Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sparing you the details

For about a week now I have been fighting a nasty illness. It started with a fever and sore throat but quickly settled into something quite sinusy. I'd describe it as cement nose. Know what I'm talking about? Like, I was so clogged up that if you had duct taped my mouth shut, I'd suffocate and die right then and there. And this sickness was ruining everything. My sleep was crappy since I couldn't breathe right. I had a splitting headache, especially at night. And breastfeeding a baby while hacking and coughing all over the place? Not fun for either one of us.

My method of dealing with this problem (ignore, ignore, ignore) wasn't working, so today I called Kaiser hoping to get an appointment early this week. I figured I just needed an antibiotic, since that's always what happens when I get a sickness like this.

Well, the Kaiser woman first asked me a bunch of questions about my symptoms. And then she goes, "I'm sorry, we have no appointments available. Would you like to speak to an advice nurse?"

I was confused, especially since to get an antibiotic, don't you have to see the doctor? "What do you mean, there are no appointments available?"

"I mean I can offer you no appointments," she said. "But there is no wait to speak to an advice nurse."

This pissed me off. Like she judged my symptoms and felt I wasn't quite ill enough to see a real doctor. "So, what you're telling me is that ALL OF KAISER is booked for appointments?" I sputtered. "That ... that there are no appointments EVER?"

I hear a heavy sigh, and then she said, "Ma'am, the only thing I can tell you is that there are no appointments. But AGAIN, there is no wait to speak to the nurse."

At this point I feel like I may burst into tears, so fine, bring on your stupid nurse.

Well, it turns out my frustration was kind of ridiculous, and I wasn't giving Kaiser nearly enough credit for being awesome. As it turns out, when you call Kaiser on a Sunday for an appointment because you are feeling terrible? They try to fit you in ON THAT SUNDAY. So the woman I was snotty to (haha, snotty) was merely telling me that SUNDAY was booked. Well, cripes, lady, of course it is! Sunday is today!

Anyway. So the advice nurse suggests that even though they are booked for in-person visits, I can have a phone appointment with a doctor that afternoon. A phone appointment! I didn't even know such a thing existed. But I'm fine with anything that means I don't have to find a spare hour in my life to drive to a doctor's office.

A couple hours later, a doctor calls and asks me a bunch of questions. Finally, I think, I'll get my prescription. But no! Instead she tells me that an over-the-counter sinus-rinse kit would solve all my problems. Instantly. All you do is take a little squirt bottle and shoot warm salty water up into your nose. You inhale it through your sinuses, then let it drain out through your mouth. (Yes, this means you'd essentially be hurling up the contents of your own nose, but let's not think about that too much.) "Let's say you have a gutter filled with leaves," she said. "If you sprinkle some water on them, it's not going to do anything. What you need to do is blast those leaves out with a HIGH-PRESSURE FIREHOSE."

Then she pointed me to a demonstration video on the Kaiser web site. She said the kits are available everywhere, and that I should do a rinse twice a day, morning and night, until I'm better.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love hippie crap like this. And I'm totally impressed that Kaiser suggested a natural home remedy first. HOWEVER. I have a thing about water going up my nose. The thought of it scares my pants off. Like, I'm that sissy at the pool who has to use one hand to pinch her nose shut at all times when underwater. But I was desperate, so even though I could not possibly fathom doing what they are asking me to do, I went and bought this kit at Walgreens for about $12.

The doctor had warned me that it would be unpleasant at first, and that was true. REAL true. It felt slightly like drowning. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I coughed and gagged quite a bit. But (and here's where I'd recommend setting aside your oatmeal or whatever you're enjoying for breakfast) oh my god, the stuff that fell out of my head! OK, on second thought, I have decided not to go into details. But be assured that the details are dramatic and plentiful. And the relief is indeed almost instant.

For the first night in almost a week, I could breathe comfortably while I slept. It was heaven. This morning I did another rinse, and it was a little easier. Again, there were LOTS and LOTS of ... um ... "results."

I just can't belive I've gone though my whole life - and many, many head colds like this one - without knowing about this. And, just think about about all the future days and nights of suffering I have saved myself by learning this trick. The kit comes with 50 packets of the salt solution, so it'll last me forever. And you know what else? I've even read that you can kill a cold right away if you do some good ol' sinus flushing at the first sign of a sickness. This means hours and hours added into my life, you guys!

Thanks, Kaiser, for teaching me how to fish. In my nose.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The small shoe

Back in December, a couple weeks after Chickenbone's surgery, some of my relatives from New Mexico and Arizona came for a visit to meet Mia. One of those visitors was my brother, who is a sheriff's deputy in Curry County, N.M. As we were explaining Chickens' back injury and his round-the-clock crate rest, Mike nods at the big cage and goes, "So you keep him in the shoe, eh?" Er, the what? Well, in prison, "the shoe" is actually the SHU, or Solitary Housing Unit. It's where the baddies go, confined to their cells alone for 23 hours of the day. The nickname stuck, since "Stick Chickens in the shoe!" is funnier than if we just called it the cage.

Well, when an awesome Chickenbone Jones fan named Meghan read about our troubles with Sal sleeping in the living room to keep the dog quiet, she kindly offered to give us a wire crate that would probably fit in our cozy bedroom. And so we have the small shoe!

We began the transition to the bedroom last Friday night, and it was about as painful as I expected. Chickens basically sat with his whole face and body smashed against the side of the shoe that faces the bed, as close to us as he could possibly get, with this pleading look on his face. I lost track of how many times we had to get up to shush him (after a poop check, of course) and pull his blankets back over his head hoping he'd fall asleep. There was a lot of whining and whimpering, but we hung in there till dawn.

On the second night we had some quiet stretches. Between the two of us, we probably got up to check/comfort/shush him eight times, with a poop somewhere around 4? I think? When that night was over, Sal and I were sorely tempted to sneak in one couch night, just to have a break and catch up on sleep. But once you start down this road, it's just stupid to backpedal, so into the third night we trudged.

Shockingly, we only had to get up four times that night. And it was poopless! There is hope.

And on the fourth night, all was quiet until a poop at around 5:45 a.m. (Which, in the post-baby Pizarro household, is actually a perfectly respectable time to wake up.)

Four nights did the trick. I even let two nights go by before posting this, just to make sure I wasn't going to jinx it! But the past two nights have been peaceful as well. One thing that really helps: Sal figured out that if you want Chickens to fall asleep right away, just wrap him up in his favorite blue blanket before putting him into the bed. That's right, we're swaddling the freaking dog. And good lord, we Ferberized him, too!

And this is how comfy he is now: This morning when I opened the door, Chickens looked up at me and then put his head down and went back to sleep. He loves the small shoe! I told Meghan that if this worked, I was going to buy a star and name it after her. I am so grateful to her, and so very relieved to have this problem behind us and my husband back in his own bed.

Now, who knows how to fix the poop?!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cry it out, Chickens!

Tonight, you guys, is a very big night in the Chickenbone Jones household. It's the night we're finally going to bring poor Sal off the couch, where he has been sleeping for weeks (and holy crap, maybe even months) and back into the bed.

I've outlined the problem before. Basically, since his back surgery in November, Chickens has to stay in a crate in the living room at night. He's actually somewhat OK with that, except for the fact that he's a giant sissy who doesn't like to be all alone in the dark. So Sal stays on the couch to ensure that the only whining we hear is because Chickens pooped his cage, a problem that needs attention right away. When there's no poop - which happens maybe half the time - we all get a decent night's sleep.

One solution might be obvious - put the dog in the bedroom. Right? Except we live in a house that's nearly a century old, so the bedrooms are very small. And the cage we bought him after his surgery is huge.

As was the Pack-n-Play where we stored him when he first came home. (What, mom? That's not why you bought us that?)

That first week, we did lug the cage into the bedroom every night, but it is ridiculously heavy. And that strategy was doomed anyway because Chickens was in so much pain and so drugged up that he cried a ton. And remember, Mia was just 4 weeks old at that time, so we (read: I) needed any amount of sleep possible. So to the couch Sal went, and he's been there ever since. (Oh, except for New Year's Eve, when we gave Chickens a sedative because of the gunfire and fireworks, and we gave ourselves a sedative of a bottle and a half of champagne, and Mia inexplicably, miraculously slept for like two extra hours. Otherwise known as The Last Good Night.)

Anyway. Well, here is where I have something very cool to report. A Chickenbone Jones reader whom I have never even met in person (HI, MEGHAN!) got tired of my whining - or, maybe she's just a very nice person - and offered to give us a smaller wire crate to put in the bedroom. Can you believe it? Sweetest thing ever. So it arrived last weekend, and we bought a pad for it, put some blankets and treats into it, and look what happened next!

Chickens walked right in and plopped down for a nap! I heaved a huge sigh of relief before it hit me - this isn't going to be nearly as easy as it looks. First of all, Chickens is all nice and used to his slumber parties with dad out in the living room. And I think he has made it clear he's not too fond of change. Second of all, this new "house" is putting him smack in the center of a memory that pains all of us - that for three years he slept in the bed with mom and dad. He'd start the night buried deep in the covers at our feet, but by morning he always worked his way up until he was laying between us, his head on a pillow and the blankets tucked over his shoulders like he was a real person. He loved it, we loved it. And it can never, ever happen again.

The chances of him leaping off the bed and reinjuring himself are just too great, so after his accident, away went his little steps and he hasn't been up there since. Which hasn't been a problem, but I have a sinking feeling that when we put him in the crate and he watches us climb into bed without him, it is NOT going to go over well. I fear we're in for some long and noisy nights as we all get used to the new setup.

So we decided to wait until tonight to try it, since as of 3 p.m. today, I'm off for winter break. And if my nights get ruined, at least I can try to nap during the day and not have to be coherent at work for eight hours. We have a full nine nights to work this out, and as with everything in my life these days, I think patience is the key. (Well, patience and bourbon.) And if we can solve this problem, it will leave us with just the whole handicapped thing.

Oh! And good news on that front. Lately we have been able to take Chickens on a "walk" outside without using that rear-end sling. He can make it maybe five or six house lengths, carefully putting one foot in front of the other, and not falling down at all. After that he gets a bit wobbly and tired, so we put him in the sling so he won't scrape his little knees. But still, this is huge progress. When I am feeling very blue, Sal likes to remind me that it was not even seven weeks ago that Chickens stood on his own for the first time. That we can take him on even a semi-successful walk less than two months later is pretty amazing. And when we get a bit more progress on that front, he can resume his regular pooping schedule, meaning no more little brown surprises at 3 a.m. Unfortunately we are still expressing his bladder four or five times per day, but when we go on walks he is still emitting small spurts of pee, so SOMETHING is going on there. We are convinced that we'll see improvement as we get better with the walking. The poor guy just needs some practice.

So, tonight! Here we go. I'm just glad I recently discovered the key to surviving sleep deprivation: It hurts a whole lot less if you stop counting the hours!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Manhattan girl

Jesus, Mia. Take after your dad much?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Three months in

So the 14-week-party known as my maternity leave has drawn to a close and I have returned to work full time. On my first day, people kept coming up and asking about the baby, and then they'd give me a sympathetic head-tilt and ask gently "So is it hard to be back?"

To which I reply: AHAHAHAHAHA! Are you kidding me? At work, I can actually sit down and enjoy a meal! I can go pee whenever I want! I can set goals for myself, AND THEN ACCOMPLISH THEM! I freaking LOVE work!

Fine, so it wasn't quite that easy. I do miss my little baby girl something awful. But she is spending her days with her favorite person in the universe (dad), and a couple afternoons a week her grandma comes over. So I know she is in excellent hands. And I love my drive home every afternoon - it's the most thrilling 12 minutes of my day, knowing that I'm on my way to see her.

Here are some pictures I took at 1, 2 and 3 months old. Look how much those little legs chubbed out!

And here's Mia at very beginning. She was maybe two or three days old when we took this picture of her laying in her bassinet on top of her blue bilirubin blanket.

She's grown a little bit, eh?

Also, it took me a week of working in 5- or 10-second bursts to put together this post. Why does it seem like the less time I have to blog, the more I have to say? Folks, my brain is bursting at the seams with stuff I want to write. More to come, including an update on Chickenbone (who, incidentally, recently pooped in the bathtub, just as I predicted.)