “BYE!” in a woeful voice, as if bidding goodbye to his best friend, before setting off at a run down the driveway and up to the next house.

I realize you’re probably thinking, “Well, of course he gets it—he’s almost three years old! Don’t underestimate him just because he has a developmental delay!” Ah, but you would be wrong—I don’t underestimate him because of the developmental delay. Rather, I’m surprised because my supposedly typical son did not get the drill this young. I’m used to Theo, who required a lot of prompting on what to do while trick-or-treating until last year, when he was 5-1/2. So to see my 2-1/2-year-old master it almost immediately—well, I was kind of floored. But in retrospect, I’m sure Theo didn’t quite “get it” when he was younger because the whole thing overwhelms him a bit. Sam, who is naturally gregarious and outgoing and not flustered by crowds, took to it like flies to honey and quickly figured out that people would fawn over him and give him things. (He has no idea what candy is, given his limited diet and the fact that he doesn’t like sweets—I think he just liked that people were giving him something!)

Anyway, you can imagine that both boys got quite a response from people—especially Sam because he looks and seems so young, being quite small and largely nonverbal. I’m sure people thought he was younger than he is—in fact, we heard someone say as she was closing the door, “Oh my gosh, the cutest baby just came to the door! Cutest thing I’ve ever seen…” Well, the baby is almost three…but he is cute, I admit, and he was wildly likable with his “Hiiiiiiiiii!” to everyone. Although he did not like adults in scary costumes. A man answered the door dressed as a hot dog with a scary mask (I have no idea why—scary hot dog??), and Sam wailed, insisted on being picked up, and signed “all done!” and refused to take candy from the man. Perhaps that’s good—maybe we’ll be able to get some “stranger danger” into him after all! (Sam usually knows no strangers, and I’m told that is common with Down syndrome…and can lead to some scary situations for kids.)

Speaking of kids with Down syndrome, I had an interesting situation this week. I’m starting to look into preschools for Sam, as I’ve mentioned, and I’m sort of halfheartedly looking since we don’t know whether we’ll even be able to afford it. (More on that later…) But I have to admit, I’ve also been avoiding making the calls to preschools because I’m afraid it’s going to hurt. Why hurt? Well, some people go looking for preschools for their kids with DS and don’t mention to the school that their child has special needs until the child actually meets the people at the school. I understand why they do this: They don’t feel that it should be an issue. Their children are entitled to the same education as anyone else, so why does it matter? I get it. However, I also think that not all schools are going to be a good fit for a kid with special needs, and I’m not going to waste my time talking to schools that aren’t interested in working with Sam. So, given that, my first question when I call essentially needs to be, “Will you potentially accept my child with special needs?”

I hate that question. I don’t care how diplomatically you phrase it, it’s still the same question: Will you accept my child? I hate having to ask if a school will accept my child. It hurts me to even have to ask. They should not only accept him, they should adore him, you know? That’s how I feel, because I’m his very protective mother. But I know the reality is that some schools will not be willing to work with him, for whatever reason. (Maybe they don’t feel qualified. Maybe they feel he’s a liability, even though legally they can’t say that. Whatever the reason, some schools will not be eager to take him.) And the truth is, that is going to hurt like hell. When some school starts stammering and making excuses about why they won’t even consider Sam, it’s going to hurt. So I’ve been leery about starting to make these calls. The first school I visited was great, but I know the conversation won’t go great at all of them.

But the time is coming that I need to do this, and I talked to another mother, whose son ages out of Early Intervention two weeks before Sam, and she said, “Oh, I talked to Martha, and she said our kids tend to do best in either Montessori, Head Start, or homeschool.” (Martha has a 34-year-old son with DS, and she’s the parent advocate for our DS group. She’s been involved with the group since her son was very little, so she’s been around plenty of kids with DS over the years.) Hmmm. I was interested to hear this. We have no Head Start near us, so that’s likely out of the question. (I don’t want to commute 45 minutes just to take him to preschool every day!) But we do have Montessori, and I like a lot about the Montessori method. And in fact, it was developed originally for kids with special needs! It has since morphed into a teaching method for any child, but way back when, it was developed for kids with special needs.

So I called Martha to ask her why she felt that way—I was curious to hear her opinion. And it was pretty much what I thought: Montessori allows for different learning styles, and it’s more child-directed so the transitions aren’t as enforced. And because kids with DS tend to do things a little more slowly, it’s nice to have an environment where they can finish up their task and transition more slowly to the next activity.

I had actually been pondering Montessori anyway—partly because I’m familiar with the method and I like it, and partly because I have some concerns about the new standard teaching curriculum and Sam. (I covered that in another post—click here to read it.) So I finally summoned up my courage and called one of the several Montessori preschools near here. And you know what? Bingo! Not only do they have (and have had in the past) children with special needs in their program, they happen to currently have a little girl with Down syndrome who has been with them for a year and a half and is doing great! I was very excited to hear this, and I scheduled a visit for a week from Monday. The downside (there had to be one, right?) is that it’s very costly, so I don’t know whether we’ll be able to manage it. But it’s worth looking at, I suppose. And now maybe I’m feeling a little more brave about making those dreaded “will you accept my child” calls.

I said I’d say more about the budget later, so here ‘tis: I had an interview last Friday that went reasonably well, and I took an editing test in the early part of the week. I haven’t yet heard back about whether I passed, and to be honest it was a really hard test. So we’ll see. But if I did pass, and if they decide to offer me the freelance work, it sounds like a fairly steady part-time position that might bring in enough to cover the preschool. We’ll see how it goes. The work will be challenging, for sure—I think more challenging than what I’ve been doing. But the pay is reasonably good (a little more than I made before), and the work sounds steady, so those are good things. I also managed to pick up two short-term projects this week—editing a government report for the state and writing a short biography on Jeff Bezos—so that will help pay for the latest round of vet bills. 😉

Anyway! Just a few pictures this week. I’m posting the blog a day early because on Sunday night I’m going to the movies with my book club. We’re going to see Gone Girl, which they read a few months ago. I read that book a year or so ago, because everyone said it was a must-read. It was pretty much the must-read thriller novel of 2013, so I read it. And I hated it, honestly. But I still want to see the movie. The book’s plot was compelling—I just hated it because the characters are completely despicable and unlikable. But the plot was good, so I want to see the movie. And hey, I never get to go to grown-up movies, so this should be fun!

Happy November, all! Cross your fingers for some job luck for me, okay? Baby needs a new school (in February)!

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