Benjamin’s birthday

Our first day back to “normal” after vacation was exhausting.  I really was totally beat by the end of the day — I’d forgotten how much it took out of me to spend the whole day with the kids while simultaneously trying to get some laundry done, unpack from our trip and get everyone fed.  Climbing into bed that night was so satisfying.  I was so ready for a good night’s sleep.

Alas, it was not to be.  B woke up, sick, after an hour.  We spent the next few hours bathing B, doing laundry and mopping floors.  There’s nothing quite like unscheduled, middle of the night housework!  After a rough night all around, we spent the next few days taking care of a sick B and wondering when the illness would strike next.

2380Benjamin’s birthday was that Friday, July 18.  By Thursday night, he was feeling pretty well, so we were hopeful that he would be able to fully enjoy his birthday.  I (optimistically) baked a cake, Dan took the day off of work, and we stayed up late wrapping gifts and decorating a bit.  We went to bed with our fingers crossed, excited for B’s big day.

But again, it was not to be.  Liam woke us up an hour after we’d gone to bed, having his turn at the stomach illness.  Again, we were up in the middle of the night, bathing Liam (5 baths in one night!), mopping the floor and laundering tons of bedding.  In his case, the illness stretched out until morning, so instead of B waking us up excited and a little too early on his birthday (as is customary), Dan and I were just shuffling back to bed, well after the sun had come up, with our excited newly 6 year old put back to bed, just so we could rest for 1 hour.

Though my enthusiasm for B’s birthday was not diminished in the least, I struggled to have it shine through the haze of exhaustion that hung over later me that morning.  My memory of him opening his presents is slightly befuddled by the fact that I hadn’t yet had coffee, but I remember how excited he was.  I remember how well he took it when we explained that our celebratory plans for the day (a trip to the wave pool) would have to be rescheduled.  He took it so well.  He had actually already come to that conclusion on his own.  There were no tears, no sad face.  Just a quiet, unemotional, matter of fact, “I understand” that was more heartbreaking for how grown up it was.

And the rough start to the day didn’t end there.  We bought the wrong squirt gun.  It was the gift he had most been looking forward to, and though we got him a nice one, it was not the one he wanted.  I got the wrong video game — it wouldn’t play on our console.  (I feel like such a “MOM” … I didn’t know “Wii U” was a thing.)  And through all of it, he was ok.  A bit disappointed, but surprisingly ok.

From there, though, the day got better.  He & Dan took a trip to the toy store to exchange the squirt gun (they were out of the one he really wanted, but at least he got to choose the replacement).  We got to Skype with some of our family and got a surprise video message from others.  He got messages and texts from (literally) around the world.  Everyone got a long nap, Liam got three more baths, and B got to pick the movie for movie night.  And, shockingly, everyone was well enough for a little bit of cake after dinner.


At the end of the night, Liam, who had not yet given B a gift (Mommy dropped the ball on that one because B had been sick all week), insisted on choosing a gift for B out of the things we already had in the house — which turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the day.

At the end of it all, B said, “I think this turned out to be a pretty good birthday after all.”  I think that a higher compliment could not have been given.

Unfortunately, we went on to take turns being quite ill over the next week or so — it’s about 10 days after B’s birthday now, and we haven’t been well enough yet to take that trip to the wave pool, but we will soon.  Regardless of how it was spent, B’s birthday was as important and as special as ever to me.  It was not at all the day we had planned, but, on balance, it was a good day.  I hope he felt celebrated.  I feel astonished at his maturity and understanding.  He is just so grown up.

Pink eye

It feels like we spent at least half of September and October being sick.  In retrospect, I shouldn’t really be surprised — we pretty much did the same thing Benjamin’s first year of Kindergarten (preschool).  By exposing our little ones, who, up until then, had mostly just been home with me, to a classroom full of new kids (and new germs) it’s kind of inevitable that they will bring everything they encounter home with them and very generously share it with the rest of the family.  I thought that *maybe* it would be different this time — since Liam had already been exposed to all of the illnesses Benjamin brought home that first fall, I thought maybe he (and the rest of us) would already be immune to most of what he encountered and would mostly be spared.  Apparently not.

Most recently, we spent much of mid-October down for the count with some kind of cold/flu as well as pink eye.  (Unless they were just two different manifestations of the same illness, which is certainly also possible.)  Amazingly, I think it was the first time I’ve ever suffered from pink eye, and I know it’s the first time that my kids have.  Liam started getting sick our last morning in Sankt Koloman, and went on to have a week or so of a bad cold, a nasty cough and sticky eyes.  Benjamin and I caught it soon after, and we ended up with about a week where neither of the boys went to school, and over 2 weeks when at least one of us was sick.  (Dan, who seems to have a stronger immune system, escaped with a little congestion and a cough, but nothing too serious.)  I realized, after it was all over and we’d started to recover, that at that point I had not left the house in 8 days.  Not once.

It was fine, really, and we’re all (mostly) better now.  But it was a bit of a rough time while we were going through it.  It was a little bit tough to go back to having both boys home all day, just as I was getting used to having my mornings to myself.  And, since I was sick, too, all I wanted to do was to crawl back into bed in the morning, but it wasn’t to be.  I was a little worried that it would be hard to have them home — that I would have forgotten, in just a few weeks, how to have them both home and manage everything.  But it was fine (partly because I just ended up being ok with not managing everything).  Although I missed drinking my morning coffee without having to worry about where I set the cup, it was quite nice to go back to having them both home all day.  I love that they go to school, and I love that they have their friends and their teachers and that they enjoy it so much.  But, it was pretty great to get to spend all day with them.  (I just wish they hadn’t been sick.)

And it was a good reminder for me of how much I manage to get done in a typical day.  I think it’s sometimes easier to appreciate what I’m able to get done when I’m *not* getting it done — and certainly, the cleaning, errands and chores piled up during those weeks of us all being sick.  It was good for me to remember that I don’t spend my mornings without the kids just sitting around — there’s a lot that gets done during those hours (and a lot now to catch up on)!

Now, we seem to all be on the mend (I hope it’s really true).  I’m hoping we’ll all be able to get back into our new routine, and stick with it for a bit.  Hopefully we’ll all stay well for a while and be able to enjoy the rest of the fall.

Stir crazy

Tomorrow will be the end of the second week of our “summer break”.  We’re keeping B home from school during July and August to give us all a break from the lengthy back and forth commute to school, and to spend some fun summer time together.  Of course, it hasn’t gone like that at all yet, because from the day before our first day of summer break, Liam has been sick.

When he first got sick, I was sure it was strep — actually, I was sure it was scarlet fever, because his sore throat and high fever were accompanied by an all-over rash.  Turns out it was “just” a virus — he recovered from the sore throat and fever within a few days, but even though today is the 11th day of his illness, the rash has stuck around.  I think we probably *could* go out and do stuff.  The pediatrician assures me he is no longer contagious, but I feel like if he still has a rash that resulted from an immune reaction, then he’s probably still having the immune reaction on some level, and it probably won’t hurt anything (other than my sanity) to take a few extra quiet resting days at home.  Plus, Benjamin’s birthday party is on Saturday, and I want the boys to be able to enjoy it, rather than being miserable from being sick.

So, we’ve been housebound for ALL of summer vacation so far.  The weather has been beautiful (if a little warm some days), and with both kids feeling relatively well for the past week or so (not counting the rash) we’ve all been itching (pun intended) to get out of the house.  But, no luck so far.  Keeping the kids happy and occupied over the past couple of weeks has been a challenge.  It’s like being snowed in, except that it’s tantalizingly beautiful outside.  We’ve watched every movie we have about a million times, and I recently resorted to putting on TV shows that they don’t like very much, because the ones they don’t like they haven’t seen them in a while, so they’re still relatively interested in what happens.  We’ve built about 1000 Lego cars, put together every puzzle we own, colored, painted, and gone out onto the terrace to blow bubbles.  We’ve staged indoor basketball, soccer and football competitions, and we assemble the Matchbox cars for a daily “car party” each morning.

We’re actually having a pretty great time, considering we’re confined to the house during such a perfect time of year to be outside, but really, we all just want to go out and play.

Summer vacation

Today, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the weather was perfect — 72 and sunny with a cool breeze.  Today is the first day of B’s summer vacation from school, and I had visions of sleeping in, a trip to the playground, or maybe the pool, and lots of snuggling with the kids.

So far, the boys got up before 7, and although we’ve gotten in LOTS of snuggling, it’s unfortunately mostly because Liam is sick.  (He woke up from his nap yesterday with a fever, and added a rash today, so I’ve been pretty worried.)  So our first day of summer vacation has been spent taking temperatures and going to the pediatrician’s office to get him checked out and to get a throat culture (no strep).  B is feeling ok (he was probably sick with a mild version of this last week when he was feeling a bit run down) and though Liam is miserable, he should be feeling well in a few days.  And, since we are on summer vacation, I’m home to snuggle them both, with nowhere else I need to be.  It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for the first day of our summer break, but, Liam’s illness aside, it was really a pretty good day.  He’ll be better soon, and our summer fun will be waiting for us then.

Paris Paris Paris Paris . . . maybe

We’re going to Paris, and I’m really excited!  We leave tonight, spend a long weekend there, and come back Tuesday.  It’s pretty revolutionary to be going on a weekend trip to Paris — logistically and financially, living in Europe has given us a great opportunity to travel here pretty easily, and I’m loving it.  It’s one of my favorite things about being on this adventure.  (I mean, really, my conversations this week have gone like this: “What are you doing this weekend?”  “Going to Paris!”  Pretty great.)  We’re looking forward to going back to visit again — I love the feel of the city, how beautiful and truly romantic it is, and (of course) the food.  We have a late flight tonight, which may be a challenge for everyone’s patience, but the plan is to get situated tonight so we can spend the day tomorrow relaxing and enjoying the city.  (Since it is “only” a long weekend, we didn’t want to spend all of Saturday at the airport.  I’m not sure whether it’s a good plan, but I’ll soon find out.)

We loved our time in Paris last spring, but there were lots of things we wanted to do that we didn’t get to (visiting the Louvre, seeing the Eiffel Tower at night, spending more time just walking and seeing the city) so I’m excited to go back.  We loved our experience last year so much that we’re staying in the same apartment, so we know where to find the great boulangeries and cremeries and gelato shops (the boys remember Paris for the gelato more than anything else).  Our main excuse for going this time is as an early celebration of my & Dan’s 13th wedding anniversary (which officially happens the 24th).

But, regardless of the excitement and intense anticipation . . .  our plans are a bit up in the air this morning.  Liam had some upset tummy issues yesterday (nothing that seemed major) but he’s got a sore bottom now, so badly that he could not sleep (so neither did we).  He finally fell asleep in my lap at 5:30 this morning.

I’d love to say that we really are going, but I don’t know what our next hours will bring.  He woke up chipper and asking about our trip, but I’ll have to see if it lasts.  Is he still sick or feeling better?  Can he sit down and be comfortable on the flight, or would it just be torture to put him through that?  We’ll have to see as the day goes on.  Travel with little ones is always an adventure — and we haven’t even left yet!  Fingers crossed that my next post is from France . . .

We win

Last night was another rough one.  Liam is still sick.  He’s doing just fine for as long as his medicine lasts, but as soon as it wears off, he’s right back to being feverish and miserable — and it wears off several hours before he’d due to get more.  Also, medicated or not, whenever he lays down, he gets all clogged up and can’t breathe.  Poor guy . . . and thus, again, poor parents.

I got a little more sleep last night — I mostly slept from about 2:00 until about 5:00 this morning — but that was only because Dan took on more of the middle of the night visits to the boys’ room.  All totaled, I’ve had less than 6 hours of sleep over the past two nights.  And while that’s not nearly the worst I’ve had it, it’s no fun (especially because there was, unbelievably, no nap for the boys yesterday either, and only a 20 minute nap for Liam today).

Today, I got up to bravely tackle the day.  It’s a holiday here in Austria (but not for the UN) so B didn’t have school but Dan did have work.  Dan offered to stay home (he has leave he can take for sick family members) but I figured I could manage, since I didn’t have much planned today and our friends are here — in case I needed a moment to catch my breath, or a hand with something.  Then, I managed to get back to bed for an hour this morning, because after I got Liam down (around 6:30) and B woke up immediately thereafter, but I was able to convince him to lay down again for an hour.  I was tired, I was feeling rough, but, I thought, I could handle it, as long as I had enough coffee.

And then, we had the trifecta of mommy meltdown fodder.  While the boys were sitting at the table having breakfast, I came back from retrieving more Cheerios to find that Liam had emptied our entire new package of napkins onto the floor.  I felt overwhelmed and quite a bit frustrated, but I was still ok.  Still, I texted Dan to tell him that I might, upon further reflection, need him to take the afternoon off today . . . especially because I was imagining my mental state would be pretty rough if we went another day without a nap.  This was followed, moments later, while I was preparing some much needed coffee, by hearing Benjamin chant, “Fling them!  Fling them!  Fling them!”  I rushed back to the table to see Liam scooping his Cheerios and milk, by the spoonful, and (as requested) flinging them against the wall and windows.  At that point, I texted Dan again to tell him I would, indeed, be requiring him at home this afternoon.

And, just in case I wasn’t 100% certain I was making the right decision, I then proceeded to spill the contents of B’s potty all over the bathroom floor.  No worries at that point that I was overreacting to my current mental state by having Dan come home.  I was in full pre-meltdown mode:  frazzled, sweating, stressing out, feeling overwhelmed, on the verge of absolutely freaking out about something that would have made me sigh and roll my eyes on a better day.

So, Dan come home (with lunch!) at the middle of the day and stayed home, to take care of all of us.  After short naps for everyone, B did a major faceplant on the floor resulting in a bloody nose and a very fat lip (he used the ice packs pretty liberally though and looks amazingly good now).  And, Liam’s fever has now stopped responding so well to the ibuprofen, so he has an appointment with the pediatrician tomorrow.  I hate using a leave day on something that seems so minor, but I’m really happy that today didn’t end in tears, screaming or any lost tempers . . . especially from me.  I call this a win.

Up all night

So, I was hoping that my post yesterday would make it sound like tons of fun to be here and maybe inspire more of our friends to come visit.  (Maybe?  Hopefully?)  Well, don’t book those tickets yet, because our health track record during friend visits is turning out to be pretty poor (oddly, that has not been true during family visits, when we’ve been healthy the vast majority of the time).  Last night, Liam was up all night, sick.  (Thus, so were we, although not sick ourselves.)  At first, he was just fussy and uncomfortable, but around 4:30/5:00 (who can remember after a night like that) he got a fever and got really miserable.  After a dose of ibuprofen, he finally got to sleep.  At 6:30 this morning.  Of course.

I don’t think we kept the entire household up all night or anything, but I don’t think anyone here got a full, restful night’s sleep, either.  We’ve certainly experienced the joys of sick kids on vacation, as well, but there’s something particularly unfortunate about our kids getting sick, seemingly whenever anyone with kids tries to come and visit us.

For now, Liam’s staying happy with medicine at regular intervals, but given that nap time today didn’t go any better than last night did, we may be in for a multi-day stretch of wakeful, miserable children (and parents), which, unfortunately, doesn’t make for a very fun time for our visiting friends.  I’m hoping that we haven’t gotten Eva sick, at least.  That won’t be a good way for them to remember their visit here (just ask Pam and Joshua).  And if anyone else plans to visit, I promise to do my best to keep the kids healthy.

Birth order and sick kids

My life is so glamorous.  Liam has been sick so I’ve spent the past few days cleaning up the liquids that come out of my kid at high rates of speed from both ends.  (So fancy, this life in Europe.  Also, nothing makes me miss my big, fast American washing machine like a couple of days of kid illness.)

I’ve been a mom for 4 1/2 years now, so although no one is happy when the boys are sick, it doesn’t overwhelm me or freak me out like it once did.  In a few days, Liam will feel better.  Then maybe B will get sick, or I will, and then, at some point in the near future, we’ll all be well and we’ll get back to normal life.  Everything we own can be cleaned (or replaced).  And although middle of the night cleaning isn’t my most favorite thing, it doesn’t kill me (or even ruin my day).  So, armed with this knowledge, I face Liam’s illness — sleep deprived, sympathetic, patient, and full of coffee.

But I didn’t always feel this way.  I vividly remember past times, especially when B was little, when a stomach illness in B created panic in me.  Getting him cleaned up and taken care of on top of cleaning up the house and doing it on no sleep made me a little crazy.  I felt like THIS was now my existence.  I lived in a space where I lost all perspective and couldn’t keep myself mindful of the fact that it was temporary and that however unhappy I was, my little one was suffering more than me.  I was reduced to tears more than once — scrubbing carpets, washing sheets and blankets, cleaning the couch for the third time in a single day.  I always managed to keep it together while holding, comforting or cleaning B, but, often, everything else was too much for me.

And I’m just not like that anymore.  Sure, it can still be daunting to deal with the collateral damage from a sick kid, but, the vast majority of the time, I maintain reasonable stress levels and don’t fall apart.

The other night, when I was up at 1:30 a.m., cleaning everything in Liam’s room and not freaking out, I reflected on how lucky Liam is in this way.  His illnesses don’t happen alongside a breakdown from Mommy.  B has that experience now, but for his first few years, he didn’t.  And it’s not just when they’re sick — I take everything more in stride now than I did when I was new at this.

On the other hand, I’m so often aware of how much one-on-one time B had with me when he was little, and how much less of that there is for Liam.  B got more of me, but I was so much less together.  Liam gets less, but I’m probably traumatizing him less, on average.  I guess it works out.  And I really, really hope that B ends up with more memories of the mommy that I am now, rather than the basket case I once was.

Sick kids who don’t take naps

IMG_2730I thought sick kids were supposed to be sleepy?  Not mine, at least not today.  Both of my boys are a little under the weather — Liam much more so than Benjamin (who has the sniffles but still went to school today).  After a morning of wrestling with a fussy, snotty Liam and an afternoon that started similarly but with the addition of a slightly-more-whiny-than-usual Benjamin, I was really, really ready for nap time.

But, no luck.  B went into his room without complaint, but asked me if it was time to get up every 10 minutes.  Liam didn’t even pretend — he didn’t close his eyes, nor did he cease in flailing and crying.  After about an hour, I gave up and let them get up.  We Skyped with Grandma, and then (per Benjamin’s request) we watched the first part of Cars.

Other than ending the day completely worn out, we all really had a pretty good day.  We watched a movie, we cuddled, we played trucks.  Which is all pretty impressive.  When I think back to the limits I’ve been stretched to, mentally and emotionally, since we’ve been here, I realize it’s a big accomplishment to have a day like this, where the boys are sick, no one naps, and I don’t freak out — not even a little.

I’m hoping tomorrow goes a little more smoothly, that the kids are feeling better (or, if they’re not, that they sleep, at least) but today I’m appreciating being able to handle it, however it goes.

Missing school

Both yesterday and today, we kept B home from preschool.  Not at all because he’s objecting to going (technically, he isn’t objecting to going — he’s very clear on the fact that what he’s objecting to is my leaving).  He’s sick.  Nothing serious — sniffle, cough, slight fever — no more than to be expected, considering he’s being introduced to a whole new world of “kid cooties” that he’s missed out on being exposed to thus far in his life.

Staying home with both kids is hard work, no question.  Staying home with both kids when one is sick and the other is not is significantly harder.  I don’t know what was more of a challenge over the past few days:  keeping Liam quiet so B could rest, or keeping B calm while Liam was crawling laps around the living room, playing with B’s toys and causing general mayhem.

Psychologically, this has served a very good purpose — I’m actually looking forward to B going back to school.  Partly because I won’t be trying to juggle two incompatible objectives at home, and partly because it’ll mean he’s feeling better.  There’s also a small part of me that keeps thinking, “I can’t wait until he’s feeling better so I can get back to my normal schedule”, which is followed immediately by the realization that I don’t really have a “normal” schedule right now.

Hopefully, tonight will be restful for all of us (B does not sleep well when he’s congested) and the morning will dawn illness-free.  Then we can get back to our new crazy schedule and work on adjusting to school . . . until B comes home with the next cootie infestation, or Liam or I come down with this one.