Saturday, December 29, 2007

Viruses, Brothers and Superheroes

To be a mother, you know this hard truth. Motherhood is not for the squeamish. And nothing tests your mettle like sick kids. I would a hundred times rather be sick myself. I don’t say that out of any sort of nobility. It’s very self interested. I’m terrified when my kids are sick. My mind first jumps to the epidemic that will ensue when they all get whatever the sickness is, then my mind takes another leap to the future worsening of their symptoms and the fact that they’ll eventually be in the hospital on IV. Of course this has never happened but you never know. This might be the time.

So Braeden got sick. He had a fever and was needy and miserable. He wanted to sleep in my bed and kneed me in the back then ran to the bathroom to throw up…and in very Braeden like fashion…didn’t make it in time. It’s not a good moment when that happens. I’m not the long-suffering mother I aspire to be. I’m just plain not happy. It’s not really lecture time though. It’s only time for clean up.

The next morning I consulted the Internet. I read the difference between a cold and the flu. I started wondering why it’s “a” cold but “the” flu. Articles interest me. Why in England, for example, do they say, “Going to hospital” when in America we always call it “the hospital”?

I’m masterful at getting lost on a tangent but I got back to matters at hand and the article I was reading indicated calling the doctor for flu symptoms. It seemed like we were there so I called. I told the receptionist all the symptoms. She wondered what exactly his temperature was and I admitted I don’t have a thermometer. It’s one of those dark inadequate mother facts about me that I’d like to keep quiet but it keeps coming up. I could of course buy a thermometer but it seems like either they have a fever or they don’t. Does the actual temperature really matter? I guess so because they always ask me.

I asked the nurse if there was anything the doctor could DO if he did have the flu. Why drag my sick boy to the doctor and pay the $25 co-pay for nothing, right? She said, “I can’t diagnose over the phone.” I understood that but I again asked, “IF he does have the flu, is there anything the doctor can do?” Her tone was getting a little icy by then and she said, “I can’t know that because I can’t diagnose over the phone.” Fine. Sign me up.

So I bundled poor Braeden up. The kid who argues that he doesn’t need a jacket because he’s never cold wore a long sleeve t-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up and his coat. He said, “I’m still cold.” We went to the doctor. He cracked a tiny smile when the nurse told him he was now 5 feet even but when she said, “So you don’t feel well?” he gave her a surly, “No.” The doctor poked and prodded and said that it was viral and there was nothing she could do. Braeden grumbled the whole way back to the van about what a “big fat waste of time” that was. It was but I was trying to be positive. “At least you don’t have pneumonia or strept throat or an ear infection.” Braeden usually leaves the scornfulness to Emma but he snarled, “Why would I even have any of those things anyway?” I didn’t know. But hey, he didn’t.

I got Braeden home and gave him some grape juice and Advil and he got more and more happy as the day progressed. He was chipper by dinnertime and ate his dinner and remarked about how much better he felt and I was happy.

Mark was a sneezing sniffling coughing mess. He felt a little warm. I didn’t feel disconsolate this time though. Braeden had recovered so quickly I had high hopes. I put Mark to bed early and he was almost instantly asleep. At 3:00 Braeden came in to wake me up to tell me Mark was coughing. I went in to comfort Mark and gave him some Dimetapp. (I’m a big believer in medicine.)

At 4:00, Braeden was again by my bedside, telling me that Mark was throwing up. I said the first thing that comes to every mother’s mind when she’s told her child is throwing up at 4:00 a.m. “Where is he?” Braeden said he was in the bathroom. There was Mark, kneeling neatly in front of the toilet. Now why couldn’t Braeden do that? I sent Braeden to bed with my gratitude and comforted Mark and cleaned him up and held him on my lap for a while. Sweet Mark. There’s just the tiniest part of me that likes it when he’s sick. He’s so snuggly and calm. I told him that he did such a great job making it to the bathroom. Mark always talks in capital letters but he said in a small lowercase voice, “Braeden ran with me.” It’s a heart melting image for me to picture…bleary eyed Braeden, hustling his sick brother down the hall so he can make it in time.

So maybe that’s what Braeden needs, a big brother to run with him. I guess it’s something we all could use.

Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero. --Marc Brown

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mark's Birthday!

My newly minted 5 year old.

Why we had the party at McDonald's

Jackson, Mark, Jacob, Gavin, Hunter, Holden, Payton and Emma

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

So what IS that?

At the ward Christmas party, they asked people to come up and share Christmas traditions. Emma and Braeden went up and Emma said, "Every year our family celebrates Pikku Joulu." The lady with the microphone said, "That sounds nice, what is it?" Emma said, "Pikku Joulu." The lady said, "So what IS that?" Emma said, "Pikku Joulu." I was sending telepathic messages to Braeden to bale out his artless sister and he received them. He grabbed the microphone and explained that Pikku Joulu meant "little Christmas" in Finnish and every year we had a special Christmas family home evening and invited our grandparents.Here are some Pikku Joulu pictures.

Emma's new ornament

Braeden and Emma singing and Mark providing a visual aid.

Emma talking to Grandma Geri

Emma, Grandpa Linn, Braeden, Grandma Geri and Mark

Mark and Grandpa Linn, discussing Christmas bears.

Not a Pikku Joulu picture, but Braeden putting the angel on the tree

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Last Real Christmas Tree

When I was growing up, my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, parents and siblings and I drove into the hills and tramped around in the snow and cut down Christmas trees. We would have the requisite snowball fight and I remember my grandma bringing thermoses of hot chocolate and chili. THAT was something to get nostalgic about.

Getting a tree here means driving our minivan—in the rain—to one of the many Christmas tree lots. They’re everywhere. (It is the Evergreen State after all.) We walk around—in the rain—and find a tree. We pay an enormous sum, then tie it to the roof of the van—in the rain—and then drive home.

In the rain.

After Christmas we drag the tree to the curb—in the rain—and pay the boy scouts to come and take it away.

For the past several years I’ve been campaigning for an artificial tree. A tree we can pull out of the box. No rain included. We have one faux tree already. It goes in the living room and we’ve put the real one in the family room. Why not get two artificial trees? I’ll buy scented candles! This deeply offended the romantic sensibilities of our children and Adam.

Now, I’m as sentimental as anyone. I still have ornaments I made in elementary school. (Adam tries to strategically place them on the wall side of the tree each year.) I know they’re ugly but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the red velvet clumsily wrapped around the Styrofoam ball with rusty pins and sequins holding it all together. I already gave up my Norman Rockwell getting the Christmas tree scenario though. Time to move on.

I campaigned pretty hard last year—we even looked around at different artificial trees. But I was unanimously outvoted.

We did the whole tie the tree to the top of the van in the rain.
About a week after we’d decorated the tree and were enjoying Christmas adorned bliss, I went to our Relief Society party and came home to an unhappy scene.

The tree had fallen over! The water in the tree stand had doused the presents. Adam had rushed the kids’ presents with the melting wrapping paper to the bathtub in our bathroom so the kids wouldn’t see them. Emma had rushed Adam’s presents to her room so he wouldn’t see them. Since there were no presents for me under the tree yet, that wasn’t an issue. (It’s no fun being the mom sometimes.)

Remember in the movie Babe, when the goose keeps saying “Christmas means carnage”? Ornaments and lights were smashed, including the glass Stitch ornament Mark got from Disneyland. He said we would have to go to Disneyland again. I thought we could probably find a replacement ornament here locally.

I felt really bad that I was gone for most of the clean up efforts. Then I remembered that I alone wanted a fake tree. With a fake tree, all of that wouldn't have happened. And then I realized that it would be me rewrapping all the gifts again anyway so I didn’t get out of much.

A few days later, we decided to try again with the tree. We figured we’d done a better job setting the tree up this time. It was more balanced. Less likely to fall. We were decorating it, recapturing the Christmas joy. Without warning, when it was almost decorated, it fell over again. Again we whisked presents away that needed to be re-wrapped (by this time it was mostly sticking them in a gift bag…who cares if it’s Christmas-y or not… stapling it shut, and writing the name on it with a black Sharpie). Again we picked up pieces of broken ornaments.

This time we moved the tree to the front porch. It was in time out for the rest of the season until the boy scouts came—in the rain—to pick it up. We huddled the refugee gifts under the living room tree and Emma left a note for Santa.

“Sorry we don’t have a tree. It fell over twice.”

He understood.

This year, we bought a fake tree. In October. No one argued.

And you’ll be happy to know. The velvet, sequin ornament I made in 5th grade fared very well.


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