A Little Postparty Analysis

I left a children’s halloween party in tears yesterday.

I’m aware that sounds ridiculous for a forty-two-year old physician and mother to admit. I put this out there as I’m trying to make sense of what was a truly bizarre experience.

We were invited to a kid’s costume party for early Sunday afternoon. When I RSVP’d, I didn’t realize that the party was at the same time as the football game that Hubby was going to be broadcasting. Saturday, I noticed the overlap, but I suspected these folks would have the game on, as the last time I was at a wintertime kids party at the same house, they had basketball on in the den. Also, I knew they were fans of Hubby’s. Still, I figured, if the game’s not on, we’ll survive, and the kids will likely have fun anyways. I didn’t think about it very much.

The day of the party Babyboy refused to go. He’s been decidedly anti-costume, and asked to go to Nana’s instead, to play in the yard. Specifically, to rake leaves. He has a mini-rake and he actually does a fairly good job raking, and then takes great joy in showing everyone the leaves and dead grass he’s deposited in a paper shopping bag. Nana agreed to watch him, and I went with Babygirl to the party.

We were the first people there, and when we pulled up, the little girl at the house jumped up and down, so happy to see us. The whole family was sitting out on the front stoop, and they greeted us warmly.

Babygirl wouldn’t let me put her down and wouldn’t let me put her princess fairy costume on; she only hid her face in my shoulder. I chatted with the mom, “Jane”, for awhile, about common interests, and she tried to engage Babygirl. The dad, “John”, tried as well, inviting Babygirl to say hi to their infant. Still, she clung to me.

The dad mentioned he listened to Hubby on the radio sometimes, and we chatted about that. He said he enjoyed some radio show Hubby had been on, and he asked about the game. We talked about it, and I asked him if they were going to have the game on anywhere during the party. He smiled and said, “Sure! I think that can be arranged. We were only going to have background music on the iPod anyways.”

By this time more people had arrived, and the whole crowd started to move into the house, and from there to the backyard. This mom had done a fantastic job with the decorations, really pulled out the stops. You could see that almost everything was handmade, from the funny giant’s face on the front door to the Halloween garland on the mantle. There was a great big basket of goody bags near the front door, and I could see activities and games set up in the living room. She had even watched a Youtube video and learned how to make balloon animals.

Again trying to engage Babygirl, Jane spent a little extra time with us, telling Babygirl that she was so beautiful, and complementing the costume that was still in my hand. Babygirl smiled a shy smile.

We followed the crowd out to the backyard. It was a sunny but windy day, mildly chilly. There were kids running around, climbing on the swing set, playing in the playhouse. There were streamers and balloons. Babygirl still clung to me, though she peered out at the balloon animals being passed out from a big bag.

Meantime, “John” the husband brought out a small portable radio and set it up on the food table. The iPod had been set to a genre satellite channel, sounded like electronica. He turned the iPod off, and set the radio right onto the game. There was Hubby’s voice!

“Who’s that on the radio?” I asked Babygirl. She was already smiling.

“That’s Daddy!” she exclaimed. She finally let me put her down, and went up to claim her balloon animal.

We stood near the table, chatting with people. Babygirl let me put on her costume, but she wouldn’t stray from me, and then she wanted to be picked up again. She just clung.

Of course people tend to congregate around the food, and likely, around the game, so we just hung around the table for a bit. The radio was low enough, the kids playing loud enough, and the wind high enough, that you couldn’t hear the game at all from even six feet away. You had to be right up in front of the little radio to hear it.

Then, “Jane” came up and flipped off the radio. It was so sudden I gasped.

“What’s wrong, Mommy?” asked Babygirl.

Jane had her back to me, as she fussed with the iPod. She put the electronica station back on.

“They turned off the game, honey… Let me talk to Jane…” I murmured. I thought maybe Jane would have heard this exchange, but she didn’t turn around. I moved closer and spoke to Jane: “Oh, Jane, Sorry, John had put on the game for us…”

Jane turned around, but looked right past us and walked away, brushing up against us as she did.

I was sort of stunned. Did she not hear me? Maybe my voice didn’t carry in this wind, with the kids all running around, and people talking?

Jane had stopped with her back to us to chat with another mom. I made my way over, convinced that she must not have heard me. When a break in the conversation came, I tried again:

“Hey, Jane, we had kind of wanted to listen to the game, so John put it on for us…”

Again, she looked right past me, but this time, as I was talking, she waved her hand in my face, saying, “Yeah, yeah, alright, yeah…” and she again walked away, brushed right past me as I held Babygirl. She stopped at another group of parents, with her back to me and Babygirl.

This time, it would be hard to imagine that she hadn’t heard me. I just stood there, unsure. I actually felt queasy. There was a picnic table nearby. I walked over with Babygirl, and sat down.

My thoughts were: What did I do wrong? How did I offend? Was she angry that the game was on? That seemed really odd, as these folks had had sports on the TV at a prior kid’s party, and the husband had brought up that he was a fan of Hubby’s. He had seemed pretty enthusiastic about putting the game on the radio.

And, it’s not like there was kid’s music playing when we got there, nor was it a carefully selected song list. It was a sort of odd choice of satellite station music.

Then, I wondered if I had misinterpreted. Maybe Jane was so distracted that she really hadn’t heard me or seen us, really?

Regardless, I felt entirely unnerved, and decidedly unwelcome. I leaned down and whispered in Babygirl’s ear, “Hey, do you want to grab your balloon and go back to Nana’s?”

“Yes,” she whispered back.

I picked her up and kissed her and started to make my way to the back door. Jane and John were standing together with a group of parents right in front of it.

I knew it was strange to be leaving not even thirty minutes into a party, and I still wondered if I had misunderstood the whole thing. So, I stopped in front of them and said, “Hey guys, I think we’re going to be leaving now….” and I started to say to John, “It meant alot to us that you put Daddy’s voice on the radio” but Jane drowned me out, again waving her hand in my face, saying, “Yeah, yeah. Thanks for coming, Bye.” She then turned to another parents and started talking to them.

If her behavior and tone hadn’t been clear before, they were now. It was a viciously sarcastic dismissal.

The sounds of the children laughing and playing and the party chitchat and the weird electronic music all blurred together, and I knew that I was about to burst into tears. I didn’t see or hear what John’s reaction was, because I fairly ran to the back door.

The house with all its decorations was empty. I found my diaper bag and we showed ourselves out, walked right past the basket of treats, no goody bag for Babygirl.

Once I was in the car with the doors shut, I felt better. It was quiet, warm, and when I turned on the car, there was daddy’s voice on the radio again.

“It’s Daddy!” said Babygirl.

“Yes, honey, it is,” and I started to cry.

When interactions upset me like that, I try to figure out why. Why is this triggering me?

In this case, Jane’s behavior triggered traumatic memories from school days. The ignoring, then the brush-off, and finally, the derisive send-off, were all too reminiscent of events from almost thirty years ago. Who didn’t suffer from some Mean Girl attack or another in junior high and high school? I could almost hear my own insecure, wavering voice from decades ago, asking, “Why aren’t you guys talking to me?” 

The tears and self-pity didn’t last long. I came to my senses, remembering that I’m a forty-two-year old physician and mother. Composure came, and by the time we got to Nana’s house, Babygirl was asleep in the back seat, still hugging her balloon.

Our whole family was gathered in the living room, watching the game as we always do, with the TV on mute and the radio on. Home, sweet home, safe and sound.

I carried Babygirl to the couch and she stayed asleep for two hours.

So, what happened? Looking back at it, I suspect that I wandered unknowingly into a husband/wife battle. I bet “John” had wanted to put the game on, that they argued about it, and she won with the music. So when he put the game on for us, it likely triggered her fury, which she directed at me. That’s my guess, anyways.

Regardless, Babygirl and I were treated poorly, even cruelly. My dilemma now it, what do I do when I see the perpetrator socially? My instinct is to say nothing, and never respond again to any invites.

Any advice welcomed!

 

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“Too Busy”

What does “I’m too busy” mean? Usually, I don’t have much patience with this excuse, because it really means “That’s not my priority.”

But, as you can see, for the past two weeks, I haven’t blogged on this site. Why? Uhhh….I’ve been too busy. Clinic days have been long and difficult (more posts on that to come), family was visiting, we had more events than usual, I’ve been exhausted. Et cetera.

Every day for the past week, I’ve had guilt over not writing on here, and I’ve reflected about what it means to say you’re “too busy”.

I hate hearing from others that they’re too busy to be healthy. So much of my workday is spent explaining, encouraging, even begging patients to make small lifestyle changes towards better health. It’s safe to say that the majority of folks I see are overweight or obese. If there is also low back pain, asthma, reflux, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugars, heart disease (or family tendencies towards those last four), then it’s part of my job to explore the weight issue.

Usually I’ll end up making suggestions for tiny changes: Give up soda…Walk more…check our a low-carb diet plan…do some core strengthening. Some patients get very excited, and we end up going over our allotted time, brainstorming about how they can drink green tea or water with lemon; team up with that neighbor for early morning walks; join Weight Watchers; check out a ten-minute Pilates DVD.

Sometimes, albeit rarely, a patient runs with this, and next time I see them, they’ve lost weight, and usually, their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars are down. They’ll have a glow, that inexplicable aura of success, of pride.

But, more typically, no significant changes have occurred, and, without my even asking, I’ll hear about how they were just Too Busy.

I sit there and think that it’s all about priorities. I think about how I’ve lost and maintained lost fifty pounds of post-baby weight over three years. I remember how hard it was to get going, with an eight-week old infant and a two-year old special needs child at home, working four days a week, with a husband whose work takes him on the road often. I was really busy, and it was very hard.

Yes, there has been tons of family support, and I’m lucky I don’t work full-time, and lucky that we don’t need to stress about basic necessities. I get that and I am appreciative. But I’m often sitting with patients in similar positions, and they’re Too Busy. It’s an excuse, it’s lame, and it’s really hard to get past or around that mental block.

But, I need to remember that there’s al lot the things that I’m Too Busy for. Keeping in touch with old friends; organizing photo books; cleaning up my desk; anything in a salon. Then, when I get the text or Facebook message or email from someone, How the heck are you? Haven’t heard from you in ages! I have to make my own lame excuses. Sorry! Things have been so hectic around here, We’ve been just so busy. 

I’ve started two great blogs posts in the past week, but they both involve looking things up, and things have been so hectic around here, I’ve been just so busy, and I haven’t had any time to do a good job with those posts.

So, this morning, I got up before the kids and started this post. Of course, they both woke up before I could get very far. Determined not to feel guilty another day, and also not to make any more excuses, I’ve chipped this out in small increments over the last three hours.

The kids hate it when I’m on the computer. Babygirl keeps grabbing my legs and saying Pick Me Up! Pick Me Up! and Babyboy wants me to build Legos with him. They’re had to have breakfast, which involved cutting up melon, oranges and kiwi for fruit salad, and then pouring Rice Krispies for them anyways. I tried putting on Curious George, but bugging me when I’m typing is much more fun.

But, I did it. The post may be lame, but it’s better than the excuse that I’ve been Too Busy.

 

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Latest MiM post, on Ebola

Some good input from other doctor-moms on my post: Would You Care For A Patient With Ebola?

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…And The Really, Really Messy

Messy, and infectious, too. What a week of body fluids it’s been.

Soon after I wrote the last post, we realized Babyboy was getting pretty sick. Hubby had to go to an event, so I holed up with one increasingly feverish kid, and one copiously boogery kid. Babyboy snuggled on the couch, and I let him watch endless Curious George. Babygirl snuffled along cheerfully. No one was eating much. I completely gave up on re-toilet training Babyboy, and changed his poopie pull-ups without fuss, poor kid.

By late afternoon, Babyboy’s cheeks were two spots of bright, bright red, the rest of him pasty pale, his eyes glassy. He started to nod off. Ugh. I really wanted him to get a bath, after multiple pull-up poops. Usually, I have to negotiate and order them up and into the tub. But that night, I just asked, meekly, “Anyone want to go warm tubbies?” Babyboy hugged his lovey to his chest and got up to go upstairs and Babygirl followed.

It was only 4:30 pm, but they were both so sick and exahusted, so I figured, what the heck? Bath and bed. Awesome.

I ran the bath and lifted them both in. I went to gather pajamas, diapers, cream; set up the humidifiers; tidy the beds. When I returned to the tub to wash faces, I was shocked to see…. brown water. Oh my god. Babyboy had had a huge diarrhea IN THE TUB. And neither of them seemed to care, splish-splashing away.

THERE’S POOP IN THE TUB! GET UP! GET OUT!  I squawked, yanked them both out and wrapped them up. But now they REALLY needed a bath. As the water drained, I could see that this was to be no easy cleanup job. The kids have piles of toys in there, Legos and Little People, things with nooks and crannies.

If Hubby was home, he’d be bleaching everything. But, I had two miserably shivering sick kids crying “I’m COLD! MOMMY I’M SO COLD!”

So, the tub and toys got a quick wash-down with the shower, to the point that at least I couldn’t see any chunks or large flecks anymore. When I filled the tub again, I added bubble bath. Hey, now the water looked really clean.

In they went, washy washy, head to toe. Out they came, fresh new towels. Warm fuzzy pajamas. Now bed? No, they wanted their warm milk. So, down we went to drink warm milk, and THEN go to bed.

As Babyboy drank his milk, he started to cough. Then gag. And then, puke all over the couch, and his clean pajamas.

Oh, jeez. Off came the pajamas. We did a rapid wipe-down with a clean dishtowel. More “I’M COLD!” I pulled freshly laundered PJ’s from the basket.

Then, reasonably clean, reasonably full of milk, the kids went up to bed. Babyboy, steaming with fever, fell into a deep, but fitful sleep. Babygirl coughed her way down. But, they were both snoring by 7 pm.

I don’t think that has ever happened before. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I got more housework done in that hour than I have ever done. And at 8 pm, after I had sanitized the couch and sprayed the entire first floor with lavender air freshener, I sat down to watch some Sunday Night Football. Of course both kids woke up a bunch of times, but they fell back asleep with minimal attention.  I got to watch pretty much the whole game. Amazing.

Then, the workweek. It’s been I.D. week at clinic. We’ve started to see swab- positive influenza. Meaning, we’re not just guessing it’s flu. It really is the flu. Also, a case of infectious mononucleosis. Then, several cases of clostridium dificile diarrhea. And then, travelers from an Ebola-stricken country (Not sick, but whoa! Did we all VERY QUICKLY read the hospital-issued Ebola case recognition and action guidelines!).

I mean, holy moly. I drove home from work yesterday trying to remember if I had touched my face at all the whole week. If I had, I could come down with any one of an assortment of illnesses… I only got my own flu shot the day after I saw one diagnosed. Not enough time to take effect.

Babyboy was home from school Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, coughing, not himself. This morning, Thursday, my day off, we tried to send him. I did my usual morning rounds at the animal shelter. Of course, it was a heinous mess there, too, with several new surrenders, and all those kittens…. cat puke, poop and pee galore. Despite the stench and excrement, once all is clean, I love petting a new arrival and hearing that PURRR. It’s like they’re saying, “I didn’t know anyone would ever be that nice to me again.”

Then, I was just getting to the gym, when I got the call from the school nurse. Could I come pick up my son? He just wasn’t feeling well.

Poor kid. Pale, whiney, not eating well, complaining of tummy ache…  No more fevers, vomiting, or diarrhea, but he’s just too punky to participate. Oh well.

So we went home, and he helped me make an eggplant lasagna. He peeled and chopping the eggplant for me. He’s very good at peeling and chopping! I use eggplant two ways: chopped small, sauteed until squishy, and added to the sauce; and sliced lengthwise very thin, spritzed with olive oil, and baked. Plain whole-milk ricotta, good parm, good mozz, layer it up, let it brown. Done. As I wiped my hands, I turned and caught the cat sticking his paw into the ricotta container. Lick lick. Ewww! I guess we don’t keep the extra, then.

In the afternoon, Babyboy and I went to pick up Babygirl at her preschool, and as they played, her teachers raved about her. “She’s so mature, always wanting to comfort the other kids when they’re sad, always mediating arguments,” said one. “She’s an old soul,” said another. “She’s wise beyond her years. You can have, like, deep conversations with her.”  Puff, puff. Bask, bask. Of course, all that maturity and wisdom didn’t stop her when we got in the car, and she found a piece of old chocolate candy from God knows when, somewhere in the car seat, and ATE IT.

Ewww.

So, long week, a lot of grossness, I hope I don’t get the flu, and please let Babyboy be able to go back to school after the holiday weekend….

 

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The Good, The Bad, And The Messy

The workweek was neither good nor bad; it all evened out. I left clinic on Friday with an easy mind.

Friday night, I made a plan in my head: I would get up extra-early and go running. I rarely get my butt out of bed on a day off to go exercise.

Saturday didn’t bode well… Babygirl woke up at 4:30 snuffling and crying for Mommy. Her cold? Bad dream? I rocked her and rocked her, but she ended up with us anyways.

It was poor sleep until 6 a.m. Then, it was drizzly and dark. But, I got out of bed.

When I went to feed the cats, I noticed that their shmancy grain-free salmon formula dry food looked funny, and when I actually read the label, I realized that I had accidentally bought them dog food. By that time, they were chowing down. I wondered if that was a really bad thing: cats eating dog food. The day wasn’t shaping up that great. Oh well.

But, the run was fantastic. There were loads of folks out walking and running, despite the drizzle. We all nodded and smiled at each other, as if to say, “Hey, you’re awesome!”

By the time I got home, the kids were up and coffee was brewing. Hubby and I discussed the major issue at hand: Babyboy’s toilet training.

Now, we had tackled toilet training in July (see  ). Babyboy did fantastic, and was pretty much completely trained– for about two months. There was the occasional poop in the underpants, but we still considered it a success. We had even traveled to visit friends, which involved a long car ride, a ferry trip, and staying in a strange place for two nights.He was 100% dry and clean for the whole trip.

Then, just after school started, he got a respiratory illness, and was home for a few days. From that point on, he just stopped going #2 in the potty. We bought pull-ups again, and figured it was due to illness. A temporary regression.

But here we are, a month later. No #2 in the potty. He goes #1 fine, but no #2. We’ve powowed with  Nana and his teachers, and we decided to start over with training. This weekend seemed perfect: Both Hubby and I were home Saturday, and both kids had runny noses. A good day to focus on training! But, what approach to take? The novelty of the first time around was gone. Babyboy had lost interest in the potty distractions (drawings he liked to look at while sitting, like shapes and road signs) and m-n-m’s reward system a few days into training. What could we do next?

Babyboy seems to understand the concept of “If you do this, then THIS happens,” especially if we draw it out. Hubby is our resident artist, so we planned a colorful grid chart. We decided to go with really fantastic motivators, things Babyboy would really want, like small Lego sets, Play-do, Books, and we would let him pick them out.

Now, we needed the motivators and the chart.

So, divvied up the day: Hubby would take my car to be serviced (only four months overdue!) and would work on his laptop while he waited. I would take the kids on the Target run, to pick out prizes. Then, we would regroup, make the chart, and lay low at home, potty training.

And, as if to signal that this was going to go really well, Babyboy did a #2 on the toilet, before we left the house! Granted, we saw the signs and encouraged him to sit, but still, that was progress.

Target went fine. Babyboy picked out prizes, some small and some big. Babygirl fell asleep on the way home. I carried her into the house, made her a little nest on the living room couch, gathered the groceries, put them away. Hubby wasn’t back yet. Now what? Best to stay out of the living room/ play room/ TV room, as Babygirl was asleep. Babyboy and I needed to hang out in the kitchen.

So I asked Babyboy what he wanted to do.

“I want…. to COOK! Let’s make a cake.” Babyboy loves to cook. But I really didn’t want to make a cake. We negotiated. I was thinking: What’s healthy? He was thinking: What’s sweet?

We settled on Apple Pie. It’s a recipe we’ve done before, with a gluten-free “crust”  made out of almond meal and butter. I let Babyboy mix the brown sugar and apple pie spice to the cut-up apples. He insisted on adding frozen strawberries and blueberries too; why not? Then I help him roll out the dough, and use a cookie cutter to cut shapes out of dough and arrange on top of the fruit (see photos below!).

That was just going in the oven when Hubby got home, and Babygirl woke up. There was a flurry of activity as we got the kids lunch, made the chart, and arranged the prizes attractively in a basket, set out of reach. Babyboy was excited about the chart and repeated the plan a few times: Poopie on the potty, I get the Stuck In A Truck book!

So we set the potty in front of the TV and put on Curious George, which is what we did the first time around.

Now, Babygirl wanted to cook something, too. “I want to make brownies! BROWNIES!” Again, I didn’t want to make brownies, so we negotiated. I found a recipe for chocolate-oat-almond no-bake bars online, and I showed her the photo. She agreed, and we proceeded to mess up the kitchen again. She stirred the chocolate chips as I added the melted butter/ honey/ almond butter mixture, and we watched them melt. We added the oats and almonds, spread it in the pan, and put it in the fridge.

Meantime, Hubby was on Potty duty. Babyboy sat and tried a few times, but no results. We put on more cartoons, and kept checking in, me cleaning the kitchen, Hubby doing work.

Then, no less than three minutes after a check-in, we saw the telltale signs that the deed was done. He had gone in his pull-up again. Ugh. We did cleanup, tried not to be negative, and reviewed the chart and prizes again. Babyboy seemed to understand and was excited about the book prize. We hunkered down again.

I went up to the attic with Babygirl for an hour of power-cleaning (a finished attic with a TV, futon, all our books). When I came down again, still no poopie potty action. Only pee.

So we made dinners, sat down, and Hubby and I were almost done when… again. Poopie in the pull-ups. What were we doing wrong?

Sigh. Here it is Sunday morning. Both kids slept terribly, up coughing and sniffling, multiple times. Both ended up with us. But, we will try again… Hunker down time.

At least we have yummy treats for breakfast!

 

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When Your Kids Surprise You

Sometimes your own kids throw you for a major loop.

Yesterday was Saturday, and I was not on call. I had a vague plan for the day: Be productive.

Hubby had to go into work in the morning, so, I figured I would take the kids on the wholesale grocery run, come home and get them lunch, then do laundry and housework, then when Hubby came back I would go to the gym and pound out the sweaty workout I’ve been yearning for…

But. I didn’t know it was going to be a gloriously beautiful fall day, sunny and summer-hot. What a crying shame it would be to waste it at BJ’s wholesale club buying diapers and kitty litter and milk. No, we needed to go outside.

The kids have both been obsessed with forest animals recently. Babyboy started it with a fixation on skunks. We didn’t know alot about skunks, so we picked up some  wonderful books about skunks and other forest creatures, an assortment of factual and storybooks, and those have been on the heavy repeat rotation: “Read it again, Mommy!” They’ve wanted to see a real live skunk for months now.

We went to the local zoo last month, and while Babyboy was pleased with several close-up viewings of the African Crested Porcupine, and the Parakeet house was a hit with the multicolored tweeters perching on their little hands to gently peck at birdseed… as we left, he asked, “Where is the skunk?”

So. There’s a wonderful state park near us, and they have the Trailside Museum, which features a little outdoor mini-zoo of sorts, made up of rescued wildlife. I knew the kids had enjoyed it in the past, and I knew they had a river otter, deer, hawks, ducks and snowy owls, but I didn’t know if they had a skunk. I figured, it was worth it to go, at least to see other forest creatures, and run around a bit.

So we loaded up and set off, Babyboy with this little Chipmunk stuffed animal in hand. The kids dashed from enclosure to enclosure, and they did enjoy seeing the animals and feeding the ducks. But, no skunk.

This place also features an indoor museum/ activity center, but you had to pay or join the Audobon Society to get in. I decided, we’d been here three times this year, we’d join. As I filled out the forms and paid, I let the kids scoot into the exhibits (they’re pretty kid-proof, and the place was nearly empty). The lady was swiping my credit card as we heard joyful whooping yells: “Mommy! MOMMY! THERE’S A SKUNK! A SKUNK IS RIGHT HERE! MOMMY COME SEE!”

I asked the lady, “Uh, there’s a live skunk in there?

“Oh, yes,” she replied, “But don’t worry. It’s behind glass and it can’t spray anybody.”

So the kids got to see their skunk, or at least the bushy tail of a skunk as it basically hid in a hollow log in its cage, and they were thrilled. They also saw an Opposum, a variety of rescued owls, various scary snakes, turtles, fish, a bee’s nest behind plexiglass… It was great.

I figured we’d walk back to the car via the woodsy path, and then go be productive. I had brought some small snacks and juice boxes which the kids had finished and I knew they’d be starving soon.

But on the woodsy path, Babyboy announced, “I want to go to the castle.”

The woodsy path that led back to the parking lot is also a trailhead for a bunch of other paths, including one rocky trail straight uphill to the weather observatory and old stone lookout tower. Hubby and I have twice taken the kids up this trail to the top, but not since June, and we carried the kids in backpack carriers both times. I was very surprised Babyboy had remembered that this path led up to the stone lookout tower, which we had called the “castle”.

I said, “Okay, sure!” and I figured that, given how steep and rocky the path was, the kids would toddle up a ways and then turn back. Five minutes, tops. After all, I reasoned, it’s a mile hike over slabby and scrabbly granite, it’s 85 degrees out, they’re only two and four years old, and I didn’t bring water. We would never make it even close to the top.

I also assumed that hiking up the rocky trail would be difficult, maybe even impossibly frustrating,  for Babyboy. As is stereotypical for many autistic kids, he’s physically uncoordinated. Early evals revealed this and a weak core, and PT/OT has been working on core strength and hand-eye coordination. He’s always disliked playground activities that required balance or threw off his center of gravity: seesaws, tire swings, swings. He very, very often can’t make it from the living room to the kitchen without tripping over his own feet.

But I was quickly proven wrong. I dawdled along with Babygirl, and watched in wonder as Babyboy climbed further and further ahead of us. He barely stumbled, and only at the beginning, as he figured out that rock covered in leaves or pine needles can be slippery. When he came to granite boulders and slabs, he focused on the craggy cracks and holes, and he pulled himself up and across without any issues, even with his Chipmunk toy in hand. He started to sweat, he panted, but he didn’t stop, even once. I had to call for him to wait up, as I helped Babygirl over larger obstacles. But even she didn’t want alot of help from me.

Up, up, up we climbed. I was sweating and thirsty. I called out to Babyboy, did he want some juice? We had one-half of one juice box left.

“No, I want to go to the castle.” He answered, and kept going.

I want to go to the castle, too,” affirmed Babygirl.

And so we kept going, me occasionally hefting Babygirl over things, or carrying her up a tough stretch, while Babyboy doggedly made his way.

I watched him doing things I never thought he could do: hike over gravelly, stony patches without tripping; pull, lift and crawl his way up and over large rocks, without help, without dropping his stuffed animal, and without falling; and most of all, cover a long distance of uneven ground without help.

Obviously I underestimated him. Or maybe his strengths and interests lend themselves exceedingly well to trail hiking? He has always been able to easily focus on small, complicated things, like putting together and taking apart complicated Lego structures. For the past month, he’s been done with the regular Legos, and instead intent on the mini-Lego sets, the City sets, with their complex police and fire vehicles made up of pieces so small, Hubby and I can barely see them to get them together. Could it be that this ability to focus helps him to see the cracks and crags in the rocks, and hold where he needs to hold, step where he needs to step?  I figured his determination on this climb came out of that intense concentration ability.

So, up and up and up. I snapped a few photos and sent them to Hubby, who by that point was on his way home from work. Hubby was amazed, and decided to join us on the trail. While he sprinted to catch up, Babyboy, Babygirl and I made it to the Castle.

“We’re here! We’re at the Castle! Look!” I announced. Babyboy looked up from his groundward focus, but instead of celebrating, he announced:

“I want to go IN the Castle. We need to go up the stairs.” He wanted to go up  to the lookout tower.

I was thirsty, sweating, and astonished. So, I carried Babygirl, and directed Babyboy to the old stone staircase. He clambered right up all three flights.

“Lift me up! I want to see,” he ordered, and I somehow boosted him up to the open windows with my right knee, while holding Babygirl. He gazed out over the sweeping views of Blue Hills States Park in early fall foliage colors, and the bay and the city in the distance, all clear on this beautiful fall day.

“There is the city, Mommy! There are the buildings!” he pointed excitedly. He looked and looked until I couldn’t hold the both of them anymore.

Just then Hubby came bounding up the stairs, and we rounded out our adventure with a thankful trip to the tiny provisions shop at the observatory, and a water break.

Babyboy did just as well on the descent as he did on the ascent. He was thrilled to slide down the steeper boulders and slabs on his butt. Towards the bottom he started to run down the dirt path, which terrified Hubby and I, envisioning a flying wipeout and stitches in the chin. But he didn’t fall.

By now it was early afternoon, and we were all really, really hungry. “What do you guys want to eat?” I asked the kids, planning to let them have whatever, for all their efforts.

They both answered, “Restaurant! We want to go to a restaurant!” which usually means a diner where we can order hot dogs and french fries for Babyboy, and pancakes for Babygirl.

Hubby and I were more than happy to oblige, having been so pleasantly surprised by the unexpected, unprecedented family hike, and so off we went.

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My Other Patient Population

Just a few weeks ago, I ran into another volunteer at our town’s animal shelter. We chatted and joked about how low the cat census was. There were only three cats up for adoption. Ha ha, he said. We joke now, but wouldn’t it be funny if there was an explosion of kittens and cats tomorrow? 

Well, Murphy’s Law. The following week I walked in for my Thursday morning shift in the cat room, and there were: a sleek and lovely mama cat nursing five adorable tiger kittens; several new cats, all sweet and friendly, crying for food; and one tiny, lonely, desperately mewing kitten alone in a small cage.

Of course, I had had my whole day off planned out to the last five minutes. But as soon as I saw all those new kittens and cats, I knew my plan was shot. Never mind spinning at the gym, forget the Target run. Regardless, I was kind of excited.

Let’s face it, kittens are cute. And the tiny runty one, crying so loudly (amazingly loudly, considering the poor cutie was the size and heft of a little bird), I just wanted to HELP.

Now, I may be a passable physician, but I am a crappy nurse. All through training,  moonlighting as a hospitalist, or even in the office, when a patient has needed physical help getting to the bathroom or onto a bedpan, a glass of water or a straw, or whatever basic bodily-needs issue, I have tried, but I am so painfully clumsy. We don’t get any training in the proper patient-maneuvering techniques in med school; we don’t now where anything on the floors is kept; and this kind of thing is generally discouraged.

Well I remember being on patient rounds with the “team” as we residents did our self-concious presentations, the attendings asked probing questions, and we all pretended to meaningfully auscultate the patient’s heart and lungs. As soon as the patient would ask for help- Please can you move this tray, or Please can someone hand me the urinal, or Please I’d like a cup of water, the whole team would evaporate, ostensibly to “get the nurse”. This always bothered me, as we were all capable of making the effort, of taking the small amount of time to concretely help a patient with a basic need. I knew it could take ages and ages for the “right” person to come to the room. And it was obvious that the patient could care less about the differential diagnosis of elevated liver enzymes. They just needed to pee, dammit.

One of these times, when a weak and elderly patient asked for help to sit up, I stepped forward, and then fell behind on rounds as I (clumsily) boosted her up in bed, adjusted the bed, and strategically placed some pillows. Afterwards,  the attending took me aside, and said, not unkindly: You paid a ton of money and endured a hell of alot of training to be a physician. You should not be doing nurses’ work. If you keep doing that type of thing, that’s all anyone will expect you to do.

So I was never quite sure what was the right thing to do.

Whereas, at the animal shelter, that’s all I have to do. It’s my job one measly morning a week to take care of the very basic needs of these deserving kitties. I am not a vet and have no clinical responsibility, or clue. I do not make decisions and am never on call.

It’s so wonderful!

I let them out of their cages, one by one, and sweep, change the litter, plump the cat beds. I dutifully cut and crush pills and hide them in food (there are a couple of animals on Methimazole for hyperthyroidism, and one on Buspar for aggressive behavior). I pet them and, time permitting, wiggle a string or cat toy so they get some exercise. When my kids accompany me, that’s their job.

When there’s kittens, they need to be socialized. So it is part of the job description to pick them up, cuddle them, pet them, talk to them, love on them. So cute!

But this runty little kitten was extra concerning. I tried to give him a bit of kitten chow, and he promptly stuck his face in it and tried to suckle at the mound of mashed tuna, confused. Hmm. I called the animal control officer who is in charge, and she told me he needs kitten formula. Huh? New one for me. She mixed it up and showed me how to bottle-feed a kitten. You hold them on your chest upright and stick the bottle nipple in their mouth. She showed me how this little guy has some issue with his hind legs- “Swimmer’s syndrome”, splayed hind legs that don’t work very well. That may be why he was found all alone, possibly abandoned by his mama. After she left, I spent extra time holding him, and he purred and purred, kneading at my chest, warm and well-fed.

This week, I came in and found the little runt in the big cage with mama and her five kittens. Though her own kittens are a few weeks older than the little guy, she seems to have adopted him. Still, I held him and offered him some formula, and he took it, happily, his mouth and whiskers all milky, purring and purring.

I didn’t have time to hold and play with all the older kittens, but I petted them and scratched behind their ears. Mama too.

So nice to have this very different patient population, and a very different set of responsibilities!

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