Fifteenth Day

How many times have you cried today?

The district says there’s a newer, wider gap and that they again have offered their last, best offer. There is a newer, wider gap between my mind and where it used to be.

Why is it hard to fund public education? And live on one full-time job?

Another week disintegrates.

Third Day: Family in 50

Our teachers are striking. Today is the third day. Reporting is that the sides — the teachers’ union and the school district — remain far apart.

Let’s make things tougher and more satisfying by writing in 50 words exactly a snapshot of how daily life shows up with three little kids in the middle of a pandemic at the end of winter at the beginning of a teachers’ strike.

Teachers strike, parents themselves to kids home now. I brace for uncertain weeks. My three run circles, laughing, which won’t last. They’ll dissolve before screens; I don’t have energy to enrich them. We survive this like everything else. A pandemic with a strike on top, and no way to prepare.

My disclaimer is that I’m writing simply to exercise my brain and distract myself from daily annoyances which are minimal in light of the war, in light of our privilege, in light of the fact that I should be more thankful and grateful and happy and all that. Writing proves to be a necessary and accessible escape.

The Novelty Has Worn

Last year at this time I had our whole summer planned and on the various Google calendars. Last year at this time the novelty of a pandemic summer was a curiosity and an adventure, a challenge of creativity. Last year at this time I was sick of being inside, but I wasn’t burnt by it all quite yet.

Today, I have a two-year-old, unvaccinated and climbing the literal walls of this house. Today, we’ve endured an entire new year of school, of quarantining from school, and from distance learning while in quarantine and a hybrid of all of the above. Today, we are operating under the assumption that maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a chance to have the toddler vaccinated some time in April.

Mask mandates are being lifted and the reporters don’t even mention the fact that there are kids out there who remain vulnerable and innocent. This pandemic is a different animal for those of us with little kids.

Last year at this time I was excited about the idea that life might change. Today, I can’t bring myself to register the kids for any summer classes or camps without the explicit instruction from their friends’ parents (hey, did Sam sign up for this yet?). I just can’t see that far. I return to the tornado that hit my parents’ home in the middle of Iowa in the middle of December. What else could happen?

And yet. We shuffle onward. We go to school and we come home. We wear our masks. We emerge when the temperature is above 10. We learn to read. We learn to practice new instruments. We try harder on our handwriting when there is a threat of extra handwriting practice at home. We chase each other around the house. We sleep and wake and do it again.

It’s fine, really. We’ve adjusted so hard that I don’t know that they’ll ever go indoors without a mask, and I don’t think they mind. It’s just fascinating to me how little interest I have in planning very far in advance. The calendar of our whole life will flip once the baby can get a shot. That’s when the new year begins.

Noise Canceling

We are back to distance learning. Three kids, two of whom don’t read, one of whom doesn’t talk. All of whom need. I am not adjusting with any semblance of grace, but I thought I’d try to write something humorous or at least light in tone for each day that they are home, from the beginning of distance learning until the end. Seventeen days. Seventeen installments.

Here’s the first one.

I call it…

Noise Canceling

Don’t bother Mommy.
She’s got her earbuds in.
You know what that means.

It means we can do what we
want, and she
won’t hear it.

They’re noise-canceling.
Did you know that?

It means they
cancel out

That means noise
doesn’t exist when she’s
wearing them.

I don’t know why she
doesn’t wear them all the time.

Yes, we can do that
now while she’s got her
noise-canceling earbuds in.

And yes, we can do that,

But probably not that.
No, we shouldn’t do that.

Not even if she has her earbuds in.

That seems dangerous.
I know, usually that’s fun.
But really.
Get off of there.

No. No, don’t do that.

Don’t unload the dishes.
That’s OK.
I know you’re trying to help.
But I don’t think she’d
like that.

No, put that back.

Hey, Mommy? Mama?

No, stop it.
Don’t do that.
I mean it, don’t!

Mom! Mom!
Help! Help me!

I said stop!

Mom! I need help!
Help me!
Oh shit.

I shouldn’t have said that.

Glad she didn’t hear it.

But It’s Iowa

We kept the kids home. We un-enrolled from our lives. We ordered little kid masks. We took them out of swimming lessons. We didn’t go to parks for a time. We put up a playset in our yard. And then a pool. And then two other pools, after the first and second ones broke. We didn’t go to Thanksgiving or Christmas last year. We turned a room or two into a “school room.” I facilitated distance learning for my then-first grader while trying to get my then-too-little-for-traditional-school online school options via I did this while the baby transformed from an infant to a toddler to a climber.

We wore special masks. We turned down social invitations. We tried to enroll the kids in special vaccine trials. We got vaccinated as soon as possible. We kept our kids up-to-schedule with their other vaccinations.

We kept our oldest home from school, even after the district opened up in February of this year to going back to in-person. Finally, at the end of March, we did send him back.

We didn’t do traditional camps over the summer. We did do a lot of outdoor stuff, like mountain biking, and in my case, running.

We haven’t been to an indoor restaurant for a long ass time. Years? But really, who wants to dine indoors (or anywhere, ever) with kids. We don’t go to movies. We don’t go to the fucking Frozen musical that would be so cool for my six-year-old daughter to see.

All of the adults and old-enough kids with whom we socialize are vaccinated. Some are even antsy to get a booster.

My husband took our older two kids to a Cub Scouts camping trip (outdoors, clearly). I took my toddler to Iowa to see my family. Who is grieving. Who is sad. Who has lost so much.

In Iowa, my toddler caught COVID-19. My toddler. Who doesn’t go to daycare. Who doesn’t go to ECFE. Who doesn’t go to Sunday School or playdates. Who follows me around, day and night. He caught it from family who have, now confirmed, breakthrough cases.

And now I have the virus. As does my husband. My big kids, so far, do not.

But they’re out of school for the next two weeks and, woe is me, I will be facilitating some lackadaisical version of distance learning for a second grader and a kindergartner while keeping my mask on and my toddler upstairs. Maybe I will employ Alexa somehow.

We have mild symptoms. Other than anger. My anger (and self-pity) is pretty severe.

Plus, it’s my birthday on Friday. And I had special plans.

In Iowa.

In the middle of the summer in the middle of the pandemic

I have re-done this website yet again because it’s a Sunday and no child is on top of me and I have millions of things to do but I am refusing to do those things.

Also I haven’t been here for… some time.

And here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of the summer in the middle of that pandemic, and I have a seven-month-old and a four-year-old and a six-year-old and a husband and I don’t know where I fit in between all of them. Living in the cracks, lately.

What will we do this fall, when we have to decide whether I become a full-time home educator? Will I lose it? Will my kids? There is no way, as I see it now, that my kids will be safe if they go to in-person classes, nor will their teachers nor our older family members.

I can’t work right now because the music therapy clients I was seeing are not accepting non-essential visitors. So I guess I’ll be a teacher! Yikes.

I should probably write about it. There are lots of obstacles to doing that, but really it’s the only thing I like to do. So I should do it?

My time in the hospital

I wonder for how long I’ve been ignoring the messages my body has been yelling at me. Certainly I should have known that the sensation of vertigo was enough to leave work, but I was so eager to get back to seeing clients after having had laryngitis for a week that I decided that nothing was going to keep me from doing just that. I was upset with myself for being sick so much. I was frustrated that I had to cancel so many sessions. I was worried that I was going to be fired. When I didn’t have a voice to use to call the group managers to tell them I wouldn’t be there, I read a whole lot into the responses I got from their e-mails. Were they pissed? Were they going to look elsewhere for services? I wish I weren’t so sick all the time.

In mid-April, I had some stomach troubles. I am used to this, but some were bad enough that I had to cancel a couple of sessions and meetings. A couple of weeks later, I caught a cold, which very quickly turned into laryngitis. This, too, I am accustomed to having happen — in the last couple of years, it seems that I lose my voice when I get a cold. There went another few days of sessions. The Monday after my cold hit, I finally had enough of a voice to use to sing in my sessions. I was determined to be fine that morning, and more determined yet to get back to my normal schedule. Being sick is just as much a mental exercise in guilt as it is a physical experience in discomfort or pain.

I felt well enough through my first session, though I remember thinking that I was feeling some dizziness on the drive away from the client. The sensation got worse, and coupled with a headache that originated in my temples and radiated to my eyeballs. But, I still had a voice, and I didn’t think whatever this crap was could be contagious, so I drove on to my next client. There I was, face to face with my client, and I was having trouble focusing — not my attention, though that was compromised, but my sight. Needless to say, I was not the best therapist in that session. I was simply trying to get through it without having to move for fear of falling over.

Though I hadn’t seen my next few clients in a couple of weeks, I called off the rest of my day and carefully drove myself home where I wept to my work-at-home husband about what a failure I was for being sick, yet again.

Having two kids under the age of four does not lend itself well to being a sick mama. But my husband never complains when he needs to take the full responsibility, and I went to bed and was miserable with body aches and fevers and chills the rest of the night.

The vertigo was so bad in the morning that I couldn’t sit up, so I pulled over my phone and e-mailed my day full of clients saying, another time, “I am sick.” I spoke to a nurse who said I might have the flu, and then my doctor said that I’d have to go in for an appointment to be prescribed anything. I wasn’t able to drive, so my husband took me in.

At the appointment, they weren’t able to measure my blood pressure on the machine because it was so low. The doctor said they’d have to run some blood tests to see what it is, but that since they’d need to send it over to the hospital, I might as well just go to the emergency room.

I’m busy calculating how much time there is left in the day before we have to go pick up the kids. I knew a trip to the ER would be lengthy.

When we got to the ER, they said I should’ve been brought over by ambulance because I was so hypotensive and my heart rate was so high. I thought, “How much would that have cost?”

I figured that once I got to the emergency room, I’d get IV fluids and feel immediately better. This was not the case. We were there for a few hours. They ran a number of tests on me. My husband was with me until he had to go to pick up the kids, and at that point, we learned that I had to be admitted.

Fortunately, my mother-in-law is local and was able to help with the kids’ bedtime. I spent time between blood draws and fever spikes e-mailing my clients to tell them I wouldn’t be seeing them that week.

The second day in the hospital was the worst. I had had a 102.9 fever the night before and hardly slept, and that second day I was emotional and embarrassed for being there. The doctors said I had two separate infections that had gotten to my blood and gave me sepsis. I was dizzy because my blood pressure was so low. I also had developed a rash on my arm, and they were concerned that the infection might have gotten to my wrist, in which case antibiotics wouldn’t help. I had an echocardiogram because that particular strain of strep could affect the heart. I was on two antibiotics, and then they changed one after learning about the certainty of strep. I didn’t have an appetite.

On the third day in the hospital, I wasn’t dizzy and I was finally comfortable. I was in the hospital for four days, and they discharged me with a PICC line so that I could have daily IV antibiotics on an outpatient basis for two weeks.

I’m done with the daily treatments and have a follow-up appointment this week.

My parents were able to come up and stay with me for much of the time I was getting treatments. I chose not to work during that time, and will be going back to seeing clients tomorrow. All of my clients were understanding and gracious. All of my clients wished me well.

Throughout this whole thing, I’ve mostly been in disbelief. I am sad when I hear my son tell people that I was in the hospital because I was sick. I am mad that I wasn’t able to play with my little people while I was stuck there, even though they did come visit me every night.

I wish I weren’t so distracted that I let everything get so out of hand. I wish I paid better attention to myself so that I could be better for my family. In all of it, I feel like I was the inconvenience, disrupting the flow of the day.

Anyway. That’s my account of my hospital stay.