A quick update on ear-related issues

At 8:40 am on a bitterly cold January morning in New England, I bundled my 14 month old into his winter gear – with practiced negotiation passing the beloved cars from one hand to the other. Our journey was short – maybe a quarter of a mile. If it hadn’t been 15 degrees and windy with snow-covered sidewalks, I would’ve walked. Even 25 degrees and moderately clear sidewalks. But no.

I wrestled him out of the car and into the clinic. I think that until he can walk, I need to leave the coffee cup at home. If you know me, you know how much it PAINS ME to admit that there is ever a circumstance before noon that I might be parted from my beloved beverage. But 30 pound squirmy 14 month old makes it unusually challenging to keep my coffee upright.

I digress.

Thane was actually lovely in the waiting room. He played with his cars on the table “Vroom vroom!”. He lost a car behind a chair, managed to reclaim it, but was unable to extricate himself. I did not laugh, but politely extracted him. The ubiquitous office ladies with perfect manicures were unable to find our referral. I suspect this has to do with the fact it was submitted on one of those new-fangled computer thingies. My pediatrician verified that the information had been submitted and accepted, so I’m unconcerned. He has an iPhone and a brand new computer system and enough savvy to go around.

Then we went to wait in the office, and this was less lovely. The number of exciting things at boy-height made it imperative to keep him off the ground. Thane does not like to be kept off the ground. I contemplated the brightly lit “on” switch for the auto-clave and the child safety covers on the power strips and decided that someone around here wasn’t aware of just what would attract a 14 month old’s eye.

The doctor came in a very long 10 minutes later. Thane’s tonsils were pronounced “tiny”. (I think that’s good.) He looked in both ears. Shocking, he found fluid in both ears. (Duh!) He recommended surgery for ear tubes. He said that we’d schedule in 3 to 4 weeks for Boston. Done! I spent more time doing the exiting procedures than we’d spent in the exam.

And there it is. Sometime before Valentine’s Day, Thane will likely go into Boston for a very quick surgery. Apparently children are only “out” for about 10 minutes. They cut a tiny hole in the outer skin of the ear drum, vacuum up the offending liquid and insert a little tube to prevent the cut from healing over. Sometime in the next 6 – 18 months the tube will fall out of it’s own accord. The procedure is meant to help prevent ear infections (by preventing the buildup of fluid) until his face lengthens and the Eustachian tubes start going down instead of straight across.

I hope that this will make Thane slightly happier. Where he is right now, he can be a delight but… I am unwilling to take him anywhere. Dinner out is disastrous. The library was extremely hard to manage. He bolts, he pulls things off, he has a very firm idea of what he wants to accomplish and if thwarted will pitch a fit. He’s ok in the safety of our own home, or in any area where it’s acceptable to put him down and let him wander. Most of the time. Except last night, where he was 100% crying if he wasn’t being held and only 30% crying as long as I had him on my hip. Not Daddy. Not Emily. Mommy.

On the other hand, he is absolutely adorable. You should hear him say “cheese”! It’s awesome.

The state of the boys

At this point in my life, the bulk of the things I have to talk about come from the kids. This isn’t a desire on my part: I keep attempting to read books, think deep thoughts, and have exciting experiences. But no kidding: it took me 45 minutes of concerted effort to manage to read a four page spread in the Holiday Economist about the last of the WWI vets. I had to insert several chapters of Danny Dragonbreath and about 20 up and down off the couches and at least one bribe to get that far — and that was with TWO other adults in the house.

Anyway, with five straight days at home, most of which were dominated by falling snow, I had ample time to familiarize myself with the two small people who rule our house.

I look perfectly happy here! You must be exaggerating.
I look perfectly happy here! You must be exaggerating.

Thane is at a really unpleasant stage. He screams. All the time. And demands to be picked up. He weighs a ton. And wiggles. This morning, for example, I had a few small goals. Namely, to eat a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, pack my lunch and pour my coffee. None of these things is done easily while holding 30 pounds of squirm. So there he is, weeping bitterly and banging his little hands against my thighs while I attempt to read the Economist article on politeness and eat my Cheerios (he was ignoring my MIL who would be happy to snuggle him). I pick him up, soothe him, and give him his favoritest toy ever: the empty milk jug and lid. He is happy. Then – oh horrors! – I move! To pour my coffee! He trails after me, milk jug in hand, weeping bitterly. I pour my coffee, pick him up, snuggle him, and place him on the floor next to a large pile of fun, plastic devices. He is happy. Then – the humanity! – I move! He tumbles after me, falling down as my legs move instead of staying where they belong (which is to say: with baby arms wrapped around them).

I give up and carry him, attempting feats such as “putting a coat on” and “packing my thermos” which really, really are better done sans baby.

And sometimes nothing I do helps. The other day I was attempting to (get this) put my clothes away!!!. I had Thane in my bedroom. One-handed, I gathered together a variety of toys, including the beloved milk jug. I sat next to him on the floor, touching. Bitter weeping. I picked him up. Bitter weeping. Nothing I did eased the heartache. ALL DAY. For FIVE DAYS.

I don’t know what’s up. Or rather, I don’t know which of the things is up. I called this morning to make an appointment to start the process of obtaining ear tubes. I suspect we might actually GET the ear tubes some time around his 18th birthday. Anyway, I really don’t think he’s feeling well, and I think his ears hurt a lot. But Tylenol + the analgesic drops I begged off the covering pediatrician over Christmas don’t seem to make much difference (although now my lips go numb whenever I kiss his fuzzy little head). I think it’s also a Stage. He wants Mommy. He wants 100% of Mommy, all the time. Daddy and Meme will do if Mommy isn’t in the room. But he just wants to be held. I don’t know if there’s anything else too… separation anxiety or 14monthishness or something, but it was really no fun. I had like 3 nice hours total with him, when he wasn’t horribly upset and was awake and playing quietly. I’ve already taken him to the doctor several times for “irritability”. I’m not sure if this is ear infection, normal stage, or if there’s something else wrong. Also, the kid is eating his body weight daily, and seems happier after he’s eaten more than any of the grownups. This is going on a bit long to be a growth spurt.

In happier news, he’s made a lot of verbal progress. I’m not convinced he’s hearing properly (see also: chronic ear infection), but he’s started pointing enthusiastically at the books he’s being read. He said “blue”, “Thane”, “Amen” and “Cheese” this week. (The cheese is HILARIOUS. The kid won’t say nose, but Mr. Moon sure will say cheese!) It seems like he won’t attempt many words he’s uncertain about, but he’ll use a word once or twice and then refuse to repeat. But I’m pretty sure he is using it once or twice.

Also, no kidding, the rinsed out milk jug is the BEST TOY EVER.

Grey the Scientist
Grey the Scientist

So if Thane has been a source of angst for me, Grey has been absolutely the best kid ever in the whole universe. Although well anesthetized with various screens and treats, Grey has been a delight. He’s been listening, and complying politely with requests. He played for like two hours out in the snow. He’s been super snuggly, requesting hugs and bestowing kisses. (Although usually when he gives me kisses they’re accompanied with instructions that said kisses are to be saved for his cousins Baz and Kay.) He’ll cuddle up while reading, and when I seem tired, he comes up to give me a “massage”. When eating a meal he doesn’t hate, he’ll say something like “Thank you, daddy, for making us this nice meal. It is super tasty.” I kid you not. We’re working on Christmas thank you notes, with me taking dictation, and they’re awesome. “Dear Grandma Jones, Thank you for the blocks. I like them a lot. They are awesome. It was very kind of you to give us such fun blocks. Dear Grey.” (Ok, so he hasn’t quite gotten the “sincerely” bit yet.) He and I had a fantastic time doing his new science experiments. He even helps with his brother — making funny faces to make him stop weeping.

In general, I’m having an AWESOME time being Grey’s mom. I feel like I’m falling down on the job being Thane’s mom — I just haven’t figured out how to help him. I hope I figure it out.

It’s official: chronic ear infection

The face of a sick Thane
The face of a sick Thane

My dominant impression of my youngest’s health is that he’s healthy as an ox. (Also, he weighs as much as an ox, but that’s a separate complaint.) I don’t think I’ve taken a sick day for him yet (knocks on wood). But each time I brought him in for his well-baby appointments after about 6 months, he’d fail the ear check (it seems). I’d go fill the prescription, dose him with Amox-Clav and not pay too much attention. He’d get really fussy. I’d bring him in. His ears would have fluid. We’d recheck. His ears would have fluid.

But this never has seemed to BOTHER him much. Even Thane fussy is a sweet, fun little kid.

But. But but.

The 102.8 on Christmas Eve was a scary high fever, especially since I wasn’t sure of the direction. He stayed hot all through Christmas, before slowly cooling off. And then the crying jags. For 20 minutes he’d scream and writhe and scream and scream and scream. It was horrible. I’d be about ready to scream too. And then he’d notice his favorite toy: a milk jug. Or he’d just suddenly settle. (Of course, many of the screaming jags were punctuated by a dose of Tylenol, which let’s just all admit here and now, Tylenol is a wonder drug.) And he’d pull his ear.

By Christmas, I was pretty sure what was up. Two days after finishing antibiotics for an ear infection which had already drawn the “if this doesn’t clear this up I’m calling it chronic” warning from our pediatrician? No other symptoms? Ear pulling? It didn’t take a genius to figure this one out.

I begged the on call pediatrician for anesthetic eardrops, and waited nearly an hour in Walgreens while they attempted to figure out how to get them to me. And this morning bright and early Thane and his father went to see his doctor to verify our suspicions.

Thane is now on his last-ditch antibiotics and we’re supposed to be lining up surgery for him for ear tubes. Surgery. As in “general anesthetic” and “fasting”. For my baby. Oof.

So, in my role as “mom” I’m spending today fretting. Examples of my frets include:

  • Is my son’s hearing and verbal development compromised by his constant ear infections? Is THIS why he refuses to say nose? (I doubt it. Did I mention he said “Duck” and “Quack quack” yesterday? And that when I asked him what a duck said, he said “Quack quack”? But only when I can hear him.)
  • Seriously, surgery?
  • Doesn’t this mean he’ll have to wear ear plugs whenever he goes swimming?
  • And general anesthetic?
  • What sort of problems will we encounter due to the sheer volume of Amox-Clav the child has consumed? (He loves it!)
  • Has my son been hurting for months and I’ve done too little to help, lulled by his general good nature?
  • And how cool is it that Mass Eye and Ear is a very short walk from my house?
  • Answer: Cool. But surgery is uncool.
  • Oh, my sweet Thane. I’m sorry you spent your second Christmas hurting. I’m sorry that you might have to have surgery. I’m sorry, kiddo. I hope that in future years you’re shocked to learn this was ever an issue.

    The Warmth of Winter

    Christmas Eve was really lovely. I left work at about 1 (with blessings to go). I picked up my sons. Grey and I wrapped presents and made cookies. Thane bopped around as Thane is wont to do. My husband came home early.

    Making cookies for Santa
    Making cookies for Santa

    But when Thane woke up from his nap, he was shivering. Cheerful. Eating and drinking. But shivering. Curious, I took his temperature. 102.8. WHOA. I proceeded to try to figure out what could possibly be up. Obviously, he couldn’t go to our Christmas Eve service like that. So reluctantly I left my husband behind and took Grey.

    Now, when Grey is angry or upset he’ll say, “I don’t want ____” where ____ is his heart’s desire. So for example a regular day will have me saying, “Grey, you need to get into the car right now and stop goofing off.” If he actually HEARS me, which doesn’t happen until about the 80th time, he’ll sometimes get mad and say, “I can never never never play my DS again.” You can almost bet that he’s thinking about his favorite thing: his DS. Well, yesterday he made a small mistake (didn’t listen to an instruction) and when I called him on it, do you know what that child said on Christmas Eve? Not “I’m not going to get any presents!” which was what I expected. No, instead it was, “You’re not going to let me go to church tonight.” On Christmas Eve, the thing my four year old was most excited about was our church service.

    It warms the cockles of my heart that my son wanted to go to church so much. And it was really a lovely service. The children *I* remember as the Angel Gabriel back when were home from college and looking terribly grownup and flatteringly happy to see me. The church looked lovely. My friends were there — young and old. And there was the pageant with the angels and the holy family and the gathered crowds. I played my trumpet for the hymns. Grey sang along, loudly and correctly. He sat beautifully for the entire service (abetted by the old school Pokemon cards he’d gotten as a gift). And then afterwards he and one of his cohorts in crime chased each other around the sanctuary while I chatted. He was in no hurry to get home and get with the loot parts of Christmas. It was just beautiful.

    An angel's eye view of the manger in Bethleham
    An angel's eye view of the manger in Bethleham

    Eventually we did get home, and he carefully laid out four cookies for Santa and some milk. We played a game while waiting for him to fall asleep, thinking this would take a while. We were wrong. He was out like a light. And Santa came and gifts appeared and joy filled the house, except for the feverish baby (who is a very cheerful sick kid).
    The joy of Christmas morning
    The joy of Christmas morning

    The boys are still young enough to sleep until their regular time on Christmas morning. But I heard excited exclamations as Grey discovered the scene below. He’s always so satisfied by the end of his stocking I wonder why I ever think I might not have enough for him to open. His interest in opening gifts lasted until the end of our gifts — he still has to open all his grandmother’s tomorrow, but since she flies in tomorrow morning, that seems appropriate.
    I caught Grey helping Robby play with Robby's present
    I caught Grey helping Robby play with Robby's present

    Then we all rotted our brains out on the various digital anesthesias. (Well, except for Mr. Slightly More Clingy Than Usual Thane) Grey got two DS games and two Wii games and the usual parental rules regarding them were suspended. He got an astronaut set (including two space monkies!), real Legos, blocks, a science experiment kit, books, and a glow-sword. And oh did he have fun with it all (right until the sugar-crash-fueled complete meltdown). Thane’s favorite toys were his new bunny Mr. Bun (Grey snitched his snuggly new moose) and the colander and spatula Santa brought for Grey’s stuffed bunny Robby. My husband got a Kindle, which is really, really awesome looking. I got a number of really nice things, including a fantastic apron (really!), a Wii fit from my brother, and a new recipe book. (Ok, maybe I’m easy to please.) But mostly, it was all filled with joy and togetherness.

    Grey brought up the idea of sending a thank you note to Santa. I wonder how many kids who write Santa letters also write him thank you notes?

    I'm not too sick to play with blocks!
    I'm not too sick to play with blocks!

    As for Thane, well, he was down to 101.2 tonight. Tylenol seems to help immensely. Was ever there such a bad 4 day patch to get sick? I’m pretty sure it’s a really nasty persistent ear infection. He just stopped a course of antibiotics like 3 days ago. I’m guessing it held off but didn’t cure an infection. I’m also guessing that since this is his fourth infection in as many months, tubes are in his future. This isn’t so bad, though. It doesn’t seem to bother him that much. It’s not infectious (so I don’t have it to “look forward to”). It’s not going to be dangerous even if we have to wait until Monday to treat it. I haven’t decided whether it is terrible timing (sick for Christmas!) or fantastic timing (we were going to be staying home anyway!).
    Mr. Bun Gives sick Thane a kiss
    Mr. Bun Gives sick Thane a kiss

    The grownups have topped off our day further rotting our own cerebellums with more video games. My husband appears to be in a very tense ground battle with the Russians on one of the floating bridges in Seattle. I think that, after a nice 2 year hiatus, I might actually beat Fable. And my mother-in-law flies in tomorrow! Yay!

    So how was your Christmas? What was most meaningful in it for you? And, the real question, what loot did you get?