Archive for December, 2009
Things are good

I can hear again.  I ran 2 miles on the treadmill tonight (I know, I know, that’s not very far) for the first time in months.  We had a good visit from my Mom.  Holden enjoyed his Christmas.  And Rob and I came to some decisions about some things.  A lot has happened over the past week, so I will try to focus here on what’s up with Holden.  This blog is supposed to be about him, but lately it’s been about me, me, me.  So I will dedicate this post to my favorite little guy.  I will post later about the other stuff.

Holden has been back and forth to the pediatrician over the past several months for chronic ear infections.  Since October, he has had recurring ear infections.  He finishes his antibiotics, and he is sick with another ear infection within 48 hours.  He ruptured his eardrum last month (a pain with which I was recently re-acquainted), and after going through three different oral antibiotics, they finally gave him an injection that they usually give for treating meningitis.  He seems better, but only moderately.  We were told that the next stop would be the ENT if this last treatment did not work.  I had tubes twice as a child, and while I know that they  are helpful for allowing fluid to drain from the ear, I really don’t like the idea of my little guy going under general anesthesia.  Nevertheless, if it comes to it, I will take him in to get the tubes.  I think it’s preferable to going through the agony of ear infection after ear infection, the daycare calling me every week to come get him, all of us losing sleep for hours every night because Holden is screaming, etc.  This sickness needs to end.

A few days before Christmas, things felt like they were going to fall apart completely.  I was sick (again), Holden was sick (again), our dishwasher broke, and our roof started leaking.  My mother was en route to VT from WV via train, and her train was delayed.  I was worried that our visit would be strained by sickness and my messy house.  Despite all of the craziness of the previous weeks, my mother’s middle-of-the-night arrival brought a calm to our house.  H and I seemed to be feeling better once my mother got into town, plus we had the amazing luck of finding a roofer who agreed to fix our roof for a very reasonable price.  Things started looking up:  we ordered a new dishwasher, we picked out new shingles for our new roof, I was able to hear again.  I think there were a couple nights where H slept through the night.  And Holden really, really enjoyed spending time with my mom.  He didn’t want her to stray very far—if she was in another room, he’d go looking for her, saying “Ah-ma” (his word for Grandma).   We even got around to baking gingerbread men:

Holden was a pretty good helper:

Except when he would tear off a helpless gingerbread limb and stuff it in his mouth.  Rob and I would assume our best gingerbread falsettos, pleading with Holden to consider leaving us with our remaining limbs, as being a gingerbread amputee is wrought with peril and unrelenting doom.  Holden would stop chewing, briefly, almost as if he were wondering how we had hitherto gone through life without getting hit by a bus.  Rob and I would at this point be doubled over in laughter.  I blame lack of sleep entirely.

On Christmas Eve we indulged in our annual tradition of having pizza for dinner.  I made homemade crust and topped one of them with sauteed red cabbage, spinach, carrots, and scallions (sounds weird, but it was really good), and the other with onion and green pepper.  After dinner, we took a drive around town to look at everyone’s Christmas lights.  Holden would go “Wow!!!” and “Woah!!” with each successive house.  Passing unadorned houses would elicit whining and pleading:  ”More?” Holden would demand, as if we had the power to make brightly lit houses instantly materialize before him.  Once in bed, Holden tossed and turned during the night, so I was too exhausted to get up in time to see Holden’s reaction when he ran out to the living room at 6AM on Christmas morning.  I am told, however, that his reaction was unremarkable.  He merely glanced at the tree and its gifts and proceeded directly into the kitchen, asking for water.

Gift opening lasted all day for us.  It started not long after H woke up, and he finally opened his last gift at 4PM.  I don’t think we went overboard with gifts, but I do think there were moments where H was seriously overwhelmed.  We made the mistake of choosing for his very first gift to open, a small yellow school bus.  Once that gift was opened, nothing else mattered.  But I have to say, his reaction was priceless.  He peeled back the candy cane gift wrap to reveal a smooth yellow surface—he pointed at it and said “Wellwoah!”  As he peeled back more of the gift wrap, it dawned on him that he was unwrapping a small, yellow school bus.  This is the exact moment that he realized what he was in the midst of unwrapping:

He then shouted “A bus!!!!!”  The bus thus appeared in every subsequent picture taken the rest of Christmas Day.  Holden received some wonderful gifts—a beautiful handmade quilt and knit socks from his Oma, and some puzzles and a very prized book from Grandma.  Holden received Legos for Christmas as well.  We really couldn’t have anticipated how much frustration this would engender:

Holden wants to do so many things on his own, and when he can’t do it, he gets very upset.  I’m the same way—but I don’t cry about it.  I just bitch about it on here. Ha!

Holden also got a bunch of musical instruments for Christmas.  He wasn’t as jazzed about those as I would have expected.  Perhaps their allure was diminished by the yellow school bus.  Only Holden knows.  That said, Holden is amused by the noises he can make with his new instrument:

Our good friends A&S came over for Christmas Day brunch.  We ate berry muffins, omelettes, bacon, and fruit.  We challenged Holden to build a very tall Lego skyscraper:

We watched Lost, read books, listened to music, and ate a simple dinner of pork chops with parsnips and apples.  The day after Christmas we went to the local aquarium/science center.  Holden loves it there and even got to see a special BABY TURTLE exhibit.  The following day we took a trip to Cold Hollow Cider Mill where we got to see apples pressed into cider.  It was really cool!  Holden was fascinated by it!  We sampled their cider donuts, and decided that we really need to try all of the cider donuts that the great state of VT has to offer.  They appear to vary widely from place to place, so we are determined to embark on a mission where we sample sugary deliciousness at all of the different orchards and cider mills in VT.  It’s sort of like having a goal of going to all of the national parks in the U.S.  Except replace “U.S.” with “VT.”  And replace “national parks” with “donuts.”  Mmmmmm.

This morning we dropped Mom off at the train station.  I am hoping she had an uneventful train ride back to the South.  We took Holden for a sorely-needed haircut, which elicited crying and struggling, until he was offered a lollipop.  Choking hazard, I know.  But believe me, we were in for a choking hazard of an altogether different type if he didn’t stop carrying on.  After the haircut, I decided that I am finally feeling well enough to attempt painting H’s room.  H picked out his favorite color: “Wellwoah.”  I started preparing his room today—I dismantled the hideous shelving that was (to my horror and irritation) not very well-secured  above H’s bed.  I patched the millions of tiny holes in the walls—the previous owners treated the walls in that room (actually, all of the rooms) like a giant bulletin board.  I’m going to have nightmares about those tiny little thumbtack holes—I feel like Eric Carle’s very hungry caterpillar has been munching on our drywall.  Tomorrow I am going into work for a few hours to do some spike sorting (oh most menial of tasks), then I’m coming home to get cracking on H’s room.  I hope to be done by the end of the week, including painting the trim, the ceiling, and getting everything cleaned up and put back in place.  Holden will have the first re-painted room in our house.  He  needs to know that this is his real (and permanent) home more than we do.

Happy Merry Christmas!

Christmas '09

Draining (part II)

Things are going to be fine.  This is what I tell myself.  Yesterday I gave in and called my primary care doctor.  I was able to get in and see the nurse.  She looked at my ear, exclaimed “Your eardrum looks like jelly!” and said that she thought I had hemotympanum (blood in the middle ear), a condition that is often seen following blunt force trauma (e.g. skull fractures), and apparently in my case, following a ruptured eardrum.  She made arrangements for me to see the ENT specialist at the hospital and sent me on my way.  When I checked into otolaryngology, they gave me a hearing test which was not great in either ear, but was definitely worse in my left.  They gave me a tympanogram to measure the fluid in my ear (it’s an indirect measure, because what they are actually measuring is the amount that the eardrum moves).  My right ear was somewhat normal and my left ear was dead in the water.  During the bone conduction test, they found I could hear better when they presented auditory stimuli to the bone behind my ear compared with when they presented it directly into my ear.  The doctor looked in my ear and exclaimed surprise and stifled irritation that the urgent care provider did not see (or treat) the very obvious infection in my left ear.  He gave me a prescription for a stronger antibiotic than what I was on last month, and told me that my hearing would take weeks-months to come back after going untreated for over a week.  I still have tinnitus in my left ear, and I am wondering how my teaching is going to go next month when I will be delivering lectures in a large lecture hall that has the worst acoustics known to man.  All of that said, I have only taken 2 doses of the antibiotic and my sore throat is GONE.  For the first time in 2 weeks, I can swallow without pain.  So I do think that things will get better for sure—it’s just a matter of continuing to take pain meds and trying not to work too hard.

What’s this about not working too hard??  I have to work this weekend since I took 2 days off work last week right after all of this happened.  I am in the middle of an experiment and quitting now would mean losing a couple weeks worth of work, plus research $$$ that have already been invested in the experiment.  The undergrads are gone for the break and therefore can’t help.  So, I must trudge through on my own.  I am trying to tie up loose ends that I wanted wrapped up before the New Year, but progress is slow because I am not feeling well.  All in all, I feel irritated about work—I am irritated that it’s not getting done at the pace that I want, and I am irritated that I have to deal with it at all.  I wish I could just call in sick without consequence (and get paid for a sick day!)  A girl can dream….

I don’t know whether it’s the sickness talking or the lack of benefits at my job, but I am starting to have very serious thoughts (part 2,749,320) of leaving my field.  I can’t afford to make any impulsive moves just yet, but I will say that I am investigating my options.  Starting in January, I will be getting some clinical experience that is related to the basic research I am doing in the lab.  I don’t know whether a move to doing human subjects research is something I necessarily want to do, but at least I can get some “free” exposure to this area of research that won’t require me to step away from the projects in which I am already involved.  I don’t have a degree in clinical psychology (nor do I want one), but I could still do human subjects research with the training I have (with additional mentoring required).  In an ideal world, I would be a trained clinical neuropsychologist with the ability to practice in a hospital.  But, I don’t have the clinical training, and it’s not offered where we live anyway.  So that option is most likely out.  So what’s the problem?  The problem is this:  We live in a semi-rural area with no serious prospects for me to continue the line of work in which I am currently engaged.  My current position is temporary, I am underpaid for my education, and I have no benefits.  When my position is up, I will be able to find something better (maybe) but it would require an out of state move.  We are not interested in living in the midwest, or the mid-Atlantic, or California.  We are happy where we are.  But staying here comes with a price.  I have to either do something new that is related to my field, or I have to leave the field completely.  I don’t see the latter as a real option.  I am going to try to adapt my skills to local conditions as best I can, but I think it’s going to be a real uphill battle.  I’m keeping my options open across the university, in the hope that *something* will become an opportunity for me.

Again, I don’t know if it’s just the sickness talking—if the feeling of being under the weather and drowning in work is making me feel like I need to run for the hills—or if I need to contemplate a career change more seriously because my life is demanding it.

This is a heavy post.  I promise something light for next time—after all, I WILL be feeling better in just a couple days here.  And there will be good times to share with my little guy.


I am not attempting the following this holiday season:

1.  Sending Christmas cards (or any holiday-themed card for that matter)

2.  Getting a family photo taken

3.  Cleaning the house

4.  Painting

5.  Baking holiday cookies

6.  Making Christmas dinner

“Ba-humbug!” you say.  ”Someone is clearly not in the holiday spirit.”  However, this isn’t exactly true.  I had looked forward to celebrating Christmas with H this year, as it’s really the first Christmas that counts for him.  Last year he was only 6 months old, and couldn’t really tear into those presents of his with the level of enthusiasm I suspect he’ll have this year.  In my mind over the past few months, I had idyllic visions of making misshapen gingerbread men with Holden, some with ill-fitting limbs, some with lumpy innards.  The unluckiest among them would be headless— victims of Holden’s personal Reign of Terror.  I wanted to paint with him, eat good food, go on little day trips on the weekends.  I wanted to spend a lot of time playing with Holden and re-acquainting myself with the little person he is becoming.

What frustrates me is how I can’t do any of this because I have been so sick.  And I don’t mean to be so negative or complain so much—but I am beginning to think something is really wrong.  Last year I struggled a good deal with sinus infections.  I had never had one before, so it was a little weird that I kept getting them.  This year, I have had some kind of sickness going on intermittently since October.  I had a sinus infection.  I took amoxcillin—it seemed to clear up, for a time.  About a week after I finished my meds, I started feeling sick again.  Not horrible and certainly not anything worth seeing a doctor over.  I just would feel achy and tired and I would get sinus congestion.  Then I would have more major congestion.  Then it would go away.  Then it would come back again.  It’s been back and forth like this for a couple of months.  This past week has been the worst of it.  On Wednesday, I was at work, sort of dragging through my day because I was feeling tired and achey all over again.  By 4PM, my left ear started hurting.  By the time I got home, I could hear fluid sloshing around in my ear and I really started to have some pain.  I decided to go to urgent care in case it was an ear infection (safe assumption, I thought), so that I wouldn’t have to deal with pain all night long and then have to deal with getting to a doctor the next day and trying to find transportation, etc.  So I go to urgent care.  I explain my symptoms to 3 different people.  They all ask the same questions.  I get told that my ear isn’t the problem—my throat is so swollen that it’s putting pressure on my eustachian tubes and causing fluid to build up behind my eardrum.  As this is being explained to me (that my ear isn’t the problem), I am in agony and I start having fluid come out of my ear.  Oh yeah, they tell me, that’s normal.  Ok.  They tell me I just have a virus, I need to go home and rest.  I go home.  More agony, more fluid coming out of my ear.  Eventually, the ear pain abates, but I continue to have the worst sore throat of my entire life and neck pain like I’ve never experienced.  Over the next couple of days, I stay home from work, and I have trouble swallowing even water, because my throat is so swollen.  Now I have ringing in my ears ALL THE TIME, and it’s to the point where I can’t hear anything above the din.  I can’t breathe out of my nose.  I try to to do the neti pot but no water will flow.  The Tylenol is barely cutting the pain.  I am frustrated beyond anything I can really express.  I ended up missing Rob’s holiday party at work (an event that we both looked forward to very much, complete with real actual babysitter).  Sigh.  Why do I keep getting sinus infections and having all of this clogged shit going on in my head?  I can’t go back to my primary care because he won’t prescribe anything if I’m sick for less than 2 weeks.  I understand, but maybe I don’t need a prescription.  Maybe I need someone to help me figure out why this continues to be such a problem for me, when it hasn’t been before.  I just don’t think the ruptured eardrum and the tinnitus, and the inability to swallow water are normal.

When Rob picked Holden up from daycare yesterday, he was informed that Holden had a mini temper tantrum in which he repeatedly asked for me.  This made me feel horrible, because I haven’t been able to be around him.  I have been in bed for the past several days.  I haven’t been eating dinner with the family and I’m in bed before Holden gets tucked in.  So I think he really misses me.  Today I tried to make up for it.  I spent lots of time with H today, but I think I’m pretty beat now because of it.  I miss him terribly and just want to have a couple of normal days where we can veg out.  This doesn’t count the massive amount of work I have piling up for me at work (I feel sick just thinking about the course prep alone), and the housework—-egads, the housework.  The unrelenting, never-ending housework.  I just can’t even think about it.  Oh, and the fact that I DON’T GET PAID SICK LEAVE.  This has me pretty irritated as well, because we continue to pay for daycare yet I’m not making any money on days when my ears are draining fluid and ringing along at a high pitch.  This aspect of my job makes me resent my work and sometimes I just hate it and want to threaten to quit (or actually quit) and do something better.

OK, enough venting for now.  If I were feeling better, I think I’d be pretty happy with my life and I wouldn’t have anything to complain about.  But illness can cast a shadow over everything.  I hope I can get over this soon so I can spend time with my boy, stay on top of my work, and not feel like my life is passing me by, unappreciated.